5 Times I Didn’t Think Like a CEO

A CEO sleeps at his desk with open eyes drawn on sticky notes stuck to his forehead.

To run a great gym, you must focus on the right things.

I failed to do that many times since 2011, and the price tag for my errors is well into six figures. If you compound the errors over time, the cost is into seven figures.

To help you spot your own errors and avoid costly mistakes, I’ll give you five snapshots of times I “majored in the minors,” failed to think like a CEO and let money slip away from my gym business.

A head shot of writer Mike Warkentin and the column name "Pressing It Out."

1. I Personally Fixed Things Around the Gym

In the first year of business, I did this out of necessity: Our budget was tight.

But after that, I did this to avoid bigger problems: It was easier to obsess over a broken door than figure out how to market my business.

This error had a huge compounding effect in two ways:

A. I’m terrible at fixing things, so every project became a huge time sink.

B. If I had solved marketing issues in 2012, I would have acquired more high-value clients every year for more than a decade.

2. I Created a Staff Playbook but Never Updated It

Creating a staff playbook is true CEO work, so I get a little credit here. Writing a playbook allows you to offload lower-level tasks so you can do important, high-level work to grow the gym.

Letting the playbook rot put me right back to Square 1 in 12 months.

I should have updated the manual annually myself or assigned that task to a GM. Either approach would have secured my spot in the CEO chair.

With a stale, outdated playbook, I was right back to ordering toilet paper myself—and complaining about it.

3. I Never Addressed Sales

I got into the gym business because I liked coaching. I didn’t want to sell services, and I thought my coaching skill would take care of client-acquisition problems for me.

In the very early days, when competition was scarce and people were looking for new ways to train, the gym managed to accidentally acquire enough members to survive even though I was terrible at sales.

But I never addressed that gaping hole in my skill set, and I never delegated the sales role to someone who had the skills I lacked.

Had I been a true CEO, I would have learned to sell, then taught someone how to do it. That would have solved the gym’s growth problem and allowed me to offload a job I didn’t enjoy. Or I could have taken a shortcut and hired an expert salesperson to fill the role.

I didn’t do anything, and our sales suffered.

4. I Never Paid Myself

CEOs get paid. In large companies, they get paid a lot because they’re doing the most important work in the business.

I worked for free, and doing so made the “business” a hobby. Surprise, surprise: The gym’s key performance indicators reflected my casual approach.

If I had a time machine, I would go back and pay myself for my work in the CEO role. I would have started with a small salary—even $50 a month—and I would have increased it as the business grew. I might have even increased it at times as a forcing function: “I need to generate $X to cover my raise.”

My family would have appreciated the income greatly over the last decade.

5. I Didn’t Hire Experts to Increase Speed

I assumed that a gym owner had to figure everything out personally, so I slogged up the learning curve too many times to count. I ran into obstacles, I made huge mistakes and I got frustrated.

I could have avoided all that by putting on the CEO hat and making an investment in outside assistance. For example, I could have hired a mentor to teach me how to set up a marketing funnel fast or hire staff to free up my time.

Instead, I made slow, erratic progress toward vague business goals. And I started to lose interest in running a gym.

Be a CEO

If any of the short stories above hit close to home, I have a CEO task for you. It will take one hour.

Here it is:

Book a call to talk about mentorship. You can do it here.

You don’t have to commit to anything or buy anything. Just spend 60 minutes in the CEO chair and talk to an expert about how you can grow your business.

Yes, you could spend that time mopping the floor, posting to social media or making the coaching schedule. But that’s not really CEO stuff.

Figuring out how to build a stable, profitable business is CEO stuff. And if you get the info you need now, you’ll be able to live the life you want and retire wealthy.

If you avoid CEO work, you’ll have an empty bank account, a struggling business and a lot of stories like the ones I told above.

Book the call today!


One more thing!

Did you know gym owners can earn $100,000 a year with no more than 150 clients? We wrote a guide showing you exactly how.