Sometimes, one client is worse than no clients.
I was sitting at the front desk of my gym at 5:55 a.m. It was still dark and cold outside, and no one had shown up for the 6-a.m. class.
I stood up and walked to the front door. I scratched the frost off the window with my fingernails and craned my neck to look up the street. No headlights.
I started to think about what I’d do if no one showed. First, I’d lock the doors and drive to the coffee shop. I was tired and cold and cranky. I needed caffeine.
Then I’d spend the rest of my hour doing my daily blog post. Then I’d shower—I hadn’t had time before I rushed out of the house at 5 a.m. that morning.
5:59: no cars on the road. I wasn’t disappointed. I dug my keys out of the desk drawer and headed for the light switch.
6:01: in my truck, engine running and heater on. Brain eagerly anticipating caffeine.
I backed up and turned toward the end of the road. I turned on my headlights … and a car turned the corner.
I had two choices: Drive right past and pretend I didn’t notice. Go get a coffee, have a nice warm shower, actually get my blog post out on time. Or turn around, apologize (even though the person was late), paste my biggest smile on my face, give one client “personal training” for the $8 I was charging per group class, and then coach three classes in a row.
I sighed, reversed the truck and coached the latecomer.
Scheduling: A Lesson
If you’ve ever struggled through attendance problems, you’re not alone. None of us has ever set our schedule perfectly the first time. Every gym owner has had to coach a nearly empty class, keep an empty slot open “just in case” or provide 1:1 training at group-training rates.
In this series, I’m going to tell you how to fix it.
I learned this lesson over and over again. But the best advice I got was from a sales coach back in 2001.
My treadmill store was open from 9 to 5 Monday to Friday and then a few hours on Saturday morning. That schedule suited the owner. It made payroll easy. And it was good for me, as manager. I trained a few clients in the evenings and had plenty of time to work out in the mornings.
Then Joe Marcoux came to town. He looked around my vacant store at 9 a.m. and asked, “Why are you open right now?”
I said, “Because that’s when everyone is open.”
He said, “Exactly. No one can visit your store when they’re at their own jobs.”
We’d built the store hours around when we wanted to sell, not when clients wanted to buy. And it showed: We were pretty empty during the day but packed for the few hours we opened on the weekends.
Joe then asked, “Why aren’t you open on weekends?” (Because I already work a 40-hour week.)
“Why are you opening on Mondays at all?” (Because I don’t want to work Saturdays.)
“Why aren’t you open before 9?” (Because that’s when I work out.)
“Why aren’t you open in the evenings?” (Because that’s when I work at my other job.)
It’s easy to say, “We’re in the service business.” And it’s hard to make choices that put your clients first without putting yourself last, right? Because you can’t work every hour forever.
In the next post in this series, I’ll tell you how to set a starter schedule and how to use your staff to fill the gaps you can’t.