Why “It Worked for Me” Can Kill Your Gym

A loudspeaker next to the words "your opinion matters if you have data, too."

“You should totally try a Groupon—it worked for us!”

“If you offer a discount for military personnel, you’ll get more soldiers from the local base!”

“A six-week challenge will help you find a host of perfect clients.”

All of this advice, in my experience, turned out to be BS.

I qualify the statement with “in my experience” because I don’t want to throw more BS at you.

But I really want you to know what it smells like.

A head shot of writer Mike Warkentin and the column name "Pressing It Out."

Whenever groups of gym owners get together, advice and stories are thrown around. That’s good. Lots of opinions and experiences give you new ideas and stuff to think about.

“I hadn’t thought of that!” is a great thing to hear in these discussions.

It’s not great when someone with limited experience presents their plan as “the answer.”

That can get you into big trouble.

I’ll give you a real-world example: If you pick any sport and dive deep into a niche discussion group, you’ll find all sorts of opinions from aficionados who aren’t experts. Most of them boil down to this: “I’ve always done it like this and never had any problems.”

That’s the worst advice you can ever get: A person has tried exactly one thing and thinks it’s the best method or product solely because nothing awful happened.

“The manual says use this type of oil, but I’ve always ignored that, and nothing went wrong.”

That, to me, sounds like a precursor to a seized engine and a monster repair bill.

And really, if we’re trying to be great instead of just good, we want to know what’s optimal, not what might help you scrape by.

Search for Experts

Online forums, round tables and discussion groups in any niche usually get heated, and you’ll find lots of arguments. Some people are truly belligerent and even abusive when it comes to “offering advice.” They need to be right, even if they don’t have the right answer.

But if you look closely, you can always find spectacular advice from true experts.

Stuff like this: “I’ve tried six different types of oil over the years and documented the results. The oil recommended by the manual is very good. But this other product performed 20 percent better based on close inspection. The other four performed measurably worse. I would not use them ever.”

You’ll see the same sort of thing whenever gym owners talk. If you don’t believe me, search “floor cleaners” in any forum for fitness entrepreneurs. Most gym owners have only tried one floor cleaner, and it is therefore “the best” and “the one you should get.”

Were I to invest in a floor cleaner, I’d want to hear from someone who knows exactly why a certain product is better than all the others.

I bring this up because I want you to make better business decisions than I did back when data was nonexistent or hard to find. I want to you brush aside opinions with a smile and search for facts. I want you to pick “the very best oil” for your machine the first time, not after someone’s flippant recommendation has your engine smoking.

So if you’re ever in a forum for gym owners, I want to give you two questions you can ask to get the info you need to make intelligent decisions:

1. What else have you tried, and how did that compare?

2. What data can you provide?

True experts will have answers to both questions. Others will not, which is fine. Their opinions are valid—but they are just opinions, and you’d do well to remember that.

As a small business, your gym is a high-risk endeavor. Don’t increase the risk by basing decisions on the opinions of the loudest people in the group. Reduce the risk by asking for data and evidence. Then make the best decision.

If you do that, you’ll avoid all kinds of misery and reach your business goals much faster.

If you don’t, you’re gambling.

Smile and nod in discussion groups and thank people for their opinions. Then seek out experts and hard data.

If you’re looking for a forum where experts always back advice with data, check out Gym Owners United.


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.