Business Strategies

Stop Managing your Business with Your Gut. Use Real Data to Empower Your Instructors.

Brendan Lentz | May 20, 2021

Your instructors are the face of your business. They usually spend the most time with your clients and they are often the reason people come back over and over again.

If you want to grow your business, you need to spend time developing your instructor talent. They are the most valuable assets you have. It’s simply not possible for you as an individual to have the same impact on your business as 15 - 25 instructors. 

Assume you have 15 instructors and imagine they each become 10% more effective.  Wouldn’t that give you some much-needed breathing room? What initiatives would you be able to finally take on if this happened? In order to improve instructor performance, and grow your business, you need to have a clear sense of their current performance. Data sets the foundation for this understanding and development. 

Here is how to track your instructors’ performance and identify opportunities for growth:


Step 1: Develop a substantive way to measure instructor performance. 

Everyone inherently wants to know how they are performing. Currently, you may be giving your instructors anecdotal feedback on their performance. Student praise or student complaints come in from time to time, but are these snippets really a good reflection on the instructor’s real contribution to the studio? Class attendance numbers are there, but there are too many variables at play to make this information your primary factor in evaluating instructors. You need concrete performance indicators to really empower your instructors to help you grow your business.

Here are two key performance metrics for the fitness industry that can help you go beyond listening to your gut. (Don’t worry you can still listen to your gut later if you still want to):

      1. Average profitability by instructor

        For each regularly scheduled class, divide the average payroll number for that class by the average revenue for that class over a six month period. A good rule of thumb is to be somewhere in the range of 30-50 percent. Anything higher and you likely won’t have enough to cover your overhead expenses and still make a profit for the business. If you go too low, you run the risk of losing a good instructor.

        Tools like FitGrid can help you keep track of instructor pay rate and class size in a simple to navigate platform.

        I had an experience where an instructor was convinced a class was doing well and felt we should add a second instructor. There were a core group of regulars who came very consistently to this class and most were on unlimited memberships. From a financial perspective, the classes were only breaking even because the small group of repeat clients were using the heck out of their memberships. There was a relatively low amount of revenue coming in to support the instructor pay. This scenario is one example of why you need to understand how to calculate these numbers, or else you may end up paying out more in instructor pay than you are taking in in revenue.

        Related:
        The FitGrid Profitability Calculator– This free tool will help you determine how many clients you need per class to reach your profit goals.

      2. Retention by instructor

        Picture this: Let’s say every month you have 100 brand new students come to try out your business. You make it a goal to convert as many of these new students into members or returning customers in some way. You do everything you can think of–the studio is super clean, you hire a sales advisor to make welcome calls, you have automated campaigns to email and text these prospects and encourage them to commit. Despite your efforts, on average you convert 20 of the 100 new students to come back and buy something else. And of those 20, let’s say on average 4 of them become members.

        Understanding how your instructors influenced this retention can allow you to leverage your strongest employees and take the time to train those who may need more guidance. Inthis example, you might discover that instructor A consistently sees new clients that end up returning 85 percent of the time. And instructor B has an equal number of new students in their class, but only 10 percent of those new students ever return to the studio.

        If you were able to see this data and address obvious issues, do you think you could improve instructor performance and bring back 50 new students every month and convert 10 of those to members? What kind of impact would that have on your business?

        Your instructors have a massive influence over which clients return. If you don’t have a solid understanding of this number, you are flying a plane with half your instrument panel covered.

        Related: Get access to FitGrid’s personalized instructor reports that allow you to view customer retention metrics by instructor.

 

Step 2: Communicate your new expectations to your instructors

Once you’ve decided that you want to focus on these data points that are key performance metrics for the fitness industry, let your instructors know in a team meeting, email, and/or individual meetings. Explain why the data is important for everyone’s success and let them know that you will be using it as a basis going forward for performance reviews, adding more classes, and salary decisions.

You may encounter some resistance and you may have instructors that embrace it. I’ve seen all reactions– be prepared to handle it all. 

The two most common requests from instructors are for more money and more classes. You can now explain that their retention percentage will be one of the biggest factors in your evaluation of them as a teacher because this metric is one of the biggest factors in the overall health of the studio and the community. 

You’ve now given them a clear path to be more in control over getting what they want. You should feel lighter already! 

Before sending your instructors off to increase their retention numbers, empower them with some basic best practices. A few tools that can help your instructors succeed are to learn the names of their students, especially the new ones, teach outstanding classes, and encourage everyone to return. You can also improve instructor performance by allowing them to follow up with their clients through a tool like FitGrid Pro’s follow-up messaging. In one case study, a yoga studio saw a 52.78% increase in first-time visitors returning to class after receiving follow-up messages from their instructor. Highlight your instructors who are excelling at increasing client retention as models for everyone else to follow. 

Step 3: Regular performance reviews

Once you’ve communicated the new expectations, the final step is to meet with your instructors personally on a regular interval to review performance. Pick a cadence that you can sustain and stick to it. 

Let your instructors know how they are doing by sharing the data with them. Be there as a resource to help them improve. As you become more familiar with the numbers, it will become clear who you want to reward with more classes and who needs coaching on how to better interact with the students. 

If the instructors are improving on metrics such as retention and profitability per class, you should start to see everything else in the business improve. 

FitGrid offers in-depth instructor performance reports that track retention, client demand, client breakdown, client engagement, scheduling, and benchmarking. 

Begin using data to inform your decisions and you can go from being reactive to being proactive. Tracking these key performance metrics for the fitness industry will not only help you better make business decisions and support growth, but they will also empower your instructors to do their best. When your instructors are at their best, they will bring newfound energy into the business. Positive energy is contagious and the students will pick up on it. Utilizing your instructors to their full potential also frees up your time so you can focus on bigger initiatives, like expansion, paid advertising, facility upgrades, attending industry conferences, and more.  Making data-driven decisions is really a win for everyone.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brendan Lentz has helped boutique fitness studios grow memberships, increase revenue and optimize operations as a studio manager and consultant. He has a degree in computer science, a passion for problem-solving, and currently lives in Phoenix, Arizona.

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