How Discipline Makes You (and Your Staff!) More Money

A client relaxing after a workout - discipline

The secret to making more money in your gym isn’t raising your rates or getting more clients.

It’s discipline.

When I hired my first trainer at Catalyst in 2005, I was a bit worried about having the “money talk” with him. He had a few clients of his own. He was also coaching a few sports teams on their fields of play. I was worried that he wouldn’t want to share the revenues for these clients with the gym.

But I told him, “You have to charge everyone $135 per hour off site. You can’t train anyone for free anymore. And I’ll give you 44 percent of the proceeds for all clients, including the ones I give you and the ones you already have.”

He said, “Deal.” No hesitation.

Only later did I realize that my rules had solved some huge problems for him:

  • He hated asking people for money, so he often wound up “volunteering” his time.
  • When he did get paid, it was far less than the 44 percent he’d make under my pricing.
  • He no longer had to say, “I need to get paid”; he could now say, “Here’s the price.”
  • He wasn’t tempted to find his own side clients because it wasn’t allowed.


Under my rules—my imposed discipline—he’d make way more money with much less stress and frustration.


6 Reasons You Aren’t Making Bank


There are six reasons gym owners don’t make more money. When you fix these issues with discipline, your gym will be more successful.


Reason 1

They don’t pay themselves first. Have the discipline to write yourself a check. You can hack this process by using a system like Profit First.


Reason 2

They don’t make enough money per client. Have the discipline to set your rates appropriately and stick to them. Everyone knows that discounts don’t attract clients. But most of us have offered discounts because we don’t have the discipline to stick to our rates. Usually, this is a mental problem, not a demographic one.


Reason 3

They don’t keep clients long enough. Have the discipline to maintain an excellent experience. You build excellence on a foundation of consistency. The rules must apply to everyone equally.

For example, we used to sell open gym between classes. One day, a client was doing a half-marathon row during open gym. With 5 minutes to go before class started, he was still cranking away in the middle of the gym floor. The coach warned him that his workout would finish in 5 minutes whether he achieved his goal or not. Maybe he didn’t believe her or maybe he thought he could row another 3,000 meters in 5 minutes, but he didn’t reach the 13.1-mile mark.

“Sorry,” she said, “But class is starting. You’re done.”

Of course, the client got mad and quit the gym. But the coaching clients—much higher-value clients in our target audience—were impressed. Their experience didn’t come second to anyone else’s experience; they didn’t have to wait around unfairly while someone else finished a poorly planned workout.


Reason 4

Their expenses are too high. Have the discipline to rent only the space you need and buy only the equipment you need. Have the discipline to do the math and make a plan instead of buying the biggest toy box and trying to fill it.


Reason 5

They don’t have enough clients. Have the discipline to make a marketing plan, track your marketing metrics and determine what’s actually working instead of just firing random shots at your market.


Reason 6

They wear the wrong hats. Have the discipline to learn how to grow your business instead of just punching the clock and hoping for the best.


The Fix: Discipline


It isn’t easy to fix any of these problems—but everything gets easier with practice. We’re in the habit-formation game, right? We coach discipline and habits and routine for a living. Maybe it’s time to take our own advice.

Enforcing discipline in yourself is hard. Having a coach or mentor makes it easier. Want some precise instructions? Get our free guide to solving each of the problems I described above.

Enforcing discipline in your staff is really hard. But you usually only have to do it once. When others see that you’re going to stick by your published rules instead of running your business on your fluctuating emotions, they’ll come in line—and you’ll have the freedom to help them instead of just cleaning up their messes.

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