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Steve Shafley
05-03-2007, 05:19 AM
We touched on this in the big thread, but it's a topic that probably deserves it's own thread. There are a lot of training businesses that fail. Both independent businesses and also facilities affiliated with bigger names.

What makes for a successful training business?

Pierre mentioned that it seems like the combination of charisma with a certain degree of "jackedness" helps quite a bit. Robb mentioned that his business improved when they focused on getting people results.

Mike ODonnell
05-03-2007, 05:35 AM
Results......as word of mouth will be your best and biggest source of clients....plenty of gyms out there....I wasted lots of money on advertisements early on....got no return on it....word of mouth, me getting out and talking to people, referrals....that is what got me the business.

As far as attitude....I equate it to being a good parent....a friend at times, but if someone needs a reality check you need to give it to them.....personally I think many businesses and trainers have gotten lax and know they can collect an easy paycheck just telling people what machine to use....I hold a higher standard for myself personally....people will see that....but doesn't mean I am a dick about it all the time, just stern in what I say while I try to make them see things the way they need to inorder to be successful...as it is all mental...

AC said it long ago "If you want to make alot of money in this industry do 2 things, charge alot of money and be a prick".....they are both so very true....

Derek Simonds
05-03-2007, 05:44 AM
I was going to reply in the big thread but didn't have time yesterday. Results are the main thing IMHO. The company I work for does process and technology training and the clients that don't renew are the ones that don't feel that they got a good enough ROI.

So ROI leads me to the value proposition. I have talked about this before, I hired a triathlon coach 3 years ago when I wanted to get serious about improving my times. It cost me 600 for a year and he was incredible. I had several personal sessions with him, at least 2 conversations a week (phone or email) and he attended my "A" races. That was the year I took first in my age group in an olympic triathlon. Before I hired Coach Bernie I had read at least 5 books about triathlon training and done countless hours of research on the internet. I also was all over the place in my training and did not have anyone to hold me accountable. He gave me a plan and made sure that I did what I was supposed to. Was there value in the 600 for me, absolutely.

I was catching up on my Dan John reading this week and I read his piece on coaching at T-Nation.
http://www.t-nation.com/readTopic.do;jsessionid=E9EBD1C27EFC00E71D80E6EC56 E3EC6F.hydra?id=1356801.

If you haven't read it I highly encourage you to do so. I think that the typical person that seeks out training does know the basics of what to do but they need to be able to say "Coach said so" when asked why are you doing this.

I also from personal experience know that I can't be my own coach. I do much better when I am following a program set up by someone else. Especially if that other person is involved and holding me accountable. I have had great progress with the mass gain template and I hold myself accountable by posting everything I eat and do here for all to see. It's not the same as if I was working out in front of Robb and Greg because they would be able to push me more but right now if you ask me why I am doing 2 X 10 I simply can say because my "Coach said so".

I personally want someone to put me on a couch, parrot back to me, put together a program, guide me through it, provide feedback, provide encouragement, make sure that I am successful and if I falter guide me back onto the right path.

Garrett Smith
05-03-2007, 06:23 AM
My plan:

Low overhead.

Start small and grow. Along with the first reason, I've decided to go with my two-car home garage gym for the first month or two for several reasons--one, to guage the interest, and two, because I need to be damn sure I have the time and energy to run these two businesses at once before I sign a two-year lease! It will also give me more time to find and train trainers that I can delegate to.

On that note, learn how to be comfortable and good at delegating, when it becomes necessary.

Provide the most benefits I can at a great price (ie. I'm always on-site available to answer questions, along with providing free "classes" ie. joint mob, nutrition, stretching, that are different from anywhere else in town).

Create (multiple) niche markets that your club caters to (OL club, sprint triathlon club, climber strength traing, wanna-be FF/LEO/Mil recruits and the real guys & gals).

Community events at the facility or another location. Done inexpensively while done well, noting that people are coming for the community (the "steak"), not the "sizzle".

Steve, I'm working on a PowerPoint like you had. I'll send it to you when I'm done.

Hope that helps, it helped me to write it down.

Steve Shafley
05-03-2007, 06:41 AM
I'm interested in this because of

1. The boom in the interest in "microgyms" and "performance centers"
2. The success of the Curves franchise.

There's is obviously something to learn from Curves here, because they are all over and many of them are doing well.

Robert Allison
05-03-2007, 07:02 AM
I'm interested in this because of

1. The boom in the interest in "microgyms" and "performance centers"
2. The success of the Curves franchise.

There's is obviously something to learn from Curves here, because they are all over and many of them are doing well.

I think Garrett's point about niches is an important one. It would seem that the success of both Curves and the more performance oriented training centers is based on identifying specific markets within what Chris Anderson would call the "long tail" of the overall fitness market.

If you're a woman looking for quick, effective, fun workout; think Curves. If, on the other hand, you are a college football player wanting to shave some time of your 40 for the combine, think Parisi.

But once you have identified your niche, its all about the results. Having some credentials or an affiliation may be of some value, particular when starting out. But eventually you will stand or fall base on what you deliver.

Garrett, nice outline of a business plan, BTW. A lot to work with there.

Garrett Smith
05-03-2007, 07:03 AM
Curves has a new summer promotion:

Mom joins, daughter gets free summer membership.

I thought this was brilliant, because the likelihood of either a mother OR a daugther being overweight is huge, and the free membership will get two people started instead of just one. It also can contribute the "guilt" factor, not that that is something I recommend...

Garrett Smith
05-03-2007, 07:13 AM
Robert,
Funny you mentioned Parisi.

I was thinking that tagging on a Parisi Speed School (it is a franchise that operates WITHIN a "larger" facility) would be a great addition to a CF-type facility--it would also help to bring in the teenager athletes, a great market in itself. All one needs is the proper equipment (which will likely cost a pretty penny), the franchise fees, and the space.

At the start, I'm looking into two types of exercise groups:

The LifeWaves crowd (typically people with chronic disease), this is simple-yet-complex interval training, typically done on "cardio" machines. I'll be using rowers, x-country ski machines, and maybe a treadmill. www.LifeWaves.com . I have a phone meeting with them on Monday.

CrossFitters and mixed-modal trainees.

Both of these groups utilize the same equipment (CFers don't need the HR monitor stuff that LifeWaves does) so there is no additional overhead.

Later, I'm thinking of moving to a larger space and adding the Parisi Speed School. Then, I'll cover what I would believe are three separate groups:

The "older or unwell" group that doesn't think they can or won't do weight work (LifeWaves)

The "fit, typically middle-ground, or wants to get fit" (CF)

The "teenage athlete (or other athletes focusing on sports speed)" (Parisi)

Most equipment needs would overlap, and people could easily jump between or mix the different types of training.

Boy, I'm going to have some long hours cut out for me. Better get good at delegating!!!

Robert Allison
05-03-2007, 07:41 AM
Garrett,

Interesting ideas.

I didn't realize until recently that Parisi offered a "franchise" type set-up. I've looked into that, not so much for myself, but for a friend of mine. He is a former high school coach and is thinking of opening a training facility. I downloaded their brochure, but haven't got much farther than that. From what I can tell, though, it does look like the investment could be substantial.

I think you are on the right track with high school athletes, and you might also try to develop a clientele among local, small college teams (if there are any in your area). Obviously, big time players will go to someone like Martin Rooney, but small college players also want to improve, and sometimes their athletic departments lack the resources to have truly knowledgeable trainers.

As far as the extreme sports niche, I think the jury is still out on that. Around here, most of the folks that are serious about climbing, kayaking, etc, either just do their "thing" or they already have a training program. The people that aren't that serious generally won't invest any resources to get better. But that's just more of a gut instinct based on being around those communities. YMMW.

But overall, I think you have a nice balance in the markets you are looking to develop. A Crossfit fit type program for the general fitness crowd and then some programs to service niches with special needs.

Keep me updated on the LifeWave stuff. I ordered the book last Friday and it should be here in a day or so. I am definitely looking forward to reading it.

Steve Shafley
05-03-2007, 07:45 AM
Gina Kolata went into the "LifeWave" stuff in her last book. I wasn't impressed enough to take a side either way.

Greg Everett
05-03-2007, 08:05 AM
I have a million things to say about this, so I'll probably forget about 999,995:

1) Results are priority number one. If you don't deliver, you don't get new clients, you don't keep clients, and you'll lose clients through word of mouth.

2) The results are what you're selling--not the methodology. Unless a client wants to become a trainer him/herself, he/she doesn't care what it's called, what the cells are doing, etc.--he/she wants a smaller ass.

3) You as a trainer are special in your ability to deliver results. You are not a knob working for minimum wage at Bally's. There's a reason those trainers accept that shitty money--they can't get more.

4) Charisma is important but will not compensate for a lack of results in the long term.

5) You are your clients' trainer, not their friend. Not that you can't be friendly, but once the nature of the relationship is blurred, the exchange of money and the respect for your RXs get complicated. AC is right when he said, Be a prick. You are there first to kick the shit out of your clients; after that, if you can, put on a show. But don't be a showman instead of a good trainer.

6) As Garrett said, low overhead. Really just the idea of living within your means. If you have 3 clients, you don't need a 3000 sq ft facility that''s costing you $6000/month.

7) Make your clients pay in advance. My clients pay me for each month ahead of time. This makes them more motivated to keep coming in and allows me to deliver what I say I can. For the ones who want to come in occasionally for single sessions, charge more.

8) Insist on excelllence. It's easy to get lazy when you have a series of clients each day and let them get away with marginal form or even effort. Lay this out at th very beginning and let them know what you expect from them--they expect great things from you, and for you to deliver, they need to do their parts. Let them know you fire clients who do not live up to your expectations. Take the time to establish a strong base of movement--it will suck at first and limit the variety of training, but in the long run, it will save a lot of time and headaches. Many of us who have been or are involved with CF have almost a compulsion to constantly vary training, but keep in mind the gen pop is accustomed to repeating the same workout many many times---don't be afraid to make a client squat, press and body row 3 consecutive sessions if you decide that's what they need.

9) You are the expert (or should be)--don't let your clients pressure you into doing stupid shit that doesn't work because they think that's what they're supposed to do. For example, I handed a client a pair of 12 lb DBs the other morning and she asked me if she was really supposed to be lifting heavy weights. She learned that day that 1) I am the boss; 2) 12 lbs is not heavy.

10) Be prepared. Clients will challenge you at worst and ask questions at best. It's not hard to predict these questions, so be prepared with a solid answer and don't tap dance.

11) Be professional. That's a vague way of saying don't be a wanker. Be early to your appointments, keep your facility clean and organized, keep your client records organized. Would you hire a lawyer with 3-day old stubble and a half-eaten burrito on his desk? Your clients want to know you take your work seriously and give a shit.

Steve Shafley
05-03-2007, 08:29 AM
Nice post, Greg.

Mike ODonnell
05-03-2007, 09:16 AM
2 biggest $$ niches right now:

1) Women's weight loss (men do their own thing.....women want a program)
2) Kids sports development (Parents will spend big $$ if they think it will help little Johhny to be better at sports....kind of funny....pay $15 an hour (x15 kids...do the math) to run through hurdles and ladders...seems like a complete rip off....but they need the training if they want to get better and wont do it on their own....so now worth the money....)

I stop focusing on anything else...as there is no money in it and seemed more like me being a charitable monk trying to save the world.....

Robb Wolf
05-03-2007, 09:41 AM
We touched on this in the big thread, but it's a topic that probably deserves it's own thread. There are a lot of training businesses that fail. Both independent businesses and also facilities affiliated with bigger names.

What makes for a successful training business?

Pierre mentioned that it seems like the combination of charisma with a certain degree of "jackedness" helps quite a bit. Robb mentioned that his business improved when they focused on getting people results.

Steve-
Our shift was just away from "We do Crossfit. Crossfit is a strength & conditioning program built on..." to "you run, bike swim...need to lose weight...keep up with the grand kids? Cool. We can help you do it. It will be fun".

The technology is great. CF stuff works well (if you know how to scale and apply it appropriately...not many do IMO). We just shifted from educating about CF to "we can help you reach your goals".

Garrett Smith
05-03-2007, 10:57 AM
I'm thinking that the combination of cyclical diet AND cyclical exercise AND enough sleep will blow people's minds about how intensely they can change their current health state...

It was implied in the "Making Waves" book that if people stopped the cyclical exercise, their symptoms came back. For me, that's a big DUH...Exercise without proper nutrition is extremely helpful yet is not enough, while nutrition without proper exercise can create health in its own right. The two together should be unstoppable, IMO. I'm just the guy to do it, too.... :-)

I'll start another LifeWaves post as soon as I get the info, I'll keep this thread on-point...sorry for the digression, and nice post, Greg....

Steve Liberati
05-03-2007, 01:10 PM
Great thread so far...

Sure referrals are the name of the game (client gets good results and tells others), but there is another piece of the puzzle that is sometimes overlooked. That is the popularity of what you're doing which is based on many factors sometimes outside the coach/trainer's control. For example lets take the success of Billy Bank's Tae Bo a few years ago. The program itself was anything but great (move around n kick and jump non-stop for 30 mins)...but it was fun for those middle of the market people (who are always looking for something new since what they did last year didn't work) to tell they're friends about this exciting new program that kicked their ass the other night. The idea, "Did you try Tae Bo yet?" was easy to spread?

Now take your typical trainer at Bally's who has clients circuit train like rats in a cage between machines 3 days a week. Not very news-worthy or exciting to tell your friends about right? It's boring!!! Same thing with following the Zone diet. Although it is effective, it is very boring from a marketing standpoint. "I eat 40/30/30 balance of macro's" "Oh good so thats what you do to stay in great shape?" Now tell someone you eat paleo foods like our ancestors did for millions of years and fast everyday until 5pm to resemble our evolutionary patterns. See what happends. I bet that night on the phone, that same person says, "Listen to how crazy Steve is with his diet..."

In the end it really comes down to giving your clients something to talk about. Often times, it is results but not always. Let's face it, any trainer worth his weight can do that. And there are thousands of trainers out there. So somtimes results aren't enough to grow a thriving business where you have to turn away business like Mark Twight at Gym Jones had to do.

Seth Godin said it best, "More often than not, ideaviruses start when the early adopters are dissatisfied with some element of the experience. Pleasing customers doesn't always lead to conversations. Delighting them, enraging them, hospitalizing them or surprising them--that's how sneezers are born."

Great article, check it out here:
http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2005/12/where_do_sneeze.html

If you need to water down your story to appeal to everyone, it will appeal to no one. The most effective stories match the world view of a tiny audience—and then that tiny audience spreads the story.

If I had a choice between being the most popular trainer or the most knowledgeable trainer I'd go with the most popular. Most people will follow the herd, seek me out and add to the demand. If you can have the best of both worlds like Coach B, Rut and Rip are enjoying right now than that would be all the better!

But its no wonder I never even heard of these guys before CrossFit came to town. I heard of Tony Little, Richard Simmons, and Billy Banks (popular) but not Burg, Rip, or Rut (knowledgeable). Again not to take anything away from these guys, just pointing out that being the most knowledgeable is not always the fastest way to grow a business. Sure, you'll get referrals but not nowhere near the rate you'll get biz being popular and knowledgeable! (bet there salary's have at least doubled in the last year or so with their new popularity).

Garrett Smith
05-03-2007, 01:37 PM
Godin's ideavirus book sounds awesome...anyone up for a book trade???

Steve Liberati
05-03-2007, 01:40 PM
Godin's ideavirus book sounds awesome...anyone up for a book trade???

Garrett,
Unleashing the Ideavirus was the most downloaded e-book ever! I think I still have it on my computer...i'll send it over to you.

Robert Allison
05-03-2007, 01:45 PM
Godin's ideavirus book sounds awesome...anyone up for a book trade???

I believe he was giving it away as a pdf at one point--let me see if I can track it down on my home computer.

I have read a few of his books--Purple Cow, Permission Marketing, The Bootstrapper's Bible--all have useful info. The man knows his marketing.

Mike ODonnell
05-03-2007, 01:49 PM
Unleashing the Ideavirus was the most downloaded e-book ever!

Wait wait.....so Tom Veneto's Burn the Fat wasn't?? Damnit....

Steve Liberati
05-03-2007, 02:01 PM
The man knows his marketing.

He sure does. My favorite is a toss-up between Free Prize Inside and All Marketers are Liars. His blog is great too. All very useful and relevant to anyone starting a business or who already owns one.

For some reason I can't find Unleashing the Ideavirus for the life of me, but I have an awesome word doc with a great deal of Seth's advice. Just shoot me your email via pm and I'll forward it to you. Too large of a file to post here.

Robert Allison
05-03-2007, 03:10 PM
He sure does. My favorite is a toss-up between Free Prize Inside and All Marketers are Liars. His blog is great too. All very useful and relevant to anyone starting a business or who already owns one.

For some reason I can't find Unleashing the Ideavirus for the life of me, but I have an awesome word doc with a great deal of Seth's advice. Just shoot me your email via pm and I'll forward it to you. Too large of a file to post here.

Steve, you've got mail...

I haven't read Prize or Liar, but probably will get around to it at some point. BTW, if you (and Garrett) are still looking for Idea Virsus, you can download a current version here. (http://www.sethgodin.com/ideavirus/01-getit.html)

A separate thread on great business books might be worth starting at some point...

Garrett Smith
05-03-2007, 03:11 PM
Sweet!

Yael Grauer
05-03-2007, 04:13 PM
I'll admit that I checked out Curves before I joined a real gym however many years ago. I went there with my checkbook and was ready to sign up but was so sorely disappointed that I just couldn't bring myself to do it. The reason I was interested was because it was only $29 a month, there was no contract, I knew they did a lot of good charity work and I was into the idea of an all-women's gym because I'd had bad experiences with a bunch of weird guys I didn't know trying to "help" me at regular gyms.

The things I looked for in my expanded gym search were, in this order:
1. no contract and a price I can afford
2. hours I can actually realistically make
3. requisite equipment
4. any other cool equipment, classes, if there's a pool, etc.

Yael Grauer
05-03-2007, 04:15 PM
Oh, and what Greg said.

Garrett Smith
05-03-2007, 04:24 PM
Yael, you know I'm working on it!!! :-D

Yael Grauer
05-03-2007, 05:57 PM
Yael, you know I'm working on it!!! :-D

That wasn't directed at you!!!!

Garrett Smith
05-03-2007, 06:21 PM
I know, no worries, guess I just needed to say it to remind myself...

Allen Yeh
05-11-2007, 05:21 AM
So how does the business plan fit into the gym itself and how it differentiates from a big box?

http://dynamicfitness.blogspot.com/2007/04/good-gyms.html

Steve Shafley
05-11-2007, 05:40 AM
From what Alwyn's told me, he's got few clients himself, and he and his wife educate their staff extensively.

Their staff handle the clients according to "The Big Book of Cosgrove", or whatever, while they manage the business end of things, Alwyn deals with the fallout from his last bout with leukemia (still clear), and travel and present, and write, and do other projects.

Trusting his staff to do what he used to do is something that seems very important to him.

Garrett Smith
05-11-2007, 06:03 AM
Those who are the most successful are those well versed and comfortable with delegating...

Pierre Auge
05-11-2007, 09:04 AM
Steve,
what you just described with Alwyn is basically what we've been trying to get going on here at CCF. Colin does the admin and trusts me to run the place while he is administering and attending to business. I am training and developing other trainers. We will know we are successful when we replicate the process and I am doing Colin's current job and he is administering a chain of gym's. I will be successful when I've developed trainers enough that they are capable and trust worthy enough to produce the same results. Then we do it again... That will mean success - we're on our way slow but steady wins the race!

Steve Shafley
05-11-2007, 10:29 AM
Is that what you ultimately want to do, Pierre?

Pierre Auge
05-12-2007, 05:14 AM
Me, I'm a coach my goal is to help Colin build up his training business while I build athletes and trainers. I have no real interest in being the business guru but it is a skills and a means to an end. I just like helping people - eventually I'm going to open a school.

Allen Yeh
05-31-2007, 11:16 AM
http://alwyncosgrove.blogspot.com/2007/05/how-long-is-training-session.html

To be honest never having trained independently and always for a big-box gym I had never even thought of NOT charging by the hour.

Mike ODonnell
05-31-2007, 12:24 PM
http://alwyncosgrove.blogspot.com/2007/05/how-long-is-training-session.html

To be honest never having trained independently and always for a big-box gym I had never even thought of NOT charging by the hour.

Training by the hour for 1-on-1 is the least profitable way to make money. Second best way, do 1/2 sessions only (and call it a session...as there are no other options). Now if you charged $65/hr...and now you charge $45 a session....people think is it a deal and you now make $90/hr.

Or go the route I have taken....do no 1-on-1 and only groups....either in 2-3 or llarge 10-20...now you maximize your $/hr....as long as you know how to balance it, give a great program that gets results....everyone comes out a winner.