I’ve accumulated a boatload of random lessons learned in (nearly) a decade of operating a fitness facility. Some warrant entire presentations, podcasts, and blog posts; others carry plenty of value but can fit within the confines of a 140-character Tweet.
Here are three quick insights that fall somewhere in between Twitter-friendly and ”blog-worthy”:
1. Maybe “Why” is more important than “How.”
Everyone wants to know how to create a niche in fitness, but the better question may be why did Cressey Sports Performance pursue baseball-specific strength training? This didn’t happen by mistake. Our “why” will make a whole lot more sense once you consider our story.
We didn’t identify a bunch of different demographics that were relatively untouched and start throwing darts. Baseball made sense for us.
It made sense because Eric had spent years teaching himself how to work around a shoulder injury that arguably required surgery and had accumulated a wealth of knowledge that would translate perfectly to helping overhead throwing athletes. It made sense because one of our co-founders, Tony Gentilcore, played the sport competitively at a high level through college. It made sense because our first facility was situated inside of a hitting and pitching instruction facility.
The key to capturing a specific niche is that it be complimentary to your distinctive set of circumstances. Stop looking for holes that need to be filled in our field, and start thinking about how your precise set of skills and experience could speak to the needs of a unique population. You’re better off chasing market share in a mature segment that matches your background than you are in attempting to be “the guy” in a segment that doesn’t logically align with your knowledge or offering.
2. Bundle it all up and put a velvet rope around it…
We’ve launched an intensive baseball-specific collegiate development program here at CSP Massachusetts this summer. As I type this, we are 40% of the way through the ten-week experiment. Results have been nothing but positive.
What makes this program unique is not the individualized training material, which is available to all of our clients. Instead, it’s the bundling of our services and limited capacity (20 participants). Every member of the program is receiving the most comprehensive CSP experience one could imagine: supervised strength training, weekly manual therapy sessions, nutritional guidance, meticulous pitching instruction, and periodic guest Q&A’s with accomplished baseball professionals.
We’ve effectively taken a traditionally a la carte system and mandated 100% adherence to the entirety of our service offerings at a premium price point. In doing so, we can create a controlled environment where we can assist in creating optimal training outcomes for our clients, while also tapping into the power of a team environment.
If you had presented me with the challenge of convincing just a single athlete to pay for training, and then upsell him to manual therapy sessions, nutrition consultations, pitching instruction, and every other bell and whistle we have to offer, I’d imagine I would have a 0% conversion rate. However, by packaging it together inclusively, we filled the program to capacity.
Put some thought into all of the alternative revenue streams you have in place at your business today. Is it safe to say that they’re all available because they compliment your overarching goal of making clients happier and healthier? Assuming this is the case, why not bundle them up to allow the absolute best service offering you can provide? People are prepared to pay a premium to ensure results and enjoy some exclusivity.
3. What do CSP and Saturday Night Live have in common?
I recently learned that the early years of SNL were especially tumultuous despite strong ratings. As it turns out, putting some of the world’s most talented comedians and entertainers on to a single team and encouraging them to battle for the spotlight week in and week out can create a downright hostile and competitive work environment. Though the brand became iconic, building and maintaining momentum had its challenges.
When asked about the challenge of managing this scenario, SNL creator Lorne Michaels explained: “That's my job: To protect people's distinct voices, but also get them to work together.”
While I am in no way saying that we have created a work environment at CSP that fosters competition, the idea of protecting people’s distinct voices resonates with me. I advocate for cultivating personal brands partially because I don’t want my employees to lose sight of what makes them unique strength and conditioning coaches.
We’ve got a softball enthusiast, a couple of Metallica-loving powerlifting gurus, a breakdancing PRI specialist, and that’s only half of the team. They all know how to play nice, but just about the only thing they unanimously agree on is their recent obsession with locally brewed craft beer. There’s no shortage of variety in this crew, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
If you manage a large or growing team of fitness professionals, fight the urge to standardize the “type” of person you’re looking to employ. Your clients aren’t excited to engage with robots, and they all have their own unique areas of interest that are unlikely to mesh with a staff that is designed to clone the guy who opened the business in the first place.
Seek out diversity, embrace a little bit of friction, and protect those unique voices as you facilitate a workplace of shared responsibilities. If you do so, you may find yourself still running that same business 40+ years from now, just like Lorne Michaels.
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