The Stages of a Personal Training Business by Claire Winter
Asking what other people wish they’d done differently or looking at what they are doing now can be good for inspiration but if you don’t consider how it relates to your business as it is now and where you would like it to go then it can end up leading you down the wrong path.
There are a few common characteristics of different stages of a personal training business and recognising where you are will help you filter well-meaning advice and recognise where comparisons to others may be less helpful.
Stage 1: Starting out
For the majority of us, when we start out we have a lot of time available but not much in terms of funds. This combination means that whilst we have to look for cheap or free options we can plug the gap by learning more about doing things for ourselves. Our lead generation can be based more on personal interactions than on paid advertising. Our welcome packs and other materials can be produced ourselves and we have time to research and plan for each client independently. Note: even If you are planning on training people part time or doing it around another job you still have the time you are hoping to train people in available.
Starting out with marketing often involves getting some guinea pig clients on board. This not only provides you with sources of proof of concept and social proof but allows you to identify where you can improve your service.
A lot of the learning and skill development in this industry comes from working with real live people. With that in mind it makes sense to try to work with as work with as many people as possible. Whilst a lot of people will tell you to set up straight away with a monthly paid service, single sessions and block packages can be really useful in giving you opportunities to work with different people, find out what you like, work out who you shouldn’t work with and give you and the client a dignified exit if things don’t work.
It can be easy to become overwhelmed by what we don’t know right now and the desire to learn it all in one go can often result in either not starting anything or simultaneously trying to do too much and not benefiting from the learning. I certainly overdid it with courses at the beginning resulting in wasting a lot of time and money on things I didn’t give myself chance to understand properly and use.
Unless you are super disciplined, at this stage it can be a good idea to prioritise your learning and business development based on what you absolutely need to have in place in order to work with your first client, then your second etc. If you have spare time then simultaneously thinking ahead to where your next step is can be useful but it is important to avoid getting caught up in being busy with things that aren’t actually moving you forward.
Stage 2: Growing
As we get busier we have more income coming in and time becomes more limited. We probably aren’t in a position to start splashing the cash and paying professionals to do things but we have the basics in place and can focus on honing our skills relating to working with people. This in turn helps us attract more people.
At this stage it is more important to think about how you want your business to work long term. Keeping track of your finances on a monthly basis and treating what you are doing as a business not a hobby is important. Making sure you believe in the service you are selling and that you are setting yourself up for success should underpin your decisions.
Not every choice you make will be right, that’s life, so don’t beat yourself up about things and don’t use other people’s highlight reels as a stick to beat yourself up with. Focus on what you are learning from each experience and how you are improving and developing.
A lot of the focus at this stage is on growth, bedding in processes so we are providing a consistent service and making strategic choices about where to invest our time and energy to make sure it is useful when it comes to retaining our existing clients (making sure we have the knowledge and skills to help them get results and keep them happy) and growing our client base.
Learning and development may be more a troubleshooting approach. Identifying which areas need work. We all come into the industry with different strengths and weaknesses and some have a more immediate impact than others. Knowing where you and your clients would benefit from you making improvements is key to making sure your efforts are productive.
Stage 3: Secure
Things start to settle when you know you have enough money to pay the bills. At this stage some people are tempted to relax. Unfortunately, this often results in a drop of clients as the service level drops and / or the reduction in marketing type activities leads to less people coming onboard.
Whilst you can aim to focus on different areas and definitely don’t need to be working at full throttle 100% of the time it’s important to make sure the standard of your service doesn’t drop and you have a base level of activity when it comes to keeping yourself and your service on people’s radar.
This stage often allows for some investment. Money is normally available and you can consider delegating tasks you don’t like, getting a professional to remake some of your resources or maybe enrolling on a pricier course. It is still important to run your investment decisions through a filter to ensure they are going to provide you with something that is relevant to your business and / or a fun experience.
Some people are happy to stop at this level and that’s fine.
Stage 4: Developing
Once you have the basic levels secured some people will focus on a longer term goal, possibly opening a facility, growing a team of coaches, diversifying into other areas or adding a specialist service to their business. (see the career options download on the site for ideas). These will normally involve developing new skills, potentially investing money and sometimes moving back down the stages and effectively starting again, albeit with more experience and skills than the first time.
Learning and development is targeted at what is required for the goal. Investment in people with complementary skillsets can be a good idea. Delegation of tasks can free up time and energy. Researching the key elements required to reach your goal and canvasing other opinions and experiences can be a good idea although everything should still be run through that sense check of how it would transfer to your business, skills, knowledge, client base and goals.
Stage 5: Established
This last stage can be a struggle for a lot of people. Mostly because it means that the goals have been completed. There’s still work to be done to keep things working but not the driving focus that has been required on the journey to get here. For some people they decide on another business related goal, a second facility, starting again in a different field. For others it’s about working out how life works without that driving pressure, relearning how to switch off, trusting others to run all or part of their business, looking at learning things for fun and potentially working out what they like and don’t like and how to occupy themselves away from the business.
Each of the stages provides its own challenges and it’s worth pointing out that time in the industry isn’t necessarily the indicator of what stage you are in. Also bear in mind that very little in life splits itself up into nice categories so don’t worry if you feel you are in a mix of sections for different elements of your business. Take the principles involved and use them to help you prioritise your next actions. Look to the information inside your business for proof you are doing the right things and use external influences as a pic n mix. You can take the bits you like from them and ignore the bits you don’t.