Chris Cooper: (00:02)
How do you make a hundred thousand dollars a year as a personal trainer? This is possible now, but when I started 25 years ago, there was really no model to do it. Today, I’m gonna give you three. And I’m gonna get going right now. If you have questions, you’d love to chat about this stuff. Ask questions, you can join Gym Owners United.com, that will take you to our free public Facebook group, and we chat about this stuff all the time every day. So here we go. Now, I started out as a personal trainer. I took my first clients back in 1998. That means I’ve been doing this for 25 years. And back then, there was no good example of anybody who was doing it well or making a living. Definitely nobody retiring and really nobody who was even sticking with it for longer than about five years. Back then, personal trainer was just something that you did to pay your college bills or, you know, it’s something that you did while you were waiting to be discovered as an actor.
Chris Cooper: (00:52)
That’s not the case anymore. Now it’s a meaningful profession and there’s great ways that you can actually make a living doing it. Today, I’m gonna share three of these ways with you. How do we know? Well, we have data sets from over 16,500 gym owners. We collect this, we publish this data set for free every year. We work with thousands of gym owners worldwide, including people like me who started as a personal trainer and then opened a gym because we thought, that’s how I’m gonna make more money. So one thing I wanna point out to you is that the way that you earn a hundred thousand dollars as a personal trainer is not necessarily to open your own gym. That’s one option of the three that I’m gonna present to you, and I’m gonna tell you exactly how to do it in a moment, but you don’t have to go that route.
Chris Cooper: (01:36)
The key is really to focus on 150 clients or less because you can maintain personal relationships with all of those. So here we go. We’re gonna go through this in three parts. First part is the three paths to earning a hundred thousand dollars per year as a personal trainer. Then I’m gonna talk about the things that stop personal trainers from earning that much money, and there’s really six of them. And then I’m gonna tell you exactly how to overcome each of those six so that you can actually get there, because the reality is, if I can keep you in the fitness business for longer, you’re going to change more lives through health and fitness and leverage health in our world. So here’s the three scenarios. The first scenario is switching from personal training to semi-private. That means going from one-on-one training to two-on-one training, partner training, or three on one, or even four on one small group.
Chris Cooper: (02:27)
Usually these are done in groups of three to four. And the way that you set this up is that you group people together. So I’m gonna tell you how to do that in a moment. But first what you wanna have are prescheduled slots. So for example, this group of three trains every Monday, Wednesday, Friday at 9:00 AM. That group of four trains, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday at 4:00 PM, 2:00 PM and noon or whatever. You want these slots scheduled in advance instead of leaving it for the people to make individual appointments because they can’t always coordinate their schedules. The other reason that you wanna have pre-scheduled slots is so that if somebody misses, the whole group doesn’t cancel. One huge mistake that I made when I was doing this was grouping people together and then, you know, you’re charging them and they’re paying individually and stuff, and then they’re coming in at Tuesday at noon and Sally can’t make it.
Chris Cooper: (03:21)
And so she’s gonna have to either pay anyway or everybody has to cancel. So she talks to the other two and says, Hey, I’m not making it. I don’t really feel like paying for this session. If I can’t make it, can we all reschedule? And so they contact you, Hey Chris, can we all reschedule? And maybe you say yes, maybe you say no. Then they try and get together and reschedule it. And of course that takes days. They miss their training appointment, they don’t make as much progress that week, et cetera. The reason that you want this pre-planned schedule is so that you have the understanding in advance that if they miss, it still comes out of their number of sessions per month. Okay, which leads me to the next point. You wanna have monthly billing. What you don’t wanna do is sell packages of 20 sessions at a time or even like punch cards, because what’ll happen is people will use those at different rates.
Chris Cooper: (04:14)
And so you’ll finish 12 sessions with two of the people in the group, and another person will have one or two left over and somebody else will have only used eight sessions. And so now how do you bring them in? What you wanna do is have monthly billing. So you wanna say, this is how much it is for 12 semi-private training sessions per month. Okay? And let’s say that you charge 150 bucks for that, it should be dramatically higher. That’s just an example. Let’s say that you charge 300 bucks a month for that. You swipe their card and away you go. It should actually be much higher than that. Which leads me to the pricing discussion. Your semi-private training should be within 10% of your one-on-one training rate, while some people don’t even discount it at all. And that is totally an option because you’re still providing value.
Chris Cooper: (05:01)
Some people find that if they give clients a 10% off option, it helps them stick with semi-private training. And semi-private training then drives way more revenue, up to three or four times as much per hour for the personal trainer. It creates less work and it saves the clients a little bit of money too. Now, you don’t have to discount it to still make it valuable. You’re probably undercharging for personal training anyway. I generally don’t advocate for discounts, but historically, the people who’ve been successful with this have given about a 10% discount and no more. So monthly billing, they get charged at the beginning of the month no matter what, what happens if there’s a holiday during their regularly scheduled session? Like on a Monday, it’s Labor Day or whatever, Christmas Day. In those cases, what you do is you move that session forward a week.
Chris Cooper: (05:52)
You do not change the billing cycle. You never charge them less, but you offer an extra training session. No, you don’t have to open on the holiday. You can still do it, but you have to get that out there in advance. So when clients are signing their agreement, you say, okay, now if your training session falls on a holiday, we will make up an optional training session later that month. You can choose to attend that extra training session or you cannot. I just wanna make sure that I’m delivering the opportunity for you to attend 12 sessions a month, which is the package that you’re signing up for. Okay? The last piece is really finding perfect matches. So it’s really key here that the partnerships that you create are good ones. Sometimes people will come in to wanna train with their spouse and do two on one.
Chris Cooper: (06:38)
Wonderful. Most of the time though, you’re partnering people up who don’t know each other before they started with you. And so you’re selling semi-private training, you’re calling it semi-private training, so they have that expectation they’re going to be exercising with other people. If you’re introducing this and you’re starting out with a lot of one-on-one clients, here is exactly what you say. Hey Bill, we’ve been doing amazing work for the last six months and you’ve been getting amazing progress. To really keep the hammer down and maximize the results that you’re getting, there’s only one thing that I can think of that will help, and that is to introduce a training partner. It’s gonna work because this person that I have in mind for you is a perfect match. You’re around the same training level. You each have individual strengths and weaknesses. You’re around the same skill level, and I think that maybe you can encourage and push each other a little bit more.
Chris Cooper: (07:34)
Would you like to try a session with him? And then you invite the other person in, you do the session, you contact each person privately. You say, Hey, what do you think? I know that went amazing. You push yourself like 10% harder. Do you wanna keep doing this? Okay, do you wanna stay with this partnership? And then after a while, you let them go two on one, and then you look at a third person, Hey guys, you know what I didn’t think that I was gonna do this, but I I have this other client and I really think she could be the spark that pushes you guys to the next level. Can I invite her in? And you tell me what you think. Great. Over time you build trust and people learn to trust you more with these things. Now, if you’re starting and you’ve got a group training gym or you’ve got a brand new gym, or you’re not working one on one with clients, all you have to do is basically pick out three or four clients while you’re reviewing their goals or measuring their progress and say, I’m putting together this kind of special group of some of my favorite clients who are all the same level.
Chris Cooper: (08:39)
I wanna give you focused attention in a very small group, just enough people to push each other. But I wanna be able to give you a lot more one-on-one focus in coaching. What do you think? Do you wanna try it? You don’t even have to talk about the price usually at that point, but the key is to group the perfect people together. And they don’t have to be perfect for you, but they do have to be perfect for each other. Okay? Try not to put any duds in that group. The duds should be one on one. There’s pros and cons to semi-private training. The first is that you don’t need a lot of staff members to operate this. You can do most of it yourself. It’s still an owner-operator manual and you can still earn more money. I remember when I was a personal trainer, I would have like sometimes 12 or 13 clients booked in one day, some half hour, some hour sessions.
Chris Cooper: (09:24)
And the only way that I could make any more money was by booking more clients and I was just grinding myself to death. Instead, what I should have done is started partnering some of these people up, maybe not all of them, but some of them to start, which would’ve cut a couple hours off my day and allowed me to earn more money in the time that I had. Of course, there’s also cons to this strategy. It is the most fragile model. I mean, if you wanna take a day off, it’s gonna cost you double because there won’t be any money coming in while you’re spending money on your little rollercoaster holiday or whatever. The second is that if you get sick or heaven forbid injured, you are losing big money because you’re gonna have to be canceling or rebooking people. And heaven forbid you get sick for a whole week.
Chris Cooper: (10:09)
How do you rebook all those people? Probably what’s gonna happen is you’re gonna have to give them a little bit of a refund that month and then keep continuing to bill them in future months. Um, busy periods. What happens is, when you get completely booked, you don’t have time to do the marketing to get more clients, and so you turn off all of your marketing and then after a couple months, you’re down a few clients or you’ve got a few more spots to fill and you’ve had no marketing. And so it takes a few months to ramp that up. You don’t have enough time to do a lot of other work in this scenario, and you’ll probably still be working about 50 plus hours per week. Let’s talk the second strategy. This is to sell a high ticket service. And some people are selling their training services for 1500 to $3,000 per month.
Chris Cooper: (10:54)
What they’re actually doing is they’re selling the outcome, not the service. So instead of saying you can buy 12 personal training sessions from me, they’re saying, I’m gonna sell you an eight week weight loss plan. And so this plan is going to include a lot more than just the one-on-one delivery. The value to the client is that they get every single thing that they need to hit that goal. The value to you, the owner, is that you’re going to use highly leveragable things other than your time to deliver on that promise. So these leveragable things are what we call the value stack. And these could be supplements, they could be accountability texts, they could be checklists, they could be like a sleep-eat-move-manage tracking app. They could be measurements, everything that the client needs. The one thing that they probably don’t need more of to get to that goal is your time.
Chris Cooper: (11:45)
All of their results happen in the 23 hours a day that they’re not with you. But during that time, what they need is to be told what to eat, when to eat it, what to shop for. All of these things add value, but they’re very leveragable because after you build them once, you don’t have to spend time on them anymore. I’ll give you a couple of examples. The first one is supplements. Yes, you have to pay for the supplements, but adding supplements to the client’s eight week challenge increases the value beyond the cost of the supplements to you, and it doesn’t increase the time that you have to spend. Another great one is automated texting. So you could text your client twice, three times a day, how was the workout? How was the meal? Send me a picture of your lunch. How are you feeling?
Chris Cooper: (12:30)
Did you sleep well? Are you stressed? Do you need a meditation or something like that? You can send them videos every second day on stretching or meditation or whatever you want to, things that add value and will get them to their goals. You can assign homework once you build that plan out the first time it’s done, and you can sell it over and over and over again. So the key to high ticket is not convincing somebody to pay the price. The key to high ticket is creating leveragable resources that don’t cost you time to fulfill. How do people justify the price? Really what people are buying is everything that they need to get to their goal. They’re not buying a number of sessions, they’re not paying you for time spent. So what do they need? Well, they probably need to take a walk every day.
Chris Cooper: (13:18)
They probably need to cut their calories, they probably need accountability. They don’t have to come to the gym to get accountability. You can do that over text. You could send a personal voice memo. Hey Jimmy, I hope you’re doing well today. Yesterday’s workout was super tough. You’re gonna be really tempted to hammer the carbs today. And I think you said it was somebody’s birthday. So here’s my advice, okay? Show up to the party full. That is what gives great value. That is what’s very leveragable because it takes you two to three minutes, but it really helps the client too. Okay, next. How do you sell this in a CrossFit gym? This can be challenging. We do have models for doing this in Two-Brain and there are other experts out there that will help you sell high ticket, but this is really the way that the industry is going right now is not just to move entirely to high ticket, but to have a high ticket “get to your goals” offer available to your clients.
Chris Cooper: (14:13)
It’s not gonna be for every client, especially if you have a CrossFit gym, but a small percentage of your clients are going to want all of these things to get to their goals faster. There are pros and cons to high ticket. The pros are that you can actually have some staff flexibility here. So because the training sessions that you’re selling are part of the overall package, it’s not just buying training sessions with Chris anymore, right? It’s, we will include 12 one-on-one training sessions per month, or 12 semi-private or whatever. You can even put your group training program in here, but that’s harder to sell as a high ticket or high value offering. You can sub other trainers in. So if you’re selling 12 one-on-one training sessions, you say, we wanna pick the training sessions that will match your schedule the best. And so we pick Monday, Wednesday, Friday at one, you said those are times that you can always make.
Chris Cooper: (15:08)
And so that means that Mondays and Fridays, your trainer will be Sally, and on Wednesdays your trainer will be Jessica. Okay? That’s it. You can get some staff flexibility. You can also get a better schedule for the owner. The owner can be working two to three sessions per day, but they will have to spend some other time on sales pre-screening and marketing for the program. The other real value here that very few people talk about is that higher value clients have better retention because when things outside in the world change, like there’s a recession, these are the people who are the least affected. These are the people who are willing to pay for a result. And so that’s why it’s actually easier to retain these people and you can spend less time in money marketing. Here’s the cons. It’s three to four hours of work a day. Can easily become five or six hours unless you’re very focused.
Chris Cooper: (15:57)
A great example, let’s say that it’s nine o’clock at night and your client is tempted because they have this tray full of brownies that their wife just made or something. They’re gonna text you at nine o’clock at night. And if you’re not disciplined with your response and you’re not getting out in front of people with guides and stuff, you will always be checking your phone. You’ll always be getting messages from people, okay? You have to have focus, you have to continually audit your process and make it better, or this can bleed into a 24 hour a day all access job for you. The other con is that you have to be good at a lot of things. You can’t just be good at like fixing somebody’s barbell position in the snatch. That’s not it. You also have to be good at sales.
Chris Cooper: (16:41)
You have to be good at marketing, you have to be amazing at client care and client follow up. You have to be really good at staying positive and sending positive voice and video and texts. Even when you’re tired, you don’t feel like it. So this is really not for everybody. Now, you can learn to be good at sales, you can learn to be good at marketing. You can learn all of the scripts and everything that you need to take care of clients when you’re doing high ticket, including admin, or you can hire for all of that stuff, absolutely. But that skillset has to be present for you to make this program viable. All right, here’s the third scenario, and this is the first one that I did. And that is open a studio and hire other trainers. So what you’re doing here is you’re kind of creating an opportunity to provide more value to your clients.
Chris Cooper: (17:32)
And there’s a couple of different ways that you can do this. So the first scenario is, you open the studio, you’re the owner and you bring in other trainers. Now what you’re not doing is subleasing your space because every person that comes through the door has to get a consistently valuable and excellent brand experience, okay? The trainers have to deliver up to your standard. The trainers have to dress up to your standard. The entire facility has to be cleaned up to your standard. Everybody needs to be charging the same rates. If you bring in several trainers and they’re all kind of running their own business under your roof, you’re not gonna have any of that. There will be no brand cohesion except that the client will associate everything that happens with your brand. So if their trainer is only charging 50 bucks an hour, they’re doing it very part-time.
Chris Cooper: (18:22)
They’re texting their boyfriend the whole time, they’re doing a session that is gonna be associated with your brand. The lowest common denominator determines the value of your brand. And so if you’ve gone to the expense and trouble of opening up this five star restaurant, and you’ve put careful thought into the place settings and how the food is prepared and how the waiters are dressed, you don’t wanna just let a hotdog vendor push their cart through your restaurant two to three times a day during the busiest times, right? It’s more valuable to you to own the studio, to find the brand, to find the processes and put everybody under your umbrella than it is to just have a space where you rent out to other trainers. It might seem like a quick win in the short run, but long term it’s bad for everybody. Now here’s how you hire them.
Chris Cooper: (19:11)
We teach something that a lot of accountants teach called contribution margin, and it goes like this. Every person in your business should generate at least 2.5 times what they’re paid. They either do that by providing a frontline service like the training, or by creating time for you to do things that grow the business like sales and marketing. So your job as the owner of the studio is to provide safety, security, equipment insurance, payment gateways, banking portals, booking and billing software, a great client experience, probably like a waiting area, SOPs on delivery to help people, programming coach development. The coach’s job is to show up and deliver the program to the clients. In a lot of cases, the owner of the studio will even provide the diet and the programming that the trainers have to follow. So the weight of delivery is largely still on the owner, the trainer comes in and delivers on the owner’s program, which has been proved to be successful.
Chris Cooper: (20:17)
The trainer also makes 44%. Now, I’m talking to you guys as trainers or studio owners. When you’re talking to your staff, you talk about dollars. When we talk to each other, we talk about percentages. Okay? Since all of your clients and staff believe that you’re a millionaire anyway, we don’t wanna talk about percentages with them. We wanna talk about dollars. Now, if you are paying a staff person, 44% of the revenue that they bring in for personal training, they’re probably earning double the industry average. If you go to ballets or if you go to Goodlife here in Canada, you’ll see the trainers are making between $18 and $22 per hour. If you’re charging appropriately and you’re paying 44%, especially if you’re also doing semi-private, then your trainers can be making easily $80-$120 an hour, and they don’t have to figure all this stuff out because you’ve done it for them, right?
Chris Cooper: (21:08)
You set up the business to be this profitable and help them make a living. The other way that you increase revenue by having a studio is by increasing the value stack, right? So you could possibly sell 24/7 access to people to do their homework. They come in on a punch card. That’s one of those leverageable expenses where you pay for it once and then like, that’s it. Another one is that you could sell training plans. We did this for years. If people wanted to buy a training plan, they had to do at least two PT sessions with us a week. We would sell them the plan, the plan got printed on our printer and it had our green arrow at the top, and they would take it to a big global gym, set it on the treadmill, do their interval training or whatever.
Chris Cooper: (21:48)
Other people would see the plan and say, what is that? And they would talk about Catalyst, right? So if you own a studio, there’s some value here. The other value is to increase retail. So if you are using supplements to help your clients get results, having a studio will make supplement sales much, much easier. What you have to do though, is you have to weigh the cost of owning that studio, like rents, electricity, internet, against the value stack that you’re adding for your clients, and you have to have a plan for that in place. So if you want to, you can go TwoBrainBusiness.com and you’ll be able to find a good business plan for a personal training studio or a gym you can download and fill all this stuff in in advance. Okay? So back to the four nights model.
Chris Cooper: (22:32)
What I said was, if you’re talking amongst ourselves, we can talk about percentages and fractions. If you’re talking to your staff, you talk about dollars. So we know that to have a legitimate contribution margin that the staff should make about 44% of what they’re paid. Somebody asked how do they get a raise, which is a great question. The way that they get a raise is not to change the ratio. The way that they get a raise is to raise your prices. I think that everybody in your studio should be charging the same rate. Other people disagree, but whatever that is, the way that they make more dollars is to increase how much you’re charging for that service. You don’t change the ratio. The other way that they can make more money is through a process that we call intra-preneurship, not entrepreneurship, where they have access to all of your clients.
Chris Cooper: (23:22)
And if they wanna run a specialty program, they can. So for example, let’s say that they wanna run a couch to 5K group for six weeks in the spring before all the 5K events start locally, and they offer it to all of your clients. They are leveraging your audience, and they’re going to make more money for the time that they spent doing their specialty. Okay? Another way that they can do it is by moving to semi-private training. And a third way that they can do it is to develop a new specialty like nutrition coaching that you can then package and sell to all of your other clients too, okay? They can make more money by doing other roles in your gym. Like maybe you have a role for the cleaner or the admin or the client success manager and you’re paying them hourly for that.
Chris Cooper: (24:02)
But if they just wanna make more money as a trainer, they should specialize, okay? Or raise their price or both. There are a lot of pros to this strategy. This is what I did. This is why the list is gonna be longer. First, if you’ve got a diverse team, you’ve got less agility, you can sub trainers in for you. The owner becomes replaceable. You know, at one point, even if you don’t want to train at all, you don’t have to. You can take vacations. I didn’t reach this point early because I didn’t know how to do it. And so the day that my daughter was born, I went to the hospital, I visited with my wife and my baby for about three hours, and then I went back to work. I never want that to happen to you. And the pros of the studio, better opportunities for retail. Also, retention is better.
Chris Cooper: (24:47)
If you have control over your environment and your brand, it’s actually easier to retain clients than if they have to meet you in the park or meet you downtown under the tent or meet you at somebody else’s gym, okay? Part of this too is you have control. I mean, if you’ve got a client and they’re meeting you in the park, you don’t know what’s in the park, right? Like, it might be covered in goose poop if you live in Canada. It might be filthy, it might be full of other people doing a class. If you can control your environment, you’re probably going to increase your value. Retention is better. This model also tends to attract higher value clients because now they’re coming to your gym instead of just meeting you in this random place, right? It establishes value. I talked about coaches growing the pie to earn more money.
Chris Cooper: (25:35)
That’s entrepreneurship. It’s a win for them. It’s a win for you, the owner, and it’s a win for the client because they’re getting more access to the specialties. You can do specialty programs and it’s actually easier to attract new clients if you have a studio. The cons of this strategy is that a lot of us got into this because we loved coaching, and if you own a studio, you’re not gonna be able to coach as much as maybe you want to. Now, some people don’t wanna coach, and I mean, eventually you’re gonna wanna coach less than you probably are now, but if you just love coaching people, you’re gonna have to do a little bit less. If you own a studio, you have to be a studio owner, you have to do the things that grow the studio, and that means you have to wear your CEO hat and your cleaner hat and your admin hat, and your bookkeeper hat and your CSM hat.
Chris Cooper: (26:22)
You have to do all those other roles, and that means less time spent coaching. You’re also gonna have to manage people. And this is the big hurdle that most of us didn’t understand or or realize when we opened a gym is, like, we signed up to change people’s lives through health and fitness. We did not sign up to manage other people, and we think this is gonna be be easy, but it’s an entire skill set that people go to school for six years to learn, and it’s frustrating. And sometimes our expectations aren’t met, and it’s boring writing out standard operating procedures and staff playbooks, and it feels like, oh, doesn’t everybody know this, right? So I just need you to understand it. Like, managing people is never 10 out of 10 easy. The right people will make it easier. Having SOPs will make it much easier, but you are going to have to manage people if you open up a studio.
Chris Cooper: (27:14)
The other thing is that if you don’t take the time to write out your systems, audit your systems and keep tightening them up, then every little thing is gonna always come back to you. Hey, we’re outta soap in the bathroom. Or, Hey Chris, this person, they can only come two times a week instead of three. Can they get a discount? Or, Hey Chris, that guy’s son is starting his hockey season and he is gonna quit. Can he get a refund for the rest of the month? Like, unless you write this stuff down, every little decision is gonna come back to you, probably a dozen of them every single day, and it’s gonna grind you down. And then finally, you need to run the gym by rules that are replicable by all of your staff, right? If not, then everything becomes a negotiation like, Hey, can we start class 10 minutes later?
Chris Cooper: (28:01)
Or, Hey, can we add a 9:00 AM class? Or, Hey, Chris, this trainer doesn’t really wanna do one on one anymore. You know, whatever. You gotta have rules that everybody on your staff can live by and deliver even when you’re not there. Okay? Now, of course, you can do all this stuff up front. With a mentor, you can work through all your SOPs, you can download our templates, you can copy all of it and just implement it. But that is a little bit more than what some of us signed up to do, right? All right. Why you’re not making a hundred thousand a year. There’s really six common reasons, okay? And most trainers have more than one of these. The first is you’re not paying yourself. A lot of trainers, especially when they open up their studio, they will leave way too much money in the business and or they will just tell themselves oh, I’m reinvesting, and they’ll buy more equipment or whatever.
Chris Cooper: (28:55)
Instead of paying themselves, you need to pay yourself first. The reason is that if you don’t, you will always just spend the money. There’s this great book called “Profit First” by Mike Michalowicz, and there’s a great version for trainers and gym owners called “Profit First for Micro Gyms” by John Briggs, where they talk about, like, you’re always most creative when you feel pressure to generate money. So at the end of the month, if you don’t have enough money to pay the landlord, you’ll get super creative in generating that money. If you don’t have enough money to pay yourself, you just won’t do it. And that book is a great example, but luckily for me, I had this forced upon me when I opened up my personal training studio. If I didn’t make $900 per week, my family didn’t eat. I mean, 900 bucks a week paid for our groceries and our mortgage, and that was it.
Chris Cooper: (29:45)
We were still losing ground, but I had to write myself checks for 900 bucks way in advance and deposit them in advance. And so what would happen was, on Monday, if a client says, oh, I’ll pay next time. I’ll see you Wednesday, you think, okay, no big deal. Wednesday comes and they’re like, oh man, I forgot my Visa card, sorry, I’ll catch you Friday. And you’re starting to get a little bit nervous. And then Friday comes and they’re like, ah, can I get you next week? I’m sorry, I mean to pay by cheque and I don’t carry cheques around. At that point, if you know that the check is already in the bank to pay you and it’s gonna bounce, you’ll say to the client, I’ll wait here, go get your checkbook and come back. Or even, I will come to your house with you.
Chris Cooper: (30:29)
Or Do you have a Visa card that you can put this on? And we’ll put it on there for now. And if you wanna pay by cheque next time, bring a cheque and pay in advance. Okay? This is actually an easy problem to fix, but most people don’t do it. Another way is to think about how your corporation is structured to minimize your taxes. So in some countries and states, for example, if you have a single earner in your household, you’re gonna pay more taxes than if you have two. So you wanna learn about income splitting, et cetera. The second reason you’re not making a 100K per year is that you need more clients. Now, most people think, yep, this is the only reason I’m not making this much money. But the reality is that you really need the right type of clients.
Chris Cooper: (31:11)
These are people who can pay a high value and they’re gonna stick around. If you’ve got clients who are churning out every six weeks or whatever, you just don’t have time to be marketing hard enough to replace them. The best clients come from your current clients. That means you have to get really engaged with referrals. Yes, if your clients are getting results, they will sometimes refer your friends, but if you just wait around, you’re gonna run out of clients. You have to take that referral process from a passive one where you’re just kind of waiting and hoping, to an active one where you are asking for referrals. The way that you do this is by doing something that’s called Affinity Marketing. And so if you join our group GymOwnersUnited.com, you can download the free Affinity Marketing guide, and you’re gonna set up quarterly review sessions with your clients.
Chris Cooper: (32:00)
So they come in, they get measured, you talk about their progress, and then you say, are you completely satisfied with your progress? And they say, yes, I am. And you say, that’s wonderful. I’m so proud of you. I’d love to use your story to inspire somebody else who’s on the fence about joining or starting their fitness journey. So I’m gonna pull out a phone here, and I’m gonna ask you one question, okay? The question is, what advice would you give to somebody who’s just thinking about starting out? Okay, ready? Go. And then you hit record, and that becomes valuable social media. The next thing that you do is you offer to help somebody in their life outside the gym. So before the client comes in, you’ve got this affinity marketing cheat sheet, and you’re gonna write down three people. You’re gonna write down who they live with, like, probably their spouse, who they work with, their coworkers, and who they play with.
Chris Cooper: (32:52)
Like, who is their buddy during their hobby, who do they go to the knitting circle with, or the golf course or skiing or whatever, okay? You’re gonna write down those three names. Now, if you don’t know those names, use this as a catalyst to go figure that out about your clients. When the client comes in, they say that they’re getting good results, they’re perfectly satisfied with the results. You say, that’s wonderful. As a thank you to you, what I’d love to do is help you get your husband exercising. Let’s invite him in to do your next one-on-one session with you. Do you think he would do that? And if they say, yeah, that might work, then what you do is you say, let’s call him right now. What’s his phone number? You call him and you say, Hey Bill, I got Mary sitting here with me.
Chris Cooper: (33:36)
It’s Chris from Catalyst, by the way, and we wanna invite you together to do a one-on-one session with Mary on Friday. Are you up for that? And Mary’s probably going, oh, he is gonna kill me. Oh, no. But the reality is that Bill is not gonna say no to you, where in private, he probably would say no to Mary. And then you can bring him in and you can talk about doing two-on-one training. If it’s a coworker, you say, okay, Mary, I know that you are an accountant and I know that this is a stressful time of the year for you. And what I’d like to do is help out the other accountants in your firm as a thank you for being such a great client. So what if I came in there on a lunch hour and I gave a brown bag talk about stretches you can do at your desk, or how to reduce stress, or five exercises that you can do first thing in the morning to prime your brain before work, something like that. How would that help? And if she says yes, then you go in and you do your 30 minute presentation and five minute q&a, and you give out your information and that’s it. And that’s great marketing. If it’s a buddy, I had this one, I had this guy, let’s call him Fred, and every year he and three buddies would go skiing, and they loved it. They would take this ski trip every year in December, and it would predictably, you know what would happen? They would fly out to this resort. The first day, everybody would just go out and try and crush it. The second day, Fred would be ready to go again, and his three buddies would be absolutely paralyzed because they’re outta shape.
Chris Cooper: (35:07)
So they’re gonna spend the day in the hot tub mostly. They might do a couple of runs, but probably not. So Fred’s either skiing alone or he is wasting his vacation sitting around with these other guys who are outta shape. And then the third day, okay, we’re ready to try it again. But they’re not really performing. It’s like four or five days into the trip before everybody’s really skiing, which is what Fred is there to do. So what you say is, Fred, dude, this happens every year. What if we brought those three guys in for six weeks? What if we started like October 15th and just got them in shape? You would get way more value out of that ski trip every year. What do you think? And of course, you can do the same thing with golfing, any pastime, right?
Chris Cooper: (35:48)
You can do it with people’s kids too. Like, Hey, I know that you and these other three parents are really tight and your kids have been playing on the same hockey team for nine years. What if we brought all your kids in and we just did like a six week group? We’ll make it fun and we’ll just get them ready to play hockey together this year. You know, same thing. You’re really just looking for opportunities to help. And I wrote about this in my book, “Help First”, the next step is creating a referral culture. So when you start people out and they’re in front of you, they’re ready to sign up for your service, you take their money, and then you say, okay, I have one thing that I’m gonna ask you. Six weeks from now, if you’ve been successful and you’re perfectly happy, I’m gonna ask you for the name of one person who you think would be an amazing fit for our culture, okay?
Chris Cooper: (36:37)
And that’s it. You’re just setting up the expectation that if they’re perfectly happy, you’re going to ask them for the name of one person. Six weeks down the track, they’re already expecting that conversation. And you can say, look, we grow this business slowly and very carefully because we wanna protect the culture that we have here. So who in your life would be the perfect fit? And then you call them up while the person’s sitting in front of of you. The best advice I ever got as a personal trainer, was called the “40 hour” rule. And this is basically the rule I learned from this guy at this rundown, steroid freak gym where I used to do personal training, and he was always full, and there were probably about five personal trainers trying to build a business at that time.
Chris Cooper: (37:20)
And so I asked him, Ty, why are you always packed with clients? And he said, it’s a 40 hour rule. If I have 40 hours of clients booked this week, I’m good. If I have 32 hours of clients booked this week, I’m gonna spend the other eight trying to get more clients. If I have 10 hours of clients booked, I’m gonna spend 30 hours trying to get more clients. I’m gonna read, I’m gonna send out emails, I’m gonna make newsletters. I’m gonna ask for referrals. I’m gonna cold call people if that’s what it takes. But I’m gonna spend 30 hours getting more clients. And that guy grew his business way faster than anybody’s. The next reason you’re not making a 100k a year is because you’re not making enough from the clients that you do have. And this is actually the most common problem that people have.
Chris Cooper: (38:08)
Most trainers have enough clients, but they’re not making enough from what they do have. So the easiest thing, but the simplest thing is just to increase your rates. Everybody blows this way out of proportion. They imagine that people will quit if they charge five or $10 more per session. The reality is that you might lose a couple of people, but the people who are paying more will more than make up the difference. And a rate increase falls straight to your bottom line. You don’t have to take on any additional expenses. You just make more money. However, you can also make more from your current clients by understanding that you’re not completely solving their problem when they’re in the gym doing their exercise. They need help with nutrition and sleep and mindset and accountability and you know, just walking and stretching and all this other stuff, managing their stress.
Chris Cooper: (38:54)
And you can help them with all those things better than anybody else in their life. And you have to charge for it. Okay? So if you can identify the problems that your best clients are having outside the gym, then you’ve identified an opportunity to grow your revenue by solving those problems. And bonus, I talked earlier about solving leverageable problems where you’re not trading time for money. Most of these things that you do outside the gym are those leveragable services. Your service should also extend beyond the walls of the gym. That’s what I’m trying to say. The fourth reason that you’re not making enough money as a personal trainer is that your retention is bad. If you really wanna change somebody’s life, you gotta keep them for at least two years. If not, they’re gonna fall back into bad habits, right? But if you want to build a business, you have to keep them for the same amount of time or longer because every client that you keep is one more that you don’t have to go out there and get.
Chris Cooper: (39:45)
So, you know, going back to the 40 hour rule, the way that you get 40 client hours a week isn’t by recruiting over time. Over time, you get that by keeping the clients that you have, your marketing, you should need less and less of it over time, not more and more. And so if you’re a few years into this and you’re still worried about marketing, you probably have a retention problem. Also, doing referrals, getting their spouse or their buddies to sign up for your gym or do one-on-one training or semi-private will actually increase the retention. Because now they’ve got a built in support and accountability network right at the gym besides you. You’ve got this trifecta. All right? What’s the most important for keeping clients around? Getting the results. Change your method as much as you need to, add services as much as you need to, charge what you’re worth, but do whatever it takes to get them results.
Chris Cooper: (40:35)
The second thing that you can do is plan out the client journey in advance. Like really map out step by step, what does the client do on day one? What do I do on day one? What does the client do on day two? What do I do on day two? At least for the first 90 days. The fifth reason that you’re not making 100k a year is that your expenses are too high. If you’re doing personal training, then you have to start with being a client-centric business. That means, what does the client actually need to get these results? A lot of studio owners will buy equipment that they want for their own training, like reverse hyper extension machine. That’s what I did. I had GHDs, I had reverse hypers. None of my clients needed that stuff to get to their goals.
Chris Cooper: (41:17)
None of ’em wanted it. They rarely used it. I just wanted it. And that’s, when you’re trying to build a business, you have to cut that stuff back. The other thing is that most people take way too much space, or they take space in the wrong part of town. Your rates should go up with your rent, your rates should go up with your rent. So if you’re renting retail space at 22 bucks a square foot downtown, because that’s where the high value clients are, then your rates need to go up to match that. If you’re renting industrial space that’s nine bucks a square foot way outta town, then your rates have to come down to reflect that probably. And most people don’t do this. What they do is they look at, like, what’s the average personal training rate in their town?
Chris Cooper: (41:59)
And then they buy the most expensive location and charge the average rate, and they’ve got this really pitiful profit margin, okay? So you need to have only the space that’s required to deliver your service, only the equipment that will actually get your clients to their goals. If you’re not sure, look around your facility and say, what is that 10 square feet doing to get my clients closer to their goals? Or how is that 10 square feet driving revenue? You look at every piece of equipment and you say, how is that piece of equipment getting clients to their goals or how is that piece of equipment driving revenue? Right? Your last investment is your staff. As I said earlier, your staff should generate at least 2.5 times what they’re paid. This is called contribution margin, either by generating revenue, selling training, or by creating time for you to sell the training for them.
Chris Cooper: (42:49)
The sixth reason is you’re trying to do everything. You’re spread thin, the client experience is inconsistent. You know, you’re training four people in a row. By the third client, you’re exhausted. You need a meal and maybe a nap, and you’re stressed about your own training. You’re distracted because you’re thinking about that last guy’s bill. And you know, you don’t have time to do the social media today. You had a fight with your wife last night, you’re not making enough money, you’re exhausted. Your own training sucks. You’re gaining weight. And so the client gets this inconsistent coach, which gives them an inconsistent experience. Another reason is, you’re in charge of the marketing, but you only do it when you’re desperate. You have to keep your marketing going, which means that you have to be delivering on that consistently, which means you have to have time to do it, which means you probably need help somewhere else.
Chris Cooper: (43:38)
You don’t evaluate your coaches, you hire them, maybe you train them, and then you just let ’em go instead of helping them grow and progress in their career by giving them an evaluation. Clients are evaluating you all the time. The evaluation that they’re giving you, the feedback that they’re giving you is financial. They’re talking with their wallets. But if you’re not giving your coaches that evaluation too, then they’re not benefiting from that feedback and they’re not learning anything and they can’t grow because there’s no audit process, okay? The gym is a one person show, and you’re doing stuff that you could be paying somebody else less to do. So I can’t take a 9:00 AM client because that’s when I clean the gym. So now you’re trading a hundred dollars an hour role for a $15 an hour role. What you should be doing there is hiring the cleaner and then using that hour to train somebody else, or to do marketing to get to train somebody else.
Chris Cooper: (44:33)
All right? How to fix those problems. Most trainers are making more than one of the six problems that I just outlined. And knowing where to start can be really tough. Our job as mentors is to help you identify the strategies and tactics that you need to do and then do them one at a time. Your job is just to execute. And so we’ll say you’re gonna do this. That’s the first domino, and that will make the second thing easier. And then the third thing easier, and then you’re gonna do this fourth thing. Instead of, “you have four things to do. Can you do them by Friday?” Where they’ll never get done. Okay, that’s a mentor’s job. There’s no reason that a good personal trainer can’t make a hundred thousand dollars a year, stay in the business until they wanna retire, make enough to pay for their house and put their kids through college. That’s a reality now. And we’re attracting professionals. We’re building professionals, we’re mentoring professionals, and these professionals are all having a compounding impact on the health and fitness of their community and the world. I hope that you’re one of them. I hope you’re successful, and I hope that you can make at least a hundred thousand dollars in the next 12 months.
Chris Cooper: (45:38)
We created the Gym Owners United Facebook group in 2020 to help entrepreneurs just like you. Now, it has more than 5,600 members, and it’s growing daily. As gym owners join us for tips, tactics, and community support. If you aren’t in that group, what are you waiting for? Get in there today so we can network and grow your business. That’s Gym Owners United on Facebook, or GymOwnersUnited.com. Join today.