How To Actually Get SOPs To Work For Your Gym

This week we’ve got BFU’s “Secret Weapon” Ben Pickard sharing some actionable tips on create clear standard operating procedures.

Ben is one of the greatest “systems minds” I’ve ever met in the fitness industry. Give this a read and go take action!

Do you ever feel like you’re stuck IN the business when you want to be working ON the business?

Do you feel like you’ve told your team the same things again and again and still find yourself needing to tell them… again?

And do you find your vision not being executed the way you want and need to step in all the time to deliver a consistent customer experience?

My friend, I’m in my 8th year of owning my studio, and I feel your pain. 

1000s of tiny paper cuts shredding your focus and detracting from your ability to execute the high leverage activities you so desperately want to engage in.

As I shared in my last email a few weeks ago, I lost my GM in February and took over that role.

What I didn’t share was that the sales process was only one of 50+ SOPs that I created or refined in the last few months to set my new GM up for success.

This allows me to do other things – like write this email for you. High five :)!

Since this is actionable-AF BFU content, here’s how you can stop repeating yourself, spend more time on the business, and have your vision executed the way you want.

First, SOP the absolute shit out of everything.

Yes, yes. I know I’m a broken record and you’ve heard this before. 

And if you haven’t done it yet, your options are to continue to avoid the problem wishing for a magic bullet, or dig your heels in and get them done.

And when I say everything, I mean everything. 

How to mop, exactly where the equipment should be returned to, and scripts for how to respond to freeze and termination requests.

I even wrote an SOP for “how to create a new SOP” that team members can duplicate with all sections to include and where the document should be saved. This won’t be the last SOP we create and I don’t want to write them all.

In brief, every SOP should have 3 sections:

1. The outcome you want,  including the “why” for the team, tying it into your core values, team experience, or member experience. You could just bark orders at people, and in my experience getting buy-in is better.

2. An expert SOP that is a handful of key bullet points for team members to refer to when they know the steps, but need a reminder or had a brain fart. Think of this as a quick reference guide.

3. A learner’s SOP with every step, in detail, so someone who has never done this before can do it successfully. Click here, then go here, then click this. Every single step. This is how you train team members on day 1 for each task, and make sure current team members are getting it right.

Pro tip – the learner’s SOP can be a screenshare video for most SOPs. Download Vidyard or Loom, and save yourself oodles of hours.

Second pro tip – make the final step of every SOP “if you find a better way to do this, let the GM know so we can update the SOP” so you never have to re-do 50+ SOPs like I just did.

Second, train your team on the SOPs.

Don’t just show them once. 

Start with you showing them how to do it. Then they can do the task with you available to help with bottlenecks. Finally after a few weeks get them to train you on the SOP.

Once they can train you on it, they know it.

Plus, this gives you both the chance to refine and tweak the SOP as you go. 

If you’ve anything like me, the first draft is mediocre at best and your team’s input won’t just be valuable – it will help them feel engaged in the process when you ask them for feedback to make the SOP, and in turn their lives, easier.

I had the story in my head that by reviewing things so many times my team would feel like I don’t view them as competent.

It was exactly the opposite – they thanked me for making things so clear, and gave me valuable feedback for making better SOPs.

It took me an embarrassing 8 years to figure that out.

Third, inspect what you expect.

I hear the soothing wisdom of Michael Keeler’s voice in my head:

A good SOP makes it easy for your team to win, and hard to lose, giving a consistent customer experience.

Everyone on my team now has a task list with the task, the frequency it’s done, the SOP hyperlinked, and a place to check off “done or not done” each day for the year in one easy to use document.

And on my GMs task list, one of her SOPs is to check everyone else’s task list every week to make sure things are done. If anything isn’t done, she addresses it with either an accountability nudge, more training, or troubleshooting.

Don’t fall into the trap I did previously – “well I wrote it and even though it’s buried in google docs my team should still dig through everything and get it right”.

Make it easy for your team, and inspect what you expect.

I know none of this is groundbreaking new information, and it is fundamentally important if you want your todos and calendar for the weeks to come to change.

There will continue to be tweaks and updates, such as software updates or policy changes in our businesses, so this job is never “done”.

And I can share from my experience, it will give you less stress, less frustration, and make every new hire you make for years to come that much easier.

Plus, if you do it right someone else will be able to write the next SOP for you.

To delivering a consistent experience and freeing up your time.