Seeking Little Pearls of Business Wisdom
Personal Trainer Entrepreneur: Learn to harness the knowledge of your business-savvy personal training clients.
I have had the distinct pleasure of providing health and fitness services to some of the world’s most astute business minds. Quite often during our training sessions—without even realizing it—these clients will share information that could benefit my fitness business. If you pay attention, you’ll be able to glean insights from your clients as well. A client’s business might consist of a huge, global operation, while yours might be a 1,500-square-foot personal training studio. What I have learned, however, is that business is business, no matter the size.
Below I discuss different concepts that I’ve learned from some of my brilliant clients and suggest ways for you to gain insights from your own clients. Consider how these ideas can help you improve your own business, no matter how big or small it is.
Concept 1: "When your business is down isn't the time to make changes; make changes when business is up!"
When I reflect on this statement, I interpret it to mean, “Don’t rest on your laurels when things are going well. Keep making positive changes to your operations.” When you are busy and your facility is breaking records, sit back and enjoy it for a day, but then get busy and look for ways to make it even better! You must stay hungry because the new business down the block is hungry, and it wants your clients!
In my mind, this concept is not saying that you cannot make positive changes when business is down. It is simply saying that making changes is easier when business is up. When cash flow is better, it’s more possible to invest in a new program launch, buy some new equipment or upgrade your facility.
Concept 2: "If you own anything, own the client relationship!"
What a powerful statement! But living it can be difficult if your staff usually spends much more time with your clients than you are able to do. So, what can you do? Each week I call 10 random clients just to touch base and remind them that we are here for them.
Make every opportunity count. One day a mother dropped off her son for his training session and left to run some errands. A misunderstanding in the schedule left her son there alone with no actual appointment. I dropped everything I was doing to work with this young athlete. His mother was impressed and grateful. This went a long way to solidifying this customer relationship.
Take this concept to heart and “own” your client relationships. If you learn everything you can about them and make them loyal sneezers (satisfied clients who spread the word about you), your business will thrive in any environment and against any competitor.
Concept 3: "Your employees are an extension of you. If they do something great, then you do something great; if they do something wrong, then so do you!"
The morning after I heard this statement from a client, I was pondering it when another client came up to me and thanked me for walking his wife out to her car the day before. It had been raining hard, and she was recovering from a minor injury. However, I wasn’t the one who had walked her out. I explained this and said I would find out who did and give him a huge thank-you! It turned out it was one of our managers. When anyone in your organization does something, positive or negative, it reflects on everyone on your team.
The key to encouraging your team members is to publicly recognize their small efforts via a weekly team update or other form of group announcement. Our company focuses on nine core values. When someone operates within those values, we give the person a “Shout Out” in the weekly team update that we e-mail to the entire staff. This strategy has been quite effective. Peers now recognize each other and let me know when great things happen!
Concept 4: "Ongoing education is fundamental to business success. You can't learn simply from the internet; you have to go and experience, go and try, be mentored, hone in on your niche and be the best at it."
Those of us who have been in the industry for 10+ years tend to begin believing that we know everything. I see so many personal trainers whom the industry has passed by, trainers who still have their clients sit on fixed-plane equipment over and over again. The client is bored, the trainer is bored, and it is past time for the trainer to learn some new concepts.
Our company offers an in-house continuing education program, but nothing beats going to a conference, visiting gyms in other parts of the world and sharing ideas.
Concept 5: "Don't manage by sitting in your office. Tour your facility, greet clients, do an inpromptu 5-minute meeting with a staff member or co-worker, etc. Do this four or five times per day. If you have multiple locations, be on-site as often as possible."
Many of us have heard this type of advice before. I really didn’t take it to heart until I started trying it with some frequency. We all get stuck in the rut of being in our offices too much, looking at numbers, etc. Try getting out several times per day and see what effect you have on your business and staff/co-workers! When you are available as a business owner, positive things tend to happen.
Concept 6: "The percentage of pain-in-the-neck clients is the same no matter what type of clientele you work with. Those who figure out how to manage challenging clients will find success!"
Never, ever, under any circumstances say anything negative about a client in front of your staff. Try never to do it internally either. Your clients are the arteries to the heart of your business. They deserve respect and appreciation. Some of these challenging clients can become some of your biggest sneezers if you handle them well!
Now, this isn’t to say that a client can do no wrong with regard to the client-service provider relationship. A client of ours once mailed a shirt covered in his cologne, along with a letter, to one of our female trainers. This act clearly crossed a professional line. The client was terminated without any further consideration.
Concept 7: "Most businesses do not take time to reflect and learn from what has been accomplished and what has been a bust."
I carve out an hour at the end of each week to meet with just me. It allows me to reflect on the week’s successes and opportunities and to learn from each day. It is a great hour, one of my most productive. It also gives me a chance to clear my mind for the weekend ahead. We can’t be all work and no play!
Also, we have management meetings where we celebrate what was accomplished and brainstorm our next steps. Sometimes reflecting on the past leads to great ideas for the future.
Concept 8: "You can give them freedom and resources, but you had better give them structure as well."
When a client mentioned this, we were talking about raising children, but it is a great business concept as well. If you don’t create a solid operations manual and code of ethics, and operate by firm values, then you have no structure. How you carry yourself and operate your business is what will dictate how your employees operate. If you break the rules, why can’t everyone else? If you hold yourself to a higher standard, then the likelihood of your staff or co-workers doing the same is high.
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Clients who are business savvy, are passionate about what they do and take a genuine interest in your business are the best people with whom to “brainstorm” business concepts. I do not force clients to talk business; rather I just engage them in conversation during their workouts—and wherever it leads, it leads.
Try these strategies to make the most of your time with a client.
Be Engaged. Actively listen, and lead the conversation.
Ask for Help. If you are working with a great business mind, don’t be afraid to get his opinion. Most people are happy to help you.
Watch for Signs. If a client is truly excited about talking business, you will see her face light up when a business topic arises.
Jump on the Opportunity. If a client brings up a great business concept, ask open-ended questions and let him expand on the concept.
Research, Learn and Show Your Passion. Come back to the client with more information about your last conversation. Show her that you care about the conversation you had and are interested in gaining additional insights.
Be Respectful. Of course, none of these strategies should compromise the intensity or focus of the session. Business should be a topic of conversation only if the client enjoys this type of discussion. If he is using his “fitness time” to escape the corporate world, then respect that and don’t keep talking about business.
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