In the premier issue of Personal Fitness Professional magazine I wrote the cover story, "The Dawn of a New Era." The article discussed "professionalism" and suggested that with the turn of the century, it's time for qualified Personal Trainers to gain the respect and recognition they deserve.
We've moved past the dawn, and I'm thankful that many trainers have found professional respect far less elusive than it was just four short years ago. As our population descends further into the pit of physical distress, those among us with proven expertise stand as members of the ground army, prepared in our own microcosms to lift people up and help them realize their true potential.
Before I begin explaining my ideologies related to "a new Paradigm," I'd like to help bring an oft-ignored issue to light. Personal Trainers are not the creators of the present paradigm, the set of rules existent in the great majority of health clubs and fitness centers today. We are, in fact, victims of decisions made by an industry that has never fully recognized our value or potential.
This article will serve not only trainers, but also health club operators who might have missed a view of the true potential of a personal training team. The "old paradigm" grew out of health clubs. It's only fitting that the new paradigm infiltrates the health club industry to create a massive win across the board. Club owners win. Personal Trainers win. Most of all, members win …and they win big!
Let's start at the beginning … at a foundational level most health club operators have skipped over years ago, but one that might never have been included in any personal training curriculum. Let's start with the question, "how do we make money."
The simple answer is, we create a product or service that people want, and we sell it at a price that allows us to keep our just portion in exchange for customer satisfaction. Build a clean health club, keep the equipment in working order, and charge a reasonable membership fee and you're at square one.
One a business is operational, evaluation is an essential part of growing beyond the initial stage founded in Chaos, into the far more relaxed "Organization" stage, and in evaluating the success of the business, profitability is a prominent factor. The question is asked in any business, "how can we increase profitability," or if you want to be blunt, "how can we make more money."
In an operational fitness facility, there are three ways to make more money.
The "More Members" idea is the simplest to grasp, but unfortunately, due to a lack of focus on member satisfaction, members expire and leave at a rate that rivals new enrollment in far too many clubs.
- Enroll More Members so enrollment exceeds attrition
- Generate More $$ Per Member Visit
- Generate More "Paid" Visits Per Member
More $$ Per Member Visit
The "More $$ Per Member Visit" idea is compelling, but is usually limited to profit centers requiring little daily management. For example, if the regional supplement distributor sticks a fridge behind your front desk and stocks it with product, all you do is have your front desk person hand someone a post workout recovery drink and ring up the register. Simple. This is an example of a profit center that can increase the number of dollars spent per member visit, but the extra $1 a drink may generate is not likely to contribute more than a couple of thousand dollars at best to monthly revenues.
More Paid Visits Per Member
Stimulating More Paid Visits Per Member is extremely appealing, and is the result of the implementation of "for fee" programs such as martial arts, specialty group exercise, or … personal fitness training!
It would appear blatantly obvious, even with that simple assessment of profit potential, that massaging the potential for personal training profitability can be a powerful contributor to overall business growth, but there's a catch. The catch is in the paradigm. The current operating system that drives most health club personal training programs is plagued by a huge drain and a very low ceiling. Even while money is generated, dollars can flow quickly through the drain, and the inherent limitations in the system greatly stifle profit potential.
I've used the word "paradigm" a few times already. Before I spell out the present operating paradigm, or the one I'm suggesting we aggressively work to change, allow me to define precisely what I mean by paradigm. It comes from the Greek word paradeigma which means "pattern." In psychology a paradigm relates to a belief system or thought process. Paradigm, as it's used in business, refers to a systematic set of rules that come to be established as the "norm" in a given arena.
…by setting the trainer up as a "throw in," the perception of the trainer's value is zero… For example, if you watch an infomercial on TV, you'll first hear a voice-over announce "the problem," then a host will introduce "a solution," and a pitch person will reveal a "special offer" and a "call to action." Watch enough infomercials and you'll notice they're all built upon the same skeleton, the same "pattern," the same systematic set of rules. If you walk into a doctor's office, you walk into a waiting room, you sign your name on a sign in sheet, ultimately someone slides open a glass partition in a little window and hands you a clipboard with papers to fill out. That has become the "paradigm" of the doctor's office.
The health club paradigm, from an operational standpoint, as it's existed for the past decade could be defined as follows:
Increase profits by selling more memberships, connect members with training via a free trial, and position trainers to sell their services.
Remember, I suggested trainers have fallen victim to this paradigm and I further suggested they had absolutely nothing to do with creating it. Even at first glance a trainer in viewing the paradigm laid out in words can find some weaknesses, but interestingly, it weakens the club owner even more than it weakens the trainer. Allow me to identify some of the weaknesses in the "old" paradigm:
- The "more memberships" strategy starts each month at zero, back at the starting line. With a primary focus placed on new enrollment, attrition increases relative to new sales. Many clubs attempt to remedy this by implementing "retention departments," but the retention department becomes an operating expense attempting to excuse the club's limited ability to satisfy members enough to keep them coming.
- The "free trial" devalues the training offering. In other words, by setting the trainer up as a "throw in," the perception of the trainer's value is zero.
- When you offer "Free Sessions," there is a cost involved in fulfilling that obligation. That cost immediately decreases the profitability of the membership sale and the promised return in personal training revenue is uncertain.
- Trainers are not typically strong salespeople and they rarely receive any sales training at all so there's a relatively low number of "average sessions per personal training client."
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