Building a Gym Staff That’s An Asset, Not a Liability

by | Feb 19, 2023 | Employees, Fitness Business, Fitness Business Owner, For Business Owners, Hiring, Management, Systems | 0 comments

(Last Updated On: January 3, 2024)

As a gym owner, you’re a driven individual who is passionate about helping others achieve their fitness goals. However, as you grow your fitness business, you are likely finding that your time is becoming increasingly limited. Despite putting in long hours and working hard, you might feel like you’re stuck in a never-ending cycle of trading time for money, with no end in sight.

And maybe you’re like a lot of gym owners we talk to who have already tried hiring a staff member or two in the past, only to find that it’s a lot more complicated than they thought. Whether you had a client who you thought would be a perfect fit as your admin (and you didn’t even have to pay them, you just had to trade for a membership!), or you were so desperate that you just hired the first person who was willing to do whatever you asked of them. You’ve probably been in a situation where your new hire was taking up more of your time than they were giving you back, or worse, costing you lost leads and clients. 

Finding, hiring and training new team members can be overwhelming, especially when you already have so much on your plate. And, if you’ve hired before, you may be really gun shy to do it again, since in the past, adding staff only added to your problems rather than solving them. Not to mention, with every person you add to the team, the dynamic changes and things become more complex. 

But I’m here to tell you, it doesn’t have to be that way. You can find great team members that fit your culture, are bought into you and your business goals, and can make running and building your gym fun and rewarding. If you’ve ever thought of your team as a liability in the past, I’m here to tell you that you can turn it into an asset. 

The truth is, you can only do so much on your own. You don’t have more hours in the day than other people, and even the most organized business owners who have mastered their own time-management and productivity can’t grow and build great businesses on their own. To truly grow your business, you need to hire, train and develop an All-Star team that you can rely on to run your business efficiently and effectively, even in your absence.. A team that will help you provide exceptional service to your clients and allow you to spend less of your time on the day-to-day operation and more on running and growing the high performing fitness business you dream of.

But, how do you create a team like this? How do you find the right people, get them to do exactly what they are supposed to be doing, are accountable for the results and prevent constant fires and headaches for you? Where do you even start?

The good news is that building an All-Star team is not as complex as it may seem. There are actually just 3 parts to it:

Part I: The 3-Step Hiring Process

Part II: Training Your Team

Part III: Ongoing Performance and Management of Your Gym Staff

Although it does take intentionality to build a great team, by following this simple formula, you can create a team that will help you take back control of your time, reduce your stress, increase your revenue, and achieve your goals.

Sound good? Let’s go!

 

Part I: The 3-Step Hiring Process

(Spoiler Alert: 2 of these steps are completed before you even start the hiring process. You’ve got to know exactly what to hire for before you get started!)

Step 1: Create Your Organizational Chart

Before you actually create your job posting and get started with your hiring process, it’s critical that you take a step back and assess the organizational structure of your business. This is where your Organizational Chart comes into play. 

An Org Chart is more than just a visual representation of your business – it’s a roadmap for your growth. By creating your Org Chart, you’ll gain a clear understanding of the roles you need to fill and how they fit together. This foundation will ensure that you make informed decisions about who to hire and for what positions. The org chart will be the cornerstone of your hiring process, (And down the road it plays a big part in managing your team too) guiding you as you build your all-star team.

Now, you may be thinking: “I don’t need an Org Chart, I’m the only person in my business right now!” or, “I don’t have time to do that, I need help now!” Trust me, it’s worth the time. Your future self will thank you. And to be honest, it just doesn’t take that long to do.

Your Org Chart graphically depicts the structure and working relationships needed within the business to operate at its most basic level.  The key here is that you draw out your Org Chart to represent the positions your business needs to operate. So, even if you’re the only one in your business, you’re filling multiple positions. You’re the CEO, you’re the Coach, you’re the admin, you’re doing the marketing (hopefully:)), you’re doing the selling, etc. Each of those positions needs to be represented on your Org Chart.  (And, if you already have a team and don’t have an Org Chart, it’s not too late. Make one now! And BE SURE to create your Org Chart by drawing the positions that are needed in the business, not by drawing in the people you already have. You may be enlightened by the difference in what your business NEEDS and what it HAS after doing this.)

Building a Gym Staff That’s An Asset, Not a Liability

 

There are a couple of key things to remember when creating your Org Chart:

  1. Only 1 person per position. One person can hold more than one position (example above where you’re both the Coach and the admin), but you can’t have 2 people in 1 position. It will cause confusion over responsibilities, and that’s exactly what you’re trying to avoid. 
  2. Represent key outsourced areas of responsibility. Do you have someone clean the gym for you? Add that position. Do you have someone run your marketing? Add that position. 

All you need to get started is a blank sheet of paper, a pen or pencil, and a cup of coffee. Once you get it where it needs to be, you can draw it in Canva or Google Drawings, but don’t waste your time starting there. Get it on paper so you can move onto what’s next, creating Position Descriptions.

Step 2: Develop Position Descriptions

Position Descriptions are essential to creating an All-Star team. I can’t tell you how many gym owners we talk to who don’t have position descriptions created for their staff (themselves included). If you have staff and you don’t have position descriptions, stop what you’re doing and create them (after you finish that Org Chart:)). Position descriptions create role clarity and are the single biggest thing that contributes to a new hire performing well or not meeting your expectations. 

I’ll explain. 

Role clarity is when someone in the business knows exactly what is expected of them in their position, how to do it well, and the part they play in the success of the business.  Everyone in the business should have role clarity. Without role clarity, it is nearly impossible to ensure that the position owner will be able to meet the needs of the position and contribute adequately to the team.

Do you find yourself:

  • Frustrated that your admin isn’t communicating with you about what’s going on as well as you think they should?
  • Wondering why your coaches don’t stay after sessions and chat with the members to build relationships like you do? 
  • Taking out the trash and mopping the floors even though you feel like you pay someone else to do it?

I could go on and on, and I’m sure this is getting your wheels turning too. If you’re always wondering why people aren’t doing things that seem really obvious to you or you begin to resent your team because they aren’t doing as much as you think they should, chances are, you can trace it right back to either a) not having a Position Description or b) having one that isn’t clear. (The other things that could cause this are poor management or a team member that isn’t a good fit, and we’ll get to those below.)

Position Descriptions outline the Core Responsibilities of the position. This is where the bulk of defining a position is done. Think of this as the blueprint of the position. By knowing exactly what responsibilities and duties are to be performed, it will help set clear expectations, but also help you better determine how many hours it will take someone to meet the expectations and what compensation for the role should look like.

Position descriptions are also extremely important for two other reasons:

  1. Since they outline the position and responsibilities, they help you determine what the pay for the position should be. No more coming up with something arbitrary. 
  2. They help you decide what responsibilities you or another team member will be able to delegate to this position. Delegation – that word is like music to an overworked person’s ears:)

But, in general, having the dynamic duo of an Org Chart so that people understand the relationships of the team and Position Descriptions so that people are clear on their role in that relationship, you’ve set a solid foundation for a high performing team.

Step 3: Hire Your All-Star Team

Now, here’s where we get to the good part. Actually hiring these new All-Star Team Members!

Hiring is one of the most important things you’ll do as a gym owner, so it’s essential to have a solid system in place. This is why there were actually 2 steps you had to complete before you could even get here. Taking the time to create a great hiring process will save you time and money, plus it will reduce employee turnover in the long run. 

Since by the time you’re ready to begin hiring, you’ve already got your Org Chart and the Position Description for the position created, you can get right to it. Here, I’ll share our outline for how to post your position, execute your interview process and extend a job offer. 

  1. Promote the position. This is how you’ll let the world know that you’re hiring and what position you’re hiring for. Be sure you’re using a job title that is easily recognizable. You may call the position something else within your business (Ex: Director of Client Care), but in order to get the attention and volume of responses you’re looking for, call it what people will search for: Administrative Assistant. These are the two most important channels to start with:
    1. Your network: Friends, colleagues, clients, social media, etc.
    2. Job Board like ZipRecruiter or Indeed
  2. Accept Applications – Determine what your requirements are for applying and how you’ll receive and organize them:
    1. Video
    2. Resume
    3. References
  3. Interview – We recommend a 2 or 3 part process, depending upon the position. 
    1. Part 1: Phone call or Zoom: This should be 10-15 mins max and is designed to save you a ton of time with no-show in person interviews or wasting in-person interview time on candidates that won’t be a good fit. If they are a good fit, they get to move on to the in-person interview. If they are not, you’ve only spent 10-15 minutes on that person. 
      1. Briefly cover the specifics of the position, including compensation, and anything you want them to know about your gym.
      2. Ensure they have the availability needed for the position (get specific here on days/times)
      3. Get to know more about their communication style, personality, etc.
    2. Part 2 and/or 3 if needed – In-Person Interview: Depending upon the position, you may want to do multiple In-Person interviews. You may only need 1 for an admin, but you might want multiple for a coach, especially if part of your process is having them shadow you or someone else in a session. In this part of the process, you want to ask deeper questions, ensure they have the skills needed for the position and determine if they are a core values fit. 
  4. Offer Letter – By providing a written offer, you can avoid misunderstandings and ensure that both you and the candidate have a clear understanding of what is being offered. Some key components are:
    1. Position Title
    2. Start Date
    3. Salary
    4. Benefits
    5. Hours
    6. Any other pertinent information: probationary period, bonus potential, etc.
  5. Hire – This is what you’ve been waiting for! You found the right candidate and are ready to get started! Here are a few things to have ready when it’s go-time:
    1. Basic paperwork (your bookkeeper or accountant can help with this)
    2. Scheduling – there will likely be a lot of coordination in the beginning with you and other team members, so take the time to figure that out.
    3. Onboarding (more on that below!)

Now that you’ve gotten through the hiring process, and found the perfect person for the position, we’re going to talk about how to set your new team member up for success from the get go. 

 

Part II: Training Your Team

I think you already know that once you find the right person for the position, you’re going to need to train them to be able to do their job well within your specific business. 

If you hired a Coach, it’s likely they are already certified, and if not, you have a plan for them to be very soon. However, knowing how to Coach doesn’t mean that they can walk through your door and know how to Coach the way you want it done in your business. Throwing someone into the fire without equipping them with the skills they need to survive, is definitely not how you want to get started. That’s another sure-fire way (no pun intended) to set the relationship up for disappointment from the beginning.

Onboarding Your Gym Staff: 

That’s where Onboarding comes into play. Onboarding is the process of introducing your new employee to your culture, and the job they were hired to do. It is usually a predetermined amount of time, like 4-6 weeks, where you’ll complete a series of objectives, such as orientation, training, and integration into the team, that help the new hire become familiar with your policies, procedures, and expectations, as well as their role and responsibilities. In other words, Onboarding is where you’ll teach them exactly what they need to know to begin doing the job they were hired for.

Onboarding is a super important step in equipping your new team member to do their job well and setting them up for success. A well-executed onboarding process helps to ensure that your new hire feels welcomed and supported, understands their role and responsibilities, and has the knowledge and skills necessary to perform their job effectively within your unique business. Effective onboarding helps to reduce employee turnover, increase job satisfaction, and improve overall productivity. You have worked hard up to this point to create the position and hire the right person, so taking the time to set them up for success is critical. 

Some specific ways to execute a great onboarding process include providing scheduled hands-on training and demonstrations, periodic performance evaluations, assigning a mentor or buddy, and regularly checking in with your new hire to address any questions or concerns they may have.

I mentioned that Onboarding is usually a predetermined amount of time, like 4-6 weeks. However, once a team member has completed onboarding, their journey with training doesn’t end there. 

Ongoing Training of Your Gym Staff:

Beyond that, you should have a plan for all team members that includes continuing education, on-the-job training, and inservices that help them continue to develop and grow in their roles. 

We see a lot of gym owners that have some sporadic training for their coaches, oftentimes sparked by something not being done particularly well, but it’s important to have regular, scheduled proactive training for your team as well. You may start with doing this just for your coaches since that can feel like it’s the easiest to put together and the most necessary to delivering high quality service, but in the long run, it’s something that each and every member of the team should be participating in. This is how you get the people you have, and have invested in to continue to level-up. 

Having a consistent cadence for each type of training will make preparation easier and improve the effectiveness of all training. Defining the desired outcomes of all training will give everyone a clear sense of purpose and improve the effectiveness as well. This will not only help them grow as individuals, but it will also benefit your business as a whole.

The other reason that proper onboarding and ongoing training is so important is because it provides opportunities to evaluate the performance of and manage and lead your team which is the final part to building an All-Star Team.

 

Part III: Ongoing Performance and Management of Your Gym Staff

By now, you’ve hired the right staff, have onboarded them into their role and have a plan for ongoing training so that they continue to grow and develop. You’ve invested a lot into them at this point. However, like with most things, building an All-Star Team is not a set it and forget it type process. It needs continual development and management to continue to be the engine your business needs for growth.

And it’s likely these two parts of the puzzle are going to require some leveling up of your skill set as well: Performance Reviews and Management

Gym Staff Performance Reviews: 

Contrary to what you may think or even what you’ve experienced in the past, All-Star Team Members want to know 1) what’s expected of them, 2) how they are doing, 3) how to improve, and 4) how they will be rewarded. 

If you want to get the best performance out of your team, having Performance Reviews at regular intervals is critical. Being able to deliver valuable feedback and helping them develop as professionals is part of being a good leader and manager.

Performance reviews are an often missed opportunity and tool that you can use to develop your team into superstars. Routine performance reviews are simply a scheduled opportunity to provide coaching and teaching, recognize highlights, and address concerns. We recommend conducting formal Performance Reviews quarterly, and a comprehensive Annual Review once a year. This is an opportunity for you and your team members to get on the same page with performance and expectations as well as future goals and ambitions. 

Performance Reviews ensure that all employees are held to the same individual standards for their specific roles and that everyone understands what is expected of them. This consistency can help to build and contribute to a culture of accountability and high performance. 

Even if it’s only you and one other person right now, this is the opportune time for you to incorporate Performance Reviews into what you do and get comfortable and good at delivering them.

Gym Staff Management: 

Management has its own, very important role in your business, and it’s a critical skill for you to learn to be able to build and maintain an All-Star Team. After all, every single All-Star Team of all time had a great Coach at the helm. The players themselves can’t do it alone. 

As the owner/manager of the gym, it’s your responsibility to fill the seats with good people and continue to train and develop them. And it’s also your responsibility to get all of the people on your team working together for the attainment of your gym’s goals. Effective management is what will enable your business to grow while not having YOU be the one responsible for all of the businesses outcomes. That is how you take back your time.

I say this all the time, but there has to be a big shift in values as you start to grow a team: Managing your team isn’t something that gets in the way of your other responsibilities; it is your responsibility. 

As you grow your team, and learn to lead and manage them, you’ll see that the true upside of running your own gym is achieved when you are able to start unlocking the potential of the people around you.

Are you curious whether it’s time for you to make your first hire? Do you think that your management is holding you back? Complete our Needs Assessment to find out what your next step is on your Fitness Business Owner’s Journey.

Author: Kelly Berry

Kelly Berry is a strategic business leader and business coach known for her operational excellence, ability to drive growth and results across multiple industries. Kelly is the VP of Operations for Fitness Revolution. She is also a podcaster and host of her Life Intended podcast.

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