It’s not uncommon for struggling fitness professionals to believe that acquiring more fitness information is somehow going to help them build their business. If they don’t have a degree in exercise science or a major certification, maybe it will, but… once you have the basics, building your business isn’t going to come from another training certification. I know. I’ve held 20+ certifications over the years and while they added tools to my tool belt, they didn’t teach me anything about building my business. That, I had to learn on my own.
Now, if you wanted to build your business, where would you go to learn about business? Take a look at what is offered for certifications and certificate programs by a few of the major organizations and see if there’s anything missing.
Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS)
Certified Personal Trainer (CPT)
Certified Special Population Specialist (CSPS)
Certified Tactical Strength and Conditioning Facilitator (TSAC-F)
Certified Performance and Sports Scientist (CPSS)
ACSM Certified Personal Trainer
ACSM Certified Group Exercise Instructor
ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist
ACSM Certified Clinical Exercise Physiologist
Exercise is Medicine
ACSM/NCHPAD Certified Inclusive Fitness Trainer (CIFT)
ACSM/ACS Certified Cancer Exercise Trainer (CET)
ACSM/NPAS Physical Activity in Public Health Specialist (PAPHS)
Certified Personal Training (CPT)
Certified Group Fitness Instructor (CGFI)
Performance Enhancement Specialization (PES)
Corrective Exercise Specialization (CES)
Nutrition Certification (CNC)
Behavior Change Specialization (BCS)
Virtual Coaching Specialist (VCS)
Weight Loss Specialist (WLS)
Certified Personal Training
Certified Group Fitness Instructor
Certified Health Coach
Certified Medical Exercise Specialist
Certified Glute Specialist
Weight Management Specialist
Exercise Recovery Specialist
Certified Indoor Cycling Instructor
Corrective Exercise Specialist
Group Exercise Instructor
DNA-Based Fitness Coach
Strength & Conditioning Certification
Exercise Therapy Certification
Performance Enhancement Certification
Lifespan Coach Certification
Senior Fitness Certification
Online Coach Certification
Certified Yoga Instructor
Youth Fitness Certification
Active Aging Nutrition
Career Crash Course
Kids in Motion
Mind Body Fusion
Moms in Motion
Nutrition Coaching for Fitness Professionals
Nutrition, Hormones & Metabolism
Performance Stability Training
Pilates Small Apparatus
Practical Approach to Recovery & Rolling
Program Design for Fitness Professionals
Small Group Personal Training
Small Group Training
Advanced Personal Trainer
Master Personal Trainer
Health & Wellness Coach
Advanced Health & Wellness Coach
Master Health & Wellness Coach
Advanced Cycling Instructor
Advanced Water Aerobics Instructor
Advanced Group Fitness & Bootcamp Instructor
Advanced Senior Fitness Instructor
Advanced Sports Nutrition
Water Aerobics Instructor
Senior Fitness Instructor
Functional Fitness Training
Dance Fitness & Hip-Hop Aerobics
Self Defense Instructor
Sport Specific Training
Youth Fitness Training
Speed & Agility Instructor
Women’s Fitness Instructor
Step Aerobics & Cardio Kickboxing
Martial Arts Fitness Instructor
Health Club & Gym Manager*
Core Fitness Training
Competition Bodybuilding Trainer
Olympic & Powerlifting Coach
Balance & Stability Instructor
Golf Fitness Instructor
Fitness Professional Kit
Now, there are some very interesting options listed above and I believe that you should never stop learning, but where were the business certifications or certificate programs? Out of all of those listed, only ASFA had any business offerings. They do offer a Health Club & Gym Manager*. However, you can take their True/False exam immediately and only pay if you pass. Do you think it’s easy? You can bet on it. So, how much do you really learn and how much is this really going to help your career? ACSM used to offer a very challenging Health & Fitness Director certification (which I achieved), but then they stopped offering the program after a few years.
What’s left? Having been a personal trainer and health club manager since 1980 and a business owner off and on throughout those years, I wrote a business book for fitness professionals, The Business of Personal Training that was published in 2018 by Human Kinetics. I also spent nearly 10 years on the NSCA Personal Trainer Exam Development Committee. Putting these two together, on April 5th, I’ll be launching an exam-based fitness business certificate program, the Fitness Business Specialist. Find out more at https://fitnessbusinessspecialist.com
I just saw that another personal trainer that I know has now become a real estate agent. I’ve noticed this happening a lot. Maybe they simply love real estate more than personal training, but, I would bet that they were seeking a way to make more money than they were as a trainer. While some continue to do both, I’ve seen many trainers simply change careers, often times, to become a real estate agent. Maybe it’s the ease of getting into it or the dream of big commissions, but ultimately I find it truly disheartening.
Personal training can be one the most rewarding careers and we have never been more needed than we are right now. “Why are trainers leaving?”, you may ask. I have a few thoughts on that.
- New trainers are not taught and don’t understand the business side of personal training and without the business knowledge, including marketing and sales, it is very difficult to make a living.
- They don’t realize that it takes time to build a clientele. This means that, even if they had the business knowledge, they are unlikely have a full schedule for quite a while. I knew one trainer that showed great promise, who, after only a few months into their position at a health club, started feeling financial pressures and is now a salesperson at a lumber store.
- I also think that we are in a time, with boutique fitness studios and CrossFit-like boxes opening right and left, when it seems that being your own boss is the new expectation. This can be a huge mistake. So much can be learned from working for others, particularly in a larger club. This not a sell-out, it’s a smart move. I spent most of my career working in other people’s clubs and, at every new club, I acquired new skill sets.
So, before you go off and start selling real estate (or lumber), know that it takes time and knowledge to build your career. Get the training that you need to be a successful personal trainer and enjoy a lifetime of helping others change their lives. I’ve been at it almost 40 years and can’t imagine doing anything else.
P.S. If you feel stuck and don’t know what to do, feel free to shoot me a message.
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.
Other 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.
Podcasting are digital recordings (usually audio ) that can be accessed on demand either by streaming or downloading. The topics range from comedy (most popular) to fitness to education. They can be any length, although from everything that I’ve read, the sweet spot is about 30 minutes.
I’ve been thinking about podcasting for about a year now because the podcast market has been growing every year and is a great way to reach your target audience. This is one more way that we can reach out and inform, and, in doing so, help more people to reach their goals.
There are some exciting statistics on the reach and effectiveness of podcasting.
In recent research from March 2018, PodcastInsights notes that:
- 50% of all US homes are podcast fans (Nielsen, Aug 2017)
- 44% (124 million) of the US population has listened to a podcast – up from 40% in 2017 (Infinite Dial 18)
- 17% (48 million) listen to podcasts weekly – up from 15% in 2017
- 16 million people in the US are “avid podcast fans” (Nielsen Q1 2018)
- 49% of podcast listening is done at home, down from 51% in 2017
- 22% listen while driving (in a vehicle), same as 2017
- Podcast listeners listen to an average of 7 different shows per week, up from 5 in 2017
- 80% listen to all or most of each episode, down from 86% in 2017
- 65% of monthly podcast listeners have been listening for less than 3 years
If you’re unsure of how to go about starting, there are online courses and even podcasts on how to start a podcast. I just finished taking an online course from Adam Carolla (#1 podcast at PodcastOne). ADAM CAROLLA Teaches You Podcasting!
I know, you probably are thinking that you’re already spending too much time away from your clients to jump into something new. I get it, but here’s the thing, building your business requires that you spend time ON your business, not just IN your business. ON your business includes building your (or your company’s) brand. That includes social media marketing, blogs, videos, and yes, even podcasting. It all adds to your credibility and helps build an audience that knows, likes, and trusts you, and when that happens, you become their preferred choice with whom to do business. The payoff in new clients and more loyal current clients, will be well worth the extra time investment.
A huge part of building your business is getting referrals from your existing clients and/or members. Referrals don’t stop there, though. You should be creating a network of other professionals that you can refer your clients to.
The reasons for this are twofold. First, when you refer a client to another professional that can further enhance your client’s health and/or wellness, they get even better results and will appreciate you all the more.
Second, when another professional receives a referral from you, they will feel compelled to reciprocate (as long as you are good at what you do). These professional referrals are a low-cost way to get qualified (someone that’s already interested) leads.
Start by finding other professionals that don’t offer what you do, but complement it. Look for them in the areas of health (medical doctors, physical therapists), fitness (maybe yoga or a swim coach), nutrition (RDs, personal chefs), bodywork (chiropractors, massage therapists), beauty (hair, nails), etc. Meet with them and explain what you do and that you are looking for other professionals that you can refer your clients to. Ask about their qualifications, philosophies, and references to make sure you feel confident in referring to them.
Refer your clients when appropriate and review their experience afterward. Their experience will either support your use of this professional or let you know to look for someone else. The right professional referral network will benefit everyone involved.
At a conference last year, I was asked what I thought was the most effective marketing tool. Having presented at other conferences on social media marketing, I was pretty sure they wanted to know what the next hot social media app was and how to use it. My answer was probably a little surprising.
If you are a business that relies on the local market, i.e. health clubs, personal training and/or group fitness studios, the best marketing is getting out and getting active in your community. Remember that what you are really marketing is you. Yes, this includes your expertise, but also your demeanor, your caring, your sense of humor, etc.
They say, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” That is because the extra layer of sensory engagement that a picture offers tells us a lot more. Video gives us the ability to hear as well as see and creates even more engagement. So, it shouldn’t be surprising that real-time, face to face interactions give others the greatest sense of who you are and what you are about. When you meet someone in person, you note their eye contact (or lack thereof), their smile (or lack thereof), the grip of their handshake, the tone of their voice, all in an instant. Nothing is truer than that. Others will walk away feeling like they have a sense of the kind of person you are.
Now, taking that meeting and turning it into acquisition of a client or customer requires more. You need to build a relationship first and that takes time. This is where social media apps can be particularly effective. After meeting someone in person (I’ll discuss how to seek out those opportunities in my next post.), immediately send an invitation to them to connect on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. This allows you to follow-up on any conversation that you were having, helps you remember them, and them remember you. With each additional verbal interaction, their initial face to face impression of you will be reinforced.
Of course you can still make initial contact and build a relationship through social media. However, it will rarely be as strong as meeting in person. If you first connected online, find an opportunity to meet in “the real world”. Your relationship will only become stronger because of it.
So, I’m in the midst of writing a chapter on creating your business plan, and I realize that you should really have a name for your company picked out by now. But, it’s not as simple as you may think. Choosing a name should take some careful consideration.
Using your name in the business name. I could name my club Nutting’s Gym. There are many examples of this in the fitness world, from classics of Gold’s Gym, and Vince’s Gym, to the more contemporary Mike Boyle Strength & Conditioning, and Parisi Speed School. When your name is part of your business name, it is a constant reflection of you personally, so you must live your philosophy. You should also consider that if you want to sell your business, the buyers will most likely want to continue to use your business name and the reputation that it carries. If your end game is to build a business to then sell, how will you feel about selling your name?
Name by location. Whether it’s 72nd St. Fitness or the 92nd St. Y, these names make it easier to locate them. Easier to find is always a good thing. However, what if you need to move or add other locations? All of the name recognition that you’ve built will be lost if you change your name, and you would want to change your name. 72nd St. Fitness now on 34th St. would be very confusing.
Choose a name that says what you are. For me, this is the best bet. Come up with a business name that speaks to your target market. i.e. if you are targeting the baby boomers, you may choose “Forever Fit” or “Fit Again”. Or, you could name it based on your training philosophy as in “Full Function Fitness” or “Hard Core Lifting Club”. Of course you want something that is unique. Watch out for existing names or one’s that are very similar.
Once you choose a name, claim it as a web domain and register it with your county clerk or with your state.
I’d love to hear what you’ve named your business. Write your business name in the comments section below. Happy naming!
Starting to work out, eating better, or taking better care of yourself are all personal resolutions you hear proclaimed every year. Let’s put them aside for now and talk about your business. What resolutions have you made for it? We should be going into the new year with changes in mind to better our business.
Not unlike personal resolutions, these should not be a simple wish list, but a list of what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. Hmmn? Kinda sounds like creating a S.M.A.R.T. list of goals, doesn’t it? That’s really the key in a nutshell with the added layer of how you’re going to accomplish them.
Just like any goal, these need to be defined as Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time bound. So let’s take a goal that you may have. Let’s say you want to increase the profitability of your boot camps. Let’s define that
Specific: Increase the profitability of your boot camps by 25%
Measurable: Through use of a Profit/Loss worksheet
Attainable: Yes (let’s assume)
Realistic: Yes (again, let’s assume)
Time bound: By the end of the first quarter, March 31st, 2015
This is where the real work begins. We’ve defined our goal. We know precisely what it is, but how, again specifically, are you going to get there?
Can you define the reasons your boot camps are not doing as well as you’d like? It could be lack of space, equipment, or instructors. Let’s, for the sake of an exercise, say its lack of space. Your class is at capacity for the size of the room. What options do you have to increase profitability?
1) Charge participants more for the class
2) Reduce the overhead:
-what you pay for the space
-what you pay the instructor for the class
-what you pay for the equipment used
3) Increase the capacity of the class so you can take more participants by:
-Be more efficient in the use of the space that you have
-Rent a larger space
-Take it outside in a park
Which of these suggestions or combination of suggestions can you implement that will get you to your profitability goal? If you choose to increase rates for participants by $2/class, negotiate a lower facility rental agreement, and increase capacity by using activities that require less space, would that get you there? When will you implement by to reach your goal?
This is the process to create real resolutions vs a simple wish list. It is your game plan for building your business for the upcoming year. Spend time on this.
I’d love to hear what the top resolution is for your business in 2015. Please share what it is in the comments below.