When you first open your doors, it’s normal to wear all the hats and coach all the classes. But if you intend to grow a profitable business, hiring full-time coaches is an important milestone to aim for.
The goal should be for your business to operate seamlessly when you’re not there. This allows you to spend time working on your business, versus in it. And that’s where full-time staff members play an integral part.
With that said, your part-time staff will always be valuable. For many gym owners, part-time coaches are the first stepping stone in the early days. From this, one or two may emerge as candidates for the full-time role when it becomes available.
Today, we’re talking with PushPress clients Kyle Jack and Mario Carannante about hiring full-time coaches. Both put an immediate emphasis on developing full-time coaches when they purchased their gyms. They knew this would ensure coaches were committed to the business and would deliver a consistent service.
Kyle Jack, Owner Of Warrior Strength & Conditioning
In 2016, Kyle Jack purchased Warrior Strength & Conditioning in Muscatine, IA. He recalls seeing other gyms that had eight part-time coaches, and knew that wasn’t the route he wanted to pursue.
“I’d rather have less people be more committed,” said Jack. “It helps keep everyone on the same page. Otherwise, you’d need so many more meetings. Having full-time coaches helps keep a consistent service.”
As a result, Jack has managed to develop and retain two full-time coaches. He also has two part-time coaches that help with the class load.
Mario Carannante, Owner Of CrossFit Threefold
When Mario Carannante and his wife Kate purchased CrossFit Threefold in Coopersburg, PA, they agreed they wanted full-time coaches. At the time, the gym had six part-time staff members.
“We immediately knew we wanted to get it to all full-time coaches,” said Carannante, who also has another full-time job outside the gym. The couple’s goal was for Kate to be more involved at the gym.
Like Jack, Carannante said their biggest reason for wanting full-time staff was to ensure a higher level of commitment to the business. He explained that generally, part-time staff have another job that requires a larger commitment. That means it’s impossible for them to be “all in” at the gym.
“That’s a very different mentality where this isn’t their primary focus, versus somebody that this is all they did,” he said.
He went on to add that the worst-case scenario is part-time coaches having a second job at another gym. Especially if they end up leaving because the other gym is able to provide more coaching hours.
Carannante said the downside of part-time coaches became apparent immediately when they purchased the business. He realized no one knew about the gym’s vision or direction. In addition, none of his new team were aware of the business metrics: Revenue, profit, churn rate, average client value, etc.
“We needed people who knew what they were doing, and were experts in CrossFit and coaching,” he said. “Who also understood our vision and were just as passionate about it, so that we could improve member (experience).”
As a result, Threefold Crossfit now has three full-time staff members and one part-time coach. Carannante says this setup is working incredibly well.
Four Keys to Hiring Full-Time Coaches
Jack and Carannante shared their best practices when it comes to developing and retaining full-time coaches.
1. Transparency Is Key.
For Carannante, mutual transparency is the most important thing for your team.
This means asking hard questions upfront: What are they trying to accomplish? Why do they want to coach full-time? What is required for them to stick around long-term?
He recently had a conversation with one of his coaches. The coach was about to get married and wanted to start a family. He knew he needed to make a certain amount within a specific time frame.
So Carannante looked at his numbers and in return, was completely transparent. They talked about where the company was - and needed to be - in order to give his coach that income. He explained, “Here’s what we need to accomplish at our gym. This is how many members we need. This is how much revenue we need every month.”
This helped them set up a mutual, financial goal.
“The transparency has to go both ways,” Carannante said about hiring full-time coaches. “We needed to be able to show him a path to be able to accomplish that. Because if we couldn’t, then we shouldn’t hire him. Because all that’s going to happen is we’re going to train him and spend a lot of time with him. And then in two or three years, if he’s not hitting his goals, he’s going to look elsewhere.”
2. Keep It Fresh.
If you’re doing the same thing day in and day out, eventually it’ll get stale.
This concept led Carannante to put aside money to a continued education fund. Each coach gets a quarterly $500 stipend to pursue education relevant to making them a better coach.
“To a certain point, we all have to love what we do or we won’t be doing it very long,” he said. “And if there’s no new education, then we’re just talking about the same things over and over and it kind of gets stale.”
What he’s discovered with continued education is that it renews “another level of excitement” in the coach.
“So we can constantly create new excitement around what we do, day in and day out,” he said. “It fosters an environment of continued growth and excitement, and I’m (less concerned) about someone leaving.”
This can even result in new revenue streams for the business. Carannante currently has a coach enrolled in a nutrition program. He notes that the gym will soon have a “significant growth” in nutrition coaching revenue as a result.
Jack agrees that continued education goes a long way in keeping coaches fresh and excited to coach. But for him, the bigger picture is about finding ways to constantly challenge them.
One way he does this is to keep coaches in the loop about everything going on at the gym. He then lets them provide ideas about the direction they think the gym should go. He said this allows them to be part of the company’s “leadership team,” rather than just employees.
3. Money Talks.
Ultimately, compensation is an important part of the conversation when hiring full-time coaches. It may not be the only motivator, but it shouldn’t be overlooked.
In fact, Stu Brauer, owner of consulting company WTF Gym Talk, says there are only two things that will get coaches to stay: Money and a sense of fulfillment.
So developing a plan to compensate coaches adequately is a crucial part of the process.
Jack compensates his coaches with a hybrid pay system. First, coaches are paid per class and they receive a base pay for other required tasks.
Beyond that, he implemented a bonus pay system, based on the businesses’ recurring revenue. For example, if the gym reaches a certain number of members, coaches receive a $500 bonus. And if that number further increases, their bonus jumps to $700.
If the business is growing and thriving, coaches will reap the benefits as well. The idea is to ensure everyone is invested in business success.
You can also look at revenue as an opportunity to turn coaches into entrepreneurs. When they’re able to generate additional revenue streams for the business, everyone benefits.
For example, Carannante’s gym didn’t offer much one-on-one coaching at the time they purchased it. But when one of his full-time coaches quickly expressed interest, he knew it would benefit both of them.
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Carannante also compensates coaches with a hybrid model. After base pay, they receive a commission for new member sign-ups. They also receive compensation for each month of the client’s journey the first year. This ensures that his staff is fully invested in client success, leading to solid member retention numbers.
4. Build And Maintain Trust.
One of the most important things you can do when hiring full-time coaches is to build trust. This will stem from being humble and sometimes vulnerable. The more you’re open to feedback or willing to admit when you’re wrong, you’ll maintain that trust. Carannante pointed out that it’s all about open and clear communication.
“We’re all figuring this out,” he said. “We’re all learning. I don’t pretend to be an expert in everything.”
His hope is that this attitude fosters an environment around creativity and growth, where coaches don’t hesitate to bring up issues or problems. Because without it, resentment might build and eventually boil over.
“I’m not saying we can fix everything,” he admitted. “But if I don’t know about it then there’s nothing I’m going to do about it.”
In addition, you might have some coaches that are less willing to speak up when they want to. So it’s important for you to be consistent with check-ins. Ask them for feedback and let them know it’s okay to share their thoughts. This will only strengthen the relationship to give you a team of happy coaches for the long run.