Have you ever tried to sue someone for their gym fees?
I haven’t. And I don’t want to. So I don’t have contracts.
“Never make a rule you won’t enforce” is something my first mentor taught me. But he didn’t tell me the harder lesson: that you have to enforce the rules that you make. And you have to enforce them the same way every single time, or they won’t work.
When we sold Open Gym memberships at Catalyst, we had a full page of rules:
Clear out before group starts
Don’t come near the floor while there’s a group going on, even to warm up
Put your stuff away
I don’t have to spell it out for you. You know what’s on that list.
The problem was that no one really followed the list. So for awhile, members using Open Gym would show up while class was on, and discreetly their warmups in the corner. Sometimes they’d walk through class to get a foam roller. Eventually, their warmups involved a barbell. And then they began to involve the AirDynes…and then a coach snapped on them, and everyone felt awkward and bad, and I had to placate people who were in the wrong.
They weren’t bad people, and it wasn’t their fault. It was my fault for not showing them where the lines are.
When the rules are gray, there aren’t any rules.
If you give people five extra minutes of personal coaching after class for free, you’ll never sell personal training as a service.
If one coach starts class late, your clients won’t show up on time.
If “Open gym” runs during class time, your students will have a lesser experience.
If you aren’t saying “no”–and saying it clearly every time–you’re really saying “yes.”
Consistency is greater than everything else. Even when it’s painful.
The irony is that upholding your rules consistently and clearly is only painful once. In the long run, it’s far LESS painful.
I once had a client decide to row a half-marathon during Open Gym. Great guy, he’d been around for over two years, and he was choosing a tough option.
But five minutes before class was set to start, he still had nearly 5k to row. There was no way he was going to finish.
The coach told him to make sure he finished rowing before class started. Period. He said, “I’m over 15k in! I can’t stop.”
The coach said, “You will stop. That’s the rule.”
He stopped. He got off the rower, picked up his bag, and left the gym. He never came back. In the moment, it sucked.
But we’ve never had the problem since. That was six years ago. One hard conversation saved us from dozens of hard conversations, awkwardness and apologies down the road.
When the rules are complicated, they won’t be followed.
Imagine you’re a new client, and you you’re not really sure what the rules are. You see others showing up early and warming up while another class is running, so you do it too. Then a coach barks at you. You’re in a new place with strangers, and you were just embarrassed in front of them. Why would you ever come back?
Clear rules and consistent delivery teach your clients how to fit in. They save you from frustration and burnout, and save your clients from confusion and awkwardness.
If your rules aren’t being followed now, it’s probably because you haven’t enforced them before. Or because they’re just not clear. Or because people don’t know them.
Good pet owners, good parents, and good parents do it the same way every time.