Top 10 Business Books for Personal Trainers

I’ve spent over the past ten years making business a specialty of mine. I started learning as much as I could on the topic because I recognized the lack of understanding in the personal training and fitness industry. The books I’m listing are just a few of the over 100 books that I’ve read on business. They are ones that I think could have the greatest impact on growing a personal trainer’s business. I’ve given just a short description of each. Click the photo to get more details. So… here we go… (in no particular order):

(1) E-Myth Mastery by Michael E. Gerber

One of my favorites for anyone contemplating leaving their current job to go off and start their own business. The myth is that you can go off and do what you love to do, forgetting, of course, that you also have to spend time on the business itself and not just delivering the product or service. A must read.

(2) Start With Why by Simon Sinek

As Sinek states, we all pretty much know what we do, probably how to do it, but often don’t think about why we do it. The “why” is the driving force behind what we do. It’s the, “I want to help people become healthier and lead more fulfilling lives.” that is at the heart of personal training.

 

(3) To Sell is Human by Daniel H. Pink

This is a great book on how we are already salespeople and how sales (fitness, personal training, or other) can be a natural, comfortable act that leaves both parties happy and excited to work together.

 

(4) The Experience Economy by Pine and Gilmore

When a product or service is rote, predicable, run-of-the-mill, it’s lowest price wins. However, the consumer is happy to pay more and more often when it comes to buying an experience. This is a book that will open your eyes as to how you can turn the mundane into an experience.

 

(5) Shark Tank: Jump Start Your Business by Michael Parrish DuDell

I know… this one sounds hokey, but it is, in fact, a really good book that covers most aspects of starting and building your business.

 

 (6) Selling the Invisible by Harry Beckwith

This is one of the first books that I read that focused on selling services (vs merchandise). The idea of selling something that is intangible, such as the future benefits of health and fitness programs, can take a different technique and this book offers a great prospective on it.

 

(7) Crushing It! by Gary Vaynerchuk

No recommended business reading list would be complete without at least one Gary Vee book on it. This one, his latest at the time of this writing, tells the stories of entrepreneurs that have overcome obstacles and attained success through passion and perseverance.

 

(8) The Power of Cult Branding by Ragas and Bueno

Ever wonder how CrossFit, Tough Mudder, and even Zumba got their kool-aid drinking followers. Ever wonder how you might create that same kind of following? This book gives some great insights into creating a “cult” brand.


(9) The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle

Once again, I thought the discussion of culture should be addressed. This is another good look at the importance of culture and particularly when looking at building your company. The belief system of the whole and how to work toward a unified vision.


(10) The New Rules of Sales and Service by David Meerman Scott

This is a good look at marketing and sales in an age where you have to first engage and build a relationship before trying to acquire your target audience as a customer.


(11 bonus, there are too many good ones for just 10) The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman

This is another really good book on overall business principles. Kaufman’s premise, is that, unless you want to work for some big company, you don’t need to spend your money on an MBA. Save your money and learn the skills that will lead you to success.

This should at least get you started in your business education. It is, just like the exercise science, an area that demands ongoing learning to reach and stay on top of your game. I hope you enjoy and learn from them.

P.S.

(12 double bonus) The Business of Personal Training With Web Resource by… well, me. I know this seems a little self-serving, but I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention that this is the culmination of all of my study and experience.

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Should You Offer a Free Consultation?

Some clubs give free workouts with a personal trainer. I’ve seen as many as 8 sessions given away to new club members. Of course, the idea behind that is that the client will see the value and continue to train beyond that. I also see clubs and personal trainers that don’t believe in giving away anything for fear that it devalues the training. I have to admit that I fall into that category.

We, at Jiva Fitness, don’t discount anything. I do believe that it does, indeed, devalue the product. However, we do give free, 30 minute consultations. I know that seems counter to what I just said and I know that many fitness professionals will be quick to disagree with that policy, but let me explain.

People that are not fitness enthusiasts (and let’s face it, that most people) can be unsure about signing up for a gym, let alone personal training. The idea of paying a lot of money (the common perception) for a membership or training can be daunting. This is a barrier to entry, a barrier to signing up and getting started. The idea behind offering a free consultation is to remove that barrier. We want to allow them to feel that they can come in, sit down with a qualified professional, be heard and have their questions answered.

Our consultations consist of going through their medical health history, lifestyle questionnaire, and goal clarification and setting. Then, after gathering all of that information, we can make an informed recommendation as to what their next, best course of action should be. Maybe that’s one of our programs, maybe it’s not. Who knows going into this if we are the right fit for their needs?

Now, some may say that if you answer their questions they may just take that advice and go do it on their own. That’s possible, but not common. Usually, when you take that time and they feel that you have really listened to them, they feel special and that the recommendation that you make is made just for them. However, even if they don’t sign up with you, you have given them a great experience and they will tell others about it. (It’s still a win.)

Consider the free consultation and whether it may be right for you. If you are not getting enough new potential clients through your doors, it might be they are feeling that barrier to entry and a free consultation is one way to lower it.

How Plateaus Happen in Business

We often talk about training plateaus, but plateaus can also happen in your business. Imagine your business growing steadily and then, all of a sudden, your growth stops. The number of clients or members that you have levels off and you’re left wondering, “What just happened.”

Sometimes these plateaus happen because you got comfortable with the amount of clients or members that you have and stopped actively seeking more. Maybe you decided to spend less money on marketing, or you went to fewer networking opportunities, or stopped asking for referrals. Those things that you did so diligently when you were trying to build your business have fallen by the wayside and… so has the growth of your business.

plateauOther times, you have continued marketing as you have always done and that’s the reason that business has slowed. If the public sees the same ad, picture, sign, or campaign, they can become blind to your marketing efforts. You can think of it as becoming desensitized to what your marketing is saying because they’ve seen it so many times before.

One more reason that you may have hit a plateau, is that something has changed in the market that you may not have noticed. This could be an economic downturn, seasonal change (this often catches new businesses by surprise), or maybe a new competitor opened in town.

These can all be avoided with some due diligence.

Never stop marketing. Even if you are currently comfortable, things change and it’s better to have too many people wanting your service and have a waiting list, than to have too few and leave yourself open to plateaus or downturns.

Always change up your marketing. Think of how often you change your clients’ programs (generally every 4-6 weeks). You can use that same kind of thinking when it comes to your marketing. You can literally periodize it. Plan out your macro, meso, and micro cycles for marketing.

Finally, pay attention to what’s going on in your community. What’s happening in the economy, what events are taking place, who’s new in town. Knowing what’s going on can not only prevent a loss in business, but can show you new opportunities for growth (what might you do if your realized a competitor was actually closing?).

This isn’t to say that you can prevent all plateaus, but these are some common reasons that they occur and some solid ways to prevent them.