The industry has changed dramatically since my first book, Making Money in the Fitness Business was first released in 1999. Since that era, the big box mainstream gym has faded and the trainer, and the training-centric business model, has risen to dominate the field. This new revision, titled Making Even More Money in the Fitness Business, represents our entire business system used by gyms in over 30 countries around the world.
The original book was a combination of a true labor of love and true arrogance. Everything I thought I knew was in that book and it represented to me a giant step forward from the past failures of the fitness industry toward a system where a dedicated owner could learn to make money ethically and professionally without hurting or failing the client.
The original book sold about 100,000 copies, which surpassed all my other books combined. It was, however, time to move ahead and the book simply had to be revised to represent the market today and how business is done today. The revised book, which will be published the first week of March by Healthy Learning and Jim Petersen and his dedicated staff, covers over 400 pages of how to get it done in today's market. Very little of the original book exists and it is a revision only in theory. The first seven chapters are new and old chapters were thrown out and replaced by current information you can use to make money today in a tough and competitive fitness market.
The following is the introduction from the new book, which gives you a taste of what changed and why. The new version will be on sale through Healthy Learning, on Amazon and through the National Fitness Business Alliance around March 10. I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did writing it.
Introduction to Making More Money in the Fitness Business
When this book was first written back in 1999, it represented everything I really knew about fitness at the time. When I first started in the industry, much of what we did was really all about the owner and little if anything to do with the client. Sales techniques were predatory, the equipment was worthless, few people working in the industry at the time really knew anything about fitness and getting results for clients and the national image of what we did was horrible. There were still pockets of knowledge out there that resided in the small physical physique gyms scattered around the country, but the few who understood fitness were buried beneath the hundreds that wanted to exploit the member for everything he owned.
I grew up in fitness in the era of high-pressured sales. We lived, breathed and failed by learning to sell. The national chains at the time were nothing but repositories of old sales guys who could slam down a dozen a day and then do it again tomorrow. No one thought about, or cared about, the client, who quickly failed in this system and left. Why care? In those days, the member was easily replaceable and the competition was light. Sell, sell and sell again.
This is also a system that I learned to hate quickly. The clients then, as they do now, suffered from being overweight, out of shape and miserable in their personal lives and were looking for us to help them achieve a new level of success. We didn’t have the tools, but there were a few of us that tried anyway. Books were scarce and the ones you could find were based upon personal experience and ideas with no research or real information to back up the claims and techniques in the books or magazines.
The best thing about this old information was that it predated the bodybuilders. Almost everything you read in those days, which was the late 70s and early 80s, was based upon a holistic, full body approach to fitness. You lifted heavy a couple days a week and put a lot of heavy metal up over you head as often as you good. You lifted heavy, lifted often, worked your full body and amazingly it worked for our clients.
At about this same period of time fitness changed and changed for the worse. The 80s were a decade of fixed plane equipment and the first generation of workout people who chased isolation for the muscle as well as the emergence of the national chains and the end of anyone getting any help unless you paid a trainer to work you out six days a week. This was also the advent of the bodybuilder, which for better and worse chartered a course for the industry that lasted until just the last few years. We went for show in those days and bigger the better, but we also created a generation of false expectations and worthless training knowledge that still permeates the mindset even today.
My absolute distaste for the early fitness industry still burns my lips today. We lied to the client to get him into the gym and then failed him once he was there. We chased image over health and failed to do any research that would have advanced the industry by several decades. The industry was for all practical purposes saved at the turn of this new century by the rise of the functional training mindset and by solid research that pointed the way. Some of the early functional pioneers, such as Vern Gambetta, Gary Gray, Jim Petersen, Cedric Bryant, Mike Clark, Al Vermeil and a few others set the tone for a new generation of trainers and training information. This first wave led to the second and the gurus of change who set the world on fire, such as Mark Verstegen, Gray Cook, Mike Boyle, Dan John, and Carlos Santana then led again to today’s best, such as Alwyn and Rachael Cosgrove, Todd Durkin, Greg Rose and Pavel Tsatsouline, who have combined to create an new generation of educated professionals that are quickly changing every concept we ever thought to be true in the industry. For once, we had tools that worked and that were validated by educated people who could and would test all the nonsense we had carried for over five decades.
My mission then, as it still is today, was to change the fitness industry from an image of nasty sales techniques and failed information to one where the client got what he paid for and could trust the gym and the owner he chose to help him fulfill his goals. One workshop, one gym at a time, one owner until the consumer could look at what we did and trust us instead of fearing us as he did back in the day of the pressured sale in an office.
Writing this first book was a labor of love. It was my chance to spread the word that you could make money in this business and you could do it ethically and professionally and not at the expense of hurting the people who trusted you with their money. There were later books in this long series on the business of fitness, but each new title was only added after I felt I had something new to say and while I enjoyed the writing process in each and every one, this first one was always my baby that started it all.
At the time this book was written, it seemed so fresh and needed in the industry, but as with everything in the fitness world, time diminishes returns and what was once at the edge of the field and pushing beyond any accepted boundary at the time, became dated and no longer the source of vital information that could help an owner understand and master the business side of the fitness industry.
My entire life has been spent going forward. I like living in the “now” and as I have told thousands of clients, you can’t change your past and the mistakes you have made so let’s talk about today and what you are going to differently starting tomorrow. Looking backward has never been productive for me, and nor for you, and once something is done in my life I let it be and keep moving towards tomorrow.
Being an author, however, is a little like having your own personal time machine; just one call from my publisher, Jim Petersen, who said, “This book is getting dated. How about doing a revised edition?” led to me firing up the time machine and heading back to 1999. Once a book is finished there is no going back for me and I truthfully haven’t looked through the first edition of this book more than a handful of times in the 14 years since I wrote it.
Picking it up again left me with two impressions. First of all, the material was right for the decade it was written, but it is not very close to how an owner has to think or work to be successful in a market that has changed so dramatically in so few years. Secondly, I was pleasantly surprised that there were still some fundamental truths in the book that have endured over time. For instance, building a receivable base is still a fundamental rule that can’t be changed even today, short-term debt still can kill a business and customer service still is an essential.
The failings of the original book today, however, were glaring. When this book was first published, there were no low-priced gyms, no training gyms that mattered, trainers were at best clipboard cowboys, and the chains that ruled that era have since faded to almost oblivion. Most importantly, back in the day in 1999, competition in most markets was at best moderate, meaning that most gyms could safely operate with little or no competition and the tools of the years that preceded 1999 going back to the 1950s, the era when the gym business started to first rise, were still somewhat valid.
In 1999, gym owners were still pressuring sales in offices, still just selling access to equipment through an inexpensive membership, and still using price-driven marketing to get leads. All of these concepts, by the way, have totally failed in today’s market including the idea that you can be the lowest bidder in the market and simply rent equipment to a consumer who will be gone in a few months.
There is an important rule in the fitness business that no one recognizes, but most everyone is affected by at some time or another. This rule is the 10-year rule and it states that few concepts in fitness will be sustainable for a 10-year period. Every new idea in fitness has pretty much the same curve of growth, but you as the creator or eventual leader get to choose your own ending. For example, in the 1980s aerobics started a long, slow growth period, got hot and rose to the pinnacle of need, quickly declined in the early 90s and then completely disappeared for about a decade.
This pattern is true of most concepts in the fitness industry, and it is also why you constantly need to look at what you own and what you’re doing and reinvent. This is also why consultants who write books need to go back and question every concept in their older books and ask if that idea is still relevant and would it work today?
We see the this pattern of long, slow grow, followed by a hot, “must-have-it-now” pattern, the quick decline and then oblivion in everything we do and in the real world too. Starbucks stumbled until its founder stepped back in and reinvented the company. Apple stumbled until Steve Jobs came back and set it again on its original course and only the future knows if that company can continue to amaze after the death of Jobs.
Great companies in the industry, such as Gold’s Gym and World’s, were the rulers of their decades, yet the companies sold and somewhat faded from their once true glory. Gold’s Gym was probably the most recognizable fitness name on the planet for several decades, but again, it is a lot easier to get to be number one than stay number one over time. Can these great names be reinvented by their current management and follow the path of Starbucks or will they fade and become just another former success story in the history of the industry?
The difference between long-term sustainable success and oblivion is evolution. Howard Schultz let Starbucks evolve, but only by remaining true to its roots. This sounds contradictory, but under his second generation direction, the company changed to meet the needs of its continually evolving customer base while never forgetting that it was, and always will be, about the coffee and the experience.
In the fitness business, creators of new concepts tend to sit on the past and cling to original methods and ideas. This list is long, but how many chains and franchises have you seen rise, become hot, and then fade away over a decade or so because the consumer and market simply grew past the original concept. Curves was a brilliant idea at the time, but a decade or two later and the concept became archaic and a hard sell in the market as the total number of units they operated continued to decline for a number of years. Their method of training, based upon a simple circuit concept, was right at the time when it was founded, but compared to the advent of functional training and how the proven methods of training, even for the older woman, has evolved can this business model be sustained into the future? Everything has to evolve or it dies and businesses, even wildly successful ones such as the original Curves franchise model, eventually reach a stage where you grow or fade.
When this introduction was written there were also a number of other companies that were nearing that vital period where either they evolved into next generation or begin the long slow march to obscurity. Once you reach that pinnacle position of being really hot after the long, slow build, how long can you truly stay hot?
There is another position between hot and the big fall and that is where you operate as a long-term dependable company that keeps its product fresh, service great and always is moving itself ahead. Starbucks is over 40 years old, but its stores and concepts seem fresh and as if it was a brand new company. Sears is in the fight now to remain relevant. Montgomery Wards disappeared. Almost all of the Curves imitators failed and disappeared. Reinvention is life and whether you grow or you die in the fitness world is driven by your response to the rapid pace of increasing knowledge, better educated employees, such as the trainers and a much more sophisticated client who all are pushing the gym owner to grow and adapt or face being ignored and fail.
It will be interesting in the near future to see if companies such as CrossFit, Planet Fitness, Les Mills, Gold’s, LA Fitness and the rest of the current big names, or programming giants such as Zumba, will continue to evolve and stay relevant or become a victim of the 10-year rule and start that quick slide to where they are rarely discussed and are no longer relevant in the business world of fitness.
Obviously, the first edition of this book was a victim of the 10-year rule and needed reinvention to stay relevant for a next generation of fitness business owners. The business model I have advocated all these years, and that has been quite successful for thousands of owners, needed tweaked and we started the process almost a decade ago. This book now represents all that we know today about running a successful gym as well as validating some of the original concepts that were slightly ahead of the curve.
One of the basic tenets I have always believed in is that going for heavy volume, meaning chasing an endless supply of new clients each month to replace the ones you burned up was not sustainable over time. The concept was right, but it was also wrong in that it was introduced too early in the market, and going after a higher-return-client-served was the right idea, but it was hard to sell in the industry when the volume guys were still writing the big sales. In other words, it was the right idea, but we didn’t have the tools we needed to get it done back in 1999. But that has changed, and now is the time to recognize this principle. And most importantly, owners are listening now because of all the things that have failed in the last 20 years, nothing is more earth shattering than the failure of the volume based business model.
The missing ingredient all these years was the training component of the business. It seems absurd now, but working people out for money has been a small part of the industry for over 60 years. We have done nothing since the inception of the industry over 65 years ago, no matter how this is argued, except sell a membership to a person who pays each month to a gym so he can access, or in other words rent, the gym’s equipment.
The statistic that validates this has been constant for several decades. In a typical, mainstream fitness center, whether independent or chain, only about 5 percent of the membership work with a trainer on a regular schedule on an annual basis. If you are math challenged, look at it this way; in this gym, 95 percent of the membership gets no help whatsoever and practice some form of do-it-yourself fitness usually regulated to going around a circuit of set equipment that has been proven a hundred different ways not to get the person into shape over time.
The evolutionary key, and the premise behind the revision of this book, is that the industry cannot last as a rental company for equipment, even at $10 per month. We have to move from a volume approach, where the member is expendable and irrelevant over time, to a training-centric business model where we have to chase the maximum results, for the maximum number of clients, in the shortest period of time, and keep our clients for as long as we can in a hyper-competitive market place.
This revision contains our complete business model to make this happen for you and your business and it doesn’t matter if you own a big box mainstream gym or small training gym on the corner. Everything you need to be financially successful for the coming decades is here, proven by thousands of clients over a 30-year period. We now have the tools, we now have the education, and for the first time, we now have the clients willing to support a system designed to help them succeed.
There is one thing you have to understand if you want to make the fitness business your life’s work. We exist to change lives. We exist to help people who struggle with health and fitness get better. We exist to make a difference in our communities and with the people who trust us with their money. We can do all of this and still make more than enough money to take care of our lives and our families. If you are in fitness because you want to make a difference, then this book is for you.
Chase your passion through fitness
We often fail in sales because we often end up attempting to sell something to the client that he really doesn’t care about buying. What we sell is often what we do and how we do it; but what the client really wants to buy is a solution to a problem. This solution is defined as the expected outcome of doing business with you over time.
For example, one of the oldest examples used in so many sales workshops is the drill. Very few people go to Lowes to buy a drill because they need a drill. You go to Lowes and buy a drill because you need a hole somewhere. We have all heard this old story, but very few people take the time to understand what it really means and how the relationship between the buyer and seller can break down.
The sales guy is excited to talk about the features of the drill including the power, attachments, case, cord and battery. The buyer just wants to know if this is the right drill to hang 20 pictures in his house. The buyer and seller have a hard time connecting, and the sale might be lost, because each one has a different expectation in the encounter.
The same is true in the fitness world. We often lose potential clients because what we attempt to sell is now what the client came into your gym to buy. Clients come to a gym for one reason, and one reason only, and that is to buy a solution to a problem.
My pants don’t fit I join a gym. I am getting divorced I join a gym. I am going to be in a wedding so I join a gym. In the first example, the problem is the pants and the solution he wants to buy is getting rid of a few pounds. In the divorced example, someone is now single and has to get back out in the dating world and needs the self-confidence to do it and in the wedding scenario, the problem is looking good for the woman in a sleeveless dress. They all have a problem and all are looking to you for the solution.
Do any of these people really care how you get this done? If I hire you to build custom cabinets in my house, do I care if you use a Black and Decker drill or a Makita or do I just really care about you being a master cabinetmaker that does good work for a fair price?
Inefficient salespeople, and the industry is full of them, spend all their time in a sales encounter talking about the tools they will use to get you in shape. In the mainstream boxes, we talk about the number of classes, the number of trainers, the total amount of cardio and even the total amount of weights we have. These sales people spend all their time telling you what the gym owns and very little of how you are going to get where you want to go.
Training gyms are in many ways worse because the people doing sales there spend so much time talking about how they train, their training theories and belief systems, the initials they have collected behind their names and the latest certifications they have amassed. In other words, we talk about drills, doors and tools and very little about the expected outcome of the application of these tools, which are beautiful cabinets in my kitchen.
The worse offenders in the training world are the new weekend wonders that get those new certifications in one or two days and are now masters of their training methodology. Remember that when you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail and after one weekend with good instructors and 60 other converts, everything come Monday is going to get nailed because you, and only you, now know the only right way to train.
Becoming a master coach is more about having a full toolbox (not referring to the many trainers who are considered by their friends and family as one tool short in their tool box) and being able to use the right tool to solve the problem at hand rather than forcing everyone to fit into your narrowly defined window of expertise.
If you want to sell effectively, which means nothing more than helping the people who came to see you get what they really want, then you have to change your mindset. We have to move from selling what we do and how we do it to selling what we can do for you.
Spend time really talking to your clients about these three points. This does, by the way, work in almost any business where there is a client and a salesperson trying to sell something to that client:
1. Where is the client today? What is his starting point? Why is he here? What is working for him and what isn’t working? Assess what he is doing and acknowledge that even walking the dog is more than most of America does on a daily basis.
2. Where does he want to go and when does he want to get there? In other words, what is his expected outcome of working with you? Is it reasonable and is it something he can commit at least two days a week chasing. Purists, you need to walk it back a little. Unless you are a professional fitness person, or in that hardcore group that represents such a small portion of the people in this country, you cannot expect someone to commit to a gym more than 2-3 days a week. Two times is a lot for someone who has family, a tough career and any type of life. Yes, I agree that fitness should be the centerpiece of his life, but maybe two times a week is just all he has and maybe all he will every have so live with it.
3. Project him out for 30/60/90 days. Show him what he can achieve during these time frames and help him see that the effort he will put in can get him to these points. You don’t have to be crazy accurate, but at least build a plan showing where he is now, where he wants to be, how he is going to get there and the benchmarks along the way.
You have noticed that the tools we use just aren’t that important to him. What is important is that you have spent time with him, understand his goal, know what his expected outcome is and most importantly, have laid out a 90 plan of attack to get it done.
Be proud of what you have learned and be proud of whatever organization you support, but also be aware that the client is less concerned where you spent last weekend getting down and dirty and cares much more about what you can do for him and if you are the one he can trust to help him reach his goal.
The holidays should be a time of reflection, but we are often too busy with family, friends and work still undone to sit and think about the year and what we accomplished. This is also a time to be grateful for who you are and what you do for a living. What you do looks so easy from the outside and yet is so hard from within. You are responsible not only for your own well being, but you also have to take care of so many other people who look to you as a guide and coach. What you do matters and if you do this for a living somewhere you were given some special talents to accomplish the difficult tasks each day.
People who live within the fitness world often gain a sense of spirituality that they don’t always think about or discuss with friends over the occasional glass, but the perfect workout with friends could easily be viewed as a spiritual event that brings you closer to a universal truth. Fitness is motion and motion is life as life was intended to be. It doesn’t matter who or how you worship to most people, but it does matter that you are on a path that constantly leads you to seek a higher power in the universe.
The touch of spiritualty that someone living within fitness often feels comes from the ability to take what you know and do and change someone else’s life. Because of you, other people are better, and by any definition, of any religion, when you leave the world a better place due to your presence you have gained an understanding of the spiritual side of the universe.
What you choose to do for work in your life should matter to other people and what you do should make a difference in the universe. This is a prayer written for all of you that get up every day at the first light of dawn, kiss the family goodbye and then set out to help people who struggle in their lives reach goals and find happiness through simply feeling better about themselves.
An open prayer to the universe
Allow me the knowledge and the power to change lives and help those who trust me with their lives find the happiness that comes from the simple pleasure of being a healthier person
Guide me to always do the right thing with the people who seek my help and to keep my ego and personal agendas out of my teaching
Help me always remember that small steps are important and any change is valuable in someone’s life if that change is a positive step forward
Please help me remain patient and nurturing for the people who fail on their journey
Grant me the means to keep doing the right things and to be able to support and protect my family through the dedication to my dream
Please help me be a friend and guide to those around me who are also on the same path and are seeking the same goals in life
At the end of each day please grant me the knowledge that what I did made a difference and everyone I touched left a better person because of my efforts
And at the end of my days, please grant me the privilege of looking back and knowing that my life made a difference and I did not waste the talents given to me by the universe.
Take a few days off; you earned it. Sit quietly and think about the good you did this year, the people you helped and the lives you changed. There is a new year coming and 2014 will bring many more people into your world. Your job is very simple: you exist to change lives and no one does it better than you.
“Happy Everything,” and thank you for the friendship and support over the years.
There comes a point in many careers where you get up, hit the shower and find yourself leaning face against the wall with hot water running down your neck for an extra 10 minutes stalling to face the inevitable day at work. Unless you have a shower buddy in there with you, this is the day you need to consider quitting whatever you call work or a career because you are longer going to be any good at what you’re doing for a living. You are also wasting a day of your life, destined to be repeated, for as long as you continue to let yourself shower in misery, which eventually results in the loss of the most important asset you own…your life.
The mistake is that you should have never allowed yourself to get to that point in your life. How and when did you lose your passion for what you do for a living, if you ever had it, and how did you ever let the world take it away from you? Worse, if the work you are doing isn’t important to you then why are you still doing it? Lost minutes in the shower often lead to lost years trapped doing work that is meaningless. Your life’s work defines you in so many ways, yet choosing work that forces you to find ways to avoid it drains you of your best years and most creative energy. You are not the work you do, but you often live your life by the quality of the work you choose.
Here are five questions you need to ask yourself if you are the person in the shower:
1. Are you living your dream or someone else’s? We too often end up doing work that is part of someone else’s dream. You find a spouse, the spouse has a good job in that area and you then take a job that isn’t firing your passion, but it keeps you fed. You spend a few years doing this and your dreams vanish to be replaced with someone else’s, and if you lose that person, you now are often too late to reach back and rekindle that passion that excited you and your dreams earlier in your life.
There are very few people who can’t live their dream almost anywhere, but your first realization has to be that what you are doing is not what you were meant to do. Of course you have to make money out of whatever you do, but you can’t change lives when you are the person that needs taken care of in life. So the first question really asks whether the job you are avoiding was your choice, or did you commit to something that allows someone else to live his or her dreams while yours are lost?
2. Are you in a job you should have never taken? You would not be the first person who spends years preparing for a career that turns out to be a bust. And there are still many more people who take what appears to be a dream job and then find that it just isn’t what it seemed to be from the outside, but these people refuse to leave due to pride or embarrassment and end up equally trapped doing work that never delivered on its promise.
If you picked badly, run away now. Admit the mistake and move on now. Pack up your bags and move on now, or at least as soon as you can get other work that moves your career ahead. Remember, every job, certification or course should only have one purpose, and that is to move you closer to your dream. If isn’t doesn’t move you forward, then don’t do it.
3. If not this, what else would you do? This is my favorite and also the most common complaint. Owners or senior people rack up years doing what they wanted to do and then mentally just quit. You can almost tell the exact day it happens. The first thing you hear is, “This would be a great job if it wasn’t for those f%^&*ing clients.” Or “I can’t deal with another person in my face bitching about the same old thing.” The second indicator is that their business begins to immediately fade. The place is dirty, the paint is outdated, the staff is undertrained, if trained at all, and finding the owner actually in the business working would take Sherlock Holmes.
The question is now what will you do? If you worked this business for years, what else would you do or could you do to make the same amount of money? Walking away only means you will again become trapped in yet another business, and this time it will happen sooner. You forgot how to work and you forgot the pleasure work is supposed to give you.
This is sort of like the old married guy who is forever in love with a super model in the catalogue. He dreams of her, buys her pictures and has a secret crush on her for years, but he never learned the most important thing; your dream is someone else’s pain in the ass. The point of this is that if you don’t learn to find a way to make yourself happy in the business you own now, then running away to another business will never change that failure; it just perpetuates your being miserable somewhere else doing something else.
4. Can you find a different way to get it done? This is really part of the question above. The burnout of an owner or senior manager is often the failure of his management style. If you do the same thing everyday for 20 years you will hate it, but who said you have to do the same thing for 20 years. There are too many owners that cling to the images of the past. “You can’t teach me anything new, I was making money doing this way 20 years ago.”
Yes, you were wildly successful 20 years ago, but how is that working for you now? Everything changes in the world. Businesses come, businesses go. Technology changes daily. The consumer changes, grows and becomes more sophisticated. The market you are in changes too with new competition we couldn’t have imagined even a few years ago. Yet there you stand, too cheap to paint the place and too lazy to sit down and reinvent your business.
Your business didn’t fail you, you failed it and it is amazing that people who are making a lot of money seldom ever complain about being burned out.
5. What have you done to reinvent yourself in the last year? We all used to be somebody and back in the day I am sure you were the master of all you surveyed, but what have you learned today?
Part of burnt out is that our tool kits start to deteriorate. Ten years ago you were a master salesperson, but now those pressure tactics just make potential clients laugh and walk out. Fifteen years ago you used to be a master trainer, but now there are workshops that teach more in three days then you have learned in those last 15 years. You fail because you cling to glory days instead of admitting you don’t have one clue left in how to do things anymore and that the world has past your lazy ass by.
The perfect example of being trapped by former glory is the 40-year-old trainer who learned how to train during the bodybuilding craze. His solution to every training situation is the application of technology that is older than he is and isn’t every coming back, but to let go of this he would have to attend a workshop and admit that he needs to start all over again and reinvent himself.
Sometimes letting go of something is the most powerful move you can make. Remember that life is about going forward, not living back in the day when we were all young, beautiful, smart and rich, at least in our heads.
People fail to change because the perceived risk is too high so they cling to everything that fails and then here comes that perception of burnout. What you’re doing isn’t working anymore, but you won’t change because what you might do might not work. This circular thought leads to a person freezing in place and while we might call it burnout to be nice, it is really just a nice way of saying you are going to avoid your problems until they take your business down.
If you are in the trapped, burned-out avoidance crew, sit down and spend a few hours with someone who cares and ask why? You will find that there is fine line between being a crispy piece of toast and a productive passionate person totally laser focused into making money and changing lives, and in kicking a few assess a long the way. Come on, get your ass out of the shower, it’s time to go live the dream.
Retro marketing built this industry, but electronic marketing will build its future. Websites, blogs, social media and almost all other forms of electronic marketing change faster it would be possible to keep up with in a book. The coupon sites, for example, were a rage for about a year or two and then died. Writing about how to design a coupon would have been an exercise in futility since that form of marketing cam and went before the paragraph could be written.
Keeping that in mind, we are going to focus on the theories you need to master that can be applied to any form of social media or electronic marketing that might arise in your future. Understand the rules and any version of the game you play will be easier.
The most important lesson you can possibly learn about electronic marketing can be expressed in another basic rule:
Hits, looks, likes and number of views mean nothing if you can’t monetize it
It is easy to get caught up in the grand game of social media, for example, where you sit in a bar and brag about the number of likes you have on your social media site. There can be great gamesmanship involved here but these numbers mean nothing if you can’t figure out a way to turn those likes into money. The ultimate goal of all marketing is to create interest, which attracts leads, which come to the gym, who become members and who pay you money for the results you will help him get. If this sequence doesn’t end with the getting paid part, then it was inefficient marketing that proved to be a waste of your time.
Here is the entire theory of electronic marketing in one simple chart:
Create content…develop your own community…gain influence by having a community…$$$$$
People love to learn, be challenged, be entertained and most importantly, people like to hangout with a lot of like-minded folks interested in the same things. All electronic marketing, and especially social media, requires you to supply an endless stream of content. Posting content on almost a daily basis gets people to your sites, and getting people to your sites regularly begins to build the community, or as the powerful writer Seth Godin refers to them, your tribe.
Content doesn’t always have to stem from you. You can repost other’s writings, find a tidbit in a magazine, recommend a book or video and a thousand other things that keep people coming to your sites each and every day. If you post a new post a short informative tip on your blog three times a week, people become trained to go to your site during a break during their day. They will follow you because you are giving them information that somehow challenges their mind or entertains them and if you do this consistently you will eventually end up with a lot of people who care about what you say and now belong to your community. There is also a rule of marketing for this thought:
You have to become the source on a specific topic
You can become the weight loss expert, the sports performance for kids expert, the overall fitness expert in your small town, the body weight training guru or just about any other niche you could imagine. You become the source, or the filter, which gathers information for his tribe and then posts the stuff daily that your tribe needs to see based upon you being the master of that niche.
If you own a mainstream gym, your goal is to build a site for your business, but you as the owner should also have a site where you become the local expert on everything fitness. This gets you invited to speak at local groups, quoted in the newspaper as needed as a fitness source, and eventually drives people to your business because who knows fitness in this town better than you do, and that is proven by the last 300 post you have made on your sites.
There are rules for content and here are just a few:
You can challenge thought, but you should never insult, be mean or put down someone by name. If you disagree with someone, disagree with class and style and state both sides before making the position for your point.
Never post personal stuff. This includes not posting pictures of your kids, unless it relates to your fitness mission, your dogs, your family vacation, you drunk on a beach in Mexico, you and the buds in a bar or anything that might even vaguely distract the tribe from believing you are the source.
It is hugely important to note that a decade from now everyone who will ever consider hiring you or doing business with you will immediately pop your name into a search engine and also go to all the social media sites of the age. What do you want them to see, and remember that anything posted never, ever disappears from the web completely? Many younger people in the industry cry that this is unfair and their sites are their own private business. This is true, except for the fact that any person in any civilized country in the world can see whatever you post, except for anyone in China, and nothing is truly private on the web. Post often, but post with the one thought that you are trying to improve your personal brand, not kill it.
Never repost without giving credit, but always repost with a comment as to why you think this is important for your community.
Post something fresh at least six days a week.
Use pictures and videos several times a week
Remember that every post either enhances your brand, or hurts your brand. There is little in between.
Post and answer the comments as best you can each day. If the community is working, you will start to see interaction and response to what you are writing. Don’t wait a week to answer. If you post something controversial and expect comments, be there to answer and redirect the issue if needed.
Consider hiring someone to manage all of your media. This can be done for as little as a few hundred a month or as much as several thousand or more. The bigger you are, and the bigger you want to be, means you may need help posting daily and gathering the material for the posts.
The content gathers the tribe. The community gathers around someone that pushes their mental buttons and keeps them challenged. Content and community are both in fact one big circle. You feed content; the community feeds back and around it goes again. The goal is to build a significantly sized group of people that follow what you do and what you write because you are the true source in whatever niche you choose to exploit.
The size of the community will vary from site to site and from niche to niche. One person might be a failure with 30,000 likes on his social media site, while another person might be wildly successful with 500 friends on his social media. Don’t overestimate the need to build the largest community you can in your market. For example, a small training gym in a suburban area that has 500 followers on his site is doing quite well and that is enough to eventually start to turn that number into guests and memberships.
Once you establish your community you now have influence, but what to do with this new power? Think of influence as power to move the herd.
For example, you’re a small country and you declare war on the neighboring country. You summon your army and five drunks show up with a few shovels and a club. This is going to be a short war and it will end badly for you and your army. But let’s say you are a bigger country and you now want your loyal subjects to gather. You notice that you have 30,000 likes on your social media page and you want to sell your first e-book for $1.99 just to test the waters. Your community of 30,000 likes is far more likely to give you back sales versus the army of five. Put another way, when an army of like-minded individuals band together, whoever is leading that army has influence to make change, both monetarily and through driving change in your industry or niche.
You have content in place that changes daily. You have built your community of followers. Your community represents a large enough segment in your niche where you can alter thought and drive change.
You are now ready to monetize the process.
There are rules to this of course. Here are a few tips when it comes to going after the money:
Do not, and this means DO NOT, try and sell anyone anything until you have at least provided content for six months. Stated differently, build your community slowly without asking anything of them.
Once you starting asking for something, only do it once out of every 7-10 days. Don’t pound your tribe daily. Give, give, give for a week or so and then ask for that e-book sale. Give, give, give and then sell that trial membership. Build slowly and sell even more slowly.
Occasionally give something away free just for being part of the tribe. At least once a month, give everyone who follows you a free something, which is usually some short PDF tip sheet or informational piece. Create one of these a month and recycle each one the following year. You want, you want, but you also need to give a little to your followers.
Here is an example of monetizing a social media site. This gym had 1,400 members at the time and also had about 900 followers on its social media site. This tribe of 900 was a mix of members in the gym along with other people in the community that followed often due to the health and fitness tips that were posted daily along with the videos that showed workouts you could do at home.
The gym’s manager ran a post after about six months of gathering the tribe that said, “Post a video on this site in the next 30 minutes of you doing a burpee anywhere on the island and if you are a member of the gym you will receive 30 days of training valued at $300 for you and 30 days for your guest. Nonmembers, if you post you will get 30 days free to the gym, which includes a full training package for you too.”
The gym received 38 posts in 30 minutes. Out of the 38, 21 were members and the gym gave away 21 months of training and 21 guest months to the members to use with a friend. Remember the part from above where you need to reward the tribe with something free now and then. The other 17 posts were guests for a free trial month. In other words, this gym generated 38 guests in 30 minutes at no cost. Also consider that this gym uses primarily group training and another body in the groups doesn’t really cost the gym more money to service.
Another example from this gym was the use of the community, and the influence with this community, at generating revenue for the gym. The manager went to the local sporting goods store and asked the manager there if he would run a special just for the members of the gym, which is only about a half mile from the store.
The manager agreed since he had to do nothing. The sale was set for Friday from noon to three. All members of the gym would get 30 percent off shoes if they presented their membership cards. On Thursday night, the gym’s manager sent out a social media post stating: “special flash sale just for our members. Go to Freddie’s sporting goods from noon to three tomorrow and get 30 percent off any shoe in the store by just presenting your membership care.” The store sold 78 pairs of shoes. The gym’s tribe was rewarded for their loyalty and support. Most importantly, the gym’s manager could now ask $500 to run the sale again since he had proven he has the influence to drive customers to the store. Everyone wins and the community grows since friends refer friends who don’t want to be left out of these great special offers.
This formula as stated above applies to all electronic media since the basic progression is always going to be the same. Marketing electronically isn’t hard if you have a plan and if you realize that everything has to lead to the ability to capitalize on your influence at the end of the day.
Living in balance is so last century. If you want to reach the edge of your ability universe, sometimes you just have to let go of your routine life and surge.
I used to teach living a life in balance as part of the fundamental beliefs everyone should have in their life, along with such one-line wisdom as, “never wear a tie,” or “never hang out with idiots.” In fact, it wasn’t too many years ago I was still ending our workshops with a few minutes of final inspiration on seeking complete balance in everything you do illustrated by tossing a chair upside down on a table representing the four pillars of a balanced life: personal development and family, a sense of community, creating wealth in your life and the search for faith.
Living a life in balance means you stay grounded in these principles and honor each one as equal never letting one become more important than another. The belief is that if you move too far out of balance the universe will correct. Play too much golf and you lose your business. Do too much business and the family fades away. Spend your life focusing on nothing but money and you become poor in everything else. This concept is still true and you can achieve a quality life living this way, but the theory is also incomplete and won’t stand alone if you want to rise above being the average human being who lives, eats, dies and leaves nothing of value or no lives changed.
Looking back, I have to say that I was right on the concept of balance as the foundational concept, but I was wrong in believing that simply living a life in balance is all you need to achieve a life worth living. I have come to realize, through my own life and talking to so many I respect who live at a higher level, that if you want to accomplish anything of true substance in your life, and live up to your talent, you have to be in a constant rotation between a life in balance and a life driven by an intense surge and focus chasing something wildly important to you.
All this means is that once in a while, you need to move out of balance and surge spending a few weeks, months or even years laser locked on chasing your passion. Surging means you move out of balance and into a single dimension where all that is important for that dedicated period of time is accomplishing the goal. Once the goal is achieved, you back off and move back into balance taking time to heal your soul, grow your mind and recharge for the next power surge that will again move you ahead.
The idea of a dedicated surge is that your mind can only really handle a relatively few things at a time and if you want to achieve something of importance you need to jettison as many things as you can that will distract you from the energy and brain power you need to get things done. For most people, this means you move out of a broad based balance of floodlight into a narrow laser beam targeted at the eye of the needle with room for only your major goal and two or three other things of importance to pass through.
For example, let’s say you want to create a new business. As of today, you are that well balanced person who goes to work everyday, workouts, coaches his son’s games, is active in the community, golfs with his friends and pretty much lives the perfect life nicely balanced between everything that is important. But if you want that business, something has to go.
Opening a business, or writing a book, starting a new career, or focusing on a major personal challenge, such as training for a race, all require your undivided attention, especially if the business, book, career or race will be done at the highest level of your ability and talent. Remember the old adage, if it is worth giving up a second of your life to do, then it is worth overdoing. In other words, never, ever commit to anything if you aren’t willing to do it at a mind-blowing, full assault, take no prisoners intensity or you are just wasting your life and other people’s time.
If you commit, then surge and put everything you have into the goal, but keep in mind that you now have to move out of balance and into the laser light. In the example above, you may need to back off on the friends for a few months, quit coaching, set aside other projects that could eat up valuable brain wattage, and cut all external energy down to taking care of the family, keeping your job and eating. Sleeping of course, it totally out of the question if the quest is pure and the energy is focused.
Most of us settle into a steady state of balance as our default mode. We get fat and happy doing what we do and the routine becomes our balance. The surge is where your energy for life is derived from and everyone needs to find something in their life that drives them bat shit insane for at least a few weeks each year just to keep the mind sharp and the accomplishments in life at a higher level.
Remember your passion and remember that living in balance for too long leads to a mediocre life. Mediocrity is for unimaginative, the weak, the boring and the soulless, but passion is for the select few willing to get crazy once in awhile and surge. I feel it coming for you now; it’s time to surge my friends.
You will find times you need advice in your life, but I have come to believe you’ll find few people who are older than you are who are willing, or able, to give you the help and guidance you need and seek. As a seeker as most of you are who read my writings, meaning one who spends his life looking for the answers to life’s many riddles, this lack of available guidance will frustrate many of you as it has me through the years, but there is a legitimate reason so many older people in your life will not be able to give you any valid answers concerning the problems you will face.
The primary reason older people may not seem willing to help is that much of their experience is generational and simply won’t apply to what you face. Having someone tell you how a job or relationship works today based upon an experience from 40 years ago usually doesn’t work well. The culture of 40 years ago was different as to how people behaved, acted and thought in society and their experiences were far removed from what you will experience as an adult today.
Yes, there are consistencies that must be maintained in life, such as how you treat others, or the personal ethics you must always maintain. Not hurting others due to your actions, not living up to your personal word, personal responsibility for your everything you do or developing a strong work ethic are examples of ideas that transfer well from generation to generation and should be honored. But there are other ideas that don’t transfer from one generation to another, such as views on marriage, discrimination as to sex or race, or how women should be treated today versus how they have been treated by older generations.
My unique experience, of being older, but working with so many hundreds of younger people through so many years as a personal mentor and coach, gave me an advantage when it came to guiding another generation, one few other people can lay claim to in their life. My thoughts had to constantly evolve so I would always be able to help those who needed it, but it was also personally important to me to always be the one who fought to understand the difference between those things I hold sacred, such as no discrimination in my life, and those ideas that are transient and need to evolve or be eliminated in my life.
Perhaps the strongest representation of the difference between those in this generation and the generations that make up the older people in your life, such as your parents or grandparents, is how you will mature through your chosen work. How your grandparents, or even your parents, approached work and their careers is different than how your generation will seek to live and work.
Back in the day of your grandparents, lives were culturally predetermined in many ways and everyone passed through most of the same layers of life. You went to high school, or if you were one of the lucky few, you went off to college, you left school, and then you started on your chosen career. This career was often your life’s work, whether you wished it to be or not, and you would usually stay with this career until you retired in your mid-50s, and then you spent your alleged golden years waiting to die, which usually happened about six years or so after retirement.
There were exceptions to this rule of course. There were many people from that generation who would drift from job to job always with the thought that the next one would be the big one where the big money or big opportunity came. Most of these people were eventually disappointed by each choice, but few realized there were no perfect jobs that would save them or that the failure they endured in each choice they made was their own fault, and not the fault of their current boss or company.
There were also many people from that era who would survive retirement, but over time the brave individuals who would think deeply about such things realized retiring so young was senseless and living a life where you were active, involved and useful was far more important than how much golf you could play or cards you could play.
The layers of life will be different for this generation and the options you have in life are far greater than those who have gone before you. Having even a simple model to think about might help your journey and help you understand that what worked for past generations may not work for you, leaving you to discover your own path in life.
Remember, no one has to experience these in any set order, and you might be the person who finds your own way in life by skipping a layer, but knowing these layers are out there and part of a typical person’s life experience will hopefully help you make better decisions for yourself.
All finding your passion means is find something that is important to you, something that has the potential to keep you in money during your life, and something that keeps you from being trapped doing work that is meaningless or boring. Passion is finding something you want to willingly give your undivided attention every day and the hours spent involved with what you love seem to be the best hours of your life. I found this in my own life through writing, reading, fitness and photography as hobbies and through my love of business as a way to keep myself fed.
I have been a business consultant and coach for 37 years, and I can truthfully say I never worked a day in my life. Every day I was able to get up and do what I wanted, help someone who needed my guidance and direction, and through these things was able to make enough money to do the things important to me without ever being dependent on anyone else financially. I hope everyone who reads this will find this passion in your own life, and I hope you always find a way to live within yourself.
In the fitness industry, we mostly ignore our history and in many cases actually deny who we have been and where we came from since so many of the accepted "leaders” in our business or nothing more than first generation crooks.
Attend any of the secondary tradeshows and you will always find the old guy in the overdone suit with a posse of young guys in cheaper versions making the rounds. This old guy used to be someone, once had a chain of health clubs but sold them all off to the next big chain, and now has a few left that feeds his ego.
What we forget here is that this legend in his own mind also sold thousands of high-pressure memberships, provided no customer service, treated members badly and lived for the gross sales number. He used to be someone all right, but in the worst possible way you can be remembered in this industry: as a thief and as an unethical person who raped and pillaged his way through a 30 year career.
But we do have legends in this industry who are a noble part of our history and who we do indeed owe a debt of gratitude. Modern fitness just didn’t originate after an infomercial in the 60s. We have roots and people who opened the door for us and who made fitness a viable business in today’s competitive world, especially if you are a person in love with everything training. We exist in the business of training simply because someone else was brave enough to go first.
One of those pioneers that we should remember is Dave Draper, the original "Blond Bomber” whose popularity and early training methods not only made working out and lifting weights cool in the 1960s, but who also opened the door for the first generation of the modern training gym. He arrived in California in the 60s and soon became a fixture at the old Muscle Beach Gym. He won the Mr. New Jersey before leaving the east and then Mr. America, Mr. World and Mr. Universe and later ended up on the Beverly Hillbillies and The Monkeys. He was first and made weightlifting desirable to the public due to his amazing beach boy looks and gentle personality.
His workout partners of that generation, such as Bill Pearl, Joe Gold and Armand Tanny, were the crossover guys; the ones who were schooled in the old ways of heavy lifting and were soon to invent what became the modern bodybuilder. As Dave noted: "The magic didn’t come from the pharmacist; it came from the soul, the era, the history in the making, the presence of un-compromised originality yet to be imitated.”
As bodybuilding became a culture of drug-induced size, Dave left the competitive aspects of the sport and has pretty much done his own thing his own way every since. The most important thing to remember, however, is that Dave was a pioneer as a fitness guru and that he was also a pioneer in the commercial gym business. Dave not only made you want to be like him in his youthful days at the beach, but eventually he opened a gym and then dedicated the rest of his life to becoming the ultimate trainer and mentor.
Dave, and a few of the other guys who took the high road out of a sport that was tracking badly, opened gyms in the late 70s and 80s. These were the first guys who commercially tried to combine their passion for lifetime fitness with a business venture that provided a safe and educated training environment. Bill Pearl, Vic Tanny, Jack LaLanne, and Joe Gold all opened gyms in the purest sense of the word: the concern was how to spread the passion they all shared about fitness and the early healthy lifestyle.
There were already commercial gyms in the country prior to the 70s explosion, but even in the late 50s the lowlifes were already in the business, replacing guys like Johnny Johnson, who had a chain of ethical gyms before anyone could even spell it. Dave and his generation of beach purists literally invented much of what we consider to be modern lifting techniques and then built the equipment to get it done. Visit any gym in that era and every piece of equipment was lovingly handmade by someone who had an early vision of how the body worked and how it should be trained.
We talk a lot today about the fitness lifestyle, but consider how easy it is to live and pursue that way of living in the modern world? Dave and the guys from his era invented modern equipment, modern training techniques, influenced modern nutritional science and brought out the first commercial supplements and also brought forward the heavy lifting techniques from the old strongmen that have once again been found to be the essence of strength even today.
The renaissance we see today in the fitness world where we are returning to the simple belief of seeking what works is the second major paradigm shift in our history following that of making it cool to the general public in Dave’s early days. We started in the 60s with heavy front squats, holistic training methods focusing on total fitness, and eating big and healthy; and now over 50 years later we are returning to those same basic elements that created fitness and achieved results in the first generation.
Dave Draper is still today the role model for the modern trainer. He is ethical and moral, a purist when it comes to fitness, still training and writing at the age of 70 and still willing to learn and practice new methods for getting clients results. He is also still willing to share and spends hours online guiding anyone who is seeking answers to the age-old training questions.
Dave was the first of the big names and maybe the best of his generation, but what makes him a legend worth remembering is that his work and passion is why many of us can make a living doing what we loved. He went first and proved it could be done and we should be forever grateful for that courage.
Few people live centered within themselves. This means this person’s motivation comes from someone else in his life and isn’t internally generated. Living by external motivation is almost always the path to a life wasted and much sadness by a person existing to live someone else’s dream or way of life. The question to ask is are doing the work you love, or are you doing what you feel obligated to do because someone else told you, or perhaps used guilt to force you into believing that this is what you “should” be doing in your life?
There is a young female manage I have worked with over the years. She is talented in business, has a training background and currently manages a small chain of big box gyms that do well financially. Her conflict, however, comes from her support group. Support groups are always a mixed conglomeration of spouses, family, old friends and often just mere acquaintances that feel obligated to also voice an opinion as to how you should live your life.
This manager works hard in her job, raises a couple of kids, and loves the challenge of running a company with a few hundred employees doing millions of dollars in revenue. The battle begins for her with a spouse that thinks she should work less and that money isn’t everything and a sister who is a stay at home mother who constantly berates her into believing that somehow she is neglecting her children and husband by having a career.
There is a basic rule of life here: the more successful you are, the more your old support group will work against you. Few people in your life really ever want you to be successful, because your success forces them to deal with their lack of achievement. In other words, the more you rise, the more people you will find hanging on to the seat of your pants to keep you down where the low and slow live.
Living within yourself merely states that spouses come and go and need to live their life, not yours, friends enter your life and leave and family mostly care little about your success as compared to driving their own personal agendas that often have nothing to do with you and that often reflect their own inadequacies.
Living within yourself is just another way of saying that the only thing you will ever truly own in your life is what is between your ears. Talent and ability is rare, and resented by many, but these are the tools that define your life. Pushing to the end of your own abilities is what creates a life worth living and no one should ever stand in the way of a man or woman chasing their own dreams.
Do what is best for you and live life on your own terms. Avoid the words and phrases “should,” “you have to” and the classic; “no one does that around here.” There is nothing you have to do in your life except live it everyday you can and as you want to live it. Follow your dreams and no one else’s. Do what you want, and never let anyone tell you what you should be doing with your life. Rise to your own talent and realize that those with less talent or ability will always conspire to keep you down at their level of comfort, which is often just a mediocre life lived in quiet desperation.
And most importantly, live within yourself. Eliminate those who fight to keep you down and make your life’s decisions based upon an internal motivation that no one can ever take from you.
Business is a game of efficiency: it is not a game of perfect. Your goal each week is to do as many things as you can effectively and eliminate as much of the wasted, ineffective habits you become trapped in over time.
Perhaps the most important thing that I could ever teach you is that almost every business-threatening mistake an owner makes is due to his inability to change and their failure to move the business ahead rather than trying something new. In other words, most owners fail clinging to the past rather than trying to move the business forward through the introduction of new ideas and systems.
Here are five things and two bonus tips, that might have made the difference between a good week and great week. This list could be much bigger, but these are five problems we tried to correct this week during typical client calls:
-You still don’t know your numbers: The numbers in a business don’t lie. If you can’t tell me how many leads through the door this month, how many conversions (closing percentage), what happened to the rest of those leads, the average EFT per new client, how many new clients are being upsold to training memberships, how much it will cost to run your gym this month and your retention numbers, then you aren’t in control of your business. And if you don’t know your numbers, how do you make decisions? You have to make staffing, marketing and general business decisions everyday, but if you don’t know your numbers then how did you make the ones you did today?
2. -You are still being held hostage by your staff: If you are afraid to change the business because you are afraid to piss off a few staff people, then you are being held hostage without the benefit of a chance for ransom. Always do what is right for the business and never be afraid to grow. Everyone is replaceable and the business will move forward without those roadblocks to progress you call your present staff. It is important to note that if you own a business and can’t do the job currently being held hostage by someone you perceive to have a skill you don’t possess, you shouldn’t be in this business. This is like owning a restaurant and not being able to cook if the chef walks tonight. You have to master every job in the gym and you should always train backups as a routine part of your business planning.
3. -What you’re doing isn’t working, but you are afraid to change; because what if you change and the new ideas don’t work. Besides being a Chinese logic problem, this is a common trap for owners who have business systems based upon the 1990s, yet want to move into a training-centric business model. This is like saying, “I don’t want to send my staff to a workshop because what happens I spend the money and they leave me?” What happens if you don’t spend the money and they stay?
The key concept here is that anything that has been a trend for over three months is no longer a trend, it is your new reality. For example, if your new sales have been tracking down for the last three months, come to the realization that your sales aren’t coming back and your new reality is that you need to deal now, not four months from now, with that problem. Most owners just sit and wait to see what will happen, often blaming the poor sales numbers on staff, the economy, whomever is president or the competition. The belief is that if this owner waits long enough the tough times will be over and everything will go back to like it was back in the day when the business was hot. Those numbers aren’t coming back unless you actively work to bring them back and that short-term trend is not a temporary thing, but now represents the new reality of your business.
4. -Believing poor is good: One conversation this week was with an owner who was telling me that he was reluctant to change his system because he had three trainers who were generating $13k a month in training…combined. Yes, that was the best he had ever done, but it is still horrible. We get trapped into believing that lousy is the new standard. This is like a woman who is married and her husband totally lets himself go. He was young, athletic and handsome and now he is 35 and wearing dad pants with an elastic waistband, big white tennis shoes and carries about 30 pounds over his married weight. She settles for this wreck until her personal trainer, after she lost weight and realized her inner babe, hits on her and she now realizes that she settled for lousy when she can really have a higher standard of hot.
The goal is to understand the potential of your business and instead of getting trapped in the present; you always have to be projecting your business toward a higher standard three months, six months, a year and five years from now. Few owners can point to a huge chart on the wall of their office and tell me this is where their business will be in 12 months, let alone five years from now, but you should think and run your business everyday in those terms. If you don’t know where you are going, then what is your plan to get there? If you are trapped in the present, without a higher goal to move toward, then a lousy present will always be your reality.
5. -Thinking you can eliminate all risk in what you do: The only risk free day you will ever have starts about 10 seconds after you die. While you are here with the rest of us mere mortals, realize that you can never totally eliminate risk in your life, but you can minimize it. Many new gyms fail because the owner was so afraid of risk that he did everything he could to ensure he would fail. This owner takes space too small, in a weak location, and won’t pay for marketing and wonders why no one supports his business. There is always risk, but your goal is to give yourself the best opportunity to succeed while keeping the risk at a minimum. This is done by doing your homework, understanding the numbers, and most importantly, totally committing to what you are doing. There is no Plan B when you start own a small business; there is only success and everything you have, and everything you are, has to be committed to making whatever you are doing work.
6. -Being afraid to ask for help: I call this the big chain syndrome. The chains struggle with an out-of-date business platform, heavy competition, erosion of their core revenue generators through the loss of training clients to the training gyms; yet most of the biggest club operators maintain that obstinate smugness that they are just too good to ask for help and nothing for them changes except the numbers get worse and the competition gets thicker.
This is also common in the new training gyms where the first time owner is deathly loyal to a training concept and isn’t smart enough to realize that a training methodology is not a business platform. A business platform is how we charge the clients, how we collect the money, how we price for the market and most importantly, and the combination of the systems you use to run the business and train the staff. CrossFit, RKC, any type of boot camp, TRX education and any of the three large group exercise providers all provide a method of working out and none provide a business system you can use as the foundation of that business.
What does all of this mean: new ideas won’t kill you and too much inbreeding, meaning every new idea you have comes from current staff or people who don’t understand this industry, might just end your business.
7. -Trapped in 1995: This is a conversation that sadly, I have at least several times a week. This conversation usually progresses through anger, denial, a sense of entitlement, and finally the reality that what made you successful in 1995 is as relevant today as a phone with a cord, a baby blue leisure suit or a five-year-old cell phone.
It is seldom what you know that will make money for you in the future: it is what you WILL know if you ask the right questions and continue to let yourself grow that will make you a rich person.
Success is the ability to hang up that baggy suit with the pleated front old man pants and move on to something from this century. And while you are at it, donate that last arm to a museum, melt down that last incline leg press and make some yard gnomes, and realize that we have moved past the membership at any cost era into the maximum results, for the maximum members, era of fitness.
Remember that Jurassic Park wasn’t just a movie; it is a representation of everything that is bad today in our industry. Don’t ask me about how to sell training at point of sale, ask me how to build training into every membership in the gym. Don’t ask me how to hire young, dumbass trainers and then wonder why they can’t keep clients or can’t sell even though you give them over half the money. They are trainers, and all they should is train someone, under the supervision of a master trainer, because most trainers work with only one motivation and that motivation is helping people, not being part of your sales team. Change you old dinosaurs, or move on to Jurassic Park where all the old dinosaurs go to die.
Business is about growth and the future. Clinging to the past ended a lot of chains and individual efforts in this business, and clinging to the past might just end yours. Ask yourself this, “Am I willing to let go and grow this business, or am I hanging on to my past glory days?” If you ever tell yourself, “I can’t change, I will piss off too many people, but what I am doing isn’t working,” then you already know the answer.
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