gym owner

PushStart Webinar Recap: Combatting Gym Owner Burnout

Feeling overwhelmed or burned out? Check out this recent PushStart webinar for various scenarios with actionable steps to help you avoid gym owner burnout.

Monica Hilton
April 24, 2023
PushStart Webinar Recap: Combatting Gym Owner Burnout
Feeling overwhelmed or burned out? Check out this recent PushStart webinar for various scenarios with actionable steps to help you avoid gym owner burnout.

Gym owner burnout happens a lot more than we realize. It's also something that isn't talked about often enough but can greatly impact our lives.

That's why burnout was the topic of a recent PushStart webinar. Nick Reyes, PushPress CRO and former co-owner of KS Athletic Club, hosted the webinar with Gavin Martin, PushPress Director of Customer Success. The webinar provided various scenarios with actionable steps to help you avoid burnout.

CLICK HERE to watch the full PushStart webinar recording!
Combatting Owner Burnout PushStart webinar

Two Prominent Causes Of Gym Owner Burnout

1. Too Much To Do.

Nick Reyes: All right. So like I said, couple big things [that cause business owner burnout]. First one is there's just quite honestly too much to do. And I've done demos with just about 2,000 gyms in my time here at PushPress. And one of the recurring themes is just looking to save time. There's too many things going on. We're coaching, we're cleaning, "Oh, what am I going to program for after the open, I need to get this email out," and just pulled in too many different directions. I don't think this is anything that we don't already know. I want this to be kind of the forefront of what we have going on or what we're thinking about as we come into what causes burnout. Because ultimately there are things that either give us energy or there are things that zap energy from us.

I know personally I really enjoyed coaching. I really enjoyed programming. The selling piece and marketing was okay despite me being a CRO. And gym ownership, this was kind of a creative outlet for me. The cleaning thing was an energy zapper. Right? The communication was a bit of an energy zapper. You give me a spreadsheet and hours to program and I would just go, go, go, go. And you guys may feel different ways about your own parts of this. You may love the coaching and the communication and hate the programming and feel like you need to outsource that. Putting on some headphones, listening to a podcast and cleaning may actually give you energy. Whereas for another gym owner, it may not. But all of these things have to be done. And I think a lot of times we're maybe not in touch with how these things make us feel. We're more in touch with the fact that they have to get done and we just get pulled in all these different directions.

Gavin Martin: So true. Yeah, I remember thinking about what you do well also. Like, things that you do well and things that you have to learn because you have to learn so many, wear hats as a single gym owner. Yeah, very good point.

2. The Conveyor Belt Of Giving.

Nick Reyes: Absolutely. The next one is one that I don't think most people talk about. I call it the conveyor belt of giving. And if you think about the lifecycle of a member, they join the gym, they buy into the process that you've created for them to achieve the results that you promised them or that they walked in the door for. Over the course of many sessions, months, or even years, they forge a relationship with you. It's not uncommon for us as gym owners to go to weddings and celebrate birthdays with members and these types of things. And then eventually maybe they move on to another city or they just move across town, but at some point they move on if your gym has been open long enough.

Meanwhile, there have been new people kind of on this conveyor belt and new commitments made and new promises made, and then new relationships forged and then eventually they moved on. And so you never really feel as an owner, in my opinion, as if you can step out completely because you've always committed to someone even though they're eventually at some point going to go. And so that's a tough thing to wrap your head around. And I know that as I stepped out of Kansas Athletic Club in April, it was really, really tough for me to disconnect. And even though I still train there, I actually spent about three months, three or four months not going into the gym at any time when members are in there just because I felt almost like that little bit of shame that I had committed to work with someone and then moved on and then I had to kind of carefully reimplement myself back into things. And so there's really... It becomes almost impossible to step out of the business, if that makes sense.

Conveyor Belt of Giving
The Conveyor Belt of Giving for a gym owner

Gavin Martin: I did the exact same thing with my gyms. I actually joined another gym in the area for about three months. And then I finally went back and actually started taking a few classes to coach and stuff and didn't burn that bridge with the new owners. So that was really, yeah, it was tough.

Nick Reyes: Absolutely. So we know we have too much to do. We know we're always committed to the people that walk through our doors, but yet we're still going to feel this burnout. And so over the course of the next several slides, I just want to kind of lay out some options and some things that I think that we can do in order to make sure that we keep the fire going and that we're always building towards something. By the way, these are going to start by the worst case scenario to the best case.

What Are The Gym Owner’s Options?

1. Close It Down.

So worst case scenario is we close it down. And this is obviously not something we ever want to have to do, especially given the commitments that we give to every person that walks through our door. The only pro to this is that we end that rat race. And obviously if our business is affecting our personal relationships and getting to really affect our high anxiety and affect our emotions, at some point you have to cut bait and move on. Besides any kind of financial stresses, things like that. Obviously big con on is you'd have to go get a job. I don't think any of us would start our gyms if we were just in love with working for someone else and just following status quo.

And then obviously it's a pretty straightforward process. Right? Liquidate all the assets, find your members a new home, give them plenty of runway and hope... Maybe that helps, if you help find them a new home, that kind of helps ease that transition for them into, or that commitment that you've made to them by making sure that they have a good firm handoff with what that next fitness or that next journey in their fitness looks like.

2. Sell To A Passionate Operator.

The next one, and I think this is definitely most common, and that's to sell to another passionate operator, primarily because it keeps the community culture kind of in place and you end up basically like someone else takes the keys and you can step aside. And again, this is pretty much what I did. Granted, I had business partner, Kansas Athletic Club, and him and then another gentleman took over completely. And so there's another person to take the reins and continue through the vision that you originally had, although they might adjust it. Right? So if you are a CrossFit affiliate, they may be affiliated, they may change your class times, they may change coaching structure, they may change programming. All of this may change. And that part I should have listed that in the cons. Like, if you're still so closely attached to the brand and you see them start changing things that you felt really strongly about, that might be a little hard for you, but ultimately moving on in that way is another option if that burnout is just so bad that you cannot get over it.

Gavin Martin: I feel like this is pretty popular. Right, Nick?

Nick Reyes: Yeah. I mean, this is the number one thing that we see from a data standpoint here at PushPress as to what gyms do. They typically hand over to another owner. And now we're obviously not privy to the back end of that transaction and what kind of cash is exchanged or anything like that. But we do see this more so than just about anything else.

Gavin Martin: Yeah, on success, we help navigate... Navigate that new ownership is something that I do quite more frequently than I anticipated. It's been different. You know?

Nick Reyes: Yeah. And so what you're going to see from this one in the next several slides is on the hows. All these things are going to kind of start aligning here. So I want to spend a couple seconds to break these out. So just imagine that you are in an affiliate and you're going to take it over. You're in a gym and you're going to take it over from the existing owner. And maybe obviously buy the gym for maybe less than what it could be worth if it doesn't have all these other things in place. Right? So need to have some basic processes in place. A history of tracked KPIs is really, really important because the new owner is going to need to have some kind of way to gauge their success against your success. And then also a tech enabled operation. So by that, obviously most of you guys are PushPress clients or everyone here might be, is probably a PushPress client, making sure that your tech is on firm foundation.

You don't want to hand over the keys and then have the person go, "Oh man, I don't know how to sell stuff, I don't know how billing is done, where our waivers at." Any of this stuff just makes... Well, basically what it would do is it puts that new owner in the same place as the too much to do things, but it adds another layer on because they're going to need to add tech, they're going to need to start tracking KPIs, they're going to need some sort of basic processes in place. So making sure that if this is the end goal that you have these things or that you're working towards these things is ultimately going to be the theme of this webinar, which is if we have too much to do and we're on this constant kind of conveyor belt and we're not working towards something, that's what ultimately causes that owner burnout. So the easiest thing to work towards, we know we don't want to close it down, the easiest thing to work towards is being able to sell this to another passionate operator like ourselves.

Sell a gym to a passionate operator
Sell a gym to a passionate operator

Gavin Martin: What are some KPIs that you would recommend?

Nick Reyes: I mean, I'd want to know the entire sales funnel. Right? So how many leads per month, what am I committing or what am I converting per month? Let's look at what's churned per month. At a bare minimum we're going to need those. And I think that there's obviously a ton more that we can dive into, but those are the big things that if I were coming in. I'd want to know, am I acquiring a business that has a big top of funnel problem, am I acquiring a business that has a churn problem, or am I acquiring a pretty healthy business where the owner just can't keep up with it anymore because they're still so heavily involved in it.

Now obviously they want to look at balance sheets and your P&L and all that type of stuff as well, but a lot of times from what I know is from what I've seen is that some of the businesses don't even have any of that. It's like, "Here's the tax returns, do you want this thing, and this is the estimated value of the equipment, so here's the login to our PushPress account, go through and take a look around a little bit." That's normally the flow. And obviously if that is the maturity of the business, then of course we're going to see some burnout at some point.

Gavin Martin: And the boundaries of... Let me ask you one more before we move on. But a new owner buying this and passing... Oh sorry, let me see. Passing the keys, so to speak, and helping along that transition, what's the boundaries that you would put up as an owner selling it? How long do you help them basically?

Nick Reyes: I've actually heard numerous different ways to go about doing this. Sometimes it's legit, "Here's the keys, I'm out, I'm moving," type of thing. And we've also seen it the other way around where, "Hey, I'm available to meet once a week for the next year," type of thing to make sure that this is really a good investment for you. And I think a lot of it depends on the confidence of the buyer and what they're looking for. You might have some buyers who have never operated a fitness business and you may have others that have said like, "Hey, yeah, I'm new to the area and I want to acquire a gym and this is what I want to do. I know what I'm going to do. I want you to actually give me the keys and then get out," type of thing. So a lot of it's going to just going to depend on the buyer and their vision for the business as well.

Gavin Martin: Yeah, I would just recommend set some boundaries.

3. Operate As a Non Individual Contributor With A GM.

Nick Reyes: For sure. So our next one, which is to operate as a non-individual contributor with a general manager in place. So I think this is a really good option. And you'll notice the hows are very, very similar to selling to a passionate operator except you really just need to mature just a little bit further. Right? Make sure you have a solid org chart with roles and responsibilities, very clear processes in place. How does the gym open? How the gym close? You have to remember that if you're going to hire a general manager and you're not going to be an individual contributor, meaning you're not coaching classes, you're not doing the sales, you can basically pack up and then fly across the world if you want to. And one of the PushPress team members, Jim Putnam actually has done this. He owns CrossFit Lah in Kuala Lumpur. Do you know where CrossFit Lah is at, Gavin, by the way?

Gavin Martin: Indonesia?

Nick Reyes: Right. So he spent what all last year in Florida. Now I think he's in Australia. So he's a non-individual contributor who hasn't... I don't think he's been in his gym over a year. And he has a general manager in place. And him and his wife and their beautiful baby just kind of bounce all over the world, wherever they like. So you can imagine all the different processes that need to be in place in order for that to occur, because he can't just show up to open the gym on a Saturday if a coach is sick. So that's maybe the next kind of level up from here to build towards.

And again, just to reiterate it, burnout often in my opinion occurs because we're doing too much. So if we can get to doing less as gym owners and controlling the general strategy of the gym and just back yourself out piece by piece by piece, then you can invest your efforts into the areas that give you energy. So in Jim's area, maybe he loves programming, and so he's able to travel the world and just do the programming remotely. Maybe he loves the communication and so he ties off with his general manager and he's wants to be responsible for daily posts inside of the social feed and email newsletters and things of that nature. And maybe in your case as a gym owner, you just love the coaching part, but you don't want to mess with anything else. And if that's the case, then yes, in this instance you might still be an individual contributor, but just as a coach. And if times ever get tough and you need to back yourself out of that, then you could do that as well.

CrossFit Lah in Kuala Lumpur
CrossFit Lah in Kuala Lumpur

So this is kind of the next area that I would say to strive for, to build for, because once you do get to this level, you'll be successfully able to take long vacations and completely disconnect where you can rekindle that fire before you interject yourself back in the business. Now the business is operating on your terms versus it dictating your day-to-day tasks that are leading to your burnout.

Gavin Martin: And we have a few courses on PushStart free, establishing an org chart and hiring your first employee. These courses are going to give you just a little bit more data into how do I get that GM maybe if you don't have one.

4. Sell Your Gym To An Investor.

Nick Reyes: Correct. Next one, sell to an investor. So again, same exact, same exact process as the operating as a non-individual contributor with a general manager in place except for, again, you're going to level it up just a little bit further. Right? So you'll want to make sure that the gym is profitable without the owner doing any work. So even if you love coaching, you have to be able to show profitability with a normal coach salary. So let's just say you've built to that spot where you have a general manager, but you're taking this massive amount of money out of the business to coach five classes a week or something like that. You need to be able to show profitability without the owner coming in and coaching those five classes or 20 classes or whatever it might be.

Also investors typically besides just coming in and wanting that one, they'll most likely be thinking, "How can I take this and have a couple different locations?" So some sort of clear path to scalability. And maybe that's something that you don't want to bite off, but I know that oftentimes you'll see investors, they'll either want to stretch margins on the one or they'll want to keep the maybe lower margins and supplant them in multiple spots across the city and kind of take advantage of the secret sauce that you've built as a gym owner.

So again, this is just that next level to strive towards and to build towards. It's really just continuing to refine every last bit of it. So if you think you have a very clear opening and closing procedures, it's like what are the next things? What do we do in case of a fire? What do we do in case of a storm? What do we do when someone calls in sick? What is our sick time policy? And just really going through everything. Like, when's payroll process? It's buttoning up every single thing. So if you can imagine starting to work for a big company and going through every single learning and procedure that you have to learn for a big company, you need to have those things at your small company in order for an investor to come in and actually kind of pay I think close to what I would consider to be top dollar.

Gavin Martin: Is there any place that an owner, if they don't have any of this or information on the business side, could go and find some teachings on this?

Nick Reyes: Yeah I mean, honestly for this piece, outside of what we have in PushStart, this is where I start to recommend making sure you have a mentor in place. Right? So obviously Stu is great, there's two brand out there, there's a lot of different mentorship groups out there. And just be very upfront with whomever your coach is and tell them, "Hey, my goal is to sell to an investor or my goal is to..." I don't like to think of things in finites. Right? So it's like my goal is to have the ability to sell to an investor. And I think that this, again, just to make sure I'm framing this correctly here for everyone, if you've built a business to where you can sell it to an investor, it doesn't mean you have to. This is how we combat burnout is to have optionality in our day and to have optionality in when we determine that something no longer serves us as humans.

And so if you've built a business and everything that you put your effort into is on growing it to this level, which I deem as kind of the highest level between this or the operating as a general manager and being able to travel and do whatever else you want, if you can build a business to that level, then you have that optionality. Then if you don't want to be around, you don't have to because the business is profitable without you, because the business is successful without you. And if you want to interject yourself in the business you can and just pay yourself like you would pay whomever you would pay to do your marketing if that's what you really gets you excited. Right? So it's all about having optionality to end burnout versus just being constantly stuck in this rat race and on this conveyor belt.

Gavin Martin: Yeah, that's good point.

Build Towards An End

Nick Reyes: Which is kind of the next slide. Right? So just build towards an end. If we're not building towards an end, then what are we even doing? We're having fun and I think a lot of us open gyms because it is fun to begin with, but at the end of the day what ends up happening is you blink and you haven't built towards having that optionality. And it's been four years, five years, eight years, 10 years, and you've built a bunch of an amazing relationships, which is a great return in its own right, but here you are stuck with a thing that is probably too successful to close down. Right? And that makes it tough because you're going to feel like you just let down everyone that you've committed to recently and everyone's still on their journey. So really the only way out is to build the optionality.

Build your gym towards an end goal

Gavin Martin: Yeah, hundred percent. Yeah, it's a big task. And it takes a lot of time obviously to kind of lay the groundwork, but these are good points to make. And I think a lot of it's not an easy clear cut answer, a lot of different scenarios. So thanks for showing those.

Let's go to the next slide too. So what can we do to help? Obviously this webinar was to get some experience from Nick and what he went through. And what we see on a, unfortunately a weekly basis, I see owners transition ownership or work on changing and selling the business, even maybe shutting down. Again, I think putting a lot of this work in ahead of time can minimize that first scenario from happening where you actually have to shut down so you don't lose everything and then pull the rope out, the rug out from everybody.

How PushPress Can Help

So what we can do and PushPress is also help you. So we all have on our success team and our support team have owned gyms, managed gyms, climbed the ranks, and also exited the gym industry as gym owners. So you can book a call with our success team if you are a client of ours and we can talk through your scenario, kind of talk through the different options that Nick talked about, and give a little bit more case by case thoughts on it. And then also you can enroll in some courses on our PushStart. They're not complete by any means for these scenarios, but they are like the org chart or building an annual plan or hiring your first employee. You can use those to those courses to lean you one way or the other based on what you have for the energy and what feels right for you given your scenario.

So those are the kind of two call to actions that I wanted to leave you guys with. Everybody will get a survey after this. If you do want to call with one of our success reps, say, "Hey, yes," and we'll follow up with you. And then I'm actually going to throw the PushStart free courses in the chat here for you guys and then we can do some Q&A as well for the remaining time. So let's actually open up Q&A. Now there's a Q&A option, not the chat bubble, but the Q&A bubble. And you guys can throw some questions in there and see if Nick and I can answer some.

Nick Reyes: Yeah. And as you guys think through whatever questions you might have, it may sound very weird, like, "Oh, if I build an org chart and an open and closing plan and it's just me and two other coaches, how that serve us today?" A lot of this stuff just is just a hundred percent about future proofing the business. And so as you bring in that fourth person, that fifth person, so on and so forth, you can test those procedures against your new coaching staff and against the people that are coming into the gym as you hand off responsibilities.

And so what I like to say and what I tried to do before I exited Kansas Athletic Club was I tried to think like how would I automate myself out of a job. Right? And obviously some stuff that can only be done via with human interaction of course, but it was any of those tasks that I do on a regular basis, how can I offload them, and make sure that's either someone else or technology can supplement what I'm doing to where I'm a hundred percent hands off. And once I got to the point after a couple of years of being pretty close to that is when I felt as if I could leave the business and it wouldn't... It wasn't going to have a too big of a negative effect anymore. Right? Which helps ease my conscious about the whole thing.

Gavin Martin: Yeah, it's a big decision. Seeing questions coming in. Still see a few in here. So throw them in there. Now's the time. If you haven't wrapped your head around all the information or your scenario, that's also fine. We can push it off to a call with the success team or the Facebook group. We have obviously the community there. If you want to go to the next slide there. Nick, we do have a PushPress community on Facebook. If you're not part of that, definitely join. You got to be a client obviously to join it, but it's a good place to float ideas. Let's see here. Rob says, "What do you do typical price ranges for GM?" Ah, I knew that was coming.

Nick Reyes: That's such a good question. So as far as... You're going to have your different levels of GMs here. And normally this is where kind of the org chart stuff starts to become super critical because you want to kind of branch off what makes sense from if... Let's just say we've got a gym owner. You start as a gym owner of one, right? It's you and you're doing everything. Probably you might decide that you need a head coach that's responsible for coaching all the coaches and maybe they do programming as well. That would be one seat. And then in your other seat you're maybe going to have member experience, and maybe that person also bites off marketing. So build the org chart in a way that makes sense for you. And again, take that PushStart course. I know... I think Stu did that course. Right, Gavin?

Gavin Martin: Mm-hmm.

Nick Reyes: And so take that course and really kind of see if you can build that out. What'll happen when you go through that exercise is you're going to see that the general manager's going to have a specific set of roles. And if those roles are something that give you energy and you want to decrease what they're doing, then obviously you're going to pay them less. But if the gym's not making 80 grand a year, there's obviously no chance of you paying them 80 grand a year. So, so much of that I think is going to depend upon how much your involvement is going to remain in the business.

And then also how profitable the gym is, because ultimately the gym still needs to strive to profitability with a GM. And your expectations on that GM on whether they're also coaching, whether they're selling, whether they're doing the marketing based upon the roles and responsibilities that you outline in the org chart are going to help dictate what you pay them.

So start with the most bare basic fundamentals and go through that org chart course, build the org chart that makes sense for you and the energy output that you want to have on certain sections of the business. And then go from there. And market value's going to be what it's going to be. So if it's like, "hey, my GM solely respond... He doesn't do any coaching or he or she doesn't do any coaching, all they do is communication and sales and event management," that's going to be way different than if you're asking them to coach 20 classes a week and also do sales and also clean the bathroom. So that's why I say you kind of got to divide it up by roles first. Hopefully that answers that question, Rob.

Outline gym roles for GM and coaches

Gavin Martin: I mean, yeah, it's a really hard question to answer. I knew it was coming. And it's so situational. You know? If you're building towards selling to them or an investor or something, taking a cut for yourself and transferring those responsibilities to them and that pay maybe just in the short term might be a way to start building that level so you can sell it or take a step back. Right? Also building in, if the revenue increases, there's a potential for pay increase as well. Building those kind of sales initiatives can be helpful.

Nick Reyes: Right. I like to think of it as buying myself out of a job.

Gavin Martin: Yeah.

Nick Reyes: Yeah, we got Sean here. Do you recommend using templates to start building out some of the SOPs or creating your own from scratch? I have a few that I've built, but there're going to be some things I'm not ever thinking about for building an SOP for.

I love getting inspiration from other documentation. So if you can get a handbook from someone that's already done it in the industry, that's great. But be inspired by it. Don't just take it. I think you're on the right path, Sean, that without the inspiration, there'll be things that we just completely miss. Right? So be inspired, but don't steal, because if you steal it, it's going to completely miss the culture that you want to create within your specific business. And it's going to be the little things like... How early do you want a coach to show up to a class? Is five minutes okay? Because if that's what's in someone else's handbook and then you show up and the members are like, "Hey Sean, the classes are just... The equipment wasn't ready or whatever else," so that wouldn't work for you. So then just get the ideas, but then tailor them for what fits your business and what you're aiming to build would be my advice there.

Gavin Martin: Yeah. And I would write down all the ideas that you have and then have that in your phone as you go through your week of business with things that you're doing. And those are going to be your hierarchy of SOPs. And then steal a breakdown of an SOP and then regurgitate that for each different element in the business. And make sure it's... You know. Doesn't need to be colorful writing. Simple, straightforward.

Nick Reyes: Yep. Should be simple enough to where if you hire a new coach and you give them that, "Here's the handbook," they should be able to get it and go, "Cool, the boss wants me here 30 minutes ahead of time and wants once the entire class set up for everyone. I got it." And now that's the expectation. Now that is what you then hold those coaches and basically your team of employees accountable towards, because you outlined the process clearly. There's no freestyle and how they do it. That's the key. No freestyle in how we open, no freestyle in how we close. The trash is always taken out. The lights are always shut off. The beverage fridge is restocked. Or whatever it is that you've got in yours, just make sure that it's done. And then whenever the beverage fridge isn't restocked and the trash is overflowing when the morning coach comes in, that's when we need to have a discussion with either the afternoon or the evening coach if that's something that you had on their task of responsibilities to do before they left type of thing.

Gavin Martin: A hundred percent. Yep. Yeah. No, it's something to hold everybody accountable too. And it doesn't sound like fun, especially if you run more chill gym, but it's important.

Nick Reyes: Well, it's important if you want to be able to remove yourself versus walk into the gym and go, "Crap, the trash is overflowing, this is out of stock, let me do all this," which are the things that, again, take us back [inaudible 00:39:20]-

Gavin Martin: And you live in resentment and annoyance, but you are really the only person you can blame if we're not putting that out there. I mean, that's basic relationship 101. If you don't communicate it correctly, efficiently, people aren't going to follow through or guess what's going on in your head.

Nick Reyes: Absolutely.

Gavin Martin: All right. Well, that's like the only question left for now, but yeah, I think we'll table it and go from there. You guys can book a call. And yeah, we can take this offline and your situations that you guys are confronted with at your own gym. So feel free to book a call with us. And Nick, thanks again for doing this. This is awesome. Always great to haveone of our own on the call. And we'll be adding more to those courses in relation to this. Definitely. So take a look at the PushStart free courses. Everybody have a great Tuesday.

Monica Hilton

Monica is our Content Manager extraordinaire for PushPress. She also owns her gym in Indianapolis, Together We Rise CrossFit, which she opened in 2014 and previously worked in IndyCar racing.

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