In this article series we have covered a wealth of information to help you create and maintain a business edge so that you stand out from other trainers, coaches and fitness centers. I have enjoyed thinking through the elements that I believe have given my personal training and coaching business, Cross Coaching & Wellness, a business edge in my local community and in the fitness and wellness professional world as a whole. Writing these articles has also motivated me to stay on track with my own advice while I am sharing it with you. If you don’t follow your own advice, you will lose credibility, and you won’t maintain a business edge for very long.

This last article of the series covers the final elements I think are crucial to having a business edge: business development and planning, and marketing.

Dividing Up Your Work-Hours

During my 200-hour coach training with Coach U (, I was given a simple formula for dividing my work-hours each week into four categories to help me know how to invest those hours effectively. The recommended breakdown is as follows:

  • client hours (working “in” your business): 70%
  • business administration/bookkeeping (working “in” your business): 5%
  • business development and planning (working “on” your business): 15%
  • marketing (working “on” your business): 10%

Note: You can also split up the 30% that is not actual client hours into different amounts as it serves you best.

As many of you have already learned after working for a few years as a trainer or a coach, you will not survive if you fail to spend time every week and month working “on” your business. Trends will change, research will be updated, clients will quit, equipment will fall apart and you will be left wondering why you aren’t making enough money anymore. Business development and planning is about stepping outside of your daily routine long enough to work “on” your business to keep it well oiled and running seamlessly. If your goal is to not exceed a 40-hour workweek, then you should invest up to 6 hours of your time in this area every week.

Business Development and Planning

So what does business development and planning actually include? The following areas:

  • Continuing Education—attending conferences or workshops; reading and working to keep your certifications current; submitting CECs; reading fitness journals (such as IDEA, ACSM, NSCA and ACE) to stay current with the latest research and trends; and attaining new certifications or training to further grow your business and experience
  • Planning—stopping to think about where your business is right now and where you want it to be; outlining your 1-month, 6-month and 1-year goals and creating a map of how to reach them; looking at your career goals (how long you want to work and how you want to structure your workdays); taking time to reflect on and plan for what you really want out of your career, business and family life; and reviewing your budget and spending plan
  • Networking—meeting with friends and other professionals in the industry to support each other and to brainstorm ways of keeping your business fresh and meeting clients’ needs
  • Professional or Business Training—taking classes (in areas such as communication, wellness/life coach training, computers and iPod/iPhone support) to help you more effectively do your job and live your life

Knowing that you should carve out time each week to work on your business is very freeing! Let go of the feeling that you should be “cramming in one more class or client.” Escape to your favorite quiet place to plan your business and career. This ritual will become something you look forward to each week.


The only marketing tools that really pay are face-to-face time and referrals from your great clients. By “face-to-face” marketing I mean a plan that puts you out in the world, meeting and talking to people every week. Examples include attending a tried-and-true weekly networking group such as BNI (, speaking at events on a monthly basis, making presentations to women’s groups and meeting each week with a potential client or business that can refer potential clients to you.

A good rule of thumb is to spend 10% of your business budget (or a max of 20%) on marketing; apply that money to a weekly plan for networking and spreading the word about your business. I attend a networking luncheon every Tuesday and hand out my business cards and brochures there. That group has almost single-handedly kept my coaching hours full for the 2 years since I joined it. That is my marketing plan, and the investment has given me a 600% return every year. Are your marketing dollars doing that for you? Keep a log of how much you spend on a marketing effort and what the actual return is. Cut out what isn’t working, and get out there in public; other than client referrals, this face-to-face time is the only marketing tool that has proven to work year after year.

Of course, the most effortless marketing is to ask for referrals from your clients. Try this strategy. Study your calendar for the month and see if you have any slots available for a new client. Let’s say that you just lost two clients and want to fill their specific slots. At every client session this week say, “Hey, John, I have two openings for new coaching clients. One is Tuesday morning at 10:30 am and the other is Thursdays at 5:00 pm. Before those slots fill, do you know someone who might be really interested? If so, can I call her for a consultation?” My very best clients have come from the clients I already have. If your clients have high regard for how you work, they will be thrilled to send you more clients. At one point in my career, I had a 6-month waiting list for my services because of client referrals! If you use Facebook or other social media, post your client openings there. You should be able to fill them fast.

Staying Sharp

Have you ever tried to slice a tomato or a fresh, crusty loaf of bread with a dull knife? It is not pretty. Neither is a dull training or coaching business. If you want to sharpen your edge, you need to toss out any lazy, dull or draining practices and focus on the things we have discussed in this article series: become a pro at recordkeeping; improve client loyalty by doing the right things to keep your clients happy; spend time developing your business and skills; review your plans for your business going forward; and market who and what you are every week—even when you are busy.

My knife needs some sharpening in a few areas, and those areas are on my immediate to-do list. Having a business edge is about staying ahead of the game all the time. If you are not willing to put out the effort on a regular basis in a disciplined way, your business will not last. Be different, be better and be sharp. People flock to those they want to emulate. Make your business the one that sets the standard!