Episode 344

The Big Mistake Gym Owners Make During Times of Change with Pete Dupuis

In this episode, Pete Dupuis joins me to talk about the big mistake gym owners make during times of change.

[00:00:00] Hello, my friend on today’s episode, I’m speaking with Pete and we’re talking about the one big, giant mistake that most gym owners are making when it comes to making change at your gym. So whether you’re offering a new service, changing an SOP or changing your workflow for how things happen, when you’re making change at your gym, there’s a One very common mistake most of you are making.

So we talked about that mistake and offer you some fantastic solutions for how to avoid it moving forward. So if you’re making lots of changes in a gym, that’s growing quickly. This is a great episode for you. Keep on listening.

Welcome to the Business for Unicorns podcast, where we help gym owners unleash the full potential of their business. I’m your host, Michael Keeler. Join me each week for actionable advice, expert insights, and the inside scoop on what it really takes to level up your [00:01:00] gym, get ready to unlock your potential.

And become a real unicorn in the fitness industry. Let’s begin.

Hello, fitness, business nerds. What’s up. Welcome to another episode of the business for unicorns podcast. Before we jump into today’s episode with Pete today, I just want to give you all a quick reminder that if you love these podcasts, you can get more time with us. By joining unicorn society. If you want to talk to me and Mark and Pete and Ben and the rest of the business unicorns team in real life, you can do that.

We have open enrollment to our unicorn society. All the time. And if you are a gym owner who wants to more freedom, more growth, more income in your life, , we can help you do that. So go click the link down below in the bio, in the show notes. I always say in the bio, I’m such an Instagrammer. Click the link down below in the show notes and go check out our Unicorn Society group, see if it’s the right fit for you.

The first step is just a no hassle, quick conversation to see if we’re a good fit for each other. And so no obligation, quick check in. And so go learn [00:02:00] more about the group and come work with us. We’d love to see you. That being said. Welcome Pete. Hi there. How are you? I’m so good. I’m so good. We’re recording this coming off of Memorial Day weekend and we both had very full holiday weekends.

And I’m excited to get back into the groove. Honestly, I had some good time off and now I’m ready to rock and roll. How about you? Yeah, this is the time of year where we get back to business in my gym and the floodgates have opened. When I stepped out of the office this morning, we were preparing for six or seven athletes to come in for evaluations.

And so it’s funny, we go from zero to a hundred real fast and it’s amazing how quickly the, the rest that we had feels like it wears off by the end of the first week, you’re like, Oh, when’s the off season start? And we’re about, I don’t know, nine, 10 months away. Yeah. It fades away so fast. Yeah. It fades away.

Yeah. Let’s dive into today’s topic. So today’s topic actually was inspired by a lot of. Coaching conversations. I’ve been having with our Unicorn [00:03:00] Society members recently, and this is a theme I’ve seen throughout my time working as a business coach, but it seems like I’m hearing a lot more of this. So here’s the thing we’re going to talk about today.

A lot of gym owners I’m talking to are creating change in their gyms. They’re creating new systems, building new services, creating new SOPs, new ways of doing things. And the way I see a lot of the, them tackling these projects is that them as the owner, or as one of the leaders in the business, hide themselves away in their office or at home, they do this work in kind of a vacuum and they build this whole new SOP or this new system, this new service, and then they go and roll it out to their teams and share it at a team meeting or some, some sort of launch moment with their team.

And then they’re surprised. That everyone else is surprised. They’re surprised that everyone else has lots of questions that there might be some pushback that people don’t understand why they’re doing what they’re doing. And the big mistake that they’re all making time again is they’re just not involving their [00:04:00] team in making change.

In their gyms. So I just want to say upfront, like when you look at research on making change in organizations, the one, one of the through lines through all of the research about organizational change is the sooner you get more of your team involved in making the change, the more likely you are. The success of that change project, right?

I’ll say that again. The more, the earlier you can get more people in your team involved in making the change happen that you want to make, the more likely that change will be successful, the more likely you’ll have buy in, the more likely they’ll feel like some ownership over the change. The more likely you’ll have all the best ideas rise to the surface.

The more likely that there’ll be less friction during the rollout. Not to say it’s all going to go smoothly, but I think so often gym owners feel like we have this like hero complex, like we got to go solve all the problems ourselves and tell everyone how we’re going to fix it. When in reality, you’re going to get farther faster by including your team in some of that.

So I want to [00:05:00] just share that as like a lesson. I hear a lot of our Unicorn Dining members learning lately and just open up for you and me, Pete, to talk about how we’ve experienced that phenomenon. How we’ve done it both the right way and the wrong way and how we, when we do include our team members, how do we do it?

So let me just open up and say, what’s your reaction to all that? So I completely agree. I think that I’ll start with a wrong way example, because when we had our big employee defection of number of years back, some of the feedback was that maybe Eric and I hadn’t involved people enough in the strategic decision making and.

What we did wrong was we way overcorrected to the point where we created us almost like the U S government, we like grinded to a stop on decision making because we took this, if some is good, more is better mindset into involving people. And next thing I’m trying to get a full staff plus a handful of interns to collectively agree [00:06:00] on a strategic play.

When the reality is what you’re saying is not. involve 100 percent of the parties involved with the operation, you’re saying have a handful of decision makers and people who can affect change and who have strongly held opinions that aren’t often voiced and get that out there. But what we did was we put too many Opinions in the room and it stopped our ability to make significant decisions, if that makes sense.

Yeah. 100%. When you try to get a consensus for every damn decision from every player on your team, you’re never going to get anything fucking done. And that’s totally at the other end of the spectrum. I think you, like, this is a great visual, right? On one end of the spectrum is the owner does it all. The owner recognizes the problem, solves the problems, tells everyone how we’re going to address the problem, doesn’t ask for any input, and just like, single mans it, or single persons it.

On the other end, if you try to overcorrect, you get, everything’s democratic, everything’s a vote, everyone gets to share their [00:07:00] opinion about every damn decision, you try to get a consensus every time, or at least the majority rule, and In that’s maddening, you’ll never get anything done. And to be fair at MFF, we’ve probably done a little bit of both over the years.

There’s been some times where Mark and I were like, we know best. We’re just going to tell everyone, this is exactly what we’re doing. And once in a while, that was fine, but all too often it was not the right choice. It was not the right choice. And people were like, wait, no, we have thoughts and opinions about this.

There’s things you think you’re missing and we’ve overcorrected and did exactly what you did beat and everything was democratic. We try to get everyone’s opinion, everyone to buy in that wasn’t efficient. And you also would have some people who just didn’t want to buy in, but didn’t want to have their opinion heard.

So now we’re forcing people to have an opinion on parts of the business that they don’t even want, don’t care about. Yeah. So. There’s a lot, there’s a lot that can go wrong here, right? There’s, there’s a real danger zone at each end of the spectrum. When it has gone well for you, Pete, what are some things that you have done to successfully involve your team in, [00:08:00] in change projects?

I think it’s a good idea to identify who your leadership team is and understand that’s bigger than just ownership. Yeah. And so that could be department heads. That could be just a function of seniority, but there are people who, like you said, are really excited to be involved in the decision making process.

And there are some who could not possibly get further away if you gave them the opportunity to do. And so these conversations are best had with people who are excited to be in the room and they’re the ones who push back on the like unilateral decision making are the ones who would love to be part of that leadership team.

Now, sometimes it’s not deserved and we have to make those decisions as we go. But first things first decide on who the players are before you start trying to affect change. Yeah. I think it’s an important one. And for all of you out there who are like, I don’t have a very big team. I don’t have departments and I don’t have a huge leadership team.

Even if you have a part time person, the one part time trainer who you really trust. And once in a while you run some of your ideas by [00:09:00] them. Get their feedback, get their opinion, use them as a sounding board or a thought partner. That can go a long way to helping you get out of your head. Make sure you’re stress testing your own ideas.

Make sure you’re getting some feedback and not just going with the first thing that pops into your head. That kind of collaboration, even if it’s just like a one hour conversation with a part time trainer can be like a useful balance to making sure that you’re not just creating shit in a vacuum. As an owner.

Yeah. Yeah. And so beyond that, I’d say maybe not everybody needs you to hand the baton off on decision making. They just want to know that decisions are being made. And so one of the ways that I’ve seen success in the past is if I take on a project like this spring, for example, I got tired of there being a disconnect between our pitching video database and our strength training, and I just thought it would be really nice if we had some continuity from one to the next.

Consistency and labeling and format and [00:10:00] aesthetic. And are we, or are we not going to put a watermark on the videos and all these things, and it’s not really my place to decide what goes in our pitching video database, but I do have enough power within the operation to say, these are my rules. So I just said to the team, one of my big rock goals for Q2 during our quiet period is to overhaul this, burn it to the ground and build it back up.

And these are the hurdles I anticipate encountering during the process. And these are the steps in the process where I see each person who’s impacted playing a role. And this is how I loosely envision getting this done. Poke holes in my plan. And they did. But once they realized my intent and they understood how it was going to impact them both in the here and now, what I was going to ask of them to get it done, and then what the benefits were for them on the other side, They poked a handful of holes, but then when I said, are we all on [00:11:00] the same page that this is one a worthy project and two, you’re comfortable the direction that I’ve charted as the way I think this is going to go, suddenly I had compliance and I was able to actually go back into my office and take the do it myself approach for 90 percent of it without anyone being mad.

But I think that the mistake that you’re talking about, Jim Oner’s making, is internalizing everything that I said in the last 120 seconds. Yes. And then showing up and being like, hey, all hands, team meeting, I have something to show you. Yeah. And if the opportunity to poke holes in my plan hadn’t happened, Yep.

There would be major shortcomings that would need to be overhauled and fixed and frustrations. And we’d probably have a pretty clunky system that could have been fixed in the first place with roughly three to five minutes of conversation. That’s such a perfect example, Pete, of, listen, this wasn’t a whole democratic process.

You didn’t even collaborate with them on most of the actual doing of the work. It was just. Can I get everyone’s, at least a handful of people’s opinions about, am I in the right direction? Right. Is [00:12:00] this plan makes sense to you? Is this seem important, right? Will this be, have a positive impact on your role in the gym, right?

How would you do differently? And even that moment, just to stress test your own thinking. And reality check your ideas just goes a long way to getting people to, to have any sort of buy into the final product, right? It’s because they had some say they had some say in how it went. So now when you roll out that thing, they’re going to have some little piece of ownership of, Oh yeah, we helped Pete.

He talked to us about that last month and we helped make sure that he was on the right track. And this all makes sense to me now. It doesn’t take much sometimes. I’ll give another quick example that I see all the time is specifically when it comes to creating SOPs, standard operating procedures, which are basically just like instructions for how you do things in a gym and very common instructions or something stupid, how to open up the gym, an SOP for getting in the morning and opening up the gym.

And the reality is that if I went in right now and made a video of me opening up Mark Fisher Fitness, [00:13:00] I might do a perfectly fine job. All the lights might be on the, the music might be at the right volume, right? And all the things might be in the right place. That’s not the finished. That’s not what matters most about the finished product.

What matters most about the finished product is that I can hand that video to some people, someone who’s never done it before. And they will be able to follow the video and mostly get it right. So what I want to test is not that like I had, I did it well. I want to test that this resource, this tool that I made is actually useful for its intended purpose.

So something as simple as creating an SOP for how to open your gym. I want to include some people who are maybe been around for a very long time. And my gym, and don’t even think about how they open anymore and ask them to follow the steps of my video and see if they get it right, or I’m going to follow, find someone who’s our brand, our newest employee and ask them to follow the instructions on my video.

See if they get it, right. I might actually ask my husband to come in and follow the video and see if he gets it right. But the point is that even something as simple as creating a simple SOP, you benefit from [00:14:00] having different eyeballs, different perspectives, different opinions, weigh in to an extent that everyone, you get a better final product.

That makes sense to more than just you as the owner. Yeah. It’s hard to get out of our own heads. Everything seems easy in our mind. 100%. And we have just such, such bias for our ideas seem so clear. And so it makes so much sense. And then the owner’s thinking becomes this kind of quote common sense. Then we get mad that everyone else doesn’t share this kind of common sense that is our own thinking when the reality is, is that’s not actually how thinking works.

There is no common sense. And if you want to create a common sense, you do that by what we’re talking about, by building some consensus around, is this the right, is this the right thing to work on? Is this solution making sense to everyone is how we’re doing this, making sense to everyone. How can we make it better?

How would you do it differently? Stress test the concept a little bit. Yeah. Cause then what we’re doing in that dialogue, in that collaboration is making a common sense. We’re making a culture of, Oh, this [00:15:00] is how we do this. This is how we think about this. And so often we get into this understandable mindset.

I can just do it myself faster. I can just do it myself faster, which might be true, but it probably is not going to be as effective. You might get to a finished quote, finished product, but then no one’s going to fucking like it or know how to use it, or you’ll have missed several things and then you’ve got to start all over again.

Yeah. I’m trying to think of what other examples of things you’ve seen work and not work in this area. Just a piece of advice for the listener. And that is. That we, the owners might have a number of projects of this nature kicking around in our head that we’re considering attacking. And I’d imagine that if given the opportunity to do some of our team would cross a number of those ideas off the list and say, this is a waste of energy.

What are we, why are we doing this? And an example would be that I have a running list of wanted, maybe not needed equipment that I keep on a spreadsheet that I work off of every day, kind of my [00:16:00] personal to do list. And. Last week, John was traveling. He was out of town for a week. And I thought to myself, why not just see what the team’s list looks like?

Because with us getting busy, as I mentioned, we’re going to come into a lot of cashflow. It’s good time to invest in some equipment and things around the space. And I just said to him, Hey, you’ve all got 24 hours posted note on my desk. Equipment additions. You’d like to see, I’m not promising you. I will buy them, but I am promising you.

I will consider them and they will go on to my master list, which will then get reprioritized. It’ll be interesting to see what you guys want. And their list could not have possibly been further than my list of things that I thought we definitely need. It was like almost no overlap. And so assuming that the new initiatives that we have for the SOPs that we’re building out are of value in the minds of the users right now is short sighted.

And so ask him before you execute on [00:17:00] anything, just ask the team if they see it as a worthy effort. Because they’re the ones who are actually going to have to see most of this through once you say here’s the finished product, go use it. Yeah, I love that approach. I love that. Everyone write a letter to Santa and let him know what you want.

I’m not promising Santa’s going to bring it, but send your letters to the North Pole and we’ll see what happens. But it was good because it allowed me to see the places that there were overlap. It was usually on like low key wear and tear. It eats at me, but I don’t know if anyone else noticed. And the minute those things showed up, I thought like it is time.

I got to pull the trigger on these things. They just made their way to the top of the list. I’m not waiting for John to get back to make the call on those three. Yeah, where we usually I talk to my business partner and say, Hey, I’m looking at spending here and here. Do we collectively agree? And it’s funny because there was one thing that made its way on the list.

I was like, Hey, this thing I was surprised to see it on there. I want to get where your head is at. And he said, absolutely fucking not. I was just like, okay, we’re good. I’m glad I know where you’re standing on that one. We’re on the same page. Yeah. [00:18:00] The other thing I’m thinking of, and let me, I don’t know if this idea is going to come out efficiently, so I don’t know, maybe we have to cut this from the podcast.

But the other thing that I’ve seen happen from time to time is that I’ll use myself as an example at MFF. There’s been times where I want my team to. To be more engaged and I want them to have opinions about something and I want them to share their ideas and they just straight up don’t have any like they just straight up don’t know how to give me what I’m wanting.

So I’ll give an example like as we were developing our leadership team. At MFF, one of the things that, that Mark and I both wanted more from our leadership team was some more ideas about how to save money, how to spend less, how to cut costs, how to budget. And we’re like, we want some ideas. We want some ideas, help us out.

It’s all brainstormed together, thinking about how to make this happen. And what we learned, and this has happened many times in many different ways, but is that they just didn’t have enough knowledge about how the business worked in [00:19:00] that way to be helpful yet. So I think in some cases, when you find that you want to include your team in something like improving your client’s experience, but your team doesn’t have a lot of like customer service experience, right?

You might need to do some educating for them, have them read some books, have them take some courses to learn more about. Customer service, or in our case, finance and budgeting. And so I say that to say, as you do develop a larger team, for those of you out there who will have a larger team, and you want them, some of them to really take on more management and leadership roles to really engage them the way you want to, you might need to have some time developing their skills and their knowledge so they can actually over time, increasingly bring you more and more useful, high level kind of strategic thinking, which they might not have on day one.

Is that idea clear to that? Is that, am I making sense? Totally. And it got me to thinking that it’s the other thing that you need to be careful about in this vein is Be careful about collecting a lot of [00:20:00] feedback and ideas and then not executing on it. Yeah. That’s another pitfall. Getting a reputation for allowing people to finally find the comfort or the confidence to make a recommendation and being like, cool, thanks in the trash barrel.

And. It doesn’t mean that you need to execute on bad ideas, that it may mean that you need to catch them by surprise on hearing someone. And that might mean I buy a quirky piece of equipment. And when people are like, what is this? And I said, Keeler asked for it. He made the ask. I told you all to ask. I did it.

And they need to see you follow through. So just. Be careful about reputationally collecting feedback, but not executing. Yeah, 100%. I think there’s all kinds of reasons why teams will disengage. And I think that’s a huge one is that they’ve been asked for their opinion. They’ve given it and nothing fucking happens.

So just there’s going to shut up now. Or the example I gave is they’ve been asked for their opinions, but then they’re like, but I don’t have any, I don’t know what this, how this works. Help me out here. And then we don’t give them the [00:21:00] resources they need to get better and up level, then they’re just going to turn off.

So I think there’s lots of reasons why teams wouldn’t engage in change projects, but if they have all the right information and tools, they want to be helpful. They want, they, they want their jobs to get easier. They want to make more money. They want to see the gym succeed. And all of these change projects that us as owners are implementing are all trying to help do that, right?

Our change projects are trying to have things. be more efficient so we can grow more and everyone’s lives and work gets better. And the more collaborative way we do that, the more likely we are to succeed. But there’s a lot of things that can get away with that collaboration. Final thoughts here, Pete, what do you want to say to bring this topic home?

Oh, I want to say that to your last point, you and Fisher have always done something that scares 99. 9 percent of gym owners and that is transparency and opening up the books and yeah, talking about the costs associated with running the business. And I think everyone’s so afraid that their employees are going to be thrown off by the fact that you pay yourself more than you pay them, that they [00:22:00] keep them in the dark.

And it’s a really scary hurdle to get over. And it speaks to what you were talking about, which is if we’re going to ask for people for tips on how to save money, they need to understand where we’re spending our money. So I’ve always admired how you guys do that. And I have done it. Incrementally, since I started working with you, but even now I don’t wholesale open the books just because it’s instinctually it feels scary to me.

Yeah, listen, it’s not the right choice for everyone. I’ll be the first to say it. And there’s been probably more people at MFF who are like, who’ve had access to our finances, who didn’t give any shits than people who’ve really, Been interested in paid attention, honestly, but it’s certainly for the most part has made more sense for us because we wanted to develop a team of people who felt like they knew how the business worked.

They knew where the money comes in. They knew where the money comes out. And even if you didn’t know exactly how ever, how much everyone on the team made, cause we tried to keep some, some, some what’s the word I’m looking for. Less transparency in that area for some people who just made that uncomfortable.

It was uncomfortable for them. [00:23:00] It still, for the most part, empowered people to understand what our profit margin was. What are the things we spend the most money on? What are decisions they can make every day that help us spend less? Right? Is the, do we really need to have enough paper towels to last six months?

Probably not. And we should all know that. So it’s the small decisions that really can make a big difference. And it’s cliche, but knowledge is power. So your team is going to be more helpful to you in navigating change and growth when they have access to the right information. And some of that might be financial for some of you.

Yeah, very true. So. Yeah. Awesome. Let’s leave it there, my friend. Thanks for indulging me. This was something that came up a lot and I just wanted to both rant about it and also share hopefully some hopeful solutions. Thanks for a great conversation as always, Pete. And dear listeners, if you want to learn more about joining us in Unicorn Society, go click the link down in the show notes, book a call with Ben to talk to us about whether it’s right fit for you.

Thanks again, Pete. See you on the next one. I look forward to it. See [00:24:00] ya.