Episode 259

Managing Your Time as a Gym Owner

In this episode, Mark Fisher joins me to talk about managing your time as a gym owner.

[00:00:00] Hello, fitness business nerds. What’s up? Welcome to another episode of the Business Unicorns podcast. Today I’m here with Mr. Fisher. What’s up, sir? How are you? I am doing great. I’m here from my brand new YouTube studio in my basement. That’s exciting. I’m not in a fancy YouTube studio. I’m at a beach house.

But you know what I feel like, ’cause I’m at the beach, it’s not bad either. Yeah I’ll take it. I’ll take it. Yeah. I’m excited for today’s conversation. Before we dive in, I just wanna do a quick little shout out ’cause we have a super cool tool on our website now that you can all get for free.

And it’s basically our raise your rates template. For many of you, you should be thinking about raising your rates every single year. We’re in a high inflationary environment, which makes it even more important that you’re raised. Rates go up every single year and we know how hard that can be, how stressful that can be to charge more for your services on a regular basis.

So we made a template that makes communicating that to your clients as easy as it can be. Fisher, you wanna tell ’em what’s in the template? Yeah, [00:01:00] it gives you a, first of all, I think a set of considerations for what you need to be thinking about when you do this. And importantly, it delineates between when you’re doing what we would refer to as a price raise, which just means you’re maybe 9% or under 9% is getting up there.

But I don’t think that’s completely unforgivable. And in some situations you have to do what we call a price correction because you’re so massively underpriced. You might, for any number of reasons, decide you’re gonna cut once and cut deep and just do a 15% or a 20% raise is not impossible.

Importantly, there’s also copy paste. Templates for how to write the email, because sometimes that’s also the thing where we get in our own way is we just don’t have the exact words. So you can literally copy paste Dear members, blah, blah, blah, blah, with fill in the blanks. We made it super simple for you.

We’ve done this with so many gyms. I’ve lost count in the Unicorn society. It’s part of why we created this step-by-step playbook ’cause we were doing it so often and in our infinite magnanimous desire to serve our industry. And of course, acquire your email address. We’re now making it completely free.

Click [00:02:00] the link in the show notes and get it today. Go do it, my friends. It’s a template to make your life easier and immediately, put some more money in your pockets, which is exciting. Let’s dive in. So today’s topic is actually focused on the gym owner. So dear gym owners, this one’s all for you.

If you’re not a gym owner, there’s still gonna be some good takeaways. But the topic, which is a requested topic, came in through email to Fisher, I think some anonymous person wanted us to talk about how to prioritize. Your time as a gym owner, like how to think about the hierarchy of priorities on your plate as a gym owner and manage your time effectively.

And boy, listeners, lemme tell you how much we have to say about this topic. This could be a three hour podcast, but we’re gonna try in 20 minutes or less to boil down what we think are some good frameworks and best practices for managing your time. Where do you wanna start with this one? Fisher? Perhaps I can start by outlining a new model that I have been working with that I think has been valuable to help people think through how one could use [00:03:00] their time as a gym owner.

So the CRST way I think of thinking about how we use our time would be modeling, or rather mapping the task to what is the usual hourly rate you might pay in your market or online to have someone do this. And I think when you do that, It doesn’t shake out, I think exactly like this, but for the most part you see a few different tiers.

And at a high level, the way I think about this is bottom tier things, which are manual labor, administrative tasks, et cetera. Then second tier things are the fulfilling of the service, doing operations, and then top level things are related to either marketing, selling, acquiring clients, or building the systems so that everything else functions better.

And I would further probably delineate. But in that bottom layer if we were gonna say there’s five tiers and clearly I’m working through this in real time. I haven’t decided where this is all gonna land. But if you’re thinking of this as a pyramid, the bottom thing, the last thing you should be doing is manual labor.[00:04:00]

So these are things like mopping your, the bathroom floor or making a run to staples to buy post office stamps, whatever that’s. Super low skill. It requires no education. That is the lowest part of the value ladder. Then one step above that, but still below this middle fulfillment tier. You have things that are more white collar work, but are administrivia.

So these are things that maybe require a little bit of an S o P or checklist you look at, and this would be things such as filling out a membership freeze form in your booking and billing platform to make sure that the membership is frozen. Or answering basic membership questions in some sort of general office email for your gym.

Again, probably more valuable than actual manual labor, but on balance, not the most valuable use of your time, particularly the gym owner. So then you have the center tier. Which is fulfilling the session. Now, again, depending on what you pay your coaches and what’s happening in here, this can [00:05:00] sometimes be very profitable.

If you run a model where you have a bolt-on high ticket coaching program on top of, let’s say, small group training, and you’re doing that yourself, you’re incentivized, first of all for that service to kick ass. And secondly, you can make a lot of money doing it. And while we were generally not, About trading hours for dollars in practice, if those hours are worth lots and lots of dollars, that might make sense.

And then finally you move up to this top tier. Which again, I would split into two different sub tiers, right? So secondly, below the tip of the top, but above the fulfillment layer is anything related to marketing and sales. And this is you writing and sending out marketing emails, looking over a content calendar for social media, and of course not to be underappreciated, following up with leads and doing actual sales conversations.

Now in many gyms, you’re doing pretty good. If as the owner, you’re spending a lot of your time there and maybe some of your time doing fulfillment. But the tippy top, the top tier. Is where you are now creating the [00:06:00] systems. So this means you are, in some cases, overseeing not only the coaches that are doing the fulfillment, not only maybe a coach or perhaps a part-time work study that’s doing administrative or manual labor for you, but you’re even overseeing people that are doing marketing and sales related tasks for you.

And then of course, I would note the, maybe the ultimate layer the version of that, maybe tier one a. Is you teach other people how to teach other people how to run the systems that run your business and that world, you’re in rare air. That’s where you really have a sustainable business that really doesn’t require you.

I’ll pull up there. I actually have a graphic that unfortunately we’re in a podcast and I’m a good way of showing you, but it will be an upcoming YouTube video@markfisheryoutube.com if you wanna check it out. But that is the best way that I know how to think about this. And I’ll pull up their kis.

I’m sure you have reflections. Yeah, I think it’s a great way of thinking about it and I think it’s a model. I think it’ll make immediate sense to many of our listeners. I think they can easily picture it and understand it. And you started to do this, but I wonder if you can talk a little bit more about how you’ve seen owners move through that pyramid [00:07:00] over the life of their gym.

’cause they don’t start Yes. Usually working at the top. So you just talk a little bit about how that evolves over time. Yeah. So most owners, If you’re starting as a lot of our clients do, and this is in everyone, but a lot of them start as a trainer, right? That’s the main thing that they do. And then before they have a space, they’re doing a little bit of administrative stuff because maybe they’re dealing with some prospects here or there, not really in a systematic way.

They maybe don’t have a of a. A booking platform, but they need to collect the money. And then maybe they’re doing a little bit of marketing sales, but not really. Because what happens for a lot of people, and by the way, this was me. If you’re good enough and you’re a personal trainer, you don’t have unlimited capacity and you usually just have proof of concept, you’re just gonna get more clients.

’cause people are gonna send you their friends. But ultimately this does not a business make gentle listener. So what happens is, let’s say now you’ve opened up a space, now you start to have the question on who do I hire first? What a lot of people want to do, which is not as helpful honestly, is like throw money at marketing and sales.

[00:08:00] Usually that’s just not gonna work. That’s it’s more valuable, it’s more expensive. You don’t really even understand if your ad agency’s doing a good job, okay, I need to drive more leads. So in practice, what you probably wanna do is, number one, if you look at that bottom tier, either white collar work in administrative or manual labor, That is the stuff you wanna be outsourcing.

Some of that you can even barter for work study and actually have it not hit your cash. Because at this point in your business’ development, you’re gonna make more money and be more valuable to the business actually fulfilling the sessions. And it’s like that. You prefer that rather than getting the backend of MINDBODY online, doing very tedious things, filling out membership agreements, et cetera, right?

So that bottom tier you can start to outsource. Where you begin to make the quantum leap is when you start to outsource the training to other trainers. And then free up more time and energy to both learn about and sharpen your software marketing sales, and devote time to marketing and sales activity.

Now I wanna highlight, this is where we get a little bit of chicken egg. It’s a little bit tough. Okay, [00:09:00] so we’ve already talked about overseeing some work study people. Okay that kind of implies you already know how to do SOPs. You know how to hold people accountable, you know how to train people.

Admittedly, none of that is particularly mind blowing if you have a semi competent person. Odds are they already know how to, let’s say, clean the toilet, it gets a little sticker. When you are trying to free up time for yourself to focus on marketing, sales activity, you tend to have two issues. I see.

Number one, I. I need to get somebody in here who can do these services. The classic rule of thumb is 80% as well as I can, but now I need to understand hiring. Now I need to understand onboarding. Now I need to understand long-term managing accountability. Now I need to have existing, written standard operating procedures, so the experience they’re giving.

Our clients is as good as what I would do, or at the very least in line and directionally a appropriate for what we do here in this facility. So sometimes that is a challenge there ’cause you’re missing that skillset. The other issue we have is, okay, let’s just say hypothetically you got a knack for [00:10:00] this.

You’ve written down some SOPs, they’re good enough. And by the way, in the beginning, that’s what I did. I like famously gave our first trainer like a yellow legal pattern. I was like, here you go, here’s. Here’s the program, go have fun. And I stumbled my way through it and did okay. But then you have this issue where if you now open up free time, You have to know what to do for marketing and sales, and a lot of trainers run into issues because they don’t know what to do.

They’re bad at it and they don’t like it, and that makes sense because they’re not good at it because they haven’t put a lot of time and energy into it. This is where sometimes we’ll need to address limiting beliefs around how important marketing and sales is not to the gym. And in fact, what you often see, this is very perverse.

Gym owner who’s in tier two finally frees up that middle tier time. They get another trainer on board and then rather moving up the pyramid and spending time on marketing and sales activity. They move down the pyramid because they’re confusing activity with achievement, and at least I know what to do.

At least there’s something to fill my day. I don’t know [00:11:00] how to do digital ads, and I’m nervous and I’m not a member of the Unicorn Society, so I haven’t seen the Done View courses that make it that simple. So I’ll clean the toilet, right? It’s something I can do and I know I’m getting something done. I’ll go in my email inbox and I’ll answer some membership emails.

Again, I’m not saying that’s wrong per se, or that you should ever be above doing that as the owner. I just wanna highlight because this is you and if alarm clocks are going off and ah, I’ve gotten myself off the floor. But now, ’cause I don’t have these discrete chunks where I know what I’m doing, which is training sessions, I’m not sure how to use that time.

I’m afraid of marketing sales, so I’m gonna descend down and just do busy work because that will give me something to do until I head home for the evening. Yeah, I think it, I think you highlighted the place where we see most people stumble, even in unicorn society, right? Is I think you highlighted it really well.

They get to that third tier where they’re, they finally can off board themselves from doing all the training they’ve been doing, and they get a few hours free. And then they hesitate. They hesitate to get uncomfortable and learn how to do sales. They [00:12:00] hesitate to really challenge themselves to learn how to do digital or some other kind of marketing.

They hesitate to really dive in and blossom as a leader or a manager, learn how to do that really well, or study systems or creating SOPs. And that’s the place where I think a lot of people find something like unicorn society, right? Is like they know they need the outside help and maybe even the handholding and accountability to push themselves outside their comfort zone to learn to grow their business.

And I’ll say this, that, There’s something unique about small businesses like gyms in that we have this expectation, even in this model, which I think is right, this is how it works for most people, most of the time. There’s this expectation that you as the owner have to first become the expert before you can hire someone else to do it.

That you climb this pyramid yourself first, and then when you’re ready, You hire people to help or you delegate it, or you hired, another expert to take it on after you’ve learned it yourself. And I think you’re, I think that’s right. That’s [00:13:00] how it happens most of the time for most generators we know, that model doesn’t exist in larger businesses.

So the idea that the c e o of a company would learn, know how to do any of the roles right in their business first is insane. So I also wanna make just a little room in this pyramid for those of you who get to, let’s say, That third level, you’re doing the training, you made a little space for yourself and you realize, you know what?

I don’t wanna learn how to do marketing. I don’t want to learn how to do sales. I don’t like managing people. I wanna say that there’s a very small percentage of you that I wanna normalize that it’s okay for you to say, you know what? I’m actually just gonna stay the trainer in my gym. I’m gonna be a best fucking trainer in town, and I’m gonna hire people who are really good at this and maybe already have experience who can lead me, teach me.

I think that’s maybe a harder path. For some people, but I think there’s some people who probably should do that. There’s some people who, who go into sales and marketing and learning to do it, like kicking and screaming. Maybe they should just stay on the floor because that’s what lights them up.[00:14:00]

And so anyway, I just wanna make room for that in this model somewhere. Is that for some of you being an expert in some of those higher level things is just may not be in the cards for you? Not ’cause you can’t just ’cause you don’t want to, yeah, I don’t know. What do you say to that?

Yeah, I think that does happen, right? And I think that’s a sticky situation because I think it is, part of the one approach to this that one could take in theory, and I don’t know that it applies here, but I’ll explain why in a moment, is who not how, right? Because I think once the business is, I don’t know, and I’m arbitrary saying this, once you’re around the three to $5 million mark, there’s enough fat on the bone, you can now bring in somebody that is a lot better at you, that you’re willing to pay.

In some cases several hundred thousand dollars and a really sexy bonus compensation and they’re really batteries included and you’re never gonna be able to, you’re not gonna really understand what they do, but it doesn’t matter because they’re gonna be able to get you the results that you need.

The challenge, I think, for a lot of training gyms are, until you get to the gym, to a certain size, it’s hard to outsource any [00:15:00] skill with something. With somebody that skilled, because frankly, in most situations you just can’t afford it. So then you circle back this issue. Okay, what do you do if the trainer just hates those things?

I think there’s an alternative model that I don’t think is very sustainable, but I think can work pretty well. And not trying to be ageist, but I’ve just seen in my experiences works pretty well for a younger person. I don’t see it work as well for an older person, and that is, Essentially just building a business around yourself now, yet you’re trading dollars for hours.

But listen, we, I have people I’ve worked with over years that can make a lot of money doing this because now you have the hypothetical gym where if you’re in a smaller market, maybe you’re doing 250 K revenue, which is maybe not out of this world in the grand scheme of training gyms, but in practice, if it only costs you $70,000 in expenses and you’re keeping $180,000 and you’re in a rural market, That’s not the worst business, right?

So it’s like you, maybe it’s even better Martins, right? Maybe you got 50 K [00:16:00] all year long and that is one part-time coach, and then you have one part-time admin, or maybe they do work, study your rent, some toilet paper, some facilities maintenance. You don’t have a big square foot because you don’t need a big square foot in that type of model.

That can work really well and I think sometimes it’s a better fit than trying to turn it into a quote unquote real business. And I’m not trying to be. Derogatory towards that other type of business where you build a training business around yourself. Again, I would just highlight where I see the wheels fall off.

There is, at some point, most people are gonna wanna make a transition that gives them more personal freedom. And to do that, you have to go through a version of what is sometimes called the valley of Death, where you’re maybe temporarily making less money. Because you can’t be on the floor as often.

’cause here’s another issue we run into sometimes with the unicorn Society, which is why what has become fundamental to to us as we do a diagnostic assessment of your business is if you’re on the floor like 35 hours per week. [00:17:00] You don’t have time to do these other things, right? You’re barely getting through the administrative via and the manual labor.

You don’t have time to do marketing sales, so it’s another chicken of the egg moment. All right, what do I do? I need more leads. I need to grow my business so I can get off the floor ’cause I can’t afford to pay other people, but I don’t need time to do it. Unfortunately, the answer in those situations usually is some combination of being willing to make less money and grind.

And if I were to give you one pro tip, this is a thing that we’ve done on several occasions in the recent past, I think is so important, is oftentimes when I look at this kind of training gym and I see the trainers working 35 hours per week. There’s a very specific phenomenon where the personal trainer has not become a gym yet.

They say they’re a gym, they have a space. It’s the name of the gym. But in spite of offering a small group model, which in theory should be averaging four, maybe four and a half people per hour, I. They’re still doing a bunch of one-on-ones. So they, their schedule is not designed in a symmetrical way, and this is multiple members in the past six months I’ve worked with on this.

So [00:18:00] in practice, their utilization is horrible for what they’re doing. That requires a lot of you have to walk on fire calls. I appreciate that to I. I really be willing to upset clients and say, I used to, you were all snowflakes. And my schedule was like, I do nine 30 on this day and whatever on this day.

And the, if you look at the schedule, there’s no symmetry to it. Just saying okay, I’m no longer a trainer, I’m a gym now. So instead of offering 35 one-on-ones and one-on twos, I’m supposed to do six at a time, so I’m now gonna offer whatever you decide the bare minimum is, maybe it’s 15, maybe 20.

Because when you do the math and if you back it out, that’s still not quite enough utilization. Now I can see the case for a certain size of business, you can maybe need a little bit more total capacity availability, otherwise leads aren’t gonna convert. If you know you only have sessions on Tuesday afternoon and Thursday mornings, that’s not gonna fly, and that’s not what I’m suggesting here.

I am suggesting that if you’re in this moment where you’re working 35 hours per week, Take a real [00:19:00] honest look at your actual utilization and then be willing, in most cases to rip off that bandaid, because I think what you’ll find is you won’t lose a lot of members per se, so your revenues won’t really change that much.

But if you go from working 35 hours on the floor to 20 hours on the floor, or 15. It’s gonna change the quality of your life, it’s gonna change your energy levels, and it’s gonna give you, at the time and the capacity to at least now give an honest go at learning the market and sales stuff. And to Kira’s point, maybe we’ll find you, you hate all that.

And we’re like, all right, we’re just gonna build this business around you and listen is your business. That can work too. But those are some hot takes there. I think as far as how we think about this and how we might address this if we’re working too many hours to actually do stuff. Yeah. I’m glad you brought that into the conversation.

’cause so often people know what they, what to spend time on and they just are on the floor too much that they don’t even make it possible for themselves. Yeah. To spend time And I get you’re stuck. Yeah. And you’re like, how do I get off? Yeah. 100%. Yeah. I think that’s it. We only got a few more minutes left.

I just wanna cover one more thing is that, you know so many times when we talk to unicorn study members [00:20:00] and they’re not spending time. On the things they wanna spend time on, it’s because they really just have not set good boundaries. Yes. They’ve let other people really dominate their schedule.

Yes. So you can just talk a little bit about when it comes to designing your week and designing your schedule to spend time on the priorities, what are some tips you have for people to start doing that? Yeah, so the first very tactical suggestion is similar to actually what we just said is resist the temptation if you are newer in your business to add a two 30, because Mrs.

Rossini said I would sign up for a membership, but I can only train on Tuesdays at two 30. You’re like, all right, I’ll add a Tuesday. I really need Mrs. Rossini. Nope, if no one else is gonna train at that time, you have to be willing to lose clients that have very specific, and I might say unreason supplements for when you offer your sessions.

So I think that’s one kind of boundary. I think the other sort of boundary violations we see most commonly are related to this, and this depends on the way your model is set up. If you work, if you have a slightly more, let’s say, sophisticated [00:21:00] facility and you work in the gym and maybe you don’t have an office, My gosh, it can get hard to get stuff done there because understandably, you wanna be available for your clients and your team.

And I would say in that situation, you might just have to depend upon not being there when you have to get the really important work done, that’s gonna move the ball forward. Or if you have an office closing the door and then really communicating your needs, communicating boundaries with people on your team.

And in some cases, if need be with your clients. Those are the ones that come to mind immediately. I guess I’ll give one other thing, which is that if you work from home a lot, potentially having a conversation with family and your spouse. Now, if you are like me and you have an adorable little 13 month old jihadist, she is not.

Amenable to my requests for specific boundaries. But even then at 13 months old, haha, she’s very stupid. I, she’s so dumb. My daughter, if I go down the basement and close the door, she doesn’t even know I’m down here. It’s incredible move. So I think you can create boundaries sometimes by having actual physical boundaries.

I close doors don’t work there.[00:22:00] And then of course the harder thing is when people are not respect for those boundaries and having chats. So those are a few offerings. Yeah. I think those are great. Those are great places to start. I hope dear listeners, you’re taking some good notes because I think that those boundary setting techniques can help you start to focus your time on the things that matter most.

And I think the pyramid that Mark introduced is a great place to start thinking about how you’re spending your time. This is awesome. I thought it was a great conversation. Anything you wanna leave our listeners with as we wrap things up? I don’t think so. I think this was comprehensive. I would just say briefly, if you’ve never done a time audit, that is a very valuable thing.

If you go to the BIS Unicorn’s website and go into the blog, there’s a search function. Just type in time audits. I. And I think that is a really good diagnostic. I don’t know that you literally need to ascribe actual dollar amounts to how you’re spending your time, but in my experience, most people are just not very conscious about how they’re spending their time in the way.

Most people are not conscious either about how they’re spending their caloric budget with food or how they’re spending their money. So the difference is, [00:23:00] Your body and the bank are keeping track of those, whereas no one is keeping track of the time. But you, so I know some people find that to be a real grind and some drudgery, but I think it is worth considering if you want more awareness of how you are currently using your time.

I. That’s it. Most change starts with awareness and I think in an activity like that just brings things into such sharp focus and so it really can make the case for changing the way you do things. So yeah. Great one, go grab that one friends on our blog and don’t forget to grab our, raise the raise your Rates template by clicking the link in the show notes.

And if you enjoyed this podcast, leave us a five star review everywhere that you listen. It really helps us find more listeners. Just like you who find this valuable. So thanks for listening and sharing. Thanks for the great conversation, Fisher. I’ll see y’all next one.