To Fire or Not to Fire a Client

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When someone is choosing a new facility to train at, the obvious things are considered: price, location, equipment, and friendliness of the owners. Being in the customer service business, gaining new clients is part of the process and is instrumental in our success.

During this process, we meet a lot of different people, some of which may not be the right fit for your facility. There may be times when you have to part ways with a client. This is part of the process to ensuring you maintain the health of your community and facility. Bottom line: you don’t need every client.

I’m going to share a personal story with you. I made a lot of mistakes when I owned my gym. One of the major mistakes was not trusting my gut instinct when it came to people. The end result, was being in a situation(s) that was not comfortable for me and made me dread coaching certain classes. All of this could have been avoided, had I been able to part ways with clients that did not align with our mission statement.

We were running an in-house partner competition one Saturday. One of the workouts called for “double unders” at the end of the workout. There wasn’t a scaling option, as the work could be split however the team chose, meaning if one person was not able to perform double unders, then the other person could carry the load. If both weren’t able to complete double unders proficiently, then they could make their best attempts. Overall, the lack of scaling wasn’t to discourage anyone; it was to encourage our athletes to make an attempt with the hopes of possibly surprising themselves, as double unders are one of those movements that are easy to not spend time on and just scale to single-unders when they pop up in a workout.

The lack of scaling options did not go over well with one particular person. Both the athlete and their partner told me how stupid they thought this was and that the competition was supposed to be “fun”. Both athletes were visibly angry so I made the call on the spot to allow for 2x the amount of single unders as a scaling option. Even this was not enough to quell the storm, and these two people were still upset. I’d venture to say there is not one coach out there does not want to see their athletes do well and would never try to discourage them, but this was how this lack of scaling option was taken.

This athlete was incredibly rude to me even though I offered my apologies. She even said to me, “sometimes common sense isn’t that common.” I was completely taken aback by that statement and was left speechless. Frankly, this person had no idea what it took to coach group fitness, run a competition or a facility, or write programming yet they were qualified to determine that by not having a scaling option they were happy with that constituted as not having any common sense.

That weekend after much thought and debate with my wife I would make the decision to NOT fire this client (my wife was 100% set on firing this person). The reason being was, I knew it would create a lot of issues with other people, resulting in many of our clients leaving our facility.

I regret not doing this because from that point forward I could not be myself around this person. I had to bite my tongue and let this client stay at our facility, only to create resentment and discomfort on my end. I also showed my community that I was cool with being a “punching bag” for my clients and they could talk to me however they chose.

What I’m getting at here, is that in any customer service business like owning a CrossFit box, not every client is going to be a great fit for your facility. Moreover, there will be times when certain clients do nothing healthy for our community and only create issues. Negativity can spread like wildfire. It’s okay to fire a client and go against the grain of thinking we need new clients to grow and survive.

One crucial aspect of owning a business is being able to be happy with your decisions and the people you surround yourself with. If you’re not happy in your workplace because of certain people then what’s the point? Keeping a few clients that make you miserable is not worth any amount of money.

Over the years of owning a CrossFit box, people come and people go. Interestingly enough you may lose clients to find out that your community is much better off just by having some clients leave. As I said before, negativity spreads fast and a weight can be lifted when this negativity hits the road. It’s not uncommon for people to need a reason to say bad things or spread their lack of satisfaction with others. Don’t give them the option to do that within your four walls.

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