FBA 24: Hire Slow, Fire Fast. Top 5 hiring tips for fitness businesses

In episode 24, Jack talks about the hiring process for your fitness business’s staff.

You may have heard ‘hire slow, fire fast’, but what does that mean? Jack goes through this, as well as some there crucial recruitment tips that will help you find the staff that are the right fit for your business.

In today’s episode:

  1. Hire slow
  2. Fire fast
  3. Ask yourself ‘are they a good fit’, not ‘are they good or bad employees’
  4. Recruit in line with your values
  5. Set expectations
  6. Reframe the interview process
  7. Why getting this right will help you attract high-quality staff



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EPISODE https://fitnessbusinessasia.com/recruitment-hire-slow-fire-fast



Welcome to the Fitness Business Asia Podcast – my name is Jack Thomas and I’m the host of the show

The Fitness Business Asia podcast does not have any ads and is of course a completely free resource. We want to raise the standards of the fitness industry in Asia and provide one one of the very best resources of fitness industry info in the region – if you could help us do this we would greatly appreciate it.

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Also, before we crack on – I’m going to start a new segment on the podcast which will be a live streamed Q&A that will also be posted on the podcast. It’s a chance to answer some of the questions I’ve been sent on the podcast so that others can hear my thoughts. I’ll answer around 5-6 questions on each episode so if you have a question on anything fitness business or just business related then please send through your questions on Instagram or by email – the links to those are in the shownotes of this episode.

OK – so onto today’s episode which is 6 tips for hiring staff. These are short tips – or you could say principles – of recruitment that took me a while to learn and to start implementing effectively but serve us well now at BASE. There is also a bonus tip at the end that I’ve added in which may help you reframe the the recruitment process more positively…

As I always say – this isn’t a guide to fix and sort out your recruitment process in 10 minutes but it should give you some solid ideas on what you need to work on. If you can pick just one thing from this podcast to delve into and develop, then this will be 10 minutes well spent.

OK, so recruitment tip no.1 is… hire slow.

Take your time with the recruitment process. We have multiple meetings and a trial training session with new coaches and other staff at least 2 meetings, often with different staff.

I would suggest that you at least have an initial meeting to scope them out, let your thoughts on that settle and then meet up again. This gives you a good chance to reflect on what’s been said and if they will be a good fit with your company. If it’s a coach or instructor, you absolutely must see them in action so have them do a class or session to give you an idea of how they coach and if they will be a good fit.

As a bonus tip on this process, I’ll always give some constructive feedback on how they can improve and how they respond to this is absolutely critical. In the past, I have not hired a coach because although overall things looked good, when I gave some constructive feedback, which was very diplomatically phrased, they became very defensive and emotional. This instantly told me that they wouldn’t be a good fit for our company and swayed the recruiting decision against them.

In summary, make your recruitment process as robust as you can and not only will you have a good idea of what you’re getting into, if you have high quality staff coming in then they will really respect this process and what is says about your business

That brings me to tip 2… fire fast

You will not always get it right. No matter how robust and comprehensive your process is, you will not always recruit the right people for your business. Sometimes they may be very good at hiding things in interviews, or perhaps you decided to give them a bit of a chance and took a risk. Maybe you wanted to see something in them so badly that you overlooked some of their qualities that made them the wrong fit for you.

I believe that even the worst hires should shine in the first few weeks or months. If they are showing early warning signs and red flags from the very beginning, there’s a very low chance that things will improve. In the case that this happens, I have one very frank and direct discussion on what we need to see at our company and the issues at hand. I would explain why these things are so important to us and would like to see their agreement on the importance of the things that have concerned us. Hopefully, after this initial meeting you can make your standards clear and you can both move forwards together positively. If, after a clear and positive early discussion you don’t see improvements, you should almost certainly end things there, for everyone’s sake.

Tip 3 – Ask yourself the question, ‘are they a good fit’, rather than ‘are they good or bad employees, or people’.

I don’t believe that there are bad and good employees and employers, there are only good and bad fits between the two. If someone doesn’t work out for us, then it’s simply not a good fit, and that’s often not necessarily anyone’s fault, it’s just the way it is.

This may seem idealistic and a bit fluffy, but it’s absolutely true. Let’s take an example – at BASE, punctuality is extremely important to us. We need to see coaches and staff arrive early, pumped and ready to deliver a great session. If a member of staff is really struggling with this and after repeated discussions just cannot get it, then his or her approach to punctuality is simply not a good fit with ours.

A work environment that isn’t so insistent and hot on being early or prepared would be a better fit for this employee, and there are plenty of workplaces and professions where this will be the case. Some people I’m sure will think we go too far with this and that’s fine – again, simply not a good fit, and the team we have now are on the same page and get it and our business runs well due to it.

This leads me to tip no.4 which is…

Tip 4 – Recruit in line with your values

Now, you hear a lot about mission, vision and values and for good reason. You need to know what you, your team and your company stand for as this guides you in the decisions you make, and that certainly includes your HR decisions.

I’ve been asked what I would do differently if I could go back to the start of our company, and one thing I would say is establishing our values a little earlier. After about a year of operation we had a process of getting our values down which involved the whole team and it really was a pivotal moment for the company.

Giving reasons for things became much easier, as we could clearly define if it was in line with our values, or not. This couldn’t be more true than for our hiring and staffing decisions.

Now many companies, and I think this was us to a certain extent, will naturally live by certain values without even knowing it but getting these things down is important.

Once you get these values down, it becomes easier to recruit based on them.

Let’s give a practical example so it makes more sense.

One of our values at BASE is that we are centers of positivity and we work to create an environment for everyone in the company – both staff and clients – that’s free of drama and negativity.

Based on the conversations we have with potential staff we can often see if this is something that’s important to them. You can ask questions about how their last workplace was, how they deal with difficult clients or how they would resolve conflict with another member of staff or a client.

During the recruitment process, some applicants make it blindingly obvious what their values are and this makes it very easy to see if they’re a good fit with yours. They’re basically very open and honest and if this is the case, it makes it easy to see if they will slot in well and be a strong part of your team or not. Sometimes this makes it easy to recruit, sometimes it makes it an easy decision not to recruit.

Other applicants on the other hand may be very good at hiding certain traits they have, knowing that it might not be a good fit for your company. They’ll basically say whatever needs to be said to get the jo. Some may not even know how they are – they might really believe they are positive, open and hard working – but your standards and interpretation of these things might be different to theirs.

Two things you can do to handle this – one is to ask lots of open questions and let them talk as much as possible. Don’t say much, just ask questions to dig deeper into their thoughts on things. If they start saying something that’s a potential red flag then just nod and smile and encourage them to talk more about it.

The second thing is to use the probation – in Thailand that’s up to 4 months – to see if what they’ve shown you during the interview process is consistent with how they are day-to-day long-term. If It is, then great, you’ve made a good hire and you can move forwards towards a permanent role. If it’s not consistent, then go to tip 2, fire fast.Tip no. 5 is set expectations earl

This is a big one for me, not just in recruitment but in management and life. Early on in the recruitment process you need to let your new staff know exactly what is expected of them in this role. You cannot be clear enough on this and there are many reasons for this

Firstly, if you don’t let them know what’s expected then it’s not really giving them a fair chance to do fulfill the duties of the position well

Also, once this is done, it makes conversations about things not being done as you expect them, much easier

Again, let’s take an example to clarify: let’s say you run a yoga studio and you tell your new instructor to come early to each class to prepare. They start the role full of energy and come to the studio 30 minutes early, get the room, the music and everything set up and chat to clients. After a week it becomes 20 minutes early but you think, it’s all good, it’s still enough time. That becomes 15 minutes and you’re still ok with this. Then a week later it’s 10 minutes and hurrying through the class set up. You then pull them aside and say that’s not how you want it done, they then go back to 30 minutes which you’re really happy about but then it becomes 20 minutes.. and the cycle just keeps repeating itself.

I’ve spoken to many studio owners and this kind of thing is a common problem. What it needs is a clear, objective expectation that’s communicated properly, such as you must be at the studio 20 minutes before the start time of the class.

Let’s say in the second week they arrive 18 minutes before the class, you can pull them aside and remind them that they must arrive 20 minutes before, explain why this is important to the class experience and get their agreement. This nips it in the bud early and sets the expectation. It’s hard to let this slip as it’s so clear.

If this is done right, you start to create a culture whereby everyone knows and feels that coming in 15 minutes before the class is not OK, not by the company’s standards and hopefully by now, if you’ve set the expectations in the right way, not by their standards either.

This is just one example, you should set clear expectations like this across all aspects of the role and company. Repeat this process until it becomes an innate part of the DNA of your company.

Bonus tip – OK, I said I’d have a bonus tip for you and here it is: Remember that this process is also them interviewing you, to see if your company is a good fit for them. This is certainly true of the very best staff.

If you don’t have much in place for recruitment, good quality staff will actually be turned off by you not investing much into the process and decision, it will be a red flag for them, the applicant

Reframe the interview process as ‘getting to know whether you’re a good fit for each other’, rather than whether you ‘accept’ them to be part of your company.

That’s it for today folks, but before we go l’ll summarize the tips we’ve gone through today on recruitment.

Thanks, as always, for listening. Remember, if you have any questions please let me know for our new Q&A podcast format.

I’ll be at the FIT Summit next week in Singapore. I’ll be speaking but also hanging out and meeting people so please reach out if you’ll be there.

For now, have a great week wherever you are – don’t forget to tell a friend or colleague about the podcast in the meantime – and I’ll catch you soon

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