Corporate wellness is the “elephant in the room” in our industry. You can ignore it. You can dance around it and say it’s not your thing. Or you can embrace it.

Learn to dominate in this fast-growing field by putting your skills and passion to work for workplaces. There is room for creativity, so don’t worry about what you know or don’t know, or about a lack of standard resources. Armed with the simple tips in this article, you can inspire real change in a workplace, impact your bottom line and grow your brand.

It’s a Red-Tape World

Traditional corporate wellness programs typically require that you seek approvals—from human resources, on-site wellness committees and insurance providers. Once the plan is OK’d by management, you have to communicate it to the employees, with your fingers crossed that they will participate.

Maybe you offer year-round brown-bag lunch talks, fruit baskets, on-site stretching clinics and wellness profiles. What happens? The program fizzles, and the champions go back to the drawing board and come up with new rules and rewards. These efforts all fail for the same reason: because they’re boring and logistical, and they don’t inspire change.

There is another way. Make your program a special event. Make it about the people.

In my community, we have led 118 corporate fitness challenges in 3 years, and I have seen hundreds of trainers and clubs do the same. A great example: Leanne Zdebiak-Eni, a trainer and instructor in Courtenay, British Columbia, turned Island Pilates and Fitness into a hub for corporate wellness by offering short challenges with four critical elements of success: coaching, teams, accountability and fun.

You too can learn from the following secrets to success.

1. Start It and Finish It

Offer wellness challenges with a kickoff and a finale. I recommend 6 weeks. Shorter, focused programs will boost excitement, deliver tangible results and increase participation in the company’s year-round efforts. Your goal is not to become the company’s only wellness provider; your goal is to be the game-changer.

With this approach, you’ll create lasting relationships with the participants—and you may retain them as long-term clients or members, if your business model allows. You can book an entire year of 6-week challenges and create an ongoing feeder system for your business.

2. Paint the Picture

Appeal directly to the employees’ emotions, future, health and relationships. Leave the company’s bottom line and rising insurance premiums out of the dialogue. Share success stories about your clients who have lost weight, gained energy or overcome injury. Go beyond the numbers. Share how their relationships have changed; how they are happier; and how they travel more.

To get people in the right frame of mind, start the presentation with rhetorical questions like the following. These are tough, but they cut to the heart of the matter:

  • Do you dread or avoid your annual physical?
  • Do you take medication that you wish you didn’t need?
  • Do you lack energy at the end of the day?
  • Do you struggle to prepare your family’s meals?

Then, in your own words, tell them something like this: “I’m here today to help you make the changes you’ve been struggling with. Tackling change on your own is daunting; doing it with others, however, is a lot easier. How many people can say that their health is better now than it was 6 weeks, 6 months or 6 years ago? Not many. But you will. At the end of the challenge, when we gather around the table to celebrate, you will have a success story to share.”

3. Don’t Sell Logistics

Rattling off the details of your corporate fitness program won’t sell it. Sure, at some point you’ll need to tell them what the plan includes. But don’t lead with it. As Simon Sinek, author of Start With Why (Penguin 2011), writes, connect with their why. Once they believe that they deserve better, they’ll be ready to sign up for whatever you create for them.

Go into your presentation believing that the company is going to proceed. Tell your audience that you’ve reserved a start date 2 weeks after today’s presentation. Everyone is motivated and inspired to act now, so let them. At the end of the presentation, when you are answering questions, hand out applications.

For more insights into starting a corporate wellness program, please see “The No-Red-Tape Approach To Corporate Wellness” in the online IDEA Library. The article first appeared in the March 2013 issue of IDEA Fitness Manager.