Stronger Sundays

Dominate your fitness business with this weekly collection of strategies, tips, and tricks.
By trainers, for trainers.


Quote of the week:

"Training yourself into the ground shouldn’t be worn as a badge of honor, but rather a dunce cap of stupidity."
                                                                                          - John Rusin on Instagram
Watch for this newsletter from the Personal Trainer Development Center each Sunday.

In this issue:

  1. Are you even a pro?
  2. When hell is a big box gym
  3. Everyone feels like a loser
  4. One of my biggest failures
1. Are you even a pro? - Alwyn Cosgrove

Twenty years ago, I attended a four-day seminar for personal trainers, along with a lot of other talented, ambitious coaches. Ten years later, one of those coaches came to work with me at Results Fitness.

As an unpaid intern.

We were on the same path 10 years ago. During those 10 years, I'd opened a gym, written five books and hundreds of articles, and given presentations all over the world. And now he’s interning at my facility.

How did that happen?

It didn’t take long to find out. Just four weeks, in fact. That’s when I learned he was dating one of our members. And, when challenged, thought there was nothing wrong with it.

Despite being in the business for as long as me, he’d never turned pro.

More recently, a local gym owner I knew had everything moving in the right direction. Great team. Fantastic reputation. Celebrity clients. Big-time opportunities to present at conferences.

Then he started hooking up with his staff. His gym closed within a year. The stated reason: money. The real reason: He never turned pro.

I've met great coaches. They read everything they can about training. Attend every seminar. And spend half their day badmouthing clients, coworkers, and competitors.

They all fall by the wayside. Their knowledge and skills are never enough. They need to turn pro.

Turning pro has nothing to do with making money. Turning pro is a mindset. A code. An identity. It’s everything. It all counts.

You know it when you see it, and it’s obvious when you don’t.

Go deeper: While becoming a pro involves a mindset shift, becoming an effective pro includes the nuts-and-bolts challenges we covered in these two recent articles:

--> Time Management Strategies for Personal Trainers

--> Money Management for Personal Trainers
2. When hell is a big box gym

A recent story in the New York Times describes working at Equinox as "very Hunger Games." That triggered Melody Schoenfeld to share memories of her early days as a personal trainer at an Equinox franchise.

"I worked my butt off, had plenty of clients, was relatively happy … and was often awarded Trainer of the Month," she says. "It wasn't a bad place to start a career."

That all changed when the corporate office got more aggressive, she says. They forced trainers to work longer hours and push more gym members to become their clients. Then it got even worse:

"Management changed, and the new manager was a trainer who had started his career by trying to sabotage mine—attempting to steal my clients, commenting on my training practices while I was training people, badmouthing me behind my back, and so on."

The takeaway: Despite her dystopian introduction to the fitness industry, an experience too many trainers can relate to, Schoenfeld sees something positive. "I learned a lot about the business of training—the good, the bad, and the ugly—and about myself," she says. "I still recommend beginning trainers to start in a big box gym to get their feet wet. Sometimes, it's the only way to figure out if this is really the right career for you."

Go deeper: Schoenfeld’s horror story gives us a chance to share Dean Somerset’s epic take on the upside of working in a big box:

--> What I Learned from 15,000 Training Sessions in a Commercial Gym
3. Everyone feels like a loser - Lou Schuler

Back in the mid-1980s I worked as a waiter at a five-star hotel in Los Angeles. Almost everyone who stayed there had either made it to the top of their profession, or was married to or descended from someone who had.

One of them was Diane von Furstenberg, the founder of a namesake fashion empire. (That’s how I know her name is pronounced "dee-AWN," not "die-ANN.") She was already a brand-name fashion icon then, and would only become more successful in the ensuing decades.

So imagine my surprise when I saw this quote from von Furstenberg in Entrepreneur:

"All successful people feel like a loser at least once a week."

I’d go even farther: If you never feel like a loser, or a nincompoop, or a phony, your standards are too low.

Success depends on your ability to see your own flaws and second-guess your decisions. The best work comes from a mysterious mix of belief in yourself and fear that you’re about to do the stupidest thing imaginable.

And I’ll bet the guy who wrote the next item would agree.
4. One of my biggest failures - Jonathan Goodman

I’ve rarely told this story. It’s embarrassing. Admitting a failure always is, and this was my biggest professional failure.

It was a project called Hiring Trainers. It failed because I made two unforced errors:

  • I performed a bad survey that asked current and aspiring gym owners what they wanted, and what they find most frustrating.
  • I took the results at face value, without considering the reasons why they answered the way they did.

Overwhelmingly, trainers answered the first question by telling us they wanted to have their own gyms, or to grow the gyms they already had. What frustrated them, they said, was how hard it was to find good trainers to hire.

I thought they’d jump at the chance to buy a product telling them how to hire trainers. But that’s not what they did. We made five sales in two weeks.

They didn’t buy because nobody actually wanted to know how to hire trainers. Those who already owned gyms wanted less stress in their lives. Those who didn’t yet have their own facilities just wanted to stop working for somebody else.

If I could go back, I would market the course to gym owners by saying, "Here’s how you get less busy." I wouldn’t actually say what the process was. Most of your customers don’t care about the actual thing you’re selling. The exercises, sets, and reps don’t matter. What matters is that people have a problem, a pain, and they want that pain to go away as quickly and as easily as possible.

As advertising legend David Ogilvy once said, "People don’t think what they feel, they don’t say what they think, and they don’t do what they say."

I learned all this the hard way. But if nothing else comes from my failure, I hope I’ve helped you understand the most important lesson:

Once you know how to sell people what they want, you’ll be able to give them what they need.

**Thanks for reading. What to do next**

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