Creating A Personal Training Business Money Machine 2.0
Turn Your Business Into A Money Machine With This Personal Training Business Plan 2.0
A few years back I put together an e-book, Fitness Riches, where a number of the more successful fitness pros in the industry shared some of their secrets to success.
One of the two chapters I contributed to the book was how Nick and I created our Personal Training Money Machine – a personal training business plan focused on running your business inside someone else’s health club.
At the time it was a pretty revolutionary business model – but over the past several years a lot has changed in the industry so I wanted to give you my updates – so read on.
In the first part of the chapter I discussed some key principles and concepts that would serve as the foundation for our business. Here’s what I wrote:
- It had to have a low start up cost. I had little money, a less than impressive credit score and no “angel investor.”
- It had to cater to a “thirsty crowd.” I came across this phrase reading something by Mark Joyner, but every sales and marketing person conveyed the same message. There had to be demand.
- I had to make it easy for the prospect to buy. In the part of the country where I live (Kentucky), if you ask someone to pay you upfront for $1500 worth of personal training sessions, you’ve narrowed your potential clientele to about .01% of the population.
- There had to be some security. I’d had enough of the living paycheck to paycheck when I coached. I was done with having to worry about if I’d have enough money next week or next month to pay my bills. I needed to have what the gym called a receivables base.
- I had to be able to leverage someone else’s time. I’d figured this out growing up. My dad owned his own business and if he took a vacation, so did his income. Working from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. was fine at the time, but what about when I was 50? I had to create a system where I could leverage other trainers.
- The business had to have a “back end.” I saw the training department that I was a district manager for squander the obvious “back end opportunity” of having over 800 clients at their disposal. No way was I going to miss the obvious chance to make more form each client.
- Client Satisfaction was paramount. Most fitness businesses I saw were far more concerned with getting new members or clients than they were with over-delivering to their existing ones. Everything I read or experienced told me this was exactly the opposite of what I needed to do. Client satisfaction would lead to retention, referrals and back-end sales.
Those were the variables that I felt we had to build our personal training business around. I understood that there were plenty of other models that worked, but for us to achieve the financial and lifestyle goals that we had started this whole process for while beginning in our then current financial situation the business had to be built around these concepts.
Our solution at the time (2004) looked like this:
We launched our business with less than $2,000.00. We built a $30,000.00 / month personal training business with over 400 active clients in about 13 months. All while never going in debt, never investing in a building or a bunch of equipment. How did this happen? Simple.
We leased the exclusive rights to provide all of the personal training and retail offerings from a health club.
So how did we apply the principles I mentioned above? Here’s what I wrote then and then my 2.0 Version:
Well I already told you how we applied Principle #1 then. You can’t even go on vacation for $2000 and we were able to start a lucrative business for less than that.
Personal Training Business Plan Money Machine 2.0 Solution: By this point most clubs have started to embrace the importance of personal training so they’re taking it in house. A few smaller clubs like some Anytime Fitness locations will still outsource their training and if you can find a club that will give you a decent lease rate – go for it.
Otherwise the solution is group personal training or bootcamps. I differentiate the two because I think over the next couple of years the lines between the typical bootcamp and group fitness at a health club are going to get very blurry. You need to be better. It’s another entire series of posts but hopefully you get the picture.
You can run your group programs at other people’s venues like martial arts studios, gymnasiums, gymnastics facilities, schools and outdoors – or you can get your own low cost, open space. Either way – your space costs are minimal. Your equipment costs are minimal. Your potential upside is enormous.
Principle #2 (Then) – Cater to a “thirsty crowd.” I already touched on this one too. Where could you find a more appropriate crowd that wants (and is qualified to buy) solutions to fitness related problems than a health club? These people have already traded their time and money to join the club. Now you’re simply providing offerings to help them achieve what they set out to accomplish in the first place.
Personal Training Business Plan Money Machine 2.0 Solution: This is a little tougher since it’s not as easy to just piggyback someone else’s membership base. The easiest solution is to combine a well defined niche (or several with different classes) market with a really low risk offer. Niche markets like women, moms, kids, etc. all have been proven to work time and time again.
Low risk offers like One or Two Week Free Trials, low cost 21 Day or 1 Month Trials (A new favorite of our Mastermind Group) and leveraging referrals where the prospect is pre-sold and has someone they trust endorsing you are the easiest ways to capture your Thirsty Crowd.
Principle #3 (Then) – Make it easy for the prospect to buy. I don’t know about where you live, but nationwide less than 15% of our society even belongs to a health club. If the average penetration rate for personal training among health club members is 3% (according to IHRSA), that means less than 1% of our society has benefited from working with a personal trainer. Rest assured, in Kentucky it’s probably about .01%. So, if we’re asking someone to try something they are unfamiliar with, we’ve got to make it affordable. Three strategies we’ve used to accomplish this are:
- Semi-private training – Clients can benefit from using a trainer to help achieve their goals without the cost of a one-on-one session.
- Monthly billing – People are used to budgeting things on a monthly basis: mortgages, rent, car payments, insurance, health club memberships. Break up your payments into monthly increments.
- Offer 1 and 2 session per month programs. Many personal trainers are hesitant to offer less than 1 session per week to clients, but you can really broaden your market by offering monthly programs design sessions at a price point that is more manageable to the average consumer. Besides, after these clients get a taste of what you have to offer you can easily upgrade many of them to bigger programs.
Personal Training Business Plan Money Machine 2.0 Solution: Some of this remains the same:
- Using monthly EFT Billing not only makes it easier for the client to buy – and keep buying – but it also saves you countless hours chasing payments.
- Training in a Semi-Private Setting – Semi-Private Training has become very, very common and with good reason. Clients get great results and a lower price point. You get to impact more people and your time becomes more valuable.
- Bootcamps and Group Training – this has been the biggest shift since I originally wrote this. Bootcamps are EVERYWHERE. This allows clients to have a coach for what often amounts to a fraction of what they’d have paid for 1 on 1 training. While I won’t suggest that you drop 1 on 1 or semi-private completely – you need to be integrating some sort of group training into your offerings unless you want to leave money on the table.
- Downsells are getting more common. Not unlike the 1 & 2 session a month programs that I mentioned in the original article, if someone can’t afford working with you regularly, offering a Bootcamp To Go, a Fitness Coaching Program or some other means of giving someone a roadmap to achieve their goals is a great way to make it easy for more people to do business with you.
Principle #4 (Then) – There had to be some security. While I do believe that you must accept some risk to reap a reward, I’m all for trying to decrease as much of my risk as possible. For me this meant no 8, 10 or 12 session packages. No offering “by the session” training. I know this works for many, but I’m not comfortable with being unable to have any idea what I have as far a guaranteed income several months down the road. All my personal training businesses programs are based on 4, 6 or 12-month contracts with over 80% being 12 month. The clients are already comfortable with these types of agreements since that’s what they entered into with the club. It’s also great for positioning. Jim Labadie and Ryan Lee call it “putting up the velvet rope.” You simply let prospects know that you are only willing to work with people who are truly committed to achieving their fitness goals.
Personal Training Business Plan Money Machine 2.0 Solution: We’ve probably had more impact than anyone in the industry when it’s come to convincing fitness pros to sell their offerings on 3, 6 and 12 month contracts instead of by the session, on a series or in a 10 pack. Everything I said originally still holds true except now it’s even easier as it’s more common and virtually everyone is now accustomed to doing monthly EFT payments. This simple shift has revolutionized a lot of fitness pros’ businesses and if you’ve yet to adopt it – don’t wait any longer.
Principle #5 (Then) – Leverage someone else’s time. I quickly made a transition that few make. I went from trainer (or technician) to manager / salesman / marketer. In retrospect, our businesses success was primarily due to recognizing that it was most important for me to become an effective salesperson / marketer and far less important to be a “fitness guru.” I now have a thriving fitness business in our industry that is populated mostly by trainers focused on getting more certifications but struggling to make ends meet. Now, don’t take this as me implying that being a great trainer isn’t important…that is in no way what I’m getting at. What I’m saying is that being a great trainer is only a part of having a successful training business.
Many trainers often assume that the key factor in growing their business is having a group of “fitness experts” – and that is the only way they’d even consider hiring another trainer. I hear it all the time: “no one else can train others as well as I can.” I can tell you that trainers, not salespeople and marketers, are the easiest employees to find and the least expensive to hire.
In fact, as I grow my business, I am NOT looking for people who have personal training background. There are too many educational resources available for the right person to only consider people who have been trainers. I am looking for individuals focused on growing a business who are capable of and willing to train others, have good people skills, are passionate about fitness and are hungry for an opportunity.
If you are truly a great trainer, your most highly compensated role (yours) is the ability to lead, inspire, and teach others to complete the day-to-day training and operations of your business. Even many of the best trainers encounter a disappointingly low ceiling to his or her income. It’s the person who can implement systems that can be taught to many and inspire them to high accomplishment whose income has an unlimited ceiling.
Personal Training Business Plan Money Machine 2.0 Solution: This is probably the area where my thoughts have changed the most. When 1 on 1 training was the norm, the only real leverage point you had was to duplicate yourself. Now with group training and bootcamps becoming so popular, the easiest leverage point is to simply train more people at once.
In fact, the more I’ve learned, the more I’d tell you that your first hire should be a personal assistant to do the $10 an hour work so you can spend your time on the $50-$250 work.
That’s the first person’s time you should be leveraging.
With the advent of group training you can still cut your hours significantly while getting great value for your time.
With that being said though – I still think that hiring another trainer / coach is a great leverage point and now you can build a BIG business with just a couple trainers on your team through the group training model. The margins are much better, the ability to leverage their time is much better and it’s easier to hire and compensate a stronger trainer / coach because of those reasons.
I still think that hiring what I call the ‘intangibles’ that I mentioned above are the key because you should be teaching them to execute your system – not create their own.
Principle #6 (Then) – The business had to have a “back end.” For me, that was simple. Providing complimentary services line weight management and nutritional coaching, and complimentary products like multi-vitamins and meal replacements was and continues to be the perfect fit. Our clients see us as their “fitness resource” so why should we direct them somewhere else to find the complimentary offerings that they are going to purchase? I have created a systematic approach to offering these products and services to our clients at the point of initial sale and throughout their program. This approach has led to our “back-end” offerings now accounting for about 30% of our total revenue.
Personal Training Business Plan Money Machine 2.0 Solution: Not much has changed here. In fact, since I originally wrote this we consulted with the guys at Prograde to help get them off the ground to serve this very reason.
The only thing that I think has changed is that people want done-for-them now more than ever so you can sell them more solutions to make their life easier than ever before.
Principle #7 (Then) – Client Satisfaction is paramount. Yeah, I know, client satisfaction is important to everyone. For this business model, it’s really important. By over-delivering to everybody – clients, club members, prospects -you can keep a great relationship with the club owner and staff, you can make them your “champions”, singing your praises to everyone they come in contact with. We provide a complimentary goal assessment / training session and a nutritional coaching session to every club member as a way of creating this “customer service culture.” These sessions also give us a great opportunity to build value in our offerings and sell our services. For our existing clients, we have monthly client appreciation days, monthly client only promotions and monthly newsletters as a way to demonstrate our appreciation.
Let’s face it…a health club is a “small world”, so news travels fast. If we are doing great things for our clients, everyone in the club will soon know about it.
Personal Training Business Plan Money Machine 2.0 Solution: The fitness marketplace is far more crowded than it was then, with more small health clubs, thousands of bootcamps that were virtually non-existent then, the entire CrossFit movement and hundreds of warehouse style facilities all competing for your clients’ attention. Add in the explosion of fitness infoproducts and now retention requires more than ever before.
So what’s the solution? Great service. Personal attention. A dedicated focus on delivering results. Doing the little things that most businesses are far too lazy to do. If you treat all of your clients like they’re family you’re going to retain them longer, get more referrals and have a far more rewarding and lucrative business.
That’s it. After looking back at this it’s pretty obvious that while much has changed – a LOT has remained the same. Focus on the fundamentals, stay ahead of the crowd with industry trends and be attentive to details and you’ll be guaranteed of having your own Personal Training Business Plan Money Machine too.
And don’t forget – you can lean on me to help with all of that 😉
Do me a favor and let me know what you think below.
Dedicated to your success,
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