The Top 7 Things You Need to Stop Doing at Your Gym

A gym owner waves his finger to indicate others should stop doing certain things in their businesses.

I wish I’d had this list in 2010.

It would have saved me a ton of stress and money.

I hope it will help you.

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

A quick note: This is my Top 7 based on my experience–not “The Official Two-Brain Top 7.” That doesn’t exist.

Two-Brain mentors analyze each gym, find the biggest issues and recommend changes that have a huge effect on that business. They prescribe the right thing at the right time for each individual gym owner. The exact to-do list looks different for every entrepreneur we work with.

But the mistakes below are very common, so here we go.

Don’t do this stuff!

1. Only Running Group Classes

It seems obvious now, but it wasn’t when opened my gym. I didn’t realize group classes were my “discount revenue stream.” Personal coaching is actually the premium revenue stream, and adding it when I opened my gym probably would have generated hundreds of thousands of dollars over the next decade.

Read More: “Group Traning IS Your Discounted Option”

2. Trying to Get Every Client

I remember the feeling of dread when I considered “firing” certain problem clients. I could have saved many hours if I had just told some people “we don’t offer what you want” when they inquired about joining the gym. But I was desperate for clients, so I accepted competitors who only wanted open gym, jerks who didn’t want to be coached, people who didn’t want to pay my rates, and so on. If I had screened my clients better on the way in and only taken those who fit the business, everyone would have been happier—owners, staff and other clients.

Read More: “Why We Don’t Take Every Client—and Neither Should You”

3. Focusing on Competition (on Anything Your Ideal Clients Don’t Care About)

You can definitely run a gym with a mission of helping competitive athletes find success. But if that’s not your mission, an “accidental” competition focus can really damage a gym that was set up to help average people accomplish health and fitness goals. I definitely fell into this trap. If your best clients don’t care about throwdowns and leaderboards, don’t invest huge amounts of resources on them. Always focus on giving your best clients what they want. That advice is sound whether you’re talking about competition, group coaching, recovery rooms, spin classes, yoga programs or anything else. Don’t find clients for your business. Build the business around your best clients, then find more people just like them.


4. Putting Marketing Before Retention

Don’t pour water into a bucket with holes in it. End of story.

Listen: “Retention: What Actually Matters (and What Doesn’t)”

5. Putting Staff Development Before Business Development

I thought great coaches would make me profitable. That didn’t happen. Great business practices make gyms profitable. The best coach in the world will go hungry if clients don’t pay their fees on time—but so many gym owners forget about that. Put business systems in place first so great coaches can succeed in your gym. Don’t put great coaches into a plane that’s headed toward the mountain.

Listen: “Developing Coaches Won’t Grow Your Business”

6. Buying too Much Stuff

Whenever I hear a gym owner ask about “turf options” in a gym, I get nervous. Turf is expensive and underused in most facilities. But it looks cool, and it makes you feel like a professional strength and conditioning coach. Let’s be real: Most clients don’t need turf to be successful. If you’re training college football players for the NFL Combine, you might need turf. If you’re trying to help the average person lose weight, you don’t need turf. Apply this mentality to every purchase and ask, “What do my clients actually need to get results?” Then buy only that stuff.

Read More: “What Gyms Really Need: Space and Equipment”

7. Ignoring Systems

Systems are tedious. I get it. But every single strong business has them. The mom-and-pop shop that teeters on the brink of bankruptcy? It doesn’t have systems. I’ll give you a single example that should make the point: “I don’t need your credit card number today. Just chuck a check at me later this month.” That should make your stomach churn. When it comes to any aspect of your business, always answer these two questions for yourself: “What’s the best way to do this?” and “How do I make sure it’s done that way every time?”

Read More: “Gym Business Systems: How to Survive a Bus Crash”

Bonus Tip

You can fix all this stuff on your own, but you probably won’t. I say that because I couldn’t do it. I needed the help of a mentor who provided insight, prioritization and accountability. If you’re struggling to make changes to your business, here’s a bonus tip:

Don’t try to do everything on your own. If you’re struggling, call for backup.

Other Media in This Series

“How to Stop Your Gym From Growing”
“Four More Surefire Ways to Kill Gym Growth Dead”


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.