How I Solved My Own Staffing Problems At My New Fitness Studio
When I opened a yoga, fitness and dance studio in 2010 I was embarking on a journey very new to my family and me. Prior to opening our new studio, I had been a software engineer for over 16 years, a husband and a father of 3 boys. As you can imagine, my wife and I were very busy — on top of being an awesome mother to our boys, she owns and operates a busy local restaurant.
I always knew that I wanted to open a small business close to our home — something that would help contribute to the overall wellbeing of our community. After living in our area for several years, we realized that there was a need for an awesome local dance/fitness studio. We had lamented the fact that there was nowhere in Menlo Park to take good fitness and yoga classes. We also noticed that the dance studios where our boys were taking classes were packed with kids. We have both been active and into athletics our whole lives, and as parents, that segment of our lives had definitely been neglected for years! So, looking back, I guess opening a yoga, fitness and dance studio was a pretty natural thing to do.
Getting the business systems setup, finding a space to rent and getting ready to open was time consuming but all fairly straightforward. I called a contractor to help with the interior build out. They took care of the details. I opened bank accounts. I signed up for MindbodyOnline to handle reservations and payments. Making a schedule of classes was actually pretty difficult because it meant taking into account the demographics in the neighborhood and neighboring cities, figuring out what types of classes were appropriate at which time of day. The initial goal was to offer youth classes, mostly dance, in the afternoons, so factoring in the times that schools let out was important. But in the end, it was all set in place. This was all in motion leading up to an opening date.
Staffing for a new fitness, yoga and dance business
Staffing (hiring professionals who were going to instruct my classes, not to mention represent my business to the public) was something of an unknown. After doing some research online, Craigslist quickly became my go-to resource for posting job ads to find teachers. Being a new business, I had a budget for marketing and advertising, which helped cover the cost of the $75 each job post cost with Craigslist. Everyone knows Craigslist — you write up a job title and description, pay $75 and submit. The job loads into the “fitness/spa/salon” category search results and you wait. At some point for most Craigslist posts, just like anyone else who posts on Craigslist, I received emails from people interested in my open positions. Sometimes I would get an email with a nice paragraph about the person, along with their name, email, phone number and resume attached. Sometimes, I would receive a quick request to be hired, with a name and nothing else. The rest of the responses I saw fell somewhere in between those two extremes.
When I did receive enough information about a person applying, my next step was to google their name and hopefully find out more about their background, where else they teach, how long they’ve been teaching, etc. After several email and phone call chains, followed by onsite interviews, ultimately, I was able to hire enough professionals to fill my staff sufficiently to run thebusiness.
A big part of running a business that relies on independent contractors for its staff is the maintaining and building of professional connections. I found out very quickly that my day-to-day staffing needs relied heavily on my ability to search my rolodex in an efficient manner for not only “great instructors”, but “great instructors” that could teach the types of yoga/fitness that we were filling classes for. (I don’t actually have a rolodex, as I’m sure you may have surmised, but instead have several email lists that I am constantly curating.)
Basically, this is how my current “networking” efforts have gone:
- Post to Craigslist
- Email/phone back and forth
- Invite potential instructor for an onsite chat
- HIRE them for a class
- After hearing feedback from those who participated in the class, add the instructor to my list.
- Repeat steps 1–5 next time an instructor bails on a class (which happens more often than you’d think)
After going through this process more times than I can count, I started to think that there had to be a better way. After doing a bunch of research, and interviewing a bunch of my instructors and many similar businesses, I came to realize that there wasn’t anything available that suited my needs. As it turns out, the fitness/yoga industry is very word-of-mouth driven when it comes to staffing. Most other studios and gyms follow the same pattern of Craigslist and email lists to fulfill their staffing needs.
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been a Software Engineer for years, for startups all over the Silicon Valley. After experiencing the above issues for months in my own business, I decided that enough was enough! I hooked back up with a buddy of mine that I’d worked with for years on other projects and we built namafit.com.
Namafit is a platform that completely solves my fitness instructor staffing problems. I’m able to quickly post opportunities, which are then automatically broadcast to all of Namafit’s extensive database of instructors. Instructors have the ability to create their own profile, which includes information such as their qualifications, styles/levels they teach, and even their resumé. We have been hard at work building a product that will replace the dreaded email list, and will give businesses such as myself a tool to find quality instructors quickly. And it’s a tool to for fitness instructors and trainers to find more work, and more importantly, have more work find them.