Last week we talked about non-negotiables in your life. I actually had a ton of feedback on that blog, and I think it sparked some thought for people who have put their entire lives aside to run their gyms. I think personal non-negotiables are actually harder than professional non-negotiables. However, I’ve been faced with a few of those recently as well. Let me explain. 

Last week we sent the “hey” email. I was a couple weeks behind those who did the enrollment booster as I didn’t want to send something that big right before conference. With most of my staff attending conference and a couple of us speaking, I thought it would be challenging to leave Natalie, our office manager, with all those emails alone. However, when we sent the email last week, I think our brains were still a bit on conference-mode. You see, we have a system, but we didn’t follow it to a tee. We failed to scrub the system for previous gym members who had been removed or whose contracts I had chosen not to renew. So, as you can imagine, I was a little surprised to see a reply from one who was released just two years ago. 

We are usually pretty quick at replying to the “Re: Hey” emails…but this one required a lot more thought. It had been two years since this family was in our gym. As usual, the release had nothing to do with the child, but the mom had been difficult, defiant, and unwilling to bring us concerns. Instead, she was one who allowed them to boil over and then she’d blow up – sometimes in the lobby right in front of everyone. 

The final straw was at the end of the season a few years ago. I had hoped she also recognized we were no longer a good fit and was going to part ways. Instead, she went online and re-registered for another season. It was then I had to set up a meeting to let her know we wouldn’t be continuing her contract. It wasn’t a fun conversation. She was angry. Her friend ended up following her as well. They went to the gym down the road, and that was that. She wasn’t terribly friendly at competitions or around town, and I understood why, so I let it be. Fast forward two years and the gym down the road closed. She was left without a gym home, and replied to the email first to say they’d be interested in classes. As I considered if this was a good idea or not, and reached out to Shelley and Riana to ask them their thoughts, I then got a second email letting us know that instead, they’d like to join a team. 

I agreed to sit down and meet with the parent. I firmly believe people change. Heck, I’ve changed! However, the culture in my gym is really good right now. Parents are respectful, kind and grateful for the work my staff does and the time they invest. I really needed to make sure a decision to allow this parent to return wouldn’t create waves. 

Prior to the meeting, I had discussed all the options with my business partner. We had agreed that we would likely allow her to take classes, but we wanted to move slowly reintegrating her into the gym, and a team wouldn’t allow that. 

At the meeting, I didn’t feel a humble, warm and friendly personality across the table. Instead, I felt hostility radiating from the mom. I asked her how her life had changed in the past couple of years. That’s when she said, “My daughter wants to cheer, and I’ve agreed to set my differences aside so she can do that. I don’t even particularly like or understand cheer, but I’ll do it for her. It’s her thing. Not mine.” 

While some of you may think that was a good thing, her tone told a different story. She was still angry. There was no way her mindset would jive with the rest of the parents in our gym. My gut said to end the meeting without making any decisions. Because I had decided before that meeting what to do, I told her she’d be welcome to do classes. 

I walked away from the meeting regretting my words. You see, “gut instinct” has become a non-negotiable for me. I am not always right, but when I know something is wrong, I can feel it. I spent the rest of the day wrestling with my decision. The last thing I wanted was for this mom to sit in my lobby and radiate the same hostility I felt during our meeting. This was the same person and behavior we had released two years before. 

That night, I got done coaching early. I live right next door to the gym, so I left my house and went to pick up a pizza. Coincidentally, that mom was jogging past my house as I went to turn out onto the dirt road. We met eyes, and she didn’t wave, smile or acknowledge me. That was my sign. It was that moment I knew if she couldn’t be friendly in public, the chances that she was ready to come back to the gym for classes were slim. Nevertheless, I slept on it to make sure I wasn’t acting impulsively. 

The next morning, I felt the same. I sent her an email letting her know her daughter was welcome to attend our open gyms if she’d like. If that went well, she could email me about classes around the first of the year. 

Maybe you spotted some of my professional non-negotiables. 

  1. I believe in giving people second chances. I’ve done it twice before and it worked well. Both moms prior to this had very different attitudes when we met though, which leads me to number two. 
  2. I think it’s important to follow your instinct. I didn’t have this in my early years. How could I? I had never experienced behaviors like this in my life. Now that I have though, I do think it’s important to follow that instinct.
  3. Protect our culture at all costs. I hear so often about gyms where the owner or coaches feel that hostility every day. That has been my gym before. I won’t allow it to return to that. We will praise and encourage good behavior, and we will address poor behavior immediately.
  4. I will never stop trying to be a better person and a better gym owner. I am not perfect, and I know I don’t handle every situation with grace. So, I make it a point to reflect (you may call it over-analyze), and see how we can improve and we can be better. Even when someone else is wrong in their approach, there is often a lesson to be learned if I can be humble enough to find it.

So, now that you’ve considered your personal non-negotiables, tell me. What are your professional non-negotiables? What are the things you commit to doing in your gym now and in the future?

If you’re not quite sure how to build that culture in your gym and get to a place where people love and respect the work you’re doing, we can help with that at the Next Gen Academy. Book a call today and let’s chat about how we can help you!