Developing Coaches Won’t Grow Your Business

Developing Coaches Won't Grow Your Business

Chris Cooper: 0:01

Developing your coaches won’t grow your business. Hey, I’m Chris Cooper. And today I’m going to give you an exercise and some examples, and some reasons why simply investing a ton in coach education might be doing them a disservice and is probably harming your business instead of growing it.

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Before we get going, I want to ask you to rank your coaches and rank your business for me. Now I’ve got two tools for this. The first is a downloadable evaluation form from our website and I’ll post links in the show notes, download the evaluation form, rank your coaches in each category on a scale of one to 10, deliver the evaluations to them. And then look at the averages on average, where are your coaches? Are they a three out of 10, a seven out of 10 or a 10 out of 10? Or, or where do they fall?

 Then I want you to evaluate your business in the six areas that we say matter the most, how many clients you have, the average revenue per member that you have, the length of engagement, how much you pay yourself, the ROI that you get on your expenses and how you spend your time in the business. I want you to look at these numbers and say, how does your business rank? Is it a three out of 10? Is it a five out of 10? Is it a 10 out of 10?

Early on in my career, I made the mistake that many gym owners make. And this is actually so common, even in the service business, outside fitness, that it has a name. This is called the technician’s curse. And the technician’s curse is that we believe that simply by being the best, we will grow our business and put everybody else out of business and eventually win the game. If we have the best coaches in town, we will win. If we have the best donuts at our donut shop, all the other donut shops will go out of business because people will see the value of coming to our donut shop. The truth is that you, if you wanna help your coaches have meaningful careers, then you have to build a sustainable foundation to your business, and you have to guide them to do the things that will build value for your clients, which will grow the pie, which will allow you to pay them more.

Today I’m gonna tell you how to do that. Years ago, 2013, 2014, I built a product called Two-Brain Coaching. I had already been working with a lot of gyms around the world, a few hundred. I already had the bestselling book in the fitness industry. And I thought, okay, I’ve got these business problems solved. Now it’s time to move on to the coaching problem. But what I quickly found while trying to grow is that most people already have coaches who are a seven or an eight out of 10, but their business platform was maybe a two or a three out of 10, really? And so they couldn’t support the coaches. The coaches moved on, they had all this staff turn and they wind up with worse coaches because now they’re constantly recruiting.

Even worse was sometimes their great coaches would quit the industry and just stop helping people. Or they would open up their own shop down the street. That’s what happened to me. I was working at a personal training studio. I was making, I think $22, $23 for a personal training session. And the studio owner didn’t know how to grow the business. He didn’t know how to pay me more without taking it out of his own income. And so eventually I capped out I was working 45 hours a week with personal training clients. The gym owner didn’t know how to help me make more money. And I thought the only way that I could make enough money to pay my mortgage and buy my groceries was to go open my own gym.

And then I almost repeated that mistake when I hired staff because they wanted to get certified. They wanted to learn, take more courses, right? They wanted to get coached on coaching, and I wanted to reward them for that. I wanted to build in a pay system that gave them a raise every year or whatever, but I didn’t know how to do that without choking out my business. And so we’re gonna talk a little bit about that in a moment here.

The answer to getting great career coaches is not to send them away to get more training or upgrade their certification. It’s to build a business with a large enough platform that will support coaches long enough that they can stick around for 10 years, make it a career and take the time to get really good.

Because even in the case of making coaches better, more knowledge is not usually the problem. They don’t need to learn a new coaching cue. They don’t need to see how to, you know, do squat triage better. What they actually need, are reps, they need experience. And if they’re churning out after two to three years, they’re just never going to get there. A nine out of 10 coach will starve in a three out of 10 business. If you haven’t downloaded those assessments for your business and for your coaching staff, from our site, please go to and do that. Now I’ll have the direct URL in the show notes, but if you go to and you hit the search bar, you will find a coach evaluation. And also our Six Strategies audit. Now at Two-Brain Business, we spend our entire focus. Our one-on-one mentorship practice is geared around building a better gym. Part of that, of course, is selecting, hiring, and training great coaches. And here’s the process that we teach. Number one, start with a great personality that takes you 50% out of the way that is five out of 10, right there before they’ve acquired any skills. They need to have an amazing personality. Having a great personality is something that you can’t teach.

You can always train a happy person on the skills, but you can’t train an expert to be happy, positive, and engaging to your staff. If you look over time at the most successful coaches in the fitness industry, who’ve built massive audience. They are not PhDs. They don’t hold master’s degrees. Most of them aren’t even certified. They have amazing engaging personalities that make people want to be around them. The polar opposite is the burned out underpaid, exhausted coach who has amazing amounts of textbook knowledge. A ton of experience they’re overqualified, but they no longer want to be there early in my career, I guess, probably around 2013.

So not that early, I was visiting this other gym in Ontario, and this the home of one of the best weightlifting coaches in Ontario at the time. And I was really excited to get to his gym and get some coaching while my family was on vacation in this neck of the woods. And so I showed up at about 10 to six before the gym opened. And I waited in the parking lot with all of his clients. And at 5:59, he rolled in wearing a hoodie pulled up over his head, coffee in his hand, clear body language saying like, he didn’t wanna be there. and he wasn’t ready to be approached.

He opened the door and went inside, closed the door behind him, like pushed it closed. Did not turn the lights on for a few minutes. Slowly. The other people in the car park started wandering in, you know, they went inside, the lights came on, he had some music on, you know, and he wrote the workout on the board and people just started doing their own warmup. I really didn’t know what to expect. And so I approached the desk and said, Hey, I’m new. Do I need to sign a waiver or what? And he’s like, yeah, I’ll go print you on. And you know, he went in the back room somewhere, found a waiver for me to sign. Now it’s 10 past. Some people are warmed up. Some people aren’t, he’s like, all right everybody, over to the whiteboard, you’ve all done this stuff before. Don’t let me see this, this, this, that 3, 2, 1 go starts the clock and goes and sits down.

Now, obviously this is an extreme example of a coach with amazing technical knowledge and some great gifts to share who was just completely burned out and who just could not deliver those gifts. And he was probably looking for ways out of the fitness industry. And he has since exited the problem is that a nine out of 10 coach will starve in a three out of 10 business. So start your search for coaches based on personality. That takes you 50% of the way. As I said, then you run something that teaches your coaches the model. So we run something called an Advanced Theory Course, it’s free. We do it once a year, usually about six or seven people apply for it.

And we say, this is your view of the other side of the coaches’ clipboard. Like here’s what coaches need to know. And we teach them a little of the science and we teach them some cuing, and we teach them why we do things the way that we do. And most of these people don’t wanna be coaches. They will never be hired as a coach. If there’s somebody in that group who would make an amazing coach, will a approach them on the side and say, have you thought about coaching? But the members who go through this process understand the reason behind what we’re doing and they become better members.

All right, after you’ve taken somebody through your coaching model and identified who can show up on time, who is really engaged and excited about this stuff who can speak in front of a crowd, then you get them certified in whatever your method is. So you have to go with personality and then your coaching model and then your method. So if your method is CrossFit, that’s when they go to the Level-1, if your method is yoga, that’s when they go to the Bikram initiation course. If your process is like, you’re in a franchise like F45, that’s when they go to the first coaching course in F45, you get them certified.

After you already know they have a great personality and they understand your model, okay? Then from there over time, yes, you’ll do some professional development, but you’re going to do this on two fronts.

The first front is you are going to mentor them on their career path. We have tools for this in our mentorship program, like the Career Roadmap. And so you can work with them to identify how they make more money, how they progress as a coach, and I’ll come back to how they make more money.

In one moment, you have to mentor them on their career. Now, of course, of course you want to get them coaching on how to improve as a coach, but you can do a lot of that yourself because you’re probably already a great coach. And if you want some novelty or some outside perspective, you can bring experts to you.

So from a cost benefit analysis, it’s actually a lot easier to find an expert in one topic, bring them into your gym for a day and have all of your coaches acquire that knowledge. And that way, the knowledge and the skillset stays in your gym forever. Instead of staying in the head of the one coach who traveled two towns over and paid a thousand dollars for a weekend certification. So if you’re doing coach development and you want an external source, I just need you to understand that it’s not hard to find people to develop your coaches. It’s far cheaper to hire them three to $500 for a day to come into your gym and teach than it is to send somebody away for maybe a week to learn something that’s gonna cost you far more.

And your gym retains that knowledge. You could film them if you want to, and then train future coaches for the next 30 years. If it’s something that all of your clients would love, you could even sell access to this specialist course and like basically pay for your coach’s development. So that’s really key to understand here is like, you don’t have to follow the path that the certifying body has set out. You can follow your own path.

I mean, we brought in chiropractors, we brought in yoga instructors, swim instructors, rowing coaches to Catalyst, weightlifting coaches, powerlifting , strong man coaches, and they’ve run workshops for our coaches that the coaches loved. If I didn’t have any money and didn’t want to pay for this, I would just sell tickets and let clients attend too , to make it like, you know, to cut out the cost. But if I do wanna make this investment, I want that investment to be in my gym instead of just inside the head of one coach.

All right, so next, what do I invest in? And we’re talking coach development. What do you buy that helps your coaches earn more money? Well, if you wanna earn more money, then you have to increase the value that your clients receive. And the same goes for your coaches. You increase the value to the client by getting the clients better results, faster period.

So if you want to earn more money as a coach, then you need to take courses or you need to learn how to get clients better results faster. So going back to the example of me in the fitness studio at the time, uh , a lot of my clients were like only slowly getting results and a lot of them wanted weight loss. So I just made up this diet and I called it the Catalyst diet. And I did it in Microsoft, works a long time. Uh, old person might remember that program. And I, I drew like this old green arrow using Word Art in Microsoft works and I printed it off and I gave them this diet for free, just so that they would get better results.

What should have happened there was the studio owner should have said, hang on. This is tremendous value. We need to charge more for this diet. And I will give you a percentage when you sell it. So the, the client would’ve had the extra value, the client, um, would’ve paid for the extra value because it was really good. The studio would’ve made more money and I would’ve made more money too. If the gym owner had the foresight to understand how to grow the business platform, to benefit their coaches. Okay. When you’re thinking about investing in coach development or education, the first question you should ask yourself is does this actually increase value to the clients or does it just increase the knowledge of the coach?

Because they’re not the same thing. If knowledge was the answer, then all of your clients would already have the knowledge or they’d get it for free online. And they wouldn’t need you. The real value of a coach is getting a client, their results and getting their client their result faster. So if a coach wants to earn more money, they increase the value to the client, which earns the business. More money grows the pie, and everyone wins.

Now the old way of making more money or providing incentives for coaches. That’s the industrial model. We used to give people a raise based on the time that they spent working, but that weakens the gym by giving the coaches a bigger slice of a small pie. So the owner makes less money. There’s no growing revenue stream coming in. And the gym closes. Everyone loses. If you pay people more, just because they’re certified or quote unquote experienced, but you don’t increase your rates or you don’t sell a new program. Then you’re building a coach centric business.

That means that the clients might get a little bit more education, but they’re not getting more results. So they lose out. It means the owner gives away a larger share of a small pie. So they lose out. Building a coach-centric business is not why we’re here. We’re here to build a client-centric business and you add value to the client by getting them results faster, with less pain. Charging, what your service is worth, and then paying your coaches to deliver that service. That’s what coach development means.

Developing your coaches means increasing their value to the clients. Their value is increased by the results gained by the clients, not by the knowledge or the time spent working as a coach value does not come with more certifications, you know, a master’s degree or a doctorate value comes from outcomes. If you’re able to get clients outcomes faster, with less pain, more definitively, and you create social proof around that, then your value as a gym increases and that rising tide lifts all boats.

But going in the other direction and paying for coach development without a business plan to support it, or any way to increase the perception of value from your clients or earn more money. That’s a downward spiral. That’s building a coach-centric business instead of a client centric business. I hope this helps. I do want you to invest in making your coaches great careers, keeping them in the industry longer, letting them build on your platform and creating an impact in your town. The way you do that is by building a solid platform by becoming a better business owner.

But if you really want objective proof on where you should be focusing your attention, download our coach evaluation tool, evaluate your coaches and see what their average is. Then download our gym evaluation tool, evaluate yourself in each of the six categories, take the average and see where your gym is and whatever is weaker, your gym or your coaching. That is where you should be investing time and money in growing because that will improve life for everyone.

Hope it helps. 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 as gym owners United on Facebook or Join today.

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