On Running a Fitness Business: Part 2

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Last week I commandeered a Facebook post on fitness business shenanigans from friend, and fellow gym owner, Mike Perry.1

I took his original, bulleted-point list and added my own two cents to each one. You can check out points 1-10 HERE.

Today I want to highlight points 11-20.

On Running a Fitness Business: Part 2

11. Community is everything.

TG: Mike Boyle has a famous quote that I’ve heard repeated time and time again:

“No one cares how much you know, till they know how much you care.”

I think it’s fucking pimp-level status that you know all 17 muscles that attach to the scapulae, have taken all 417 PRI courses, and can work Dan Duchaine quotes into casual conversation on gluceoneogenesis.

You’re a fitness nerd superstar and we should go practice karate in the garage together.


However, it’s likely the bulk of your clients could give two flying fucktoids about the scapulae, breathing patterns, and/or the Kreb’s Cycle.

All most really care about is that 1) you help them get results and 2) you’re cool to hang out with and not a pretentious, uppity a-hole.

Community is huge. People want to be amongst their people. Why do you think CrossFit is so successful? It isn’t the kipping pull-ups – my god, it’s not the kipping pull-ups – I’ll tell you that much.

It’s the immense sense of community and being surrounded by other like-minded individuals that makes all the difference in the world.

This doesn’t always have to be attached to fitness either. I know some gyms where staff or even members organize a book or movie club, where people get together every so often to discuss prose or film.

Organizing day-trips is another fantastic way to build community.

Legacy Strength in Floral Park, NY will organize hiking trips outside the city or other “active” activities for their members. The peeps at Mark Fisher Fitness champion community service, which is amazing.

Dan John stresses “intentional community” where people come in to train, as a group, for free (and to have fun).

There are endless ways to build your community. Be creative. Pants optional.

12. Get everything in writing and NO special deals!!

TG: This is the face I make whenever I inform someone what my prices are at CORE and they shoot back with:

“Ah, I see. Well, do you offer any discounts or maybe a free trial session or something?”

Well first I reply with:

“Hahahahahahahahahahahahaahahahahahahahahahahaahahahahahahahahahaha. That’s precious.”

And then I do this:


HERE’s a post a wrote not too long ago on why I don’t offer discounted rates or free sessions.

Unless your name is Matt Damon or Rambo (or you have a time machine and can bring back early 90’s Mariah Carey) I’m probably not going to cut you a deal.

You wouldn’t ask a dentist or lawyer for a “free trial run,” so don’t ask me.

13. Get used to working mornings and evenings. The middle of the day is for eating, training, errands and social media.

TG: Or, if you’re stuck as Daddy Day Care…watching The Price Is Right.

It’s a delight.

In all seriousness, I’d also toss in continuing education here: catching up on blogs, articles, research reviews, and, okay, The Defenders.


14. Keep your gym clean.

TG: My wife and I like to go out to dinner on Saturday nights. Thankfully we live in a great “foodie” city – Boston – which offers an infinite selection of restaurants to visit and try out.

One of the things I’ll judge a place on is the cleanliness of their restrooms. If they can’t bother to keep that area clean, what’s the likelihood the kitchen isn’t covered in Ebola?

Take pride in your space. While I’ll be the first to admit you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover, you can be damn sure people are judging you on the cleanliness of your gym.

NOTE: the only exception here are legit powerlifting gyms. I don’t have any Pub-Med studies to back this up, but I’m pretty sure the grungier the gym – and the more tetanus shots required to touch the barbells – the stronger the people are.

15. Word of mouth is often times the best marketing.

TG: Your clients are almost always going to be your best source of marketing.

I mean, if you think about it it makes sense. What’s likely to be more effective at driving more traffic to your gym: a random Facebook Ad that looks and sounds just like every other Facebook Ad? Or the honest endorsement from a spouse, friend, or colleague?

Here are two pieces of advice when it comes to word of mouth marketing:

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask your clients to help spread the word. Ask them to share posts on Facebook. Ask them to refer people your way. It’s likely they’re more than willing to do so.
  2. Reward them for it. I give all clients a 20% discount on their next package if they refer someone to me and that individual ends up purchasing a package him or herself.

16. Your family is more important than your business. It’s very easy to overlook this.

TG: Since January 31st of this past year – when our son Julian was born – this has never slapped me in the face more.

The past seven months have not been rainbows and butterfly kisses. It’s been a crash course on clusterfuckery, time management, and perseverance.

The introvert in me may gripe on the loss of alone time and the universal frustrations that come with being a new parent – sleep deprivation, blowouts, and more blowouts.

However, now that I’m “in it,” how can I look at that cute little munchkin face and stay mad? His adorableness is off the charts and it’s been such a treat to have the daddy-Julian time with him in the mornings.

The “family before business” mantra is a crucial piece of advice I hope never gets lost on me.

17. Networking is huge. Find good people to work with.

TG: I have been so fortunate in my career to be surrounded by such studs and studettes. That and I am just a very cool person to hang out with. 

Going out of your way to reach out to other coaches and health/fitness professionals in your area – physical therapists, massage therapists, physicians, dietitians – is one of the best business decisions you can partake in.

Make appointments to go shadow or observe other people, follow suit with a “thank you” note, and I can almost guarantee you’ll get some referrals out of it.

This is the actual “thank you” card I send people. 

18. You need a ” business person “

TG: This x a bazillion-gazillion “Mmmm hmmm’s.”

One of the aspects that made Cressey Sports Performance so successful at it’s infancy was the fact Pete Dupuis was on board to do all the “businessy” stuff – track sessions, bookkeeping, collecting payments, payroll, taking phone calls & answering emails – which then allowed Eric and I to do what what we did best: assessments, write programs, coach, and argue over who had control of the stereo.

Even if you hired someone as a business consultant to help you set up better systems and organize ways to be more efficient, someone you spoke to weekly or even on a monthly basis, even that, would be money well spent.

19. Less selfies, more emphasis on your clients.

It’s NOT about you. It’s never about you. Stop being douchey.

20. Coffee

TG: Spike.

Did what you just read make your day? Ruin it? Either way, you should share it with your friends and/or comment below.

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Plus, get a copy of Tony’s Pick Things Up, a quick-tip guide to everything deadlift-related. See his butt? Yeah. It’s good. You should probably listen to him if you have any hope of getting a butt that good.

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  1. This is what happens when you have a 6-month old infant at home and his morning naps start to dwindle to quickie 30 minute power naps: It’s torture…especially when mornings used to be my ideal reading/writing time. Don’t get me wrong: I’m thoroughly enjoying the quality time I get to spend with him, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little frustrated how little time I have to read and inspire myself to write. I’m left “stealing” people’s status updates and turning them into blog posts. #sorrynotsorry.

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