How I Made My Gym’s Staff Playbook Completely Useless

On a green background, a football play is diagrammed with white X's and O's.

My staff playbook was done, and I was thrilled.

I had forced myself to document everything in our gym, collected all the SOPs in a binder and delivered the book to my staff members.

I felt a great sense of accomplishment—like I had taken a big step forward as a gym owner.

And then I made a huge mistake that made my staff playbook worthless.

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

Here’s the step I missed after I completed my playbook:

I didn’t set dates to audit and upgrade it.

Getting the playbook done in the first place was a huge deal. I had created a system: It formalized many aspects of my business and got mountains of procedures out of my head so I could delegate tasks.

But instead of riding that wave, I killed all my momentum by just assuming the playbook was perfect.

It definitely wasn’t.

My book of SOPs was a good start, but I had missed a few things, including a section on marketing, sales and procedures for handling inquiries. That was a huge “oops.”

As staff members used the systems I had created, they found improvements that could be made, but those changes never made it into the playbook. So the playbook didn’t reflect actual practices, and when I brought a new person on board, we had a gap between the written SOPs and what actually happened in the gym.

Finally, as the business evolved, additions should have been made to govern new aspects of the business—such as when we added a program for kids. But that didn’t happen, either.

So I put in a ton of work creating a document that was current and useful for about three or five months.

Don’t make the same mistake. Make sure your playbook is a living document that’s updated regularly.

Create, Optimize, Audit

In the Two-Brain blog this week, Chris Cooper has been talking about creating business systems. You need them if you ever want to become a CEO, delegate tasks and take time off.

To become a great gym owner, you must create systems and SOPs. It’s not optional.

But don’t miss the next steps, which are equally important: You must optimize and then periodically audit the systems. If you don’t, your business won’t improve.

The final steps in creating a staff playbook:

  • Set dates for review and optimization in consultation with the staff members who are operating in the systems (you might attach this task to regular staff performance reviews).
  • Set another date—repeated annually at minimum—for a focused audit of your systems. What’s broken? What’s missing? What needs an upgrade?

If you have a playbook, I’ll give you something to test right now to prove my point:

Get a friend your staff members don’t know to contact your gym and ask for info on how to become a member. Document exactly what happens. If the person receives a prompt, professional response according to the standards set out in your playbook, your intake system is holding up.

If the person doesn’t receive the response you’d like—or doesn’t receive a response at all—you’ve got a problem that’s costing you a lot of money.

That’s just one example of an audit. I’m sure you can think of many more.

But don’t just think about auditing your business and improving your playbook. Actually do it—regularly and according to a precise schedule.

If you do, your playbook will become the backbone of a strong business. If you don’t, your playbook will be a helpful document for about five months.


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.