Buy an Existing Gym or Start From Scratch?

Buy an Existing Gym or Start From Scratch?

As Two-Brain gyms become more successful, they’re often approached to “buy out” another local gym owner. Or, after building replicable processes, they see the opportunity to expand to a second location.

As the gap between profitable gyms and unprofitable gyms widens, these opportunities will become more common.

So which is better: to start a new gym from scratch under your profitable brand or to buy an existing gym—and its revenues and problems?

 

Setting the Baseline

 

Let’s start with the cost to start a gym and compare the benefits and challenges of buying an existing gym against that anchor point.

You can start a new gym for under $30,000, including $5,000 for mentorship (to make sure it works), $20,000 for equipment (that’s more than enough), and $5,000 for space upgrades.

(You can get our free Ultimate Business Plan template here.)

But there are some cases where it makes sense to buy an established gym. Just make sure you answer the questions below first.

 

Questions to Answer Before Buying

 

Why do you want to own a second gym?

If I hear: “I just want to help more people. My first gym doesn’t take any of my time,” then we proceed with the purchase.

But usually, I hear this: “It’s a great opportunity. There are no other gyms in the area. My members could choose where to visit. It’s almost profitable. I know I could fix it.”

That last one is in bold because I hear it a lot.

The problem is that it takes three times the effort and three times the time to fix a problem than to avoid the problem. Here’s a case in point: Two-Brain mentor Kaleda Connell built a profitable gym and reached functional retirement in three years. It took me 10. She started from scratch; I had to fix my early mistakes.

Click to listen to Kaleda’s story.

And if you’re opening a second location to make more money, you should be sure that you’re maximizing revenue at your first location. Because a second location doesn’t double your workload; it quadruples it.

 

Is There a Third Option?

Here are the questions I ask next:

  • Is there a chance you could get the gym’s members even if you didn’t buy the gym?
  • Is there an easier way to increase your income in your current gym in less time than you’d require to fix the other gym?
  • Are clients in the other gym accustomed to lower rates? Do they match your target demographic?
  • Why is the other gym failing? Are you buying the problems that are killing it?
  • Does a higher membership count move you closer to your “perfect day”?
  • What liabilities are you also buying? (For example, a lease.)

After thinking it through, many owners decide not to buy out another owner. Here are some reasons I’ve heard recently:

“It would take me months to fix that gym. If I calculate the value of my time, it would be a lot easier to just increase my sales by $2,000 per month at my current location.”

“I’m pretty close to my perfect day already. I can’t imagine dealing with all the discounts and student memberships that killed the other gym.”

“I know I could fix the culture over there, but it would cause me a lot of stress in the meantime.”

“They want a lot more than their valuation. No thanks.”

“I realized it was just my ego saying, ‘I want to be the guy who owns two gyms.’”

Many decide they don’t want to buy the other person’s problems. But they do want to help. So sometimes they offer the other owner a job or pay for the client list or even buy the equipment.

There are ways to help that don’t involve sacrificing your perfect day (or your income!) to save someone else. But kudos for wanting to!

 

What’s the Other Gym Actually Worth?

If you’re sure you want to own two gyms and you’ve examined the less expensive, easier options, the next step is to anchor the conversation with numbers. You can use our valuation tool:

Rigquipment Finance DCF Worksheet for TwoBrainBusiness.com

Forget intangibles like “community” or location. How profitable is the gym? How long has it been open? How much of my time will this second location require?

If the gym has been open for 10 years and the owner earns $30,000 per year, take a hard pass—you can make more than that in your first year if you start from scratch with a mentor. And you won’t have to go through the work and pain of trying to change the gym.

After all, there’s a reason the owner is selling—and it’s not because he or she wants to “pursue other opportunities.” No one sells a profitable gym that runs itself.

 

Do I Have to Buy It NOW?

If you do want to buy out another, we’ve been through it many times. The path is clear. Just make sure your own house is in tip-top shape because you’ll have to focus your full attention on the second gym for a few months.

Clients who have been through the Incubator are generally successful when they buy out another gym—unless they decide they’re doing just fine with one.

After all, no one needs a second gym when the first one pays well.

You can download the two free guides “How to Buy a Gym” and “How to Sell a Gym” here:

Free Tools

If you have questions, don’t leap before you talk to us for free. Click here to do so.

Training Coaches: Internships

Training Coaches: Internships

It’s tough to hand your baby over to a new caregiver, isn’t it?

But when you own a business, you have to stop being a technician and start being an owner. So you replace yourself in lower-value roles—and, eventually, you replace yourself as a coach.

I’ll outline our process below. The process of training coaches has been one of my most costly mistakes in my 12 years as a gym owner.

 

Mistakes to Avoid

 

First, here are some hiring mistakes I made:

  • Hiring people who “look good on paper.”
  • Hiring for education instead of personality.
  • Going straight to a salary instead of the optimal 4/9ths Model.
  • Believing shadowing was a useful teaching method.

Here are some really common mistakes we see in other gyms:

  • Undefined processes (“shadow me until I think you’re ready”).
  • No continuing education plan after hire.
  • Long internships for no reason (“they’ll call you doctor”).
  • Relying too heavily on shadowing instead of instruction—read more here: “Is Shadowing Overrated?”

The most common mistake is an internship process that’s long for the sake of being long. This is typically a sign that the owner isn’t quite clear enough on his or her vision or is a little too focused on the “knowledge” piece of coaching.

When you’re training doctors, this is valid—they need more knowledge than bedside manner. But we’re not training doctors, and we get to see our clients every day if our coaches can keep them coming back.

We believe that coaches should be different but follow the same template in a class. If they tick all the boxes—professional appearance, hearty greeting, appropriate warmup, one-on-one attention to every athlete, motivating coaching, smiling/hugs/high fives—then they don’t need to be a carbon copy of the owner.

For that reason, our coach training process isn’t called an “internship” at all.

 

First Filter: The Advanced Theory Course

 

Every year, we hold an eight-week specialty class called an Advanced Theory Course. It’s open to six members, and we secretly filter the members by personality only.

Here’s the overall template:

 

1. Four Weeks—Be Taught, Be Trained

Participants attend four lectures by the owner (or the head coach) and are then assigned homework. They watch video modules, submit assignments and group up on Saturday mornings. They’re taught the CrossFit class template and train together in our regular groups. They track workouts on paper, noting how the class followed the template and whether the coach ticked all the boxes.

 

2. Four Weeks—Teach and Train Others

In the second stage, ATC students do “book reports”—teaching one main point from their chosen author—to the rest of the ATC group. Then they run a class for other ATC participants only. The goal of this stage is to identify people who are comfortable and fun in front of a group and people who can do their homework, absorb information, and teach it back.

After eight weeks, everyone graduates—back to class.

If we identify a person in the ATC who possesses an optimal personality, shows up on time and can translate knowledge into useful information, we invite him or her to the next phase.

 

3. Four Weeks—Practice the Art of Coaching

In this stage, the ATC student registers for a CrossFit Level 1 weekend and begins a “six-and-six” transition to coaching. The student will create and lead warm-ups and cool-downs for six groups and assist the main coach in the skill-teaching portion of the class. If those go well, the student will swap roles with the main coach for six more groups and then be evaluated.

New coaches are evaluated on the same criteria as our existing coaches. If they score 7 out of 10 in all requirements, they can start leading on-ramp sessions as soon as they earn the CrossFit Level 1 certificate. If they don’t score a 7 in all categories, they can redo the “six and six” classes—or they can just return to being a student. That’s fine.

The key components of the ATC model are:

  • Choosing people who will make clients happy.
  • Evaluating and providing feedback at each step.
  • Having objectively measurable criteria for advancement (instead of hoping we “rub off” on them through shadowing).

Asking a future part-time coach to succumb to a six-month shadowing process is overkill. It’s inefficient, lacks clear objectives and produces a different result every time.

Remember: Greg Glassman owns the largest brand in the fitness universe, and he’ll let you use it after only two days of training. But the L1 doesn’t filter for character and presence because those are mostly taught by our parents.

Identifying the fun, caring clients in your box is the first step; teaching them to teach is the easy part.

 

After the Filter

 

After the ATC, we believe in training coaches in four stages. You can read about them on the Two-Brain Coaching site.

In short:

  • Coaches should learn how to work with 1:1 clients first.
  • Then coaches should learn how to apply their skills to a group setting.
  • Then they should learn how to program for 1:1 clients instead of delivering your programming.
  • Then they should learn how to program for groups based on data and results.

Read more here:

The Four Stages of Coach Development

You can listen to Two-Brain Coaching co-founder Josh Martin talk about Degrees of Coaching on Two-Brain Radio.

 

Great Coaches Are Method Agnostic

 

The Two-Brain Coaching progression starts with principles and then moves to methods.

My principles include getting the clients results, first and foremost. I really don’t like the dogmatic adherence to any ideology. That’s what first attracted me to CrossFit: The method combined the basics from kettlebell training, weightlifting, gymnastics, running and even parkour, back then.

I want my coaches to learn how to coach first and how to apply a specific method second. So I put coaches at Catalyst through the Two-Brain Coaching First and Second Degree programs before I send them to a CrossFit L1. This makes them insurable, gets them some experience (and a bit of money), and teaches them how to relate to people before they learn how to spot flaws in thruster technique.

I’d also send them to Pilates certifications if I thought them useful. Or yoga. Or whatever new spin class variation appears next week.

I want my coaches to know how to get results, period. And that means training the best people in the best way.

 

Other Articles in This Series

Training Coaches: How to Find New Coaches
Training Coaches: Scope of Practice
Training Coaches: Continuing Education
Training Coaches: Building Careers

Starting a Gym: Do You Need a Partner?

Starting a Gym: Do You Need a Partner?

Short answer: probably not.

Entrepreneurs accept partners for three reasons:

  1. Complementary knowledge.
  2. Investment.
  3. Fear.

In some cases, partners can help a business launch and scale more rapidly. But in an owner/operator gym, there’s really not much room for two owners.

In this post, I’ll share why you might not want (or need) a partner and how to find a good partnership if you do. I’ll also give you the tools you need to make the partnership work.

 

Why We Take Partners

 

I started Catalyst with two partners. I couldn’t have started without them.

My first partners served two important functions: They removed the obstacle of choice by basically dragging me into a lease on some gym space. And they loaned me $16,000 to buy equipment.

In return, they wanted a recurring return on their investment: $1,000 per month forever, plus the loan payment. In hindsight, this seemed like a bad deal. But I wasn’t thinking logically at the time: I was thinking emotionally.

What I was really buying was a way around my fear. I thought, “These guys are my parachute.” Also, subconsciously: “If I screw up, it won’t be entirely my fault.”

But two years in and $24,000 paid, I started to resent their partnership. I was doing all the work; they were getting paid in good months and bad. Even when I missed a paycheck, they didn’t. The novelty and gratitude wore off, and I started to ask, “How do I get out of this?”

The truth is, it’s really hard to get out of a partnership. So before you enter one, here are some easy alternatives to the three benefits of partnerships that I mentioned earlier (knowledge, investment and fear):

 

1. Knowledge

In tech companies, it’s sometimes wise to have a partnership between a visionary and a technician. One person sets the course and the other puts in the hours programming.

But in a microgym, that’s not really necessary: The owner is always the first coach, and the gym was built to fulfill his or her vision.

Instead of giving up a share of your money forever, hire a mentor. You’ll get industry-specific knowledge, much higher ROI and step-by-step processes instead of just a sympathetic ear. And you won’t tie yourself into paying someone forever.

 

2. Investment

A partner who provides startup funding in return for equity might seem like an angel. But if someone has $20,000 to risk on a fitness business, he or she is probably not dumb: the investor expects a return. And every investment he or she makes should provide an outsized return. If it doesn’t, the investor can always put the money somewhere else.

That’s fair. But, like me, many first-time entrepreneurs don’t see the long-term payments they’ll be making and eventually get mad about the agreement.

“He’s made enough money off me!” they think, as they open the door in the dark at 5 a.m. But the investor just assumed the operational partner understood the agreement and provided the opportunity.

This is why you should borrow money from a bank instead of seeking an investor in your gym: The bank might charge some interest, but the bank eventually goes away. The bank doesn’t want to talk about your programming. The bank doesn’t want $500 per month until the end of time. The bank doesn’t want to treat you like an employee. It just wants its tiny fee for giving you the money.

 

3. Fear

I’ve worked with several gym owners who decided to “spread the risk around” by opening with multiple partners. This is almost always a catastrophe: four people become exhausted and impoverished instead of one.

A microgym isn’t an investment-grade asset. But the people in many of these partnerships just haven’t done the math to figure out how many clients they’ll need (at what rate) to pay everyone involved.

Worst of all: Everyone ends up hating one another. And broke, and tired.

Entrepreneurship is scary. But if you want to do it, hire a mentor. Instead of having four people guess and argue, talk to one person who has been there, done it successfully and will eventually go away until you need him or her again.

 

How to Get out of a Bad Partnership

 

OK, so you’ve determined that you’ve outgrown your partnership. The simple way out is to get a valuation and then purchase the partner or partners’ shares.

If the company isn’t doing well, this is great news: You can buy the shares for very little. Just use the Shotgun Exit term you’ll see in our Sample Shareholders’ Agreement.

But if you don’t have the money (or you don’t have a shareholders’ agreement that spells out the terms of your exit), you’ll have to leverage something else. What do they care about more than ownership?

In my case, I was facing a court battle with city hall over an occupancy permit. I couldn’t afford the HVAC upgrades they insisted we needed. I was ready to go to war because it was the only way to keep my box open.

But my partners did a lot of business with city hall and didn’t want to tarnish that relationship. I explained that I didn’t have much choice but was willing to buy out their shares and let them avoid trouble. They immediately and graciously agreed.

If all else fails, use your failure as leverage: “Look, Bill, we both had the best of intentions when we started this thing. I know we’re partners, but I feel responsible. The business isn’t doing well, and I don’t expect you to take a loss here. I would feel better if you’d let me take on your share of the debt and then try to figure it out from there.”

 

How to Set up a Great Partnership

 

Great partnerships aren’t born; they’re made.

Before you enter into a contract that’s more binding than marriage (no joke), you should talk about your relationship.

Who will do which roles in the new company?

How will each of you make money in the new business?

How will you make decisions?

How will one of you eventually exit?

Download our Sample Shareholders’ Agreement here.

 

Equality Versus Equity

 

Who gets paid? How much?

There’s a difference between owning 50 percent of a business and being paid 50 percent of the profit.

The operating partner (the one who’s in the gym every day) should be paid a wage before profit is calculated.

It’s also fair for the lending partner (that mythical “money guy”) to build a loan repayment structure into the business’ expenses before profit is calculated.

But the important part is this: You don’t have to get paid based on your equity stake. You should be paid based on your role in the company.

If both partners will be working in the business, that’s fine—break down your roles, assign a value to each, and pay yourself based on the value you bring. Just don’t say, “We’ll split it all 50-50!” because no two partners are ever 50-50 contributors.

It might sound like I’m down on partnerships, but I’m not: I love partnerships. I just hate unnecessary servitude and expensive mistakes. Listen to my podcast on the topic here:

Two-Brain Radio Episode 81: Partnerships

Get a loan, get a mentor—make your debts short-term and grow your confidence forever!

 

Other Articles in This Series

How to Start a Gym
Starting a Gym: Location, Space and Equipment
Starting a Gym: Scaling Up
Starting a Gym: Adding Staff
Starting a Gym Marketing

Starting a Gym: Marketing

Starting a Gym: Marketing

Yesterday, I wrote about scaling up from a personal-training studio to small-group training.

But where do your first 20 clients come from?

Heck, where does your first client come from?

 

Relying on Relationships

 

When you’re opening a gym, there’s nothing more reassuring than the first client purchase. It’s more than the money: It’s proof that you have something that people want. That you weren’t totally wrong about the viability of your idea. And that all your front-end systems work: You can bring people in, sign them up and take their money!

Marketing is about relationships, and that’s never more true than when you’re in the Founder Phase.

You need to think about each new client individually, instead of an undefined group.

First, before you do any marketing, build your systems to maximize your retention.

Make sure you have your pricing and program offerings dialed.

Your first clients will come from your personal relationships. As I wrote in “Founder, Farmer, Tinker, Thief,” it’s normal for your first client to be your mom. Or your sister or brother-in-law. Who would want to support you more than your family?

And, of course, support means paying you because they believe in your ideas, not enjoying your service for free because you need more practice. Good will should run toward the founder when he or she is starting a business. The new entrepreneur will need it!

 

Reaching Out

 

Here’s the process:

1. We call your best clients your “Apple” clients. Take them for coffee one on one.

Ask them these questions:

“What brought you to my gym in the first place?”
“Why haven’t you joined any other gyms?”
“What’s your biggest problem in life outside of your fitness?”

2. Ask about the people closest to them.

“Who has been most supportive to you on your journey, besides me?”
“What do the people in your workplace need? How can I help them?”
“What’s your biggest challenge in trying to help your family get fit?”

3. Map your client journey.

Where do new clients generally come from?
What do most new clients say is their goal?
What do your best clients list as their favorite part of your service?
Write all that down, and make sure every new client gets the same treatment.

4. Make your clients famous.

Every week, interview one client on camera. Just ask, “What’s your fitness story? What are you most proud of achieving? What’s something you never thought possible before? What would you say to yourself one year ago?”

5. Answer your future clients’ questions.

Publish one article every week. Start with the most basic questions possible, and answer them. Build an email list of everyone you know. Every third email should include a clear call to action: a clickable link to book an appointment with you.

6. Use your email list to start Facebook ad campaigns.

The key question to ask before you start any marketing is, “Who is my client?”

In my PT studio, that was easy: middle-aged professionals paid for themselves or their athletic kids.

But when I tried to start a CrossFit box, that was hard. I didn’t define my ideal client, so I made wild guesses about my service and pricing. And because I didn’t get my prices right from the start, I attracted a lot of discount-seekers who couldn’t really afford coaching. So I tried to degrade my service to their budget instead of asking, “Who can afford what I want to sell?”

You sell coaching. Who wants to be coached? Tell them how you’ll solve their problems.

That, in a nutshell, is marketing.

Want to start your gym the right way? Click here to download our FREE guide: “The Ultimate Business Plan for Gym Owners.”

 

Other Articles in This Series

How to Start a Gym
Starting a Gym: Location, Space and Equipment
Starting a Gym: Scaling Up
Starting a Gym: Adding Staff
Starting a Gym: Do You Need a Partner?

Starting A Gym: Adding Staff

Starting A Gym: Adding Staff

How can you work on marketing when the floor needs to be scrubbed?

Your role as entrepreneur is to invest your time in the highest-value roles. That means removing less-valuable things from your plate. But most entrepreneurs don’t do this well.

They say things like:

“No one can do this like me!”

“It’s faster to just do this myself!”

“I can’t afford any screwups!”

“No one cares as much as I do!

I’ve been there. The tug-of-war between “I know I should delegate!” and “I can’t turn my baby over to my staff!” is an internal battle between logic and emotion.

Luckily, that’s why we’re called Two-Brain Business: we work with both.

 

The Path to a Solid Staff

 

Here are the steps to figuring out how to best spend your time and then actually create the time to grow your business.

 

1. Break down your day by the hats you wear.

If you were to duplicate yourself into 12 clones, and each clone could only do one job all day, what would those jobs be?

Cashier? Maker of the doughnuts? Purchaser or supplies? Decorator? Cleaner?

Make a list. We call these “roles.”

 

2. Now program your clones: Make a step-by-step list of everything you do in each role.

For example, the cashier is responsible for entering client sales correctly, processing refunds, collecting money, closing the batch at the end of the night, balancing receipts with collected funds at the end of the shift (and end of day), depositing funds at the bank, and so on.

Make the checklist as simple as possible. We call these “tasks.”

 

3. Assign an hourly value to each role. What would it cost to replace yourself?

Cashier—$13 per hour?
Baker—$18 per hour?
Purchaser—$20 per hour?
Cleaner—$11 per hour?

We call these costs “replacement value.” You will hire valuable people to replace you in each role eventually. And you will pay them what the role is worth.

 

4. Next, do a Time Valuation on yourself.

How much time do you spend in each Role? Record your total time spent (in hours) for one week.

For example:
Cashier—10 hours
Baker—20 hours
Purchaser—3 hours
Cleaner—5 hours

Multiply total time by the replacement value of each role.

Cashier—10 hours x $13 per hour = $130 replacement value
Baker—20 hours x $18 per hour = $360 replacement value
Cleaner—5 hours x $11 per hour = $55 replacement value

 

5. From your list of replacement values, find the lowest. Hire a person to fill that role.

Give the person a 3-month contract that clearly spells out the role and every associated task.

In other words, provide a checklist.

 

6. Here’s the critical part: You, the owner, MUST reinvest the time you save by working in a higher-value Role.

We call this “Climbing the Value Ladder.”

If you bought yourself five hours by hiring a cleaner, you must show a positive return on that purchase.

You can either replace the baker for five hours, saving yourself $90 (five hours x $18) or you can jump a few rungs up the ladder and spend time in a new role, like marketing.

 

7. After a month, evaluate your staff’s performance.

Assign a scale from 1 to 10 for each task.

Review performance with the staff member. What can he or she improve?

Now review your performance in your new role. What can you improve? Are you seeing a positive return?

 

8. After three months, repeat steps 5, 6 and 7.

Buy yourself more time. Climb to the next step. Measure your ROI.

 

Building a Real Business

 

Most entrepreneurs never build a business: They buy themselves a job instead.

But if they want to scale, be able to sell their business someday or just take a holiday, they must replace themselves in all roles eventually.

This is the directive approach we teach entrepreneurs in the Two-Brain Business Incubator. It’s virtually risk-free and far less scary than the usual “ready, fire, aim” approach to hiring.

 

Other Articles in This Series

How to Start a Gym
Starting a Gym: Location, Space and Equipment
Starting a Gym: Scaling Up
Starting a Gym Marketing
Starting a Gym: Do You Need a Partner?

 

Done-For-You Hiring Plan and Detailed Job Descriptions for Gym Owners

Starting a Gym: Scaling Up

Starting a Gym: Scaling Up

Bad choices at startup can be fatal.

Yesterday, I told you how to choose a location, determine the rental space you need and figure out what equipment to buy. These are all hard-won lessons from me and over 2,000 gym owners.

But they’re not the only important moves at startup.

Getting the first clients in the door is a huge stressor (and I’ll tell you about that here). But it matters how you go from 0 to 1, from 1 to 4, from 4 to 20, from 20 to 100, and from 100 to 150.

In a coaching business, you’re never trying to attract 150 members at a time. You’re trying to coach 150 individual people.

 

Two Big Mistakes

 

When I opened my first CrossFit Box, I already owned a 1:1 personal training studio across town. We found CrossFit in 2007 and ran a little experiment with some of our clients.

We invited them to participate in a group training class once per week. A dozen of them did. They loved it. We said, “Great! We love it, too! Let’s open a gym and just coach groups all the time!”

Luckily, we were committed to a five-year lease on the PT space, so we had to keep that business running at the same time. And it’s a good thing we did, because its revenue kept the “box” out of bankruptcy for the next two years.

I made two mistakes:

1. I jumped straight from training people 1:1 to training people 12:1.

I should have started pairing people up instead. I could have seen a higher income per hour, cut my clients’ rates back a bit and shared the burden of entertaining people while they worked out. This is what CrossFit founder Greg Glassman did. But instead I zoomed out to 12 people and lost the focus on each client while trying to gain scope.

2. I tested the “group” on the wrong clients.

My best clients—who paid their bills on time, trained 1:1 with me at least three times per week and didn’t cause any drama—weren’t in the group test. Instead, it attracted the people who paid sporadically or said “we can’t afford personal training.” I thought a lower-value offer would keep them around.

And it did—until I realized the low rate was killing me and tried to raise it.

 

Sound Scaling Up 

 

Here’s what Glassman did:

1. Filled his schedule with 1:1 clients first.
2. Paired some up to fit more people in.
3. Noticed the benefits of partners in training.
4. Added a third or fourth member to the group.

Other personal trainers were doing the same thing around 2001, but there wasn’t much communication between us. The Internet was in its infancy; I was on discussion boards talking about periodization, but no coaches were talking about money.

Greg might have come up with the idea on his own or he might have learned it from another trainer. But I didn’t find the idea until CrossFit.com had already been online for five years. All the articles and pictures were about big groups of people doing thrusters together.

If I’d scaled up properly, I could have nearly doubled my income without adding a cent to my expenses. The other coaches at Catalyst could have done the same. I wouldn’t have taken the jump to a second location as quickly. And I would have had a bigger base of “group” clients to draw from when I did.

In our Growth Stage of mentorship, we teach gym owners how to price their 1:1, 2:1, 3:1, 4:1 and small-group options. But here’s how to progress upward in your client headcount, revenue per hour and business profit:

 

1. Get 10 personal training clients.

This is actually not hard, especially if you’re starting from scratch (learn how here). I opened with nearly 30 PT clients in 2005, when no one really knew what “personal training” meant.

 

2. Of those 10, identify two with the same goal.

If their fitness level is different, that’s OK: Make sure they know the fundamentals so you’re not teaching one while the other watches. Then have this conversation with each:

“Hey, Henry! I have an idea for you. We’ve been working on your endurance, and I know the hardest part for you has been the mental one. It’s the same for me. Frankly, I need to have a partner, and I think you could also benefit from one. What if I found you the perfect partner and brought him into our sessions? I think you’d have an easier time staying motivated even if he’s not at your level.”

The key points:

A. “Here’s how this will benefit you.”
B. “I’m doing this for your benefit, not mine.”
C. “I will find the perfect partner for you.”
D. “You’re probably more fit than the partner will be.”

I could also say something about the price—but honestly that’s not the top selling point for people who pay for 1:1 training.

 

3. Test out the partnership for a month.

Then ask each one discreetly, “How did that work for you?” Because it’s more important to keep the client than to force your new idea onto him or her.

If one client says, “I didn’t really like it as much as training privately,” you say, “No problem! I’m glad we tested it. Now we know that you do best 1:1 with me.” And you reinforce the value of your personal service.

You talk to the other client and say, “Hey, that was a fantastic experiment! High five. Want to try it again another time?” and just go on with personal training.

But if both say, “That was amazing!” then you set up a recurring plan for both of them. The real benefit is greater results, not a discount, but many gyms will cut their rate by 20 percent for each client and still make more money in the same time.

 

4. Introduce a third member.

To your new pair, you say, “Hey, guys, you’re both doing really well as a team. I have a third person at your level who could really add to your experience. Can I invite her to work out with you next Thursday?”

The key to success here is always to maintain your 1:1 relationship with each client. Make sure you ask each one how he or she likes having partners, how progress has improved and whether a return to 1:1 is preferred.

 

5. Measure the value of your time.

How much are you making per hour? How much would it cost to replace you?

Begin adding staff to make your enterprise a real business instead of a coaching job. (I tell you how to do that here.)

 

The Personal Touch

 

The problem with jumping straight to group classes is that you lose focus as you gain scope.

At Two-Brain, we teach the Prescriptive Model, which means that you have to maintain a 1:1 relationship with every client in your gym. That’s a lot more than giving a cue here and there or finding “faults” in movement patterns.

Those things are almost irrelevant.

Train 150 individuals, not a group of 150.

Sometimes train them together.

 

Other Articles in This Series

How to Start a Gym
Starting a Gym: Location, Space and Equipment
Starting a Gym: Adding Staff
Starting a Gym Marketing
Starting a Gym: Do You Need a Partner?

 

You can talk with a certified Two-Brain mentor for free. Click here to book a call.