(Diligent readers will note I shared a version of this email over the summer. But since I know staffing is still an issue, I wanted to share it again.)
Finding qualified team members is one of the biggest challenges of owning a training gym. And the stakes are high to get it right.
Small organizations are massively impacted by each new hire: their energy levels, their values, their skill sets, their emotional intelligence, etc. After all, when you run a service business, you’re largely selling the life force of the humans your clients interact with. Furthermore, each team member can either bring up — or bring down — the rest of your team.
Here in the states, it’s a particularly tough environment at the moment. Many businesses are struggling to find people. While there are all sorts of theories as to why, it’s pretty consistent across industries.
This means there are actually training gyms at or near capacity because they can’t find enough staff to service the demand. Yikes!
Here a smattering of thoughts and tips for finding good employees.
Accept It Will Be 10x Harder Than You Think It Should Be
After over ten years as an operator — and years of coaching other training gym owners — this is the biggest mental block I see.
Not unlike marketing for clients, many training gym owners can’t get their heads around how much time, energy, and effort needs to go into the hiring process.
You can’t put up a “We’re hiring!” page on your website and fill the role next week. Expect to spend 10x more time, energy, and effort than intuitively feels reasonable.
You need to turn over every possible rock to look for candidates:
- Make personal outreach to individuals in your network that could be a fit or know leads
- Share your job description with your clients and ask for their help
- Post on every possible job board (Indeed, ZipRecruiter, etc.)
- Consider paying to boost these posts
- Network with local colleges
- Leverage social media
… you have to do EVERYTHING to get the word out.
Build Your Pipeline Before You Need It
The very best way to do this is with an internship program. In fact, BFU coach and Cressey Sports Performance Co-Owner Pete Dupuis is one of the industry’s leading experts on this approach.
Based on your market and training gym — and the role — this won’t always be viable. But if you can, it’s illuminating to work with individuals for a few months before making hiring decisions. You’ll have a WAY better idea who will actually be a good fit for your organization.
Beyond having an internship, it’s also a good idea to start and build relationships with potential future employees before you need to make a hire. This is obviously most important for trainers, as you need a specific set of skills. But the same can be said for administrative staff.
Most of the skills in a training gym can be learned via training. So you should always keep your eye out for talent. This means getting contact info for the amazing waiter or barista and developing a relationship with them.
And of course, for many training gyms, your clientele base will be a great source of potential new hires. Not only do they already know your culture, but you can find out a lot about someone by working with them as a client.
Make Your Hiring Process Your Most Dialed In SOP
Most training gyms simply don’t have to hire all that often. And when you don’t have much experience doing something and can’t get in many reps… you tend to suck. This is why you must create a clearly documented system that you run — and improve! — each and every time you make a hire.
You will get better over time at hiring. But you have to be intentional about documenting your process and results. Since you won’t be doing a bunch of hires month after month, having a set of SOP’s and careful notes are necessary to see improvement over time.
For instance, we’ve learned the hard way at MFF that we need to put our candidates in uncomfortable and stressful situations (“a stress test”) to see how they handle pressure. We’ve seen how results vary if we skip this step.
Accept You Won’t Get It Right Some of the Time
While having an internship will be the very best way to improve your odds, making hires isn’t an exact science; especially without an extended internship dating period. You’re going to make the wrong hire from time to time.
By all means, you have a responsibility to the individual — and your own sanity — to create an amazing onboarding experience that sets people up for success. You can and should take ownership and upskill how you onboard new employees.
But on the other hand, you have to be willing to fire fast. When it becomes clear someone isn’t working out, you’ve got to make the tough call. This is a bitter pill to swallow when you realize just how time intensive it is to hire and onboard someone (see the first point). Furthermore, it has a real cost to make staffing changes when you only have a small crew. And of course, it’s pretty much the WORST part of owning a business.
But it bears repeating, in a small organization each team member has an outsize impact on the results of the business. Holding on to someone who’s not able to perform does no one any favors; including the individual that could probably find a better fit elsewhere.
This is obviously a big topic. But I hope you can use some of these tips and frameworks the next time you need to grow your team.
Really cool laser sounds,
PS Want more help with these kinds of challenges?