4 Lessons After 4 Years of Gym Ownership

4 Lessons After 4 Years of Gym Ownership

Almost exactly two years ago, to the day, AHP moved into its own facility. And just over four years ago, AHP began (Nov 1, 2017).

One of the proudest moments of my life: two years ago when all the equipment and flooring was installed at AHP 2.0.

A lot has changed in the past two years. Back then the business was essentially still just a one person operation. Now we have two full-time coaches, a full High School baseball academy program under the AHP umbrella, and five part-time coaches.

It’s been a tumultuous past twenty-four months, where we were shut down for just over six of them due to the pandemic.

My goal for this post is to help anyone who is in the early stages of owning their own business, or thinking of doing so, to learn from my mistakes, and perhaps take a little something from the couple of things I’ve been fortunate enough to do right.

  1. Prioritize client retention

Make sure that your efforts to get new people in through the front door, don’t distract you from realizing that current clients are leaving out the back door.

About nine months into running the gym, I made a conscious decision to stop any and all direct efforts at gaining new clients. There were a number of gradual realizations that led to this sudden one, most notably: going out and presenting to a High School football program (90 kids!) and not even one signed up for training.

As an athlete, you’re taught to control what you can control and evaluate yourself on the process; to set and focus on process goals in order to realize your results-oriented and destination goals.

Principles drive elite performance, no matter the field or task at hand.

The principle of focusing and evaluating myself on the processes under my control, that I learned as a college athlete, was directly applicable to growing the business, and so I outlined two very simple processes:

  1. Endeavour to do an exceptional job for my current athletes
  2. Post on social media once every single day

Word of mouth, and social media were to be my only marketing strategies moving forward. It’s safe to say things really started to take off after this.

2. Just start. And then block out the noise.

I felt really silly (and still do sometimes) posting the educational types of videos on social media. I had next to no followers. Who was I to be putting out this type of content?

The reality is, everyone who’s successful was once a “nobody.” It takes a long, long time to become an overnight success.

I absolutely know there were people who made fun of me (and I’m sure still do) when I started posting on my personal Twitter and the AHP Instagram. However, if you believe you have a voice and something to say – just start! The worst case scenario is you’re earning capital towards learning what your voice and niche actually is – and preparing yourself to be ready when opportunity strikes.

In the past year and a half, I’ve gained dozens of new clients because they either saw my posts or AHP’s on social media.

There are no statues erected to critics. So fuck ’em.” – Tim Ferriss

The ability to block out the noise is even more important when it comes to the “competition” and the negative things they may say about you. It can be extremely difficult not to let it bother you.

At the end of the day: know why you do what you do, and don’t apologize for it – so long as you have your athletes’ best interests at heart and, more importantly, constantly evaluate if your actions on a day to day basis align with that.

Your actions speak so loudly, I cannot hear what you’re saying” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

3. Can You Look in the Mirror?

Be more concerned with your character than your reputation. Your character is what you really are while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” – John Wooden

Both of my parents were teachers, and so when I got into coaching nearly a decade ago, one piece of advice they gave me is that you simply can’t please everyone.

You’re going to lose the odd kid; not every kid or parent is going to like you.

With that said, if the odd negative complaint or review becomes more frequent than rare you probably need to do a serious internal audit and review.

If you want to be successful, you must respect one rule: never lie to yourself.” – Paulo Coelho

What kind of moral and professional standard do you hold yourself to? Can you look in the mirror at the end of the day and be proud of your effort and integrity? This is exceptionally important in my line of work – where 95% of my clients are teenage athletes.

The absolute coolest part about my job is that I have somehow contributed to creating this environment that is, and can be, a fun, safe place for kids. It’s not lost on me the responsibility (and tremendous privilege) that comes with that.

4. Work Backwards

I still have the sheet of looseleaf from the winter of 2013 when I first drew up the plans for “Burns Training Systems.” Obviously the name changed (thank goodness) but a lot of my original conceptions remained intact. My goal then was to have my own gym in the next ten years. I also have the piece of looseleaf from the spring of 2017 when I’d made the decision to open a gym the coming winter.

If you know me, you know I’m obsessed with lists, and this devotion to keeping track of things, setting long-term (10 year, five-year, annual), monthly, weekly, and daily goals is probably the most important thing I’d point to that has maybe led to me having a little bit of success.

You have to have a vision of where you want to go, and who you want to be. Then you need to trace the steps all the way backwards to what you need to do today. Even more importantly you need to re-evaluate and adjust your vision as you go along.

Just start. Master the next 24 hours.