remember sitting on the beach in Fort Lauderdale, literally penniless,
questioning where my next meal was going to come from.
remember entering a legal battle that almost drained me emotionally
and financially to salvage my career and my integrity.
thankful for every one of those experiences. They drove me, they
taught me, they motivated me, and at times they humbled me.
I earn $250 per hour for personal training. To date I’ve had over
350,000 customers, over 1,000 personal training clients, over 50,000
seminar attendees. I say that not to boast, but to illustrate that
putting your hands over your ears and screaming when others discourage
you can be extremely valuable!
I have the great pleasure and privilege of helping trainers avoid
all the pitfalls that I stumbled through to help them zero in on
lucrative and rewarding careers in an industry where the path to
success resembles a twisting maze with dead ends at nearly every
turn. I’m often asked for “the best piece of advice I can give
to a trainer,” and if I’m limited to one, it has to be “treat every
client as if he or she is the most important person in the world.”
Unfortunately, while that’s valuable, it certainly leaves a lot
of uncovered territory in the personal training success battlefield.
real “secret,” for me was a nearly insane passion and determination
to turn my love for helping others into a profession. I considered
throwing in the towel countless times, but I always managed to find
the strength to get up and learn from each experience, and today,
by collecting the lessons I’ve learned, I’m placed in an enviable
position where I’m called upon to share “the secrets.” Every day
I take time to stop and appreciate the opportunity the journey has
brought my way, and I’m thankful for every personal trainer acting
as a part of the ground army, working diligently to help a near
desperate population find fitness.
this article I’ll go beyond the single “piece of advice.” In analyzing
the specifics of the road to $250 per hour and a growing trail of
thrilled clients, I can break it down into seven specific strategies
that helped to shape my career. Any one of the seven can make a
staggering change in any personal trainer’s business, but when all
seven are combined, success isn’t a question, but a certainty.
welcome your feedback and encourage you to keep me posted on the
impact these seven strategies have on your career:
Switching to a “Series” System of Billing
years, like most trainers, I followed convention. I sold “packages.”
One session was $50, three were $120, and ten, ONLY $350! I sold
lots of 10-session packages. My bank statements were as erratic
as the tide. They’d rise and fall, depending on whether I was in
a “collecting” period, or a servicing period. If I sold four ten-packs
in a week, I’d deposit $1400, and then . . . I’d “owe” 40 sessions!
I was subject to no-shows and cancellations, and far too often I
felt as if I were training people for free. The money had long ago
been spent, yet I was still trying to fulfill the “owed” sessions.
When tax time came, I looked at my income. I would tell people
I was earning $50 an hour, but when I actually divided my income
by the number of hours I’d worked, it was a far cry from that $50
I naively expected. I decided that if I was in fact worth $50 per
hour, I deserved to be PAID $50 per hour, and so I started charging
the same “per hour” fee regardless of the number of sessions purchased.
next step was to keep my income consistently growing, and I decided
much like a retailer, a massage therapist, or a hairdresser, I was
simply going to charge “per session.” I got together with my attorney
and created a “retainer form,” which each client signed. It stated
they would commit to “every” something, a recurring session for
which we’d never have to return to a calendar to answer the “next
session” question. They’d pay me the equivalent of one session in
advance, and prior to each session, they’d pay for the session about
to take place. If they failed to provide 48-hours notice for a
cancellation they’d forfeit the retainer. Amazingly, without significantly
changing the number of clients I trained, I more than doubled my
income from the previous year. That led to the “series” concept
I use in all of my operations today.
Viewing each session as an educational experience
concept was ideal, but at first it limited my market. I was asking
$50 per session and training clients three-times-per week. I realized
after awhile that once my clients saw some measure of results, they
found a heightened sense of motivation. Once they learned how to
safely perform the movements, I realized I could show up once a
week, update their programs, and they could follow through on their
own. That allowed me to take on a greater number of clients, but
more importantly, if I began to view the “session” as an educational
experience, I could make it affordable for those who could only
afford $50 per week, or even $50 per month. I’d simply customize
the “series” to make it affordable for each individual. At one
point I had over 40 active clients, and I was paid what I asked
for each and every session! I’ve since learned to impact people
greatly in small group and large seminars by simply recognizing
that what people need most is clarity, and that clarity comes from
education. Today I hold group sessions in my office that net me
$1200 per working hour . . . and it all evolved from recognizing
what clients most need.
Positioning myself in the media
I’ve had TV
anchor people, radio personalities, and media personalities as clients,
and every time they would mention me, my phone would ring. Interestingly,
when I tried running some radio ads, I didn’t get any response at
all. Finally my thick skull opened up and I figured out why. When
you run an ad, people perceive you as an advertiser. When you’re
mentioned on the air . . . people perceive you as an expert! Think
of someone you know with a pony tail and a tendency to scream, or
think of someone from a 1970’s sitcom who sold millions of spring-like
devices promising great thighs. Are they the most renowned fitness
experts? Probably not in your eyes, but they achieved recognition
as experts . . . just because they were in the media. I started
reaching out contacting producers of local TV shows and radio shows
and while it took a great deal of persistence, it led to my appearing
“on-air” regularly, and attracting clients became a simple matter
of answering the phone!
Being a lifetime learner in areas where education is most needed
There’s so much
to be learned about kinesiology, physiology, and human adaptation,
but the reality is, most people are failing because they don’t understand
the very basic formula we all know as a must, “eat right and exercise.”
I found a consistent underlying trait among those who were achieving
significant physical improvement with individuals on a consistent
basis. They were educating people in foundational exercise elements
and real world nutrition.
we should “eat right,” but nobody seems to know what “eat right”
means. I began exploring the realities of supplement advertising,
food labeling, restaurant based food preparation, and the emergence
of the weight loss drugs, and as I learned, I became better positioned,
not only as an expert, but as an expert who could deliver “the fitness
truth.” While I’ll always maintain a thirst for better understanding
human movement, I realize the exercise part is simply a piece of
the puzzle and I’ll also find a greater knowledge in the realm of
human psychology, marketing, and nutrition. With each year, as
I find greater knowledge, I further my position as a “resource for
Basic Understandable Truth.”
Committing to Delivering More Value Than Anyone Expects
started telling me their results were “unbelievable,” it opened
me up to a new thought process. Why were the results unbelievable?
Wasn’t the result the goal when we first spoke? I came to understand
that people are so used to fitness failure they’re shocked when
they achieve a result, and that helped me to understand, the “value”
wasn’t in each session, but rather, in the result. Even with infrequent
client sessions, I could facilitate thrilling results, and with
a greater awareness of the “value” I could deliver, I learned to
gradually increase my fees. I’m far more comfortable today asking
for $250 per session than I was asking for $15 per hour when I first
started in this field. The reason? I know beyond the shadow of
a doubt I can deliver more value than my clients expect, and I’ve
never had even a single client tell me I was “expensive.” Instead,
they say the words we all want to hear. Thank you.
Deciding to live by “professional” policies
CPAs, and other respected “professionals” live by paradigms that
had been established to assure them professional respect. When
I decided to emulate those strategies, I was apprehensive. I thought
clients might be offended if I charged them for my “time,” even
if that time was spend in conversation rather than on the workout
floor. I was worried that I’d face resistance if I started charging
“regular fees” for consultations and assessments. I was concerned
that clients might react if I kept their retainers when they cancelled
at the last minute. Here’s what I learned. When you behave as
a professional, people treat you accordingly.
“Growth with Integrity.”
Today I maintain
a money back guarantee on all of my products and services. It forces
me to have to deliver “value” to keep my business producing. I
never want to have any clients speak negatively of their interaction
with me. The money back guarantee assures I’ll never leave anyone
disappointed. Since 1986 I’ve kept the words “Growth With Integrity”
on my desk, and that simple three-word motto has served as a guiding
light, allowing me to form strong associations with those I respect
and admire and to happily shy away from “opportunities” that promised
income at the expense of morality.
I know many
trainers wish “The Secrets” were simpler, just as many of your clients
wish the perfect body could be achieved with the blink of an eye.
Here’s the lesson to be learned from this article. Success is a
matter of consistent and directed effort.
I didn’t have
any advantages you don’t have. If you have the passion and desire,
I’ve now given you the fuel. The fuel can power the journey and
the journey can prove to be immensely gratifying. If it were simple,
it wouldn’t be anywhere near as rewarding. I wish you all the reward
you can handle!
Oh, why did
the folks from SCORE tell me I was crazy? Because I planned on starting
a "fitness business" without a facility. They couldn't
grasp the concept. I was going to train people in their own homes
and establish a business in the process. I was speaking a language
they didn't understand, but their insistence that "a business
without a place of business" wasn't possible ultimately led
me to prove them wroong.
Why did Jeff
Everson call me an idiot? Well, he's blunt and had some insight
I needed at the time. I was struggling trying to get a book publisher
who had issued me an advance to pull the trigger and release my
first book, "Mind & Muscle: Fitness For All of You."
I shared my frustration with him and he told me, "You're an
idiot. You're on the radio. You don't need a book publisher. If
you self publish you keep all the money!" If he hadn't called
me an idiot that day, I don't know that my publishing company, Great
Atlantic Publishing would ever have come to exist, and I might have
earned $5,000 on my first book when his advice resulted in my earning
five times that amount the first year it was released!
If calling me
an idiot and telling me my idea was unrealistic served as fuel for
my fire, imagine what these seven strategies can do for you!