Want a gym that runs itself (Even when you’re on vacation)? Consider the Coach Co-Op System…

I have spoken to a number of gym owners who have accepted what they consider “their fate.”

A fate where they have all but kissed vacations goodbye because they’re scared their business will burn down, so to speak, without them…

A fate where they’re the only one who really cares about the business’ bottom line…

A fate where they’re the only one bringing in new clients, and the only one who cares about client retention…

A fate where they wear all the hats and do all the things: Scheduling, billing, programming, coaching, sales, social media, blogging, building maintenance, cleaning the rowing machines…

In other words, a fate where they live with a never ending to do list.

As a coach at MadLab School of Fitness, I’m here to tell you there is another way.

I have already written at length about our coach compensation model and how it incentivizes the coach to bring in and retain clients. You can read more about how a percentage of revenue compensation model is what’s best for the client, the coach and the business in these two articles:

Article 1

Article 2

While coach compensation covers the sales and coaching duties of the business, there’s obviously way more to running a gym than just coaching. Under the dollars per hour model, you’re crippled in that if you expect your coaches to do more than just coach clients, good luck getting them to comply unless you pay them. Enter the Coach Co-op system, which works a bit like an engineering or law firm.

Coach Co-op

First, a quick recap about the coaching side of things: As I explained in the coach compensation model articles, our coaches coach anywhere from 15 to 25 on-floor hours (30 on a massive week) and earn a professional wage (upwards of $75,000) doing so. Their jobs are to bring in and retain their own book of clients through a combination of personal training and group classes (Read more about the Hybrid gym membership here). In short, each coach is responsible for 5 to 7 group classes a week (as well as 10-15 hours of personal training), and experienced clients can attend any coach’s class.

Because coaches are able to make a professional living coaching 25 on-floor hours a week, this leaves them time to take on other responsibilities, which they share among themselves. Such as:


Scheduling is done entirely by the coaches. We have a team of morning and evening coaches, and we sit down together quarterly and review our class schedule, and decide as a co-op if and what needs to change.

As for finding substitutes if we’re sick or out of town, that, too, falls on us. Gone are the days where the owner gets the call that so-and-so’s car broke down the 4 p.m. class needs a coach. If we’re out of town, it’s entirely up to us to get the necessary coverage for our clients. Sometimes we pay each other to cover classes or personal training sessions, other times we barter. For example, we’re all responsible for one blog post a week, so sometimes I swap a class coverage for a blog post or two. Other times still, I just keep track of who owes me a class, and I can bank it for later. In the end, it all works out and we seamlessly cover each other’s stuff periodically without having to through any other management (making it easier on everyone).

As for holiday hours, we all put a bit of money into the pot to pay whichever coach or coaches step up to coach our 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. holiday classes.



As an owner, billing can be a time-consuming headache, especially when you come across delinquent payments. In our system, billing is on the coaches. We’re responsible to ensure our own personal clients are properly billed each month, and you better believe I’ll chase someone down if his credit card expired because if his payment doesn’t go through, I’m not getting paid.

Blogging and social media:

Each coach is responsible for one blog post per week (we all have our designated night), as well as weekly or bi-monthly videos (depending on the content) for our social media pages. Our general manager manages social media, but it’s our responsibility to contribute content.

Coaches meetings:

Again, our owner is all but absent at our weekly coaches meetings (he shows up quarterly or so). This is a time to discuss programming—we look over the upcoming week’s programming, and we discuss the next cycle’s programming—to inform the other coaches about any new clients who will be attending group classes. When it’s relevant, we also talk about upcoming community events, ordering new equipment (we have an annual budget and we get to make the decisions what equipment we need most), upgrades around the gym, and any other issues that come to light, as they always do.

In every sense of the word, we—the coaches—are the ones making the business decisions and shaping our school into exactly what we want it to look like. No, we don’t have the financial risk, per se, of a business owner, but our livelihood depends on our ability to sell and deliver an excellent service, so we act the way business owners do to create the vision we want.

(The concept of acting like business owners within the business extends to saving the business money, as well. We’re responsible to cover variable costs (cleaning, toilet paper, white board pens, chalk etc…); this means we’re always searching for ways to save on any variable costs (the business covers fixed costs—rent, heat, hydro)).

Under this system, we have the opportunity to make a professional wage doing what we love. We are self-sufficient entrepreneurs within the business with full autonomy over our schedule, and tons of say in terms of the direction the business takes.

And as for our business owner: Well, he can sit back and have faith that we’re doing the right things acting like business owners ensuring his business is in good hands. He doesn’t need to put out fires on the regular, nor does he need to micromanage or breathe down our necks to get us to get stuff done. Instead, he can focus on bigger picture business development, and running the MadLab Group, while we grow our school into something great.

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