The Paper Trail: Five Essential Documents Every Gym Owner Needs

Here are the five documents every gym owner needs to proactively protect the business while providing a safe, effective and fun environment for employees.

Emily Beers
February 20, 2023
The Paper Trail: Five Essential Documents Every Gym Owner Needs
Here are the five documents every gym owner needs to proactively protect the business while providing a safe, effective and fun environment for employees.

In the early stages of being a gym owner, you might only have one or two employees. So at this point, it might seem unnecessary or strange to have formal documents. Employee handbooks and policy outlines are for big corporations and HR departments, right?

Actually, the opposite is true. No matter how small you are, it’s best to have formal procedures and essential documents in writing.

Even if you have full confidence in your teams’ abilities and you never expect things to go sideways, it’s always better to be prepared. Your team is human. At some point, there will be a discrepancy, a hiccup, an unforeseen issue. Formal documents will help you navigate anything from a staffing issue to a coach/client conflict.

Here’s where it seems tough: The everyday gym owner has usually built great relationships with staff. Sometimes to the point that it feels more like a family than a business. So it can feel awkward to hand someone a formal document or have them sign a contract.

Five key documents for a gym owner to implement

The key is to explain why you’ve implemented the documents in the first place. You’re not trying to place unnecessary restrictions or rules on them. Instead, you’re ensuring that your business runs smoothly and safely. This gives them a place to be happy, secure and fulfilled in their role at your gym.

The Five Key Documents For Your Gym:

1. Daily Tasks Checklist.

This checklist is a great way for you to outline all the daily tasks that need to be done at your gym. From the opening and closing duties to everything in between. Sometimes it helps to walk through every room in your gym and make notes.

It may also help to create weekly, monthly and quarterly checklists for your own reference. These are especially helpful for things like rower maintenance or dusting lobby shelves.

The checklist will provide a clear outline of what you expect from your staff. After all, if you don’t provide them your list, they will do things the way they think they should. And these two things might not always align.

Once again, these daily checklists are not designed to reprimand or provide excess work. Instead, they’ll simply make sure things run smoothly and hold people accountable.

Daily checklists ensure gym tasks get completed

2. Operations Manual.

Your operations manual is the outline for all processes and procedures, designed to help you and your staff solve any problem. With it, you’ll establish the standards by which success will be measured.

We wrote a whole blog about this one! Here are the ten must-have items for your gym operations manual.

3. Coach/Employee Handbook.

As a gym owner, you’ve created a unique business, from the equipment to the culture. As such, your employee handbook should be unique to your requirements and expectations. Ultimately, the goal is for your gym to run in accordance with your vision.

A few suggestions:

  • Introduction: Quick overview of your business, including mission statement and company vision.
  • Quick list of the Dos and Don’ts: Short summary of the dos and don’ts in their role. Focus on big picture items. Add some humor and keep it light. Being professional doesn’t have to mean boring.
  • Code of conduct: Clarify all performance and behavior expectations. Cover anything from taking breaks to cell phone policies. Explain tardiness policies, dress code and the process for airing grievances.
  • Benefits: Outline the benefits offered to coaches. Include evidence that you’re adhering to state and federal guidelines.
  • Holidays and Time Off: Start with a list of holidays and when your gym is closed. Then outline the procedure for requesting time off and sick days.
  • Performance reviews: Explain how and when reviews are conducted, and what to expect. Create a written standard performance review document. Both the gym owner and employee should sign it, and each should have a copy.
  • All things compensation: Outline your compensation model (e.g. hybrid). Explain how timesheets or check-ins work, and overtime policies (if you have them).
  • Applicable levels: If you have a graduation system, include levels such as junior, senior and head coaches.
  • Opportunities for additional revenue: Describe the compensation model for coach-created programs. For instance, if a coach leads a nutrition coaching program, what percentage of total revenue will they receive?

Bonus Tip: Make sure everything adheres to your state and federal laws. Hire a lawyer to help with review, legal disclaimers and statements that dissolve you of possible liability.

4. Employment Contract.

The ultimate goal of the employee contract is to eliminate any grey areas between the gym owner and staff. This ensures that everything from roles and responsibilities to expectations are crystal clear for both parties.

Once again, the intention is not to restrict or limit anyone. Instead, having a written contract proves that both parties agree to the terms. This creates a comfortable and fun environment, while being proactive with any issues that may arise.

Employment contracts for gym coaches

The employee contract should include general information about the gym, and specific information about responsibilities and compensation. This can differ from employee to employee so be as detailed as possible.

Further, include clauses like whether your staff is also allowed to coach at other gyms. Or whether they’re allowed to offer at-home programming or supplements to clients on the side. Again, the more clear you are up front, the better you can handle issues that may arise along the way.

5. Educational Library.

One additional document to have on hand is a compilation of valuable educational resources. Think of this as an organic, modifiable document for your coaches to access at any time.

Note that this document doesn't have to be a printed, hard copy. Nor is it limited to gym owner contributions. Create an online file for coaches to be able to access on their phones, or add to as needed.

Some examples of resources include:

  • Helpful podcasts or YouTube videos: For example, your upcoming six-week programming cycle involves a unique movement like box squats. Include several video resources for your coaches to watch as homework before the cycle begins.
  • PushPress software manual: A detailed guideline to help coaches navigate your gym’s software and apps.
  • Recommended reading: Which books, white papers, etc. would be helpful for your team?
  • Social media: Accounts you think are worth following.

Pro Tip: Use the PushPress Staff App to communicate with your team about updates or resources! Book a demo with our team today to find out more!

In Summary: Being A Responsible Gym Owner Starts On Paper.

As a gym owner, your community might often feel more like a family than a business. But disagreements and issues can happen to even the closest of families. Be proactive in overcoming potential issues by implementing the right documents up front.

Create a daily checklist, operations manual, employee handbook, employment contract and educational library. Be exceptionally clear in each document. Then make sure employees receive -and sign - a copy of each. In the future, as issues arise, you have these formal documents to refer to, creating a fun environment that runs smoothly for all parties.

Emily Beers

Emily Beers is a health, fitness and nutrition writer. She has also been coaching fitness at MadLab School of Fitness in Vancouver, B.C. since 2009.

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