Recently, I ran a short survey to understand more about what gym owners are experiencing. The results were empathic. Most gym owners are deeply concerned about time and money. It seems not a lot has changed since I owned a gym. I remember these anxieties well.
Owning and managing any business is not easy. If it were easy, more people would do it. Business owners take a great risk in starting their own business. And I honestly believe those who start businesses that help other people improve their lives should be celebrated.
Many gym owners start their business because they are passionate about health and fitness, and about helping others. Unfortunately, many take this big step without really understanding what it means to own and operate a business. And that’s where the difficulties start.
Time and money – two of the big issues
It’s not a surprise that stress over time and money are two of the biggest issues for gym owners. Without adequate knowledge and experience it is common for time to be mismanaged and for finances to take a hit.
Stresses related to time and money also create significant problems further down the line. It’s hard to make the right strategic decisions when you are worried about money. Likewise, it’s hard to know what to focus on when you feel like you don’t have enough time.
Ultimately, these two stresses can slow down or halt the growth of any business. The good news is that both can be managed. Well, you can’t manage time but you can manage yourself and how you use time. And, of course, you can manage money.
Very few small businesses get to kick off with sizeable capital. I’ve seen gyms start very lean indeed. There’s nothing wrong with the lean approach as long as it’s managed. Unfortunately, it’s often not managed very well at all.
The real problem
As stated above, the issue with worrying about time and money is that it negatively affects the business owner’s ability to make the right strategic decisions.
When money is tight decisions become decidedly short-term in focus. It can be very difficult to make medium to long-term decisions when the bank account isn’t looking all that healthy. It’s almost a Catch-22 situation. The gym owner has to make decisions about growing over the medium to long term as well as focusing on the here and now.
Compounding the issue is the fact that emotions are strongly attached to money. When money is tight, we tend to get very anxious. Unfortunately, a state of anxiety doesn’t lead to the best decisions. Honestly, it can be very tough to make the right decisions when all you can see is the dollar signs.
Add time constraints into the mix and the ability for anyone to make good decisions is significantly diminished. Most business owners will claim that there isn’t enough time to get everything done. And they are correct. There will never be enough time to get all the work done. Even when you’ve hired a great team, you will still find that there isn’t enough time to do everything. This is something that you just have to accept.
Finding a way to move forward
When you’re stuck in the whirlpool of anxiety it can be very difficult to see a way through. The tendency is to knuckle down and work harder. The way though is to push hard and force things to work. In my experience as a business owner and as a business mentor, this is rarely the best strategy.
If you are stuck wondering what to do next, or where you’ll find the time to get the work done, or how you’ll pay the bills this month, more than anything you need to take some time to get perspective.
The old days before Google Maps
In the days before GPS and Google Maps, we had to use printed street directories to find our way around. If you were aiming to drive an unfamiliar route from point A to point B, you had to refer to the directory and commit the route to memory.
When I had to take journeys like this I’d invariably forget the route. I was then left with three options, I could:
- Try to find my own way,
- Refer to the street directory while driving, or
- Pull over, read the directory and then start driving again.
The first option was filled with uncertainty and anxiety. I might not find my way. I might take too long getting to my destination. And worse still I might be a danger to myself and other drivers as I zoomed about looking for street signs and landmarks to get my bearings. Not the best choice.
The second option was downright dangerous. I’d be taking my concentration from the road and would risk injuring – or killing – myself and others. Obviously this would be a stupid and irresponsible solution.
So, option three was the only real option that made sense. Stop the car, take stock, and continue. This was the sensible decision.
Slowing down to speed up
This little travelling quandary is not too dissimilar to making decisions in business. As the business owner you often have to make similar choices. Do you try to find your own way? Do you try to figure it out as you go along? Do you stop, take stock, create a plan and then take action?
It seems obvious that we should stop and take stock. Yet rarely do business owners slow down to get some perspective. They just hurry on doing what they’ve always been doing.
Ego often convinces us to try and work it out for ourselves. Perhaps bold stupidity tells us to figure it out as we’re moving? The logical decision is to slow down or stop and get some perspective so a better decision can be made.
In all businesses there is a time to hustle and a time to take stock and get perspective. If you are currently finding it difficult to make decisions because you are too busy, then it’s time to slow down. This might sound counter-intuitive however you will find that slowing down will allow you to speed up again.
Many gym owners are busy for the sake of being busy. Days are filled with activity but often this activity has little or no impact of growing the business or reducing the stresses of time and money.
The need for perspective
We are not designed to do many things at once. Taking time to slow down and get perspective helps us make better decisions. When all we can see is the minutia of the daily grind we take our eyes off the bigger picture. We can forget about why we started our journey in the first place.
The world needs more business owners who are dedicated to helping others lead healthy lives. And those business owners shouldn’t be risking their own health to deliver the goods.
If you own a business in the fitness industry and you feel overwhelmed, do yourself a favour and stop! Take some time to get some perspective. Refocus on your ultimate goals. And then move forward with conviction, confidence and passion.