DIY: The True Cost for the Fitness Entrepreneur

A gym owner pulls the inside of his pockets out to show he's out of money.

I wasted $100,000 on staff pay before anyone told me to say, “Here’s how to do it.”

I hired three full-time coaches, one right after another. I thought, “These are knowledgeable experts. They are good at exercise technique. They are the best people to coach others.”

I also thought, “They are like me. They will show up 15 minutes early and stay to clean up after class. They will be happy to wear a staff shirt. They won’t swear at people in their class. They will check people in and accept their payments.”

When they failed to do one of those things, I got mad. I expected better. The anger built up until I started micromanaging them—and then eventually fired them.

When I found my first mentor, he said, “Write a staff playbook. Tell people what to do.”

So I did. And bingo—every staff person got better because no one had to guess anymore.

Selling Yourself Short?

When I opened my gym, I had to learn how to sell. I didn’t expect that—as a personal trainer, I got a lot of referrals and didn’t have to convince anyone. More than 90 percent of the people I met signed up. But when I opened a gym, my “close rate” dropped to less than 40 percent.

I understood what I was selling: CrossFit. But people would walk into the gym, see a giant pirate flag, smell the stinky mats, see chalk dust floating in the air, read a bunch of language they didn’t understand and say, “This is not for me.”

I remember one of my first walk-in prospects. Her name was Tiffany. She came in through a side door because my main entrance wasn’t clearly marked. She had to dodge a couple of guys who were lifting during “open gym time.” She spotted me at the desk and walked over. I didn’t notice her because the music was too loud. I snapped to attention and tried to “sell” her on CrossFit. We walked into a quieter corner. She saw chains hanging from a power cage, pointed at them and said, “What the f*** are those?”

I thought she wanted me to explain accommodating resistance to her. I got really excited and talked for 30 minutes straight. She tried her best to leave without being rude. But she left, told all of her friends CrossFit was for crazy people, and that was it. The funny part: I was sure I’d just convinced her to sign up!

For the first two years of gym ownership, I didn’t know how to sell. Usually, I just told people that what they were doing was dumb and that they should let me tell them what to do. I was polite but long winded and bad at signing them up. I actually bragged to one new client that I was the “world’s worst salesman.” Over those two years, I signed up fewer than 40 people out of the 100 who walked through the door.

Then a mentor said, “You need to sit down and ask them about their goals. Try asking them these three questions. Keep the conversation under 15 minutes.”

Bam—I started signing up twice as many people. Of course, I’d already blown it with over 60 people, and that cost me around $5,000 per month for a couple of years.

You Don’t Have to Do Everything

I probably don’t have to tell you about my adventures in learning about Facebook ads. Fortunately, by that time I’d learned to ask “who has already solved this problem?” and buy their playbook.

As an entrepreneur, it’s very tempting to want to do everything yourself. But your primary leverage isn’t money; it’s time. So while there’s value to knowing how everything works in your business, most entrepreneurs never grow because they spend all their time on the wrong stuff. They do the low-value work that someone else could do for $10 an hour and never do the work that actually makes them more money.

Yes, you’re smart enough to do everything. Yes, you’re smart enough to “figure it out.” I hope you’re wise enough to choose not to do everything. It took me five years to realize that I’d actually save time by hiring a mentor instead of trying trial and error.

But the big epiphany came when I realized that I was actually wasting a ton of money by trying to DIY everything. Mistakes are expensive.

In the next post in this series, I”m going to tell you the difference between DIY and DFY and why neither is ideal. Then I’m going to tell you how to hit the perfect balance of knowledge, delegation and action: done with you (DWY).

Other Media in This Series

“Entrepreneurs and the DIY Mindset”
“DIY, DFY and the Perfect Balance for Entrepreneurs”
Podcast: “Done-With-You Services: The Secrets of Incredible Value”


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.