Some tax tips for fitness businesses.

I just returned from a two-week vacation spent in Seattle and San Juan Island. I came back refreshed, rejuvenated and slightly obsessed with others truly taking time off. I also lived in France and the U.K. for five years and saw first-hand that CEO’s, COO’s and entrepreneurs take two to three weeks of vacations at a time without any apparent negative impact to their businesses. In fact, at one company I worked for, our CEO returned from vacation and wrapped up a number of acquisitions within just a few weeks. This is probably a record for getting terms and conditions signed and completed. In part, I attribute his calmness and negotiating ability during the entire process to his returning from a technology-free vacation just a few days prior to starting the process.

I know if you’re like any of the fitness business owners who I speak to every day, you likely saw the headline for this blog and thought one of three things:
“Well no kidding Zen Planner genius, of course I need a vacation!”
“I know I need a vacation, but I’m afraid the business I worked so hard to build will fall apart in my absence.”
“I already take all the vacation I need because my business is a finely tuned machine.”

If you had the third thought, stop reading and get on a few airline or resort sites to book your next trip. You’re clearly doing everything right and can be away from your business without things falling to pieces.

But, if you belong to one of the two groups above, keep reading.

First, let’s establish all the reasons you need a vacation if you think things are “just fine” with your working the many hours you are, then I’d ask you to consider this. According to the 2013 Sage Reinvention of Small Business Study, 43% of small business owners are taking less vacation time than five years ago. What surprises me is not the fact that entrepreneurs are taking less vacation, but that they are taking less vacation despite all the research that tells us we all desperately need a vacation. A few sobering stats:

  • According to a study from NCBI, men who don’t take vacations are 30% more likely to have heart attacks than those who do
  • The same study found that women who fail to take vacation are 50% more likely to have a heart attack and much more likely to suffer from depression
  • The U.S. Travel Association notes that family vacations in 1975 typically lasted one week. In 2010, it was 3.8 days. I haven’t seen recent stats, but if I were to guess, I’m thinking that this number is now less than 3 days.
  • Europeans, with their 20 and 30 days of paid vacation every year, live longer and spend less on health care than Americans

Clearly vacations are restorative for your mind, body and overall health. And if you’re running a fitness business, don’t you want to model the behavior you hope to see from your clients?

I say this knowing full well that many fitness business owners worry about what they’ve worked so hard to create will fall apart while they are away. So let’s talk about a few things you can do to enable you to fully take that much-needed vacation.

1. Automate follow up with potential clients or members

If your business depends on your personally following up with every prospective member or client then I’m not surprised that you’d be worried about leaving your gym or school for any period of time. It doesn’t need to be this way. You can automate a ton of processes to ensure prospects get some sort of communication from you, even if you’re out of the office. A few examples include:

  • Make sure there is an inquiry form prominently on your website (don’t force your potential clients to always call you)
  • Set up an auto-response on every inquiry form on your website. Something as simple as “Thank you for your inquiry. Someone from our gym/school will follow up with you to schedule an introductory session.”
  • Enable potential members to schedule an introductory session themselves from your website. Then include a link to scheduling from your auto-response. “Thank you for your inquiry. We’d love to offer you a complimentary introductory session. You can schedule this right away by viewing our calendar and then click on the session you’d like to join. We look forward to seeing you!”
2. Never miss a payment from a member or student

Keeping track of who owes you money, who is on a different payment plan and who gave you an invalid credit card can be a nightmare and a definite hindrance to any vacation plans. Make sure your business continues to bring in revenue, even if you’re out of town, with integrated payment processing.

  • Automated billing saves you a ton of time and makes sure that you get paid, month in and month out. Your members can even view and pay their bills online through a secure portal. And, member payments can go directly into your business bank account.
  • Even better, you can get detailed financial reporting wherever and whenever you need them.
3. Let members self-serve at your front desk

If you only have a few employees, you might be nervous about having only one coach or instructor working and leaving your front desk unattended. This is especially true if you are usually the one that keeps track of who visits your gym, if you have a ton of paperwork for new sign-ups or if you are the person who keeps track of retail purchases. With Zen Planner’s Staff App, you can:

  • Let your members quickly check-in to class
  • Easily process new member sign-ups, including collecting digital waivers, without a single piece of paper
  • Allow members to record their own retail purchases, without the time-consuming tracking required by an honor board
4. Set up automated alerts for your staff

If you want to make sure that your staff follows up in the same way that you would, make sure you set up automated alerts for items such as:

  • A new inquiry form received from your website: This way, a trusted member of your team can follow up with anyone who shows interest in joining your gym or school while you are out.
  • A failed credit card payment: This will again let a member of your staff take care of any outdated credit cards right away, without having to wait for your return.
  • Special events: If you want a staff member to know about a client’s birthday or anniversary that will happen while you’re away, set up an alert so that they know to make a special mention of it. You can also set up an auto-alert for a birthday or anniversary so an email can automatically go out to the client to make them feel special even if you’re not there.

These are just a few ideas to help you take that vacation you’ve been dreaming about. I know better than anyone how hard it can be to truly “shut down.” I was guilty of checking in halfway through my vacation to see how things were going with our latest product launch (outstanding if you’re wondering and there really was no need for me to check in). But, if you absolutely can’t leave everything behind, then make sure you have a fitness software solution that travels with you and enables you to access it from anywhere. After all, isn’t it better to check how well your fitness business is doing with a margarita in your hand?

To your success!

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