Last week I went to get my nails done. I haven’t always been a “nail” person, but about a year ago, I realized I found it helpful to sit in the salons and just relax. On top of that, the owners used to be our neighbors and their daughter had just started classes at the gym. For the first couple of weeks, I went with whomever was available for my appointment. Then, I noticed the owners started taking me themselves. 


I don’t require elaborate designs and I don’t know enough to be picky, so I couldn’t quite figure out why the owners insisted on doing my nails themselves rather than the other four nail techs in the salon. I eventually realized they’re taking care of me because they want to make me happy and ensure I’m getting the best possible service every time.


But there are also some major drawbacks to taking care of people yourself in an effort to get it done right.


My nails used to take about 40 minutes. Now they take about an hour (even longer last week) as the owners are the go-to for all phone calls, walk-ins, people making appointments and other nail techs who may need help. That means at least 2-3 times per appointment, I’m sitting there for a few minutes waiting for them to come back or continue. I’m patient. As I said, I go to relax, so it doesn’t bother me, but last week it gave me some extra time to reflect on how I used to do that at my gym, and how it was holding me back from growth…


I used to believe I was the best person for our front desk. Need something? I know everything, so I can help! Got a question? If it’s a decision that needs to be made, I can make it. Heck, I’m the owner. The same drawbacks the owners of the salon have are ones I experienced back in 2015.


If a coach became sick during her shift, I was dealing with that on top of working front desk. If a parent became upset about something, I would handle it right then and there instead of setting up a meeting for the next day like my front desk girls would do. Inevitably, I had become the worst front desk person. It took people three times longer to get a parent’s question answered, because I was doing all the things. 


It wasn’t until someone convinced me that a staff member could actually do it better than me that I gave it a try. I didn’t believe it was possible, but was willing to give it a shot. The first few front desk people were OK. They did their jobs and it was about 80% as good as I could have done it. So, I made systems and revised the training. The third front desk person I ever hired was Melanie (who is my amazing gym manager now 9 years later). She’ll admit, she was good – not great. She was a full-time college student who was figuring out life. But, she could follow systems like a champ, so she quickly became our second best front desk person – just second to me. 


Not long after that, I saw a shift. Melanie was taking care of customers better than me. She had time to learn the names of the parents, and built relationships with them. She knew the answers to their questions and could answer them in a friendly, yet efficient manner. It took some time for our original members to trust her answer and not ask to speak to me instead, but we figured out a few ways to build her credibility and even that was eventually solved. 


When we decided to hire a second person for the front desk, Melanie became her trainer. Mel had done even better than I could have. She was able to focus 100% on this person’s training and not be pulled in 18 different directions. Today, I actually feel a little out of place at the front desk. I created every system and process up there, but I haven’t had to step in and work the front desk in years, so I’m honestly a little rusty. 


The same thing happened to me with coaching. I was the strongest coach in the gym. I knew the most when it came to grips, stunting and how to put together a routine. But, when there was something going on at the gym, my attention was pulled in different directions. When our plumbing backed up and we had no bathrooms or water fountains one night, I found it nearly impossible to coach as it was an issue that required the owners’ assistance. Yet, I was supposed to be cleaning standing tumbling.


So, at one point, I focused on building up staff. I no longer wanted to be the best when it came to coaching all star. I wanted to train others and get them to where I was. Because I love cheer, I didn’t want to stop learning, but I also had to stop hoarding the information for myself. We invested in staff training, and I connected my staff with the best resources in the industry.


One amazing thing happened as I started giving up parts of my business to others. They became experts in what they were doing, and I got to watch the machine run without me cranking the wheel all the time. 

We’re in season 12 now. A lot has changed. We had plenty of qualified coaches this year, and I didn’t actually have to coach a team at all. (For those in a small town, take note – it IS possible!) I still enjoy coaching, so I am coaching a youth 2 this year. I won’t coach either senior team. I may take on our half-year novice team later in the season if I’m still looking for more, but I’ve got months to decide if that’s what I want to do. I don’t have to be in the gym every day. Even on my Y2 team, I have a super strong, highly qualified coach alongside me. That allows me to pick up and go on vacations, enjoy time off and step away to chat with parents during practice if I want to. I have complete freedom to do the things I love – vacation AND cheerleading.


Imagine if I were like the owners of the nail salon. Every time I want to guarantee someone a good experience, I coach their class or team. I take their phone calls. I process their billing. Do you think that person would have the best possible experience at my gym? If I did that, do you think I’d eventually be too burned out to personally give them the best possible experience?


Or, do you think they’d prefer to go to Lexi and get immediate customer service focused entirely on them at the front desk? How about calling at 11 a.m.? Instead of a frustrated, distracted owner trying to manage 50 things and getting annoyed when the phone rings, they get Natalie, our super kind administrative assistant who can answer almost any question and has a knack for following up with people. 


If you think it hurts my feelings that I’m not the best in the gym, it doesn’t. It did the first few years of the transition. I felt out of place at my own gym. Then, I started doing an owners’ job. I started creating new things, implementing those ideas that sat dormant in the back of my brain for years. I streamlined processes and fixed broken systems. I built a staff training portal and focused on long-term goals for the business. My gym exploded, and I was able to expand my full-time staff, giving college students jobs once they graduated.


So, if you think you’re the #1 person who will do everything right in your business and take care of people better than anyone else, I’m going to challenge you to think differently. If someone else can focus 100% on that task, they will eventually outperform even you. Here are a few key steps to getting there. 


  • Release control. You might be the best right now, but you can train someone else to be even better. 
  • Hired for character. The best employees are humble, eager to learn and self-starters. They don’t have to have tons of years of experience. You can easily train them to be great.
  • Systemize processes and training. Give them all the tools to be successful. Writing systems might feel overwhelming, but you’ll write it once and see the results week after week as someone else is executing it. Train people thoroughly and document their training.
  • Get out of the way. Once they’re trained, get out of their way. Stop doing their job for them. Let them ask you questions. Be there if they need help, but don’t do their job for them. (This was the hardest part for me.) If you’re like me, set up weekly check in meetings so you can give feedback and continue training them on the things you observed that could use some work. 


I’m all about giving someone an excellent experience every single time, but parents also understand that when someone is training, it takes time. A parent asked me last week if the competition schedule was ready yet. I told her it’s Caitlyn’s first year doing it, so I was letting her take a crack at it first. It would be out by July 1. I was honest. “I can probably do it myself and have it out tomorrow, but I want to see what she comes up with. It might be way better than I would have planned!” I’m teaching my parents to trust my staff and support their progress. I’m also coaching Caitlyn through training on the most important parts of our all star season because I know that if I train her now and then get out of her way, she’ll eventually do it better than I ever have!