Baseball, Playing the Percentages

by Sean Kirby, National Sales Director
ASF International

I’m listening to the Rockies opening day game in Colorado and instead of a baseball game it’s a “walk-a-thon.” Okay, I’m not enjoying the game, but it triggered this thought.  They say that baseball is a “thinking man’s” game, meaning that you’re always trying to think one step ahead, based on the statistical trends of the past.  If you think about it, this is exactly the same way we should be managing our gyms.  I’ll expand on my thought.

Baseball coaches are constantly quizzing their fielders about situations.  Situational awareness is a trait valued on a personal level as well as your gym collectively. What will you do if the ball is hit to right field; or a long fly or soft grounder; with a runner on first and third or second base only? This may seem intuitive but keep in mind there are a finite number of actions for each scenario, each with a statistical probability for success.  We want to be committed to the action that will produce success more often than not because we need to set ourselves up for success in the next situation.  We are not thinking of what happens if the runner is slow, trips or the fielder drops the ball.   Only what we have control over.

Baseball is a statistician’s dream!   There are more statistics in baseball than any other sport and those statistics play a huge role in managing and playing the game.  Let’s take another example, the home team is down one run in the bottom of the ninth inning and they send up their best left-handed pinch hitter?  Why, because the visiting team in the lead has a right-handed pitcher who gives up a .325 batting average to left-handed hitters.  This means the left-handed hitter will have an easier time seeing the pitch and a better chance to hit it.  (Lefty on Righty)  

What does the visiting team do?  They call the bullpen for a relief pitcher, a lefty, who’s only giving up a .128 batting average against left-handed hitters.  Advantage visiting team! 

However, the pinch hitter for the home team has an overall hitting average of .275 (.320 as a pinch hitter, and .290 against lefties).  He’s actually worse against right-handed pitchers.  Advantage home team!  It goes on and on how baseball teams manage by the numbers.  

The reason I bring this up is when I speak with owners about their gyms, I often run into the question, “What do we do when this happens?” 

This” is the proverbial issue that comes up and the owner wants to know how to deal with it.  My first question about “this” is, “How often does this happen?”

The response is usually, “A lot!”  My next question is, “What is a lot?”     That’s the starting point.  What is a lot?  To some, it’s a couple of times.  Others say it’s several times.  Still others will answer, “More than 100 times.”  Do you see where I’m going with this?  They have no statistical information about “this.”  How can we manage our gyms without understanding the statistical trends of our past?  Making decisions without knowing the numbers used to be referred to as WAG ‘ing.

“Wild A_ _ Guessing.” 

Reviewing six month trend reports can bring an enormous amount of insight to managing the future of your company.  Are you tracking your attrition, comparing New Sales and the monthly payments associated with those memberships, to accounts lost through Cancellations, Non Renewals, and Returns, including the monthly payments associated with those memberships?  Are you tracking your cancellation reasons?  What percentage of the reasons for cancellation can you prevent or are beyond your control? 

Are you managing your team to prevent the cancellations you have some control over?  I’m not talking about trying to save the sale as a member requests to cancel their account.  They’ve already got one foot out the door.  I’m talking about the reasons that you and your team can prevent by proactively managing your business based on the reasons people have been leaving in the past.  This statistical approach can be taken in any aspect of your gym including marketing, closing percentages, and collection trends.  But before you begin tracking any statistical number, ask yourself, “What is my goal? “  “What am I going to use this information for?”   There has to be an end result for using statistical information.  Every number in baseball has a reason.  It’s never a “nice to know” situation.  These are necessary numbers that need to be known for future decisions.

By statistically knowing your history, you can make educated decisions about the future of your gym and the success of your business.

If you would like to receive a .pdf version of this blog post, please contact ggfacoord@gmail.com.

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About GGFA

The Gold's Gym Franchisee Association is the independent voice of the Gold's Gym franchisees.
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