“You think I can’t afford your gym? F*** you, man.”
He’d joined my gym as a friend, but he was leaving angry.
Here’s the story: A good friend had joined my gym in its earliest days. He showed up regularly for a few months but then began to drop off. I literally didn’t see or hear from him for three months.
As I prepared to run his card for another month of membership that he wouldn’t use, I thought:
“This guy is my friend. I’m going to cancel his membership. I know what he makes, and he definitely can’t afford to keep paying for something he’s not using!”
So I cancelled his membership. He got the cancellation auto-email. And he finally showed up at the gym—to tell me off.
Consistency and Care
You care about your clients. Some feel like friends to you. And because most of us are first-time entrepreneurs when we open our gyms, we sometimes confuse “membership” with “friendship.” But they’re not the same. In this series, I’m going to tell you how to care a lot without hurting your business.
Consistency is more important than anything else. You have to treat everyone the same way you’d treat anyone. That means no more special favors, no more ignoring bad clients and no more making guesses about what people want.
1. Be Consistent
Provide a consistent experience for your clients—and your staff.
If you provide an A+ experience for most clients but a C- experience for one, then you’re running a C- operation.
Deliver the same experience, for the same price, to every client.
Teach your policies and rules to everyone. Make them simple. And enforce them the same way for everyone every time—especially when you don’t want to. Don’t create a rule you won’t enforce the same way every day. Remove choice from the equation. Write your rules and policies down. Grey areas create stress.
Then lead by example. If you break your own rules, everyone will.
When hiring, hire the best people for the roles instead of trying to fill your jobs with the people you already have. And post jobs publicly. Don’t default to hiring your friends.
Treat your worst client as well as your best. If you can’t, fire the client.
2. Charge Appropriately
Charge what you have to charge to provide excellent service.
You want to do your best work. You can’t do your best work on an empty stomach.
Charge for your value—your first average-revenue-per-member (ARM) target should be $205 per month.
Don’t give special deals or trade in kind. Your friends will want to pay you full price. If they don’t, they’re not your friends. Treat everyone the same. If you want to treat someone like your best friend, great—but you have to treat everyone that way. Remember: Most cliques in a gym start with the owner.
To determine your rates, start with the excellent service that you want to provide, and then charge what you have to charge to provide that service (it’s probably a lot more than $150 per month for unlimited access to your time, staff and resources).
Keep the client around long enough to benefit.
Always focus on your current clients first. Never sacrifice their experience to get a new client.
Plan the client journey in advance.
Care enough to have honest conversations about progress.
Care enough to say “here’s a better way”—even if you’re not comfortable with the price.
Care enough to ask.
The top reason most gym owners have stress? They ruminate. They imagine conversations before they have them. They jump to worst-case scenarios in their heads.
- Ask your staff about their goals.
- Ask your clients about their progress.
- Ask your team about their plans.
5. Be Honest
Care enough to tell the truth.
Get over your fear by asking yourself, “Do I care enough to get to the truth here?”
Be friendly. Have friends. Have relationships. Get clients. But keep the lines clear. Writing your policies and prices down will help you say “here are the rules” instead of “let’s make a deal.”
If they were really your friends, they’d ask to pay double.
Don’t Buy Friends
If you take nothing else from this post, please take this to heart:
Giving a free membership, or a $20 discount, means you’re trying to pay someone to be your friend.
We were supposed to get over that in the third grade, but most of us never did. We think we’re giving our friends winning lottery tickets when we give them something for free. But when we turn our relationships into transactions, we always create an unbalanced ledger. Nearly every gym owner has had a heart broken by a member who “owed” him or her for special favors done at the gym.
The best way to treat your clients: Deliver unwavering consistency to everyone.