Boot Camp Business: Make It Thrive!

by Cat Smiley on Sep 20, 2012

Running a successful company is much like being an athlete. You’ve got to attack the task with dedication, commitment, passion, integrity and respect for the road ahead and the people who are part of it. Just as you keep clients by training them to run faster and jump higher, you’ll build a long-lasting boot camp by starting out great and just getting better.

To secure success for your boot camp business in the long term, consider these strategies.

Have the Best Workout in Town

The content of your boot camp is simply the most important factor—having lots of exercises and modifications for all kinds of abilities and injury restrictions helps ensure that clients leave your class feeling they have succeeded. To stay motivated and empowered, clients have to be able to keep up and do the exercises.

Build a Solid Reputation

How will you get people to pay the fee you need to turn a profit, when so many fitness start-ups are out there giving classes for free? The answer lies in the perceived value of your program. Customers’ goals may vary, but ultimately your clients exercise to look better, get fitter and feel more energized. Create a tracking system to show them they are making progress and to keep them motivated. For example, hire a photographer to take “before boot camp” swimsuit photos on the initiation day and “after” photos 8 weeks later. Chances are they will be so happy with the results that they’ll upload them on Facebook and tag your company with a raving review—letting everyone in their network see that your programs work.

Set Up Your Systems

Creating loyal, paying clients doesn’t require the additional expenses of merchant accounts and online processing in your first year or two of business. The important thing when you start is to show your clients you are serious. Avoid cash transactions, as they do not look professional.

While many vendors do not accept checks, I do. Taking checks shows customers you trust them; I’ve had a few bounced checks, but the clients have always taken full responsibility. Also, taking checks makes it easier to keep all your income in a consistent accounting system. You can track revenue by depositing all checks at the same time and keeping a spreadsheet log of the amount paid per client.

Do It Yourself

Don’t hire a bunch of trainers so you can work fewer hours—stay hands-on with your fitness programming and teach as many classes as you can. Nobody cares more about your business than you do. I have found that it doesn’t matter how well you are paying your instructors, how qualified they are and how awesome they may be—at the end of the day you want to take ownership of your clients’ results and have your clients consider you to be their boot camp instructor. This is very important to the longevity of your brand.

I’m proud to have started Canada’s first boot camp, but I am more proud to be leading the country’s longest-running boot camp. To still be in business in a small town of 10,000 after a decade is what means the most to me.

For more strategies, please see “Building A Successful And Sustainable Boot Camp Business” in the online IDEA Library or in the May 2012 issue of IDEA Trainer Success.

Credit: Image by Len Spoden Photography.

IDEA Fit Tips, Volume 10, Issue 10

© 2012 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.

About the Author

Cat Smiley IDEA Author/Presenter

Cat Smiley owns and operates The Original Boot Camp, Canada’s first and longest-running fitness boot camp franchise. She has been named Canada’s top trainer three times by the International Sports...


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  • Todd Goodwin

    Wow Patty I totally disagree here. I am also on San Antonio yet I am part of the Bootcamp cult you speak about. The biggest issue we face is finding the right trainers for our business to help us grow. I work for a very reputable company that cares only about the client and their success. Allot our current trainers are certified, degreed or in some cases both. The problem the public faces is choosing the right BootCamp for them. Making sure they check out the trainers and the company prior to enrolling as a member. Just like you would do when getting a gym membership. Going to each place to see what they offer. I have worked both as an independent and in a gym and have found nothing but great things outdoors.
    Commented Oct 26, 2012
  • Patty Jentsch

    Yes one more thing Cat,..There are a few quality "bootcamps" and other facilties that teach crossfit type workouts here in my town. My previous comment was not looping in every bootcamp or crossfit type class in town.
    Commented Oct 04, 2012
  • Patty Jentsch

    Hey Cat, just wanted to sound out about whats going on in our neck of the woods. I'm in San Antonio, and everybody and his cousin is doing some sort of a bootcamp, or crossfit type classes etc. You see it advertised on craigslist, on yard signs, shopping news etc. Its so over-saturated with ego-maniac, undereducated and some even non-certified trainers that care about getting that money, and not so much about the participants real health goals and safety. The term "bootcamp" or "crossfit" has officially become a low class label in our neck of the woods. If you offer it, people will shy away from it other than the "group-on" type folks who just wanna quick fitness (Which seems to be the normal way of obtaining clients, with most of these pop-up bootcamps) I,myself, have taught group fitness for many, many years. I do well, because, like you, have systems in place, I practice what I preach, and I do teach most of my group fitness classes. I am what you would call a referral based business. I'm sure there are others out there who are experiencing similar issues in their own towns....but I feel the true professionals who have a passion for what they do, who really do care about all participants in their class, and are not teaching a class just for the paycheck..will always do well and overcome the negative opinions and other bad pr that is overshadowing the fitness industry, especially "bootcamps"
    Commented Oct 04, 2012
  • Cassandra Wharton

    Great article! I am looking to start my own business and am very motivated after reading this piece! Thanks
    Commented Oct 03, 2012

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