If I have one phrase I utter more often than any other while navigating our wonderful business of fitness, it may well be some variation of: “Is it documented?” I get it; no one wants to take the time to write it all out. It's time consuming and you could actually be 'doing' it rather than writing it down. But here’s the thing, it’s absolutely key to your long-term growth and success that anything essential to your business’ operations or health be in writing. To get you started on your adventure into the world of proper record keeping, here are three areas in your fitness business where I consider proper documentation to be of paramount importance:
1. Policies and Procedures. Think of your Policy and Procedures Manual and/or your Employee Handbook like the playbook for your business. They lay out expectations for team members, explain the business objectives behind those expectations, and provide the framework for how to carry them out. Sitting down and committing your business essentials to writing is important for several reasons:
· It causes you to really “think through” how you’re carrying out the day-to-day. Do your policies make sense? Are they easy to adhere to, manage, and, in some instances, measure? Are they legally compliant at both the federal and state level?
· It memorializes when a policy was put in place. As yours manuals are updated, the latest versions should be time stamped. This ensures that should you need to follow-up on when a new initiative went live, you can do so easily. Example: Knowing when a PTO policy went into effect and having it clearly detailed in writing, makes it easy to explain when a team member questions their balance.
· It gets everyone on the same page, literally. A written policy eliminates mistakes and misunderstandings. It creates consistency among different supervisors and as the members of your team change.
2. Employee Issues. Inevitably issues with team members will arise. Hopefully, you have a solid Employee Handbook in place which addresses how to deal with these issues. Most businesses strive for a system of progressive discipline. This involves a series of procedures for dealing with shortcomings in a team member’s performance. A good policy should provide for a method of documenting all employee dealings relating to performance (both positive and negative) and require signatures where appropriate. Clear and consistent documentation ensures the employee understands the reasons for your actions and what your expectations are of them moving forward. If the time comes when employment must end, it also provides a history should a claim arise (unemployment benefits, discrimination, wrongful termination, etc.). Side note: Many managers equate the word discipline with punishment versus thinking of it as the process of helping an employee understand their role and how to perform more effectively or efficiently. If meetings with a supervisor involving documentation are always viewed as negative and seen as a threat, that’s exactly what they end up being and the policy loses any potential positive impact. You end up with a too little, too late situation because even you avoid discussing employee issues!
3. Member Relations. Did your front desk person have a conversation with a member about freezing their account? Where is that conversation notated so other team members can see it? Hopefully your club management software offers basic CRM (customer relationship management) functionality. Use it! It’s extremely important that you’re tracking member interactions through clear notes on accounts. This helps to provide the member with consistency in experience and prevents them from having to relay the same information multiple times. It also eliminates the “he said, she said” trap in which we sometimes find ourselves by making it easy to look back on what was discussed during previous member interactions. Bonus: If your software allows for follow-up or ticketing, it makes it much easier to schedule any necessary tasks concerning members’ needs with your management team. A system of proper notation and follow-up ensures nothing falls through the cracks.
So roll up your sleeves and grab your pen! With some upfront effort to create clear policies, the discipline to adhere to those policies, and the dedication to follow through with consistent documentation, you set your business up for success.