As a gym owner, you’ve likely experienced the feeling of being overworked and never having enough time to get everything you need to get done, done. You may have even accepted that this is what running your own business feels like.
Despite your passion for helping others get fit and healthy, you may find yourself with a never-ending to-do list, feeling burned out, and like you are constantly trying to not drop the ball. There’s never enough time to get everything done, and you’re always putting out fires rather than being productive.
You know that you and your business have more potential, but you’re just spinning your wheels and feel like you’ve hit a ceiling with your business growth.
Being overworked and in what feels like a perpetual state of chaos wasn’t what you signed up for when you decided to start your fitness business, was it?
The good news is that there is a solution that will give you back your time and sanity and reignite that passion.
The solution is Systems.
You’ve definitely heard that word before. It’s been one of the biggest buzzwords in our industry for more than a decade.
It’s also one of the most misunderstood and, unfortunately, poorly taught business concepts in our space.
So I’ll let you in on something important right up front: You’re probably not going to hear anyone talk about or teach systems the way that we do.
And I’ll start by saying something that probably contradicts most of what you’ve been told about systems: A system is not a checklist. It’s not a script and it’s not a blueprint. I’ll explain more about that here in a bit.
My point in telling you now is to surface this:
- Yes, systems are critical for your business and are likely at the root of the chaos you find yourself in;
- But there are a few basic questions about systems that you need to be able to answer in order to be able to build, implement, and keep them running in your business…
- Why do you need business systems?
- What is a business system, really?
- What specific business systems do you need in your business?
If you get a better understanding of those three things, then I assure you that you’ll be equipped to turn that chaotic storm into much calmer seas, and you’ll be able to start taking back your time and sanity starting now.
#1: Why do you need business systems?
I think we have already established this, but it’s worth saying again: One of the biggest reasons that gym owners live in this constant state of being overworked in their business is because they don’t have any systems in place.
Without systems, there is no guidance for creating the outcomes you want.
Without guidance, tasks are completed haphazardly, or not at all, and with frustratingly inconsistent results. This all leads to confusion, mistakes, and a feeling of overwhelm. (Sound familiar?)
Without systems, you’re left to either do everything yourself or constantly look over everyone else’s shoulder to make sure they’re doing what needs to be done. This not only takes up a lot of time, but also leads to burnout.
The alternative to having systems would be relying on everyone’s mind being programmed to think about the same things the same way all of the time. Since that’s completely out of the question, it leaves us with a pretty strong dependency on systems.
But how do you know that this chaos you’re feeling is being caused by the absence of systems?
Good question. Let’s go there.
Do any of the statements below frequently occur in your business?
- Things just aren’t getting done. Whether it’s lead follow up, cleaning the bathroom or locking the door at night, things just don’t get done. And these are the things that keep you up at night and can cause you to resent your team.
- You’re the only one that can do certain tasks. And I’m not talking about the things that you SHOULD be doing as the business owner, I’m talking about the things that don’t require your knowledge or expertise. The things that make you not be able to make it to your kid’s games or take a vacation.
- If you don’t do it, it doesn’t get done right. This may or may not be a result of the point above. But, the bottom line is for whatever reason, you’re either doing it yourself or accepting that it’s not getting done well. Neither is the way you want to run or grow your business.
- You ‘train’ someone on how to do something (likely by telling them once verbally or having them shadow you a couple of times) but they only do it the way you told or showed them a few times and then they start forgetting steps. You either have to tell them how to do it again and again or just take it back over.
- You feel like you’re constantly changing the way things are getting done or trying new ways because you’re not actually sure what works. You followed up with lead #1 by text and a phone call and they converted into a new client. You followed up with lead #2 by email and text and they didn’t convert. Was it the process? The message? The timing? You may never know.
If you said yes to any or all of those, you can be assured that you have a systems problem in your business.
But systems do so much more than just to keep you from feeling like things are spiraling out of control.
Here’s WHY you need business systems:
First, they provide structure and clarity for employees. Systems let them know what’s expected of them and how to do their jobs effectively. This can lead to improved productivity and job satisfaction. (Also, hiring and managing employees is hard enough – systems make it easier).
Second, systems help to ensure consistency in the quality of work that gets done. When everyone is following the same procedures and processes, it’s easier to maintain the high standards you have for your business and team and to avoid costly mistakes.
Third, systems improve communication and collaboration within the business. When everyone is following the same procedures, it’s easier to understand what others are doing and to work together effectively. It also makes it easy to see when a system needs to be changed or improved.
Systems also help to improve overall business performance(!!!). Remember feeling like you’re just spinning your wheels? Systems solve that problem. By streamlining operations and increasing efficiency, systems can help to reduce costs and increase revenue. They also provide a means of tracking progress and measuring success, which is essential for making informed decisions about the future of the business. (And making informed decisions about the future of the business is ABSOLUTELY something you should be doing as the business owner.)
So, once you recognize how important having systems are, and that not having them is causing the pain and overwhelm you’re feeling now, you can go create some systems and fix the problem, RIGHT?!
Well, almost. Before you take off to do that, let me give you a little more that will make doing that even easier. (Abraham Lincoln said that if you give him an hour to chop down a tree he would spend the first 45 minutes sharpening his axe. We’re sharpening your axe.)
In order to create effective systems in your business (that work well independently and with your other business systems) you have to fully understand what a system is.
#2: What is a business system, really?
Remember above when we told you what a system wasn’t? That’s important, because trying to solve all the issues I just mentioned with checklists, scripts and blueprints is only going to cause much, much bigger problems down the road.
Here’s how we define a system: a set of processes, procedures, and tools that work together to accomplish specific objectives.
For example, your system for training your clients to get their desired results is more than just the process that you use to create a single workout. It’s a combination of your programming (which you probably have some kind a process for, even if it’s only contained in your head right now), your training methodology (which you may or may not have documented but you have one and it influences your programming – I recommend documenting it unless you want to be programming for the rest of your life), the way you communicate with your clients (your coaching cues, how you coach, how you want your coaches to coach) and maybe some type of goal setting and achievement process. These things, together, make up your training system that achieves the results you desire for your clients and your gym.
Here’s another example outside of your training system: your sales system might include your processes and tools for generating leads, converting those leads into clients, and following up with them during their first 2 weeks to ensure that what they are experiencing is in line with what their expectations were.
The outcome of this sales system is increased revenue and retention. The way that it achieves that result is through a combination of cohesive and aligned processes and tools that ensure that there’s a repeatable and manageable way to systematically grow your business.
HOW it achieves that result that can be configured for your specific business, your specific offers and with your specific personnel (even if you’re the only personnel at the moment). By using systems in different areas of your business, such as operations, marketing, and client care, you can improve overall efficiency and productivity. (Notice I didn’t say a sales system was a sales script…you see where I stand on that yet?:))
Now, you may be wondering how exactly this is going to solve your problem of feeling overworked and perpetually short on time. After all, creating all of these systems sounds like a lot of work.
Not really. And it’s not anywhere close to as much work as you’ll have to do without systems.
I don’t want to jump ahead too far, there’s more about this in the next section. But I want to at least give you enough context to put your mind at ease.
While building out your systems can take time, it can (and should) be done in a way that it doesn’t add exponentially more work to your plate, and you start to see the efficiency and effectiveness immediately. Freeing up more of your time to create and install more systems and create even more efficiency.
You’re not going to create every system you’ll ever need all at once. You’re going to prioritize them based on your situation. Then you build one system at a time.
BONUS: Here is the exact framework we teach to help you get your system creation off the ground. We call it DDV, because well…we love acronyms around here. It’s Developed, Documented, and Visible:
- Developed: this is the ‘buildout’ step. For each system, start by figuring out:
- The intended outcome(s) of the system and/or individual process,
- Planning the steps to reach the outcome (s),
- Assigning ownership of each of those steps,
- Determining if there is any latitude in the execution, room for the use of judgment or not (example: Client holds. Can your staff determine if a client can be placed on hold, and if so using what criteria to make that determination? Or, do they send all requests to you for approval? Either way can work.)
- Deciding if the process needs to be made Visible or not.
- IMPORTANT: don’t overdo it with the steps. It’s an easy trap to fall into. You’re not creating this to prevent someone from having to think, you’re trying to give them enough guidance to create the desired outcome. Start by just breaking the process into 5 steps – no more, no less. If that doesn’t give someone enough clarity to be able to execute it well, you can start splitting those steps into 2, as needed, until you get to the level of specificity necessary. Just remember, if you’re specific down to the degree where you’re writing a script – chances are you’ve gone too far.
- Documented: means the system is documented and readily available to you and your Team. A developed process should always be documented, and documentation should always produce a ‘Master’ document that can be referred to over and over. Having documentation is one of the KEY ways that systems create efficiency. Documentation is how you ‘institutionalize’ your systems. By that I mean you figure something out and you build on that knowledge and learning as you move forward. As opposed to figuring something out, then it erodes or vaporizes, then you get to continually repeat explanations and re-figure it out over and over. This is important if you’re going to grow your business. When you solve a challenge you need to be solving it as permanently as possible so you can move on to the next one. That’s how you put an end to the cycle of firefighting.
Documentation is also the key to maintaining consistency and is what allows systems to play a role in training – both of which are extremely important in delegation. (Keep documentation as simple and as lean as you can in the beginning. This saves time AND prevents you from getting stuck in the ‘perfect’ trap. Screen recordings while you’re executing something work great here as a shortcut to just get this started.)
- Visible: means the documentation is either posted visibly in an area to serve as a consistent reminder to you and your staff or easily accessible for staff to use as needed. Some things need to be kept top of mind with that visible reminder (think ‘Core Values’ or Scorecards/KPIs), while other things can be put away to be referenced only as-needed (think ‘End of Day Closing Process’).
There you have it — our three step system for system creation and documentation. The value of this simple system comes in the creation of clarity, use of common language, and reinforcement of the most vital elements within your business. We have the philosophy that if something is Developed + Documented = it’s REAL. And if it’s Developed + Documented + Visible = TOP OF MIND. The DDV System brings processes to life and makes execution the norm.
OK, so now you know why you need systems, what a system actually is (and BONUS: how to create a system), now let’s talk about the problem we see all the time: what systems do you actually need?
#3 What specific systems do you need in your business?
This is one of the most frequently occurring scenarios from the 18+ years we’ve been in business: When we talk to overwhelmed fitness business owners who are ready to start working with us and solve this “systems” problem they have for good, a lot of the time they will say to us these exact words: “I need systems”.
So they are already aware that systems will solve their problem. However, when we ask them to tell us what systems they need, we are met with silence and a blank stare.
They actually have no idea.
They’ve heard or read that systems are important, but they don’t actually know a) what one is, b) how to create one, or c) which systems they actually need in order to replace that feeling of chaos with control. We just addressed ‘a’ and ‘b’, so let’s get on with solving the ‘c’ — the systems you need in your fitness business.
Think about it this way, you probably have a “way” that you do things when it comes to training your clients. You have a methodology or principles that you stick to and that is the “way” you get results for the clients that you work with. And you’re really good at it.
Now, apply that same thought process to other aspects of your business. For example, your marketing, lead follow-up, sales, and customer retention processes can be systematized for greater efficiency and effectiveness. And it can be done so that YOU don’t have to do it all in order for it to be done well!
One way to get started is to take a triage approach. What’s the biggest repetitive problem that you could solve with a system? Start there, create a system that solves it, and then go to the next biggest. Or you could start with one that’s not necessarily the biggest, but maybe the simplest to solve. Start with that one to get your systems-muscles activated, then move on to the next one. The most important thing is to start somewhere, and to start with one.
Pro Tip: Build your systems for the business you have TODAY, not the business you want to have in a year. Once you have the foundation for your systems, and you get multiple systems working together, you’ll find that it’s actually pretty simple to update and modify them as your business grows (even more so once other staff members learn how to start putting systems in place). But, if you spend all of your time trying to build out every system you can think of for team members and clients you don’t have yet, you’ll not only have a system you can’t actually use, but you’ll have wasted your time building it – and isn’t time the thing you already don’t have enough of? Create systems for today and update them when the time comes.
Another Pro Tip: Use the 20/80 rule. Start with the 20% of the systems and processes in your business that achieve 80% of the results. Don’t try to start by creating a system for every single thing in your business. That is a ticket to ending up right back on the too busy bus.
And I’ve got more good news. You don’t just have to go on creating systems forever.
Now there is probably an unlimited number of SOPs, checklists and the like that a business could put together. But when it comes to creating a complete set of coherent systems in fitness businesses, you’ll be happy to know that the number is not unlimited. There is a finite number needed to create the essential outcomes in a fitness business.
We’ve identified 24 Core Systems you need in order to build a high performing business. They make up the ‘operating system’ that we help fitness business owners configure and implement.
Those 24 Core Systems are within the 5 major functions of your business:
- Business Strategy
So, the good news is that there aren’t an infinite number of systems you have to figure out and create.
Additionally, the Core Systems are configurable. That means that they can work for any fitness business as long as the criteria for each specific system is met.
You don’t have to have our Core Systems to understand systems better than you did before, or to start getting the chaos in your business under control. But if you don’t want to have to figure it all out yourself and want to fast track solving the problems, I recommend looking into them.
In conclusion, if you are feeling overwhelmed and like your fitness business is in a constant state of chaos, it’s time to take action. By identifying and solving the systems problem in your business, you’ll be able to streamline operations, increase efficiency, and take back your time and sanity. (Ahhhhh, that sounds nice. And so does finally taking that vacation with your family and not having to respond to 47 texts and calls a day.)
Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been running your business for years, taking the time to create systems is essential to your success and your well-being. Don’t let the chaos control you — take control by creating systems in your fitness business today.
Fitness Revolution helps fitness business owners build and scale successful businesses they love running. Through Strategic Business Coaching, powerful tools and metrics, and live training events, FR is able to help these studio owners tackle their biggest, most pressing challenge. For more information, visit https://frnation.com/.