Pay Yourself First

Paying yourself first is not a new concept.  Financial gurus have promoted this theory for years, but mostly on a personal finance level.  For instance, you should automatically put 10% of your paycheck into savings or retirement.  This great advice doesn’t apply just to individuals though.  It may be even more important for your business.

As a gym owner, you get paid based on the profit that your gym makes.  Now, you probably take a salary for the day-to-day work you do, but if you ever want to step away and just be an owner, then you need a solid profit.  The problem is that most gym owners look at profit as what’s left over at the end of the month, quarter or year (if there’s anything left).  Well, just like you should do with your personal finances, you should put a set percentage of your revenue in savings each month BEFORE you spend it all.  This guarantees you a profit and forces you to “Budget”.  Doing this will improve the health of your business across the board.  It will give you a cushion (or help you build your war chest) and it will allow you to issue profit distributions every quarter, which will make you happier and encourage you to keep improving.

But as wonderful as it can be for your business, most people will not do it.


Because it takes work & it takes will-power.  It will make you evaluate all of your expenses – including your salary, your coaches and staff and all of your other “necessities”.

But, if you do it, your business will be stronger.  You will make more money in the long-run, your business will be healthier, and your life will be better.

For more information, check out the book, Profit First by Mike Michalowicz or email me and I can help you get started paying yourself first.


Gym Review: Orange Theory

Last weekend, my family and I went to Texas to stay with some good friends.  I always like to try new workouts/gyms when I’m traveling – mostly to see how other gyms are run.  I was especially interested in going to Orange Theory because (1) I’ve heard a lot about it and the people I know that do it, love it and (2) It’s a franchise, so it was sure to have solid systems.  So, here’s the review…

Orange Theory has 4 different workout types/days: endurance (E), strength (S), power (P), and combo (ESP).  Sunday was a power day.  I started on the treadmill and did about 30 minutes of internal training, going between 3 different paces (base pace, push pace and all-out).  I really haven’t been running much lately so this part was tough!  After the treadmill intervals, I moved to the weight area where we did about 30 minutes of dumbbell and bodyweight training.  It was broken down into 3 circuits involving 3 different movements in each circuit and we finished off with a 3 minute core circuit.

All in all, I got a great workout.  The treadmill intervals were tougher than the circuits but the circuits were still tough.

Some questions that I have about the program itself are:

  • Is it always so dependent on treadmill intervals? They also had rowers that we used for about 1 minute total.  I understand that a lot of the program is based on interval training but I would get tired of running treadmill sprints every day.  Use those rowers for some variety.
  • It is not very skill-based…which is good in a way – anybody can do it. But, will it keep members engaged long-term?  From a business perspective, I’m curious what the average membership duration is.
  • How much variety is there between workouts? I obviously only made it to one class so there may be some decent variety but I’m guessing that there’s a lot of repetition week to week.  If there is not much variety, how long are clients sticking around.  I’m sure results happen quickly but will members be able to sustain results for the long-term?


There were two aspects of the session that I was a little disappointed in.  They were:

  • Warm-ups – First off, I’m big on warm-ups – and there really wasn’t a warm-up. Since I didn’t know what I was getting into, I didn’t do anything before coming in and my calves were super tight for the first half of the running intervals.  My friend said that here Heart Rate always spikes the first 5 minutes and I’m pretty sure it’s because she comes in cold and jumps right into running.  I would personally warm-up before I got there, if I was a member.  But, as a gym owner, I know most people will not warm-up unless we make them.
  • Lack of Community – I see the messages on Facebook and I’ve heard it in person, so I know that people love Orange Theory – I liked the workout. But there wasn’t a lot of human interaction outside of that with the trainer.  I like the structure of the class, there’s zero wasted time, but my friend has been there for almost 6 months and she’s just now getting to know some of the other members (and she’s much more extroverted than me).  I think a little recovery area w/ foam rollers, yoga mats and maybe even a TV with a recovery routine.  I think this would create an environment for members to get to know each other and chat independent of the coach…the extra stretching would be a bonus!

To wrap it up, Orange Theory-Keller was a good gym & I got a great workout.  The facility was clean & organized.  The staff was helpful and the sign-up process was smooth and easy.  Carrie (the coach) was great as well.  She introduced me to the members at the beginning of class, was enthusiastic and had great command of the class.  She also did a good job making contact with the individual members several times throughout the class.

I’m not typically a fan of corporate/chain businesses but I do appreciate the systems that are found in these businesses.  Orange Theory had this down as I expected.  Everything from the gym colors, gym layout, equipment, flow of the class, technology, music, staff, etc. worked together and clearly brought in their ideal client.

From some back of the napkin calculations, I can see why the franchise has been growing so quickly across the country.  It’s an attractive gym, with high-intensity training scalable to all levels, great systems, and seemingly good profits.  I look forward to trying another one soon.

Have you ever tried Orange Theory?  What did you think?


5 Bookkeeping Tips For Gym Owners

You did not become a gym owner to keep up with receipts, track expenses and balance bank accounts.  You may not even like the bigger picture financial stuff like reviewing financial statements and KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators).  However, like it or not, your finances and the maintenance of them is a major part of your business.  So, I want to give you a few tips to make the whole process simpler for you.   < Note: This is not an exhaustive list – check back for more detailed articles about the nuts and bolts of bookkeeping for your gym >


This is probably one of the most abused principles out there, especially for single-owner companies.  Even if you are the only owner and a one-person show, you and your gym are completely separate entities and thus your finances should NOT be co-mingled.

Your company should pay you a salary as compensation for the work that you do and you should also get profit distributions quarterly or annually (assuming you made a profit).  Your company should not pay for swim lessons for you kids, a birthday present for your spouse, or a new TV for your house.  On the flip side, you should not be paying gym expenses out of your personal account.  If your business needs the money (and it’s coming from you personally), you should set up a loan (with market interest rates) or consider the money a capital contribution.

This issue is amplified if you have a partner, partners, investors, or a 3rd party loan.  In this scenario, if you use company funds to pay for your personal expense, you are essentially stealing from your partners or investors.  Even if that was not the intent, this can lead to major distrust and potential legal problems.

Fix: Make sure this is not an issue for you by setting up a business checking account with a debit card so you can keep everything separate from this point on.


I could go into great detail about how to keep it simple but that would be weird.  Keeping it simple will help you save time and give you better control over your financial operations.  Here are a few ways to keep it simple:

  • Batch your work – set up your payroll and bills so that you only have to do them twice a month. Also, if you have any bills that are auto-drafted from your account, move the payment dates to coincide with one of your selected payment dates.  If possible, set up the recurring payments from your members to come in at these times as well.  Now you have money coming in and going out at set periods throughout the month and you don’t have to worry about it every week (or every day).  The 10th and 25th of the month work really well, by the way.
  • Automate As Much As You Can – forget spreadsheets, or even desktop accounting systems. Online accounting systems, such as Quickbooks Online, pull transactions directly from your bank, greatly reducing data entry and forgotten expenses.  They can also store invoices and receipts electronically so you don’t have to keep up with so much paper.
  • Minimize Your Chart Of Accounts – So, now that you have an accounting system, don’t go overboard. Often times, in an attempt to be analytical, gym owners create an account for every single revenue or expense.  This makes the financial statements longer than necessary and increases the chance of inconsistently categorizing items over time.  Your chart of accounts should be simple enough that you are able to use them year-to-year yet specific enough to provide useful financial data.  < Check back for a blog post with a sample chart of accounts for gyms >


In case you ever get audited, you have to be able to justify all of your expenses and revenues.  For expenses, you must have the actual receipts – you can’t rely on bank and credit card statements – and if you use cash, a receipt is the only thing that shows what you purchased.  I used to be guilty of just using my credit card statements but now we keep all of our documentation.  That doesn’t mean we have filing cabinets all over the place.  There are several great cloud-based receipt and document organizing solutions out there.  Some of them even sync to most accounting systems and will automatically match to the expenses from the bank feed.

Check out: Hubdoc or Receipt-Bank to make the gathering, storage & processing of bills, receipts and invoices as easy and cost effective as possible.


When we first opened our gym in 2008, we only accepted cash and checks.  We didn’t have a CRM (customer relationship management) system and we couldn’t process credit card payments.  So, I had a spreadsheet with all of our members and I would try to keep it current.  Then, a few times a month, I would open up our payment binder and see who all had paid.  In theory, the system works but in real life, not so much.  I can’t tell you how much money we lost those first few years – yep, it took us almost 2 years to learn the hard way.  Since then we have been using Zen Planner and all of our members get drafted the same amount each month and we can easily run a report that tells us if somebody didn’t pay (typically due to an expired credit card).  So we are making more money and have more time to do everything else!


I’ve heard a lot of gym owners talk about their business and most of the time I hear questions like, “how many square feet is your facility” or “how many members do you have?”.  Those questions are fun to talk about but they don’t really mean much.  What’s important to your business is cash flow and profit.

Cash flow is important because it allows you to operate from a position of power and allows you to remain proactive.  When you have a negative cash flow or your bank account gets low, it makes you very reactionary and you may make decisions that are not in the best interest of you gym long-term (i.e. lowering prices, not having a business coach, taking bad clients, etc.).

Profit is ultimately why you are in business.  Until you are making profit, you don’t have a business, you have a job.

In order to consistently have positive cash flow and a profit, you have to consciously work for it.  You have to set it up so that you receive your revenue in time to pay your expenses.  You also need to make sure that your expenses do not exceed your revenues.  Even then, you are just breaking even.  So determine how much profit you want and pay yourself first.  Twice a month send a set percentage of your revenues to a separate bank account that you use only for profit.  If you want to make a 10% profit but are currently losing money, then just start at 1% and increase it every month or quarter as you are able to increase revenue or decrease expenses.

So there’s 5+ tips to getting a healthy business.  If you have any questions or want to know more, you can email me at: trey@thefitnessbookkeeper.com.