Things Gym Owners Should Never Do

A number of wasps crawl on a nest being constructed on the side of a building.

The roof-mounted vacuum was sucking wasps out of the side of the building.

I was alone on the roof of the gym shortly after dawn on a Saturday, and I was wearing winter clothing in August. Not an inch of skin was showing as the angry wasps attacked. Beside me, a bright yellow vacuum was howling away as it slowly filled up with insects exiting a hidden nest.

Every morning in the week previous, we’d opened the gym to find dozens and maybe hundreds of wasps inside. I’d finally tracked them back to a nest behind the flashing above the back door. Instead of calling an exterminator and shelling out about 100 bucks for the appropriate treatment, I had gotten up at dawn to create a jury-rigged solution that might have made the Apollo 13 astronauts proud.

It would have made a mentor sad.

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

I solved the wasp problem by wasting my time.

Instead of improving my business or resting so I could improve the gym, I wasted about four hours on a weekend morning doing a job a pro could have done in five minutes for $100.

But I didn’t want to spend the $100. I was desperate to make the business profitable, so I thought spending my time was better than spending the company’s money.

That was a huge mistake.

Another big one: This wasn’t even my problem. A call to the landlord would have passed the issue on to the person actually responsible for maintenance of the building shell.

A mentor could have pointed all that out to me.

But I also wasn’t ready to pay a mentor at that point, so I put on goggles and a parka and lugged a vacuum onto the roof when I should have been relaxing at home.


Too Many Hats

I have dozens of stories like this. I served as our gym’s locksmith, snow clearer, lawn mower, plumber, painter, cleaner, bookkeeper, webmaster, programmer, social media manager—the list goes on. When I think about everything I used to do, I actually get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.

When I think about other gym owners following this path, the feeling intensifies.

We’re tough, so we think we can work long hours forever. I’ve been there, and I learned the pace is unsustainable.

You might read that and think, “I can sustain it.”

I thought the same thing—and I maintained a foolish schedule so long that I started to resent the business. I was also wasting many of my best hours, and my business, family life and fitness suffered.

When I was burned out, frustrated and ready to leave the fitness business, I finally took advantage of a mentor’s outside perspective. I stopped doing all the jobs, and I changed the business. It was a turning point.

Remember: You can turn your business around in months—but only if you spend your time doing the right things.

If you’ve got a low-value task on your list this week, do yourself a favor and offload it. Then use that hour in a better way: Book a call with a mentor. In that hour, you’ll find out what you should be doing with your time if you really want to grow your business.

Or you can get up before dawn on the weekend to spin your tires doing pointless tasks that make you feel like you’re “grinding” and “putting in the work.” If you do that, I’ll offer one more piece of advice: Don’t open the vacuum cleaner to see how many wasps are inside.

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