Depending on where you are in the country and how open your local region is in response to the pandemic, chances are you’re operating at about half capacity, which means about half of your revenue is also missing. Also, like so many other fitness entrepreneurs, you’ve probably had to make some tough decisions, such as cutting hours, laying off staff, closing a location and ultimately doing more of the work yourself—increasing the need for more organizational efficiency.
Let’s face it: A lot of us in the fitness industry are feeling more burned out than ever. Some of us are engaged in deep, professional introspection as we examine our present and our future. The truth is that some fitness businesses will survive, and some won’t. Those who make it will be the ones who’ve achieved organizational efficiency, which is “all about figuring out how you can be more effective by using fewer resources, as well as less time and less money, to achieve the same goal” (Quain 2019).
What’s the secret to streamlined productivity in the current market? And how can you hone your strategy?
Refining Your Focus
Many fitness professionals make the mistake of trying “productivity hacks” to get everything done; for example, batching time and blocking distracting apps. You might believe that if you take this approach, you will complete tasks faster, and with more free time in your schedule, you won’t feel so stressed. It’s likely you will do tasks more quickly if you batch your time—after all, Parkinson’s Law reminds us that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion” (Falconer 2021)—but won’t you just pile on more work to fill the hours that open up? Then your stress levels will be as high as ever.
Try a different approach. Instead of putting the focus on increased productivity, focus on what’s most important. This strategy limits the time you spend on business and frees you up to develop your personal life, as well as other aspects of your business, such as marketing and forecasting. The take-home message is that you cannot get it all done, but you can get the most important work done.
Here’s the challenge: Many fitness entrepreneurs have never taken the time to determine what their most important work is. The common attitude is that everything needs to get done and so everything is important, right? Yes, but this viewpoint turns you into a crazed juggler who has so many balls in the air that some are bound to drop, and if the ball that drops is the one that makes or breaks your business, you’re in trouble.
See also: Finding Focus
Find Your Important Work for Organizational Efficiency
What, exactly, is the most important work? In Clockwork: Design Your Business to Run Itself (Portfolio 2018), Michael Michalowicz presents the Queen Bee Role (QBR) concept. In essence, every bee colony has a queen bee, whose primary role is to lay eggs. Without this QBR, the colony can’t thrive. Hence, every bee’s priority is to protect and serve the queen bee so that she can focus on her role. Only when the queen bee is properly performing her role can the bees do their primary jobs. This doesn’t mean that you as the business owner are the queen bee and that everyone’s job is to serve you—the role of laying eggs is what’s most important.
Also, just being in the fitness business doesn’t necessarily mean that your QBR is to train clients. Let’s take the example of a minor league baseball team, the Savannah Bananas, from Clockwork. It’s easy to presume that the QBR in this scenario must be to play extraordinary baseball. However, the Savannah Bananas—a real minor league team, by the way—are the most entertaining team in baseball, which means the team’s QBR isn’t playing extraordinary baseball; it’s providing the crowd with extraordinary entertainment. This clarity helps all the team’s players to focus on entertaining the crowd before they fulfill their usual baseball roles.
How do you determine your QBR? Try the following exercise:
- List six roles that you think could be the QBR.
- Cut two roles under the pretense that you’ll no longer be able to do those things.
- Cut two more.
- When you only have two jobs left, choose the more important one.
Here’s how this worked with my company, Journey 333. Our initial list was as follows:
- program design
- making clients feel special
The first two items I deleted were marketing and sales. I took away the marketing role because customer service is the foundation of marketing, and if you don’t have a good retention strategy, acquisition is pointless. I took away the sales role because I believed it was possible to offer such great customer service that people would ask to sign up instead of waiting to be pitched.
The next item on the chopping block was billing, because there would be no one to bill without good customer service. If you offer extraordinary customer service, people want to pay you, so billing is irrelevant. Finally, we were left with just two choices: coaching and making clients feel special. I realized that many coaching programs offered a good workout but not too many provided our level of customer service. Below is a partial list of the customer service tactics we employ to achieve organizational efficiency:
- We celebrate weight loss milestones by gifting medals and offering a unique celebration for the member who loses the greatest percentage of weight each week.
- Despite the fact that we’re primarily a group training facility, we are hyperfocused on knowing every client’s name, goal and limitation.
- We weigh our clients weekly and update measurements every 6 weeks.
- We support clients in sharing food journals.
- We celebrate birthdays and give special gifts for each anniversary year.
- When our members drop off, we reach out and let them know we care.
- We visit clients if they’re in the hospital. We’re at their side for 5Ks, obstacle course races or even important life events such as a retirement party or a funeral.
When I thought of all the above, I realized that our QBR is making clients feel special. We had our focus. Try this exercise and see what comes up for you! Once you know your QBR, other tasks will fall in line behind it.
See also: Return to Work: Prepare Your Staff
Ameliorate the Positive
Organizational efficiency begins with understanding your most important work—your QBR—and then getting this work done first with fewer resources. When you’ve determined what’s most important, it will be everyone’s job to defend and support the QBR. The Savannah Bananas still have all the normal positions, such as pitcher, catcher, baseman and outfielders; however, all players understand that they must first be entertaining and then do their assigned job. Apply this principle to your fitness business and prepare for positive outcomes.
Falconer, J. 2021. How to use Parkinson’s Law to get more done in less time. Accessed Mar. 2021: lifehack.org/articles/featured/how-to-use-parkinsons-law-to-your-advantage.html.
Quain, S. 2019. Organizational effectiveness vs. organizational efficiency. Accessed Mar. 2021: smallbusiness.chron.com/organizational-effectiveness-vs-organizational-efficiency-22413.html.
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