How to Be More Valuable: Empathy and Attention

A closeup image of a hand stacking wooden blocks ever higher to indicate rising value.

In the first post in this series, I told you that your income was determined by the value you create. In the words of Bob Burg, author of “The Go-Giver,” “Money is the thunder to value’s lightning.”

2020 was a massive test of value in the gym business. Gym owners and trainers who provided real value to their clients did pretty well. Gyms that didn’t actually provide value—like the big, 24/7, all-access gyms—really suffered.

Sadly, some owners of coaching businesses learned (the hard way) that their clients didn’t value their services as much as they thought. I’m lucky: I learned this lesson (also the hard way) years ago. So when COVID, hit, I was ready to move online quickly.

The third and fourth elements of value are empathy and attention.

I’ll start with empathy because you probably have that dialed.

Seeing the Other’s Perspective

Empathy means you can understand the client’s perspective. You can put yourself in the client’s shoes.

Empathy creates value because you can share experience. You’ve been where they are, and you know what it’s like.

Empathy is the reason why a coach who has lost 50 lb. is often more valuable than a coach who has competed at CrossFit competitions. Remember: Excellence means getting clients to the goals they want, not the goals you want. If a coach has achieved the same thing the client wants, the coach can empathize.

Empathy doesn’t mean sympathy. It doesn’t mean doing anything for free. It means being a valuable resource because you have the experience, not just the knowledge.

Noticing Everything

Now, here’s the harder part: attention.

Even if all your clients attend group classes, you must have a 1:1 relationship with them that includes goal setting, progress reviews and a long-term plan.

If people simply sign up for group classes, attend group classes and post their scores, you don’t have a relationship with them. You’re easily replaced by the gym down the street.

Gyms that do a lot of 1:1 training, follow the Prescriptive Model and track their clients’ progress keep clients longer. They also have higher-value clients.

Their average revenue per member per month (ARM) and length of engagement (LEG) both rise. And in times of crisis, people are less likely to quit.

Gyms who sent each client a short text each day during COVID retained their clients up to 40 percent longer. And because most gyms don’t have a 40 percent profit margin, this was the difference between staying profitable or losing money during lockdowns.

Your Income Is Based on Value

If you want to make a greater income, you must provide more value.

So far, I’ve given you four elements of value:

  • Excellence
  • Consistency
  • Attention
  • Empathy

In the next post in this series, I’ll give you the fifth element (it’s the one most people miss).

Other Media in This Series

“How to Be More Valuable: Excellence and Consistency”
“How to Be More Valuable: Appreciation”


One more thing!

Did you know gym owners can earn $100,000 a year with no more than 150 clients? We wrote a guide showing you exactly how.