Details and Documentation

by Darren Jacobson on Jan 01, 2009

Taking the “paper pusher” part of your job duties seriously will set you up for success.

Managers who pay attention to details and have accurate, structured documentation in place can avoid a common managerial pitfall. In my experience, neglecting this aspect of business is the Achilles’ heel of many personal training managers.

If you work for a mainstream chain or group of health clubs, the head office is usually responsible for creating the management systems and standardized documentation. Although this is important for continuity, you may feel that the standardized forms don’t entirely match your facility’s specific needs. If that is the case, it is vital that you bring this to the attention of the head office so people there, with your recommendations, can modify the templates, enabling you to cover all risk areas effectively. As the personal training manager you are accountable for great results and minimal risks, so make sure you challenge current systems that have gaps or holes; not only will this assist you in managing your department, but it will also elevate your profile in the organization.

If you are at a stand-alone club or have the ability to create your own management strategy, then creating sound and structured documentation is one of your keys to success. Remember that you are the custodian of the model within your facility. Whether the focus is purely on bringing in revenue, or the model is predominantly service driven, you are the driving force and your actions must align with the stated model. Your attention to detail needs to be as specific as the club’s operational, health and safety procedures. This level of detail and documentation is critical to the credibility of your personal training model. The following basic details and documentation tips can set you up for success.

1. Set Detailed Revenue Goals and Monthly Budgets

The level of information relating to your budgeting process needs to be detailed to the point where you focus on the main capital expenditures and the smaller details, such as the training and development of your personal training team, uniforms, marketing costs, stationery and general subscriptions. The budgeting process must be clear, calculated and defined and should always tie back to the key performance areas of the trainer role; for example, revenue (turnover and net profit) and facility head count. The more defined and detailed your budgeting process is, the better your platform will be to work from and the clearer your managerial role will be.

To be successful as custodian of your monthly budgets, you need to be actively involved in setting them, which will allow you to steer the focus into areas like continuing education and courses. In addition to further education, there are other, often overlooked (yet critical) areas that you will be expected to deliver on, such as calculating a head count for the year and the systematic and structured ongoing recruitment of trainers. For ownership, buy-in and being “in the trenches,” there is no better person to have involved than you.

2. Document Meetings

Whether they are daily or monthly, one-on-one or with the full team, regular meetings with your trainers are vital. Get into the habit of formatting an agenda and taking down minutes. Not only does this help you build up a “case history” for each of your trainers; it also helps you clearly define the level and type of interaction with each trainer, as well as his or her motivation and risk level. The most common mistake managers make is to fail to keep accurate information from meetings. This oversight can leave you in a bind when it’s time for a performance review, particularly when a trainer is going to receive a “poor” rating.

Another critical reason for creating an agenda and taking minutes is to ensure consistency of message. The best way to convey accurate information to trainers who are unable to make a meeting is to keep precise notes. This way you don’t run the risk of missing important points and diluting your message. Create basic templates that you can draw on for short, impromptu meetings that pop up through the day.

Also, as you walk around the facility, carry a notebook so you can jot down any issues that you should address in the next meeting. A solid, stable manager will strike a good balance between “paper pusher” and disorganized “freewheeler.” In my experience, the most effective managers are those who are prepared for all situations, from quick, on-the-floor chats to long, intense forums.

3. Use Templates as a Support System

Drawing up templates to assist your trainers is an extension of your organized managerial style. From liability waivers to screening questionnaires, payment terms and conditions to medical referral forms, templates fill any business gaps your trainers may have and minimize risk to you and the company. Many personal training textbooks and publications offer templates; do some homework and build up a library that will help your staff.

The templates you choose may differ depending on your employee structure (tenant, franchise, full employee), but no matter what arrangement you have in place, it is worth your while to develop formatted structures that apply equally to all trainers. Besides minimizing risk, this gives you a professional, consistent method for dealing with trainers and clients.

4. Maintain Accurate Records and Files

Create detailed personnel files for your team. Include a concise cover sheet that lists all the information you expect to see in each file, so it is easy to tell at a glance what is missing. Mandatory items are things such as a letter of appointment or contract for the trainer, and copies of the trainer’s certification, professional indemnity and CPR certificate. Keep the file updated with any warnings, contract breaches or troublesome issues. It’s also a good idea to keep copies of the notes from your one-on-one meetings, signed by you and the trainer, to use as reference in case disagreements arise about the content of these meetings.

Another important file that is often overlooked is that of “rejected” trainers who were screened and interviewed but did not meet the club’s standards. I am often approached by trainers who have previously applied to come on board, and this file helps with background information and reminds me why those trainers were rejected. This file should also hold the paperwork of trainers whom you have fired. This minimizes risk down the line in case a full history of concerns and issues is needed.

5. Manage Time Effectively

Now that we have identified the details and documentation required to set you on the path to success, you will need to find a way to balance your role as taker of meeting minutes, file clerk and catalyst for change. To be a solid and effective manager you must be able to interpret all the information gathered above and then move into action mode. Prioritize your areas of focus to minimize the level of risk and provide good support and guidance to staff. Be well organized, establish structure and pay strong attention to detail. Time management is a critical key to success, so set yourself up to be productive and proactive by having solid systems in place.

IDEA Fitness Manager, Volume 21, Issue 1

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About the Author

Darren Jacobson

Darren Jacobson IDEA Author/Presenter

Darren Jacobson is the innovator of the franchise personal training concept for Virgin Active South Africa, where he manages over 750 personal trainers in 88 health clubs. He holds a bachelor’s degr...