Your Gym Isn’t About You

Dave Thomas San Diego Performance360Written by Dave Thomas
Owner, Performance360

Maybe you manage a team at work, run a gym, are a general manager in an intense fantasy league, or maybe you have aspirations to start a small business. When we started out five years ago, these resources didn’t exist and I would have shoved an old lady into a pool to talk to someone who had brick and mortar callouses.

The business content here will be original. If I am writing about it, it means we’ve experienced it running Performance360, and that I consider it to be a vital part of how we have evolved from no name start-up to two locations in three years.

I’ll share both successes and failures.

Today, I am going to echo a lot of what Pritz and I talked about on our first episode of “The Business of Lifting Weights”, and that is the notion of quality somehow being mutually exclusive of quantity as a gym grows.

We’re raised on the notion that one precludes the other and I’m gonna be blunt here, folks.

Nothing is more of a bullshit statement than to say you have to sacrifice quality in order to achieve quantity.

In fact, I find the opposite to be true. Not only is quality a completely scaleable endeavor, it should outpace your quantity if you’re doing it right.

My guess is you opened a gym because you wanted to help people, you’re a risk taker and self starter who wanted to create something special, and you wanted to make money.

For me, I know that I didn’t do my part opening a gym making $1,500 a month, working one hundred hour weeks, inhaling gasoline fumes from the docks all day, coaching nearly every single class and eating chicken sausages for lunch to not one day grow past that.

No sir. Nah uh.

It’s okay. Making money is allowed in business. It means you’re doing right by people. It creates jobs and pays your bills. You don’t get to open a business, establish a responsibility of overhead and then say you don’t care about money. Until we become communist, that’s not how business works in America and if that’s the case, close up shop and go run a donation based boot camp in the park.

Letting Your Ego Drive Decisions
The motivation for this article, and my driving force for starting a podcast, came from listening to an episode of a very famous industry podcast (that I typically very much enjoy).

In the podcast, one of the hosts talked about how he wasn’t comfortable taking his gym past 200 members because he would lose the ability to know his members, know their kids’ names, where they went to school, what they did for work, etc.

All very good things that every gym owner starts out knowing, and a surefire way to create community. But you must learn to transition to the next stage, not restrict your growth because you’re scared of no longer being, “The man”.

So you know where Jim was a Kappa Alpha in college.


The gym, and it’s daily ongoings and interactions are not about you, the owner. It is about the member-to-member interactions, the member-to-coach interactions and the actual delivery of service when it comes to providing what people are paying you to provide. Results.

Do you think people pay $150 a month to come chat with you everyday?

Sorry. They don’t.

Refusing to give up the limelight is the fitness equivalent of the bar owner who’s desperately trying to pour shots with every customer who comes in the door.

Too many gyms make the mistake of thinking a great community can override average training. Is it important? Absolutely. Community is a nice byproduct but guess what? All gyms have community.

There’s nothing cool about running a small, average gym. It doesn’t mean you’re doing things more sophisticated or that you’re elite. Just means you’re not very good at what you do or nearly as good at helping people as you think, otherwise they’d refer their friends.

Training is what determines quality, not how many members you have. Quality has nothing to do with a number and everything to do with how you provide.

Are you teaching good swing mechanics? Do you have a proper way to on-board and progress new members? Does everyone in your class do to the exact same workout without regressions and progressions? Do you put time and resources into coaching? Can you adjust movements for members based on their mobility issues? Is there a specific reason that workout is on the board?

Do I know our members like I did when were at a few hundred people? The old ones, yes. The new members, some. Not all. I’m no longer present for every class, every day, but that’s not why members pay us. While I attempt to meet every new face, I understand that the success of our gym is zero percent about me being a public figurehead and one hundred percent about the quality of our offerings, so I need to spend nearly all of my time staying on top of education, programming and ensuring our standards of quality are met every day.

Growing is hard and stepping away from the day to day presents its internal challenges. Most people will understand but some people will resent it, but it allows you hours to take your gym to the next level for your members, to provide real value to them.

You’ll have more time to do programming research, plan continuing education for your staff (the real heroes), craft better workouts, provide personalization and customization and an all around great gym experience for any athlete that walks through your doors.

When you restrict your ability to scale and grow simply because you want to be the big swinging dick on campus, you’re making a decision that puts your ego first, and the business and members second.

You’re not that important. You’re not that cool. People don’t come to the gym to watch you hit PRs.

Your goal should be to render yourself obsolete in delivery because the service you provide stands alone.

That’s my focus and I suggest the same to you.

Do your job as owner to ensure the best possible service and value is being delivered to your hard working members and don’t worry about any number dictating your ability to do that.

Agree? Disagree? Let me know what you think, and if you liked it, please hit the SHARE button below.

Posted In

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s