How to take your career to the next level as a fitness entrepreneur
It is a well-known fact that the fitness industry has a low barrier to entry. Most fitness businesses are started by either fitness enthusiasts or people that have successfully lost a significant amount of weight. These individuals are often keen to share their knowledge and experience with others; and simply take the road down into fitness entrepreneurship. Keep these 5 points in mind as you begin to build your personal brand and take your career to the next level as a fitness entrepreneur.
- Continue to gain knowledge in the field: To set yourself and your business apart, it is advisable to get some basic fitness education to bolster your passion for fitness. What worked for you on your fitness journey may not work for another person, so it is important to not only understand the art and science behind fitness, but also keep abreast of both positive and negative fitness trends. This will give you confidence and help you to speak knowledgeably to your clients.
Relevant fitness courses will also give you the toolkit required to run a proper fitness consultancy i.e. how to assess clients fitness levels, what advice or solution to proffer; how to price and bill your services; and how to track, monitor, evaluate client progress. Finally, getting certified in fitness will help you stand out from the crowd.
- Be professional: In Nigeria, laws and regulations are yet to catch up with the fitness industry. Therefore, fitness entrepreneurs should consider themselves to be self-regulated entities and as such, should hold themselves to a higher standard.
In practical terms, this means you should have your own personal code of ethics. One such example is asking the client before you touch any body part for instruction purposes. From my experience, most clients tend to appreciate this. This eventually increases the level of comfort and trust between both trainer and client.
This is also why I highly recommend getting certified. Most international fitness certifications address the “ethics of the fitness business” or “code of conduct for personal trainers” in their curriculum. This sets a good foundation for what is allowable and what is not.
- Define your brand image: What message is your brand conveying to the market? Is your brand male, female or unisex? In other words, what comes to people’s mind when they think of your brand? That is your brand image. Brand image is often overlooked but is just as important if not more important than the brand identity which is how you want clients to perceive your business.
As an example, let’s look at 3 well-known international fitness brands: Gold’s Gym, 24 Hour Fitness and Curves. The Gold’s Gym brand image is clearly male. Female clients are welcome but make no mistake that the brand is geared toward the male-dominated body building industry. 24 Hour Fitness, on the other hand, is unisex. What they sell is fitness anytime, anywhere, and at your convenience. And finally, the Curves brand, as the name implies, is clearly female. So, their products, services and programs will primarily emphasize weight loss and not body building.
How do you implement this? First of all, you need to define what you want your brand image to be and then, ensure every decision you make concerning your business (including the suite of services you offer) is filtered through the lens of your desired brand image. Focusing on creating a consistent brand identity and infusing it into key business decisions will keep you from making knee jerk reactions in response to your competitor’s actions.
- Implement best practices in business administration: Accounting and administration is a key part of any business. It is important to properly track your revenues and costs, no matter how small you think your business is. You cannot improve on what is not tracked or monitored. As a personal trainer, you should count your transportation costs (mileage, fuel and parking) against the revenue expected from a client. Know your rate per hour; because in some cases, you may realise that you are better served teaching a class of 15-20 people at a well-established gym than touring Lagos, in traffic, to meet a single client.
For larger businesses, tracking additional metrics such as client subscriptions, renewals, turnover, attendance, interactions and even recommendations; can help you make key operational decisions. Also, explore the use of technology to help with your client records, accounting and administration.
- Plan for the long term: Let’s be honest. Fitness is a young man or woman’s game. Anybody looking to retire well on a personal training career should think again. Knowledge transfer, succession planning and business diversification is key.
In terms of career progression, most fitness entrepreneurs begin with personal training. At this stage, the emphasis is on them i.e. their capabilities, skill set, availability to train. As you age, your fitness knowledge is what you transact with and not with your physical form. As your fitness brand grows, you have to diversify the business. For the business to last, the long-term business plan cannot be structured around you. The goal is for your brand, its image and identity to outlive you.
I see a lot of young personal trainers make this mistake. You have to remember that you are a limited resource and that your greatest asset is also your limitation i.e. your body. To grow revenues, most personal trainers will pile on more and more clients and soon enough their slots are maxxed out and they, in turn, are burned out. So, even though it started with you, for the business to last, the long-term business plan cannot be structured around you. By the time you “retire” you want to have a business model where revenues are still earned in your absence e.g. merchandising, sales of nutritional products, fitness apps, trainer networks, equipment sourcing or fitness centre/ gymnasium services.
Dominic is the Founder & Lead Trainer, GO Fitness Centre which offers gym memberships; private and group fitness trainings; physical/sports education and talks; corporate wellness programs and fitness entertainment services. Dominic is an International Sports Science Association (ISSA) Certified Fitness Trainer and Certified Youth Trainer. He is also Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation/ Automated External Defibrillator (CPR/AED) Certified.