// Overcome your fitness business challenges

by Paul Wright

Our industry is packed with highly knowledgeable fitness professionals who possess the skills to transform the lives of their clients.
What is sometimes lacking from their toolbox; however, is the business acumen to translate these skills into a successful business, which will flourish in the long-term.

By learning the fundamentals of business development it is possible to ethically increase profits in your fitness business. One of the keys to improving business skills is to understand why fitness professionals frequently run poor businesses – and what factors have led to the relatively poor level of understanding and application of basic business skills in our industry.

By looking at the most common reasons why fitness professionals struggle with business skills, we can identify what can be done about these self-defeating limitations, and get on the right track to achieving our business goals.

1. We worry too much about the finances of our clients. One thing I have learnt over the years is that the financial status of your clients is none of your business – if your clients cannot afford your services or cannot afford to see you enough to get great results then you need to find more ‘a class’ clients who can afford your service. this may be a harsh reality for many personal trainers who want to try and help as many people as possible, but I have seen over and over again in fitness facilities around the world that the best trainers are the ones who are able to schedule regular sessions with their clients – and this requires a certain amount of financial stability on the part of the client. Do not get into the habit of worrying whether your clients can afford your services – you studied hard to be great at what you do and you should be financially rewarded for your time.

2. We do not want to be seen as ‘pushy’. We worry so much about what other people think of us that it stops us from asking for what we really want. If you need to see your client twice a week for ten weeks to get results then these are the facts – to not ask for these sessions because you think the person cannot afford it, or even worse because you do not want to be seen as ‘pushy’, simply reduces the chances of your program succeeding. accept the reality that you need to see your clients regularly to work your magic. How many sessions they need each week is your professional opinion, which you believe is required for them to achieve the best results they can. never ask your client ‘when can you come in for your next training session’ – you are the expert, you are the professional, so you decide when you professionally need to see them again to achieve the best outcome. get into the routine of saying ‘I need to see you in two to three days – how does Wednesday at 6pm fit?’. Remember, the number one rule of business: ‘it is not if but when’. This is not being ‘pushy’, it is professionally guiding your client to achieve the best outcome as determined by you, the expert.

3. We spend so much time learning how to be better fitness professionals, there is no time left to learn how to run better businesses. It is absolutely true that professional education is the cornerstone of training success, but we also need to understand that education does not have to be solely technically-based, i.e., you also need to develop your business and self development skills through reading, and attending seminars and sessions at conventions such as fileX. another good place to start your self-education program is at www.nightingaleconant.com where you can source a wide variety of great business and personal development information.

4. We think the best health professionals have the best businesses this is one of the great myths of business – unless you have been in business for more than ten years and have an incredible following of loyal clients, the best marketers actually have the best businesses. I have seen some of the most technically gifted trainers and therapists fail because they did not make follow-up bookings, were sloppy in their administration skills, and were not aware of the importance of marketing to ensure a steady flow of new and repeat clients. You may be the most technically gifted and educated trainer in the world, but if you do not have a steady stream of new and referred clients (generated by great marketing systems) you will not have enough clients to actually make a difference to anyone. In such cases, your great skills will be wasted and you will ultimately drop out of the industry.

5. We think ethical delivery of quality personal training and a great marketing and sales program cannot operate concurrently. In my physiotherapy business we always operate with the highest level of professional integrity, but we also appreciate that in a highly competitive marketplace with a struggling economy we need to maximise our returns to ensure that the doors stay open. no patient ever argues over the surgeon’s bill after the doctor has performed the operation that saved their life. if you make your service valuable and are results-orientated then the financial issues disappear.

Fitness professionals are as much in the business of ‘selling’ as the most genuine car salesman. if you are a great fitness professional you want people to know about you and your skills, you want them to tell their friends, you want to make a difference and you know you have specific skills that can dramatically improve the quality of your clients’ lives. if this is all true then, like it or not, you are in sales. You are selling your skills, your solutions and your results to your clients and their referrals every day. consider this definition of selling; ‘selling is simply a transfer of enthusiasm’, meaning that you are transferring your enthusiasm for your solutions to your potential and current clients (known as ‘selfless selling’). There is nothing unethical or unprofessional about this as long as you believe in your product or service with all your heart. You only cross into unethical and unprofessional practice if you attempt to sell a client a product or service that you do not believe in and they do not need – then and only then are you a ‘selfish seller’. Using selfish selling techniques will ultimately destroy your business and your reputation.

6. We take rejection personally. We are overly worried when potential or current clients reject our product or service. for example, you have just finished the best personal training session you have ever done, and the happily exhausted client eagerly books in for the following week but then cancels the appointment and does not return your call or rebook. We feel rejected, as though we must have failed to deliver what was expected of us. To take such a situation personally is somewhat egocentric on the part of the trainer – for all we know the client’s partner may have left them, throwing their life into turmoil. Such rejection is not a rejection of us personally, but simply a rejection of our product or service at that particular point in time.

Any self-development book will tell you, however, that to ultimately succeed in any venture you need to learn to accept rejection, and even say that ‘massive rejection is the key to success’. The biographies of almost every successful person will tell you of the struggles they overcame and the rejection they endured before making the call or taking the step that finally turned things around for them.

Rejection is simply a numbers game. in the business of physiotherapy, for example, you need to keep knocking on doctors’ doors and telling them about your great service until one of them finally likes what you offer and starts referring you a stream of patients. It is simply a matter of continuing to knock on doors until you get to the doctor that is ready for you.

As fitness professionals we are not ‘wired’ to adopt business principles easily, but the sooner you take on board the points above, the sooner you will start getting paid what you are worth – and more importantly, getting the results your clients deserve as you learn to trust your judgement and back your skills to make a difference to their lives.


Paul Wright, BAppSc (physio), DipEd (PE)
Paul is the owner of Get Active Physiotherapy which has clinics in Sydney and Newcastle. To download Paul’s e-Book Why Health
Professionals Operate Poor Businesses and What to Do About It, visit www.getactivebusiness.com.au where information is also available on his ‘Million Dollar Health Professional’ seminars and DVDs. Paul also has a range of technical education DVDs for PTs which can be previewed at