Building a Successful Personal Training Business

male and female personal trainer with stability ballPersonal trainers provide fitness and exercise training for clients on an individual or small group basis. Personal training services can be found in health clubs, at personal training studios or can be brought into the home. Training can be geared towards general fitness goals, sport-specific training or specialized training.  Examples of specialized training includes pre- and post-natal, rehabilitation, special populations or elite athletics and sports performance.  Training services may also include fitness assessments, program design and progression and nutrition counseling.  Overall, a personal trainer is considered a valuable resource for information, advice, encouragement and motivation.

Personal training is a sought after career.  From 2001 to 2011, the number of personal trainers in the U.S. grew by 44 percent (231,500) while the overall number of employed workers dropped by one percent, according to the U.S. Labor Department.  Unfortunately, the pay is lower than expected and employers often offer personal trainers little job security or benefits.  For personal trainers, the median hourly wage is less than 15 dollars per hour.  In order to be successful in this type of job environment they must constantly fill schedules with back-to-back clients and do their best to retain clients as long as possible.

More and more personal trainers are making the transition towards starting their own business and providing personal training studios outside of the fitness club environment.  Unfortunately, many lack the business experience or “know how” to be successful from the start.

The Business of Personal Training

A successful personal training business is less about a person’s ability to provide personal training services than it is about running a well structured and streamlined business.  Any service-based business (i.e. Starbucks, 24 Hour Fitness or Massage Envy) drives ongoing success based on the following:

  • Brand identity and value proposition
  • High quality products and services
  • Quality relationships with customers

Without these elements, a business will struggle to differentiate itself against competitors and drive a high value for the services they sell. Personal trainers need to understand how to create a need for their services at a high dollar value to motivate people to buy (and continue buying).  These items listed above make up the framework of an effective business plan (an important first step in the development of any successful business).  When developing your business plan and strategy it is useful to ask the following questions:

  • What is the distinctive brand value of my personal training business?
  • What are the products and services that I will offer?
  • How will I differentiate my business from the competition (i.e. specialization, value-added services, proprietary programs, etc.)?
  • How will I drive sales and referrals for the business?
  • How will I develop long-lasting relationships with my customers?
  • What are the measures of success that I will evaluate my performance against?

Developing the Rules and Guidelines of the Business

Rules are important because it lets society know what is expected of them. If you break the rules there are consequences and you are aware of that as well. Rules keep us in order.

Rules make up the foundation of society.  They set expectations and guidelines for order and control in our everyday lives.  Without rules there would be chaos and we would suffer from a wide variety of negative consequences.  If we live by rules in our everyday lives (i.e. on the road, at work, at school, in sports) it would only make sense to have rules and guidelines in business as well.

A business plan outlines the rules and guidelines of the business.  It includes the following aspects of the business:

  • Vision and core values
  • Strategic marketing strategies
  • Strategic sales strategies
  • Operations and management
Vision and Core Values

Vision identifies what your business stands for and what it aspires to become.  What your business stands for is unchanging but your business aspirations are constantly changing based on the needs of your market.  Examples include:

  • To become the first and most sought after personal training studio in Oregon.
  • To develop world class programs and services that change the face of sports performance training in soccer and lacrosse.
  • To raise funds and give back to the community in the areas of sport and youth development.
  • To become one of the most sought after employers and business partners in the state of Oregon.

Core values are a small set of timeless guiding principles that structure a business.  Core values don’t have to abide by the rules of society and have intrinsic value and importance only to those inside the organization.  Examples include:

  • To make customer service, support and care the number one priority.
  • To ensure our customers receive the best personal training experience each and every time.
  • To make our studio a happy, welcoming environment (the best part of a person’s day … every day).
  • Dedication to ongoing education and learning.
  • To constantly evolve and grow to adapt to the market … yet stay true to our company vision.
Strategic Marketing Strategy

A strategic marketing strategy serves to develop a competitive advantage in the marketplace and to implement the plan and generate revenues to support day-to-day operations of the business.  A strategy that ensures a consistent approach to outselling the competition is critical.  But the strategy is useless unless there is a way to consistently implement it successfully for the long term.  Examples include:

  • Website content and design
  • Social media platforms and communication initiatives (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest)
  • Customer testimonials and recognition
  • Contests and promotions
  • Community outreach (i.e. fundraising events, sporting events, school presentations)
Strategic Sales Strategies

Most people are not born to sell … yet sales is what ensures a business can thrive.  In essence, a business must seek every opportunity to win sales, through competitive advantages, in order to survive.  A strategic sales strategy is essential to maximize one’s time and effort to generate sales.

Selling consists of two main functions: strategy and tactics.  A strategic sales strategy is the planning of sales activities (i.e. methods of reaching clients, sales materials and resources).  Examples include:

  • eNewsletter broadcast to all current and past clients once per month
  • Referral incentive for all clients that complete “x” personal training sessions
  • Gift baskets, raffles and rewards
  • “Give the Gift of Fitness” promotion (December 1 to 31)
  • “Buy 10 Get 2 FREE (for a friend)” promotion
  • “Bridal Bootcamp” promotion (April 1 to August 31)
  • Facebook “Why I Need a Personal Trainer” contest (win 10 sessions with a personal trainer)

Tactics involves the actual day-to-day selling (i.e. prospecting, sales process and follow-up).  Examples include:

  • Selling sheet (outlines pricing and value proposition)
  • Website (online shopping cart)
  • Groupon or Living Social campaign
  • Group or fundraiser classes to build leads/prospect lists
Operations and Management

Operations and management processes are designed to ensure the business is efficient in its operations by ensuring quality control, minimizing costs and maximizing revenue.  This includes the following:

  • Effective scheduling of client appointments and classes (i.e. client access to online scheduling and payment)
  • Customer surveys and feedback
  • Management of employees, volunteers and partners
  • Maintaining insurance and memberships (i.e. certifications, CPR/First Aid)
  • Accounting and finance (i.e. to provide information about the business to make sound financial decisions)
  • Evaluation and re-structuring of the business (at regularly timed intervals)

Final Thoughts …

There is a big difference between being a personal trainer employed by a fitness company and starting your own personal training business. Personal trainers that take the time and make the effort to develop a strong business plan have a much greater change of developing a business that will succeed and thrive in a market that is willing to pay for health driven results.  Not only does your business come across as more established and credible, you can price your services at a higher value and cultivate clients that are loyal and who become the foundation of your growing business.

Entrepreneurs are not looking to “buy a job”.  Entrepreneurs are looking to develop something that gives them a life worth living and a legacy to leave behind through their work.  Effective planning gives you the opportunity to enjoy your career, maintain a manageable schedule, generate significant revenues … and still have time to enjoy the pleasures that life has to offer!