7 Things To Know Before Hiring Coaches

by | Nov 21, 2018

7 minute read
Congrats your gym is growing and now you need to hire coaches! Check out these 7 tips to help you make the best decision.

So your gym is in a place where you can no longer handle the coaching duties on your own. You need a second coach. Congratulations, you must be doing something right.

But where do I find this mystery coach? Should I hire based on personality or on technical expertise and experience? How much does formal education matter? How much do I need to pay him/her?

Experienced gym owners who have hired the wrong people over the years say hiring coaches to represent your brand and the business you have worked so hard to grow is one of the most delicate and important decisions you’re going to make. The repercussions that can potentially arise from hiring the wrong person are dire, so listen up: They have advice for you.

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7. Personality First

Your gym isn’t an impersonal retail outlet full of minimum wage employees selling shoes.

You’re in the relationship business. Chances are when your clients signed up to train at your gym, they bought not just your brand and your workouts, but YOU. They signed up because they liked you.

If you hire a coach who nobody likes, even if he just finished his master’s degree in exercise physiology, your client experience will start to immediately suffer. The feedback we receive over and over from experienced gym owners is that technical expertise can be taught, personality cannot.

So select wisely by selecting someone you, and the people in your community, want to hang out with. Someone who has proven to live with integrity and character. Someone your spidey senses tell you can trust.

6. Hire In-House

On a similar note, one great tip many gym owners have implemented at their facilities is to observe the prospective coach as a regular client for at least four to six months before you bring him/her on as a coach or apprentice coach. This gives you a chance to get a feel for the person’s character and personality. Do they get along with the community? Do people respect them? Are they coachable?

Worst case scenario, the person doesn’t blend in and doesn’t become an engaged member of the community or you catch them cheating the rep count during their workouts (if they’re cheating during workouts, you can probably assume this lack of integrity spills into other areas of their life). This doesn’t mean you need to kick the person out of your community; it just means you might have nipped one in the bud by avoiding hiring the wrong person for your community.

Though four to six months might sound like a long time to someone who is eager to start coaching right now, the worthwhile candidate will understand and respect your screening process and is likely going to be the coach you want.

And again, this doesn’t mean you can’t recruit coaches from, for example the local college or university, it just means they should become a regular paying member for a few months before the hiring process gets underway.

5. Structure, Structure, Structure

This sounds obvious, but so many people hire coaches with no plan of attack in terms of how to mentor and develop the person into the type of coach you want at your business.

Even if the person has a coaching background, maybe they know nothing about sales. Or maybe the person is fresh out of university but doesn’t have any practical hands on experience coaching real people yet. Chances are whoever you hire is going to have to start by shadowing you before they’re ready to work with your loyal clients or starting bringing on their own.

To help you develop this coach—and to ensure your expectations of them are really clear—you need a structured program in place—like a school curriculum—to develop the coach to a place where you trust them to run the place if you’re out of town. This can be done a number of ways, but generally involves some sort of structured apprentice and mentorship program.

Putting a coach development system in place might sound daunting, and like a lot of work, but there are plenty of coach development programs/curricula that already exist that have courses that cover everything from technical education to sales training. The easiest thing for you is to find a business mentor for yourself to help steer you in the right direction to help you adopt a structured coach development program before you start bringing on coaches.

4. Ask! 

We have heard stories of gym owners who think they hired based on personality, but they forgot to ask all the important questions. Six months into mentoring the new coach, the coach reveals he’s headed to law school in the fall and won’t be able to coach anymore.

The lesson here is to take the time to ask all of questions you can possibly think of to ensure that the potential coach’s goals and intentions align with your own needs and goals.

Does this person want a part-time job as a coach? A full-time career? If they want a full-time job, but you only have 5 to 10 hours to offer them at the moment, take the time to sort this out. Conversely, if you’re looking to hire a full-time, career coach, but they just want to cover the odd group class, you’re going to run into problems if you don’t address this right off the bat.

Make a list of all the things you need to know beforehand and sit the person down and address all of these issues before bringing them on.

3. One At A Time

Especially when it’s your first hire, it’s best to hire one coach at a time. This is even more important if you’re grooming the person to be a full-time coach.

Mentorship takes time and effort. Doing a really good job developing a coach can almost feel like a second full-time job for the mentor (i.e. you). The most effective way to do this is to tackle one mentee at a time. Get him/her up to speed and working enough hours, and then think about bringing on another, should you need one.

2. Compensation System

This is a huge one: How are you going to pay this coach? By the hour? By the class? As a percentage of revenue? What’s best for client retention? For coach retention? For the business?

While most gyms pay their coaches by the hour, it may not actually be what’s best for client retention, for coach retention or for business revenue, especially if your goal is to develop long lasting, full-time coaches who want to have careers in the fitness industry.

The point is do your research before just deciding to pay your coaches $20 an hour just because everyone else is.

1. Offer Something In Return

If you’re offering the person 5 to 10 hours a week at $20 an hour, how long do you think they’ll stick around your gym? Probably not all that long, right?

Though coaching at your gym might start with just a handful of hours a week, if you’re trying to bring on a coach who will become part of your team for 10-plus years, there needs to be an opportunity for the position to grow.

Offering incentives and a sense of ownership is a great place to start. In other words, give your coach the chance to eventually be able to build his own niche within your business. Maybe this means a chance for him to become a mobility expert and run his own mobility program down the road. Or maybe it’s a compensation model, like the above, where he grows his own book of clients and essentially acts as an entrepreneur within your gym.

The bottom line is, you need a long term plan for the prospective coach. And when a person is given more, not less, responsibility and an ability to feel like an owner of something, they’re more likely to treat your business the way you want them to: like an owner, rather than an employee.

Final tip: Don’t rush the process. Take the time to find the right person. Your clients and your business will thank you for it.

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This article appears as part of our Definitive Gym Startup Guide as a resource for everyone who’s planning to start a new .
For more information and a ton more tips, tricks, hacks, and concepts make sure to read thru the whole guide.