[ July 8, 2020 by Kelly Berry 0 Comments ]

5 Stages of the Fitness Business Owner’s Journey

(Last Updated On: August 17, 2021)


Do you ever find yourself wondering what’s next in your journey as a fitness business owner?  Have you ever wondered if there’s a somewhat predictable success path?  Maybe a set of challenges that every fitness business owner is going to face along the way?  That they’d have to pass some test or acquire some skill before moving forward?


As a fitness pro, I’m sure you’re familiar with how to develop training plans for clients. First you conduct an assessment. Then you ask about their current situation and goals. And finally you develop a map to guide them to success. You already know the ‘success path’ for them. 


But are you doing the same for your business?


Let’s all be honest here: One of the scariest parts of being a business owner is the unknown.  There’s nothing guaranteed when you make the courageous, oftentimes scary leap into running your own business.  


Do you ever find yourself wondering what’s next in your journey as a fitness business owner?

What should I be focused on right now?  What’s coming next? 

What should my business look like? 

Am I doing what I should be doing as a leader right now?  Is that what will get me to the next stage of my business?


Just like your clients, you need a success path to help you get where you want to go.


And you’ll be relieved to know that there actually IS a success path for you as a gym owner. 


We’ve simplified that path down to 5 Stages that one would go through over the course of their Journey as a Fitness Business Owner.


There are a set of skills that everyone has to acquire along the way. There’s a learning path toward mastery, just like other professions. Each time you acquire the skill, you’re leveling up. Some gym owners choose to wait until they face a challenge and then try to figure out how to solve it on their own. Other gym owners choose to look for guidance from those who recognize the path and can help them ‘peek around the corner’ and see those things ahead of time.


There’s a remarkable difference in the speed at which those two groups move.


Our job at Fitness Revolution is to be that source of guidance. We help you learn where you are with your business now, where you want to take it, and what an individualized journey to success will look like for you.


Stage 1: Sell, Sell, Sell

Your main goal here is to get clients.  You have to develop sales skills and use a sales process that will get you predictable results.  You might be limited by self-beliefs like “selling is bad” or “I’m not cut out for this.”, and that has to be worked through as well.


The pandemic has only magnified the importance.  There are some new variables to address in selling, and overall it’s been tougher.  Those who were truly polishing their sales skills and process before the pandemic have adapted and thrived.  Those who didn’t have skills or a process, or those who were trying to sell by reading scripts – have not. And in either case, having a plan for consistent and personal follow up with prospects is critical.


Success here comes when you have happy clients making referrals, and your consistent sales efforts are delivering consistent, although slow, growth.


Stage 2: Marketing Machine

After you’ve learned how to consistently close sales, it’s time to hone your marketing skills and processes so you’re generating leads and have control over your lead flow.  When you can control your lead flow and predictably close sales, you can really start to move the needle.


You’ll need to hone in on your target market, build out your marketing funnel and learn how to create a plan that gets you in front of the right people.


You’ll get ‘wins’ faster than you have in the past, and it will feel great.  It’s going to challenge your discipline with time management and finances.  The more sales you make, the more clients you have, the less time you have to market and sell.  And before this you had a pretty reliable cash management system – spend everything that came in because it was only enough to pay the bills, if that.  Now you might have something left over, so you’ll need some new spending guideposts.


The pandemic has affected marketing a lot like it has sales.  The principles are still the same, but what your target market values or prioritizes may be different than it was in the past.  You’ve got to figure that out, just like you figured it out before.  And then you’ve got to figure out how to speak to it, just like you figured out how to speak to it before.  You can do that through transparency.  Know what’s on your prospect’s mind (ie safety), and make it clear in your marketing what you’re doing to address that.


You’ll know you’re getting it dialed back in when you feel like you and your market have gotten re-acquainted.  Your sense for their values, state-of-mind, and how to speak to them feels more ‘on’.   You’ll also start to recognize when you are managing your time and finances instead of reacting to them.


Stage 3: Systems-Wise

Here’s how you know you’re in Stage 3: It seems like every time you do something well (like running a great marketing campaign or going on a sales heater), you feel like you’re immediately penalized.  It’s like all of your ‘wins’ turn into something else that’s going to land on your already-too-full plate.


You’re wondering about making the best use of your time, and you want a break. You might feel lonely because you’re spending so much time on work, and you still feel like there are never enough hours in a day.


You’re also probably asking “What are all of the systems I need?”  And that’s a smart question.  Our Fitness Business Alignment System™ has 23 Core Systems.


The pandemic has probably affected client #s, revenue, and staffing, but the benefit of getting systems in place hasn’t changed.  This might be an opportunity for you to simplify, update, or put new systems in place.  If that’s your plan, try to do it with an eye on the future.  Make these ‘fixes’ do more than just solve a current issue.  Ask yourself if it will still solve the issue if you’re hitting the goals you’ve set for yourself a year from now.


This stage is the most likely to feel like a bullet-pointed list, but make no mistake, your understanding of systems, what they are, what they aren’t, how and when they should be used – that’s what you have to develop here in order to keep progressing.


The biggest misconception here is thinking someone can hand you a list of lists, or you can put together a handbook, and you get to check the box and move on.  Make sure you learn what you’re doing.  It’s going to pay off immediately and indefinitely.


Stage 4: Manager-Leader

This is when you really develop as a manager and a leader – growing from being THE producer to being responsible for producing results through others.


This is an entirely different flavor from the challenges before.  You might find it hard to give up the day-to-day tasks or to have confidence in the time you spend managing. Success comes when you have an accountable team, more freedom, and time to spend on personal development.


There’s a good chance you’ve built up a small team to get to this point and they are responsible for driving certain areas of your business.  Kudos!


Communication with your staff should have evolved during the pandemic, and may still be evolving. They may be apprehensive, too, so don’t forget that. Be overly clear with them about what you’re thinking and what to tell your clients. And get their input.  They’re in too, so their perspective and comfort level is important.


If the pandemic has caused staff turnover (and it probably has), you’ll still need to rely on a solid hiring process, developing, and managing new staff to fill their shoes.  You’ve done it before, you can do it again.


Remember that being a leader and developing staff is a continuum, not a destination.  It’s never going to end, so always be thinking about how to move it forward.


Stage 5: Entrepreneur

Pre-pandemic: Believe it or not, the biggest challenge here is often boredom. You might feel like you’re not “breaking” new things in the business, and that your employees don’t even need you anymore. But now you have the time and money to develop your team and business further, or maybe even focus on new opportunities and an exit strategy.


Safe to say that was not written with a pandemic in mind…..  anyway…


Chances are that you’ve had to be more active in the day to day of the business than you were before.  You’ve probably had to put some of your pre-pandemic priorities on hold while doing so. That may cause you to feel like you’re not really a Stage 5 anymore.  That’s not how you should look at it though.  The label doesn’t matter, the stage number doesn’t matter.  What matters is what you’ve learned along the way to getting where you are or were.  Those skills and competencies are what’s going to get you back there.  It’s just a matter of time.


You didn’t lose your ‘stage status’.  You’re just going to have to replay some of the challenges that you’ve already solved.


You need to be the best leader, mentor, and support system for your leadership team that you’ve ever been.   And they probably need more than that.  Find additional support resources so they can continue to develop beyond just what you can teach them.


What do I do with this info?

The benefit to you of having this information is it expands your awareness of your current situation and potential future.  We always say ‘You don’t know what you don’t know.’ and that applies to everyone.  The question is, do you want to find out what you don’t know, or do you want to hide from it?  And yes, some people prefer to hide.  I think most people would admit that the unknown can be scary.  


But for some, it’s even more scary to let it remain unknown.  For them it’s better to pursue it, to explore and dig and find out more about what likely lies ahead for them.  Then they can better prepare to create the path that they want.


If you’re in that group, you need to know what Stage you are currently in.  Take our Rapid Assessment and you’ll get a full report immediately.  It’s 10 questions and should take you less than a minute.  I’ll go so far as to guarantee that you’ll learn something.

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