Get busy living or get busy dying.
— Andy Dufresne, The Shawshank Redemption
To this day, this is one of my most go-to quotes. It pretty much sums up all aspects of life, from business to personal, from your relationships to your skillsets. Everything. Either you’re getting better, or you’re not. And if you’re not, something is actively withering away.
Are You Running A Business? Is It Running You?
In the small gym industry, I encounter so many gym owners who have everything it takes to change the lives of their communities, but they fall flat because they focus too much on training clients, and too little on running an actual business.
If you find yourself:
- Feeling like you’re constantly battling fires and not growing your business.
- Stuck at a certain membership count or revenue amount.
- Babysitting coaches or clients who are a drain on your time or energy.
- Generally not really knowing where your business is going in the next 12 months
This article is for you.
The good news is there’s a way past all of this. The bad news is it’ll take a lot of very calculated work on your part. If you’re ready to try to move your business up and to the right, keep reading.
Step 1: Choose Focus over Chaos
Your business is a boat, and you’re the captain. Most fitness business owners I encounter have no real plan, and thus, their boat just ends up where it ends up after years of sailing.
Step 1 is to visualize where you want to go, and fill in the steps to get there.
Get a piece of paper and write down ALL of the details to what your perfect business would look like. These include (but aren’t limited to):
- What does the destination look like to you?
- Who are you helping?
- What is their result/outcome?
- Why do they choose you?
- How many people can you help?
- Will you have more than one location? How many square feet per location?
- Who will run your locations?
- What will your role be, and how many hours a week will you spend doing it?
- How will you turn your coaches and staff into leaders who can eventually replace you?
- How can you make your coaches and staff a better-than-average living?
- How much revenue will your operation make? How much profit?
As you are answering some of these questions, you might realize there’s other holes in the picture to fill. Fill them! Get as concise and clear of a picture of where you want to go – this will be your map. The more detailed your map is, the better odds you’ll end up where you want to be.
Step 2: Choose Money or Time
This always to me is a no-brainer, but it’s a legitimate debate for some people. Money or Time.
As you embark on your journey to “Perfect Business Island”, are you going to try to get there as fast as you can? Or would you prefer to take it a little slower and get to the destination a little later?
I’d 100% always choose time over money (in terms of what I want to save), given I have the money to spend. Even if I had to beg, borrow or steal… well maybe not steal. =)
The reason I would always choose time is because it slows for no one, and your competition and your customers aren’t waiting for you.
Saving Time over Money
Taking this approach would generally mean paying for an education. Finding someone who’s gone where you want to go, and paying them to teach you all the shortcuts and lessons learned they had on the journey.
In our industry, this generally means paying for a business coach or mentor. Ones like Two Brain Business or WTF Gym Talk are very popular in the CrossFit and Strength and Conditioning verticals. If you operate a gym outside of these industries, I’m sure you’ve heard of a couple that service your fitness modality.
If you’re extremely lucky, you might befriend or already know a seasoned fitness business veteran. If so, and they’re nice enough to help you out – you might have the best of both worlds. Ask them if you could take them to a nice dinner once a month in exchange for some guidance.
- You can generally steer far clear of crippling mis-steps before you take them with guidance.
- Accountability! You’ll likely be asked to do things and report back – and you’ll be expected to do them.
- You will be more effective, faster, with someone telling you not only WHAT you need to do but WHY you need to do it.
- If you’re joining a mentoring group or coach, you might get access to shared resources such as community forums, mastermind events, and more.
- You will get clarity on your business potential, path, and direction much faster.
- It’s going to cost you some money.
- They’re going to likely hold you accountable to actually doing work (and usually it’ll be work you won’t feel comfortable doing).
- You will likely feel over your head.
- If you are a very hands on gym owner, you might feel like you’re losing touch with your core business. You’ll likely be asked to step back from your business and dive into the back end of your business faster than you’d be comfortable with.
- There’s a risk the coach you pick and pay for isn’t a perfect match for you, or get you the results or attention you expect.
Saving Money over Time
This approach can work well for self-starters and self-educators. If you find yourself strong in self-motivation, self-accountability, and self-education – this might be for you.
This is often referred to as “The school of hard knocks”. If money is tight, the only other way to get to where you’re looking to go is just rolling up your sleeves and putting in the work.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this approach. In fact, while you’re getting your business rolling it might be your only option. As revenue opens up, you can consider saving time over money.
- Allows you to start at a more graduated pace, one you might be more comfortable with.
- Saves you cash flow, which you can reinvest into more tangible aspects of your business like equipment or coaching.
- Saves you from the risk of paying for a coach you don’t mesh with, isn’t as good as you thought, or isn’t producing results.
- You’ll make mistakes, lots of them. Some of the mistakes you make you won’t understand are mistakes until you’re knee deep into them. All of the mistakes will cost you time. Some of the mistakes could cost you credibility or clients.
- You won’t have any accountability, except to yourself.
A Hybrid Approach Might Be Best
There’s no right answer to this, and it always boils down to the exact situation. In general, I think a healthy mix of spending money to speed up results coupled with some good old fashioned hard work and dedication is the right answer for most.
Regardless of which way you choose, you’re in for a ton of work. Improving your business as a whole, and yourself as a business person requires work. You’ll be reading a lot of books, listening to a lot of podcast, and doing a lot of reflection on how everything you learned applies to you and your business. In my opinion, growth is fun! So enjoy it!
Step 3: Take Action
Now that you are armed with where you want to go with your business and you have an idea of what investment you’re going to make to get there – get to action!
Here’s a quick checklist of action items you can do, based on how you want to go about it.
Money over Time
- Research potential mentors. Find at least 3 mentors in your space and do your homework.
- Determine your budget for a mentor. Try to take a meaningful look at your cash flow and weigh the impact your investment in a mentor might bring you. Both on a “best case” and “worst case” scenario.
- Interview the potential mentors. Finding someone you feel comfortable working with and confident in their methodology is key. Usually they’ll have a free interview call – use that time to really understand them.
- Measure baseline indicators. Before hiring a mentor, you need to take a measure of your key baseline indicators. If you don’t have metrics in place yet, start with revenue, retention rate and new clients per month. You need to be able to show if your money invested is worthwhile by keeping track of metrics over time.
- Hire a mentor. Find the one you feel most confident and comfortable with and hire them. Dive deep into their instruction and learn as much as you can.
Time over Money
- Block off “education” time on your calendar. Find at least one hour a day and block it off as education time. Ideally you’d block off at least two hours a day, in chunks not less than one hour. This will give you dedicated time where you can spend a solid hour focused on learning and growing.
- Listen to podcasts. This is the easiest task. We all have downtime where we can learn from listening – drive time, while cooking, etc. Use that time to learn by filling your podcast library up with content relevant to your journey. Make it a habit to listen to something that makes you smarter every instance you can.
- Buy some books. There’s a zillion books that apply to business that you can learn from. In general I find every book I touch has at least one great concept I can strip away and apply to my life/business.
- Read with Intention. When I say this, I don’t mean read every letter on every page. Find the topics/concepts that resonate with you and dive deep into them. If you find a chapter unexciting or out of touch with your needs, skip it and save time. If you find yourself skipping the majority of books, either your intention isn’t set well or you’re not researching the books well enough before buying.
- Do some “paper trades”. When I learned about the stock market, the books all told me to “paper trade” – or pretend to buy a stock and follow it. Pretend to make trades based on news and information and see how you would have done. As you read, listen, and learn, start putting some ideas on paper and begin to think thru them. Play them out and see where they might go. What challenges might there be? What upside and downsides do they present? How can you overcome any hurdles that pop up?
- Put things in motion. Refine your paper trades into product concepts, and put them in motion! Test, measure, observe and correct until you have something that makes an impact. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, but don’t let mistakes fester too long!