When you own a gym, you have to hire staff.
Most of us started as coaches. So we know what makes a great coach.
And the moment we realize “I can’t do everything all alone anymore!” we start looking for other coaches to help out.
This is actually a mistake. You should replace yourself in lower-value roles first.
But eventually you’ll need someone to deliver your service.
Over the next posts, I’ll break down how to find the right people, how to train the right people, how to partner with those who can’t work for you, how to educate your staff, and how to build their careers with them.
It all starts with finding the right people. Because you can train a great person how to coach but you can’t teach anyone how to smile.
After 23 years as a coach and 14 as a gym owner, here are the lessons I’ve learned about finding great people and turning them into coaches.
ABH: Always Be Hiring
Good coaches fill a void. Great coaches create careers for themselves.
We teach the Intrapreneurial model at Two-Brain because coaches should generate the revenue that pays them (and covers the business’ costs).
Many gym owners get into staff trouble because they get into this loop:
1. Become overwhelmed with class sizes or class schedules.
2. Finally decide they need help right away.
3. Hire and train the first candidate out of urgency.
4. Get sucked into micromanaging and correcting coaches forever instead of doing the CEO work to build the business.
5. Get overwhelmed again.
Instead, a growing gym should run its Advanced Theory Course (ATC) at least twice per year, whether they “need” coaches or not. And gyms in larger urban areas should be advertising for coaches nonstop.
When you see new coaches as an opportunity to grow instead of as an expense, you’ll always want more.
I break down the ATC step by step here.
Hire for Personality, Train for Skill
“No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”
On my first visit to CrossFit HQ, I was surprised: everyone hugged. All the time. I probably hugged 30 people in the first 30 minutes. But I didn’t have a single discussion about leverage, torque or programming.
By that point in my career, I had been around thousands of fitness professionals. I’d been to national conferences. I’d attended dozens of seminars. I was an exam proctor for the ISSA. And I was never hugged once. Never.
Now, for a redheaded introvert from Canada, a lot of hugging and high-fiving didn’t come naturally. But what was immediately obvious was that the team—from founder Greg Glassman to the L1 staff to the media crew—were chosen for their personalities first. Then they were trained to become the best in their field.
Around the same time, I was forced to hire a coach for our 6-a.m. classes. I was busy with personal-training clients and had to put someone in front of a class fast.
I chose a girl with an amazing personality only because I couldn’t find a technical expert quickly. And, to my surprise, adherence improved. The class grew. People loved meeting happy, smiling Charity at 6 a.m. instead of worn-down Coop. She eventually became an expert, but her personality made her a star long before she finished her degree.
Technical knowledge will get people results. But personality will keep people showing up. And most of fitness is really about showing up.
Hire in This Order
It’s easiest to replicate your vision and values when you hire from within: That means training your best clients to become coaches.
Your best clients aren’t necessarily the best athletes. In fact, on balance, the best athletes don’t make the best coaches. But that’s another topic.
Hire From Within First
Find your happiest people and teach them how to coach.
Many great coaches start with only a weekend seminar’s worth of technical knowledge but a lifetime of positivity practice. Run an ATC to find a few candidates, let them try on the coach’s shirt, and then commit to training them to guide your people.
Hiring from within helps you overcome the trust hurdles between new coaches and your clients. And you don’t have to worry about a new coach fitting in with your culture.
On the other hand, you’ll lose a client. Make sure you have a clear training plan and tell them in advance. Then hire with a clear contract and evaluation process (we give you those in the Incubator).
Hire the Best Local Personal Trainer
If you can’t hire from within, there are probably several good trainers nearby who would love the chance to make their little job a real career. Maybe some of your clients trained with them at other gyms. Or maybe you’ve met them when you took a class at another gym.
If they’re a personal trainer at a big chain gym, they probably don’t have a shot at a real career—unless you give them one. Negotiate a rate for the clients they bring with them, and teach them how to make a career with the 4/9ths Model.
Call Local Colleges and Ask, “Who’s Your Best Senior Student?”
This is how I got my first job. Except the best seniors were all taken, so my boss settled for the top junior—me.
If you can’t find a good local trainer, you’ll be starting with a blank slate when you take the college route. This can have some advantages. If you train a new graduate really well, you’ll never have problems. If you don’t train thoroughly, you’ll always have problems—and you’ll probably blame it on his or her generation or something.
Take this route if you can’t find a great coach through any of the methods above.
We like BarbellJobs.com or Indeed.com.
We save job ads for the fourth step because this is the hardest process. Every other step means working from existing relationships. This step involves meeting people, forming fast impressions, running candidates through an interview, introducing a stranger to your community—but it could also mean getting the most qualified candidate. Of course, the resume means nothing unless the applicant has an amazing personality, too.
What should you say in the ad? Who should you try to attract?
We teach all these steps in the Incubator and take a deeper dive in the Growth Stage Masterclass. If you’re interested in developing coaches, visit TwoBrainCoaching.com.