The team and I at AA are currently faced with a dilemma.
It applies to us all, so I wanted to share it with you.
This dilemma centres around something that every gym, clinic and fitness business owner has to face at some point, and it asks this question:
“Do I optimise for convenience or optimise for commitment?”
Here’s what I mean.
When you decide on your business model, you get to decide whether your clients have maximum convenience so they can train when they like and cancel when they want…
Or expect them to be maximally committed, where they can only train at certain times and must commit to a predetermined period.
Neither is right or wrong (they both can work), but you can’t have both… so choose one.
In our case, we’re currently grappling with the following problem:
As we’ve grown (now at around 300ish athletes in Sydney), we have so many athletes that don’t actually see their managing coach all that much.
We’ve built our schedule to make it as convenient as possible for our athletes to train, but as a result, there is no consistency with when they train or who they train with.
And because of that, athletes could very easily go a week without ever seeing the coach that actually writes their program, which has many upstream challenges…
1. How does my coaching team stay connected with the athlete if they can’t see them regularly or consistently?
2. How do we make the best programming decisions if we don’t see them move?
3. How do we simplify communications between coach and athlete so the coach doesn’t spend all their time responding to text messages rather than building deep bonds?
This is a serious dilemma, and we’ve definitely noticed the strain on our re-signing rates from year one to two and how that impacts retention.
Right now, we’re doing everything we can to work on these problems, but nothing is quite hitting the mark. The alternative?
Optimise for commitment, of course. Make an athlete choose whether to be a morning or evening athlete, then assign them to either a morning or evening coach. That way, the connection problem is solved, right?
Well, yeah, but that’s not without various challenges, either.
1. What happens if an athlete doesn’t want to commit to either morning or evening training?
2. What happens if their schedule changes because of work, uni, or life?
You can see our problem here.
It seems like ‘striking a balance’ is more of a fairytale than a viable business strategy.
Which brings me to my point.
When choosing a business model, my recommendation is to go all in, in one direction.
Either optimise for convenience and know, understand and appreciate the shortfalls of that…
Or optimise for commitment, and be wary of its limitations, too.
Because if you try and do both, my experience is that you get stuck in purgatory, trying to optimise for both, but achieving neither.
If I were to be very self-critical…
Where I went wrong was in not choosing which way I’d go earlier. A lot of these challenges are because I didn’t think hard enough about this question before decision were rolled out.
Have I and the team figured out the perfect solution to this?
Nope… not when you’ve got as many moving parts as we have**.
But will I keep you updated on where we land?
If this question has got you thinking…
Then you’ll want to consider signing up for the Alley-Oop Newsletter. This month, I’m going “all-in” on how your business philosophy and values can (and, in my opinion, should) influence how you build your gym and operate your model so you don’t get stuck with dilemmas like I’m in (it’s totally my fault, too).
Here’s the link for those who want to subscribe:
– Karl Goodman