Customer surveys, comment boxes, Google reviews… there are a number of ways to get a read on how your business is doing, but there is one very effective, tell-all way to determine how well your business is operating:
Take a vacation.
Admit it, there was a part of you that was excited when you read that.
“You mean taking a vacation is not just self-indulgent but can actually be good for the gym, too?”
Yes, in more than one way, but specifically, taking a vacation away from your gym is the most effective way to test how your gym and business are doing.
When you are gone, the gym has no safety net if things go south. The staff you have hired, the roles you have given them, and the processes you implemented will keep the gym running smoothly, or they won’t.
This is a good thing to figure out.
We were in Hong Kong for the first bit of the month. We were not only overseas, with no cellular service, but we were halfway around the world in nearly the opposite time zone from home. Although we were nervous about our trip, especially for that length of time, we were also curious to figure out how the gym would run without us.
We had been on vacations before, many of which we learned from, but we had implemented many new processes and staff members since then. We were eager to see how all of it would fare.
Would the gym be “ok”? Would it grow? Would there be a sudden mass exodus of clients?
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Here are 3 things we evaluated during our trip and upon our return:
1. How are things when you’re gone?
Are you hearing about and dealing with a lot of issues from your staff members? If so, are the issues emergencies or normal, pedantic things that could have been easily taken care of? Are you not hearing anything at all, and if so, is it because there’s nothing to report or because your staff is afraid to report what’s going on?
Occasionally check in with the staff member you’ve left in charge to make sure the gym hasn’t burned down. It’s okay to get that warm and fuzzy that the gym is still doing okay–it is your gym, after all. If you left your kid with a babysitter, wouldn’t you check in once in awhile?
That being said, make sure you’re trusting your staff to do their jobs effectively without you. You hired them for a reason. They will aim to do a better job, knowing you trust them and are not breathing down their necks out of fear and mistrust.
2. What is the general reaction from both members and staff when you return?
Are your members and staff happy to see you? Or are they relieved to see you, having counted down the days until you came back?
What type of feedback are you getting from people, if any?
What is the general mood at the gym – energetic or lethargic? How has the mood changed since you left?
If you get direct feedback, whether it’s positive or negative, this is even better. These are tangible things to work on, if necessary. If you get feedback that is negative, your first question should be why this issue couldn’t be dealt with while you were gone and how you can fix that in the future.
What you want to strive for are having members and staff members happy to see you but not crying tears of joy. Your return to the gym should not be treated as the long-awaited “rescue” your gym has been needing.
Ask those you trust, whether it be members or staff members, and see how the gym has been while you have been out of town.
3. How were your sales and retention numbers compared to your usual numbers?
Did you lose more people when you were gone, compared to normal? Did you gain new members?
If you gained new people while you were gone, that is an incredible sign. It means your gym isn’t only maintaining while you’re gone but it is also growing.
If the gym saw a flood of members leave while you were away, it’s time to investigate. Reach out to some of those ex-members if you need to to figure out if there is anything you or your staff could have done to prevent them from leaving. You might learn something.
Did the gym remain static while you were gone, no new members and none lost? There are definitely worse things in the world. The next step is to figure out how you can create a gym that grows while you are gone.
Now, it’s time to process the lessons you’ve learned and make any needed changes.
What worked and what didn’t? What needs improvement? What did really well?
Work on creating the systems, processes, and policies needed to fix any issues.
This is important for when you’re out of office, but in all reality, these processes should be in place even with you there. The business should run like a well-oiled machine and not because you’re the only thing actively forcing it to work.
Avoid being the single point of failure, especially if you want a life outside the gym.
So, where to next? Take a vacation, and see how your gym is really doing.