4 Surefire Ways to Stop Your Gym From Growing

Podcast-1 (52)

Chris Cooper (00:00):
If you wanted to stop your gym from growing, how would you do it? I’m Chris Cooper. I’m the founder of Two-Brain Business, and every year I do this thought exercise with myself. Instead of taking the same questions that I’ve been asking all year—like “how do I grow my gym more?”—I flip the question and I ask myself “if I wanted to stop my gym from growing, what would I do?” What that does is it tells me what’s working to grow my gym and where I should double-down on my efforts, but it also tells me what I should avoid doing because that will shrink my gym. So here we go. Today I’m gonna tell you four things that I would do if I wanted my gym to stop growing. Okay? If this is helpful to you, go to gymownersunited.com to join a group of thousands of the world’s top fitness entrepreneurs, where we talk about this stuff every single day. It’s free. Jump on in.

Chris Cooper (00:45):
So if I wanted to stop my gym from growing, the first thing I would do is I would turn off my media and my marketing. I’ve been publishing content for my gym since it opened, and even before then, I’ve been writing blog posts for the newspaper and stuff since like 2002. And if I wanted my gym to stop growing, I would just cut off that momentum. I would stop doing that stuff even more. I would stop actively advertising. So years ago in 2018, my gym had been steadily growing for well over a decade, but it had kind of plateaued. And I met with a friend of mine named John, and John said, “Are you advertising?” And I said, “Nah, you know, that’s not for me. We’ve never done that.” And he said, “Well, everybody else in your city is, and so if you are not, nobody’s gonna hear about you. And if they don’t hear about you, then they can’t hire you. And if they don’t hire you, then you can’t change their lives.” So what you need to understand is that marketing is not bragging. It’s not baiting people. It’s not trying to fool anybody. It’s inviting people to share the life that you’ve discovered, that you love, and to enjoy the happiness and health that they can have, too. You have to do some kind of marketing. It doesn’t always have to be ads. You can do peer-to-peer marketing. You can do referrals. You can do affinity marketing. You can take a coffee to your neighbor and say, “How’s business?” All of this is marketing. You can grab your friend at the baseball game, start a conversation about fitness and invite them into your gym. These things are marketing, but you have to actually think about it and have a plan to do it consistently or your gym will stop growing.

Chris Cooper (02:21):
People won’t just find you because you’re a great coach. The second way that I would stop my gym from growing is I would actively turn people off. Look, there’s a spectrum of attraction and repulsion that we all have. There are people who are actively repulsive, right? Like they’re pushing you away. They don’t want to be around you. That is not you. I’m not talking to any of those people here. Moving from the spectrum toward attraction, though, the next group of people are people who are passively unattractive. It doesn’t mean they’re ugly. It just means that they’re exhausted, they’re sarcastic, they’re passive aggressive. They aren’t being actively a jerk, but people just don’t want to be around them because they don’t make them happy. They kind of drag them down. These are the people who are always talking and saying bad things about everybody else, right?

Chris Cooper (03:12):
Nobody wants to be around that person, and they’re not doing it consciously. It’s an unconscious motivation, and we just sink into it, this bad habit. But the reality is it really does turn people off. And then moving toward attraction, you have people who are unconsciously attractive. They’re nice to be around. They don’t repulse anybody. They don’t turn anybody off. You know, they’re fairly happy, and they’re just kind of like in the background, right? They’re part of the crowd. Everybody’s kind of their friend. And then you have people who are actively attractive, meaning that they feed you energy whenever you see them. They light up the room whenever they walk into it. They go first. They say, “Hey, good morning.” They’re high-fiving you. They’re smiling. And this is the person that you have to be if you want to grow your gym.

Chris Cooper (03:57):
If I wanted to stop growing my gym, I would allow myself to lapse into unconscious repulsion, which means I’m sarcastic, I’m tearing other people down, I’m exhausted, I clearly don’t wanna be there. Years ago, I screwed this up. I was exhausted. I had been working at the gym since 6 a.m. for like three years in a row. I had this client named Patty, and she came in Tuesdays and Thursdays at 4 o’clock, and we spent a half an hour together in personal training. Great client. And she said, “You know what? I’m really not seeing any gains anymore. I’m not doing my homework that you give me. I just, I need somebody to hold me accountable.” And I said, “Hey, that’s not my job.” Just like that. What a jerk, right? And it just slipped out. I wasn’t trying to fire Patty as a client. I was just exhausted, and Patty left and she never came back.

Chris Cooper (04:48):
I was unconsciously repelling her. And if you wanna stop growing your gym, you just let yourself do that, right? All the marketing in the world, all the advertising spend, all the Facebook ads and social media posts, they won’t help you. If nobody likes being around you, work on being actively attractive if you want to grow your gym. And hey, if you’re exhausted and it’s 6 a.m. and you don’t want to be there, we can tell, okay? You’re not hiding it. Find somebody else to do that job for you. Go home, go back to bed, eat a good breakfast, have a coffee, or go back to your office and do something that grows your business. Alright? The third thing that I would do if I wanted my gym to stop growing is abdicate responsibility for growth. When you open a gym, you are hiring yourself as the CEO.

Chris Cooper (05:35):
And if you thought about hiring somebody else as the CEO, what would you expect from them? I would expect them to spend all their time focused on growing my gym. Like that’s what I’m paying them to do. That’s what your gym is paying you to do as the CEO—grow your gym. If you try to abdicate that to somebody else, meaning you just say, “Hey, GM, you know, go get more clients,” or, “Hey, marketing consulting agency, I’ll just pay you to get more clients,” then you’re not really doing your job, okay? Growth is your job as the CEO of your company. As an entrepreneur, you are the CEO, and it’s your job to grow. I’ll tell you how I screwed this up. Years ago, I hired the first general manager of Catalyst. Amazing woman. Delightful. She was hired to be a manager, and she could manage well, but management means “staying the same, reinforcing your policies and procedures, running the trains on time.”

Chris Cooper (06:30):
It does not mean “grow the company bigger.” And so I would go away and travel, and I’d be working for the CrossFit Journal and CrossFit for Hope and the CrossFit Games, and I would be consulting for this website company. And I would come home, and I would find like, “Wow, our membership numbers have gone down by two. What the hell is happening?” And then I would say, “Hey, I went away for three weeks, and we’ve got five fewer members. Like, what’s going on? How come there’s nobody coming in?” And she’d say, “I don’t know. There’s nobody coming in.” And I would think, “I built this gym. You’re part of this gym. How do you not know how to grow this gym?” But the truth is that I thought I was delegating a job to her when really I was abdicating. I assumed she knew what I knew, that somehow she had just sucked all the knowledge outta my brain and into hers, that just by being around me she knew everything.

Chris Cooper (07:18):
And so I just walked away and didn’t teach her how to grow the business but still expected it to grow. So if you wanna grow your gym, make sure that you’re delegating step by step. No need for questions, no blank spots, no fill in the gaps, no common sense required to actually do the job. The last thing that I would do if I wanted my gym to stop growing is I would stop putting all of my attention on retention. I’ve been talking about retention now for well over a decade. So let me phrase it a different way. Retention is sales over time. If you wanna keep somebody for tomorrow, you have to sell them on showing up again tomorrow. Okay? So retention is just sales over time. I’ll say that again. That means you have to be intentional about keeping people. You can’t just get them in, sign them up and then hope for the best, right? Hope that they fall in love with your program or fall in love with you, or fall in love with your coaches or the community or the culture or whatever, and that just keeps them. You can’t do that. You have to be intentional about keeping people. And so if I wanted my gym to stop growing, I would stop putting so much attention on retention and just let people come in and go, come in and go. And I’d have all these holes in my bucket. I’d keep bringing clients in and just keep losing them out the back end. And my gym would never grow, and it would probably shrink. Look, this is a great thought exercise, but what it should lead you to is realizing “here’s what’s stopping my gym from growing. I encourage you to do it yourself. If you wanted to stop your gym from growing, what would you do? Let me know. This is “Run a Profitable Gym.” Thanks for listening. And if you wanna talk more about this, join our Gym Owners United Facebook group today. I often answer questions in there. I run free webinars, I give away all kinds of great resources to help you grow your gym, and I’d love to have you in the group. It’s Gym Owners United on Facebook, or just go to gymownersunited.com to join. Hope you do it today!

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