Mmmmmmmm, the bland smell of permanent mediocrity. That nice small hill, in the shadows of the mountain, that we have all hoped to summit since childhood. Fortunately, in the fitness industry, this vanilla paradise is incredibly easy to maintain. While you may have to eat Ramen Noodles and opt out of paying your bills in a timely fashion for a few years to reach this state, once you arrive you will have no problem remaining latent and stagnant for years to come. With that being said, you will be tempted by social media, motivational speakers, success stories and general common sense to try and overachieve. Lucky for you, I have put together a few basic rules to help ensure you never jump from that hill with hopes of climbing the mountain.
One of the most essential steps on your quest to perpetual mediocrity is being sure to look and feel just like everyone else. Take a look around and see what the other gyms in the area are doing, put all of those things on a list, circle the ones that show up the most and build your business around those specific items. Everyone offers a Saturday morning bootcamp? Hell yes, do it! Everyone around has adopted a Crossfit-esque style of training and class structure? Great, order some more bumper plates, gymnastics rings, some rowers and blend right into this cookie (paleo) cutter medley. While you are at it, charge the same rates, offer the same packages, create the same incentives and everything else you can conceivably do to be sure a shopping consumer can barely tell the difference between your business and all the others near you. The last thing you want is for someone to come in and say “Holy shit, that’s great! I’ve never seen that offered before.” So hold back all that creative thinking like a Taco Bell fart in an elevator and be sure it never leaks out. Differentiation is for those that want a chance of rising above the rest, but that sounds like a lot of pressure and work. Keep it mainstream, keep it comfortable and keep it pedestrian.
Don’t Keep Trying to Improve
Once you reach that state where you are keeping your head above water, take your foot of the damn gas pedal! Everything is working fine right now, why wouldn’t it be equally adequate 5 years from now? I mean really, what are the chances that your local competition will try to enhance their current offerings and operations? Did you pay your bills right around their due date? Did you eat this month? Could you put gas in your car without checking your balance first? Yes? Then why the Hell are you getting so damn greedy? Be thankful for what you have, remind yourself that there are others that have it worse and ignore your inefficiencies and shortcomings.
Don’t Focus on SEO
First off, if you don’t know what SEO stands for… you have already nailed it and you can move on to the next point. For those who have been tempted by this hoax, you know Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the idea that you can somehow impose some super-secret nerd voodoo upon your website and engines like Google and Yahoo will display your site to people in your area that are looking for your services. Bullshit. It is probably a whimsical pyramid scheme that promises a life of wealth and a new BMW but just ends up draining your bank account and precious time. Do don’t was time here; I’m pretty sure this internet thing is just a fad anyway. Honestly, who searches for businesses or reviews online? Spend your money advertising in the phone book or just skip to the next rule.
Rely Completely on Word-of-Mouth
Everyone is always preaching the importance of word-of-mouth marketing, right? So don’t make it part of your advertising efforts; make it ALL of your efforts! Seriously, you’ve done such an amazing job getting to this point, why wouldn’t all of your members be dragging their friends into your facility? If everyone of your members just brings one friend, you’ll actually have to start turning people away. Why hasn’t every facility in the world figured this out yet? So stop wasting money on costly marketing tools and use that money to get some new accessories for your Jeep. Wait, that actually makes perfect sense! You have a sticker with your gym’s name on your ride, so a badass whip is absolutely essential and you would be crazy not to route that cash into your mode of transportation. Rest assured that everyone that sees you driving will be thinking “Hot damn, that thing is sick! I need to workout wherever they workout… and, of course, tell my friends.”
Don’t Bother Learning to Truly Understand Accounting and Finance
Your a trainer, not a dork. So why the f–k would you waste time learning and monitoring a bunch of irrelevant ratios and numbers? You know the basics like the back of your hand. You know how many members you have, how much money comes in every month, how much goes out, how much you take home and you probably went all Warren Buffett and calculated how much you spend on cleaning supplies each month. What more do you really need? I’ve seen a lot of talk of negligible arithmetic regarding customer acquisition costs, the quick ratio, lifetime value of customers, conversion rates, blah friggin’ blah. And double-blah to long-term financial planning and projections. Remember, the idea is to remain mediocre, not set ourselves up for growth or, God forbid, expansion! So leave the debits and credits to the poser gym owners and focus on how you can make your lady-members blow their biscuits into the trashcan after tomorrow’s bikini bootcamp.
DON’T HIRE EMPLOYEES THAT ARE SMARTER THAN YOU
Who’s the boss? That’s right, you are! Hiring new employees that are potentially smarter, more charismatic or possibly harder working than yourself is a death sentence. Trust me, you will just look like a moron and they will probably end up running the show, driving your sweet ride and firing you. After all, it was your foresight and planning that got you from point A to B; one of these prodigies of pump might actually try to move things to point C. Imagine that a member asks you a question that you don’t know the answer to, but your employee does. Not only do you have to fire them now, but you have to come up with a crazy lie to tell your members in order to crush that employee’s reputation and credibility. Bill Gates once said, “The key for us, number one, has always been hiring very smart people.” Case in point; this dude spent less time in mediocrity than your members spent “warming up” to try and unsuccessfully bench 315… again. So hire with caution and lead like a dictator and they’ll quit before it comes time to give them a raise, so you don’t even have to fire them. Genius.
don’t maintain a consistent IDENTITY
You know how sometimes you hear a gym described as a powerlifting gym, bodybuilding gym, Crossfit box, athlete training center or some other medley of adjectives that gives a nice general idea of what goes on in there. You don’t want that. Not only do you not want to develop a consistent identity, but you really want to try and completely change it up every few years. Im not talking slight adjustments over long periods of time, I’m talking instant, full-on Bruce to Caitlyn Jenner. This is great because it really aggravates a nice portion of your current members while making it difficult for the surrounding community to figure out what you offer. Those ultra-succesfull facilities implement small changes over time that remain in line with their core principals and identity; screw that. Do it quick and keep your members guessing; It’s kind of like muscle confusion for your livelihood.
If you really want to double down on this point, refer back to the first rule I listed regarding lack of differentiation. Align your sudden, unjustified change with the actions of all your surrounding competition. 4 Crossfits opened up in your area? The writing is on the wall; you need to change immediately! Don’t be that one gym in the area that offers something different and caters to a different segment of the population. You’re going to end up having to explain yourself to a bunch of people that want information about your business; interrupting that Youtube rabbit hole you fell into. So the lesson here is clearly that if you want to keep watching videos of funny shit caught on Russian dash cams, stay away from anything that resembles a solid and consistent corporate identity.
WORK LESS TOO SOON
Finally, you clearly know what hard work is. After all, starting a gym and making it through the first few years is a truly incredible feat. You’ve experienced and survived some incredible hardships, probably spent your fair share of nights sleeping in the facility and learned some incredible lessons on the way. Shit, did you know only about 40% of small businesses are even profitable, with 95% failing before the 5th year of operation. So you have clearly been busting your ass to get to this point. But you know that feeling that hit you when things got slightly comfortable? That voice that tells you that you made it through the worst part, so now you can ease up a little. Listen to that voice. You’ve suffered enough and have enough skin in the game to kick back and flip on the cruise control. If you keep pushing the way you did in the start, you may end up with something big or something that can provide true, long-term financial stability for you and a family. Seriously, your grind and your determination may be powerful enough to build a stable business that can actually run without you there; imagine that nightmare. So be sure to suppress that work ethic and that start-up state of mind; because that may be the biggest threat of all to rising above mediocrity.