// Starting a PT business? Consider this…

Passion for fitness is a must for personal trainers, but failure to complement it with research, preparation and support can destine new fitness enterprises to sink before they get a chance to swim. By considering the following points, you can pave the way for a successful business, says Robert Raymond.

Failing to plan is planning to fail, as the saying goes. Years of fitness industry experience have shown me that when trainers fail to carefully consider what is required of them before going into business, they are far less likely to achieve the successful fitness enterprise they dream of.

If you are on the verge of starting up your own personal training business, consider the following points.

1. Be knowledgeable about our industry

I have seen many business professionals move into our industry because they love fitness, only to fail because our industry is so different than the corporate world they came from. It is important to spend time going to industry conventions, joining professional organisations, talking to other professionals and gaining a first-hand perspective of our industry before jumping in feet first. In addition to being a great trainer, you need to have the right business model, revenue streams, partners and professional contacts to become, and stay, successful.

2. Understand the initial time investment

It is important to understand that time is a huge issue when starting a new business venture. Having balance in your personal and professional life is very important, but most fitness professionals work 10, 12 or even 14-hour days to get their business off the ground. Sit down and outline how much time you are willing to allocate to different aspects of your business. The amount of time and effort you put in initially will affect how soon you start gaining the traction necessary for success. Experience has shown me that it should take approximately 90 days for a trainer to establish a client base.

3. Understand the initial financial investment

Should you work as an employee of an established gym? Should you pay rent to a gym to base your business within it? And should you buy a franchise or join a licensing program? Asking yourself these questions is very important as it will help you determine your direction.

If you become an employee of a fitness facility, you will typically earn less per session, but you will not have to spend money on marketing, you have access to a pool of prospects and you will enjoy superannuation and other employee benefits.

Your financial investment should add to the growth of your business. Many new fitness professionals jump in with a huge financial investment without having developed the skills to compete in our industry. Others do not invest enough and therefore do not earn enough. Consult with fellow fitness professionals who have established successful businesses of varying models to figure out which is right for you.

Only take calculated financial risks – meaning, invest in a business model that has previously proved successful, as uncalculated risks rarely pay off. Don’t be afraid to take a risk, but make sure it a calculated one.

4. Understand the importance of communication skills

Can you adapt your behavioural style to suit a client or business associate with a totally different personality to your own? Can you listen to clients or colleagues without being judgmental? And can you impart necessary information in a way that will benefit them? In our industry personality goes a long way. If your clients, vendors, business associates or partners cannot relate to you, your chances of success are greatly reduced.

I have witnessed great fitness professionals fail in business because they are unable to effectively adjust their attitude to match that of their clients and business contacts. You must learn how to re-invent yourself in some situations, based upon the client’s or business associate’s needs, while still retaining your ethical integrity. This is to say, you must provide them with what they need to make your business more successful. Also commonly known as a win-win!

For more on matching your communication style to suit clients, read Think Feel Know: better communication for better client results

5. Determine your functions within the business

When starting a business you will have to wear many hats. Training clients is one aspect of your business, but be aware that you will probably also be the sales and marketing manager, the accounts department and the communications manager, among other roles. As you become more established and successful, you may be able to outsource some ‘admin’ elements of your business, but initially it will all be up to you.

It is important, therefore, that you go into business with a full understanding of what your responsibilities will be. Do not run your business by trying to complete as many tasks as possible without any organisation system, as you will inevitably get bogged down by certain aspects and end up neglecting others. Good planning will enable you to allocate time to each area of your business.

6. Network with other industry professionals

It is important to make contacts within the industry that can benefit your business. By developing relationships with other fitness professionals and industry figures you can increase your knowledge, develop partnerships and referral systems, increase your income through strategic alliances and gain a support base. If you are serious about having a structured support system it is worthwhile joining or setting up a PT Round Table.

7. Build relationships outside of the fitness industry

You should also develop networking relationships with local businesses, allied health professionals and other people who can refer clients to you and help you grow your business. It is important to understand that networking will become one of the most important aspects of your fitness career. From Dr Smith to the manager of the local juice bar, opportunities for generating new business are everywhere.

8. Work with a mentor

It is well worth going to the effort of finding someone who is already successful in the industry and who is willing to mentor you as you establish your business. Remember, you do not always have to re-invent the wheel; you can take inspiration from what other successful individuals have done – and learn lessons from their mistakes – and then add your own unique touch.

Each of the areas above is in some way dependent on one of the others. The key themes that link them all – and that will be vital to the ensuing success of your fitness business – are research, support and preparation.

Robert Raymond
Robert has spent his career developing three US national fitness companies, all of which gained national recognition for their success and impact within the fitness industry. He now spends his time mentoring and coaching fitness professionals to increase their success in business development. Robert has been working with Onward Education to develop its Wellness programs since 2010. For more information email info@onwardeducation.com.