In this article series, I discuss how I left my old job to pursue a career in fitness full-time.  

In part 1, I give you a glimpse into my personal journey into the fitness industry.  

In part 2 of this article, I discussed 5 tips for starting your own successful business.  

Now, in part 3, I will give you 5 more tips for starting your own sucessful business, in the fitness industry, or any other industry.

 

6. Don’t be afraid to turn clients away.

Along the same lines as the advice given in tip number 5, if you differentiate yourself from your competition, you’ll attract a lot of potential clients.  Not every one of them will be a good fit for you.  And that’s OK. 

I still struggle with this idea of wanting to sign up everyone who walks in our door.  Jim, on the other hand, is fantastic at turning people away if they don’t buy into what we do (see tip number 2!).  The fact that he can do this well is fantastic and saves all parties involved a lot of time and headache.

You read the advice we give our clients, and it may have sounded strange to you.  Many potential clients don’t understand this philosophy at first, and that’s fine.  But once you start building a culture that encompasses what’s important to you, it will catch on quickly, and you’ll attract the kind of clients you want.

 

We only pursue clients who buy into our philosophy and trust our expertise.  Otherwise it's a waste of time and energy for everyone involved.

We only pursue clients who buy into our philosophy and trust our expertise. Otherwise it’s a waste of time and energy for everyone involved.

 

7.  Be the BEST in your area.

This should be a no-brainer, but if you love what you do, you should try and be the absolute best at it!  If you’re the best at what you do, and have good systems in place for your business, you should be a success.  Never stop learning.  Use what is useful and discard what is not.  Always be honing and refining your skills.

If you’re running group classes or bootcamps (or you want to!), one way to be the best at what you do is to check out Bootcamp in a Box, a product I created with Jim Laird (my business partner) and Mike Robertson.  It allows you to get inside our brain and figure out exactly how we program for our group classes, and how we keep our clients healthy while giving them an awesome workout.  We’ve sold hundreds of copies so far, and it’s catching on like crazy.  If you don’t start implementing this programming soon, your competitors will, and you’ll be too late.

 

Don't fall behind the curve.  You should always be learning and always honing your craft.

Don’t fall behind the curve. You should always be learning and always honing your craft.

 

 8. Invest in a coach to help you.

This should probably be number one on the list because it’s so, so important.  Even though I have a Master’s Degree in Business, nothing I did in school could have prepared me for running my own (just like any other school vs. practical experience). 

 Lucky for us, we have resources like Pat Rigsby and Nick Berry of Fitness Consulting Group, and Debra Locker of Locker PR to help us.  We are Fitness Revolution franchisees (Pat and Nick own/run FR), and we have been able to implement the business systems they offer through the franchise to help make sure everything in our business runs as smoothly and efficiently as possible.  Debra is fantastic at helping us with local PR like TV spots, magazine articles, etc.  And we recently hired an amazing woman to be our General Manager at the gym.  She *technically* works for us, but let’s be honest, she is the BOSS.  And it works out perfectly.

You see, in every business you need a technician, an entrepreneur, and a manager. 

Jim is an amazing technician, and has some fantastic ideas for growing the business.

I am more of an entrepreneur, and am becoming a better technician every day.

Neither of us can manage anything to save our lives. =)

So we hired Joann as our GM and it’s been the best thing we’ve done for our business. 

Invest in people who can teach you how to grow your business (Pat and Nick), so that you have the time to do the public relations activities that will get your face seen in your community (thank you Debra), and hire someone who can take care of the administrative and managerial things so you don’t have to (we love you Joann!!). 

It’s worth every penny.

 

9. Barter services whenever it makes sense.

Bartering services is a fantastic way for both parties to get a ton of value from a relationship, as long as it makes sense.  For example, we barter with a massage therapist, an acupuncturist, a web designer, and a woman who cooks delicious Paleo-approved food for us!

 We have also bartered for PR work, spa and skincare services, and more.  Since we run a lot of group classes and semi-private sessions, adding one more person to class or a semi-private session adds very little to our workload and virtually nothing to our schedule in terms of time.  Since we are already training clients during that hour anyway, it’s convenient for us, and we get the benefit of the services listed above.  Obviously if you do a lot of one-on-one training, bartering might not make as much sense.

Always make sure you have a contract or written statement from each party about the services being exchanged so things don’t get confusing or messy.  (i.e. Jane Doe will provide (2) 60 minutes massages each calendar month in exchange for 3 group training classes a week).  This will ensure both parties are receiving exactly what they expect, with minimal potential for misunderstanding.

 

 10. “Don’t give up.  Don’t ever give up.”  – Jimmy Valvano

 It’s a very cliché statement, but most clichés exist for a reason. 

In part 2 of this article, I discussed how Jim lived in our old, dingy gym for months so that we could put more money into the business.  I talked about how I worked at a bar, often until 4 am, to support myself while we tried to make the gym successful. 

 

It took a LONG time for us to find and secure this building, and even longer before we could  get approved to move in!

It took a LONG time for us to find and secure this building, and even longer before we could get approved to move in!

 

 

We encountered numerous setbacks from having to leave one of our buildings almost overnight, to having several buildings fall through completely, to having to close down for longer than expected because of zoning and city permit issues, and me having to take a leave of absence because of the unexpected loss of my Father, leaving Jim to run the gym by himself for a while.

We could have given up. 

We could have decided that it was too hard. 

We could have decided that it took too much work, too much time, too much effort.

We could have determined that the odds were stacked against us.

We could have used the excuse that, “most small businesses fail.”

We could have surrendered to that fear of failure.

We could have spent more time worrying about failing, that being committed to succeeding.

But we didn’t.

We decided that success was our ONLY option, and it was.  And here we are.

We aren’t “out of the woods” just yet, of course.  We still have a long way to go.  I have no doubt it will be a long, bumpy ride with dozens of unexpected twists and turns.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

 

BONUS TIP # 11:  Be slow to hire, but once you hire well, take good care of them.  

We were lucky enough to meet Lucy Hendricks a few years ago when she did an internship with Jim.  We couldn’t hire her immediately because we couldn’t afford it, so she trained at another gym to get experience, but she was totally miserable.  During that time, she was willing to shadow us (pretty much for free) to get experience and learn our training methods.  She was so intent on working for us that she waited for 6+ months until we could bring her on board, and she started off with just a few hours and a few classes a week.  It wasn’t easy, but she stuck with it.  She even got a second job so she could afford to work for us.

 

We LOOOOVE Lucy!

We LOOOOVE Lucy!

 

 

Now that things have taken off, we do everything we can to take great care of Lucy.  We constantly ask for her input, ask her what her short and long-term goals are, and do whatever we can to help her reach them.  We have set up a pay scale where she is rewarded handsomely for performing well (which, of course, she always does!), and it’s our intention that she loves working for us so much, and is compensated so well, that she never wants to leave. 

Find amazing employees, and take great care of them.  Period. 

 

Do you agree? Disagree?  Did I leave anything out?  Let me know below! 

3 Responses to Weekly Read Question # 10: How Did you Transition to Fitness Full-Time? (Part 3)

  1. I loved this series – thanks for posting! I’m currently managing a gym and running an online training business, but I’m starting to put the steps in place to open my own gym. Your tips really helped!

  2. Great blog and loved this mini-series on transitioning to a full-time fitness business!

    I can relate to all the tips, but especially the “Do-or-Die” tip. It wasn’t until I quit working as a personal trainer for a private training firm that I really took my own business really seriously.

    I still got a ways to go with growing my fitness business and these tips are great reminders to keep on pushing and striving for improvement in all aspects. I’m definitely envious of the new gym space your in! Congrats!

    Tony Rodriguez Larkin

  3. Hi Molly! Thanks for all that awesome tips. I graduated last year, working a corporate job, but some day really envision going into the fitness industry full time. Thank you for sharing so much, and I wish you continued success!

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