Personal Trainer Profile
Giving clients ultimate privacy is the secret to Nicki Anderson’s success.
Subject: Nicki Anderson
Company: Reality Fitness
From Shakespeare to Shaping Up. Many years ago Nicki Anderson, owner of Reality Fitness in Naperville, Illinois, had planned to become a theater major. But a significant weight loss helped her decide that her talents would best be used elsewhere. “I went to work at a health club to help others drop bad habits and focus on a healthier lifestyle.” Oddly enough, gym management found her personable approach and ability to connect with members a detriment to business. “I got fired because they said I spent too much time with the members and not enough time selling (although I was the highest-grossing salesperson there).”
Discouraged yet hopeful, Anderson realized that she had more to offer than bringing in the dollars. “I swore that one day I would start my own facility, spend more time with clients/members and not worry so much about parting them from their money; if they believed in me and in the healthy living process, I wouldn’t have to talk them into buying anything.”
Easy Does It. While Anderson was focused on opening an intimate and relaxed studio, she was patient and decided to hone her skills as a personal trainer before signing on any dotted lines. “I spent 1 year with five prototypes and didn’t charge them a fee,” she says. “It was the best thing I ever did; I learned so much. I learned what kind of client I could work with. I learned about paperwork, equipment . . . everything.” Once she discovered her niche and began to feel confident in her abilities, Anderson began working with clients in their homes—a move that would eventually become crucial to setting the theme for her studio.
As her success increased, Anderson was surprised to find that working as a personal trainer came easily for her. “The people part and the marketing part were very natural for me,” she enthuses. “I was surpised that clients actually saw my passion and were willing to pay me to help them with something that was natural for me.” Most important, she developed an innate sense of whether prospective clients are ready to commit to a healthy lifestyle. “If I don’t think people are ready, I don’t take their money.” Instead, Anderson refers them to other professionals, such as registered dietitians or therapists, to help them get started on the right foot. “They are disappointed at first, but later call or write to thank me for pointing them in the right direction and caring enough to send them where they truly need to be.”
The Power of Privacy. In 1997, when Anderson felt ready to apply past experience and newfound knowledge toward creating a successful business, she opened Reality Fitness. As a formerly obese teenager, she remembers feeling intimidated upon entering a large club and she didn’t want her clients to experience similar anxieties. “Being in the gym was mortifying,” she recalls. “I felt like the only fat person there. It seemed that everyone looked right through me because I didn’t fit in. Later, when I trained clients in their homes, I noticed how much more they were willing to try challenging exercises. The privacy made them comfortable, and conversation was vibrant.” To replicate such comfort levels, she included in her studio several completely separate 15' x 15' rooms and equipped them with a Cybex multiplane unit and a variety of smaller tools, such as resistance tubing and balance training devices. Each room houses one trainer and one client at a time (partner and small-group options are also available), providing them a chance to focus on exercise as opposed to what others may be thinking of them.
Anderson finds her methods to be paramount to the success of her business, yet she fears that current industry standards are flawed and are driving away potential members. “Often, we turn away the exact people we want to attract,” she says. “Health clubs can be intimidating, and that’s why I’ve created an environment that is [welcoming] to all levels of fitness.”
SIDEBAR: Calling All Trainers
Do you own a business that breaks the mold? If so, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know why you think your personal training business is unique.
Ryan Halvorson is the associate editor for IDEA and a certified personal trainer.