Running a business requires great determination, patience, effort, knowledge, and learning. It is easy to avoid ruining your fitness business with these 31 tips shared in these two podcasts by Rick Mayo and Matt Helland.

With over 80 franchises awarded already and many more coming up, we have learned a lot of lessons over our 31 years in business. That’s no mean achievement for any business, let alone one in the fitness space. Rick shares his guidance in the fitness and business world in this episode.

Tips to Avoid Ruining Your Fitness Business

1. Trust Your Emotions, Not Logic 

There is a great analogy of the elephant and the rider by NYU psychologist Jonathan Haidt. He explains both the emotional side as the elephant and the rational side as the rider. The rider of the elephant looks like he or she is in charge, but when there’s a disagreement between the elephant and the rider, the elephant usually wins. Look at logic and don’t base your decisions on emotions and feelings.

In the book, Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard, builds on this analogy and talks about directing the rider, which is the rational brain, responsible for planning and direction, but the rider can get paralyzed overthinking things. The other part is motivating the elephant with the emotional brain who prefers quick gratification over the long term, but emotion can get things done). Many experiments have shown the rider can get exhausted trying to motivate the elephant and needs time to recover.

Direct The Rider – If you want to make sustainable, meaningful change, get the elephant and the rider to get on the path together by first directing the rider.

Motivate The Elephant – In order for knowledge sharing to stick with the elephant of emotions, you need to share information, and it has to become a habit with how you do your job. Motivation is all about the team understanding the benefits of the practices and receiving the right incentives (performance measures, recognition, rewards) for that behavior.

2. If Something Works, Don’t Repeat It

Doing the same thing over and over can be boring, but if it’s working, you need to repeat it. Don’t let emotion get in the way. People can chase the shiny new thing, but it may not always be the best thing.

3. Be a Pioneer – Don’t Create Disruption

You may chase a dream and think you have created the next big thing that pioneers a totally new product or service. In reality, you can be much more successful by creating disruption. It’s much easier to disrupt something that exists by doing it better, faster, or cheaper, than to just come up with an earth shattering idea.

Disruption takes a left turn by literally uprooting and changing how we think, behave, do business, learn and go about our day-to-day. Harvard Business School professor and disruption guru Clayton Christensen says that a disruption displaces an existing market, industry, or technology and produces something new and more efficient and worthwhile. It is at once destructive and creative.

Traditionally, disruptions occur when a new player enters an existing market with a new technology or a business model and providing a new type of value that differs from what a traditional operator is offering.

4. Be Fancy: Basics Are Boring

People think that need a secret sauce to running a business. In reality, the key is to do the basics well. You’ve got to do the “Twenty Mile March” every day by hiring the right people and holding people accountable. It’s difficult to show up every day and do the basics with integrity. You don’t need to do anything fancy. Just execute the basics.

5. Invest In Expensive Things: Don’t Invest In Upskilling Yourself 

Just because you make a little money in fitness, don’t go out and buy an expensive house or a fancy sports car. The outward appearance of wealth is not wealth. Wealth is the gap that you create between the income you make and your living expenses. 

You might know guys that live in New York, and they make a million dollars a year and they spend $999,000. They’re not wealthy.  You might know people that are retired that make $60,000 a year and spend $30,000. Now they have wealth. 

If you’re in business for yourself and have any extra income, don’t spend it on fancy stuff, but spend it upskilling yourself with  education where you may have a gap. There are so many leadership resources to help you stack skills that will have a direct effect on where you end up in the future versus a new car. Don’t do that.

6. Make Your Own Mistakes: Don’t Learn From More Experience

Don’t want to buy a franchise? Just open your own gym and figure everything out the hard way. You’ll probably go through all these lessons just like we did, but you could buy a proven business model and shortcut your steps to success. 

7. Over React, Don’t Think

If something comes up in your business and you fly off the handle immediately. It’s not a noble character trait to be an inflammatory hothead. You need to control your emotions in a way that you don’t overreact to everything. Don’t get upset. Don’t take things personally. Zoom out, give it time. Time is the anecdote, so make a decision later. It goes back to keeping your emotions in check. Don’t be reactive because no one’s going to want to be around you and no one’s going to want to work for you by flying off the handle about everything.

surround yourself with people to succeed

8. Listen To People Less Successful Than You 

Know the old saying, “if you if you want to be successful in business, listen to your uncle.” If your family and friends have never been in business before or were unsuccessful in business, or maybe they’ve made bad financial decisions, then you shouldn’t be listening to advice from people that have never been successful. There is a saying about you’re the byproduct of the five people you spend the most time with, 

Overall, the key is to surround yourself with the right people for more impact on our overall success and well-being. You should seek mentors, peers, and mentees who will help us achieve our goals.

  • People Who Love Life.
  • People Who Are Good, Really Good.
  • People Who Challenge You.
  • People Who Listen, Not Talk.
  • People Who Trust You Enough To Follow.

9. Hire People Just Like You

 It’s important to have people with different skill sets on your team. You really need to understand that as you’re building a team, there are certain roles that need to be filled with a certain mix of individuals. So the most basic one is you have idea persons and implementers. On our Alloy Team for example, you have Rick, who is the idea person on our team as CEO, then we have Suzanne as the COO, because she is the implementer. In that way, we can innovate, execute, and support our plan for success. 

10. Quit After One Failure

Failure is an opportunity to learn. Business is a series of small failures,, that become learning opportunities. Just don’t repeat the same failure and hope for different outcomes. You don’t know everything you need to know when you first start out in business. You’ve got to get out there, start moving and making adjustments as you go. If you make a mistake, chalk it up as a learning experience, then put processes in place to avoid it. 

11. Have At Least 8 Streams of Revenue  

We say keep the main thing the main thing. For example, our business model is small group personal training. We could bring in different business steams like rowing, cycling, spin, or yoga offerings, but they end up cannibalizing the business. 

We have been in the fitness industry for 30 years. We have found that most people that have seven or eight things going in a small business, most of the income streams are half-baked. It’s hard to identify the one best thing you’re going to hitch your wagon to in this situation. If you’re the absolute best at that one thing, you don’t need seven revenue streams. Keep it simple.

12. Be Happy

There are many self-help books out there on how to improve happiness. If your sole goal is to be happy, you may never find it. On a day-to-day basis you could be happy one day and miserable the next day. What you really need is a purpose that is compelling enough to get you up every morning and work toward achieving.

13. Always Swing For The Fences 

You can’t plug away every day only doing base hits, you need to fo for the home run. This relates to the main thing-if you focus on the main thing, you have to be able to say no to other really good opportunities, The key is to service the main thing like delivering  the best customer experience consistently. McKinsey and Company did a study that  proved companies that  consistently delivered a 5 out of 10 would provide an overall average higher satisfaction than inconsistent results, say with a 10 and a 1. You can’t get a 10 all the time. That’s not possible. So if you can just hit a 350 average, you’re gonna be in the Hall of Fame at the end of the year.  To be successful with the main thing, deliver consistently on the basics.

14. Be Like Scott 

Minson and Scott were two Arctic explorers both racing to to be first to the South Pole. They started their expeditions at roughly the same time and they had two distinctly different strategies. So Scott was the guy that was get while the getting’s good, going as far as he could on the sunny days, and on the stormy days they waited till the storm blew over

Minson, on the other hand, did what we often refer to in  business as the 20 mile march.  No matter what, they went 20 miles every day, whether the weather was horrendous or sunny. Of course, Minson got there first!

How many businesses do you know overextend themself when things are good, like adding on to their building or expanding with  more locations. Warren Buffett said, “you never know who’s swimming naked until the tide goes out.” When the tide went out during the  COVID pandemic, fitness businesses that leveraged expansions with the profits from the other successful locations were caught with zero margins and closures.

So be more like Minsen and don’t be like Scott. The  20 mile march means to have the discipline when times are good and have the discipline when times are bad. 

15. Get Into Politics And Make It Public

There isn’t a way to bring people together and affect your local community by being politically motivated, and then posting all of your political bullshit online. It will probably eliminates half of your customer base.  It all points to controlling your emotions, you You might have strong feeling about politics, but you need to have the emotional constraint not to go online. 

16. Go By What You Think And Don’t Look At The Data

Make sure you look at your data. You might think you have a good idea, but get feedback by looking at the data not just what a few people say. If you get feedback you don’t like, don’t immediately over react, but zoom out a bit. Really think about it. Is it everyone or just a few people saying they dislike something. Is it overwhelming evidence? Does the data backup your feelings about what somebody is telling you? 

17. Pay Low, Aim High

If you want to build an amazing team, you can’t pay well below market and treat your employees badly. It’s not a great strategy, Henry Ford said, “the best thing I ever did for productivity in my business, is I gave everyone a raise.” He paid above market rate and his team performed much better because of it. Right? This isn’t always the case. If you can’t pay people enough to keep a roof over their head and feed their family then you will never get the better quality individual that you need to grow and scale your business. 

18. If Your Not First, You Are Last

Somebody is always bigger, better, faster and smarter. So don’t get caught up if you’re  not the best then you’ve failed.  Just focus on your main thing. Don’t base their success as a reflection on you. The most effective use of your time is to put your head down, do the 20 mile march, and do your work as best as you possibly can.

19. Start Arguments On Social Media

If you post derogatory remarks on social media, people are so divided now, you will get negative reactions beyond your control. There are people who will argue about anything. No one cares what you think. You won’t change anybody’s mind on social media. It is a total waste of time. In the fitness business, people will argue over training techniques on coaching posts. They will argue about the silliest things. How much time and distracted mental attention did that person use?.If you get your emotions riled  up, you don’t make good decisions, and you can’t refocus on the work that you’re supposed to do that day. You literally spent 20 minutes ruining the rest of your day arguing over kettlebell form or something unproductive.

20. Burn The Ships

The term means doing something that makes it impossible for yourself to turn back. It is based on a story from 1519, when a Spanish expedition led by Hernán Cortés landed in Mexico. Cortés knew his crew was already exhausted after the long sea journey, but he had to motivate them to succeed in the new land. So he burned the ships.

You can’t be successful, if you don’t have a strategy for every opportunity, the opportunity costs, bandwidth requirements, and any other requirements.  If you go into business with all your money and all your resources, you need a backup plan. Consider the downside and ask can you withstand a worst case scenario?

21. Sell The Braces, Not The Smile

Using the orthodontist analogy, What if they sold you the process of getting braces instead of selling you the result of what’s going to happen by getting braces, which is a beautiful smile. You’d never do it if they told you we’re going to glue these things to your teeth, it’s going to tear up your gums, we’re going to tighten them up and your mouth is going to be really sore. You would say no way.

Don’t sell the process in fitness either, but paint the picture of the end result. if this goes as well as as we expect and you follow my advice, tell me what you feel and look like in a year from now? Help them see the final picture. So use positive visualizations, like the carrot and the stick.  If you do nothing today, what do you look like a year from now? Let people paint their own negative picture.

22. Make It All About You

A lot of fitness professionals think they are being aspirational by posting pictures of their fit bodies. But it actually is self serving. You need to realize your demographic market and approach your business on how your product or service will help your customer avatar. Build the machine that powers those message and don’t include your personal likes or dislikes.

23. Charge Less

You may think the best way to have an advantage in your market is to be the lowest price person. Race to the bottom be the low price guy. What you are really doing is telling your customers that you’re the worst person in the market, and the only reason they should come to us for price. It also attracts price sensitive customers, which can be an emotional drain and time consuming. 

24. Say It Once And Never Say It Again

If you think you can train it once, then you are mistaken. Training needs to be part of your culture where you remind people about your core values, coach to your core tenants, and be relentless. At any level, no matter how talented the team is, you need to keep reminding, because the hard part is doing the basics well, over and over again. The way to get your team to do that is to remind them consistently of the things that need to be done. 

25. Have At Least 3 Business Partners 

Many people go into business with partners. The reality is the more hands that are in the cookie jar in any business from a decision making standpoint, the more difficult it is to operate and get things done, especially if you don’t have a clear operating agreement with who does what. 

Keep partnerships lean and only give away equity, if there’s money and a strategic value added to the business. 

26. Avoid Hard Things

If you don’t make hard decisions and don’t have hard conversations when the situations arise, it little things can become critical. Hard conversations become much harder conversations later. Avoiding conflict won’t make it go away. 

Say you had a trainer in your business for seven years. There is no upward mobility because you only have one gym, so he wants to leave. He’s become kind of toxic. He’s fighting for more space, more money and more responsibility, but there’s nowhere for this guy to go. Of course, he’s gonna go, so you should actually be proud of the fact that you had someone that long that developed beyond you, and you should be helping them with their next opportunity in an ideal world.

27. Build An Elaborate Morning Routine

Just because you get up early or you outwork every body around you, doesn’t mean you are doing it right. Working hard has no bearing on your overall success.Work smarter and be as efficient as possible. 

28. If You Like Working Out, Own A Gym

If you have a hobby that you want to hate later, open a business that does that hobby. And I know guys that have that are my motorcycle buddies that opened motorcycle maintenance shops. The hate it and they don’t even ride motorcycles anymore. Same thing with a gym-if you think owning a gym is all about working out then you are wrong, It’s a business and it requires the same thing as every other business.

29. Everybody Deadlifts

Every fitness business has a specific formula for training. Just because a fitness business or trainer loves deadlifts doesn’t make them right for many people. Alloy we have an older demographic persona that is not going to care about their max deadlift,  Everything depends on the individual exercise prescription and dosage and we look at the risks vs the benefits of each exercise for a client.

30. Have Intimate Relationships With Clients

This is a no brainer. Getting involved with clients can ruin your business.

31. Start A Podcast

Normally Rick would advice most people that want to start a podcast that it’s a complete waste of time. 

To be totally transparent. Rick said he did not want to start a podcast. Why would anybody care what he has to say? Our marketing company pushed us. Now it turns out we are able to articulate ideas to build the franchise development. We found that franchise candidates have questions about becoming good leaders, entrepreneurs, processes, technology, programming, etc. It’s been really helpful for that and it just so happens that there’s some good advice in there for other fitness businesses as well. 

Running a business requires great determination, patience, effort, knowledge, and learning. It is easy to let missteps ruin many businesses. 

With over 80 franchises awarded already and many more coming up, we have learned a lot of lessons over our 31 years in business. That’s no mean achievement for any business, let alone one in the fitness space.

With more than 3 million customers served, 4 brand iterations, and over 2500 clubs licensed/consulted, Rick shares his guidance in the fitness and business world in this episode.

Listen in to both Podcast 1 and Podcast 2 for all 31 ways to ruin your fitness business and what you should do to become successful.

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Mentioned in this episode

Rick Mayo 

Matt Helland

Alloy Personal Training Franchise


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