The Stress of Being a Gym Owner

The Stress of Being a Gym Owner
Written by: Coach Slater

Owning a gym is stressful.

As I see it, I have a few jobs. One is to provide our Coaches with a worthwhile job that pays them a living wage, so they can live comfortably while enjoying what they do (Coaching you to better fitness). Simultaneously, I’m working thru our Coaches to make sure we meet the needs of a varied group of members who come to us for fitness, nutrition help, life coaching, and community.

We do some things well, and it’s helped us grow immensely (some might say too immensely); but, I know that giving everyone what they need is nearly impossible. I imagine that 10% of people really love us, 10% probably really hate us, and I just have to hope that the middle 80% are predominantly happy (even if they have a few things they’d prefer changed)

In one week, I get a glowing email like this: “Your coaches are phenomenal. I’ve been to morning and evening classes, and you have a hell of a team… they’ve all individually contributed to my fitness. No one misses a beat. Their energy is always high and attitudes always positive — a great respite from life’s daily grind. …The programming is great….”

In same week, I get a blistering email like this: “..paying for open gym and occasional classes doesn’t seem worth it when there are cheaper alternatives with more focused coaching. I get maybe 90-120 seconds of actual coaching each class…”

Personally, I lean toward the negative anyway. I overlook the many positive things I know we’re doing and, instead, get focused on the areas where I want us to improve. First on that list, our expansion. The slowness of our expansion has been incredibly frustrating, because I know the additional space will greatly alleviate the overcrowding we experience in the afternoons & evenings, which in turn results in fewer contact points between Coaches/Athletes. It’s a blessing that we’re doing well enough to need to expand, but it’s disappointing when that expansion has been promised to us by September of 2018, then November, then January of 2019, then February, then March, then April, and now *hopefully* May. It’s easy to feel the weight of your expectations and frustrations, and stress myself out daily.

Programming is another area of headache. Our intent is to be a great barbell-focused, group-training facility. That means we work to develop muscle via strength-training, and improve our cardiovascular training via high-intensity metabolic efforts. People fall in- and out-of-love with the barbell, maybe wanting boot camp style training, fancy cycling classes, or any number of other fitness trends. But we hold fast to the idea that striving to become stronger is the best long-term development plan for meeting someone’s body composition goals. The methods we use for reaching those goals are numerous and varied, as any Internet search will tell you the “absolute best” program is Westside, or 5/3/1, or Juggernaut, or Invictus, or Misfit, or CompTrain, or whatthefuckever. There is no perfect program. The best plan is the one you’ll stick with, thru the ups and downs, when you like it and when you don’t like it.

As we’ve grown, it’s harder and harder to make sure we’re having meaningful One-on-One connections with every member. When we were only 150 members, it was much easier for each Coach to have real relationships with people they saw day-in/day-out. But, we’re over double that size now, and a good number of people are only here 2x/week or less. How do you reach those people to help them embrace health & fitness as a lifestyle while continuing to effect the lives of those who are here 4x & 5x/week, who might not need as much direction, but still are deserving of our time and attention? We’ve tried to build Accountability check-ins as a hedge to make sure we stay connected, while offering many social events to help people connect, and putting out plenty of info via Social Media, Daily Reading on our WOD page, and eNewsletters to reach people “wherever they are”. But man… it feels like we’re barely treading water sometimes.

So, these positive and negatives float in my brain each day. As a result, sometimes I sleep well; sometimes I don’t. I know we’re getting better, but are we getting better fast enough to keep everyone happy? Are you frustrated or are you happy? And even if you tell me you’re happy, will I assume that you’re actually unhappy about something and just being nice?

Welcome to gym ownership.

4 Responses
  1. Beau ArneY

    In the famous words of step brothers:
    Did we just become best friends? YEP

    You are not alone in these words! Could not agree more!

  2. Sean Doran

    I am just one person but I think you do a fantastic Job, the coaches are great the program is great. The expansion will be great, I look forward to that. Coming to Derby City CrossFit was and still is the best decision Fitness wise I have or could ever make.

  3. Mabley

    whether or not this makes a difference, i’ll say it anyway : the coaches and programming are just a part of the overall picture or the idea of a “good gym” or whatever. the members of derby city are helping to build a fitness community where everyone feels welcome, heard, and challenged. WE should shoulder part of the responsibility, too, of making derby city a place we want to be. so, let us help. trust us. that’s what we’re all here for anyway.

  4. Christina Neubauer

    I love this gym and everyone in it ! I am grateful for every hour I get to spend in this gym. Thank you Slater for creating this space that is a haven for me. I think you are doing a superior job !

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