This One Hack Will Generate Early Feedback
Here’s a tech term that you can use as a principle to drive your small gym business empire ahead: In tech jargon, they call it Dogfooding. The expression, to “eat your dog food” is not a literal thing, obviously. I don’t think that trend has gotten off the ground yet thank goodness. However, if you don’t take heed and begin to practice this brand-building principle, you might literally end up sleeping in your back office.
Dogfooding applies most intensely when you’re attempting to make significant changes. For example, when you roll out changes and new services that are untested, glitches will jump up and bite you. Dogfooding allows you to generate feedback rapidly by testing your system on yourself. After all, you’re likely to be more forgiving than your membership when you catch a glitch, right?
Between The Sole Proprietors And Big Box Gyms
It’s easy to walk the walk if you’re a trainer, leading classes and approachable on the studio floor. Large corporation leaders are at a distance from the membership; they don’t have to be seen to be hardcore fanatics about the systems and services they share.
The giants of fitness have so many people and so much cash that things work a little bit differently. Corporate organizations have departments for everything. When your company becomes an institution, you probably have a knowledge base of experience that finds the answers through managerial methods, assuming that it works the way it should. In technology companies, dogfooding is a check on the other methods.
In the realm of the trainer-slash-gym owner, you are too close to the action to avoid practicing what you preach; you’re in there every day working with the customers. You have to use the resources on hand because you’re the only person who can; if you’re not there your doors are shut. When you engage directly with members you can change the policy and process on the spot, there’s no delay, and the lesson doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.
Feedback From Eating Your Own Dog Food
In between giants and sole proprietor-owned studios, there’s a danger zone. Say you operate a single gym and delegate daily operations or you have the good fortune to own multiple locations, you’re involved in day-to-day management, and members recognize you, if not by name then by face.
You can’t be there all of the time. And you certainly can’t be in two or more places at once. Members can see you and engage with you, but you have to delegate daily management tasks to a responsible team member. So you set policies and provide management resources like Insight, you put the best people in charge and you say, “call me if you need me.” They may call you or not, the worst way to discover flaws in your service is to see the membership leaving.
Keep Your Service And Policies On A Short Leash
When you dog food your product or service, it will work better than if you don’t; it helps you avoid expensive mistakes that undermine your revenue by causing cancellations or refunds. If you rush to launch your service or open a gym before you knock the kinks out
Gym Insight has always dogfooded our software. As I’ve said many times before, I initially wrote the software because the gym business I founded needed an application to manage operations, take care of customers and track payments. Since my other career was in computer sciences, I could just see the solution for the situation, and so I wrote it from scratch. Dogfooding meant that I had intimate knowledge of both industries and direct feedback from generating real customer data.
Dogfooding For The Win
There are lots of things you learn in textbooks and classrooms but you only get the deepest insights from doing the real thing. So, of course that approach has drifted into the other side of the equation; my experience architecting a gym management software suite influenced the way that I manage my fitness business too.
I know that I’ll get better results when I go through the process of using the applications to manage my gym step by step and try to experience it from my customers’ point of view. Everybody wins by using the resources of the gym and when you get involved with members. So, eating your dog food in this context is a practice in the workplace not at the dinner table, and it keeps you away from the bowl in the doghouse.
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Fagan, Lawrence. Ease Your Gym Management Burden By Learning How To Delegate. August 8, 2015. https://blog.gyminsight.com/3428-ease-your-gym-management-burden-by-learning-how-to-delegate/ (accessed April 23, 2017).
Mark, Jason. How Proper “Dogfooding” Might Have Saved Facebook Home. June 10, 2013. https://www.fastcompany.com/3012670/how-proper-dogfooding-might-have-saved-facebook-home (accessed April 23, 2017).
Urban Dictionary. Dogfooding Definition. April 14, 2005. http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=dogfooding%20%28to%20dogfood%29 (accessed April 23, 2017).