The Mythical "Book of Business"

Many service professionals build a “book of business”. Financial planners, investment salesmen and insurance agents use the term often. These are all licensees: they pay a small fee or percentage to use a larger brand (like an insurance agency or real estate business) but mostly operate autonomously. They might get some small benefit from the brand for lead generation or a discount on signage; they might share office space or administrative staff. They’re not entrepreneurs, but they’re mostly responsible for finding their own clients. And they also keep their clients for a very long time, even if they leave their agency to work somewhere else.
For a client list to have value, the agent must be reasonably sure they’ll keep the client for decades. For example, when a financial planner retires, they can sell their “book of business” to another, because most people stay with their financial planners for life. They’re transferring value to another agent because their clients are locked in.
This is not true in the fitness industry.
When you enter the Farmer Phase of entrepreneurship, other fitness coaches build careers on your gym platform. Your role is to find them clients; provide booking, billing and scheduling resources; cover their insurance; pay for the lighting; give them access to equipment; keep your space safe…and a dozen other responsibilities.
Their role is to train the client on the stable platform you’ve built for them.
They do NOT own the client. Whether as employees or contractors, fitness coaches are not building a “book of business”, because the client shouldn’t leave the gym to follow a coach elsewhere.
The coaches and personal trainers at a gym are there to serve the gym’s clients.
What’s the difference between an intrapreneurial coach and a gym owner? The whole world.
An intrapreneurial coach maximizes the opportunities created by the gym owner. A gym owner creates enough opportunities for their coaches to build a meaningful career.
But a gym owner can’t create a stable home for their coaches if each coach “owns” their client.
I’ve seen this case play out over and over:
Gym owner offers a coach a part-time job.
Coach is thrilled, and gets even more passionate as time goes on.
Coach wants to make fitness her full-time career. But how?
Gym owner tells the coach: “find some personal training clients”.
Coach finds one or two, but it’s not enough.
Coach thinks, “The only way I can make this my career is to open my own gym.”
Coach leaves. If the coach has built a personal “book of business”, her clients leave with her.
Gym owner says “Never again!”
Gym owner goes back to the floor full-time.
How do I know? Because I was that coach!
Your clients must associate their training relationship with your brand; not with one specific coach.
Even if they primarily train with one coach, they should sometimes train with another. And receive nutrition advice from another, and also interact with your Customer Service Manager often. Forge their relationship with your brand to be a stronger one than their relationship with your coach.
I’ve also been on the other side of this, and lost long-term clients when a long-term trainer left.
I’ve lost sleep over those clients. I had to resist the strong impulse to bad-mouth the coach they were following. But in the end, I knew it was my fault. They had built a stronger bond with that coach than with my brand. I could have avoided the problem, but didn’t.
Now Catalyst has one dedicated staff person responsible for client relationships (in my books, this person is called “The Joy Girl”, the name a previous person gave themselves. Our new expert prefers Customer Success Manager.)
He follows our the Client Journey Map we built in the Incubator. He represents the brand. He keeps improving our LEG. He knows that every client is “our client”, and “our chance” to make a difference.
The “book of business” term is used to place a value on a client caseload. Investment portfolio managers and lawyers sell their “book of business” when they retire. But in the fitness industry, the term creates confusion and stress. Every client should have a relationship with the gym, not with a single coach. None of us is as good as all of us.
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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.