When we first opened MFF, I assumed that our path to success was going to be a simple equation.
Lots of Clients (High Revenue)
+ Lean Team & Low Overhead (Low Expenses)
= Retiring Early to a Tropical Location (Getting Rich as F*ck!)
And yes, I wasn’t wrong. You need a solid marketing and sales funnel and you must control your expenses if you’re going to make money — but that’s the obvious shit. You’ll learn in the first 2-3 years of your business if you can get the basics right. If you can’t, you’ll close your doors. If you can, you’ll be confronted with new and even bigger challenges as you continue to grow.
It’s those challenges I want to chat about today. The major hurdles we’ve faced when growing MFF haven’t been the obvious nuts and bolts of the business – making money, hiring and firing, blah, blah. Our real challenges have been the stuff that sneaks up and surprises us. The real challenges are the soft skills and leadership strategies that make the difference between a 6-figure and 7-figure(+) business.
I’m going to share with you 5 key strategies for growing the shit out of your fitness business. I promise that once you’ve figured out the basics of making your facility profitable, these will be among your most valuable strategies for finding ‘next-level’ growth. While I’m not promising these are the only strategies you’ll need to succeed, I am certain that if you do these 5 things you’ll be on your way to a bigger, more effective business.
1. Culture, Culture, Culture
Okay, this one shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who has read this blog before. Mark and I are #obsessed with culture and have made repeated pronouncements that it’s one of the most important elements of any fitness business. This becomes particularly true as you attempt to grow and scale your business.
We talk a shit-ton about how to build a positive service culture in our FREE Service Culture Toolkit (get it at the top of this page). So I’ll skip the basics assuming you’ve read that. Haven’t read it? Shame on you. Stop everything and read that shit! #IThoughtWeWereFriends
To make sure we’re all on the same page, know this…. Service culture is the attitudes, beliefs, and habits of your team. Generally, you can think of it as “how we do things around here.” Service culture is the DNA of your workplace and is driven by many factors: the people you hire, the expectations you set, and the dialogue you foster.
Here’s the thing though, your service culture must change and adapt as your business grows. That is the real challenge. The way you serve and interact with your clients when you have 100 of them is fundamentally different than when you have 300 or 500 or 800, not to mention when you have multiple locations.
Your role as the owner/operator is to ensure that your culture is built on a rock-solid mission, guided by deeply ingrained values and continuously responsive to the wants and needs of your team and clients.
Damn, that’s hard. You can do it, but it takes a crap-load of work. Every day. It requires listening to your team and clients, regularly adjusting your policies and procedures, continuously refining your team’s customer service skills, and focusing constantly on creating a warm, positive working environment.
Some of the strategies I’ll share below will also help with feeding your service culture, so let’s continue…
2. Constantly Replace Yourself
The first year MFF opened I was the classic start-up founder, wearing every hat imaginable. In addition to holding down another full-time job for the first few months, my daily roles included, but were not limited to: sales manager, social media manager, front desk worker, finance manager, cleaner, handyman, IT technician, webmaster, and the list goes on and on…
It makes perfect sense to be wearing so many hats when your business is just starting. In fact, it’s essential. Then, one day you reach a tipping point where the growth of your business is limited by the number of hours per day you (as one person) can physically work. You become the limiting factor to your business growth, and you must begin the process of constantly replacing yourself.
The most important question to keep asking yourself is… How much is my time worth and how can I delegate all tasks that can be done cheaper?
I don’t mean that rhetorically. Really, how much is your time worth? For every hour you spend on high-value tasks in your business how much revenue can you generate? Then, every task for which you can pay someone less per hour than you generate you do so.
First on my list was cleaning. Not only did I hate mopping the floors, I could easily pay someone less per hour than my time was worth. So we hired someone. Next, I learned that I couldn’t get much done sitting at the front desk of our facility every day checking people in and selling Quest bars. So, we hired someone to do that too.
Nearly every hire for the past 5 years has been fueled by constantly replacing Mark and myself with others who can often do the work better and for less money. If you want to grow, this strategy is essential to making the best use of your time and resources.
3. Find People Smarter Than You
I’ll put you on the spot – what is something you don’t you know how to do that is important to your business?
Seriously. Think of something.
As you grow, the list of stuff you’re not great at (but is essential to your business) will also grow. You’ll need to find people smarter than you and hire them.
You might be thinking, “Cool, Michael, but there’s also lots of stuff I’m good at in my business. That’s why I started it in the first place.”
Great. I agree. You must have some aptitude for this fitness business stuff or you wouldn’t be doing it. That’s where this strategy gets sticky. At some point you’ll need to hire people smarter than you — even for the things that you think are your strengths. For example, when we first opened MFF I was totally the most savvy financial mind in the company. As the company grew I had to recognize the need for someone even smarter than me to manage our books and help guide our finances.
At MFF we now have team members who are better than Mark and I at most things — sales, finance, operations, and even training. Just like the previous example, you must recognize when YOU are your company’s greatest obstacle to growth and find someone to help you make the leap forward.
4. Foster Continuous Dialogue
We make every team member take a pledge when they start at MFF which includes the promise “I will openly communicate about what is going well and what is not going well. Nothing will go unsaid.” That’s no joke and we’re serious as hell about it. What gets left unsaid remains unmanaged. As leaders we can’t improve the challenges we don’t know about, so fostering continuous dialogue is crucial!
When a team is mired in gossip and assumptions and broken promises and missed expectations, you can bet you are on your way to a failed business. When a team is open and honest with one another, sharing their concerns and frustrations, your business is likely heading the right direction.
Your business grows when your team grows and your team grows when they can freely and authentically address their personal and collective challenges. That requires everyone to get GREAT at talking about shit — even when it’s uncomfortable.
Here are TEN ways we foster continuous dialogue and learning with our staff and Ninjas (clients) at MFF:
Ninja Feedback Box – We read all the entries from clients and respond monthly.
Email Polls and Surveys – We regularly survey our clients about their ideas, preferences, and experience in the Ninja Clubhouse.
Collect Stories and Testimonials – We host contest and giveaways to motivate our clients to share their stories and progress pictures.
Weekly Team Meetings – Required by all full-time team members, this weekly meeting keeps us connected and on the same page about what’s important.
Monthly Staff Summit Meetings – Required for all managers, this monthly meeting keeps us focused on the big trends and overall business health.
Monthly 1-on-1 Meetings – Managers meet with each team member they manage for monthly feedback on performance and personal development.
Team Culture Surveys – This twice-annual survey helps us assess how satisfied the team is with the our internal culture.
Peer-to-Peer Coaching – We regularly teach and practice peer-to-peer coaching to foster dialogue and support among the team.
Regular In-Service and Education Events – As needed, our team meetings will be supplemented with specific workshops and speakers to facilitate key learning.
Everyone Has a Budget for Education – All team members are given an education stipend and expected to participate in a wide variety of continuing education.
5. Treat Failure Like Feedback
Take a moment to think about a time when you failed.
Really do it. Think about a specific time. I’ll wait.
Now, how would you look at that event like feedback? What would it take to remove the label “failure” and replace it with “feedback”?
Would that require you to be a littler easier on yourself? Maybe you’d have to replace some old expectations with some new ones?
If you’re going to grow a business you gotta get good at this skill. As a business owner there are countless opportunities for you to see your choices and actions as failures. You failed because you didn’t hit your sales goals this month. You failed because you hired the wrong person. You failed because you lost that client who had been with you for the last 5 years.
Using the label of “failure” is a dead end. It’s shorthand for a self-defeating mindset that keeps you from growth. And in some cases, that label alone actually move you backwards.
Learning to reframe missteps as feedback helps you make the most of each choice, learn from the consequences, and move forward with a new perspective. That’s what growth looks like.
When you see a slow sales month as feedback it begs you to discover “What did we do right and what can we do better?”. When you experience having to terminate a bad hire as feedback it invites you to consider “How can we hire differently next time?”. When you have a long-term client that leaves you and consider that moment in terms of the feedback, you’re likely to ask the client, “What could we have done better to keep your business?”.
Seeing failure as feedback can change your entire mindset and fuel the growth of your company in spite of the obstacles you experience along the way.
What Do You Think?
What do you think of my 5 key strategies to growing the shit out of your fitness business? Were you surprised by any?
What have been the barriers to growing your business? How have you approached scaling up?
Join the conversation by adding your thoughts below.
Excited to hear from you!