5 Common Practices that are Hurting your Business and your Clients

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As gym owners, you all have different opinions about how things should be done. You all work with different demographics of clients in different markets and take varying approaches to your business.

Despite your differences, you probably all agree on the following three things at the very least:

1. You don’t want your gym to lose money. Dare I say, you hope to turn a profit? And many of you might even hope to be able to sell your business one day.

2. Watching your clients gets fit and stay fit is important, as is client retention.

3. Watching your coaches be successful is important, as is coach retention.

In light of the above, here are 5 things many gym owners do that sabotage gym profitability, as well as client and coach success and retention.

5. Vacation Holds

“Can I put my membership on hold for a month because I’m going on a 2-week vacation?”

Is this same person putting his hydro, cell phone and Internet on hold for a month, too? He probably wouldn’t even ask because he knows those industries wouldn’t do it. But you seem like a nice person, maybe even a friend, so he doesn’t hesitate to ask you for what he thinks is a small favor.

Though it’s frustrating when members ask to hold memberships for vacation, you can’t really blame the client; the fitness industry has been offering holds forever, so they’re just following the trend (and taking advantage of you in the process).

Try this instead: When a new client signs up, tell him/her right away that you don’t hold memberships except for extreme circumstances (i.e. if you’re away or injured or sick and can’t come to the gym for two-plus months). Your membership prices reflect the fact that you expect everyone to go away for 2 to 4 weeks each year at some point. When you lay out the ground rules at the beginning, clients are less likely to take advantage of you.

4. Free Drop-in for Visitors

Do you let visitors do their first class at your gym for free?

Or how about this: “Buy a free t-shirt in exchange for a workout!”

You don’t expect to get a free massage or free physiotherapy on the road. Why are people getting free coaching if they buy a $20 t-shirt?

Visitors take up the same time (possibly more because you have to get them to sign a waiver and show them around) and space as everyone else in the class. And they don’t offer much, if anything, to your business in return. They should be paying a premium to workout at your gym—arguably more than your long-term, loyal members.

3. Discounted first week or first month

New clients take up more of your energy than long term members, who are more self-sufficient. Think about how much more effort it is to teach a new client how to clean for the first time than it is to coach a class of 12 veterans.

Like visitors, new members should be paying the most because they require the most time and energy. Not only that, but you will also provide a better service to them when you’re being compensated accordingly. And they will become more invested, and will value their commitment and your service more, if they have to pay a premium to learn from you.

Make your members earn their stripes and they will get a lot more out of their gym experience, as we all take better care of things that we have to earn (How much faster do you spend money when it is given to you as a gift than money you earn?)

In short, valuable things aren’t free. Handouts don’t work.

2. Groupons

This tells the world, “I’m OK with working for $2 an hour.”

What kind of service will you or your coaches provide if you’re basically giving it away for free?

Not only that, Groupons, or any kind of coupon offer, attract all the wrong people.

If you sold Groupon in the last year or two, look through your client list to see how many people who came in through Groupon are still at your gym today. From our experience, Groupon folks don’t stick around. They dabble because it’s cheap and then they move on within one to three months.

 1. Group Fundamentals

Are you still administering your fundamentals in a group setting?

Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, different backgrounds and injuries, and they need to be assessed properly. I don’t care how technical of a coach you are, proper individual assessment—including getting to know each client’s wants, needs and goals—simply cannot happen in a group.

Taking the time to put each new client on a path to success starts with one-on-one training.

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