Connecting the Gym Owner and the Coach to Find Win Win

So, you’re a coach at a CrossFit Gym. You work your ass off, you have sweat and bled for the gym you don’t even own. You have listened to members as they outpour their realest emotions on you. You have put forward a multitude of ideas to make the gym better, and it feels like ownership brushes them aside, one after another. You might also feel like you’re not being paid enough, and you think that your gym’s ownership doesn’t value you. You’re tired of seeing gym “mentors” tell your ownership that you are expendable, that your work is worth less than half of what you generate (above and beyond classes coached), and you’re at your wit’s end. I hear you. I’ve heard you, I’ve spoken with many of you, and I’ve spoken with both the owners, and members of your gyms. 

This is what you may not know.

You gym owner not only cares about you, in most cases, they are kept up at night, frustrated, and inspired to better provide opportunities for you. They seek the very mentorship that frustrates you, because they want to do a better job, for you. They want you to be able to work for them exclusively and not have to worry about living paycheck to paycheck. They want you to be able to further your education, become more valuable to the membership, and solve bigger problems for the community at large than you are currently capable of. They want to free you to autonomously deploy the skills, and ideas that you already have onto the membership to make the gym a better place. 

Members want you to grow your impact. They would be happy to work with you in a more exclusive way. They don’t want to part with their money to buy personal training, and they still will if they believe that the value you provide can solve their problems. They’re waiting for you to effectively communicate that you can do it, that you want to do it, and that you have a plan for them. The more experienced the member is, they more they feel neglected, the coaching they receive becomes less and less as they do things with more and more virtuosity. The newer the member, the more intimidated they are to ask you questions. The more injured or impaired the member, the more they feel like a burden on you, thus picking and choosing the days they come to the gym based on the movements they know they can execute. They’re not cherry picking for their ego, they’re cherry picking for you.

Most gym owners know that their gym will only be as great as their coaching staff.

This is what you can do to help your gym to help you. 

Become a part of the solution by bringing complete ideas to your gym owner. Your gym owner is paying you less than 50% for one on one training sessions because someone else told them that they should, and presented a complete plan as to why. You need a better one. The number of problems that a gym owner deals with day to day are overwhelming and perpetual enough without your complaints and suggestions. A complete idea will look a lot like a four letter word, it will look like a “plan”. Here’s how you do it. 

I recently made a post on the @ActiveLifeProfessional instagram account that reads “Coaches, if you want your gym owner to embrace your ideas, make sure they are complete.” – one of the comments under the post was from a Gym Owner named Brian Costello who I know personally to be a professional gym owner, he wrote “After dealing with this for a while, I eventually made a rule. I told my coaches I am no longer accepting ideas… Only plans. Meaning they had to have a firm “why” a plan on how to implement, and a well thought-out view on possible issues that may arise and solutions to those issues. We stopped wasting time and energy throwing ideas at the wall. I’d say it was a good ground rule.”

It is my privilege to work with phenomenal gym owners from around the country on how to better incentivize their staff. This started as a result of my inability to find a niche service that helped gym owners build out more high touch services for their members around helping them get out of pain and frustration with help from the staff in the gym. My staff educates the gym’s staff, and then with the help of my staff, I educate the gym owner on how to best utilize the skills we taught their coaches so that members get what they need, coaches get what they need, and gym owners get what they have been craving – financial stability and a service offering that sets them apart and they can be proud of. One of the gyms I work with is a gym called Old City CrossFit.

This is a family owned gym and the family really cares about the quality of product they put out as well as the impact it as on their staff. What I’m about to tell you about has been perhaps the most valuable thing I have done with any gym or coach to date, and they deserve all of the credit. 

We built what is called the “Ideas Checklist” – Coaches, pay close attention. The idea checklist breaks down ideas, and turns them into plans. We ask questions like:

  • How will this idea support the gym’s mission statement?
  • What do you want to accomplish?
  • What is the ideal outcome?
  • What is the success criteria (what has to be true when the project is complete)?
  • What is the best outcome if you take action?
  • What is the worst outcome if you do not take action?
  • When will this happen?
  • What are the roles and responsibilities associated with it?
  • And more!

I’m sharing this with you because I want you to understand, as coaches, your gym owner wants your ideas to help push the gym forward. They don’t want to go to an outside mentor, they would love for the inspiration and action to happen from within the walls, where the ride or die people are, where you are! And for that to happen, they need you to answer all of the questions above and more. They need you to answer these questions before you bring them your idea. 

We all know that no one, not you, not the gym owner, got into the fitness business for the money. We also all know that if you don’t make enough and you want this to be a career, there is going to be a difficult learning curve in which you’re either going to figure it out, or, you’re going to get a “real job”.

I want you to figure it out. 

Here is the most common question gym owners and coaches bring me, answered in the simplest way possible; “How much should a coach be paid for one on one services in the gym?”

This is actually a complex question and my answer for the purposes of this article will be incomplete, but a good starting point. 

The simplest answer is; the gym needs to back into their side of the equation. How much money is required for the gym to take home to make it so that the session is not an opportunity cost. Then, let the coach set their rate at whatever number they would like to account for the gym’s take, and their own. 

Stumped as to how to figure out what a training session “costs” the gym? You should be, it’s nominal in its extremes. This is a game of want, not need. 

My personal opinion is that if the coaching staff is performing 20, 1 on 1 sessions per week, the gym profits on those sessions should afford one staff member a part time salary position. This role will likely take approximately 10 hours per week, and an equal pay amount should go back to the gym as the cost of that salary. The job of the person being paid for those 10 hours is to manage and mentor the coaching staff as it pertains to their 1 on 1 business, and to grow the volume of training happening in the gym via phone calls, consults, outreach, systems, etc. 

I know, this is incomplete, it would take too many words to give you my entire solution set in one article. More coming. 

Most gym owners know that their gym will only be as great as their coaching staff. Most coaches want to contribute more, and be paid more. It’s my hope that this article is a step in that direction for everyone.

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Sean Pastuch

Sean Pastuch

Dr. Sean Pastuch is the owner and founder of Active Life. Since 2016, Active Life has helped over 10,000 people get out of pain using lifestyle, mindset, and exercise intervention, without going to the doctor or missing the gym, from anywhere in the world. This early success has lead to market demand from physios, chiros, and coaches to learn how Active Life has done it. Since 2018, Active Life has educated over 400 health and fitness professionals on how to best serve their clients and patients.
Sean Pastuch

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