Cheat Code for Gym Growth: Buy Back Your Time

An hourglass next to increasingly larger stacks of coins.

You hire people to buy time.

As your time becomes more expensive, your hires become more valuable.

Dan Martell taught us this lesson from his new book, “Buy Back Your Time,” at our recent summit for gym owners:

“I Don’t Have Time to Grow My Gym”

I learned how to buy back my time at the hands of my mentor in 2008.

I was sitting in a stuffy room in a university library. My mentor had been telling me to start meeting with each client one on one.

“I don’t have time to do that,” I said.

“Hire some help,” he replied.

I almost laughed—I definitely didn’t have any money to do that.

“Where could you replace yourself for the least amount of money?” he asked.

Then he told me to hire a cleaner.

This was an epiphany because I thought “replacing myself” meant hiring a coach. That would be time consuming and expensive, and I admit that my ego thought “no other coach in town can replace me!”

So I hired a cleaner for three nights every week. While Sean mopped, I worked on growing my business. First, I sent an email to my mailing list. On the first night, I made $300 in new personal-training sales—enough to cover Sean’s wages for the whole month.

On the second night, I set up a youth hockey-training program. That didn’t see an immediate return, but I was still ahead.

On the third night, I emailed former clients. I got one back. That was more ROI. But, more importantly, it finally made me understand the concept of buying back my time.

That realization led me to ask “where else can I buy back some time and reinvest it into things that grow my business?”

How to Buy Time as a Gym Owner

Over the years, while working with thousands of other gym owners around the world, I’ve found a dozen ways to buy back time to grow a fitness, but here are a select few hires that really make a difference:

  • Cleaner (follows your cleaning checklist).
  • Administrator (follows your booking/billing schedule).
  • Social-media poster (follows your editorial calendar).
  • Programmer (usually outsourced).
  • Client success manager (follows your client-journey plan, does goal reviews, might do lead nurturing).
  • Personal trainer or nutrition coach (follows your Career Roadmap, which I’ll share in the next post in this series).
  • Head coach (follows your staff-development plan).
  • General Manager (follows your sales and retention plan).

I’ve listed the roles in ascending order of value. The first ones on the list are the least-expensive investments you can make when you’re buying back your time.

Resource: “Done-for-You Hiring Plan and Detailed Job Descriptions”

All the roles on the list above can be outsourced or insourced. You can hire an external company for some and pay team members to do others. The people who fill the roles do tasks that might be boring or repetitive to you but are still important when running a great gym.

And you don’t have to hire to fill all the roles at once. We teach gym owners a simple but very effective process that helps them identify the exact order of offloading—we call it “climbing the value ladder.”

In the next post, I’ll tell you how to insource these tasks at Career Roadmap meetings. And in the one after that, Two-Brain mentor and gym owner Joleen Bingham will tell you how to ascend your staff on the value ladder.

Here, I’ll give you four simple steps to help you employ the buy-back-your-time plan for the first time:

1. Clean your gym. Record every tiny step. This is now your cleaning SOP.

2. Hire a cleaner. Give them the SOP to follow.

3. Use the cleaner’s first shift to generate the revenue to pay the cleaner: Send an email about open PT slots, contact former clients about starting up again, set up a “bring-a-buddy” night as part of a marketing plan, or make a simple blog post about something you sell.

4. Use the cleaner’s second shift to write the SOP for the next role you will offload.

Over time, you’ll develop a list of SOPs for everything in your gym. You’ll put them together to create a staff playbook. That act alone will professionalize your gym, making it possible for you to replace yourself and still deliver service with excellence.

Step up and Elevate Staff

How do you create better careers for staff? By creating a better career for yourself—the owner–and by letting them take more valuable roles in your hierarchy.

When the owner ascends, staff members fill the vacated places on the value ladder. Buying back your time buys them opportunities.

In the next post, I’ll tell you how to group those opportunities into careers.

Other Media in This Series

“The Career Roadmap: The Secret to Staff Ascension in a Gym”
“Staff Ascension Model: How to Develop and Retain A+ Staff Members”
Video: “Staff Ascension: From Mistakes to Managing 20 People at Two Gyms”


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.