Embracing More than One Training Model - A Lesson in Opportunity Cost

Our 4th annual CSP Fall Seminar came and went just over a week ago and the event was a success.  In my presentation, I spoke about the importance of empowering your fitness team if you are looking to retain quality staff and improve the overall client training experience.  Following the presentation, I had the opportunity to engage with dozens of attendees, discussing a variety of business-related topics. 

One question which I was asked on multiple occasions was what I would do differently if given the chance to start over as a business owner. 

What was the biggest mistake you guys made?  Tell me about your worst hire.  What kind of errors did you make during the lease negotiation process?

I’m not sure why, but the “mistake” questions tend to pop up far more often than the “best decision” questions do.  In most cases, mistakes can be fixed, and ultimately fall into the category of missed opportunities.  Here’s a look at one of our bigger missed opportunities from the first five years we were in business.

CSP – Not JUST an Individualized Training Model

We offer a bootcamp service at our facility that we’ve recently re-branded as “CSP Strength Camps”.  In a sea of bootcamp options, we decided that we were in need of a little something to differentiate our services, so bootcamps suddenly became strength camps. 

As I watch our strength camp figures grow at a promising pace, I can’t help but look back on the early years of our business.  This was a time when I was closed-minded to the idea of integrating a large group training component to our service offering.   I thought it would dilute the message we were trying to send as the “individualized programming guys”.

From 2007 through late-2012, I was of the mentality that semi-private group training with an emphasis on individualized programming was the end-all-be-all of quality fitness instruction.  As far as I was concerned, bootcamps were lazy, and well outside the scope of our unique skill-set.  My ignorance was costing me money…a lot of money.

Embracing Flexibility in our Training Philosophy

There wasn’t just a single reason for my change of tune on the matter.  In fact, the decision to begin integrating a bootcamp service offering here at CSP was the result of three factors:

1.     Parents were routinely mentioning their desire to train with us, but were hesitant because they anticipated push-back from their kids who would be protective of their training space.  The solution, in our eyes, was to open our doors during “off-hours” while kids were in school to allow for parents to take advantage of our facility.

2.     We moved in to a considerably larger space (from 7,500+ sq. feet to 15,000+ sq. feet) in late-August of 2012, and the increased rent figure was a little daunting.  If we were going to be paying rent on a space that routinely sat dormant until late-morning, we might as well think of ways to put it to use.

3.     We stopped thinking we knew everything, and started acknowledging the fitness needs of the community in which we were doing business.  Eric had been on my case for a while to introduce this service by the time it finally happened.  However, he also needed time to come around to the idea of generic training material for anyone who calls himself (or herself) a CSP client.

The Realities of the Market

In his book Jab- Jab- Jab-Right-Hook, social networking guru Gary Vaynarchuck states:

“Ignoring platforms that have gained critical mass is a great way to look slow and out-of-touch.  Do not cling to nostalgia.  Do not put your principals above the reality of the market.  Do not be a snob.”

While he was specifically speaking of a hesitance to embrace new social networking platforms, the quote relates directly to my ongoing hesitance to embrace bootcamps.  There was no arguing that the platform (group training) had officially gained critical mass.  CrossFit boxes were popping up everywhere you looked at the time.  While it is a stretch to say that we were coming across as slow and out of touch, there is no denying that I had put our principals above the reality of the market.  I was being a snob. 

I wish I’d come across this quote long before the fall of 2012, as it turns out that the opportunity cost of not embracing strength camps earlier might be in the range of hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenues.

CSP Strength Camps Today

CSP Strength Camps are on track to account for as much as 10% of our revenues during 2015.  The service offering is profitable, efficient, and has zero impact on the public’s perception of our standard training model.  Since Strength Camps take place during the early morning hours, and baseball players don’t like getting out of bed early enough to train before noon, many of our clients on either end of the spectrum are completely unaware of what happens at CSP during the other half of the day.

In addition to being a profitable business component, our group training services are the primary reason why Greg Robins was initially hired to join the team here at CSP.  Greg’s prior track record of establishing and maintaining a successful bootcamp product in the greater Boston area, along with his military experience, made him a desirable piece to add to our roster of strength coaches as we began the process of introducing group training during the fall of 2012.   He took a client roster of ZERO and turned it into roughly thirty regulars in just under two year’s time.

Greg has since transitioned away from the group training to coach our athletes in a full-time format on weekday afternoons and evenings.  George Kalantzis has assumed the role of CSP Strength Camp Coordinator and has single-handedly nearly doubled the size of the program in a calendar year.  

Open Your Mind to New Opportunity

A single perfect fitness business training model does not exist.  It took me a few years to come to this conclusion, but I’m a big proponent of the “better late than never” mentality.

If you don’t offer them already, I encourage embracing the concept of group fitness offerings.  The trend isn’t going to be leaving us anytime soon, so the faster you can jump in to the competitive landscape of this segment of the fitness world, the more likely you are to grab a decent piece of market share in your area.  Otherwise, your complacency is your competition's gain.