By Sean Gagnon, Special AFS Contributor

Congratulations! You’ve opened your business and now you’re the owner! You are the master of your destiny and your entrepreneurial dream has come true! Now it’s time to get to work.

When you’re just starting out you typically don’t have a very big team and you're often forced to do everything yourself. That’s ok - it's part of the journey. But understand, what you really have is a JOB! In order to grow to the next level you are going to have to grow a team and to do that you have to become a LEADER! 

I’ve been an entrepreneur for over 20 years and as I look back on my career I see that I have spent the majority of my time growing my technical skills - sales, logistics, finance etc. Where I did not put in enough time is in my study of leadership. The issue with that is that even as my team grew I didn’t effectively know how to lead them. The result was that I had a hard time letting go of the tasks I hired them to take off my plate and I fell victim to the death blow of any leader - micro-management!

By nature entrepreneurs are ‘doers’ so we want to control all areas of our business. We often want to make sure that things are being done the way we would do them. I may be further down the road than some of you reading this article so let me give you a 20-year education in one sentence. The magic happens when you learn to let go and allow your team to do the work you have hired them to do. This is when you move from OWNER to LEADER. Your work changes and it boils down to the 2 key tasks that every epic business leader eventually must master. Here they are.


All great companies are defined by their WHY. The primary reason they do what they do. The most successful leaders know that in order to achieve long-term success you have to have customers and team members that are aligned with your why. This creates loyalty and loyalty leads to success. Leaders have to fully embody the vision and become an evangelist for the message. It’s not enough to just speak the WHY - leaders must be the WHY!

Generally, in our industry, the WHY involves some form of changing lives through fitness. However, the message of most facilities is more about WHAT they do - cycling, group training, yoga etc. Those are commodities and members have many options. However, if you lead with messaging around changing and improving the member’s life they will be more likely to buy in. Isn’t that really why they came to you in the first place? Isn’t that why most of your team members got into the field as well?

The next time a prospective team member or client walks in don’t say - “Here at XYZ Studio we specialize in group cycling. We have convenient classes throughout the day and state of the art equipment. Let me show you around.” Try “Here at XYZ Studio we believe that FITNESS CHANGES LIVES. We provide a supportive and welcoming atmosphere as well as all of the tools one needs to become healthier, and more energetic. Let me show you around”. See the difference! Whatever your VISION - make sure it permeates all aspects of your business and you’ll attract the right people.



Once the vision has been set the next job of the leader is to build the team to accomplish it.  You cannot go it alone. The great news is that as you become the living breathing embodiment of your vision, you will attract people who share it! Those who don’t share it will quickly fall off and ultimately it’s your job to to make sure that they do. As the leader, you are the ultimate protector of the vision and all actions and team members within the organization must be in support of it.

Before you begin to build out your team it's very important that you set very clear expectations of what each position is responsible for and how their success will be measured. To often leaders allow ambiguity in this area and this causes uncertainty amongst the team. Team members can honestly feel they are doing a good job - and they may be. However, if you are not aligned on the definition of what a good job is for their position how can anyone be sure?

I’ve learned that it’s best to have 3 key areas/duties that each person is responsible for in their position. More than this is hard to effectively execute. Once you’ve identified these 3 areas, you then define the metrics by which they will be measured. In a fitness studio, for example, the areas may be a number of sessions performed each week, client renewal rates, and referrals. A trainer or instructor doing a good job should be able to meet reasonable expectations in all of these areas which will keep them productive and your business growing. When these things   are true, odds are that the members are most likely becoming healthier which generally aligns in some fashion to the WHY of the business! If so, they will become your evangelists as well and bring even more people into the fold!

The opportunity to become and entrepreneur is a gift. You have the ability to change your life and the lives of your family, your team and your customers. As you go through your journey remember that there is a difference between doing the JOB and doing the WORK. The job is the day to day - we all start here. However, as you grow as a leader you are free to do the WORK and the work is where the treasure lies! It’s a long journey - one that you will be on your entire career. Leadership is tough - but its worth it!


Sean Gagnon is the founder and president of The Abs Company. He received his master’s degree in clinical physiology from the University of Florida.  For over 10 years his company has been focused on core-based functional training products for the commercial and consumer fitness markets. The Abs Company products can be found in over 10,000 facilities and millions of homes in over 40 countries worldwide. The company mission is "We Change Lives from the Core”. Sean and his team are proud to do just that every day!

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