Chantal: Trina Gray is the owner of the award winning Bay Athletic Club in Alpena, Michigan. She’s a seasoned presenter and writer for the IDEA Health and Fitness Association and has helped shaped the IDEA World Business Programming. She’s a self-made millionaire fitness entrepreneur, who has helped redefine the industry. She created the Corporate Fitness Challenge Program, which is sold worldwide and blazed a trail with her partnership with Team Beachbody. She’s the founder of an online coaching group for fit pros in the U.S. and Canada and she’s helping fitness professionals earn their worth in the industry and live a life of purpose and freedom without burnout. She’s joining us today to chat about Best Practices for Health Clubs. We discuss qualities of great leaders and she shares the three questions you need to ask to identify your ideal customer.
Trina, welcome along to the show. Trina: Thank you so much for having me.
Chantal: Now, I was saying to you earlier, I feel like you’re a bit of a wonder woman because you do so many different things. And as our listeners would have heard from your bio, you have a very, very busy schedule and a full plate. So, I thought it’s quite fitting for you to start today about sharing a couple of apps, systems or rituals that you use to stay on top of things and not get overwhelmed.
Trina: Well, that’s an absolutely relevant and such an appropriate question because I imagine that like most of the listeners out there, we have a tendency to live a rat race kind of life that can just pass by days, runs us over and we live in a state of overwhelm. I do have a few, I think really relevant and practical tips for the listeners, that have absolutely worked in my own life that I believe if you listen to and implement, they can improve your daily happiness as well.
So, number one Chantal, I use a color coded Google Calendar. Whatever calendar and system you use is fine but listen to this, I color code it and I designate what I’m doing in my day by my 6 roles that I have in life.
So for example, we all wear many hats, mine happened to be a wife, mom, manager of myself, a club owner and online business coach and a personal trainer. When you look at my calendar, I have my days and my weeks blocked off with my roles. So I can pull up a week and look and see if something in my life completely is falling off the grid; is something in my life overpowering my life right now. I’m combining a couple lessons here to make this quick and easy for your listeners. I identify six roles in my life. I assign them each a color and they show up that way in my calendar. So number two, I take that same concept of the roles in my life and apply that to my to-do list. I happen to use Wunderlist, lots of great online to-do lists out there but I want a simple, organized online to-do list that coordinates with my calendar and my 6 roles in life. I can simply pull up “mom”, what is it that I have on my schedule that week for my kids. I can pull up “club owner” and I can see what has to happen in this week in that role. So it keep things organized in my head and in my life. Lastly, I think a huge tip for fighting overwhelm is this – Chantal, if you looked at my phone, I would look like the most unpopular girl on the block because I have absolutely zero notifications on my smart phone. I have everything turned off, always. So, I never have the feeling of “I’m so behind”, I have 7 messages and 50 emails and 32 inbox messages. I never see it unless I specifically set aside the time to go look at it. Yes, on occasion, do I miss an important call or message? Certainly. But do I save myself hours of distraction and waste by shutting off notifications and only going to my smart phone when I intend to use it.
Chantal: Trina, I absolutely loved that concept and I haven’t heard anyone say that before. And as you’re talking, I can relate to that stress of feeling overwhelmed because you know that sitting on your smart phone is the notifications of all the things that you haven’t yet done.
And I think that stress, that worry, causes us to think “I’m busy, I’m busy, I’m busy” rather than, as you say, just dealing with things when you choose to deal with them and when you’re ready to deal with them. So I think that’s really a great advice. Thank you so much for sharing that.
Trina: Absolutely. And I think it’s relevant to recognize when that lesson hit me and why I kept it. So, just really quickly Chantal, I was on a vacation where I was choosing to be unplugged. I had the treat to be able to take some time off and I wanted to be unplugged but I wanted to be able to use my phone for the camera and the video. So I turned off all my notifications, fully intending to turn them all back on when I landed back in the States. I never did, and that was a year and a half ago. So life changed when I realized that I don’t want to live other people’s agendas all the time by having their agendas in my face all the time. I certainly serve a lot of people and help a lot of people, but I do it in a way that serves my day and my life. That’s where the idea came from, from vacation and I realized “Gosh, that’s not a bad way to live. I should make this as a daily habit.”
Chantal: (Break away from interview) So I followed Trina’s lead and for the past six weeks, I’ve been notification-free on my social media accounts, even Instagram!,And she was so right. It makes a huge difference to my stress levels and to my time management. Now I will be totally honest, I haven’t yet had the courage to switch off my email notifications but I figure, one step at a time. So, let’s now rejoin the interview where I ask Trina to share some of the challenges of health club ownership.
Trina: Well as all your listeners know, there are many challenges of owning a health club. I’m going to simplify this down to just a couple. One that I think will speak to people, will speak to their emotion and you’ll feel this tugging at your heartstrings, I bet.
Number one, I think one of the main challenges is there are so many balls in the air from taking care of your team to bringing in new members to taking care of existing members to oh my goodness, we also have to deliver fitness.
We have to plan for strategic growth, right? So there are so many things that we struggle just to keep our own head above water. We’re leading others. We’re serving others. We’re growing others. We’re taking care of the bottom-line. We are paying off debt. We’re making money. We’re making decisions. So I think it is really the getting pulled in to so many directions and having so many different balls in the air. So, a couple of tips that directly relate to that is really acknowledging that to be successful, we have to see ourselves beyond trainers, beyond fit pros, beyond technicians, we need to see ourselves and equip ourselves as CEOs.
So CEOs have a different level of calm and confidence. CEOs are advisers. CEOs are strategic. We want to be someone that is calm and confident that is going somewhere, and that is making decisions, addressing conflicts and moving on. We also need to make sure to take care of the many balls in the air that we are developing other leaders around us and I know that sounds so obvious Chantal but it really gets overlooked. People tend to want to build a business around themselves. And I’m going to encourage you to build other leaders around you.
So you can likely spend more time on strategic planning and growth and less time putting out fires. So seeing yourself as a CEO, building a team of leaders around you will help you deal with all the different balls in the air.
Chantal: Trina, I might just say that I like the picture you painted about the importance of having that calm approach and calm-sort-of environment and I think that calm and control is a great representation of a wonderful leader within a business.
Trina: I absolutely agree and I think it really hit me Chantal, probably, I’ve owned this club for 11 years. And about nine years ago, I had one of my employees say to me,
“I’m so sick of hearing you talk about dreaming big. If I hear it one more time, I want to throw up.” And I said, “What? What do you mean by that?”
And she said, “Your life is crazy. You’re always running around. You’re always late. You’re always rushing somewhere. I don’t want that.” And it was that absolute “aha” moment in my life. That woman is still on my team, by the way. This is now nine years later, one of the leaders in my team, one of the closest friends in life. And I realized that I was putting out this perception of being so important and so busy and so rushed and so everywhere. Who would want to follow that? And who would that inspire? So by me, honestly, becoming the calm and confident leader that I’ve wanted to be, really elevated my team and my business.
Chantal: Yes and it is so important. It is a good reminder to all of us about how much the people around us observe how you behave within the working environment. So, thank you very much for sharing that. Are there any other challenges or tips that you want to give us around owning a health club?
Trina: Yeah, you know one that would really speak to a lot people is just this struggle to be attracting and retaining clients. I mean, this is just a bottom-line problem. We don’t want to have a studios and clubs with revolving doors. We don’t always want to be running a membership campaign or drive, right? Because it is taking us away from serving the clients and members who have put their trust in us. It takes us away from serving our team and our employees and growing them. So when you are always looking to fill the pipeline and bring people in the door and pound the pavement, you really are not taking care of your business. So, what’s my tip on that? My tip is really, truly understanding who your ideal client is. Now, I know you’ve done other podcasts on this, that people can dive deeper into. My tip on this Chantal is really understanding your client avatar and knowing who you’re talking to and what their problems are and how you solve them. So for example, today at a meeting with my staff, we talked about our avatar, working parents. That’s who we serve. So every time we have an idea for a class or a program or a bootcamp or even an equipment investment or a certification or a training, anytime one of those decisions crosses my plate, I am able to run it through this litmus test of “Does this serve our client avatar?” Are we helping working parents like Eric and Kristine, Todd and Stephanie? We have names of our ideal clients.
And they are real people in our club. So it makes it a lot easier for us to attract and retain clients because at the very foundation, we know who we want to attract, what problems we are solving for them. And if we do those two things, we will bring them in and we will retain them because we will be valuable and relevant in their lives.
Chantal: I’m just going to jump in here. We have done quite a few shows where we talked about avatars and what I will do is put links in today’s show notes of those shows. But Trina has a great super fast exercise that we could all do for identifying your ideal client. Take a listen.
Trina: This is it. Who comes the most; who spends the most; who refers the most. That really took me one hour of investigation into my business, right. Who comes the most, we looked at a printout of our top check ins, you know, for the past years. Who comes the most, alright, we got that list. Who spends the most, that was easy. Who refers the most, of course if you’re running a business, you’re tracking your referrals through some kind of rewards program. We reward those referrals, so it was easy for us to identify those names. And we very easily saw that the thing that they have in common, our top members, are working parents. It made it a lot easier for us to address our social media to them to talk about, “Hey, we can squeeze in a workout between work and the soccer field.” “Hey we can give you tips for creating a healthy family dinner tonight.” So we could really be directly talking to them because we know who they are.
Chantal: Okay, so there is every ones’ challenge for today. If you don’t already know the answer to those three questions then, spend an hour some time today and work out that information because that’s three really quick, really great examples of identifying your ideal customer or your avatar. Now, Trina, as a fitness business leader, can you give us an advice for other owners and managers to ensure that they really lead a successful fitness business?
Trina: Absolutely. So this one I took a little bit higher level. Instead of getting into the details of how to schedule and what kind of software to use and instead of getting into the trenches, I want to talk a little bit I think, in a tougher way, I want to challenge the listeners that do you have these three things dialed in? They are three simple and quick but incredibly relevant things for leaders in business. So number one, do you have heart and armor? It is a phrase I use a lot when I am coaching fitness professionals. And this is what it means. To be a successful business manager, you have to have heart. You need to be empathetic, truly caring. You have to understand that we are human beings working with other human beings. They have lives, they have emotions. Right? So cold leaders don’t have a lot of raving fans. But the flipside of that Chantal is that people will stab you in the back and I don’t mean that in a mean way. I am saying, let’s be real. People will open up down the road. People will join a competitor. People will break your heart in ways that they don’t mean to by having changes in their life, getting married, getting divorced, having kids and moving. So you have to have some ability to be tough and move on when things changed in your business. Are you willing to have heart or empathy for your teammates and for your staff? But have armor, so that when things do go not as planned, you can go regroup and move on. So heart and armor is a big one.
Number two for me is the ability… this is another phrase that I’ve coined that I love is the ability to grind and unwind. What that means to me and literally I have a t-shirt made about it to remind myself. What it means is as an entrepreneur, our work is literally never done. As studio, owner, manager, whatever, work is never done. You got to be able to get over this. So what can you do? You can get in, work hard, focus, and then get out. You have to grind and then unwind. Why do you need to unwind? Because we can’t wait until the business is exactly what we want it to be successful, thriving, the perfect team that every member is happy to the nth degree. We can’t wait for that to happen to live our lives. We got into the business of fitness because it is rewarding, because it feels good, because it gives us a life of joy and purpose.
So you can’t wait until everything is ideal to unwind. You can’t wait until you are retired to unwind. So it is being a fitness or a studio owner attracts workaholics. So I am encouraging you to work hard and then check out. Grind and unwind. And then the last one, simple but again leaders, let’s do a gut-check on this one. Be a leader and not a boss, right? We have to really want success for other people. We have to ask for their ideas. We have to really believe in other people before they believe in themselves. We have to show our gratitude for them. Be a leader and not a boss.
Chantal: We have been blessed on the show to have been joined by many great business leaders from the fitness industry. So, in today’s show notes, you’re going to find three of my favourite past interviews when we spoke about leadership. So just pop over to the fitnessbusinesspodcast.com and take a listen. We’ll be back in just a second with Trina’s advice on best practices for fitness owners. But first, here’s a message from one of our podcast partners.
Trina: Well, the first one goes right into what we were just talking about, which is being a leader and not a boss. So, tip number one. If you want to be a leader and not a boss, tip number one is to take care of your team. And if you want specific examples of what I believe I do to take care of my team is I communicate often and I communicate simply. And I know sometimes we just want the very practical take-aways. Let me give you some examples. We have an email that goes out every week called the Fit Loop. It tells my whole team what is happening in the business, how they can participate, what they need to know. A Fit Loop goes out every single Friday. We have a team meeting for my leaders and managers every single Tuesday. We cover what is happening with the team. We talk about what camps are happening. We talk about revenue opportunities. We put out any fires that are happening. So I have regular on going communication with everybody. We have a thriving private Facebook page for our team. This is where we are celebrating. People’s classes, clients, and camps are cheer successes. We are doing birthday shout outs. We are sharing best practices to each other, music lists. We are sharing our favourite move of the week. It is a really very thriving environment.
So part of taking care of your team really is communicating often, communicating simply. We meet quarterly as a team in what we call a “Power Hour.” Our Power Hours are all about a team bonding experience. We have done everything Chantal, from carving pumpkins, to making posters, to filming commercials, to photo contests all over town. People really want to be on my team when they see what we do. We always have some personal development and growth opportunities in every email is sent out, every Facebook post in the group, every staff meeting, every Power Hour includes some ability for them to upgrade themselves. So personal development runs rampant at Bay Athletic Club. So that is one best practice in managing a facility. Number two is have a clear way to collect and address feedback from your clients and members. So, what I am not talking about right now is having a comment box in the back corner collecting dust. That’s not inspiring. That is not telling members that you really want to hear from them. So we have a huge big painted bold beautiful comment box right on the front desk when you walk in, you actually cannot not see it. There are stacks of pieces of paper and pens and they are very easy ability to share their feedback for us, we look at it every single Tuesday. There is a box full of comments. And it might be little to them but we read it, we address it immediately. Anything from please remind people not to wear perfume in Yoga class to can you add another Yoga class in the evening. Can you add another fan to the studio, it’s getting warm right now? So, these little things go a long way for us to show our members that we are listening. Another way that we collect and address feedback in a meaningful and regular way is we have surveys. Electronic surveys, you can do Survey Monkey, anything you want. We survey every single one of our boot camps or specialty programs, which is all month long. We are always collecting what is your favourite work out, what is your least favourite work out? How can we improve? What did you love about what the trainers did? What suggestions do you have for future camps? We’re truly in the business of collecting feedback and serving our members at every corner.
One final tip and it really kind of covers how to limit your stress as an owner. If you took this one tip from me, I think that this year can go better for all of us.
We need to develop a deeper bench of talent. And here’s the reality of why. When I look at the last 11 years of owning a club, and I try to identify what were the most stressful times. What where the times that I would have wanted to throw in the towel if I didn’t really truly believe in what I was doing? They are the times when the unpredictable happens. Your shining star trainer gets married or divorced or they have a child, they have a breakdown, you’ll never know. You can have your business built on the whim of your employees and teammates’ personal lives. So for me, developing a deep bench of talent, recruiting and looking for people within my business who might want to be in the fitness industry and start that process, recruiting people to move back to my community or looking for people in my community who want this career and always developing trainers and instructors. I am always looking for shining stars to work as fitness assistants at our front desk. I am always looking for this super friendly, amazing young men and women who wants to work in my club and I’m always developing a deep bench of talent because I want to minimize the impact of people’s personal lives on my business and my life.
Chantal: I think that is a really important one Trina. And we have talked on the show before about HR and recruitment and building a team but as you mentioned having that reserve bench and really always keeping an eye out for those potential superstars that would fit within our business is very important because I think, the reality is that all too often we don’t hit the go button on the new employee, until the old one is pretty much out the door. And then it becomes a panic to replace them and to find someone that is going to be a suitable replacement. The last thing you want is to put someone in the role that you don’t feel is an excellent fit for your business. So having that reserve bench I think is great advice. Thank you so much for sharing that. Trina, thank you so much for coming on today. It is such a pleasure having you on the show and thank you for sharing your expertise and your experience with all of our listeners.
Trina: Well, thank you for the platform. It’s fun to pay it forward.
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