Your Professional Network – More Important than Any Piece of Equipment in the Gym

No matter how smart you are, clients are going to occasionally walk through the door with needs that fall outside of your current skill set. I’m not talking about someone arriving with a broken wrist and asking you to fix it; I’m speaking of the client who falls within the grey area where you think to yourself, “I could train around this issue, but what this person really needs is some quality time with a physical therapist.”

A former CSP intern recently asked me what my first objective would be if I were in his shoes preparing to begin employment at a big box commercial gym.

I recommended that he spend his time working to accumulate a tight network of qualified professionals, and refer out when faced with scenarios that fall outside of his scope of practice.  The manual therapists, nutritionists, and other specialists that receive his referrals should eventually reciprocate by sending additional business in his direction. By putting his clients’ needs ahead of his need to collect immediate dollars, he would earn trust and quickly see his network become one of his most distinct assets.

There are little-to-no barriers to entry in the fitness industry. It seems that nearly every coach in our field knows just enough to be dangerous on subjects ranging from program design and corrective exercise, to aggressive nutrition advice, and everything in between. I’d imagine that most of us know a coach with second or third-hand knowledge of PRI protocols who is capable of correctly communicating the “what” of these complex concepts without being even remotely prepared to articulate the “why”.

The problem with being simply passable at each of these complimentary skills is that any measurable initial results you show to your clients will prove to be unsustainable in the long-term.  Eventually, we are all likely to be exposed when trying to be something that we’re not. It is time to abandon your reputation of being a jack-of-all-trades and master of none. 

Every fitness business owner and personal trainer in our field needs to add a collection of trusted specialists to their network if they are hoping to generate leads from an avenue other than Facebook ads and deal-of-the-day services such as Groupon. Here at CSP we have a three preferred physical therapists that get our PT referrals, an in-house manual therapist, and the contact information for some of the best orthopedic surgeons in the northeast. In short, we know that a strength coach can’t fix everything.

You have no business writing someone a diet simply because you read a blog post about intermittent fasting this morning. Your purchase of a treatment tool doesn’t suddenly make you a Graston practitioner. Your insurance provider is going to shit a brick if they find out that you’re giving back adjustments “just like the one you got from your chiropractor” on the training table in the warm-up area.

Make your list today

Sit down now and prepare a list of the professionals you know and trust. Identify your “go-to” physical therapist, registered dietician, yoga practitioner, sports psychologist, etc. If you aren’t currently aware of a candidate to populate each slot, reach out to your network for some introductions and begin extending invitations to grab a cup of coffee and discuss training and treatment philosophies with the intention of sharing business.

There’s no shame in knowing what you don’t know.