gym community

Business And Pleasure: How To Build Relationships with Your Team

The gym community can be an exception to mixing business with pleasure. Here's how to build relationships that emphasize both fun and professionalism!

Emily Beers
February 8, 2023
Business And Pleasure: How To Build Relationships with Your Team
The gym community can be an exception to mixing business with pleasure. Here's how to build relationships that emphasize both fun and professionalism!

Conventional wisdom warns business owners not to mix business with pleasure. But when community is a pillar, how do you build relationships that are strong and smart?

Just a quick frolic through Google will tell you it’s not a good idea. You’ll find a plethora of fear-mongering headings like, “71 Reasons To Avoid Staff Friendships.” Experience tells us it will come with potential challenges and issues. We all know that one story from another gym...

We’re challenging the norm today to say conventional wisdom might not apply in your gym. CrossFit gyms and other small fitness businesses are like a family. They’re all about relationships and community. Not just among members, but among owners, coaches and clients.

Build relationships with coaches and gym members
Photographer: Felicity Ford

So search out opportunities to build relationships. Because developing true friendships with your staff can, and does, benefit the business. But... the key is striking a balance between building friendships and maintaining professionalism.

The Trickle-Down Effect Of Relationships.

Zach Forrest owned multiple gyms for more than a decade. As he put it, “You need relationships with your team because we’re human. We want to work for people - and with people - we like. We are happier that way. And when we are happier, we do our jobs better, which means our clients are happier.”

That’s the long and the short of it. When you show up to work excited to see people you like, you’ll feel happier and more fulfilled. When you know people on a deeper level than just asking how their weekend was, there’s more job satisfaction.

Ultimate, relationships have a trickle-down effect in the culture of a gym. When you build relationships with your coaches, it shows the value of camaraderie and teamwork. This trickles down to the team, who then develop the same type of bonds with coaches and each other.

Four Tips To Build Relationships With Your Team:

1. Have The Tough Conversations.

It’s not uncommon for expectations to get skewed in an employer/employee relationship. For instance, a coach might expect to be forgiven for arriving a few minutes late to a team meeting. Or if they send a couple quick texts during class. The (unverbalized) expectation is that they get special treatment. After all, their boss is their friend, right?

As a gym owner, it’s important to address issues like this as they arise. Or even better, in advance. Yes, it can be awkward to feel like you’re reprimanding a friend but the boss role has to take precedence. The earlier you do it, the easier it will be. And the less of a big deal it will feel like to your employee.

Have tough gym conversations upfront

2. Put It In Writing.

Oftentimes, it can be tempting to run your small business as informally as possible. It’s not corporate America, so it shouldn’t feel that way. Therefore, many owners don’t bother with things like a gym operations manual or contracts.

But ultimately, you’re still running a business. So there should be checklists for daily tasks and at least some guidelines to build relationships within your team. Especially in an environment that can feel like you’re working with family members.

Honestly, formal documents make your job a lot easier. Your expectations are clearly defined and you can then have any tough conversations upfront. In the event that a situation arises, you can quickly point to the policies both parties agreed on.

3. Focus On The Fun.

Once you’ve had the conversations and outlined everything in writing, you’ve set yourself up to enjoy new connections. Plus, you get to be the connector for others.

If you want to strengthen your community through the power of people, build relationships at every level. You with coaches and members, coaches with other coaches, members with other member, etc.

Start by setting aside time to have regular, one-on-one meetings with each of your staff. Use this time to check in on how they're doing and just shoot the shit. These meetings don’t need to be formal. Take them out for coffee once per quarter. Sit back in a relaxing setting, chatting about the gym and about life.

Next, plan a fun community event for your team and invite your members. Getting together in a social environment is great for energizing your coaches and members. It helps people get to know one another, or people who attend a different class time. Host a potluck or cookout. Go for a hike. Host a pickleball tourney. The possibilities are endless.

Pro Tip: Use the PushPress Staff App to communicate important info and events with your team! Book a demo with our team today to find out more!

One other tip: Show your coaches appreciation at every opportunity. It can be as simple as a handwritten card or a gift card for their favorite coffee shop. You’ve put forth the effort hiring coaches that fit your culture. Showing appreciation can build relationships for the long run.

4. Don’t Ignore The Elephant In The Room.

Romantic relationships will inevitably brew at some point at your gym. It might be between two coaches or between a coach and a member.

Let’s face it: You have a gym full of fun people who share like-minded goals. So it’s not far-fetched for a relationship to develop.

Gym relationships are inevitable and manageable

If not addressed properly, there’s potential for tension and unwanted drama within the gym. Having a formal policy is the best way to be proactive. Being able to at least point to the policy allows you to talk about it openly with them. And being aware of the policy might cause people to think twice before causing unnecessary drama.

One gym we spoke with created a “conversation rule.” If a coach gets involved with a member, a conversation needed to be had at the start. The conversation clearly lays the groundwork. No matter what happens, both parties will remain mature and civil in any kind of fallout. It further outlines what happens if the member quits because of a fallout. In that event, the coach owes the gym three months of membership dues. Strict? Maybe. But incentive enough for coaches to think twice before acting.

In Summary: Business And Pleasure, Mix It Up.

What makes our gym community special are the people and relationships. This is as true of the coaching staff as it is of the members.

If your culture doesn't showcase the value of camaraderie and teamwork, start today. Build relationships that emphasize both fun and professionalism. Get to know your staff. Hang out socially. Be friends and develop a bond. And simply make sure you put policies in place to squash any issues or drama as early as possible.

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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