What Gymnastics is Teaching Me about Business.

My youngest daughter is a gymnast. I won’t get into the details of the US Junior Olympic program, coach drama or the intensity of this sport – but I could do a long blog on all that! We are now at our 4th gym and I have seen a common thread within the business end of gymnastics. This may not be true everywhere, but I am comfortable saying it anyway – gymnastics coaches don’t make the best business people.

There, I said it and I sincerely apologize to those gym owners who run their business very well. Really, I’m sorry – but I would love to meet you sometime. Perhaps you could open a gym here in Massachusetts.

So, what is my point? Well, the gyms in question here do not understand their relationship with the customer. They sometimes act like they are doing us a favor by charging us enormous amounts of money to ruin our daughters’ joints, make them cry regulary and cause immense stress in our family life. They just don’t seem to get it.

I’m not sure they are that different than other smaller (maybe even not so small) businesses/companies that are out there. While working with a client recently, I helped the owner deal with a customer complaint. I was very apologetic on behalf of the company and we quickly made arrangements to fix the problem and get product to her that met her needs. She sent a glowing email, letting us know how impressed she was with the response and how she looked forward to doing more business with the company. Success, right? The owner’s private note to me was simply – “Drama Queen!”

This was a disappointing assessment of such a positive event. We had just turned a negative into a positive – the best thing we could hope for with a customer service issue. It reminded me of my recent discussion with the owner of my daughter’s current gym. When I tried to express my concern over our favorite coaches leaving and my feeling that the coaches who were left might not be the most effective – the reply was (and I quote here) “Feel free to look around at other gyms”. Man – this was before I even got past my initial comment. I was not even in full gripe mode yet – really! This is an interesting business model: customer complains – screw them.

Well, at least I believe in Darwin and figure that those who don’t have what it takes, will eventually die out. In the mean time, we will probably be looking at gyms when the competition season ends and my client may just get a few more orders from the Drama Queen.


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