It is going to happen. You can minimize it by making sure that your business’ connection and relationship to the client is stronger than the trainer-client relationship. Make sure that clients have communication from you as owner/manager in the form of personal notes, gifts, social events. Connect with e-letters and use their testimonials on the wall and in advertisements. Make them a VIP with your club. Consider having more than one trainer interact with a client, and get the client involved in other programs at your club and with other members or clients so they are connected to them and don’t want to leave their community of friends. (the same for your trainers- but life changing situations for trainers means they leave sometimes, it doesn’t have to mean you lose a client).
If your state allows, have your trainers sign a legally binding non-solit form. Within 12 months of leaving your club they may not operate within 25 mile radius or solicit your members or clients without monetary penalty. Check with your legal advisor, make sure it will be upheld and then if you have to make an example of someone, follow through.
I don’t give it another thought. Being a teacher of Tai chi, I believe it is all about energy, and connection. I think the universe is in charge of bringing people in and out of our lives for reasons sometimes unknown to us. So the universe will bring me my students and the universe will bring them their students. Letting go of things you cannot control is true stress reduction!
My trainers sign non-compete agreements for a limited radius, in effect for 1 year after they leave our company. It also includes a non-solicitation agreement of clients and members. I haven’t had to enforce it yet in my current situation so I can’t really say.
I will say that in the past, managing in other locations, it is obvious when a trainer is about to bolt and take their clients with them. Big tipoff is their business starts dropping off as they start pulling their clients into their “private practice” or moving them to another facility.
The clients sign contracts that stipulate they are hiring the company (not the trainer). If a trainer were to coerce a client into breeching the contract or interfering with it in any way that would be pretty serious in my book.
I also try to integrate multiple trainers with the clients when practical so they have a connection other than the one trainer. This also helps when trainers need time off or emergencies come up for the trainer. the client gets to keep moving forward!
The manager can also develop a relationship with the clients by stepping in and helping out when a trainer can’t fill all the roles (nutrition guidance, movement assessments, anything you are better at then the trainers who work for you are). These can be brief minutes or a supplemental (free) workout or a few words about their progress before or after a session.
I don’t stress it. I make sure I remain current and that I am aware of what is happening in the industry. I try my very best to be before the wave as opposed to catching the wave.
I believe competition is healthy. It encourages fitness professionals to be proactive about their professional growth.