As hundreds of gym owners successfully pivot to online training, some are asking questions:
“What if I don’t go back to the way things were?”
“What if I don’t need a gym space at all?”
“What if I like things better this way?”
It’s thrilling for me to hear. Despite all the stress, despite being back in Founder Phase again, despite the steep learning curve and loss of income and management challenges, no one is thinking about quitting coaching.
Because coaching is a creed, not a job.
Sure, most owners are really excited to get back to their gyms. But in case you’re thinking “this shelter-in-place life ain’t so bad,” here are the 11 steps you can take to move to online coaching full time. None are irreversible.
The first seven steps will add value to your bricks-and-mortar business; you won’t have to make a decision until you’re already making more money.
That’s the great thing about business: You can always change your mind.
Covid-19: 11 Steps to Online Coaching
If you decide you want to coach people online, here’s the process of thought you must go through:
1. How does online training align with your vision?
“If you have more than one reason to do something (choose a doctor or veterinarian, hire a gardener or an employee, marry a person, go on a trip), just don’t do it. It does not mean that one reason is better than two, just that by invoking more than one reason, you are trying to convince yourself to do something. Obvious decisions (robust to error) require no more than a single reason.” —Nassim Taleb
2. Determine your Perfect Day.
Your business exists to serve you. Its real purpose is to help you win on your scoreboard, not mine. Does your Perfect Day involve spending more time with friends or more time at home with your kids—or a balance of the two? Will online coaching help you achieve that goal? Does in-person coaching take away from that goal? (For some, the inverse will also be true. That’s OK.) Read about Warren Buffett’s “inner scoreboard” here.
3. Determine the income needed to achieve your Perfect Day.
When Brad Overstreet felt burned out by his 235-member gym, he calculated what he needed to make to live his dream life. Combined with some scuba instruction and mentorship for Precision Nutrition coaches, he realized he only needed seven online clients to reach his target income. Listen to Brad on Two-Brain Radio here.
4. Measure your commitments: Can you get out of them?
What are your expenses—like your lease and your loans? If you had to get out of them today, how would you do it? If you can’t get out of them today, use them as a decision point: “I’ll do the work by X to have a clear decision in mind.”
5. Measure your opportunities: Do enough clients really want this?
Survey your clients. How many said “I’ll stay online forever” or “I’ll stay online for the foreseeable future”?
6. Maintain three points of contact.
Don’t change anything yet, but free up your time to start building your online business. Put everything else into “maintenance mode” while you follow the old rock-climber’s strategy of staying in contact with existing holds while reaching for a new one. That means your business should be systemized: Your delivery, retention, sales and marketing systems should keep operating at 10/10 without you.
7. Sell online while running your current gym.
With everything else running smoothly, focus your attention on building your online audience. Publish every day; create free giveaways and an expensive product to sell.
8. When you reach your minimum amount of online revenue, begin tapering down physical operations.
Pivot as many clients as you can to online training. This is really the point of no return: Most in-person clients won’t go online until the in-person option disappears. When I was still doing PT with 34 clients per week, I tried to drop down to 10 clients and move 24 to my other trainers. But of course, when I told my clients, “I’m only keeping 10,” they all wanted to be in the 10. Some clients will promise to switch to online training and then hate it. Some won’t switch until they don’t have a choice. That’s why you don’t want to count on any switching. Consider your in-person clients a bonus to your new model.
9. Close physical locations before you dip below breakeven.
Don’t force your online revenue to support your physical location.
10. Narrow your niche to scale up.
To get more clients, you’re best to be the biggest fish in a very small pond. Yes, there appears to be more opportunity when you think broadly. It’s always tempting to invent something new. But inventors rarely make any money. The most successful people connect two existing ideas. For example: online training for referees. Online training for soccer players. Online nutrition coaching for people with eating disorders. You can help these people more by becoming an expert in that narrow niche.
11. Be patient.
“Difficulty is what wakes up the genius.” —Nassim Taleb
Moving to Online Coaching: Pros and Cons
Here’s how certified Two-Brain mentor and business owner Ashley Mak moved online: Two-Brain Radio.
New fitness pros will probably start with training people online before deciding whether to open a gym or not. You’re at that point now.
If you were starting from scratch today, what would you do differently? All options are on the table.
Fewer clients required.
You’ve already done the hardest part: building an audience.
Read: “What if You Love Online Coaching?”
You’re in the honeymoon phase.
It’s harder to get new clients online.
Your audience didn’t really sign up for this.
Read: “What if You Hate Hate Online Coaching?”
Start With Your Goal
You can make the pivot. Others have done it. It will take time to undo your current business.
But if you work backward from where you want to be, it’s achievable.