You opened your gym because you love fitness.
You love to train and coach; to see the look on your members’ faces when they run their first 400 meter or nail their first pull-up. So you don’t mind the early classes, the late nights scrubbing the gym and the weekends hunched over your computer programming workouts and processing billing.
But this isn't sustainable or scaleable.
No amount of passion makes you super-human, and if you want your gym to grow, run efficiently and retain members—and if you want to avoid burnout—you need to delegate.
So how do you go about hiring your dream team?
1. Assess Your Needs
“It’s important for owners to understand what they know and don’t know, what they like to do and don’t and what they have a competitive advantage in versus not,” said Jason Khalipa, CrossFit Games veteran and owner and founder of NC Fit. First opened in 2008, the brand now spans five locations and employs than 150 staff worldwide.
“Things they aren’t uniquely good at they should think to outsource,” he continued. “Or things that aren’t providing the largest ROI (return on investment) on their time.”
Maybe you love coaching but dread programming. Or maybe you’re great at bookkeeping but hate marketing. You might think you’re saving money by sucking it up and doing everything, but in the end, you’re only hurting your business.
2. Cast a Wide Net
Many gym owners find success hiring new staff from within their memberships. The perks of that are obvious: you already know the candidate, and he or she is already invested in your community.
But the transition from client to staff member doesn’t always go smoothly. Previously established relationships can lead to favoritism or rule-bending, while outside hires can bring a fresh perspective and new skills without the blurred lines.
Khalipa said NC Fit has had success both ways, but cautions gym owners to “avoid at all costs ‘bro deals.’ A coach should be paid and held to a standard, and the business should be paid for memberships from members.”
When not hiring from within, NC Fit advertises openings via social media or selects candidates from within its extensive intern and apprentice programs.
And don’t forget to spread the word—reach out to your network of other gym owners and trainers. A referral from someone you know and trust can help you find that diamond in the rough.
3. Create a Hiring Process
Though resumes are helpful, actions speak louder than words. So give your candidates an audition.
You might ask a prospective coach to submit a short video of a class or personal-training session they led. Or, bring him or her in for a mock session and have the candidate coach one of your staff members through a movement.
If you’re hiring for a non-teaching position such as a social-media or marketing manager, ask the prospect to create a sample post according to Instagram best practices or to write a blog post optimized to attract new clients.
And whether you’re hiring a full-time staff member or a part-time trainer who has another day job, remember that it’s not just about hard skills and experience. You’re putting your business in that person’s hands, and it’s important to make sure he or she “aligns with (your) mission and core values,” Khalipa said.
You might take a candidate to lunch or coffee along with a few other core staff members so that both you and the prospect can get a feel for how he or she will fit into your culture.
“Clearly setting the expectation for both sides is key,” he continued.
4. Define the Next Steps
Congrats—you’ve hired someone! But the work’s not done just because you’ve signed on the dotted line. The 30-90 days after bringing on a new hire are critical for training and evaluation.
- Create a training plan with specific, measurable milestones and timelines so that expectations for development are clear to all parties. Maybe your new trainer shadows another coach for the first couple of weeks and then steps into an assistant-coach role before finally leading classes on her own.
“Depending on position and skill level, this process can vary,” Khalipa said. “(The) key is that we have one. Employee handbook, job-leveling criteria, uniform, job descriptions, etc. set the tone and allow both parties to be on the same page.”
- After 90 days, have a formal evaluation (for trainers, this should include a practical component) and seek feedback from current staff—and possibly from a few core clients.
But remember, the evaluation isn’t just for you. Give your new hire an opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback—and ask him what you can do to ensure he’s happy in the role.
“Setting a culture is key,” Khalipa continued. “However, just as important is creating a trajectory for employees and (providing) a sustainable income. We do this through expansion, performance evaluations and job-leveling criteria, as a few examples.”
Hiring is challenging and requires a great deal of time and energy. But if you take the time to honestly evaluate yourself and your business needs, create a plan for hiring and developing great candidates and constantly strive to make your gym a great place to work, the effort will pay off with a healthier business.