Understanding the Ego-Income Relationship

by Darren Jacobson on May 01, 2008

Implement ideas that will keep staff from losing touch with the big picture.

Being in this industry requires an entrepreneurial spirit, flexibility and a drive to achieve. Personal trainers aren’t just selling a service; they’re selling themselves as the purveyors of that service. This can lead to the perception that success in gaining clients equates with success as a person. And since there is often an undeniable relationship between ego and income, when the scale tips toward equating income with being “better,” the unfortunate result is that some personal trainers become quite destructive. Ego can be a dangerous aspect of personal training and far too often has been the downfall of good trainers.

In the beginning, novice trainers are full of energy, excitement, determination and drive—these are the typical characteristics they bring to a facility when they are fresh from school or certification. And when they arrive, these goal-oriented, humble and approachable trainers are the new flavor of the month. Typically they pick up clients with ease as their energy draws people in and business begins to blossom. They accumulate income as the message spreads through word of mouth, and soon they are struggling to control the waiting list. This is the point where it can all go belly-up if ego takes over and sensibility and humility go out the window!

While it is all well and good to accept that income follows people with a lot of self-confidence, the question becomes, how do you keep the ego in check? Here are seven tried and tested ideas to keep your team solid, stable and, most important, grounded!

1. Set Goals

It is important for any trainer to set short-, medium- and long-term outcome goals. These goals can then be broken down into day-to-day action steps (process goals) to ensure that the trainer stays motivated and focused. By achieving process goals, the trainer will attain her outcome goals. Trainers who have no goals or focus, who “fly by the seat of their pants,” run the risk of being swept up in the excitement of the initial big bang and then flaming out quickly. Being inexperienced and unstructured is a recipe for a short career.

2. Take on an Apprentice

Mentoring a new trainer will help an experienced trainer stay grounded and connected with the basics—the initial systems and structures, the recruitment process for new clients and the uncertainty that comes with this starting phase. By revisiting the process through the eyes of an apprentice, the mentoring trainer will stay in touch with the hard work and drive that it took to become successful.

3. Give Back to the Facility

Personal trainers who give back to the facility where they work tend to have a vested interest in the organization; they feel connected to it. By taking on responsibility, they turn their focus outward rather than on the self. For trainers who have no connection to the “bricks and mortar,” looking outside themselves can be harder. Get staff involved through marketing and promotions. Change floor layout, train novice staff, present workshops to other members and clients, and maintain a fairly open and transparent approach to the way the facility is run.

4. Pay Attention to Business Records

Solid, accurate records of income, client numbers and statistics help track increases and common mistakes. I have found that as trainers become more focused on details and documentation, they become more business oriented. There is something humbling about seeing numbers (money, clients, time, etc.). This exercise can help trainers see the value of having controls in place, for both business and attitude.

5. Meet Regularly With the Personal Training Director

A trainer-director meeting for its own sake is absolutely pointless, but a structured, goal-oriented, supportive forum to discuss issues and concerns, go over client scenarios and bounce around marketing ideas is critical. The exchange also establishes a solid connection between director and trainer, and with open communication channels, the director can more easily address any concerns relating to a trainer’s business attitude.

6. Keep the Focus on the Client

As trainers start out, they work hard to establish a real connection with their clients. Thanks to friendly smiles and good eye contact, each individual has a specific relationship with the trainer. If, over time, smiles decrease and eye contact diminishes to the point where the trainer is more focused on generating business and driving revenue, then the client may notice the change, possibly without knowing exactly what is happening or why it’s occurring.

When the trainer loses a couple of clients because of this detachment, she may realize that her focus strayed from the clients, but the mistake has been made; those particular relationships are now gone and the trainer may need to expend a lot of energy combating a reputation of being arrogant and just “in it for the money.” Maintaining client-trainer relationships requires far less energy than creating new ones to take their place, especially when the trainer’s reputation is at stake.

7. Know Your Sphere of Influence

Personal trainers have a lot of influence in the club or studio, and clients identify their trainers as knowledgeable and reliable sources of fitness information. While there are radical variances in the competency levels and qualifications of trainers, there is no denying that they are looked up to as authorities. Trainers need to recognize their role and the responsibilities that come with it. While trainers may not know every member in the facility, the members certainly know them. Once trainers understand the elevated profile they hold and work toward elevating their profession, the ego will become secondary to the goal-oriented and focused attitude expected of a fitness leader.

IDEA Fitness Manager, Volume 20, Issue 3

© 2008 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.

About the Author

Darren Jacobson

Darren Jacobson IDEA Author/Presenter

Darren Jacobson is the innovator of the franchise personal training concept for Virgin Active South Africa, where he manages over 750 personal trainers in 88 health clubs. He holds a bachelor’s degr...