Business Evolution. Barbi and Scott Jackson may have predicted their future. In their ongoing effort to create win-win-win (client, trainer and owner) policies and systems, and as a way to protect their business, they developed a “shared-client” policy (two personal trainers per client). “Scott and I had discussed this idea a year or two earlier, but were too nervous to take the plunge,” explains Barbi. A significant setback convinced the Jacksons that change was necessary. “A huge problem for fitness business owners is having personal trainers move from one facility to another, taking clients with them,” says Scott. “A few years ago, we had a disgruntled trainer leave our business, taking clients that we had given her, resulting in a 30% reduction in our client base.” According to Barbi, this “gaping hole” in their client base and encouragement from a speaker at an IDEA World Fitness Convention® rekindled their interest in developing what they call the “two-trainer system.”
Exploring a New Paradigm.The Jacksons say the two-trainer system provides security, excellent customer service and a way to decrease competition among trainers. When a potential client first visits Real Life Fitness, she is given an initial consultation by Scott, who determines goals, budget and skill level. He then decides which two of his trainers would be a great match and discusses the new client with them. The trainers then coordinate schedules and make contact with the client to develop a schedule for the month. “Trainers use the same workout card to record the completed sessions, dating and initialing each workout,” Scott says.
Business Satisfaction.With primarily male and female clients aged 40–70, Real Life Fitness has taken its former one-man show to new heights while maintaining the service that keep clients coming back. “Having two different trainers helping me achieve my fitness goals is a good deal,” says Ann Shulse, client for 1 year. “They collaborate on my personal training program, yet individually they bring to my sessions their own unique expertise and background, communication style and motivational challenges.” According to the Jacksons, a shared-client system reduces both the number of missed sessions and competition among trainers. They’ve also noted that clients bond to both trainers, which they hope will prevent a client from following any trainer who chooses to leave Real Life.
Finding Quality Trainers. “I interview potential trainers initially, and then have them shadow our trainers,” says Scott. “This gives them the opportunity to see if the way we run things is a good fit for them. During this time, we have an opportunity to watch them as well.” If a trainer lacks secondary education, the Jacksons focus more on personality than a college degree. “Most of the time we have to be prepared to train our potential trainers,” says Scott. “Because of this, we have developed an internship program that takes 6–9 months to complete.”
Blending Business and Personal Life. Although working with a spouse can be difficult, Barbi and Scott have discovered a plan to keep the home fires burning while maintaining a successful business partnership. Barbi works mostly at home, while Scott remains at the gym. “So while we are both working ‘on’ the business, we are not always ‘in’ the business together,” Barbi says. “This works really well for us, as all day together in close quarters might not be a good idea.” “We have divided the duties pretty well,” Scott adds, “creating a cool kind of synergy.” Barbi also made the decision to leave the training to Scott and their staff. “Although I have been in the fitness industry since 1987, I decided not to personally train clients. I describe my position as ‘wing man’ to Scott and his trainers . . . you know, the gal behind the curtain.”
From Setback to Success. “We were motivated to make this change by a negative experience, but we had no idea how wonderful the outcome would be,” says Barbi. “The [negative] competitive energy between the trainers is gone. The other wonderful change is that [clients] feel like the entire staff is involved and cares about their fitness goals.”