gym owner

What’s A Vacation? Lessons From A Gym Owner About Taking Time Off

For a gym owner, time away sometimes seems impossible, especially when things go completely sideways. Here are three tips for taking a much-needed break.

Emily Beers
March 2, 2023
What’s A Vacation? Lessons From A Gym Owner About Taking Time Off
For a gym owner, time away sometimes seems impossible, especially when things go completely sideways. Here are three tips for taking a much-needed break.

For at least the first few years of running a business, time off is almost an unachievable goal. Statistically speaking, a gym owner could go years without taking a much-needed break.

Sometimes being able to step away from your gym feels next to impossible. The idea of getting enough of your ducks in a row to take a weekend off can be overwhelming. You don't want to return to your business more stressed than when you left. With that goal in mind, you try to pre-fight potential fires. And that’s just for a weekend. The thought of a two-week vacation seems unfathomable.

Sam Karroll coaching CrossFit classes

Often, it’s just not worth the work on the front and back end.

However, every gym owner needs a break from time to time. Whether for your mental health or unexpected reasons, you eventually have to figure out how to make it happen. And if you plan on truly moving from coach to CEO of your gym, you need a plan.

And sometimes, the most bizarre of circumstances will dictate your time away.

Sam’s Story.

For Sam Karoll, it happened back in 2015. Karoll is a former gym owner: He owned Shadow CrossFit in Quincy, IL for seven years and he’s now part of the PushPress team.

In 2015, he found out he’d need to undergo shoulder surgery.

“I had to step away from the gym for about three or four days to initially recover,” Karoll said. Since he’d never had an issue taking a couple days off prior, he remembers that he “didn’t have a worry in the world.”

But the morning of his surgery, he received a random text from a client.

“It said that I shouldn’t worry but the local police department might be calling me.”

When he asked what was going on, his member told him that someone was throwing poop at the class while they were running during a workout.

Karoll thought it was a joke. He initially chuckled, thinking his members were just messing with him. But the photographic evidence that followed showed that the episode was in fact, not a prank.

“Sure enough, the police did call after addressing the issue by the gym and stopped by my house to talk,” said Karoll. He recalls being “high as a kite on painkillers” when the officers stopped by.

“The anesthesia was strong and I might as well have been on laughing gas,” he said.

In the end, the poop-throwing incident was (luckily) a one-off. Karoll’s members weren’t regularly subjected to such obstacles. But like many a gym owner, he thought twice each time he considered taking time off.

Sam Karroll gym owner of Shadow CrossFit

The Lessons For A Gym Owner.

Let’s be honest: It’s hard to predict something like a poop fight at the gym. But Karoll says the biggest lesson he learned was to plan ahead for any time off. He notes that having a plan and policies help to handle the unexpected during your absence.

“In this specific case, that could have meant having a more clear path of who needed to be contacted while I was out,” said Karoll. “Who could take responsibility for what was happening? That way it would have been handled more smoothly.”

Here are a few of the policies and procedures Karoll recommends if another gym owner plans to take time off:

1. General Class Coverage Policies.

Do you have a policy in place for coaches getting coverage if they’re sick or out of town? Taking yourself out of the middle-man position and putting the onus on coaches is the key.

Once a coach has been assigned to a class, they’re responsible for finding coverage in any situation that prevents them from coaching. Whether they’re sick or away from the gym unexpectedly, it’s on them to find a substitute.

Include this written policy in your coach contract and gym operations manual. This will save you from a lot of last-minute headaches along the way.

2. Chain Of Command For Unexpected Issues.

If your long-term goal is to enable your business to be fully functional in your absence, it’s best to empower your coaches early on. Even when you’re hiring gym coaches, focus on building a team of self-starters who aren’t afraid to troubleshoot.

That way, whether the toilet overflows or a conflict arises between members, you can trust that your team can handle it.

Oftentimes, coaches might be hesitant to make a decision out of fear that they’ll make the wrong one. Therefore, provide them with a guide - including a chain of command - for how you would handle things. In addition, let them know you trust their judgement about issues that might not be expected or outlined in writing.

Shadow CrossFit gym community

3. Clear Action Steps.

For more common issues you’ve encountered as a gym owner, create a simple, step-by-step guide for coaches.

For example, maybe you have a touchy security system that tends to get set off sporadically. Or perhaps you have a back-up stereo in your office in the rare event that your primary system stops working.

Think about all the potential, “if this, then that” situations that could arise at your gym. Then lay out the action steps you want your coaches to take to solve them. Not only does this give coaches more confidence as they manage the gym, it sets you up to be able to step away more often.

Pro Tip: Make the admin action steps a breeze for your staff with PushPress Core! Book a demo with our team today to find out more!

In Summary: Give Yourself A Break.

If you’re away from your business, you want to be actually away. Unplugged. Not responsible.

And while you’ll probably never have to worry about a poop fight in your time as a gym owner, other issues will definitely arise. Prepare your team as best as you can for how to handle the unexpected. This will allow you to relax, trusting that your gym is in capable hands, and (probably) avoiding unanticipated visits from the police.

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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