It’s Not About Cheap Labor - 3 Great Reasons to Create an Internship Program

Stop taking notes right now if you’re just launching a gym and have not yet filled your own training calendar. You have no business building an internship program if there is zero meaningful learning opportunity for your candidates outside of helping you assemble equipment.

Sorry for the tough love.

This information is best suited for the gym owner who has identified his optimal training model thanks to actual implementation. I’m talking about the entrepreneur who’s had to shift his approach multiple times, pivot in a direction that the market is demanding, and learned the hard way that Mike Tyson was right when he said “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

Now that I’ve established the optimal audience for this post, let’s dig into the three most underappreciated reasons why creating an internship program is a great idea for your business.

1. Never Make a Bad Hire Again

Our internship program has evolved into the perfect prospective employee engine. With 300-500 hours of on-the-floor coaching experience under their belts, our intern alums have already shown their true colors. The best interns have proven themselves to be competent in coaching scenarios, familiar and comfortable with our training and programming philosophies, and a fit with our business culture.

I can come to terms with making the occasional poor intern selection, but choosing who I decide to give payroll dollars to is a decision I can’t afford to screw up. Hasty hiring procedures lead to employees quitting, or being terminated, and that’s a toxic situation from which many small businesses never fully recover.

Additionally, when you hire former interns, there is little-to-no on-boarding process, meaning that time isn’t spent training a new team member. If you’re looking to be as efficient as possible with your payroll dollars, hiring a coach who’s ready to contribute on this level on day one is a no-brainer.

2. Give Your Training Environment a Much-Needed Facelift

The best gyms are structured, predictable, and systematized in their day-to-day operations. This is great when it comes to delivering a consistent service experience for your clients, but can also end up being a negative if your staff settles into complacency and things become a little stale.

With three classes of interns rolling through our doors each year, we receive a much needed seasonal infusion of new blood on the gym floor. While we strive to standardize the training knowledge across all staff members (interns included), I have no interest in employing a bunch of coaches with the same personalities. By putting six new faces on the gym floor, and allowing their unique personalities to be infused into the personality of our team, we are able to keep things fresh for our clients.

I currently have interns from California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Ireland bringing their own fascinating backgrounds and experience to the table every day here at CSP. As far as I’m concerned, the more eclectic the group, the better.

3. Fast-Track the Reach and Power of Your Professional Network

There is a small army of former interns currently making contributions to our industry outside of CSP. I can confidently say that the fingerprints of our business are now all over the fitness and professional sports worlds. CSP intern alums are currently collecting paychecks from NBA franchises, Pac-12 and ACC programs, and multiple MLB organizations. We have an inside track to a very unique collection of professionals.

We maintain a private Facebook group titled CSP Intern Community that currently has 166 members in an effort to leverage the power of this network of strength coaches who all share the common bond of having made their way through our program. This week alone, members have exchanged physical therapist suggestions in remote parts of the country, posted a Division-1 strength coaching opportunity, and shared seminar registration discounts that are exclusive to this community. Thanks to the trust that we’ve established after hundreds of hours spent together inside of CSP, we know that there is no need to vett out recommendations made in this forum.

It Isn’t Supposed to be Quick or Easy

My buddy Luka Hocevar is fond of saying “what’s difficult is scarce, and what’s scarce is valuable.

Building your internship program to a point where the three reasons outlined above become relevant will not be easy, but that’s exactly why they’re so valuable. If you put in the years it takes to cultivate a program of this nature, your business will benefit tenfold.

Remember this: When it comes to ultimately extracting the value from a program of this nature, it all starts with giving more than you take from your interns. Deliver far more learning than they expect or demand, and you’ll all but guarantee that they’ll return the favor in the long run.