What if Your Gym Was Chasing a 3-Star Michelin Review?

I’m a big proponent of the cliché: “Dress for the job you want, not the one you have.”

This attitude applies to far more than the outfit you wear on a given day. If we were to think this way about customer service in the fitness space, we could say: “Deliver the client experience expected in a $200 personal training session, while knowing that we only offer $40 semi-private classes.”

So, where do you find your inspiration for world-class customer service outside of your own business?

Maybe you’re a Disney enthusiast, a hardcore believer in “the Zappos way,” or even just trying to recreate the vibe of a well-run Trader Joes. The origin of your inspiration is less important than simply having an inspiration.

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In my case, I like to look at the way a high-end restaurant operates.

My wife accumulated years of customer service experience serving in nice restaurants prior to transitioning into the corporate world. Despite being nearly a decade removed from her last serving experience, she continues to be an astute observer of the art of exceptional hospitality at well-run restaurants.

It drives her crazy when servers walk past empty plates and credit cards awaiting processing simply because it wasn’t their assigned table. In the world she operated in, the best teams functioned as just that, a team. This meant that, to an extent, every table was her table, and she acted accordingly. 

Katie only had to point this out to me once or twice before it became a pet peeve of my own. I began to realize that at the best restaurants, “my server” was really just the person who took my order and graciously provided the bill. Otherwise, there always seemed to be an army of hospitality-centric faces coming and going from the table.

This is exactly why I could stomach the idea of paying $50 for an 8oz cut of meat and a couple of $22 side plates of potatoes and asparagus.

So why does the experience in our gym have to be much different? 

Maybe, instead of walking past the client unloading a trap bar in between sets simply because you haven’t been assigned to work with him, you stop to help out…with a smile.

Maybe the next time you walk past the front desk to find your Office Manager handling a phone call as a client waits to schedule her next session, you stop and promptly take care of that task for her?

Maybe you start thinking of every client as your own client, and every task as potentially your own task, and the overall client experience will improve.

If you begin to think of your gym as a restaurant that is competing for a 3-Star Michelin review, you just may be able to justify doubling or even tripling your rates in the not-so-distant future. At the very least, your retention figures will skyrocket.



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Eyes Forward, Gym Owners

(2-minute read…I promise)


My 5 year old son loves to take off sprinting every time we go for a walk. Without fail, every time he hits top speed, he looks over his shoulder to see if we’re trying to keep up with him. 

No matter how many times I tell him to keep his eyes on the road to avoid stumbling, he can’t bring himself to stop being concerned with what might be creeping up behind. 

One of these days he’s going to fall. The consequences will likely involve tears, Neosporin, and a few bandaids. This seems to be a lesson he will have to learn the hard way. 

The mistake Collin is guilty of making again and again is much like the one we as gym owners routinely make. We can’t help but lose sleep over what the competition is doing. We monitor their Instagram feeds, we second-guess our own training decisions based on what we think they may or may not be doing, and we lose sleep over things we can’t control. 

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So, I’ll tell you the same thing I tell Collin every single night as we take our post-dinner family walk...

If you’re already sprinting as fast as you can, there’s no point of wasting the limited energy and resources you have left on being concerned with what’s potentially sneaking up behind you. Unless you’ve got a gear we’re all unaware of, your best is going to have to do, and you can’t react to the hurdles approaching in front of you when your eyes are pointed in the wrong direction. 

Focus on being the best version of you that you can be, and you’ll be able to say that you’ve put your gym in the best possible position to survive. I’ll promise you this — the gym that’s chasing you has their eyes forward, and they see your operation as one of those aforementioned hurdles just waiting to be leaped. 

Can you afford to slow down by looking back?



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Gym Owner Musings - Installment #14

Every month or so the “content ideas” page in my iPhone notes app begins to fill up with topics that aren’t quite beefy enough to justify an entire blog, but also a little too bulky to cram into a Tweet or Instagram post. I’ve once again hit that point, meaning it’s time to unload a couple of quick-hitter discussion topics that have been kicking around in my head (and notes app).

Here’s your May edition of Gym Owner Musings:

1. On Selling: Don’t Take the Email Shortcut

The opportunity presents itself to me time and time again...

“Would you mind emailing me pricing information for your training services?”

It’s not a rude or unreasonable request. In fact, this is probably exactly how I would go about engaging with my business if I were an interested consumer exploring my fitness options in the area. The problem for the gym owner, however, is that emailing a pricing sheet all but eliminates your opportunity to counter the hesitation we routinely encounter with price-sensitive potential clients.

You already know your premium priced services are justified by the level of attention to detail you deliver, but how are you supposed to convey this message when the email recipient scans the material you sent looking for a dollar sign, and immediately jumps to a conclusion on the viability of you as an option based entirely on a number that comes with little to no context?

You’re doing yourself a disservice by taking the easy way out and sending off that email without requesting an opportunity to jump on a quick phone call to discuss the options available. If you’re going to personalize your training material, you should also make a habit of personalizing your sales pitch.

You’ll close more sales on the phone than via email…I promise.

You’ll close more sales on the phone than via email…I promise.

2. On Educating: Never Quit on an Intern

A typical internship at Cressey Sports Performance runs somewhere in the vicinity of 100 to 150 days in length, with the shortest period being our summer session. With just over three months to make an impact on a young coach in the shortest scenario, it would be easy to conclude that bad apples come and go, and your best option when one is identified is to make sure said coach isn’t put in a position to hurt anyone or reflect poorly on your business. In effect, sweeping the under-performers under the rug with the mentality that it will all be over soon.

This sucks for a number of reasons, with the first being that the intern in question likely put a number of other opportunities and responsibilities on hold to come learn from you. Often times the worst performers are blissfully unaware of just how far short they are falling in relation to their peers. One-strike policies on underperformance are unacceptable in this realm.

The second reason why you can’t afford to can’t afford to look the other way when an intern fails to meet your expectations is that, like it or not, that coach is going to move on to a next step in the fitness industry and your business name is likely to sit at or near the top of his resume. I’ve written in the past about the surprising lack of reference checks I receive on former interns, despite there being well over 200 of them out there these days. Can you afford for a shitty intern to be presumed competent simply because he apprenticed under your supervision?

All it takes is one coach with a bad attitude to list you as a former employer and quickly eliminate any future coaching opportunities in a given organization for 100% of the fellow intern alumni hailing from your gym. Telling yourself “sometimes we’ve just got to make it to the end of this internship period and move on” is both short-sighted and dangerous for your reputation.

3. On Scaling: The Biggest Bottleneck for Growing Gyms

I’m always looking for trends in the questions presented to me by fellow gym owners, and the latest is regarding how and where to find quality coaches as businesses grow quickly. When we started our business, there weren’t dozens upon dozens of fantastic resources floating around to assist us in scaling as fast as possible. Today, it seems everyone, with the right work ethic and advisors in their corners, can build a viable operation quickly.

You need help designing a logo? Just download a free version of Canva to your phone and throw a nice looking one together this afternoon.

Need help with Facebook advertising? Pop on to your good old Facebook feed and crowd source recommendations for the best free PDF on the topic floating around these days.

Everybody has “a guy” when it comes to FB ads, and many are delivering free content.

Everybody has “a guy” when it comes to FB ads, and many are delivering free content.

In search of time management hacks and business book recommendations? Do yourself a favor and sign up for Mark and Michael’s (Fisher/Keeler) newsletter over at Business For Unicorns and begin seeing your account flooded with information that probably should cost thousands of dollars entirely free of charge.

Point being, the tools for success are in place and shockingly accessible if you’re in the early stages of business. The road from zero dollars in revenue to, say, $200K+ is far shorter today than it was a little over a decade ago.

However…

I’ve yet to find a free resource that explicitly outlines how to quickly find the perfect coach once you’ve hit capacity on your existing staff. My inbox is filling up with gym owners who’ve achieved early-stage success in a rapid manor, but suddenly hit a wall because they keep striking out on finding competent employees to help them jump past the newbie gains threshold.

Bad news, friends…

The best resources and consultants in the world cannot point you to a shortcut or “learn from my mistakes” solution to creating badass coaches. You want the perfect coach for your operation? You’re going to have to build that person, and it sure as shit doesn’t happen by executing a checklist found in a PDF.

It is for this reason that I advise 100% of my consulting clients to begin outlining some form of an internship or mentorship program starting as early as their first year of operation. This is not to say that I believe a brand-new one-man operation can or should employ interns. What I mean, instead, is that the thought process needs to start long before the need or opportunity presents itself.

Ask yourself: If I wanted to manufacture the perfect employee, what books would I like him to have read? What courses should he have attended? How many hours shadowing on my training floor would be optimal? If I were delivering an online college course touching on private sector strength and conditioning, what would the curriculum look like?

The process of building your dream employee is a long-vision game, and one that needs to be played if you have aspirations of running a seven-figure fitness operation. The best time to begin educating your next perfect coach is days, weeks or months ago. The second best time is today.



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Life, Fitness, and The Road to Hana

I need to know everything you can tell me about Hana, I explained.

I was discussing an upcoming trip to Maui over a meal with my good friend Michael Keeler (Co-Founder of Mark Fisher Fitness). We’d already touched on his favorite restaurants and meals on the island when we got to the topic of the popular excursion known as “The Road to Hana.” 

Michael spent two and a half years in Hawaii fine-tuning his customer service and management skills while working for the Four Seasons about a decade ago, and he quickly proved himself to be the most-informed trip-planning resource in my network. 

You want my best piece advice, Pete? Stop at the spots that fascinate you, buy some banana bread from a roadside vendor, and then turn yourself around and head home the moment you feel like you’ve got your fill. Experiencing the road to Hana has little-to-nothing to do with Hana. It’s about the experiences along the way. 

The thought of only completing a portion of the trip hadn’t even crossed my mind. What’s the point if you can’t say that you made it to Hana, I thought. Michael had quickly repositioned my expectations and objectives for the experience ahead, while also showing me that the road to Hana is a pretty good metaphor for life in general.

I went home from that meal and pulled up a list of the dozens of potential stopping options on the journey, highlighting the five or six that specifically matched with the interests my wife and I share. (If you’re interested in seeing why this is such a popular trip, drop the term into a google image search and it will all make sense.) 

As it turns out, we made it to Hana and never even bothered to stop. There was nothing in that little town that garnered our interest, so we kept on rolling past it to the last potential stop along the way, Haleakala National Park. There, we did a wonderful two-mile hike to the most beautiful waterfall I’ve ever seen in person. We never once lamented the fact that we’d taken the Hana out of the road to Hana. 

The picture doesn’t even begin to do it justice.

The picture doesn’t even begin to do it justice.

What the hell does this have to do with fitness, you ask yourself?

Well, your current and future clients mostly share the same bad habit I brought to the table when preparing for my travel experience...they come to you with nothing but a destination in mind. 

To some, it’s a specific body fat percentage that’s going to suddenly make them happy. To others, it’s looking good at their approaching high school reunion. It could even be an aspiring powerlifter who has convinced himself that capturing the elusive 500-lb deadlift will equate to him finding his own personal promised land. 

It doesn’t really matter what the singular goal is, because your objective as a fitness service provider is two-fold: manage expectations on the longer than anticipated road to supposed happiness, and make sure that the client stops to take in the scenery along the way. 

You’ve got to deliver life lessons on the nutrition front that will carry forward far beyond a singular event on the calendar. You’ve got to teach people to think strategically about their own fitness needs the next time they walk into a hotel gym while on the road and don’t typically know where to start. You need to hammer home the importance of quality technique to the dad who will one day set up a rack and some weights in his basement so that he can teach his son how to prepare for football tryouts. 

Every single thing we do with our clients in the weight room is about getting them to the metaphorical waterfall on the other side of an initial target that usually just turns out to be nothing more than an unremarkable sleepy village. 

Teach your clients to celebrate the process instead of the outcome, and you’ll actually leave a lasting mark on some lives.


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Why I Bother to Write a Newsletter

Every Friday at noon I email a newsletter I’ve titled the “Friday 4.”

In it, I share a quick link to my own weekly blogging efforts, and the links to four pieces of content that caught my eye during the week prior. All of the material at least loosely impacts the way that I think about (and actually go about) running my business, and I share two to four sentences explaining why and how. While the concepts are not my own, the spin I put on the information is.

People seem to appreciate the information, as open-rates have remained far above what I understand to be acceptable levels in the three years I’ve been publishing, and many kind folks even take the time to fire over the occasional “thank you” email in response.

One such recent email included a simple question that I’ve never been asked before:

I’d love to know more about why you prepare a newsletter, if you would recommend other facility owners/industry experts doing so, and what benefits you’ve seen from having one?
— Stuart A.

I typically refer to my newsletter design habit as one of content curation, which, according to Wikipedia, “is the process of gathering information relevant to a particular topic or area of interest.”

So…why bother?

I should start by saying that my intention for curating content each week is different today than it was when I started a few years ago. Since early 2016, I've come to see a number of benefits that I didn't initially expect. 

Here's how that looked:

The 3 reasons why I initially started a newsletter

  • Everyone said (and continues to say) that the only list you can actually own is your own, so I figured I had to do it. This makes sense, as social media platforms are positioned to pull the rug out from under you on a whim, leaving your earning potential in their hands.

  • It would afford me the opportunity to remind people that I've published material each week beyond announcements on social media. Since we can never be sure that our “announcements” of new material will beat the algorithm and find their way on to everyone’s feed, more exposures to the message is always a good thing.

  • I could use it to drive revenue-generating initiatives. I don’t currently have products to sell, or a habit of pushing affiliate links. For the time-being, my readers are enjoying an influx of content with little to no selling. This can, and likely will eventually change, but for now, I’m in the midst of delivering a series of what Gary-Vee would call “jabs.”

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Why I have Since come to see it as valuable

Much like my experience in brick and mortar business ownership, establishing yourself as a trusted content provider is effectively a never-ending game of trial and error. I spent a year or so churning out these newsletters with the agenda of focusing on the perks outlined above, but eventually came to realize that the real value came from these six outcomes:

  • Curating content forces me to consume a bunch of material each week. I’ve never found that the first four articles I clicked on hit the target, so I read a TON. I’ve got roughly a dozen standard content sources that I frequent for ideas, and there is thankfully no shortage of free information floating around on the areas of business that interest me.

  • These reading initiatives expose me to a number of different concepts that inspire creativity in my own blogging efforts. Interesting articles lead to interesting takes relating to running a gym, which I am happy to kick out in posts like this one every Thursday.

  • Sharing material in this format requires that I continue to develop my own writing style. As mentioned above, every link I share is accompanied by a blurb explaining why the material I am sharing is relevant. I’m not what one would call a great writer, but I’m far better today than I was when I started. In my case, practice makes passable. I’ll take it.

  • Delivering information of this nature every week allows me to stay on radars of fellow gym owners who may one day need my consulting services. I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that I’m not occasionally looking to make a buck. A little transparency here wont stop you from reading, right?

  • In that same vein, preparing a newsletter is the perfect way to continuously reaffirm expertise in the eyes of potential consumers so that when it comes time to fill the room for one of our CSP Business Building Mentorships, I have a far easier time asking for that sale.

  • As mentioned above, people respond every single week to either say "thank you," or put additional articles on my radar that they think might be a fit. Either way, a wonderful outcome, as anyone who blogs knows, there are many times where you find yourself thinking: “Is anyone even listening?”

Maybe you should try it?

Whether you’re looking for new forms of inspiration, in need of a habit to keep you accountable, or just seeking an excuse to read as much as possible, a newsletter may be a great idea for you.

I’d be remiss to not mention that you can get a taste of this Friday 4 newsletter here, where you’ll find archived examples of recent installments, and an opportunity to sign yourself up on the left-hand side. Check it out!

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Social Media For Your Gym - Pick a Lane and Stay In It

If you follow Cressey Sports Performance on any social media platform, you’ve probably come to the conclusion that we train baseball players. In fact, you may assume ballplayers to be just about the only type of athletes who walks through our doors in a given day.

Would it surprise you if I told you we have just a shade under 50 adults from the general fitness population who make it in for our Strength Camps three to four times per week? How about the fact that yesterday more than 50% of the semi-private clients who completed supervised training sessions in our Massachusetts facility were over 35 years of age and lifting weights because they knew it would improve their quality of life, and not their fastball?

We now generate roughly 25% of our revenue by working with general fitness population clients. We don’t, however, allocate that percentage of our social media outputs to that segment of the training population.

This isn’t to say that we’re uninspired by this collection of clients, or that we’re trying to hide something from people who follow our brand.

Instead, we’re making a deliberate choice to fine-tune our message. We’re opting to speak to a specific segment of the athletic population again and again. Our attitude is that if we want to be known for something (the baseball-specific training niche), we owe it to ourselves to stay on-message as often as possible. If you’re wondering why we’re okay with only marketing to a single audience, you can find a detailed explanation here.

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This approach would likely work in your performance training business as well. Instead of firing up the Instagram account today and wandering around aimlessly to collect sporadic content, maybe you should step into the gym with an actual game plan.

Here are three reasons why every performance training business could benefit from picking a specific audience and hammering away at it consistently in their social strategy, regardless of the variety of clients walking through the doors:

1. Picking a target reduces the stress of identifying worthy content.

I’ve come across a number of gym owners over the years who both resent the need to generate social media content (to drive leads), and feel overwhelmed by the task of doing so. Curating visuals that are intended to inspire people to pick up the phone to inquire about your services isn’t a task to be rushed, and the best way to alleviate this stress is to be consistent in the audience you are targeting.

If you are only concerning yourself with appealing to a single client avatar, you can be direct in your message and approach. No more snapping shots that vaguely show a mom, an athlete, and a grandparent scattered in the background with the intention of conveying the message that “all are welcome here at my gym.” Unless you’ve named your business “Nothing But Basketball Players,” it’s already assumed that all are welcome. You can stop advertising yourself as a jack of all trades and master of none.

Pick a type of athlete, concern yourself with learning the language of the sport, and begin speaking that language in your content. You’re far more likely to achieve perceived expert status if you get specific than you are in taking a generalist approach to content creation.

2. The feed is too noisy and cluttered to allow for “we do it all” to stand out.

Think of how you mindlessly scroll through the endless feed of Facebook and Instagram posts. For me, it’s the half hour after my wife and I get our kids down for bed. We’re both exhausted from a day of work and an evening of refereeing (this will make sense to you if you have two little kids), and all we want to do is zone out for “five to ten minutes” before re-engaging in conversation.

So, what do we do? We pick up our phones and unknowingly tune out the world for a five minute break that occasionally turns into thirty. When I come out of my haze of consuming images, videos and informational posts, rarely do I remember even 5% of what I just saw.

This sounds like you, right?

Stop kidding yourself...it 100% does.

So what can we do as content creators to break the habits that result in unmemorable material? We can establish a level of consistency that allows for our audience to instinctually identify our posts based on look and feel.

People move quickly through the Instagram feed, often missing quality information simply because nothing caught their eye. If we’re consistent in the colors we choose, the fonts we utilize, and the filters employed, we increase the likelihood that the people we’re trying to reach spot our material while in the midst of an endless scroll.

Your goal should be for platform users to know they’ve reached a post from your gym before even bothering to read a caption or listen do dialogue. People should almost instantaneously think to themselves, that is obviously a post from Pete Dupuis every time they encounter one of my Instagram images showcasing a visual of a recent “business-specific” tweet.

(An example of the look and feel of roughly 90% of my own IG posts…)

(An example of the look and feel of roughly 90% of my own IG posts…)

Remember, your audience is there willingly. You didn’t hit the follow button for them, so you can interpret their strong engagement with any recent post as a demonstration that they’d like to see more of the same. You don’t need to continuously reinvent the wheel if you’ve found an approach that clicks.

3. Picking an audience means picking a proposed area of expertise to pursue.

I’ve yet to find a gym owner who isn’t interested in drawing clients from a wider geographic range than they already do.

How do we convince the kids from outside of a 15-min driving to make the trip to train with us?

The answer to this one is to establish perceived expertise. Youth baseball players can’t convince their parents to spend extra time in the car to go train at that place that makes no effort to differentiate itself on social media. “I’m not driving an extra hour in traffic to pay extra for something that you can get right around the corner for $10/month” is a far more likely response in this case than “let me grab my keys and checkbook.”

And this is good news for you…

I say this because forcing yourself to differentiate by picking a target population requires that you also force yourself to learn as much as possible about training them. There’s more free material out there on strength and conditioning than any individual coach or fitness team could ever consume, so the best way to establish a clear approach to information consumption is to get specific about your goals.

Spend all the extra time you can studying a specific topic, and the outcome will eventually be specificity in the material you feel compelled to share. The more nuanced your message, the more likely you are to establish yourself or your business as a destination training facility and not a fitness commodity.

People tune out the perceived generalists as they endure unnecessarily long commutes and crummy traffic to work with experts.

The algorithm is the least of your worries…

Everyone finds the energy to bitch about the ever-changing algorithm burying their posts from reaching current and potential clients, but few are honest with themselves about whether their information actually brings value in the first place.

So ask yourself: In a perfect world, where I could guarantee that my social media posts hit the newsfeed of my entire desired audience, would those people even hit the pause button as they scrolled by?

It’s probably time for you to get more intentional about the way you attack the content creation process.


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Overcoming the "Best Coach on Staff" Problem

It’s the same story at just about every gym…

The team is stacked with great coaches, yet every new client wants to know if and when they’ll be working with the owner.

How in the world are you supposed to scale your business if every person who walks through the door does so expecting to own a chunk of a single coach’s day? You can take comfort in knowing that I wrestle with this issue every single day of my professional work life.

We created this problem for ourselves at Cressey Sports Performance, choosing to put Eric’s name on the wall upon opening in 2007 (something I’ve written on in the past). As with every strategic decision we make, there are pros, and there are cons. Since one of the pros in this case is the fact that my business partner is a world-class generator of leads, I routinely find myself managing expectations for incoming clients surrounding his involvement in the assessment and training process.

How should I manage expectations of parents and athletes who all think they should be working with me, the owner?
— any gym owner with employees

Today I want to explain how we attack almost eliminating this problem in both our Massachusetts and Florida facilities, specifically by sharing the three objectives we focus on to clearly convey an important message: The CSP product is the sum of many parts, and those parts happen to be a collection of exceptional coaches.

Here goes…

1. We Position multiple team members as the faces of our social media strategy

Gone are the days of glorifying a single personality in our informational content. Sure, Eric still publishes educational material, but he’s just one of the many faces you’ll see when tracking our output on a platform like Instagram.

Say hello to Kyle — Contender for the title of best beard on the CSP staff (also an arm-care enthusiast)

Say hello to Kyle — Contender for the title of best beard on the CSP staff (also an arm-care enthusiast)

Concepts, visuals, and captions for Infographics are generated by full-time staff members. Ideas and lessons shared during staff in-service by coaches not named Eric are showcased in blogs, on youtube, and throughout the campaigns that draw attention to our internship program. Additionally, areas of expertise are showcased in the form of insights from our Pitching Coordinators, manual therapy tips and tidbits from our on-site LMT and PT, and more.

Speaking of areas of expertise...

2. We need to “have a guy” (not named Eric) for everything

Until opening our second facility in Florida in late-2014, Eric handled nearly 100% of the assessment scenarios involving unique injury histories and complex programming scenarios. There were shoes to fill when he left, as kids in Massachusetts didn’t suddenly stop tearing ACL’s and UCL’s.

We realized that we were in need of areas of expertise across our team, so we went to work on positioning coaches as experts in extremely specific realms. We needed an ACL rehab specialist. We needed an elbow and shoulder guy. We needed someone who understood how to handle a braced athlete bouncing back from a spondy.

Gone were the days of me saying: “Sure, Eric can take care of that.” I needed a new approach, and the most effective one turned out to be having the ability to tell a parent: “I’ve got just the guy for your son who recently had a Tommy John. In fact, I’ve got a coach on our team who has been in the operating room to observe the procedure itself, giving him a complete understanding of what is going on in your son’s elbow, and what he will be fighting through during the recovery process.”

When you stop to think about it, you’ll realize that having multiple team members with specific areas of expertise makes far more sense than positioning your gym owner as the jack of all trades and master of none. Sure, Eric knows more than enough to be dangerous on 99% of the scenarios that walk through our doors, but wouldn’t you rather work with the coach who has been religiously studying research journals, engaging with medical professionals, and attending related seminars on the exact topic of your son or daughter’s injury for months on end?

3. We did more than just Declare coaches as specialists

Claiming to be a lower-extremity specialist for the sake of positioning isn’t the same as actually being one. This is where the months of preparation in advance of Eric leaving for Florida came in. Identifying the appropriate staff members to take the reins on specific assessment and programming scenarios based on their background was the easy part. Actually accumulating the appropriate experience was another story.

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Instead of bringing an intern in the room to assist with assessments, Eric took full-time staff members to be his second set of eyes and hands. When a guy with a recent labrum repair showed up in the assessment calendar, he grabbed our soon-to-be “shoulder guy” and dove into the screening process alongside him, taking a teaching hospital approach to employee development for months on end.

When not working directly with athletes, Eric was arranging for team members to meet and engage with orthopedic surgeons outside of our gym, helping them to network with appropriate practitioners in the area, and assigning ample reading materials for consumption. The process was slow moving and arduous, but continues to be a necessity for our operation. After all, I can’t “sell” these employees as credible experts if I don’t truly believe them to be just that, so the education process is one that never actually ends.

Every gym has a perceived “best coach”

Something tells me that this challenge is one that you face on a daily basis if you own a gym and employ other coaches. It’s great that you’ve established the credibility that results in being an in-demand coach, but your business will never scale if you allow this mentality to thrive inside of your operation.

Glorifying a single staff member only serves to stifle your ability to increase client capacity, so you’re better off spreading around the rave reviews in favor of a far healthier bottom line.


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"People Aren't Ready for Semi-Private Training in My Market" is Bullshit

I can’t remember the last time a week passed without someone telling me that semi-private training models are a foreign concept in their market. It’s always the same thing: Personal training is the only commonly accepted practice where I operate. My clients would lose their mind if I took it away from them. 

So what is it about this training format that they’re so in love with?

I’d be willing to bet that if you were to ask them, they’d reel off a list of perks that looks a little like this:

  • I love that you individualize my program.

  • I love that you supervise every movement so that I don’t risk injury while exercising.

  • I love that you keep me on track and get me in and out of the gym in a reasonable period of time.

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You know what they don’t say?

  • I love that you’re the only person I get to talk to between sets.

  • I love that none of the other quality coaches in the gym know that I exist.

  • I love that I never have to engage with other people with similar goals.

You see, properly structured (and delivered) semi-private training takes everything that is great about personal training, tosses out the flaws, and mixes in some additional perks.

Personalized programming? Check.

Eyes on me while I lift? Yup.

Efficient use of my time in the gym? Yeah…that too.

Your clients are unlikely to resent losing your focus in between sets if you mix in a few fascinating people working hard alongside them and looking to make small talk during downtime.

Your clients aren’t going to walk out the door feeling any less “worked out” after executing the EXACT SAME training material, using the EXACT SAME equipment, under the supervision of the EXACT SAME person.

The biggest problem you’ll have when you effectively make the change is having long-time personal training clients come to the realization that they were previously paying 2x (or more) for the same amount of supervision during lifts. Little did they know that for years they’d been paying for roughly 8-minutes worth of lift-offs, spots, and coaching cues in a given 60-minute window. The rest was just fluffy interaction meant to pass the time during recovery.

The mistake you’re making

The best way to mess up communicating the benefits of shifting your training model is to emphasize what is being taken away from a client (start-to-finish face time), instead of celebrating the benefits that are being introduced – more for less:

  • Affordability in training packages

  • Motivation that comes with having training partners

  • Improved social component to the gym experience

  • Potential exposure to new coaches (depending on your model)

  • Engaged coaching from employees who thrive on variety in exercise supervision

Sometimes two is better than one. And, no, these aren’t my boys.

Sometimes two is better than one. And, no, these aren’t my boys.

Converting personal training clients to a semi-private format is like convincing your only child that he’s going to love having a little brother.

You don’t say to him: Bad news, buddy. I’m going to stop making sure we feed you breakfast, lunch and dinner. I’m also pretty much done with making sure you get down the slide safely at the park. I’m all about your little brother moving forward. Best of luck, friend.

Any sane parent paints a pleasant picture in this circumstance. You’re always going to have a friend to play with. You’re going to make each other laugh. You’re going to teach him how to ride a bike, and swim, and be a big boy. You’re going to LOVE it.

So, when it comes to shifting your personal training clients into a new format, why is it that you feel compelled to do so by cushioning some sort of expected blow? These clients’ attitudes relating to semi-private training aren’t the problem. Your positioning of the service is.

Tell a better story.


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Your Most Important Raving Fans May Not Actually Train in Your Gym

Raving fans are everything to a growing business. 

No traditional Facebook ad is going to outperform the authenticity of an actual person telling your potential client how amazing you are. You probably already know this.

What many of my fellow fitness professionals fail to appreciate, however, is that there is more than a single layer to a well-crafted raving fan community.

Take the typical Cressey Sports Performance (CSP) client for example. On any given day, we might see as many as 40+ high school baseball players. In the most basic sense, an optimal service outcome for this type of athlete is one that includes strength gains and body composition improvements, right?

Thing is, when we do deliver on this objective for the athletes from this demographic, there are multiple ways the outcome can be positively interpreted, and they aren’t limited to just the kid who has experienced our services.

For example…

The parents at home celebrate improved habits that often include a new appreciation for a healthy diet, dedication to a process that doesn’t allow for shortcuts, and deliberate efforts to reduce the risk of injury while playing the game of baseball. Show me a baseball parent who claims she wouldn’t appreciate her kid embracing all of these habits, and I’ll show you a liar.

The coaches on field celebrate the athlete that demonstrates a newfound appreciation for warm-ups and arm care protocols, effectively setting an example for a collection of teammates who are likely on the fast track to arm injuries. These same coaches will be the last to complain that a player has become faster, throws harder, and rarely loses time to injuries. 

Parents, coaches, and even significant others qualify as low-hanging fruit on the positive word-of-mouth tree for us fitness professionals playing the never-ending game of collecting raving fans.

Pretty sure this guy serves both roles…

Pretty sure this guy serves both roles…

So, the question becomes, what are we doing to make these parties feel valued, and how are we going about making it easier for them to talk about us?

What? And How?

Sometimes we need to fight the inclination to turn every interaction with a non-client as an opportunity to pitch services, when our contact might be better used as an opportunity to say “thank you” for setting a great example for the athlete and positively reinforcing the hard work that is taking place in the gym. Maybe a quick email to a parent saying “thanks for keeping the fridge stocked with healthy options for Johnny” will be all it takes for you to show that you’re concerned with more than collecting dollars.

There’s an old saying that goes: They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

Having been in this business for close to twelve years now, I’ve come to learn that, assuming we deliver results to the athlete, and make an effort to communicate to a coach or parent how much we care, we’ll never again need to waste the energy telling people how much we know. The raving fans that don’t even train with us will take the initiative to do that for us.

Continue to work hard to create raving fans in your weight room, but whatever you do, don’t stop there.


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Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this, make sure to say hello on Instagram or Twitter, and subscribe to my newsletter here.


Forget the MBA — Fine-Tune These 3 Skills to be a "Biz Guru" at Your Gym

Outside of filling some additional white space on my resume, the MBA I earned in 2007 doesn’t carry a whole lot of value at this moment in time.

It’s not that I regret going back to school. I don’t.

It’s just that the business world has changed dramatically since that moment in time.

People might make the argument that the term “social media” was coined right around 1999, but I can tell you that there wasn’t a single course of this nature available at my college during the four years that I was an undergrad (‘99-’03), and I have little to no memory of it being a factor as I was in graduate school.

In fact, the inaugural Tweet was published by Jack Dorsey less than 60 days before my first day of graduate classes, Facebook had yet to introduce the concept of the newsfeed or business pages, and the Instagram that we rely heavily on to build business today was still 4+ years away from being a thing.

Imagine running your gym today and generating leads without the assistance of social media...

You can’t, right? I can count on one hand the number of facilities that I am aware of who are able to do so.

So...tell me again how my archaic MBA makes me more qualified to run a gym than anyone out there reading my blog?

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things about biz school that people undervalue

The B2B Marketing concentration I pursued over a decade ago may not be a great reflection of how gyms and businesses in general function today, but the staples of a business school core curriculum will never go out of style. Managing profit and loss statements will never be a passing fad. Who you know continues to be more important than what you know today as it was in ‘07. And grasping the concept of time value of money is and always will be a timeless skill.

In hindsight, I took some real gold away from my business studies. The thing is, thanks to the abundance of entirely free and accessible information now floating around on the internet, the most important lessons I learned in those classrooms can now be picked up with a drink in-hand at the local coffee shop so long as they have a decent wifi connection.

As I take inventory of lessons learned as a sleep-deprived (and poor) graduate student, there are three fundamental components of the process and curriculum that set me up for success as a gym owner. And there’s good news: All three can be replicated without financing a $50,000+ education.

Here’s a look at the three most important skills I walked away from graduate school with:

1. Biz School Mandates Proficiency in Basic Accounting

The core curriculum of both my undergraduate and graduate business programs mandated that I understand the difference between revenues, expenses, assets, liabilities, income statements, balance sheets, and statement of cash flows. I’ve got an appreciation for the difference between managerial and financial accounting.

All of this stuff is imperative if you want to run a healthy business. This being said, I’m so tired of gym owners telling me I have an upper hand in running a profitable operation because I learned accounting in school.

Guess what...that information that cost me a small fortune and dozens upon dozens of hours of my life to accumulate is now available in the form of a ten minute tutorial on youtube.

Seriously.

In fact, two of the first three videos featured in the results of a Google search of the term “accounting basics” offer an opportunity to learn these concepts in seven and ten minutes respectively. Crazy thing is, I watched one, and it got the job done.

You can stop telling yourself that an MBA would make you better at managing your books. Even MIT (yeah, the freaking Massachusetts Institute of Technology) offers a free online accounting course these days.

2. Biz School Students Are Masters of Networking

If there is one thing that they did well at the Babson College F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business, it was facilitating networking opportunities. The alumni network is engaged and accessible, networking events are plentiful around the country and even globe, and program coordinators made a great effort to get students together both on and off-campus throughout the duration of the program to ensure that connections were made beyond the classroom.

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If you’ve been in fitness for any period of time, you know that there’s a continuing education event option every weekend of the calendar year. As much as the concepts being shared by presenters bring value to your career development, I would contend that the conversations that happen before, between, and after presentations are the ones that are going to blow up your earning potential.

You don’t need to attend business school to fine-tune this skill. You just need to force yourself outside of your comfort zone, and appreciate how impactful the power of reciprocity can be in building your business. These events are where you go to run into the specialists who run complimentary businesses in your area. The sooner you drop the “I’m just too introverted” attitude and start making small talk, the sooner you’ll be funding your retirement account with gym profits.

Build your network, or die a slow death on your gym-shaped island.

3. Biz School Students Either Sink or Swim in Tons of Work

I actually completed a traditional two-year MBA curriculum during a 51-week window thanks to the One-Year MBA Program at Babson. From Memorial Day Weekend, until Labor Day Weekend, we attended classes six days per week for as many as 8 hours/day. On top of the class schedule, we finished each day with a homework load that actually accounted for more reading hours than any individual could ever complete if he wanted to sleep that night.

This meant that classmate collaboration was imperative from a studying and information consumption standpoint, and long nights were the norm.

By the time the summer ended, I was numb to the workload. I’d conditioned my mind and body to expect to be “on” for as many as 100 hours/week, making the two “normal” semesters to follow feel like an absolute breeze. With just four classes on my schedule, I was able to participate in a 30-hour/week for-credit internship, and coach high school soccer during the afternoons in addition to school.

When school ended that following May, and people asked me what the hardest part had been, my answer was always the same: the summer portion of the program. The good news, I thought, was that I’d never need to log those kind of hours again in the future.

And then I opened a gym with two buddies…

One of the biggest mistakes I see new gym owners make is going into the process with the expectation that one can maintain the client volume and workload one had while coaching at the local commercial gym, and “just get the administrative stuff done during off hours.”

The first six to twelve months of running a business will kick your ass. I’m talking “first three months of a one-year MBA program kick your ass.”

We worked seven days a week for months on end, and also knew we had to eat, sleep and breath gym ownership during the hours we weren’t at the facility.

You don’t HAVE to get an MBA to learn to embrace the workload that comes with surviving the early stages of gym ownership, but I’m sure glad I did. The prior experience allowed me to maintain my sanity during the summer of ‘07 when CSP became a thing.

I’m not looking to talk you out of chasing this dream. Instead, I want to talk you into embracing the suck that is early-stage entrepreneurship. MBA or not, you’re gonna have to endure it.

One Spot Left…

Interested in something along the lines of a 1-Day Gym Owner’s MBA? I’ve got an idea for you.

29 of the 30 available seats at our upcoming Business Mentorship are spoken for, and I’d love for you to be the magic number 30.

My business partner Eric and I are going to spend Sunday, April 7th digging deep into everything from lead generation, to pricing strategy, gym design, and everything in between. If you’re interested in learning exactly how we’ve attacked building and maintaining the model we’ve had in action since 2007, this packed day of information is for you.

Check out all of the details HERE, and make sure to shoot me an email (pdgymsolutions@gmail.com) if you have follow-up questions.

Initiative Fatigue is Killing Your Earning Potential

in·i·ti·a·tive fa·tigue

common gym owner mistake: when a leader jumps from one improvement fad to another, draining his company’s resources and his employees’ patience.


Don’t act like you haven’t made this mistake yourself. I have. Dozens of times. Maybe more than 100.

Every spring it’s the same thing…we hit our quiet period of the year, and immediately begin vomiting ideas all over our team.

  • We should start a transformation program.

  • We really need to ramp up our personal training services.

  • Let’s start a youth athlete program!

  • Should we add a smoothie bar to the space?

  • Let’s host another seminar to drive some cash flow.

  • We need to attract a different demographic — let’s launch a volleyball-specific program.

  • We need to beef up our YouTube page.

  • We need to be more active on Twitter.

  • Why did we abandon Facebook?

  • Is Snapchat still a thing? Do we need to get back over there?

  • Let’s set up a Groupon offer!

  • Maybe I should return that ClassPass call. (PS - don’t do that)

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I could go on. And on. And on. For days.

Here’s the thing we all need to remember: If we have more than two to three “important strategic initiatives” in place at any given moment in time, we don’t really have any at all.

The more shit we toss on the to-do list of our employees, the more frustrated they become. Take that frustration, and multiply it several times every time we fail to actually follow through on said initiatives.

As I said before, I am guilty of this, many times over.

This spring is different. I’m fighting this urge to add more, as I’ve come to realize that the magical next revenue-generating move is simply being better at keeping our existing clients happy, and not allowing any of them to subtly fall off the radar and disappear for a few weeks (or months) at a time.

There appears to be a direct correlation between being exceptional at generating leads, and being a complete train-wreck at maintaining an optimal retention strategy. New business tends to drown out the fact that existing business is quietly walking out the back door. It is for this very reason that the spring of 2019 at CSP Massachusetts features a single “important strategic initiative.”

This time around, we’re focused on one thing, and one thing only — making sure that we nurture existing client relationships. This means that in-season clients will hear from us every other week at a minimum as their playing schedule precludes them from setting foot in our space, and the ones who do show up are treated like rock stars.

Gone are the days of seeing regulars intentionally disappear for 10-12 weeks, leaving us with the responsibility of effectively having to win back their business annually. Say hello to a time where clients feel like they can’t get away from us because we care too damn much.

We’re playing the long game here, and no amount of trendy new initiatives will out-earn an exceptional retention strategy in the coming six, twelve, or even twenty four months.

Go ahead and tell me that your gym’s retention efforts couldn’t improve a little bit.

I don’t believe you.


Want More of This Stuff?

We’re a little over two weeks out from our next Business Mentorship, set to take place in our facility down in Florida, and I’d imagine we’ve got the room to plug two or three more gym owners into the action. (forgive me if I’m wrong, EC)

My business partner Eric and I are going to spend Sunday, April 7th digging deep into everything from lead generation, to pricing strategy, gym design, and everything in between. If you’re interested in learning exactly how we’ve attacked building and maintaining the model we’ve had in action since 2007, this packed day of information is for you.

Check out all of the details HERE, and make sure to shoot me an email (pdgymsolutions@gmail.com) if you have follow-up questions.

Gym Owner Musings - Installment #13

In this thirteenth edition of Gym Owner Musings, I’ve got some thoughts on improving client retention, being more memorable in your networking efforts, and how to make the most of an initial client assessment.

Here. We. Go.

1. You’ll never get a second chance to make a second impression

Your first inclination was to say that I messed up a common saying, right?

Well I didn’t. I’m all about second impressions. I believe the second visit to my gym is far more important than the first. You see, convincing a client to sign on for month one following an initial assessment is among the easiest of tasks we encounter. The biggest challenge we face, as it turns out, is convincing a client to sign on for month two.

The move from month one to month two is a difficult one, as four weeks often isn’t a sufficient window of time for an athlete to see what he considers to be significant results. While our coaches know that progress is being made, and a foundation for success is being laid, this big picture vision isn’t always common with young athletes. As a result, it is imperative that we show additional value in the form of exceptional customer service.

When you employ a personalized programming approach like we do at Cressey Sports Performance (CSP), a fair amount of one-on-one instruction is involved with new clients. While this hands-on approach to coaching is optimal from a program execution standpoint, it hinders our ability to make staff-wide connections with a single athlete in week one. As a result, we need to be deliberate about ensuring that all employees engage with a new client during his first training session following an initial assessment, regardless of whether or not they’ve been assigned to the athlete.

Here’s an important reminder I share with my team on a regular basis: You start selling month two on day one of month one. Waiting until the last week of a paid month to focus on driving value is a fast track to crummy retention figures.

2. Great networking is about creativity

Let me start by saying just about any networking effort is time well spent. However, some networking approaches are better than others.

Until this week, few things made me happier than receiving an unexpected book in the mail from a friend with a nice note saying something along the lines of: “Thought you might enjoy this one.”

This week I arrived back to work following a family vacation to find a small box on my desk. It featured the return address of a fellow gym owner who I connect with periodically, and was just about the size of a typical book. I popped that baby open thinking I had an idea of what was coming, and soon realized a new standard for networking creativity had been set…

In this box, I found a Nintendo Game Boy, including a copy of the classic game Tetris. Significant chunks of my childhood came rushing back all at once as I handled this beautiful grey device. The hand-written note included read as follows:

“Pete - Hopefully you can dominate your boys in this and enjoy some free time away from the gym.”

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For the rest of the work day after opening, every colleague who stepped into my office immediately asked about the Game Boy, and multiple clients even found their way into my office after hearing about the archaic device sitting on my desk. Time after time, I found myself explaining why I have it, only further extending the reach of a well-placed networking effort.

If you’re going to work to foster and develop a strong network of relationships in this field, the most impactful way to do so is to catch people off-guard with generosity and thoughtful creativity.

Well played, Justin Kavanaugh. Well played.

3. Day one should be about more than working through an assessment checklist

We love individualized program design at CSP. In fact, we’ve built nearly our entire business around this approach. As a result, we have to execute a fairly thorough initial screening process upon starting new clients to ensure that the material we prepare is appropriate for the athlete based on injury history, training objectives, sport of choice, etc.

This being said, we also know that it is easy to fall into the habit of over-complicating day one with endless movement screenings, measurements, and complex tests. When this approach makes up for the entirety of the client experience, you’re more likely to send someone home feeling like the subject of a science experiment than you are to make him feel like an athlete.

This is why we (CSP) dedicate at least 50% of the initial assessment process to executing a thorough warm-up in line with that which every client completes prior to a session, and a taste of the strength training experience.

If you have the time and resources to do so, get the health history, movement screenings and postural analysis out of the way, and move on to the fun stuff that brought your client through the door in the first place. In doing so, you’ll allow the athlete to understand a little bit of what can be expected during the sessions to follow, and also likely gather some additional insights into the direction you should go with the programming once you see just how coachable the athlete is upon stepping up to a loaded bar.

One last thing…

My business partner Eric and I are looking forward to hosting our CSP Business Building Mentorship at our Florida facility on Sunday, April 7th. We’ll spend a day digging deep into everything from lead generation, to pricing strategy, gym design, and everything in between. If you’re interested in learning exactly how we’ve attacked building and maintaining the model we’ve had in action since 2007, this packed day of information is for you.

Check out all of the details HERE, and make sure to shoot me an email (pdgymsolutions@gmail.com) if you have follow-up questions.

Labeling: Your New Secret Sales Tool

“I’m definitely going to sign up. I just need to get in shape first so that I don’t waste your time or embarrass myself.”

If you run a gym known for catering primarily to athletes, you’ve undoubtedly heard this one before. Nine times out of ten, your performance-based reputation probably brings value to closing sales conversations, but there’s the occasional sneaky general fitness population lead that uses it as a counter to your established sales strategy.

So what do you do? How could this deflection tactic be countered? Is it even worth trying?

The solution to your problem, as it turns out, is to eliminate the likelihood of encountering it at all. You can do so by employing a negotiation tool known as labeling.

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What the hell is labeling?

I first encountered the concept of labeling while reading Never Split the Difference, a book written by a former FBI hostage negotiator named Chris Voss. In it, he explains:

“Labeling is a way of validating someone’s emotion by acknowledging it. Give someone’s emotion a name and you show you identify with how that person feels. Think of labeling as a shortcut to intimacy, a time-saving emotional hack.”

When applied properly in this fitness instruction scenario, this shortcut is actually a proactive move to get ahead of the “I just need to get in shape first” retort. If you’re being honest with yourself, you probably realize that every time you’ve heard someone drop this line, it followed a series of admissions of uncertainty relating to the exercise process.

  • I’m not an athlete, you know…

  • I haven’t been in a gym forever…

  • I’m nowhere near as fit as the people I see on your website…

  • Are you guys even interested in working with someone as un-athletic as me?

The most important thing you can do during the selling process is to listen closely and pick up on these signals being tossed your way. Once you’ve identified an emotion to highlight, it’s officially time to label it aloud:

“It sounds like you might be worried about being unprepared to fit in in our training environment.”

Put it out there and allow a moment or two of silence to follow. Let the label have an impact.

Ways this can play out

There are two directions the conversation can go from this moment forward:

Potential Outcome #1 - Your counterpart in this sales process will protest your assumption, effectively eliminating his ability to use the “I’ve just got in shape first” counter when you look to close. I’d imagine you won’t be mad about this outcome, considering it was your objective to avoid it in the first place.

Potential Outcome #2 - Your label will be validated by the person you’re engaging with. Let’s say he agrees with your “it sounds like” approach, explaining that he’s intimidated because of his own perceived beginner weightlifting status. Aren’t you in a much better position to quell his fears after illustrating his potential objection before he has an opportunity to employ it himself?

This is how non-athletes often envision our gym before setting foot in it…

This is how non-athletes often envision our gym before setting foot in it…

When I drop a label of this nature into the dialogue and the hesitance is confirmed, I’m ready to drive forward:

“I totally get it, and would be lying if I said that you’re the first person to feel that way. As it turns out, our individualized approach to program design all but eliminates any likelihood that your training experience is impacted by the people around you in the gym. Everyone is excited to get better, and is working at their own unique pace. We start up beginners every week of the year, so I’m sure you’d feel completely at home in this family environment.”

You know how many people have responded to that statement with a declaration of the need to get in shape before getting started?

The total is right around zero.

The reason this approach has been so productive for me is that I’ve been effective in applying rational words to existing fears, disrupting their impact on the conversation. The biggest challenge in employing this tactic is getting over the fear of bringing your counterpart’s hesitation to the forefront of the discussion. I can assure you of this - the uncertainty is going to manifest itself one way or another during your pitch, so why not put it in play on your terms?

Try it yourself and let me know how it goes.


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Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this, make sure to say hello on Instagram or Twitter, and subscribe to my newsletter here.


3 Reasons to Introduce a Super Expensive Training Option in Your Gym

Asking for people’s money is tough, especially when you first get started in this field.

But I have an idea…

Humor me for a moment by entertaining the notion of adding something new to your sales pitch. I want to take your anxiety surrounding selling a premium-priced service model, and take it up a notch. Start by imagining your most expensive training option. If you operate a semi-private model, it might be something in the range of $499/month for unlimited training.

Whatever the cost may be, I want you to double the price and slap the term “Elite Package” on the title of that training option.

You know what, forget double...make it three times the price.

Now your premium-priced unlimited semi-private training option has a fancy big brother, and it is called the “Elite Semi-Private Training Package.” The cost for “the best you’ve got to offer” just moved from $499/month on up to $1,499/month.

Terrifying, right?

So how are you going to justify the significant cost increase for this option?

For starters, you’re going to throw everything you have into the mix, including the kitchen sink. This means that “elite” clients get things like consistent check-ins from your nutrition coach, a weekly manual therapy treatment, a smoothie every time they wrap up a training session, and the comfort in knowing that they will be able to train at any time they’d like so long as it falls within your advertised hours of operation. These clients don’t work around your available training schedule, you work around theirs.

In addition to these perks, elite clients get handed a cool tee shirt every time you roll out a new model, all of the bottles of water they can handle, and a distinct sense that they are VIP’s at any moment they set foot in the gym.

Go ahead and tell me that this would break your system, and that you’re not staffed appropriately to drop everything and take care of a client who wants to train four times a week on his terms. To this, I would ask you -- how difficult is it to find an extra coach for four to six hours per week when you’re sitting on an additional $12,000 in annual revenue?

“Breaking” your system and stepping outside of your pricing comfort zone might be a good idea for your business, and here are three compelling reasons why:

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1. There’s a market of people who crave expensive.

Almost a decade ago a professional baseball player named Cory Gearrin strolled into my office and closed the door behind him.

“Can I give you some unsolicited feedback?”

Absolutely, Cory. Hit me.

“Your subsidized pricing strategy for MLB-affiliated players is actually deterring a number of great athletes from considering your services.”

He went on to explain that he’d spent upwards of $6,000/month for off-season training at a widely recognized “elite performance training gym” the year before, and the experience was similar, if not less impressive than the one we were offering for $199/month to professional baseball players. While he was appreciative of the effort we were making to deliver an affordable off-season option for our guys, he also knew that some of his teammates in a big league locker room thought that we couldn’t be taken seriously because their careers were too valuable to put in the hands of the bargain-basement priced training option.

I was reminded that day that my pricing strategy tells a story. I owe it to myself to deliver a cost structure that aligns with the quality of the product I’m delivering, regardless of how eager I am to quickly capture market share.

You know what a proposed Elite Semi-Private Training option would do? It would tell the story that the Rolls Royce of semi-private training exists, and it happens to be in my gym.

2. Everything else suddenly looks affordable.

That $499/month unlimited training option you’ve been pedaling for years occasionally comes with a little sticker shock, right?

Not anymore.

The proposed Elite Semi-Private Training service you’d offer may look terrifyingly expensive to your average consumer, but it also suddenly makes $499/month seem more doable. When given multiple choices for payment and service options, customers are inclined to make a selection that falls within the middle. Some refer to this as the Center-Stage Effect, and you can learn about how it impacts pricing strategy here.

By bringing a new premium-priced service option into the mix, you’d effectively move your most profitable training option closer to “the middle” of the pricing list. Why not create a dynamic that drives more people toward your highest-margin offering?

3. You’ll have no choice but to become a customer service Jedi Master.

Your default answer to every request this hypothetical new client presents…

Your default answer to every request this hypothetical new client presents…

If you do go ahead and take the leap to offering a super-premium option on your service list, you’re instantly going to be forced to step up your customer service game. You’ll feel compelled to erase existing lazy habits and begin over-delivering on services that you’ve probably been running on auto-pilot since your business is probably systemized well at this point.

This isn’t a bad thing, as establishing these new habits may not be as difficult as previously expected, and you just may find yourself standardizing them across all platforms. Few things will prompt you to be better than the need to accommodate a demanding client.

shake up your approach business development

My business partner Eric and I are looking forward to hosting our CSP Business Building Mentorship at our Florida facility on Sunday, April 7th. We’ll spend a day digging deep into everything from lead generation, to pricing strategy, gym design, and everything in between. If you’re interested in learning exactly how we’ve attacked building and maintaining the model we’ve had in action since 2007, this packed day of information is for you.

Check out all of the details HERE, and make sure to shoot me an email (pdgymsolutions@gmail.com) if you have follow-up questions.

Mastering the Basics MUST Precede Embracing a Specific Methodology

A note from Pete - This guest post from my colleague John O’Neil (CSP Massachusetts Director of Performance) is the result of a casual conversation that recently took place in my office as we were discussing the habits of intern applicants. I mentioned my frustration in up and coming fitness professionals becoming attached to singular training methodologies as they worked to find a voice within the industry.

The need to be known as “The (insert 3-letter acronym here) Guy” has become increasingly common, and I’m not sure it is sustainable. Customers quickly outgrow methodologies and effortlessly move on to the next big thing, leaving “niched” fitness pros in their wake.

John agreed, and asked to elaborate in a written format. Heres his informed opinion:

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While it is important to have a niche as a business, young coaches can often misconstrue this message.  

If you’re a self-employed coach or gym owner, you need a sect of people to market towards, but you don’t need to limit your education to a small segment of the industry.  Our industry continues to be more polarizing and continues to move away from the goals that people come in for in the first place. I aim to make this article a valuable lesson for young coaches.

I haven’t been in the industry forever, but I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked with some great minds – Eric Cressey, Mike Ranfone, Todd Bumgardner, Charlie Weingroff, Connor Ryan – to name a few that you may have heard of, in addition to countless others that you probably haven’t. Many of you will associate these five names with specific commercial models – within the five, there’s a guy associated with the FMS, FRC, and PRI. While I learned aspects of these models during my time with these mentors, I consistently saw each of them be great at what they do independent of the acronym they’re associated with. Each of them has an incredible amount of training knowledge that can’t be taught at a weekend course, and in my opinion, their ability to integrate niche concepts into an all-around system is what makes them great.    

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In my current role as Director of Performance at CSP, I’ve had the opportunity to guide the education for over 30 interns in the past two years, and that’s not including the countless other young coaches that have reached out to me for advice because of the brand name that CSP provides. 

I’ve seen a disturbing trend in the mindset of young coaches. Instead of being attached to an end goal or outcome, coaches want to identify with a certain emblem. When asking interns what they want to learn the most about in their upcoming semester, I commonly get answers like this:

“I want to learn PRI techniques”

“I want to learn FRC techniques”

“I want to learn the arm care methods you use here”

Rarely do I hear some version of  “I want to learn as much as I can so I can help people reach their goals,” which is what our job should entail. If you were a basketball coach and ran an internship program, your interns would be there to learn about how to build winning basketball teams, not show up on day one asking to learn the intricacies of a post-entry pass.

The messages I receive on social media are often centered around niche topics as well, as if everyone in the industry has already mastered the basics. Being really, really good at coaching people to get stronger, run faster, jump higher, or lose weight, whatever their goal may be, will carry you much, much further as a coach than merely being a niche expert.

This trend has only gotten worse over the last 2-3 years. I think it’s time for us to start focusing our educational efforts on being results-centric, unless we want to continue to polarize our industry and brainwash young coaches into thinking that coaching is centered around things that look like magic tricks. In the gen-pop world, if we’re actually in this to help people, we should probably be talking about lifestyle changes and general health goals instead of tricking people into thinking a marginal skill is why they need us. If we want sport coaches to take us seriously, we should probably center our efforts of what we promote around things that happen on the field.

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Many internship programs teach interns exactly what is done at the business they’re in without ever being taught why the business chooses to do it this way. Coaches learn to execute a script, but aren’t necessarily provided with the tools to create a different script that may be appropriate for their next setting.  I’m sure our business, CSP, has been guilty of this in the past – interns leave CSP and try and run the exact same programming systems, only to find out that they don’t quite fit because the setting and population is different.

A coaches’ biggest weapon is the ability to make decisions. In other coaching arenas, this is obvious. There is no one version of the “West Coast Offense,” nor do people think this is the only offense that can win football games. If you don’t understand the overarching principles behind why you do what you do, or, what a potential counterargument for choosing this method might be, you’re not setting yourself up to be adaptable to your environment.

My goal with our internship program is to continue to push critical thinking and develop the ability to see the whole forest. Learn what you need to know about each of the trees, but don’t lose sight of the end goal or why people should come to see you in the first place.

If you’re a young coach, learn as much as you can about strength, power, speed, energy systems development, physiology, anatomy… the list goes on and on. You are doing your clients a disservice if you take a rehab-oriented course at the expense of mastering the basics.

Learn from a variety of models, but integrate them into a system that produces results that your clients will continue to pay you for. Have a niche, but don’t be a niche.

About the Author:

John O'Neil has served as the Director of Performance at Cressey Sports Performance since the summer of 2017. He returned to CSP after being a part of the first intern group at CSP-Florida during the fall of 2014. Over the past few years, John has coached people of all ages in New York City and New Jersey, as well as working as a high school baseball coach. He has previous internship experience with both Ranfone Training Systems and the Baltimore Orioles. John graduated from Dickinson College with a Bachelor's of Science in Mathematics in 2014, and holds a number of certifications in the Strength & Conditioning field.

Win A Coaching Job With These Simple Interviewing Tips

Serious question: Why do you keep sabotaging yourself when sitting down for a job interview?

You’ve already got your foot in the door, so much of the hard part is over.

Why not put some thought into how you’re going to leave a positive impression following an approaching face-to-face conversation? Entirely reactionary interviewing is lazy, and you can avoid it by coming into a discussion with at least the loose framework of how you’d like the conversation to go.

At some point in the dialogue, you will likely be given an opportunity to guide the direction. So what are you going to do with it?

It’s Interviewing Season

I’m in the home stretch of a week of 15+ summer internship interviews as I type this. My colleague John O’Neil and I have reviewed all of the applications, extended all of the interview offers, and executed roughly 5+ hours of face-to-face candidate conversations since Monday.

With several hundred of these interviews under my belt dating back to 2007, it’s difficult to find scenarios that completely catch me off guard. There are, however, a number of common trends that creep up with each new candidate pool, and I’d like to share some interesting takeaways that will hopefully help you the next time you show up for a job interview.

Some of these are “things to stop doing immediately,” and others are simply friendly reminders on how to step up your game.

Here goes…

1. looking the part is easy. It’s Also unmemorable.

The great thing about working in fitness is the option to wear comfortable exercise attire just about all of the time. The crummy thing about working in fitness is that the sweatpants and hoodie culture can easily bleed its way into moments that should probably be treated with a hint more professionalism, regardless of the uniform you’ll ultimately be sporting if you get the job.

If you show up for a Skype or Facetime interview wearing a tee shirt and backwards hat, you may not be hurting your chances to earn a strength and conditioning internship, but you’re certainly not helping them. Throw on a collared golf shirt and take it up a notch or two just for appearances. Hell, you don’t even need to be wearing pants to execute this part of the interview process properly.

Remember this: I’ve never taken points away from a candidate for being over dressed, but I have definitely made mental note of particularly lazy attire selections.

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2. Speaking of Skype interviews, get your technology straight.

It’s frustrating when an applicant is late to, or completely unavailable for an interview because he failed to test-run the technology being used in advance. “Sorry, I have never used Skype before” isn’t a reasonable excuse for messing up someone else’s schedule when you’ve had several days notice to get your ducks in a row.

If you’re preparing for an interview that requires use of a technology such as Skype, Facetime, Zoom, Google Hangouts, or any other trendy platform, an important step in the process should be confirming that your visuals are clear, the microphone works, and you have a quality internet connection prior to starting that call.

3. Nerves don’t need to sink you.

I’ve seen more than a few candidates torpedo their chances for scoring a position with us because they couldn’t get their nerves in check during the process. If this sounds like anxiety you are familiar with, take comfort in knowing that a hint of nervousness during the initial stages of an interview can easily be interpreted as a compliment to the employer.

Nerves tell me that you are serious about the opportunity, and concerned about potentially missing the mark during the interview process. I’d much rather consider a candidate showing a little humility during an interview than one who shows up with a chip on their shoulder and an approach that tells me they see this conversation as a formality on their road to the strength and conditioning coach hall of fame.

4. Lazy candidates ask lazy questions.

Any proper interviewer should give their candidate an opportunity to ask questions about the role, and questions that follow (or lack thereof) tell a lot about the applicant.

There is no way for me to effectively outline everything that can be expected while interning at CSP during a 10-15 minute conversation, so telling me you don’t have any questions at the back end of the discussion isn’t a good look. We’re always in need of coaches who ask thoughtful questions and challenge us to think differently on a day-to-day basis, and this is the first opportunity you’ll have to demonstrate a capacity to do so.

Bonus Tip -- One surefire way to make a bad impression is to only ask questions about when you’re going to be able to get your own training in, and if we’ll be writing programs for you. Sure, I want you to experience the training we offer, take part in staff lifts, and in look the part to a certain extent, but that piece of the puzzle cannot be prioritized over embracing the curriculum and prioritizing learning over self-serving fitness objectives.

Back to the candidate pool…

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m back to the interviewing grind. Time to go find our industry’s next great coach. Wish me luck.



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If you enjoyed this, or any of my other “hot takes” on fitness business ownership, I think you’d enjoy our upcoming Business Building Mentorship. Eric Cressey and I are hosting this event once again on April 7th at our facility in Jupiter, FL.  

Please shoot me an email if you’d like to discuss further. We’d love to have you.

Email: pdgymsolutions@gmail.com

Protecting Your Gym’s Secret Sauce - Worth the Hassle?

“We’re hoping to have our gym compete on merits without “giving away our secret sauce”. More specifically, we want to emphasize our competencies without publicizing our process. Any tips on how to do so?”

This is an email I recently received in my consulting account, and it isn’t the first time a question of this nature has been sent my way. Since I’ve found myself explaining my position on the subject on more than a few occasions, I thought it may be helpful to share with a wider audience.

If I were to prepare a canned response to this type of a question for safe keeping in my Gmail account, it would look something like this…

Dear Fellow Gym Owner…

Appreciate you reaching out. We need to stick together, as this game of business is tough.

My initial inclination is to tell you that any gym owner who makes a habit of fiercely protecting his "secret sauce" will never successfully position himself as a thought leader in his community. Taking the "we're the best, just trust us" approach to promoting your business is considerably less effective than simply being the best.

You’re probably overvaluing your intellectual property.

You’re probably overvaluing your intellectual property.

The actual mechanics of instructing fitness are rarely a strong enough differentiator in our field, even if you do truly believe yourself to be superior to the competition on this front. Potential clients want to feel like they're doing business with relatable people, not gurus who have superstar athletes and a methodology that they keep in their "pay-to-play" vault.

If you look closely at the way that we manage our social media and marketing strategies at Cressey Sports Performance, you'll see that we go out of our way to discuss our approach to assessment, program design, and coaching instruction. We're an open book, and it results in lead generation, fully booked seminars, and an influx of internship applications.

I recently stumbled upon a quote in the book Good to Great from an executive at Merck (the pharmaceutical company). In it, he explained why his business decided to distribute a cure to an illness called River Blindness to extremely poor individuals in the Amazonian area entirely free of charge despite it being the only product available:

We try to remember that the medicine is for the patient....It is not for the profits. The profits follow, and if we remembered that, they have never failed to appear. The better we have remembered it, the larger they have been.

This resonated with me, as I've been asked in the past why I put so much time and energy into preparing business content without an obvious game plan for immediate revenue generation.The way I see it, if I can easily help up and coming gym owners avoid common mistakes, then I should take a stab at doing so without fixating on profits. With this system in place (blogs, podcasts, etc.), the revenue tends to follow in the form of paid consulting inquiries, and I believe everyone wins.

Time to shift your approach?

If you’ve made a habit of keeping the special recipe to your training philosophy on lock down in the past, and you find yourself fighting a never-ending battle against an increasingly competitive landscape, it may be time to make a change. Share your wisdom with the world, and the leads you’re afraid of missing out on just may find their way to you.

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If you enjoyed this, or any of my other “hot takes” on fitness business ownership, I think you’d enjoy our upcoming Business Building Mentorship. Eric Cressey and I are hosting this event once again on April 7th at our facility in Jupiter, FL.  

Please shoot me an email if you’d like to discuss further. We’d love to have you.

Email: pdgymsolutions@gmail.com

Facts Are Forgotten, But Stories Stick

What if I told you you’ve missed countless opportunities to connect with your audience?

I’ve been missing these opportunities as well. In fact, most of us are making the same marketing and social media mistakes.

Allow me to elaborate.

So we’ve got this talented college baseball player who has trained with us at Cressey Sports Performance (CSP) since he was a high school underclassman. For the sake of anonymity, let’s call him Johnny Baseball.

Johnny currently plays for a nationally ranked “power five conference” team. If you follow us on social, you’ve probably seen him training in our space, effectively conveying the following message:

Did you know that XYZ University standout starting pitcher, Johnny Basbeall, trains at CSP? Yeah, he’s a regular. He throws medballs. He receives sport-specific arm-care and programming. He throws with our Pitching Coordinators. All of these habits help put him in a position to potentially thrive in the XYZ Athletic Conference this spring and hopefully receive a phone call on day one of the approaching MLB First-Year Player Draft.

Not the worst message you’ve ever seen or heard, right? It resonates with many of our current and potential clients, and has effectively served as our marketing strategy to date. Why fix something that isn’t obviously broken?

But what if we took a new approach?

What if we told Johnny’s CSP story from the beginning, touching on the highs and lows along the way?

Tell me a story

Before you do anything, remember that you’ll find yourself on the fast track to nowhere if you declare yourself a storyteller and begin rolling out a tale that fails to follow a defined path. The best stories loosely follow a recipe, and your marketing and social media efforts can as well.

Let's retell this story using the components of the Story Spine method. Here’s how concept is laid out: 

  • Once upon a time…

  • And every day…

  • Until one day…

  • And because of that…

  • And because of that…

  • And because of that…

  • Until finally…

  • And since that day…

We’ve all seen a Pixar movie (or ten) in our lifetime, so this story trajectory should make complete sense. Whether Woodie (Toy Story), Lightning McQueen (Cars), or Sully (Monsters Inc.) comes to mind, they all play roles in movies that adhere to this format. 

So let’s plug in Johnny’s true CSP story to the Story Spine structure.

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The Thrower, a Hypothetical Pixar Movie

Once upon a time, Johnny Baseball was a youth baseball player in Massachusetts with dreams of playing varsity baseball at his local high school.

And every day of his off-season, he went through the motions “preparing” for the season. Sometimes he lifted some weights, and others he did some casual throwing because he heard some teammates were doing it.

Until one day, spring tryouts rolled around and Johnny was blindsided. He’d been cut from the baseball program as a junior, a time when he’d expected to make important impressions on college coaches.

And because of that, Johnny was faced with the difficult decision of whether or not he wanted to play the game at all in the future.

And because of that, he found it especially difficult to watch his buddies show up to practice every afternoon as he sat home wondering what his identity would be moving forward.

And because of that, CSP reached out to Johnny, letting him know that training in the gym could be his unexpected spring sport, filling the hole that was traditionally plugged by practices and game play, and allowing him to reinvent his potential as a thrower.

Until finally, he decided to continue to pursue the sport, showing up to train seriously at CSP six times per week throughout the entire spring and into the summer, adding durability to his frame, and a few important ticks on his fastball velocity.

And since that day, Johnny has gone on to play varsity baseball at a reputable New England prep school, secure a scholarship to pitch at XYZ University, accept an invitation to play in the famed Cape Cod Collegiate Baseball League, and put himself in a position to pursue playing the sport professionally. 

Which angle is more compelling?

So which of these two marketing approaches is more likely to make you feel compelled to reach out to CSP? Which of the two would be easier for you to identify with if you were a high school athlete seeking a competitive advantage as you hoped to make a team?

Yeah…the story.

I think it’s time we, as gym owners, start using this tool. If we look closely enough, there are probably many stories like Johnny’s waiting to be told.

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If you enjoyed this, or any of my other “hot takes” on fitness business ownership, I think you’d enjoy our upcoming Business Building Mentorship. Eric Cressey and I are hosting this event once again on April 7th at our facility in Jupiter, FL.  

Please shoot me an email if you’d like to discuss further. We’d love to have you.

Email: pdgymsolutions@gmail.com

I Failed to Open My Dream Gym - Here's Why

Note from Pete: This week I have a guest post for you from my buddy Casey Lee, a Strength Coach living in Northern-Vermont. He’s a member of the rare club of “almost gym owners” who can say that they danced with the idea of opening their own space before putting their professional life and credit score entirely on the line in a risky manner. Listen closely, aspirational facility owners!

Like most Personal Trainers, I was invincible. I had an above average skill set in assessment. My program design systems were locked in. Client conversations were the highlight of my day, each and every day.

The decision to open up my own gym seemed like a no-brainer at the time. I had books by Thomas Plummer and Pat Rigsby, a network of business owners cheering me on, and a killer mindset that was sure to lead to a thriving business.

That’s how it works, right? Have the soft-skills, own the hard-skills, and have a kick-ass network. Right?

Not so fast.

Two years later, with no gym to speak of, I am at peace with the with the biggest professional mistake I have made to date. I tried to open a gym and failed. Luckily for me, this failure will not define my career. If anything, it’s helped springboard me forward, and has given me the tools necessary to help others avoid these mistakes.

Allow me to introduce you to some of my biggest mistakes along the way. Here are three things I did that kept my gym from ever seeing a day of operation:  

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1. Failure to delineate between start-up costs & operating costs

Are you hoping to open a business at any point in your life? Go grab a piece of paper and create two columns. On one side, write down everything you need to open your business. Now, on the other side, write down everything you need to keep your business running.

This exercise may feel simple, but the distinct difference between these two columns needs to be appreciated if your gym has any shot at surviving. You’re going to need two different pools of money — one to open the business, and another to keep the lights on.

That cash you have in your savings account might cover your start-up costs, but is it going to give you the liquid funds to keep you moving as you grind to establish a book of business?

2. Failure to understand ALL of your options

Opening a business, especially a gym, is like reading a “choose your own ending” book.

Depending on the route you take, you will end up with a different ending.

It is critical that you understand all your options so you can get moving towards the ending you desire. If you don’t have savings, are you aware of available financing options? Do you know the ins and outs of SBA loans? Maybe you’re building a small operation and a line of credit will cover it — do you understand the risks of defaulting on that payment? Are you a new-to-the industry 24 year old coach engaging in discussions with a venture capital firm? Yikes.

Like I said, you choose your aspirational ending, but understand that there are dozens of different paths you can take to finance the initial investment. Take your time and research each one, evaluate the short and long term risks, and make an educated decision for yourself. Speed to market is less important than reducing your risk.

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3. Failure to appreciate the order of operations

Just like in 5th grade math class, there is an order of operations when it comes to opening your gym. What is important to identify is that the first few tasks on this list will not cost you a single dollar to execute.

My recommended order of operations — some of these pieces can be done simultaneously, and this is how I would attack the process if I were taking another shot at this today:

  1. Write your business plan ($0)

  2. Explore potential locations ($0)

  3. Talk to the town zoning administration ($0 until your inspection)

  4. Quote your equipment ($0 until you order)

  5. Re-visit start-up expense projections

  6. Re-visit operational cost projections

  7. Explore funding options as needed (avoid options that involve an application fee)

  8. Edit business plan to account for different scenarios based on findings from points 2-7.

Planning a gym is just that — planning. There should be minimal cash going out during the planning process. If you’re spending cash on various funding, architectural plans, equipment layouts, or on your business plan, then you need to throw the metaphorical challenge flag and assess WHO is helping you.

I wish you luck.

I appreciate you taking the time to gut this one out with me. It’s been two years since my gym experience, and I was able to get out before it was too late. I learned a lot about myself and about the industry, all of which have helped me take steps forward with my career. Hopefully my story helps aspiring gym owners to take a closer look at their business plans and make sure they have the best road map to their dream job.

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About the Author

Casey Lee is a Strength and Conditioning Coach based in northern-Vermont. He currently works as the Program Director and Head Coach for The Parisi Speed School, located in Williston Vermont. Graduating from SUNY Plattsburgh (Plattsburgh, NY) with an honors degree in Business Administration in 2011, Casey handles all business operations and staff development for this facility. To learn more about Casey, check out www.CoachCaseyLee.com.

3 Reasons Team-Training Might be a Threat to Your Business

Imagine you’ve recently opened a gym…

You’re in year one, cash flow isn’t quite where you’d like it to be, and you’re looking for a quick fix.

Suddenly the opportunity you’ve been waiting for comes crashing into your lap. The local club soccer team is looking for a place for their “hundreds” of athletes to attend for sport-specific training this coming winter and they want to “send the entire program your way.”

The quotations in the last sentence are there because the headcount and proposed attendance are probably both entirely inaccurate. Sure, every club has a series of age groups and rosters they intend to fill, but few of them operate at the capacity they advertise to people like you and me. Even fewer of them are effective in convincing even half of their athletes to specifically pick your business for training. It is rare to find a serious teenage athlete that has not yet established relationships with fitness service providers close to home these days, so it’s difficult to convince them to drop everything and try a new place “because my summer coach said so.”

Nevertheless, you plow forward with dreams of big paychecks and a full gym.

Fast-forward a season or two and the cracks are beginning to show on your master plan of taking an entire program of young athletes and turning them into lifetime customers. Retention numbers are beginning to fall, headaches are piling up, and you’re beginning to realize that the service you are offering is no longer representative of the one you envisioned on the day that you received that first inquiry from the soccer club president.

If this sounds like a direction you could be headed, I want you to consider the following noteworthy reasons why team-training of this nature may be more trouble than it is worth for you and your fitness business:

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1. Like it or not, you’re going to compromise on pricing strategy

There isn’t a coach or club owner in this country that will approach you with his “hundreds” of athletes expecting to pay full price. He’s going to request volume discounts and special exceptions, as he believes himself to be holding all of the cards.

When he does, you’ll feel compelled to do him a solid, offering a 25% discount to each and every one of his athletes. Those kids will happily pay $150 for a month of training that typically costs $200, and you’ll feel just fine about it because the cash infusion they’re making into your operation is going to cover that new power rack you’ve got your eye on. Life is good.

This continues through the winter, kids get stronger under your supervision, foot traffic is steady in the gym, and you’ll be just about ready for a breather the moment all of these guys get back outside for practice and game play.

And then the spring and summer seasons will come and go…

Business will grow steadily during the time that these soccer players are in-season and you’ll be feeling good about having them back in for a productive off-season ahead. You’ll find a way to plug them back into your now far busier calendar.

So my program is still $150, right? I can’t afford to do this at $200 per month. That’s not what I was sold in the first place.

You’ll explain that this was a discounted rate that was offered initially contingent upon an entire program worth of youth soccer players training in your space. But here we are a year later, and only 8 of the “hundreds” are back for more.

The parent standing in front of you holding the Amex doesn’t care. He wants his discount, and he wants it in perpetuity.

So what are you going to do? Trust me when I tell you this…you should do anything and everything you can to transition that athlete to regular rates in the immediate future. Explain the justification for your standard pricing structure, including constant reinvestment in the business in the form of quality coaches, top-notch equipment, and ongoing staff continuing education objectives.

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There’s nothing wrong with honoring the prior price point for a month or two, but it needs to be made clear that the move to standard rates will be effective on a designated date, and it is unfortunately non-negotiable.

Or, you could just never offer a discount to that entire program in the first place and let your product and results speak for themselves in justifying the pricing strategy that already exists. Your call.

2. You’re also going to compromise on training philosophy

If you’re anything like us at Cressey Sports Performance, you take pride in the training model you’ve put in place. Attention to detail is paramount, and individualization is arguably your biggest and most compelling differentiator.

This model is going to take a hit the moment you begin watering down your procedures in order to accommodate multiple athletes for on boarding in a tight window of time. Those meticulously crafted personalized programs are going to begin showing up hand-written on a marker board in the middle of the gym, designed to work for the fifteen athletes who show up at 3:30pm, because they all play the same sport and “all look pretty much like the same kid.”

They’ll probably all get a great training effect, as it doesn’t take much to drive positive progress in the untrained teenage athlete, but will you feel fulfilled after compromising on the exercise selection format that you had in mind as you designed your initial business plan?

To be clear – I see absolutely nothing wrong with good old-fashioned group programming and group training. There is a time and a place for everything, and many of the best gyms in the world crush it in this model. My point here is that this adjustment is a significant deviation from the business and training model you’ve built your reputation around, and you need to ask yourself if you’re comfortable delivering a service that isn’t in line with the expectations of the athletes and parents who may already be aware of your brand..

Speaking of your reputation…

3. Athletes slip through the cracks

The smaller your client-to-coach ratio is, the more control you have over the product that results from your instruction. If you’ve got eyes on every rep of a training session spent supervising a small handful of athletes, it is unlikely that improper execution takes place, or dissatisfied clients go unnoticed.

As those groups grow larger, and entire teams roll through your space, the likelihood of quiet athletes remaining disengaged in the back of them room increases. While you know they’re getting the instruction they need to avoid injury, you may not be delivering an experience that makes them passionate about the training. The athletes who truly thrive in this setting are the ones who are advocates for themselves, while the quiet kid is the one who goes home feeling uninspired.

That very same quiet kid is likely to fall on the wrong side of your retention issues when the next off-season rolls around, but that wont stop him from discussing his experience in your space.

I went for months and didn’t get any stronger...and the gym was too crowded and I felt like coaches didn’t pay attention to me...and I hurt my hamstring on the first day of tryouts after training with them all winter so they obviously didn’t prepare me for the spring.

The thing you need to remember is that every single athlete who walks through your door has the potential to either be a valued brand advocate, or a destructive word-of-mouth force that crushes your lead-generation objectives. It doesn’t matter if they worked with you for a single day, or multiple months…they all leave your space with the ability to discuss the experience.

So, you need to be honest with yourself – are you putting your business in a position to maximize the odds of delivering a positive training experience that will be discussed in a positive light further on down the road? If churning a whole team worth of athletes through your space is going to result in a less-than-inspiring training experience for a handful of kids, is it worth the potential damage that could be inflicted on your brand reputation?  

Before you dive in…

I may not have sold you on the idea that biting on that offer from the local club team is a bad move. That’s fine, as I have no business telling you definitively how to run your business. This being said, if you’re going to move forward, I implore you to identify the gym or gyms in your part of the country that have mastered the art of this large group team training concept and get into their space to see it in action. They’ve likely spent years fine-tuning their approach, and built a model that was designed to accommodate this format from the start…not because they needed a quick infusion of cash.


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If you enjoyed this, or any of my other “hot takes” on fitness business ownership, I think you’d enjoy our upcoming Business Building Mentorship. Eric Cressey and I are hosting this event once again on April 7th at our facility in Jupiter, FL.  

Please shoot me an email if you’d like to discuss further. We’d love to have you.

Email: pdgymsolutions@gmail.com