7 Hiring & Retention Strategies to Build a Team of A-Players for Your Fitness Studio

7 Hiring & Retention Strategies to Build a Team of A-Players for Your Fitness StudioGood fitness business owners know it takes a great team to keep a gym or studio running smoothly. But when it comes to hiring that team, identifying who has what it takes and who doesn’t can get tricky.

So we reached out to Scott Keppel, owner and founder of Scott’s Training Systems (STS) in Chandler, AZ (and our guest on #GSDshow Episode 021). He’s worked with clients from Miss USA competitors to recovering breast cancer patients, and he’s built a pretty awesome team in the process. Here are Scott’s best tips – in his own words – for hiring and retaining employees:

1.  Don’t Just Hire Another You

Regardless of your fitness training style, your clients chose your gym for a reason. It’s important to ask your clients why they chose you and your facility. Knowing this helps you hire coaches who will accommodate your current client base and allow you to grow.    

You should hire at least one other coach that trains similarly to you. This will allow you to have someone your clients feel comfortable with when you decide to work a little less, go on a vacation, take time off for seminars, etc.

With that being said, it’s extremely important to not just hire “clones.”  Hiring coaches who have a different skill set or coaching style than you do lets you reach out to a wider range of clientele. At STS, my team and I train clients at basically any level and with a number of conditions. We specialize in pre/post natal, post breast cancer, pageant, contest prep, weight loss, youth, sport specific, weight loss, MMA, Movnat, TPI Golf, Sled specializations, and more. And it’s all because we believe in hiring excellent trainers with different skill sets.   

2. Use Your Certifications and Local Colleges

Never underestimate the value of hiring students. Educational institutions are great places to find interns and new coaches who want a mentor. We offer mentorship plans with NASM as well as internships with colleges across the US. Using these resources allows you to find a future coach or trainer who’s eager to learn, hasn’t had a chance to develop bad habits, and oftentimes one who will work solely for academic credit … or at least for less than an established coach.  

You can use these new coaches to help you with your clients, bookkeeping, marketing, and more. This not only takes a load off of you, but allows them to learn about more than just program design. And the intern isn’t the only one who benefits from hiring. These business relationships help build your credibility and open the door to a ton of marketing opportunities.

To go more in depth about this, here’s my episode on The GSD Show with Loud Rumor where I talked about more ways I’ve leveraged some great PR opportunities for STS:

7 Hiring & Retention Strategies to Build a Team of A-Players for Your Fitness Studio

3. Take Care of Your Team First

I was fortunate enough to hear Randy Hetrick, the founder of TRX, speak at the 2016 IDEA World conference. As a former Navy SEAL, his belief is, “Always feed the troops first.” The same goes for fitness business owners. As an owner, it’s your responsibility to pay your team first, and then you get paid. I pay my coaches weekly, and if I am ever out of town on pay day, I find a way to get them their checks on time.

Loyalty breeds loyalty. If you are loyal to your staff, they will be loyal to you.  

4. Be Fair, Yet Stern

Your gym’s staff wants to make as much money as they can. So do you, so that your business can stay open and continue to grow. You must have a system in place that creates a win/win. If you think you pay your instructors too much, or if they aren’t meeting (hopefully exceeding) expectations, there will be resentment. If they feel you are cheap and unfair, they will look elsewhere.

Have your system, but incorporate ways in which your team can be recognized and even financially compensated when they go above and beyond. Reward the behavior(s) you want. Create a system that rewards your coach when they help with the areas you want to improve. Some ways to do this are:  

  • Reward the coach who services the most clients over a 4-8 week period
  • Run a social media challenge and reward the coach who gets your business page the most likes
  • Reward the coach who signs up the most new clients in a month
  • Have a transformation challenge, and reward and recognize both the winning client and their coach

5. Team Building

Take your team out every quarter (or possibly more often) and do something fun together. You could take them golfing, hiking, or bowling. You could play laser tag, volunteer together, or go to an Escape the Room. You could even just have them over for dinner.

Whatever activity you choose, make it a point to not talk about business and get to know them on a personal level. The more connected you are to your team — and them to you — the more likely you’ll stay together.

6. Allow Them to Help Make Decisions

Ask your coaches what equipment they would want for the studio if money wasn’t an issue. Set a goal, and once you’ve met the goal, buy the equipment for them. If you’re thinking of painting the studio or rearranging equipment, ask your team for their input.

The more they feel a part of the decision process the more likely they are to stay.

7. Encourage Them to Continue Their Education

One of the best ways to make sure your staff always loves working at your studio is to create a culture of learning. At STS, we work with IDEA and have created a very affordable plan for my coaches to have unlimited access to unlimited continuing education units (CEUs). I also offer a 50% reimbursement for CEUs after a coach passes the certification test … as long as they are willing to share their new knowledge with the rest of the team.

Continuing education will not only make the coach better at his job, but the other coaches will see this and want to educate themselves as well. This also creates a great environment for clients as they hear the coaches talking about all the new concepts they learn.

If you’d like to see Scott’s episode of The GSD Show where he gives even more info on building an awesome team and landing great PR opportunities, subscribe today and you’ll get updates every week.

Scott Keppel

Scott Keppel is the owner of Scott’s Training Systems, a world class fitness studio located in Chandler, AZ that offers both in person and online coaching. He specializes in post breast cancer recovery, pre/post natal and pageantry training. He is a motivational speaker, former lululemon ambassador and certified nutritionist. Scott believes it is important to help a client achieve their optimal level mentally, physically and emotionally.