I started out with a 12 week full time personal training and sports massage course.

Compared to the weekend courses that a lot of new Fit Pros’ do now, it seems like a degree.

At that point I too thought I had all the knowledge I needed to be a super-successful fitness celebrity and make a million within a few years.

The reality was that I have spent 12 years feeling like I know less and less as a percentage of what there is to know about serving people. I mean REALLY serving people!

I recently wrote an e-book that you can get for free and gave it the subtitle “It’s Not Just Business”.

The reason is that success with a fitness business now requires so much more than basic technical knowledge and an understanding of revenue and costs.

You need to be REALLY good at what you do which, strangely, seems to be far down most people’s list of requirements as they prioritise social media ads and playing the entrepreneur at a level they don’t need to be at yet.

Whilst every business is different and every business leader is different, I’ve identified five key building blocks that need to be laid down IN ORDER, if you are going to have a business that is solid enough to withstand tough times and keep growing at the right pace.

I’ve also included the important features of each phase.

Before you dive in there are some key things to understand:

  1. There is no recommended time limit to ‘complete’ each stage.
  2. You will never complete each stage but must always look to improve what exists whilst simultaneously moving into the next level of development. 
  3. You’re probably not as good as you think. Keep studying with people ‘in the field’ and see how they do things, what processes they use and how much focus they put on quality. The moment you think you’ve done enough is usually the moment things start to unravel.

To illustrate the necessary steps, I use the AMPED coaching framework (which can be applied to any efforts to get better at something).

A – Autonomy

M – Mastery

P – Precision

E – Evaluation

D – Decision

In Fit Pro Firepower, I explain how there are 8 pillars to any successful fitness business.

Journey

Programming

Support

Community

Leadership

Lead generation

Retention

Team

These fit into the five stages outlined below.

AUTOMONY IN BUILDING A FITNESS BUSINESS

Autonomy is about being able to carry out your role without any assistance.

This is really the basic level of being able to do your job properly.

Are you able to coach someone in a safe, effective manner for their particular goals.

Sadly, many trainers are falling short even at this first stage as they ‘inflict’ what is currently popular and/or what they like to do themselves.

You might love powerlifting but it isn’t what Average Jane needs in order to lose 50lbs and feel good about herself. She also doesn’t need to be a CrossFit champion.

You need to be able to communicate with people.

You need to be able to adapt programs, sessions and even individual reps on the spot because you have developed your knowledge and observation skills.

You also need autonomy in running your business.

Learn about profit, revenue, cost centres, break even points, legal responsibilities, tax, business rates and getting your name out in the local community.

At this point, I recommend that, outside of things requiring a high level of professional knowledge, such as accounting and legal set up, you stay heavily invested in each area for at least 6 months so that you have a deep understanding of how business works.

“Don’t automate until you make it great!”

Yes, this means working your ass off!

Welcome to entrepreneurship – it’s not all collecting a wage packet while you sit on the beach!

This stage is all about building a Journey that people want to pay to engage with.

It’s also about thinking very carefully about where you are taking the business so you don’t end up succeeding at what you never wanted in the first place! 

MASTERY IN BUILDING A FITNESS BUSINESS

The next stage is to get really, really good at what you do.

Top 5% good.

Excelling so much that people can’t help but talk about you and send all their friends to join your fitness camp. Word Of Mouth referrals will be a regular occurrence if you do this next stage well enough.

People who leave for some reason will have a rude awakening and realise just how damn good you really are and soon come running back!

This all requires investing a lot of time and money to work and study with those people who have already done what you want to do and can constantly help you upgrade your skills.

Now you have to become obsessed with improvement and delivery of your product.

You have to read and write religiously.

You should be reading so much that you get frustrated about the lack of time you have to produce all the content you want to produce.

Training. Nutrition. Mindset. Hormones. Sleep. Psychology. Stress management. Anatomy and Physiology. Marketing. Sales. Personal development.

These are just SOME of the areas in which you need to keep raising the bar.

This stage is about becoming known in local circles for being THE guy or girl for doing THAT thing.

You will also start to see that a tribe is building that centres around the amazing effects of using your services. This is hugely important because, whistle results will bring people in, it will be your community that keeps them.

The three key steps here are Programming, Support mechanism and Community.

PRECISION IN BUILDING A FITNESS BUSINESS

Now that you’ve been through the Autonomy and Mastery phases, you will be at or nearing a position where you simply can’t do everything any more.

Now that you have invested a lot of yourself in becoming a master at what you do, you will be ready to bring in other people to help you grow the business.

This section is all about Leadership.

To lead people effectively in a business setting and keep the business on the right path, you need to build systems.

The more you can automate and build into a system, the less time you need to spend on it and the more likely it is that your staff will carry out tasks in the way you would do it yourself.

The thought of building systems often scares people but really, all it requires at first is to document how you do everything you do on a daily, weekly and monthly basis, down to the very last detail.

  • What process do you go through in teaching a group fitness class from the moment you turn the lights on?
  • How do you design personal training programs?
  • What stages do you believe people should move through with their nutrition over time?
  • How do you answer email enquiries?
  • How do you check in with new members and what questions do you ask them?
  • How do you check that all monthly payments have cleared?

So much of that jumble in your head can be documented and given to someone else to do.

The process will also force you to face inefficiencies and to strip away a lot of ‘how we do it round here’ which my previous Fit Pro Business clients have found to be very eye opening!

At first this might be just a few hours per month, but it’s a few hours off your list of things to do and more brain space to work on development strategies.

Either way you are starting to build a team and your leadership responsibilities will grow even more!

Don’t panic, just focus on hiring people based on sharing the same values as the business. If you build your systems tightly enough, you can teach them the technical stuff.

Create a Team Development system so your staff can see a clear path on which they can learn more and earn more.

From here you have to learn to let go and trust in people and your systems which can be very difficult, but also very rewarding!

Most systems will need a degree of flexibility, but even training programs can be 80% set with details determined by which exercise progression an individual is capable of and how they’re feeling on a given day.

We discuss systemising your business in more detail throughout Fit Pro Firepower (free e-book)

The precision phase also requires become more and more precise with Lead Generation in terms of about who you want to train, how you want to train them and how you find those clients.

You can’t train everyone, you don’t need to train everyone and trying to please everyone and relate to them will make your business very ‘vanilla’.

Know exactly who you want as clients, what their obstacles are, what their desires are and what they need to hear from you to be excited about getting involved.

Those in the business and those looking into the business, should be crystal clear at this point about what you do and why you do it.

It should also be obvious what you DON’T do and what you refuse to be about.

If you do this right, you may well distance yourself from more people than you attract. 

This is a good thing because it is more likely that those who love what you do will stay for a long time and you’ll have high Retention levels.

Remember, you can make a lot of money from 100 clients.

If you live in a town of 50,000 people, that’s 0.2% of the local population.

Don’t worry what the majority think.

EVALUATION IN BUILDING YOUR FITNESS BUSINESS

Having worked through the previous three stages, you will now have a business with staff members helping you to run things and give you time to attack the next stage in business.

Before you start to think you’re Richard Branson, you should develop a habit of honest evaluation about the impact of your developments and changes.

How do the staff feel?

Are they excited about a future with the company?

Do you have a steady stream of new leads?

How high are your retention rates?

Until things have a proven track record and your systems are working without a hitch, it can be a dangerous game to grow one location or worse, duplicate inefficiencies elsewhere.

Many a fitness business has struggled where they had a NEARLY excellent set up but tried to grow up before it was truly excellent.

There is a well-known saying that “What can be measured can be managed”.

You should have a firm grasp on as many numbers as possible and evaluate what they mean for the short, medium and long-term future of the business before you go letting your ego create a bigger business, doubling the management problems you’ve been able to shy away from amongst the highs of having a new business (especially if it’s going well).

Evaluate everything.

DECISIONS IN BUILDING YOUR FITNESS BUSINESS

If you have evaluated your numbers thoroughly over a good few months, you will have clear insights as to what is going well and what needs improving.

You will also be able to make more informed decisions about where to go next.

Bigger is not always better, and quite frequently, ruins a good thing.

Maybe you could simply increase your class sizes by adding another trainer.

Maybe you could up your prices and make 5-10% more money with zero change to anything else in the business. You could also pay your staff more increasing the chances of them staying with you.

Maybe you could sell your training online to those who can’t get to you because of time or geographical issues.

The idea of a multi-location business with a nutrition shop, restaurant and clothing range can seem very seductive but generally, the larger the business and the more people involved, the more problems you will also encounter.

This is not to put you off but to make you think twice before you think you can take over the world just because you’ve had a year or so of success.

Be okay with not growing until something that really, really excites you presents itself.

Ensure that you are maximising profits from what you already have before you incur greater risk and costs to ‘grow’.

Also make sure that your team can shoulder new tasks, at least until you’ve recruited more staff.

Very few Fit Pro’s really extract all the profits they can from their first location before getting excited about world domination.

Focus on maximising Lifetime Customer Value before getting bigger for the sake of it.

Add rungs to your ascension ladder so that you can charge those who already love you higher fees to delve deeper into the fitness experience you offer.

Sell or create a supplement range if your clients are spending lots of money elsewhere on such products.

Hold events that simultaneously generate entry fees and gain more exposure for your brand.

Whatever you decide, go through lay down the AMPED building blocks one-by-one and once you’ve made a decision on the next step, you’ll find yourself back at the start needing to master something new!

Be ambitious and demand more, but don’t let your ego get ahead of a solid, profitable timeline!

IT’S ALL YOURS BRUH… FREE!