From Good Gym to Great: Discipline

A closeup image of a hand holding a pen and ticking check boxes.

Jocko Willink often says that “discipline equals freedom.”

When the retired Navy SEAL spoke at the Two-Brain Summit in 2021, he taught us that when you have discipline, you actually welcome challenging times. This is because disciplined units survive hard times, and no one else does.

Most gym owners would say they have great discipline: They can get up early, grind all day and go to bed late without complaint. Unfortunately, a great gym requires more: It requires a culture of discipline.

I like to think of “discipline” as “consistency.”

Your gym is only as good as its worst class, worst coach and worst system.

If you have four great coaches and one who’s just OK, you don’t have a great gym—you have an OK gym. Any client who works with your “OK” coach won’t have a great experience.

If you get amazing results but don’t answer your phone, you don’t have a great gym—because people can’t join.

If your gym is mostly clean, it’s not clean.

Discipline means that everyone on your team delivers to a level of excellence—while coaching, while opening the gym, while programming and even while cleaning.

A Culture of Discipline

Here’s how to build a culture of discipline, starting with your team:

1. Create a framework. Write down clear instructions for everything in your business, from cleaning the sinks to running a group class.

2. Create a measuring stick. What would earn your bathroom sink a 10/10 for cleanliness? What is a 10/10 group class? What is a 10/10 conversation for encouraging someone who finds your site to book a No Sweat Intro? And what’s a 10/10 No Sweat Intro look like? Use pictures, videos and checklists to make the 10/10 clear to everyone. (Two-Brain clients get all of these resources in our Toolkit.)

3. Bring your staff together and introduce your new standards. Say this: “Here is how we will run our business with excellence. Over the next hour, we can debate what a ’10/10′ means, but when we leave here today, we are all committing to following these frameworks.” If a staff person doesn’t want to pursue excellence in their role, you’ve got a different problem.

4. Begin measuring everyone’s progress. Rate your cleaner on their work. Evaluate your coaches. Review your programming. Report back to your team monthly: the good and the bad.

Your ultimate goal is to create freedom and responsibility within a framework, according to Jim Collins in his book “Good to Great.”

Here’s how it looks in practice:

1. Goal reviews for your clients. Are they getting the results they signed up to get? If not, evaluate your programming. (Sidebar: Most gyms never evaluate their programming because they never track their clients’ results. So the question of “which programming is best?” is moot. There are a lot of hard workouts on the internet. If they’re not producing results, they’re not good. And if you’re not measuring results, you can’t be great.)

2. Evaluations for your staff. Are they delivering your group classes to a 10/10 level? Build an evaluation form, working backward from your definition of a 10/10 group class. Deliver it to each staff person individually every quarter. Do the same thing for private and semi-private sessions.

3. Metrics for your business. You’re accountable for growing the pie for everyone else. Every month, track your key metrics: average revenue per member (ARM), length of engagement (LEG), effective hourly rate (EHR), client count, net owner benefit (NOB) and return on investment (ROI). Your staff are delivering your service; you’re making sure the ship stays afloat and on course.


“But I just wanna coach!” I understand. But when you open a gym, your primary job becomes CEO, not coach.

“But what about certifications?” Many gym owners confuse having a great service with acquiring credentials. They’re not the same thing. Most of your clients care more about the class starting on time than they do about their “knees caving in” on the squat. Sorry, I wish that wasn’t true.

“But what about the community?” Yes, that’s important. But having a culture of discipline means preserving your community—removing the bad fits to allow the best to thrive. It means firing that sarcastic coach, removing that clique and no longer catering to everyone.

Having a great gym means building a culture of discipline, starting with the owner and including all staff. It means giving staff freedom within a framework. You don’t have to write a script for your coaches, but they must deliver the essentials with excellence.

Your gym is only as great as its weakest link.


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.