7 Lessons From a Fitness Entrepreneur
While these are some of the lessons I’ve learned in my ten plus years in the fitness business, I think anyone who is striving for success in any field can relate to these.
1. Skills Pay the Bills
Too often new trainers put an emphasis on looking fit, being charismatic or obtaining certifications and adding letters behind the name on their business card. While you should “look the part” and be educated those things alone only go so far. You have to understand how to apply theory, listen and relate to people and ultimately get results .
No matter how many certifications you have, how good looking you are or how much people like you, if you don’t have the skills to keep people uninjured and help them improve their fitness you’re not going to keep clients. Remember, eventually the novelty of a training program, fitness product or YOU will wear off. Only your skills as a fitness professional, being able to provide value to client, will keep you hired.
2. Be a Coach, Not a Cheerleader
Many new trainers believe they need to “motivate” clients. This results in a lot of motivational cliches, contrived heart to heart conversations and ultimately very frustrated clients. We’re paid because people don’t know what to do. If they’ve decided to part with their time and money for your expertise, they’re motivated already.
The most effective motivation comes from within and that is built by learning new skills and conquering goals, even small ones. Strive for coaching them through every rep of every lift. This helps your clients improve performance immediately and that will motivate them to continue much more than simply counting reps and telling them “good job” at the end of the set. Your clients commitment to you will remain high because they’ll know that you’re always 100% focused on them, their performance and most of all their safety and improvement. The “buy-in”,will be much higher than if you’re simply cheering them on.
3. Invest in Yourself
Certification is generally accepted as the first step into a career as a fitness professional, not the last. Obtaining your certification should be the place you start your education from. Continually reading, studying, attending seminars and trying out new things for yourself should be part of your day, everyday. A good goal is to spend one hour a day studying information in your field. This doesn’t mean simply skimming the magazines while waiting to check out at the local grocery store. Studying implies reviewing physiology, anatomy, reading articles from scientific journals in the field or seminars/ webinars from reputable, trusted, sources. I’ve heard it said that if you study for an hour a day for 5 years you’ll have acquired knowledge equivalent to that of the top 5% in your field of study.
“Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune.” Jim Rohn
Going to seminars, buying texts and webinars is going to cost time and money. Sometimes a lot of both. Never ask yourself, “how much will it cost me”, ask, “how much future earnings will it cost me not to go, read, watch?”. If going to a seminar or buying and reading a certain text can help improve your skills and in turn you can help more people, you’re going to make that money back ten times over. Sure it may take some time, but that’s what an investment is.
4. Get Under the Bar
Often fitness professionals have clients do something because they saw it in a magazine and it “looks cool” or is novel. Never having done that themselves. If you haven’t done that exercise or protocol before, dont have clients attempt it. As a practitioner you should be well versed and personally experienced with anything you ask your client to do.
This doesn’t mean you have to run marathons or squat 600lbs to be a good coach and develop good programs. It does mean you should have at least experienced what it feels like to run an endurance race or train to lift a heavy load of some type if you’re going to train clients to do those things. If you’ve never spent time “under the bar” it’s impossible to be an effective coach because you’ll never have any context for the situations your client is going through. The only way to truly understand something is to experience it on some level for yourself. If you're training people, you need to be training too.
5. Good Clients are Your Lifeblood
Clients that show up consistently, are respectful of your time and pay on time are what will allow you to stay in this business and pay your bills on time. These people are gold, you should treat them like it. Always make sure to have your A-game with them, no matter what. Remember birthdays and anniversaries. Get them something, anything, around the holidays to show your appreciation. Something as simple as a book, gift-card or even just a hand written thank you card. Show them preference over other clients if there is a scheduling issue or preference.
Yes, I’m saying treat your best clients better than your “normal” clients. This doesn’t mean treat any client poorly. It means, go the extra, extra, mile for the people who are willing to do the same for you. They will often not only be the stability of your business but also your best and most plentiful source of growth and sustainability through referrals. Not to mention, these people are also the most enjoyable to train and will energize you and remind you why you started doing this in the first place.
6. Bad Clients are A Cancer
Clients who constantly complain, show up late, cancel last minute and are always searching for discounts are like a cancer. These behaviours will grow and fester resentment, eventually sucking the life out of you. When you’re starting out you should train these people. At the beginning stage of your career, you need the experience and income, but as you grow your business it’s going to become necessary to fire some clients. It’s hard at first but you’ll be amazed at how much better your days become when you don’t have the emotional and mental drain that these people were around anymore.
7. Be Yourself
Never be someone else, ever. The world is full of phony, contrived people who put of a front. Potential clients see right through it. People appreciate authenticity. It allows them to be authentic too. Sure, some people won't like you. That’s ok, not everyone is going to like you no matter what you do and how you act. You’re not going to get every potential client and that’s ok.
You want the “raving fans” and the potential for a client becoming a “raving fan” goes up exponentially when your personalities mesh and interactions are easy and unforced. If you’re constantly trying to be someone else around them it will make you miserable and drain your energy as well as theirs. This will make every session a chore, not an enjoyable experience.
“The single most powerful thing I can be is to be myself.”- Dwayne, The Rock, Johnson
Just do you and everything else will fall into place.