// Survival of the fittest

by Ish Cheyne

The number of people embarking on careers in the fitness industry has never been higher, but the average working-life expectancy of those starting in the industry is just two years. Why are so many trainers committing career suicide?

What is your gut feeling about how things are going for your personal training business right now? If it is not progressing in the direction that you want it to, ask yourself whether you are doing all that you can to turn it around. Ask yourself ‘why is it that some trainers excel within weeks of starting their business, while others are still holding on by their fingernails after some considerable time?’

Truth one: success is closer than you think

You are probably only about ten clients away from where you want to be. I cannot understand trainers who take a part-time job if things are not going to plan as another job makes you unable to work hours that could be better spent talking to members in your facility. Members are prospective clients. It is more productive to toughen up and work your butt off for two or three weeks to procure some more clients. Two hours of personal training income is better than ten hours of part-time work.

Truth two: you know who is going to leave you

If you are frequently rotating clients in and out of your business then you must ask yourself why. Review the number of clients you have trained and compare it to the number you still have training with you. Did you ask your previous clients why they stopped training with you, or did you just console yourself by assuming that they couldn’t afford it?

If you are honest with yourself, you know which clients are most at risk of dropping out of the facility and/or your business. There are signs that tell you what is going on with them; including:

  • cancelling sessions
  • only coming in when training with you
  • negligible results
  • always being late
  • lack of conversation during sessions
  • client not being able to wait to finish the session
  • you not being able to wait to finish the session. 
Learn to read these signs and deal with them before they get out of hand. A client who is struggling while still training with you is easier to fix than a client who is no longer coming to you.

Truth three: you must know what your clients want

What trainers deliver and what their clients are paying for are often two different things. Therefore, every once in a while it is wise to place yourself in the shoes of your client and ask the question ‘what are they really here for?’

The answer is frequently ‘not what you are delivering’. Better still, regularly ask your clients about their goals and how they are feeling about achieving them!

The secret of personal training a client for the long term is in managing their training, not just in managing their personal sessions with you.

Great trainers manage people’s fitness, the rest just do sessions. Your client may see you once or twice a week, but the potential of these sessions is wasted if they do not exercise during the rest of the week. You need to plan their weeks and make them accountable. If clients are dropping out of your business and you work in a fitness facility, find out the number of visits they have been making each week – chances are the only days they were in the gym were those days they were training with you.

If you really want to be in this business for the long term and make it work then realise that it takes some effort on your part to get things going. Then, once you are at a level that you are happy with, you must work to maintain it – clients will not just stay because you think they should. If you don’t evolve and get better at what you do, then you will be eaten up by the trainers who do continually progress. You must continue to upskill in all areas of business to ensure a long and healthy career in this industry.

3 tips to turn your business around

1. Ask yourself where you are most dollar productive in your business, and what it is that you do that is just ‘stuff’ – then get rid of the ‘stuff’. For example, don’t spend lots of money investing in machines which only a couple of clients use. A great trainer can create alternative exercises which work the same body parts without relying on expensive equipment.

2. Every trainer has a natural attrition rate (this is the percentage of cancellations and re-bookings per week). Allow for these with the 17.5 per cent rule. For example, if you want to work thirty hours a week you need to book 35.5 hours worth of sessions. Knowing this attrition occurs, and planning for it, can ease unnecessary frustration.

3. Understand that personal training is more than just sessions – manage your clients’ fitness, plan their weeks, and learn what they enjoy and what they don’t. This guidance and support encourages their continued loyalty to you and your personal training service.

Ish Cheyne
Ish Cheyne is one of New Zealand’s top personal trainers and is an international presenter for Les Mills. He currently manages a team of over thirty-five personal trainers. Ish has over a decade’s experience of working in the fitness industry, and delivers dynamic, motivational, entertaining and informative seminars and classes.

NETWORK • SPRING 2006 • PP49-50