When my dad had heart surgery several years ago his life was saved because of a system.
He walked into the emergency room with terrible chest pains. They quickly found 4 blockages in his arteries and ordered immediate emergency surgery.
However after the doctor looked at his notes on his chart he noticed my dad was on a blood thinner.
Doing surgery while on a blood thinner is bad news and they had to wait 3 days to do the surgery.
What happened if that step was skipped?
My dad could of died.
That step was part of a system, a system designed to save peoples lives.
Checking that chart was not personal or specific to my dad, they do that with every patient.
But, the results to my father were as specific and personal as it could get. His life probably saved.
Why Systems are Important
Many people think of systems as only for franchises or impersonal businesses. Systems make you lose that personal touch.
This could not be further from the truth and, in fact, businesses that lack great systems put themselves at a high risk of losing trust with their customers
Systems bring consistency in a business and consistency builds trust.
Think about this scenario, when coaching a deadlift one of your trainers tells them to “pack the neck”. A few days later another trainer tells them to “look up”.
There is usually a frustrated and confused response from the client that goes something like, “but he just told me to do this?”
I have had this happen to me before and it’s not a great situation.
The member starts thinking, “these guys need to get on the same page,” and starts to question if you even know what you are doing.
They leave confused as to which is right, not a great feeling to have and probably a feeling that will not lead to many referrals or even a lengthy stay as a member.
This is a result of not having systems in place, and it could have been avoided with some very simple steps
A system is a repeated course of action – a way of doing things – that brings about a result.
Think about a recipe for your favorite meal. You probably do not do it differently each time. You probably follow a recipe, it could be in your head but it’s probably written down somewhere too.
This is why it’s your favorite; you love it and know you can produce that delicious meal every time.
Even if you’ve never thought about systems, you have them in your business right now. Everything you see in your business is a system.
They are either developing the result you want or they are not. This determines if they are a strong system or a weak system.
A strong system is when something is done in an intentional way that yields a positive result, when this system is documented it makes it even better.
An example of a strong system is how you take attendance for your classes. Let’s say your current system is having an I-pad at the front desk, everyone checks in before their workout and it gives you an accurate report for how often your people come to the gym.
With this information, you can see who comes and who does not. The people that are NOT coming are leading indicators that they will probably quit very soon.
This system helps you get out in front of the issue and follow up with the people not coming so you can get them back in the gym. This is a great system.
In the same example, if only 50% of the people check in on the I-pad and it does not give you accurate results, this is a bad system. This leads to the inability to get the pulse of how engaged your members are and could lead to poor client retention.
You have either not trained your staff or your clients properly for this system to work.
In both instances you have a system, a way you do something consistently. One works, one does not.
A system is truly a system when everyone who needs to follow it follows it.
Deciding on the Systems for your Business
Step 1 is truly deciding what systems are right for your business. It’s different for every business but here are the ones I feel a fitness business should focus on.
Marketing: The way you get your message out there and generate new leads, shooting from the hip here will cause a lot of headaches.
Sales: How you take those leads that your marketing develops and turn them into paying customers.
Operations: The way you support your customers i.e. scheduling, billing, communication.
The training: The way you train your members, how you coach exercises, how you develop programs, how you assess etc. Continuing education for your trainers would fall under here as well.
Finance: The flow and management of money in your business.
Human resources: How you search, hire, fire and retain your team members
Customer service/retention: The proactive way you take care of your customers once they are a member.
The Most Important Systems to have Down Pat
The most important strong systems to have in place are the ones that directly involve the customer. Here are the 3 that you need to get clear on ASAP the others can wait.
For personal training gyms, this starts with how you train people. Is there a system that brings consistency in how your coaches train your clients?
In the example above if you had a system for a single way you coached the deadlift as outlined in a training manual or video database the issue could have been easily avoided.
Having a system for how you train and how you structure your programs is the number one system that needs to be strong.
The Sales/Marketing System
The second system that you really need to think about having down pat is your sales/marketing system.
Having a consistent and reliable way to generate leads and then convert them into members is crucial to early success in business. Failure to do this hinders growth of a business, as some retention is inevitable.
The sales system could include what questions to ask people inquiring about your gym, how they start i.e. consultation/trial membership, how they are converted from a trial membership.
The marketing system could simply be how many emails you send per week, how many times you post on Facebook, how much you spend on ads, how many events you have per year etc.
Here is an example of our Marketing System at GFP. As you can see, it’s not super elaborate but it tells us what to do.
GFP Marketing System1. Define our ideal CustomerMen and Women ages 35-60 within a 15-minute drive time of our facility2. What does our ideal customer wantLose Weight, more energy, be healthier as they get older3. Create Marketing CalendarAnnual PlanQuarterly PlanMonthly plan 4.Email1 email to master list on Monday, Wednesday and FridaySubject line: Something useful or something curious1 customer showcase per week (Wed)1 recipe per week (Friday)1 content based article/week (Monday)Tuesday and Thursdays promo specific offers and eventsBuild List via: in house seminars, lead magnets, Facebook ads, 4. Facebook/Instagram Content2 posts/ day1 customer Showcase per weekAll email content summarized and put on FacebookInstagram: 4 pics a dayGFP Trainers responsible for 1 content piece per weekBoost posts over 50 likes for $205. Facebook Paid Advertising2 separate targets audience’s men 35-60, women 35-60Spend 3 K a month minimum Rotate offer regularly: 15, Day, 30 Day, 6 weeks5. CommunitySilent Auction ContributionsPhysical presence at Local Events: Winter Walk, BH 5KJoint Ventures: Pure Movement, Upper deck, RYS, T3 Lax, Prestige DinerSponsorships: NP PAL, BH Education Foundation, Brook Healy Foundation6. Special In-House EventsSweepstakes(March)Fat Loss Contest Holiday sales: Black Friday, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day (Email and Facebook promo)Charity Fat Blasts Seminars 3/year (September, January, June)Physical Signage for special events (lawn signs)Free Speed Week
The Customer Service
Customer service is probably the only thing that can truly differentiate you from your competition. Failure to get this right consistently means you’re just like everyone else.
Having a system for how you handle your customers is a surefire way to thrive in business for a very long time.
We have a very specific way we systematize our customer service and it goes beyond answering the phone. Customer Service is for everyone in your business not just your front desk team.
Here are our 3 steps to great service
- Find out what the member wants
- Help them get it
- Exceed their expectations
The entire team knows this is what great service looks like and now we have something to lean on to be consistent.
We track this too. We keep something called a red sheet that tells us specific things about people that may need a little extra from us. For example, if one of our members has a death in the family, we make sure to send them a card.
These are the things that differentiate our gym from others and its why many people have paid us $400+ for close to 9 years.
Customer service really only comes down to one thing at the end of the day
Hiring people that care is step 1. Training them to do it consistently is next.
This is not to say your Human Resources system or financials systems are not important. It just means that better business results will occur if you have down the systems that involve your customer first.
The Stage of your Business having Documented Systems is Most Important
When I first opened my gym I wasted a lot of time creating these huge long manuals for how we did everything.
I spent a lot of time at the computer writing these things out when I should have been on the road selling and building relationships in the community.
I made sure that every possible step was written down and everyone knew exactly what to do. The problem was: I was the only employee, it was all in my head anyway and things changed everyday.
Creating documents for your systems is crucial but not every possible decision needs to documented.
If you’re just starting in business spending hours on your Human Resources systems manual is a massive waste of time.
If you don’t get busy getting more members you’ll have no people to hire, give benefits to, or fire!
Documented systems become most important when you start to bring more people on your team and communication is crucial for your success.
As your business continues to grow and you put people in charge a specific areas of your business i.e. head of marketing, documented systems are essential to give people clear direction.
You really only need to document the most important 20% of a system, this usually yields about 80% of the results
Most fitness businesses are not that complex and do not need big elaborate manuals that take a ton of time and are too complex to be implemented.
The other issue I found with these large manuals is that they are tough to make changes to.
As you grow in business, things will change and force you to adapt the way you do things. Making it easy on you to make these changes helps keep these systems alive and followed by all.
That’s the final point here.
Followed by everyone in your business is when a system is truly a system.
If you ever want to sell your business or at least be in the position to sell, systems are a key ingredient to make that happen
If you want your business to run without you having to be there all the time systems need to be in place and followed by everyone on your team.
If you want a business that delivers a consistent experience so you can continue to build trust in your community systems will accomplish this
Finally, if you want to make more money having documented systems will bring you much more of it.