Is Your Training Space Repelling Potential Clients?

Why it might be time to rethink how you organize your space.

By Philip Malavenda
Jan 31, 2017

Have you ever considered that your personal training space is the reason your business suffers?

You sit there, scratch your head and think, “My programs are great! Clients love them and get results from them. So why isn’t my schedule full?”

Is it lack of marketing? Nah. You’ve got social media down pat.

Is it lack of experience? Nah. You have more certifications that you can count on two hands.

Is it lack of confidence? Nah. You’ll talk to anyone, including the empty, echoing walls you currently face.

What could it be?

You’ve read everything you can about how to improve your business. You’ve taken as many courses as you can afford on every topic from special-population training to the best client scheduler to use, but you still struggle to attract new clients.

As both a wellness coach and an interior designer, I have made a business out of helping entrepreneurs achieve greater success by taking a hard look at their surroundings. In this article, I share a case study that features a real-life client’s struggle to save his business—and how simple updates to his studio turned everything around. Whether you train in a gym or a park, this story will help you create a space that promotes profits instead of losses.

A Business in Peril

My client John (not his real name) called me in a panic. He had experienced a decline in business, and he was frustrated because he knew he was a good trainer with an excellent reputation as a fat-loss expert for women over 50. Despite John’s experience, his current clientele had begun to trickle away, and he was finding it nearly impossible to convert excited prospects into new clients. Before becoming a personal trainer, he had been highly successful in sales, so he knew that his consultation skills weren’t to blame.

I decided to visit John at his studio, which was located in a highly visible strip mall with plenty of parking and a major anchor store nearby. He couldn’t have planned a better location; the anchor store helped pull in potential clients within his target demographic.

John greeted me warmly, and it was apparent he walked his talk. He was fit, he was dressed in a perfect “athleisure” outfit and he sported a killer smile. With his charming personality, knowledge and experience, it was no wonder his clients loved him once they worked with him.

Despite John’s great first impression, I was completely distracted by his studio.

The Studio

When I walked through the door, I was hit by an odor that reminded me of a boxing-gym locker room.

I first thought about John’s target market of women over age 50. Women are known to have a sharp sense of smell, and an environment that smells of sweat and gear is a turnoff because that means the studio is dirty. A space like this didn’t reflect the values of John’s target market. Women in this age bracket come from a generation that was raised to keep a clean household, which they value; plus, generally they are used to a certain level of earned luxury at their age. Although it’s subtle, a lot is said and experienced through smell. After a quick discussion, I learned that John had once used a cleaning service, but he’d let that go when money got tight. And by the looks of things, he hadn’t picked up the slack.

The next thing I noticed was that while the space was the perfect studio size for one-on-one training and small-group classes, it was cluttered with a mishmash of equipment of various colors, brands and quality.

Cluttered environments make people feel uncomfortable. Clutter causes distraction and makes it hard to focus. We waste time as we look for things, and clutter shows a lack of care. Women flourish in places where they feel safe, inspired and surrounded by beauty. John’s studio gave exactly the opposite impression.

On top of this, the space was painted an odd blue color that had become worn and outdated.

Our Environment Reflects Our State

John was not in a good place. The decline in business had taken a toll on his confidence. He felt confused, aggravated by his circumstances, frustrated that he couldn’t see the problem and worn out from all the effort he’d made to fix it.

What he didn’t realize was that the studio reflected exactly where he was in life. It was no wonder he was struggling to land clients. Although potential clients may not have been aware of why they didn’t want to train with him, they were most likely repelled by the state of the studio.

The Fix

Once we knew what the issues were, we put together a low-cost, three-step plan to create a space that would attract John’s ideal client.

1. Clear the Clutter

John went through all his equipment and everything he had at the front desk and in the bathroom. He got rid of anything that was broken or worn out. He donated outdated gear that he no longer used.

He purged paperwork, shredded files and moved to an electronic file system.

John purchased matching containers and bins to store all his equipment, which helped to cut down on the visual chaos that all the different brands and colors had created.

Design Tip: Whenever possible, purchase equipment from one company. Each company uses similar design elements in all its products, which produces a more visually pleasing look.

2. Clean Like Your Grandmother Taught You, or Hire a Cleaning Service

Soap is still cheap in most places. If you want a good workout, roll up your sleeves and start scrubbing. Cleanliness is a must when you interact with the public. This is especially important when you deal with sweat, blood, greasy heads of hair and so on. If people are grossed out, they will not want to train with you. Have a system in place to keep equipment clean, and practice a strict hand-washing policy. John elected to rehire the cleaning service, because that made sense to him financially.

Design Tip: Hiring someone to clean your space might seem like an unnecessary expense. But if you consider how much money you can make in an hour and how much longer it might take you to clean versus having a qualified professional do the cleaning, you’ll likely find that your time is better spent working with clients.

3. Bring in the (Simple) Beauty

People are inspired by and attracted to beautiful places. However, beauty can mean different things to different people, so it’s important to focus on what your clients find beautiful instead of what you think looks good. John had inherited decor suited to the previous owner’s teen male clientele. The posters and the color of the walls did not appeal to a sophisticated woman.

You’re a trainer, not a decorator. I get it. When in doubt, simplify.

John removed all the posters, patched the walls and painted everything off-the-shelf white to save money. The new paint brightened the room, calmed the visual chaos and created a clean canvas for future design improvements. The white is also easy to maintain with the help of Mr. Clean® Magic Erasers and a yearly repaint.

Design Tip: Avoid the inclination to decorate. Most gyms make bad decisions in accessories—like fake plants, for example—that become catchalls for dust. Until you can hire a professional designer, it’s better to keep things simple and concentrate on the gear needed to train clients.

The Results

John was able to complete the transformation in 3 weeks, and he had to close the studio for only one weekend to paint. The improvements were worth it.

John’s current clients could not believe the difference. Not only had the studio been upgraded, but John also felt reinvigorated to build his business.

His current clients encouraged him to hold an open house, so they could bring at least one friend who might be interested in training with him. By the end of the night, he had five new clients.

Take a Look Around

If your business is suffering and you cannot determine why, stop for a minute and take a look around you.

What do you see?

Even if you don’t train in a studio, analyze your environment.

Is your desktop covered with clutter? Does your car need a good cleaning? Do you have all sorts of clothing and other stuff on the floor? Is your gym bag a deep, dark hole of junk?

Does the clutter around you keep you from being your best self?

You can be the best trainer in the world, but if you are surrounded by clutter your brilliance will always be overshadowed by it.

Don’t let clutter sabotage your earning potential.

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Philip Malavenda

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