Like any new business, the first couple months of being open will set the tone of reputation for years to come. In some cases, those initial few months will determine whether the business thrives or dives. There are some important factors to be mindful of during this time to give your new studio the best possible opportunity to be a success! Here is a studio owner checklist:
1. Think Operating Standards Through Before Committing
If you grand open with a 5:00am opening, it is necessary to follow through and stick to offering that opening time. Unless you want a group of angry early risers chasing you down or cancelling, you cannot later decide 7:00am is easier to manage and adjust the time. This is one example of making sure whatever you offer from the beginning is something sustainable that you are prepared to continue.
The opposite approach of extending your hours a few months in will have a much more positive effect. This goes for amenities and services that you offer as well. It is much easier to offer more at a later time than to over promise and under deliver. Be sure to ask about experience in operating early morning and late night assignments for staff you hire, and ask for references that you follow up on. If you are just getting started, the last thing you can afford is a no-show from your staff.
2. Make Customer Service a Top Priority
Everyone business owner wants to be known for great customer service, but achieving this requires constant effort and focus. Train your team on proper manners, and a member pleasing mindset. One effective way to do this is to think of a few common considerations, and put together a catchy list of reminders. The following is an example of a list with some customer service catch phrases you could make a part of your company culture:
- Take ownership of any issue.
- If you do not have the answer, find it.
- Answer the phone within 3 rings.
- Never put someone on hold more than 20 seconds.
- Follow up.
- Use a Great Studio Management Software
- Greet all members upon entry and exit.
- Learn members’ names.
Your list can include more specific items too, such as how to greet members. Should they say, “Welcome to ABC Club” every time someone walks in, or some other welcoming phrase? When it comes to fast food, for example, the internet is filled with memes and jokes about how great Chik-Fil-A customer service is in comparison to McDonalds. Ever notice that every Chik-Fil-A employee says “my pleasure?” The staff is trained to use this phrase, and how to speak to customers. If you want to be known for great customer service, you have to carve out specific ways that consumers will notice that they are being treated better at your studio than at your competitor’s.
3. Have Specific Goals Outlined & Incentives for your Team
“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”
This quote applies to numerous arenas of life and business. The best way to plan in your first 60 days of opening is to have precise, attainable goals for the entire team. Break this down to individual sales goals, and team goals. You can have a minimum requirement, plus a next level goal in which the team gets an incentive to reach.
The key is to find what motivates your team members. Would a group lunch or event out be something they would push for, or would a weekly cash spiff be more enticing? Whatever it may be, it is crucial to set this precedence from the beginning so your team understands the importance of achieving certain benchmarks.
Since the incentive can be paid for with a small portion of the additional revenue generated, so don’t worry about cost. Following through without the staff having to ask sounds like a no brainer, but this speaks volumes to building trust with your employees from day one. To gain some insight into what may drive people to work their hardest, one suggestion is to take personality tests, which can also improve working relationships.
4. Host Memorable First Events
A successful event is one that is fun, memorable, and that creates a buzz in the community. Great events are important for both members and staff. The way the first few events play out will determine who shows up in the future. If people had a great time, posted about it on social media, and talked to their friends or coworkers about it the next day, they are more likely to show up again and invite a friend. However, the event bombed, chances are the next one will not even make it into their calendar.
Remember- if your first event doesn’t go so great, don’t feel alarmed. You may have to do a few before people engage. Consider what you’re asking a member to do to attend the event. For instance, is it a Halloween-themed workout where costumes are encouraged? If so, this type of event requires more effort to prep and may not be as highly attended.
When it comes to events for members, the following tips can help them be the talk of the town:
- Start advertising for the event in plenty of advance — ideally 4-6 weeks.
- Keep advertising up until the big day. In-club announcements keep it fresh.
- Get other local businesses involved by giving them a chance to get exposure as well. (For example, have a health food restaurant cater the event, or get a massage therapist to offer 10 minute chair massages.) Have you done any local networking and set up counter-card exchanges?
- Make a list of influencers in your gym, and talk to them directly about attending.
- Include the whole family with a structured activity for the kids, whether you offer childcare regularly or not.
- Have something that will encourage people to post photos. Hire a special guest or local celebrity if within the budget, or setup a simple photo booth with silly props.
- As long as your specific lease agreement does not prevent you from providing alcohol, you can include complimentary beverages as well.
Another other type of important first event involves putting together something special for your staff. Since the longevity of your team directly impacts the member retention, treat them well from the beginning. A founding staff party is a great way to show gratitude to your team for their hard work. It should also reflect their personalities in a fun and thoughtful way. Perhaps you surprise them with a great quality catered lunch? Or take them out for a couple craft cocktails and hors d’oeuvres? You could plan a fun team building activity like an escape room? Another fun idea is an arcade day that includes their families too.
With a happy team and engaged members, these tips can help you setup for long term success from your first 60 days in business!