The Business of Fitness

In 2 months, I’ll be giving a talk about the “business” of semi-private training and the Fitness Business Weekend event.

I’m always a little leery of stepping out of my comfort zone (which is talking about training, obviously!), but I’m also excited to branch out and talk about a topic I’ve spent the last 4 years learning tirelessly about.

I thought it might also be helpful for some of you to see some of the random thoughts that have popped into my head while trying to outline the presentation.

Anyway, here are a bunch of random thoughts about business, and more specifically, the business of fitness.

  1. Don’t start a fitness business fresh out of school. Work in a crappy gym for 6-12 months, and “make your mistakes on someone else’s nickle.”(1)
  2. Just because you’re a great trainer doesn’t immediately make you a great gym. We’ve learned this first hand, as our training is on-point but we’re always working hard to become a better business.
  3. Just because you run a great gym doesn’t mean you’re a great trainer. I think this one should be obvious. I’ve seen a handful of people in my day that are suspect trainers, but obviously have the business side of the equation down.
  4. Pay for continuing education for your staff – and then make sure they attend a certain number of courses per year. If they don’t keep up to date, that’s a problem.
  5. Know your numbers. How many prospects walked in your door last month? How many assessments did you have? How many people started your trial? How many people signed up following your trial? How many visits did you do? What is your receivables base? These are basic questions you need to start asking.
  6. What is your best lead generation source? Ours is the internet, but this is a critical step in the process. If you don’t know what marketing pieces are working, how can you spend MORE on what works versus what doesn’t?
  7. You must have incentives. Whether it’s getting your staff to sell more services or getting your clients to sign-up, incentives are a critical step in the process.
  8. Don’t be cheap. If your only business strategy is to win on price, you won’t last long. Think about Wal-Mart – they’ve made it their business to win on price, but even they are getting beat now by Amazon.
  9. If you aren’t cheap, you better be awesome. Great service, great skills, a great experience, etc. are all critical if you want to be more expensive than everyone else.
  10. Find a niche. Eric Cressey means baseball. Joe DeFranco is football players. Alwyn Cosgrove is fat loss. What will you be known for?
  11. Make your business work for you. If and when your gym becomes it’s own monster, you have to get something back in return. Work to not only service your clients, but to make your business work for you as well.
  12. Read the E-Myth. When you open a gym, you go from one job (technician) to three (technician, manager, entrepreneur). And trust me, it’s hard managing all three roles!
  13. Offer a trial. This has been a game changer for us. Our services aren’t cheap, so a trial allows a low-cost option for people to experience our gym and see why we’ve priced ourselves accordingly. Without a trial, the barrier to entry is going to be pretty darn high.
  14. Marketing doesn’t have to be expensive. Paid marketing is great. I’d love to have a budget where I can send out direct mail pieces, develop radio and TV ads, etc. But if you don’t have that, it’s not an excuse not to market. Create fliers and hand them out. STart a blog. Post tips on Facebook and Twitter. Guerilla marketing is alive and well. If you don’t have a million dollar ad campaign, you can still do really well for yourself by working harder.
  15. Word of mouth IS NOT a marketing tactic. I love that my clients tell other people about us, but this is not a legit marketing strategy.
  16. Dial in your referral system. This is something we’re working really hard at here at IFAST. We had a system in place before, but it simply wasn’t working. We’re getting ready to install a new system that I think will be much more effective. It doesn’t matter what Jimmy da Trainer does at Apocalypse Fitness Emporium; find a referral strategy that works for you in your gym.
  17. Make time for in-services. This is something that’s not only important for continuing education, but for communication and keeping everyone on the same page as well. When you have 9 staff members (including interns), you want everyone coaching things the same way, every single time.
  18. If you aren’t ready to work harder than ever before, don’t bother.
  19. If you aren’t ready to make numerous sacrifices along the way, don’t bother.
  20. If you aren’t ready to make tough decisions or moves that will make you unpopular don’t bother.

So there are 20 random pieces of fitness business advice, and I know I haven’t even scratched the surface.

What was your guys’ favorite tip?

And what is one tip you would add?

I’d love to read your feedback below!

All the best


PS – This week ONLY, I’ve asked Pat to hook my people up with a discount on the Fitness Business Blueprint. This was a collaborative product between myself, Eric Cressey and Pat Rigsby, and if you’re serious about opening a fitness business, you should definitely check it out.

Click HERE to save $100 on the Fitness Business Blueprint!

(1) This was a golden piece of advice given to me by one of Indianapolis’ best entrepreneurs.


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  1. Find out what your clients *really* want (hint: it’s usually not just “abs”).

    Everyone has their own deep motivations. Sure, they want to look great and be healthy, but why? What’s the straw that breaks the camel’s back and pushes them over the edge to seek help? Often, it’s something you wouldn’t know without asking – for example, it could be the embarrassed look on their kid’s face when they show up at school, or it could be that they recently lost a parent to heart disease and are determined not to let it happen to them.

    Those are powerful reasons for people to get fit, and the more you know about that, the better you can motivate your client to do the things they need to do.

  2. “#19 If you aren’t ready to make numerous sacrifices along the way, don’t bother.”

    The same with anything else worth doing in life. So underrated for people to really grasp this concept. Looking forward to the seminar this weekend!

  3. Hire the best people. Be slow about hiring to make sure your employees have the same vision as you. I think it was Robin Sharma who said it, but it’s hard and rare to find world-class employees and sometimes you just have to wait it out rather than hiring average people.

  4. #10!

    I live in Vancouver and when I was deciding which gym to choose I went for a gym with a story. I like to see that people who start a business are passionate about it. Ron Zalko used to be overweight and unhappy, then he started exercising and lost all the pounds and got really fit. He is an example you can do it and he can help you. In the years he became quite a celebrity and he also trained many Hollywood dudes.

    Open a gym if it is your passion and you are willing to do the first and the last for it. People will notice 🙂

  5. Great work here carry on the fitness passion ..for 23 years in central Ky! I owe it all to my former strength coach from high school Jim Donlon! He was an all American at Centre College and he was second in 1982 powerlifting in KY

  6. Finding you niche. Its easy to say you want to be good at everything but it does not mean that it is true. If you have a passion for one specific area Master is and then work on the rest. You can not be the bodybuilding, fat loss, performance expert, powerlifting guru and nutrition guy all at once without making a sacrifice in knowledge or quality somewhere.

    I would also Include tot he list. Having and open mind but question everything. too often is information put out there that sounds good but has no substance when it comes down to it. Do not just take things at face value and do some investigation before implementing something.

  7. 20. If you aren’t ready to make tough decisions or moves that will make you unpopular don’t bother.

    That’s my favourite one, and that is about the hardest thing to do…harder than the heaviest deadlift!

    Good read, thanks for sharing!

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