How To Test

There are no “wrong” answers anymore.
In business, there are few absolutes. While fixed systems and black/white advice can help new gym owners get some traction, NO system is ever permanent.
Trial and error is a bad entrepreneurial strategy. Test and measure is a good entrepreneurial strategy. What’s the difference? Math.
The keys to trying new things–workouts, supplements, or business ideas–are these:

  1. Try only ONE thing at a time;
  2. Measure the difference before/after.

For example, if one of your athletes starts taking a protein supplement, a creatine supplement and a fish oil supplement on the same day, and then reports “feeling better” a month later, which supplement caused the improvement? It’s impossible to tell.
Did your Facebook ad trigger those ten calls this month, or did your clients have more conversations about you with their coworkers? Are your coaches lazy about their appearance, or are they just unaware of your dress code? Ask. Then tell. Measure the difference.
Many gym owners who try the Gym Checkup struggle to find the metrics they’re asked to provide. They can’t figure out their ARM; they don’t know their net profit. And that lack of knowledge is fine (it’s an answer unto itself. When they realize they don’t know these elementary metrics, they can click a link to “phone a friend”–me–and get help.)
I started testing the Bright Spots retention strategy in 2005. I don’t “think” it works; I know it works because my year-over-year retention was 86% in 2015. What will bring it back to my PR of 93%? I’m testing various strategies. I’m not guessing, not wishing, not pining for the “good old days.”
Luckily, my gym is very successful; I don’t need more clients or more money. So I can use my gyms as a lab for ideas, then take the best ones and share them with my “First 40.” They’re tweaked, then tested again and again until they’re accepted as broadly applicable. Then I share them with everyone. Meanwhile, I’m already trying new things.
Here are three things we’re testing right now:

  1. Couch to CrossFit. This is a different model for me, and several other owners are concerned I’m attracting clients who won’t fit my high-ARM client profile (thanks for worrying about me, guys!) The guys built James Bond-level tracking and retention metrics into the program, so I’ll know exactly how well it’s working after we try it. This isn’t a “spray-and-pray” tactic; it’s a foray into a new paradigm. My time return on the project is already over $250/hour. Can I retain these new folks? Can I repeat the program month after month? Will this be part of my business in three years? I’m not sure. But you know I’m measuring all of it.
  2. BrainWODs. If you look for the #BrainWOD hashtag on social media, you’ll see many gyms using it. The idea comes from (I’m a shareholder.) Think of all the clients in your gym aged 40-65. What shape are their parents in? Do you think other “Boomers” are dealing with weak parents who have cognitive decline? Do you think they’re scared to go down that same path? Of course they are. And ALL the big media is focused on the cognitive benefits of exercise right now. We’re testing various implementation strategies now, but you can get ready with the Ignite 101 course.
  3. Daily emails to every member. Jay Williams (a Two-Brain Mentor) has been emailing his client list DAILY for over a month. His emails aren’t technical; they’re not even always about exercise. Jay’s tracking the responses, and they’re VERY interesting. Not in the “people like it!” way, but in objectively-measurable data like ARM, LEG and adherence rates.

We’ll share this data, of course.
How do YOU test an idea?

  1. Start with a snapshot of your business. Use our Gym Checkup or even The TwoBrain Big Sheet to establish your baseline. Both are free.
  2. Determine the time frame. Announce your “Spring 2016 Calendar” when introducing a new class, for example, so you’re not married to a bad idea later.
  3. Give the idea your best shot. Promote it using at least 10 marketing strategies.
  4. Measure the outcome. Did key metrics–ARM, LEG, profit ratio, or anything else improve? Are you closer to your “Perfect Day,” or further away? Don’t “give it awhile longer.” Don’t “wait for it to get some traction.” If it didn’t work, stop doing it and record your experience. If it DID work, keep doing it and write down every tiny detail so you can pass it off to staff.

As a business owner, experimentation is your birthright. You get to run your business any way YOU want. You can even go bankrupt if you choose!*
Some ideas work most of the time. Some ideas work rarely. Some USED to work, and don’t anymore. And some are ahead of their time. How do you know which are which? You test, measure, and retest. Just like fitness.
*ignorance is a choice, even in business.


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.