The Thing I Don’t Say Enough

by Mark Fisher

I get stuck in a bubble sometimes.

You see, some things that are taken for granted in the fitness business circles I move in. These principles seem obvious to me. 

But that’s the Curse of Knowledge for ya. It lulls me into assuming we’re all on the same page about how to have a successful training gym. 

This means there are some things I don’t say enough.

Many gym owners haven’t studied how to marry their fitness expertise with building a sustainable business. They make consistent errors in their thinking. They prioritize their efforts and energies on activities that won’t actually move their business forward. Then they get frustrated and confused when every month is a struggle to make payroll and pay rent.

The most common misstep is seeking marginal improvements in technical fitness competency over, well, anything else. 

And this makes sense. When you LOVE fitness and it’s been your core expertise, it’s only normal to want to bury your head in the sand when it comes to “business stuff”: marketing, finance, creating SOPs, making offers, managing a team, etc.

But if you want to mead headway with your training gym, here are three things to remember.

Relationships Trump Programming

Yes, you should balance your movement patterns. Be thoughtful in providing the right amount of load and volume to create adaptations. Consider your clients’ movement abilities when choosing exercise variations.

But as the saying goes, your clients “don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” The best program in the world won’t matter if your clients can’t make a personal connection with your coaches. If you’re a coaching-centric facility, the relationship is a decisive factor in client compliance.

Create a training gym where your clients feel seen, and safe, and cared for.

The Experience Trumps Technical Coaching

If you want your clients to get good outcomes, it’s important to teach them how to move well. Great coaching requires an array of cues to get clients into good positions to safely produce force. A great coach looks at a “melting candle” squat and has an arsenal of tools to improve the pattern. They have a series of “if-then” follow-ups if the client doesn’t respond to a given cue.

But if the music is too quiet (or too loud) and the space is dirty and there’s no transfer of energy from coach to client and the interaction with other trainees is awkward, your clients won’t be excited about coming back.

Create a training gym where clients actually enjoy spending time.

Benefits Trump Features

It’s only normal that coaches are interested in the methodologies and tools that create fitness outcomes. In fact, that’s our job! 

But your clients don’t care about the brand of equipment you use. They don’t care about the arcane breathing exercises you use to tone down their nervous system. And they don’t care about your certs.

They care about how the features of your training gym create the benefits they want: more energy, fat loss, improved mood, increased confidence, better sleep, etc. Stated differently, “sell the smile, not the braces.”

Create a training gym with a laser focus on what your clients actually value.

*********

Listen, there’s a particular kind of super-nerd client who really DOES care about hip asymmetries and is fascinated by undulating periodization. After all, if training nerdery has been your passion, it’s only normal that your longest tenured clients have learned to love it through your eyes. And this is admirable.

Just be careful that this kind of client doesn’t feed your confirmation bias as you operate your gym.

The majority of general population fitness clients are not looking for an anatomy lecture. Nor do they care about the minutiae of energy systems.

And this isn’t an either/ or proposition. You can still be excellent at your craft. You just need to deliver your service in a way that reflects your clients’ desires.

So if you want to grow a successful training gym…

Build connected relationships, deliver a compelling experience, and emphasize client-centered benefits.

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