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Invest in Your People

Training for Growth
By Sherri McMillan, MSc, and Alex McMillan

Invest in Your People
With your staff, as with all investments, you have to put something in if you want something back. No matter what industry you’re in, the most important asset your business has is your people. This is especially true in the personal training industry. The strength of your organization–or your department–is directly related to the skills and expertise of the trainers working for you. To achieve success you need to make an investment in your team. Follow this checklist of initiatives to demonstrate to your trainers that you appreciate their value.

struggles. To build unity rather than competition in your company, take the time to foster friendships among your team members. Host monthly meetings and make attendance mandatory. (We pay our trainers minimum wage for meetings, so making them mandatory is legal. To make them fun, we also provide food and refreshments!) Be sure to allow time in the schedule for social interaction. You can also host regular parties or team outings that feature activities like hiking, indoor rock climbing and snowshoeing. Set up a warm, friendly work environment–that way, trainers who are contemplating terminating their employment with you have to think about leaving not only a job, but a number of great friendships as well.

Offer a Healthy Compensation Package

who typically get to keep a higher percentage of the fees. Keep in mind that you need to present the entire compensation package to your trainers when discussing pay. Although the training wage at our business is lower than that at some other local facilities, we provide a generous compensation package that allows us to take better care of our team. (See “The Compensation Package” on the next page.) You can utilize the IDEA Personal Training Compensation Survey (call Member Services at (800) 999-4332, ext. 7, for information) to see how your wages match with those of other businesses across the United States. Also check out the pay at other businesses in your community and use those figures as a benchmark to ensure your wages are fair and competitive.

Provide Continuing Education

The minute your employees stop learning and growing, they start looking elsewhere for opportunities. Make sure your trainers are always being mentally stimulated. Give them access to trade publications such as IDEA Fitness Journal; direct them to website resources; and purchase fitness-related videotapes, audiotapes, DVDs, CDs and books for them to use. Also set aside an educational allowance so trainers can attend conferences and workshops. At Northwest Personal Training and Education, we provide each of our trainers with $200 a year for continuing education. We understand that this investment in them is an investment in our company.

To keep your trainers you have to pay them well, but your business or department also has to make a profit. How much you pay depends partly on how you operate. Are your trainers employees or independent contractors? The general rule of thumb is that if you absorb most of the overhead costs (marketing materials, client management, equipment, uniforms, etc.), your trainers are probably employees. In this case you can be expected to take a larger cut of the training fees. If your trainers absorb most of these costs themselves, they are most likely independent contractors,

Set Clear Expectations

BEST PRACTICES Turnabout Is Fair Play
Manager Evaluations:

Trainers can’t meet or exceed your expectations unless you make those expectations clear. Present new hires with a comprehensive agreement that spells out all their responsibilities. To take this a step further, conduct monthly evaluations that include practical onfloor reviews, video analysis, role playing, administrative reviews and informal meetings. This system will provide trainers with continual, consistent feedback about their performance, letting them know where they are performing exceptionally well and where they could

Organize Team Meetings and Outings

Because trainers tend to work independently, they often don’t feel much of a connection with the other people who work in the same facility. This “distance” can lead to resentment and hierarchical

Since we are constantly evaluating our staff throughout the year, it seems only fair that they get a chance to evaluate us. Once a year we distribute a form on which trainers candidly–and anonymously–remark on our professionalism; management and leadership expertise; motivational abilities; and communication, organization, business and time-management skills. This tool has helped us become much better managers. For example, we used to post the monthly revenues each of our trainers brought in, listing the revenues from highest to lowest. But through the annual evaluation, we discovered that the staff considered this strategy competitive and demotivating, so we now post only the team revenues and give each trainer his or her own results privately, without comparing them to others’ results.
J u n e 2 0 0 4 I D E A Tr a i n e r S u c c e s s

improve. This gives them the opportunity to develop their skills throughout the year rather than waiting for the dreaded year-end performance review.

Provide Incentives and Recognition

Although we don’t operate our business on a commission basis, we do provide fun, valuable incentives, to which our trainers respond well. For example, incentives we used last year included the following:


Concerned about your place in the new fitness industry? We have 40 years of experience supporting pros just like you! Let’s create a new wellness paradigm together—IDEAfit+ is the extra edge you need. Once you team up with IDEA, be sure to take full advantage of all the benefits of membership.

Alex McMillan

Alex McMillan was named the 2006 IDEA International Program Director of the Year and is the owner, president and co-founder of Northwest Personal Training and Fitness Education.

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