Managing Employees is a Balancing Act for Gymtowne Gymnastics

by Rachel Euretig on October 18, 2010
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Since Bill and Doris Strom first opened the doors to Gymtowne Gymnastics 18 years ago, the center has become somewhat of a hub for the children in the coastal community of Half Moon Bay, California. But it hasn’t always been that way.

A couple of us from Intuit had a chance to meet Bill and Doris and to speak with them about their business and the key factors that have helped make Gymtowne a success. One theme that kept coming up was employees: the rewards of hiring great ones and the challenges of dealing with the less-than-great ones.

The Ups

Bill and Doris learned early on the importance of finding great staff members, and doing everything they can to keep them. They found that employee consistency is the number one quality for a good class experience for the kids.

To attract and retain good employees, the Stroms primarily focus on two things. First, they offer very competitive pay – essentially they pay as much as they can afford to entice prospective employees to join and to deter current ones from going elsewhere. Second, they try to foster a positive, inclusive work environment. Bill and Doris make a point not to micromanage employees, and ask for their input when making decisions about the business.

For the most part, this approach has worked well over the years. In fact, one employee took his loyalty to Gymtowne so far as to provide a personal loan to the business to save it from going out of business in the early years of operation. Bill and Doris repaid the employee as soon as possible, with generous interest.

The Downs

When asked what the number one business problem that keeps them up at night is, Bill and Doris agreed that it’s dealing with negative personnel issues. Specifically, having to let key employees go is the toughest decision they say they have to make.

Deciding whether to let an employee go isn’t always as easy as black and white. Some employees may be an integral part of the program and great with the kids, but are disruptive to others and not a team player with the other staff members. Others may be the opposite — great with the Stroms but bad with the customers. Either way, fit can be a concern. And then there’s the looming issue of what letting an employee go would do to their livelihood.

Another factor that can affect staffing is the economy. During the dot-com boom in the 1990s, it was a challenge to find quality employees because the job market in the Bay Area was highly competitive. People who may have previously been interested in working at Gymtowne could easily find a job at a start-up that paid more than Gymtowne could afford.

Finding the Right Balance

With years of work under their belts, Bill and Doris say they have been able to find the right balance when it comes to employees, while continuing to be involved in day-to-day operations themselves. Gymtowne currently has 47 staff members across its two locations in Moss Beach and South San Francisco. Naturally, they all love working there.

Read on for more stories from our business visits in Half Moon Bay.

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