• A gymnast learning skills on the beam with her coach and tips on running a smooth kids gymnastics business

Stop Fighting Fires: Smoothing Operations at Your Kids Gymnastics Center

Operations are the daily experience of delivering services to your students and managing your gym. Smooth day-to-day operations require planning. To make things simple, we’ve organized our checklists of issues and policies you need to address by general operational area. 

Before we dig into the checklists, one critical point that applies across all operations must be discussed: accountability.

All the policies and manuals in the world won’t help your gymnastics center’s operations if there’s no accountability behind them. The starting point for creating a culture of responsibility is to document and continually communicate expectations. You can’t expect staff to comply with operational policies if they don’t know what they are.

Within that documentation, you need to outline – with specifics – who is responsible for which tasks. Responsibilities are typically allocated by role. For example, it may be the class teacher’s role to ensure that all students have checked-in, while it’s the office manager’s role to follow up with parents of a student who habitually misses class. Confer with the right people on your “board” for best practices on how to allocate different responsibilities.

You’ve laid the groundwork for accountability by documenting policies, expectations, and allocating responsibilities. The hard part of accountability is handling the situation when those policies and expectations aren’t met. Guess what – consequences also need to part of your operational policy documentation. Putting together policies regarding consequences and remediation for staff is part of human resources, which we detail in a separate post.

Alright, onto the checklists!

Facilities management

Facilities management covers anything touching on the physical location and setup of your gymnastics studio. Document your policies regarding:

  • Utilities maintenance – who’s responsible for keeping the lights on, the HVAC working, and the Internet connected?
  • Housekeeping – schedules and standards for keeping all areas of the facilities clean and well-stocked
  • Equipment safety – inspection criteria and schedules; standards and timelines regarding when equipment needs to be replaced; what safety standards new equipment must meet to be purchased, who makes sure equipment gets repaired, where are the warranties kept, who are your approved vendors and where is their contact information
  • Open and closing procedures – tasks that must be done each day by whoever is scheduled to be the first to arrive or the last to leave 

Back-office management 

Back-office operations are all the business tasks that every business has to manage such as finance, legal, and technology. Back-office operations are not about strategic planning or resolving big picture issues, such as the scope of insurance coverage. Operations are how you execute on the business decisions and strategies you’ve already outlined.

How you deliver services (e.g., enroll students, schedule classes) and provide customer service are so important, they get their own collection of procedures.

  • Accounts payable – how are the gym’s bills getting paid; how is that managed to protect cash flow?
  • Accounts receivable – equally as important, how is the gym getting paid; what is the standard billing cycle? How do you follow up on aged accounts? Outline the criteria and actions to take on seriously delinquent accounts.
  • Vendor management – procedures and criteria for vetting vendors before contracting with them; vendor contract requirements and prohibitions
  • Purchasing – who can buy what; what’s acceptable use of petty cash; at what level of expense is your (or your business manager’s) approval needed
  • Systems management – no successful business runs without a network of software solutions supporting them. You need to outline who’s responsible for systems maintenance; standards and procedures for installing new software; emergency procedures in case the network temporarily goes down
  • Inventory management – if you sell goods (e.g. sports drinks, water, logo uniforms, hand grips, other merchandise, etc.), who has authority to purchase inventory; selection standards for inventory; physical and financial management of inventory
  • Recordkeeping – setting up an organizational system for easy retrieval; policies regarding hardcopy and electronic storage; schedule for document destruction; list of required documentation and procedures for ensuring it’s maintained; change management policies 

Services (class) management 

This checklist is all about how you deliver your services – your classes.

  • Scheduling and staffing classes – who does it; class size and eligibility criteria; policies regarding the number of classes that can run concurrently
  • Student registration – procedure and methods to register a student with the gym
  • Class enrollment – procedure and methods to enroll; when does enrollment for a class open and close; when/how are transfers or withdrawals allowed
  • Class curriculum – who/how is it developed both at a high level and for individual sessions (lesson plans)
  • Canceled classes – policies regarding criteria and timeline for canceling a class series and a particular session; communication policies; refund or credit policies
  • Attendance – what are your attendance requirements; what are the consequences for high absence rate, refund policies related to absences (e.g. injury, illness, travel, etc.)
  • Class session management – what tasks must the coach or teacher go through before and after each session, such as equipment check, attendance-taking
  • Class and equipment use safety standards – student-to-adult ratio; criteria determining what equipment each student can use on their own with an approved spotter or under direct supervision of a teacher
  • First Aid and emergency procedures – who is qualified to handle first-aid level emergencies and what are the steps; who is qualified to handle immediate response for more serious emergencies; how/when are emergency services called; how/when are parents contacted; how to manage other students onsite when there’s been a major injury; emergency evacuation procedures 

Customer management

Every gymnastics center has two types of customers: the students and their parents.

  • Orientation – content and process for providing new parent and new student orientation; criteria if further orientation required when students move to a new program
  • Class and studio behavior expectations – these are two different policies for students and families, but details appropriate and inappropriate behavior for both groups, e.g., arriving on time and where parents are allowed while waiting or watching their kids during class
  • Pre-attendance requirements – what documentation and payments are required before a student can attend a given class; how are these communicated to and collected from parents
  • Parent concerns and complaints – what types of complaints are addressed by which roles; how are common complaints handled; what behavioral and customer service standards must staff follow
  • Disruptive students – policies for managing disruptive students during class; standards and policies for addressing chronically disruptive students; when/how are parents contacted; criteria and process for removing a student from class or expelling a student from the gym; what modes of discipline are acceptable and for what level of infraction
  • Customer happiness – what procedures and policies are in place to pro-actively ensure customer happiness, such as parent conferences and student assessments

Nothing else matters if you don’t get operations right

You need to create your policies and manuals, which outline processes and requirements for these functions. And while they may feel tedious to put together and maintain, without them it’s easier for your business to descend into chaos.

The upfront thinking and work you put into creating all your policies and procedures is critical to you and your team providing a consistent level of quality. It also helps you ensure you’ve got what you need in place to deliver those services superbly well.

There are a host of strategic issues, such as marketing and risk management, that as gym owner you need to address to run a successful gymnastics center. But it’s a smooth-running operation that keeps your business thriving and growing.

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About the Author:

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After studying graphic design at the University of Georgia, Jill held several positions in media and marketing including Art Director, Editor and Marketing Director. As a student of dance, she has spent plenty of time in children’s activity centers and puts that experience to work for her in the work she does with Jackrabbit. In addition to her interest in dance, Jill also enjoys sports, gourmet cooking, entertaining, singing and spoiling her five grandchildren.

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