by Joe Riggio
In 2006 when I started the first Varsity House, I had no formal business training. All I had was a burning passion for strength & conditioning and success. Because of the results I was getting with my athletes, my gym got busy fast. By my third year I was ready to level up, partner up, and move to a larger space that could accommodate my growing business. So, began the second phase of Varsity House, the time when it became a “real” business.
Now we had more clients, employees, growing expenses, and a lot of issues. We quickly realized that the systems, (or lack thereof), that we were using in the first gym did not work in the new one. We had no HR, no real on-boarding process, no defined vision, no sales protocol, no employee development plan, no nothing really but a great training system and passion.
It was time to level up again and become true businessmen, what we refer to as a Strength Entrepreneur.
In the book “Traction” by Gino Wickman he states that all companies are composed of six main areas creating the backbone of your business: Vision, Data, Processes, Traction, Issues, and People. Many small businesses only have pieces of these areas complete and very few have them all.
Most small business live within the “issues” list and are putting out all the small fires that come up on a day to day bases. Much of this stems from a lack of documented and trained processes. For something to be a consistent, repeatable, and measurable process it must be written down, followed by all, and trained regularly.
Only then will you have the true operational freedom. Freedom that come when your business runs like a well-oiled machine and the “systems” run themselves, are understood by all, followed by all, and are trained regularly to insure they remain current for your growing business.
WHAT ARE YOUR “CORE” PROCESSES?
The goal of any business is that after a few years there is a process for EVERYTHING. Literally everything. From how to open the gym, to how to close the gym, a cleaning and maintenance schedule, a system for answering the phone or responding to an email, a process for how your coaches run a class, a system for dealing with employee issues, a process that insures potential clients have the very best “first” experience in your gym…
Are you starting to get the picture?
Eventually you will want to create a process for anything you can think of that you want to automate.
We call this the CLIENT LIFECYCLE.
The client Lifecycle is composed of several components and can be thought of as any client’s journey through your gym business.
How does one document their core-processes or know what they are in the first place? Ask yourself this…
Where are the issues coming from?
Do you consistently have issues with client scheduling?
Is there a lack of conversions from leads?
Is there an issue collecting referrals? Usually where this is a ‘issue” there is a need for a well-documented core process.
We created this formula for you to document each core process that you have:
Identify the Need – When I started realizing we needed to create systems I started by just watching what was going on. What was being said to the clients. How did the scheduling and billing of a client work? Then I would just write down what we did and try to figure out a way to do it better.
Decide – Once you have clearly identified an area of need, you must decide what will be the way, EVERYONE will handle this process for the future. This then becomes your system.
Solve – Solving an issue such as On-Boarding clients can take some time. Over the years we have changes our core process several times. Each time inching us toward a better way for EVERYONE to do it. The final process that goes in a binder is your “best case scenario”. It does not mean it the best forever.
It’s Important to Note:
All your core processes should be kept in a simple binder and divided up by area of the business. Over time you will keep adding to this binder and eventually need a bigger one!
How to Get Everyone Following Your Core Processes?
What good is it to spend time documenting and creating core processes if nobody follows them? You must rally the troops and get everyone on the same page. They must see the need and believe in the process as to how it will help them, and the business grow.
Once you have created a new core process hold a team meeting. Review the process and let your team voice their opinion. Work through the process. Identify any issues you might have missed. Once you have clearly decided how the process will work it become “LAW” and everyone follows it…RIGHT?
Well not always. Remember that everyone is busy, and your employees are not you. They most likely to not wake up and g to bed thinking about your business. So, they will need constant training and reminders as to how the core processes work. I recommend quarterly training at minimum for your major processes such as sales, service, on-boarding, and training product delivery.
Creating the Ultimate On-Board Experience
Imagine this…You just walk into a gym for the first time to take your “free trial class,” and you are thrown into a group with a dozen other people. You’re scared, nervous, intimidated, and maybe completely turned off ready to walk out! Sound familiar? If your On-Board program consists of a “free trial,” class that’s little more than herding sheep, or some discounted “trial membership” then you’re doing it all wrong. The On-Board program needs to be an extraordinary experience, your clients will remember. Create an awesome first impression and you will not only increase sales, and retention, but you will also build trust. Building trust allows you to build a real relationship and increases the likelihood that client will refer other people to your gym.
At Varsity House, we did it the wrong way for a long time. The process used to go something like this, “Hey I want to come train at your gym.” “OK, come to class.” That was it for the first few years we were business. We missed a lot of sales and lost a lot of clients because we never had the chance to really connect with them. We never built the value and trust they needed to make a real commitment to Varsity House. People are not going to give you their hard-earned money unless you give them a reason to invest with you.
We also had another major problem. Since we did not have a well-defined on-boarding process our offer of a “free evaluation” easily turned into an hour-long private training session. We were simply giving away valuable time with no guarantee of retaining a long-term client. We knew we had to make a change, a change that would see greater commitment from our clients and put more money in our pockets. What we know now is offering a “free trial” or a discounted “trial membership” you will get clients who do not value your service and are looking for cheap discounted service, not a true expert.
Fast forward to 2016 and we have created Varsity House University (VHU), our 30-day new client mentorship. It has, to say the least, been an absolute game changer. What we have created an ultra-high value program that is guaranteed to provide great experience for the client and build the trust in us. VHU is designed to be an experience in everything that TeamVH has to offer. Graduates of VHU are left with not only a great experience, but with a sense of accomplishment and the confidence that they are more than capable of achieving their goals. What this also gives us, is the time to get to know the client and the time to build a real relationship. Once you have someone’s trust that you ARE the best solution for their needs, they will do anything for you. These are the types of clients that will truly help build your business!
What makes VHU so special is that we control the process. We set the tone for absolutely everything that happens during that critical first month. We book all the client’s appointments for both private and group training. That first month their training is accompanied by a variety of content driven auto-responder emails which cover VH Basics, nutrition, sleep, and recovery tips & tricks to ensure success. Throughout the first month each client is sent automated appointment reminders regarding their upcoming training sessions. This way VHU helps keep new members more accountable to the process, ensuring they get to see exactly how our gym works and maximize their results. In this way we have built our clients confidence that we are the ones to lead them through their personal fitness journey.
So, the question is…Are you ready to take control of your on-boarding program and set your gym apart from the competition?
Here’s how to get it done:
5 RULES FOR CREATING AN AMAZING ON-BOARD PROGRAM
RULE #1 – PROVIDE ULTRA-HIGH VALUE.
Value is everything. If value is the cornerstone of your process, then price will not be the problem. Consider this, if a potential client has called or comes into your facility, that means they are looking for a fitness solution. It’s now up to you to show them the value of your service and make it worth every damn penny! If a gym membership costs $150/month most people could easily afford it, if it is a priority. Heck, most people spend more on their monthly Starbucks bill! Understand that people will pay for a high value program if they feel they are getting something different, and special. Showing the client ultra-high value on-boarding program gives new clients a taste of your BEST services up front.
RULE #2 – CREATE AN EXPERIENCE NOT A WORKOUT.
If ultra-high value is what you’re after, then the experience is what really makes the difference. For example. Imagine you go to two different Italian restaurants and both have amazing food, but one has exceptional service where the staff knows your name, your favorite wine, and that you don’t like onions on your salad. Where are you more likely to go? Obviously, the restaurant with better service because they have created the best experience and provided more value. Your goal should be to provide and amazing experience from the moment they walk through the door.
RULE #3 – BUILD-IN COMMITMENT.
Commitment and consistency are the keys to success. Make sure your on-boarding program provides built-in commitments for your clients. This includes; having to book each class/session in advance, confirming sessions, and setting up specific accountability check-ins. Provide each new client with the rules and cancelation policies, in this way, you make sure they understand that TIME is your commodity and that they must respect that to work with you.
RULE #4 – BUILD REAL RELATIONSHIPS
A great on-board program gives your coaches and clients one-on-one face time. Whether it’s as a private session, consult, or a short meeting before or after their training there has to be time dedicated toward getting to know them. Fitness is a service business, therefore building a relationship and building trust are often more important than the X and O’s of training. Ask questions about their lives, loved ones, work, play, hobbies, and anything else that indicates that you really care. Take notes on your clients and follow up with them during their next visit. You want the client to feel that their life outside the gym is just as important to you and you are here to help. Unfortunately, a “free trial” class with a dozen other people will never give you the time to truly connect. Building a real relationship means that they are invested in YOU and your success, not just a workout.
RULE #5 – OVER DELIVER
Every time, no matter what! Nobody cares if you had a bad day or if it’s your 10th session that day. You only get one chance at a first impression so give it 100%. Make every session the best it can be. Be on time, be prepared, have notes so you remember their interests or their spouses name. Remember the devil is in the details. People will remember how you made them feel more than anything else. Give your clients the best hour of their day, that exceeds any expectation they might have had about joining your gym or any gym for that matter!
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