Building a Client-Centric Business: The Key to Success in Service

Building a Client-Centric Business

Chris Cooper: 0:01

If you wanna have a successful service business, you have to build the business around the needs of your clients. We call this “building a client-centric business.” And this week I’m gonna talk about building a client-centric business on this podcast. I’ve got some blog posts coming for you and even a video or two. I’m Chris Cooper. And if this helps you really prioritize what’s important in your business, set up your business systems and run it day to day , please hit subscribe on your favorite podcast platform and maybe leave us a five-star review if you don’t mind. Thank you!

So let’s get into building a client-centric business. A lot of us get into business because we want to make a living doing the thing that we love. And so, as an example, I’m gonna tell you a story. When I opened up my first gym, it was because somebody had given me the gift of introducing me to fitness and it changed my life. And so all I wanted to do was change the lives of other people in the same way. And so that business did really well. When I opened my second gym, it was a little bit different. I was powerlifting at the time, and my staff was just finding CrossFit and we wanted to open up a powerlifting gym so that we could spend time powerlifting or doing CrossFit, which is what the staff was into a that point. The problem was that there was a massive disparity between the success of the two gyms. In the gym that was client-centric, we were solving clients’ problems and doing one-on-one training.

We were successful and we were making money. The other gym, which was built around our passion and what we wanted to accomplish doing CrossFit and powerlifting, was not successful. And over time it started to leech the money from the successful gym and almost pull both of them under. Now it took me years to kind of sort out what the difference was and why one was successful and one was not. But today I’m gonna give you the formula and the framework for building a client-centric business. We’re gonna follow the path of mission, model and then method. So first let’s start with what your mission is: What exactly are you trying to accomplish?

And if it helps you, you can do this as kind of like a postmortem 30 years from now. When the business is over, people are not going to say, “Jimmy opened a business and made $20 million .” They’re going to say, “Jimmy opened a business and accomplished blank.” If it helps, sometimes it’s easiest to frame what your mission is by saying, “our goal is to change blank for X many people.” So our mission at Catalyst is to meaningfully enhance and extend the lifespan of 7,000 people in Sault Ste. Marie. We want to improve their lives and we want to keep ’em around longer 7,000 because that’s 10% of our local population. And if I can influence and extend the life of 10% of my population, they, in turn, will affect and influence the next 10%, et cetera . So that is our mission. So the next question to ask is “how do we achieve this mission? What’s our strategy going to be ?” And that’s your model.

So I would say that our model is coaching. We want to be coaches because we’ve seen what the alternatives are. So knowledge is one alternative, right? We could just write books about fitness, but I’ve seen the effect that has. Very few people read books about fitness and nutrition and health. And they take no action. Another model is we could run an access gym, right? So we could charge 19 bucks a month like Planet Fitness, and we could sell access to equipment. But I’ve seen that in action, too. And I know that most people don’t even use those memberships, let alone get meaningful life-changing results from them . In my experience, what gets people these results that we’re trying to achieve is coaching. And so we want to have a coaching business that coaches fitness and coaches nutrition but also mindfulness, self-management and even sleep–all of the pieces required to deliver somebody to a longer, better life. So our model is going to be coaching.

And now our method. Our method is going to evolve over time. So our method is going to be science backed, data proven , but it’s always going to be evolving. And that means that our method will change every so often. So when we find a method that will get us to our mission faster and fits within our model, then we will adopt that. So let’s say that you started out as a Beachbody coach and you’re coaching people. But over time you find that people just kind of stop using the Beachbody system. I think it was like supplements and shakes and workouts and stuff. And so you have to find something else, but luckily you found obstacle-course racing, and that helped people better. And you said, “Oh great. I need to be training people to do obstacle-course races.”

So you got the certification, you changed your equipment, you changed your program a little bit, and your method evolved. And then after that, maybe you found a different method entirely: aquatics. And you said, “This is getting my clients better results. And I’m achieving my mission faster than ever. I’m getting more people fitter and healthier and extending their lifespan and their healthspan by doing aquatics. I’m gonna evolve to that.” And then later you discovered, “Well, maybe I need to be doing yoga instead.” Or maybe you combined things. The point is that the method evolves to whatever is best for achieving your mission. That should be your method.

Now, a lot of people screw this up. So what can happen is you discover fitness through one method—Pilates, for example. And you wanna stay true to the method. So you open up a Pilates studio and you say that your mission is to, I don’t know , improve core strength and flexibility in women aged 30 to 50 in your town. And that’s great. And you’re doing pretty well with Pilates. And then you discover that “wow, mat Pilates is not really doing it. I need to add a reformer or two .” So you buy the machines and you start doing like a different type of Pilates. And then over time, maybe you realize “holy crap, these people also need some aerobic capacity, and they need to be able to squat and have some power.” And so you evolve again to kettlebell training. Obviously that’s a dramatic evolution, but sometimes that’s what’s required, right? Evolution. Isn’t always gentle.

In my gym, we started off doing mostly like aerobics combined with some bodybuilding stuff and some powerlifting stuff, depending on the client. And then over time, we evolved to do CrossFit and spent 14 years as a CrossFit affiliate. And now we’re evolving again. But the key is that our mission hasn’t changed. What we’re doing is following the science, following the data. What we’re doing is looking at our model and saying, “Is our model getting people what we’re trying to get? Are we achieving our mission with our model?” And then we say, “Are we achieving the mission with our method? Is there a better method? Is there a newer method that has the proof to back up the change?”

So at Catalyst, what we’re doing, and I’ll share this in detail in a blog post, is evolving to a more metabolic, tailored style of training. So while some of our workouts will be constantly varied functional movement performed at high intensity, others will be single modality. Others will be longer period. And we’re basing this all off testing our clients’ progress. So we use the Prescriptive Model. The beautiful part of all of this is that if you’ve been using a Prescriptive Model, it is not hard to change your method. So a Prescriptive Model means that a client comes in, they have a one-on-one consultation, you measure their starting point, you talk about their goals, you give them a prescription, and three months later you measure their progress and you update their prescription. And three months after that, you measure their progress and you update their prescription.

Now, if you’re already doing this, then changing your method is a piece of cake because you just prescribe the next method: “So you’ve been coming to CrossFit classes three times a week, and that’s great. Your weight loss has slowed. And I would like you to add some Zone 2 cardio for another hour a week. You can come into my classes, you can wear a heart-rate wearable. You can just slow down and make sure that you stay in Zone 2. Alternately, I can give you some homework to do on your own. Which is best for you? Or you can make a PT appointment—whatever you want.” That’s how the Prescriptive Model works. Alternately. What you could say to each client is “you fit this avatar. Here is our starting prescription for you. Four blocks of Zone 2, one block of Zone 3, one block of Zone 5. Would you like to do those: one on one or in a group?” And then you basically tailor the workouts to them, but those workouts might be CrossFit or they might be yoga, or they might be something else. You can pivot the method.

Now, in my latest book, “Start a Gym,” I said that the model is more important than the method. And this is because the business model that you set up will ultimately determine your success, the method much less. But I’m bringing this up because there is this ongoing and pervasive myth, especially in the CrossFit space, that you are doing a CrossFit business, that your mission is to promote CrossFit. And that’s not necessarily the case. If that were the case, then getting better at CrossFit, winning the CrossFit Games would ensure that you had a more successful business. Or achieving higher levels of CrossFit certification would guarantee financial success for you and your family. And there are thousands of affiliates who are out of the business, out of the career track, out of fitness, who would tell you otherwise if we knew where they were. They’re all gone, selling real estate or working at tech companies or they’re back to being investment bankers now, unfortunately. And it’s because they put the method first instead of asking themselves, “What is the mission that I’m trying to accomplish here? What is the best model for accomplishing that?” And then being flexible with the method.

So my advice here is to be very clear in your mission. Be rigid in that mission. Stay on that mission until it’s accomplished. Ask yourself, “Who am I trying to help? And what am I trying to help them accomplish?” Be less flexible with your model than with your method. So if you have just been doing a model of running group classes and selling membership subscriptions or whatever, then it might be time to evolve your model to a Prescriptive Model. Be really flexible with your method. And I don’t mean flip-flop between Pilates and CrossFit and bootcamp every month. What I do mean is be willing to change when new evidence suggests that it’s time for a change. And when your method isn’t keeping up with times, don’t stick to it dogmatically. But think about “what do I need to help my clients more here?”

Add the things that you need to add. Subtract the things that aren’t getting your clients the results, and do the right thing for them. And that is what a client-centric business means: “Whatever it takes to get these clients to that goal is what I am willing to do.” I hope that helps. And I’m just trying to set the table for the specifics. And so if you want the details of how you set this stuff up, how you pivot from one model to another, how you change your method and how we’re doing it at Catalyst, take a look at the Two-Brain Business blog and I will have all the specifics there over the course of the week.

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