3 Business Lessons from My First 5 Years of Gym-Ownership

TAGS: owning a business, gym ownership, business lessons, NBS Fitness, david allen


NBS Fitness recently celebrated its fifth birthday, and oh how we’ve grown. The first month we opened we had around 30 members, two trainers, and I worked 80+ hours a week. Five years later we’ve moved into a bigger facility, we have 12 people on staff, and we offer our services to over 400 people. Our success is the result of good council, the hard work of a lot of people, and a good bit of luck. I don’t claim to be an expert on business but five years of business success has brought with it many lessons. I will go over three of those lessons in this article.

Keep Driving the Bus

A good analogy for a business owner is that of a bus driver. Your job is to get the bus to its correct destination and put the people in the correct seats in order to get there. People get on and off the bus along the way and you don’t have that much control over it. Over five years, people are going to come and go. Clients, employees, and friends will get on the bus for different portions of the ride. Some will get on at the very beginning and stay on till the end, while others will reach their destinations sooner. People will switch seats and play different roles, but as the business owner, your role remains the same. Your attention must remain on getting the bus to its correct destination.

RELATED: Setting an Atmosphere for Success

Learning this lesson took me some time. Towards the beginning, I would lose progress from putting too much energy into trying to keep someone on the bus who didn’t want or need to be there, or trying to make everyone on the bus happy. As the bus got bigger and more people got on, I had to learn to be available and listen to the concerns of everyone on the bus while still putting my focus and priority on the bus as a whole.

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What this means in practical terms is that while you need to listen to the concerns of your clients, you can’t adjust to everyone’s individual needs. You need to fit the mold of your most ideal client and cater towards them. You need good two-way communication between you and your staff. Their input is valuable to the progress of your business—and likewise, your input is valuable to their progress as well—but in the end, the business owner has the final say. If someone can’t get on board with the direction the bus is going, it’s time for them to get off the bus.

Lots and Lots of Puzzles

If you don’t like puzzles, you won’t like owning a business. Owning a business is constant problem solving. Sometimes you encounter simple problems with simple solutions.

Problem: The POS system isn’t working correctly.

Solution: Turn it off and turn it back on.

And sometimes they’re more complex, like how do we effectively hire people for their talents and develop the skill sets we need them to have? The need to solve these types of problems never goes away; if anything, the problems become more and more complex and the correct answers don’t always seem so clear. This is where having quality council can be invaluable.

Every business owner needs a group of people who they can turn to for answers to their tough questions. This could be staff members, vendors, clients, coaches, etc. If you have an accounting question, you’ll either need a good accountant/bookkeeper on staff, or at least someone you can turn to with questions. Surround yourself with people you trust and who can give you the advice you need when you need it, and your problem solving will be much easier.

Fail, Adapt, Grow 

Failing is part of entrepreneurship. You’re going to fail, a lot, and that is the only way you will eventually succeed. You will make hiring mistakes, you will make money management mistakes, you will make systems mistakes, you will make people management mistakes — you will make lots and lots of mistakes. The failure itself isn’t the deciding factor of eventual success; how you handle that failure is.

You will have to learn to adapt to the mistakes you make. You will have to learn from each situation and make the adjustments necessary to succeed the next time. Your problem solving will improve as you try methods that don’t work to eventually learn the ones that do. It is through stress that organisms are forced to adapt and then grow. Pain and suffering under the bar leads to strength and hypertrophy improvements. Stress, frustration, and suffering will force adaptation in business as well. This builds confidence to handle certain situations. It builds your team. It builds trust amongst your employees and your clients. Don’t be afraid of struggle — embrace it.

If everything seems to be going right, be wary. Your next big problem could be about to hit. Be ready to adapt. While most people fear change, a business must embrace it. If they don’t, they will end up like Blockbuster. Change is inevitable, it just depends on whether you change in time or wait until it’s too late.

These are just three of the lessons I’ve learned over the last five years. Over the next five years, I will learn many more as I strive for another milestone in the life of a business. You will learn your own along the way. Embrace the opportunity and enjoy the ride.


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