The hard thing about growing a fitness business…
In many ways, the things that made you a successful personal trainer could be holding you back from creating the fitness business you’ve always wanted.
WARNING: No easy answers ahead
Being a fitness business entrepreneur is hard. How do we know? We’re the same as you!
We started the Exercise.com software platform to help fitness professionals launch their own custom-branded fitness apps, train clients online, deliver workout programming at scale, and ultimately grow and scale their businesses.
But you know what? The hard thing about hard things is that there are no easy answers when it comes to building your business… and we won’t sugarcoat the truth to you and pretend otherwise.
"While many people talk about how great it is to start a business, very few are honest about how difficult it is to run one."
– Ben Horowitz, cofounder and general partner of Andreessen Horowitz and author of The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers
HARD TRUTH #1 –
Being a great trainer isn’t good enough
Being a successful fitness business entrepreneur is all about being a great personal trainer, maintaining expert level fitness knowledge, treating clients well, and working long hours to ensure your clients get results, right? Well… while those things are all great ways to become the best personal trainer you can possibly be, they aren’t necessarily going to make your fitness business the best it can possibly be.
In other words, what brought you success in going from A to B is fundamentally different than what will bring your success in going from B to C. Something quite different is needed to go from success as a personal trainer to success as a fitness business owner.
In a way, it’s the classic dilemma of all entrepreneurs. How do I go from working in my business (training clients all day) to working on my business (growing, improving, and scaling my business)?
Another way of putting it:
When you train clients in-person, you are essentially trading your time and expertise for money. Even if you make it into the rarified air of high-level trainers who charge multiple hundreds of dollars an hour, you will always be constrained by the brutal ceiling of there being only so many hours in the day to work directly with clients.
To be clear, there is absolutely nothing wrong with doing this: training clients is great! It’s part of why many people love the fitness industry, however… you might not have created a business so much as just another demanding job requiring more of your personal time.
In short, your “business” success depends 100% on how much of your personal time you are able to trade for money.
If you don’t work, you don’t get paid.
Client cancels? You don’t get paid.
Get sick? You don’t get paid.
Family vacation? You don’t get paid.
Sound strangely and sickly familiar? If you are starting to think back to your early days starting out as a newbie trainer at a big-box gym, then you aren’t wrong. All of these “trading time for money” examples should remind you of one thing and one thing only…
Michael E. Gerber, called “The Word’s #1 Small Business Guru” by Inc. Magazine and the author of “The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It” even goes so far as to say:
"If your business depends on you, you don’t own a business—you have a job. And it’s the worst job in the world because you’re working for a lunatic!"
– Michael E. Gerber, called “The Word’s #1 Small Business Guru” by Inc. Magazine and the author of The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It
HARD TRUTH #2 –
Slow and steady
It’s easy to counsel clients that success doesn’t happen overnight. “Just stick at it. Eat your protein shake and oatmeal instead of your coffee and doughnuts. Just get your workouts in, even when you don’t feel like it. You can do it. Stick at it, and it will pay off over the long run.” But isn’t it the same for all of us, that it’s so much harder to apply that counsel to our own lives, and how much more our businesses?
We see a lot of personal trainers intent on building their fitness business who decide that little by little, day by day, they are going to do all of the small, seemingly insignificant, unglamorous things that will, each day, contribute to growing their fitness business.
They launch a custom-branded workout logging app with us. Now they have a way to create workout programming, sell it online, and then deliver it to clients all over the world in a professional and world-class way.
But, to be transparent, maybe they start to get discouraged, because they only have a few clients using their apps. But they decide to stick with it: to just do the small things every day that are needed to work on, not just in, their business. Maybe it starts out with a client that moved too far away to train in-person and now wants to do distance training (no more emailing Excel sheets and chasing down payment!), and then maybe it’s a random person from out of the country who stumbles across a workout plan they like via their website, then maybe it’s someone who finds them on social media, and then maybe they do an email campaign to all past clients with a sale price to join an online workout group (yep, we do that too) because the trainer starts to get a taste of the power of recurring revenue.
And before they know it, what started out as just 3 clients using their apps turns into 30 clients and then 300 clients and then, for some of our trainers, 3,000, 30,000, and even more.
But the takeaway is that it didn’t happen overnight.
They kept at it, tried new things, made some mistakes, failed before finding what worked for them, but above all, they kept pressing forward, slow and steady.
Just like the advice they give their clients.
HARD TRUTH #3 –
Start small, but start now
“Oh, that would be great to have my own custom-branded iPhone and Android fitness apps. Selling workout plans and group training memberships online? Absolutely, I need that to grow my business. Definitely. A must-have.“
But then you know it’s coming…
“BUT, can you reach back out to me once: I land this celebrity client / my thumb heals from a rock-climbing accident so I can type out new workout plans faster / I launch my new website / I become famous on Instagram / ________________“
Remind you of anyone else?
“Oh, I know I need to start working out and eating better. BUT, can we start working together maybe after I _____________“
The reasons don’t really matter, do they?
Are you ready to take your business to the next level?
Start small, but start now!