Post By Mark Ehnis
Below, is part 1 of a random list of things I learned this past summer as a new, young business owner. Some are brand new concepts that I learned, while some are things I was familiar with, but were brought to the forefront of my attention as the summer wore on. Basically, I picked up a notepad and started writing a list. The list literally, took me 5 minutes to write. I couldn’t write fast enough. You definitely learn a lot as you jump right into things. I thought I was pretty well prepared, as I had wanted to open my own gym for quite some time. Well folks, you can never be too prepared for anything. Try and take away something from the list below. All of these could be an entire blog topic on their own but we’ll keep them together for now. Enjoy!
1. A.)Go into business with someone whose strengths are you weaknesses- and, B.) Also someone you can be around for longs periods of time. I do all the training and programming for our athletes. Jared is a technical wiz kid (shocking isn’t it) that couldn’t get a job with the Geek Squad because he couldn’t fit into the Volkswagen. Living here my whole life, I have contacts throughout the area. Jared has an NFL- name and can talk to anyone about anything. We both have an array of ideas that will continue to make PSTS one of a kind. We complement each other’s skills and can handle a lot of obstacle in our path. B.) Being childhood friends it’s easy to be around one another- most of the time. Jared is the easiest guy ever to get along with but I don’t know how he put up with me for many 10-12+ hour days. (I’ve been told I can be a little moody and stubborn sometimes…I don’t know what they’re talking about). Early morning meetings, training athletes, lunch, Jared’s training time, more athlete training, gym cleaning and biz stuff, to late dinners at the pub across the street- this is what most of our days consisted of early on and we were with each other the entire time. If you can’t handle being around your biz partner for more than two hours – don’t go into business with them. Luckily, I haven’t irritated Jared too bad…yet.
2. Unmotivated clients and Tirekickers suck! Fortunately, we normally weed these types of people out from the start. If one happens to sneak into your program though- you’ll be able to recognize them right away. They’re probably the ones that asked for a discount or were skeptical about you in the first place but signed up anyways so they could say they were members at a real gym. They zap energy from you, don’t listen to coaching, and skip out on their reps. They always need to be motivated and they usually show up 2 minutes before they’re supposed to start- if they even show up that day. At the end of a few uncommitted weeks, they blame you for not getting the results they wanted. Money or no money- kick these fools out of your program or business ASAP! Crappy clients, get crappy results, and make for a crappy business and life. Do business with people that will REPRESENT you in a positive way at all times…athletes and PARENTS!
3. Nickel and Dimed. All gym owners know what it’s like to get nickel and dimed on just about everything. Cleaning supplies, signage, office supplies, etc. Make sure you have money set aside for an account titled ‘Miscellaneous’. For example- I just sent out t-shirts to five people. For whatever reason I had to get them their PSTS shirt (which are available to you too- had to plug it). It cost $30 just to put them in envelopes and ship them. This is the epitome of getting nickel and dimed. I told myself it was marketing to try and make myself feel better. No matter how much you try to keep costs down, this category always seems to be larger than what you expected. Be prepared. And yes, if you use an entire roll of paper towel to wipe your sweat off between every set- I will scream at you…loudly.
4. Be Organized. Simple yet often overlooked. Before I was a business owner, I would consider organized people anal or have some sort of OCD. Now, I consider these people smart. In business, you can never be too organized. It will save you huge amounts of time and money in the long run. You’ll be more professional and offer a better service. Always have biz info, rates, and availability, mission statement, biz cards, etc. handy for your potential clients. I’ll never leave home without biz cards readily available again. Get serious about getting organized!
5. Discount and Delegate. Being a two man operation- delegating can be tough with all the responsibilities. Out of all them- the janitorial and maintenance duties are the worst in my mind. Give a client a discount (not just any client- make sure they have a good work ethic and are responsible) and have them do this work for you. In their eyes, it should appear that cleaning the gym is their “job”. Knock a few bucks off their monthly rate and that is their pay day. If they start to slack- bye, bye discount and find someone who will do it right. Be sure to be productive with the extra time this frees up for you, otherwise, it’s a stupid business decision and you could be making more money from that client.
6. Be different. Create an experience. What makes us different from the high school weight room? They have weights, benches, and power racks there. Why go to PSTS? Other than getting proper instruction and programming- it’s for the environment and experience. No AC appears to be a curse at the beginning but our athletes embrace it after a while because of the edge it gives them over the babies staying cool as they train in the chrome and glass palaces. The group feeds off each other and nobody will stare at you funny for getting rowdy before, or after, a big set. I want PSTS to the best experience of our athlete’s summer, month, week, or day. I could talk about this one forever but I think most of you are pickin’ up the knowledge I be droppin’…or something like that.
Who wouldn’t want this ‘experience’ post-workout 😉
7. Have money banked. Be prepared to not have an income. Is this always the case? No. Is it usually the case? Yes. Start-up costs, lawyer fees, biz licenses/permits, building purchase/lease, insurance fees, utility fees, etc. can take a toll when first starting out. If people automatically assume you’re rich because you own your own business then they need to take a biz class or crunch some numbers real quick. Yes, making money is a top reason why entrepreneurs go into business. Just be prepared for some growing pains at the start and work hard and fast so they won’t last (riddle anyone?). And for all the ladies out there…I’ll have loads of money in two years…in the meantime, you’ll have to settle for my unparalleled creativity, boisterous sense of humor, lovable personality, and rugged good looks.
Does a gym tour count as a first date these days?
8. Have a trusted network and support group. One of the biggest points on this list. If you go into it alone, you’ll be hurting. Both my family and Jared’s have been huge supporters of this adventure. Could we have done it without them? Maybe… probably. Would we have wanted to? HECK no. Are we better off that we kept them close? Absolutely. You’ll also want to move out of your family to continue to develop your support group. For me, it was a few other gym owners and trusted friends. Trusted friends from different backgrounds that want the best for you, and provide various ideas and opinions. I hope to continue to add to this support group. I think of a trusted network as a group of other professionals in related fields. Your network, in any business field, should be forever growing. For me it would be other gym owners, physical therapists, chiropractors, nutritionists, accountants, etc. People who you trust and can refer to if something is out of the scope of your expertise- for example, I’m not a physical therapist, nor would I ever try to act like one, so I would refer out to one that I know would do a good job. Rick Daman of Daman’s Strength Training is a standup guy who has guided me for over a year now on opening and running my own gym. He operates his own successful gym in Monaca, PA and has been an open book to me since day 1 for no apparent reason…just helpin’ a brother out I suppose. It’s good to have people like this in your network- especially if you’re new to business…and when the haters come to town and attempt to heckle the home team.
9. Always keep learning. One of my favorite phrases, which has pretty much turned into reality, is “the more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know”. As soon as you think you know everything you’ll be dead where you stand- in business and in life. Engulf yourself in whatever you can that will help your business. For me, this means business, training, and relationship/communication information. I usually have a business book and a training book going at the same time, along with either a devotional or personal growth book. I’ve been slacking lately so I need to make time for this no matter what. I have business and training info on my iPod and CDs in my car. I follow many blogs and websites of guys who know what they’re talking about (be careful not to follow too many, only the ones you get the most out of). I try to attend as many seminars as possible and will always continue to do so. Most people are too scared to invest for this info though- and believe me; some of this stuff isn’t cheap. The 3 months before PSTS opened I spent well over three grand on training and business related materials, seminars, and coaching. It was worth every penny. One thing learned from any one these materials could get my biz and training to the next level. From that point on, the sky is the limit.
A few of my favorite books
10. Set the standard high. Control how you will run your business from day 1. Will you allow yourself to get walked on or will you stick to your guns and say, (and live) “it’s my way or the highway”? I’ve been a victim of this before. Sometimes it sneaks up on me and I don’t realize it until it’s too late- then I get pissed I let it happen. Don’t be afraid to put your foot down and be a little bit of a ‘jerk’ when dealing with stuff like cancellations, no shows, and late payments. The people that won’t like it are probably the ones screwing off and making your life miserable anyway. You’ll have to be able to say no. Set the tone and let everyone know how you run your ship. This is something that I have relaxed on a bit in the past but not as I move forward. If a client isn’t representing you the way you want them to, then it’s either your fault or theirs. Don’t let it be you.
Hope you enjoyed part 1. Much more to come in part 2!