After guiding thousands of fitness business owners in building their dream businesses we have identified 5 key stages. These 5 key stages of the fitness business owner’s journey are stages that every owner goes through. We have clarified the biggest challenges and the solutions to those challenges. Once you have read the article take our Needs Assessment™ to immediately identify which stage you’re in. Then follow the step-by-step plan offered by the assessment. If you follow our process you can avoid burnout and reach your goals quicker than doing it alone. Now let’s jump into the 5 stages of the fitness business owner’s journey.
Stage 1: Sell, Sell, Sell!
If you are in this stage you are most likely new to the fitness industry or at least new to running a fitness business. You’ve been honing your skills and you know you have an amazing service to offer. You may still be struggling to get your name out there and grow a consistent clientele. Maybe you’re renting a space or working for a gym. Your aspirations are big but it’s becoming clear that making money isn’t as easy as you hoped. Especially with the ever-changing conditions in the industry. Your main priority right now is simply making enough money to keep yourself going.
You need clients and you know you can help them if they just gave you a chance. The problem is you don’t know how to find them. You wonder who or what to listen to and if maybe this was just a bad idea after all. You’re doing a lot of work each day but too many sales conversations end with the phrases “I just can’t afford it right now.” or “I have to think about it.”
The key to mastering the first stage is getting comfortable with selling your service. A solid lead follow-up and sales process will go a long way. But working through your limiting beliefs concerning sales is crucial. Look for opportunities to sharpen your skills, not only as a fitness professional, but as a business owner offering an important service. Soon it will be more natural for you to think about how you’re solving a problem for someone, rather than feeling guilty about asking for money. This first stage is about refining your business. You need to develop and utilize a consistent weekly operating routine to ensure the work you put in is focused and effective. The only thing standing between you and building your business to the next stage is doing the work.
Stage 2: Marketing Machine
If you’re in this stage you’ve been training or coaching long enough to have a handful of clients who love what you do. If you’re renting a space, traveling to clients’ homes, or working for a gym, you’re probably thinking about going out on your own. By now you should be gaining confidence in your sales process. You’re likely far from your target income, and you know to get there you need to develop more business skills. At times, you felt like you were gaining traction, but it hasn’t been consistent and you’re not sure what to do or how to think about it. You do know one thing: if this is going to be a long-term career you need more clients.
You just aren’t getting enough clients. You close sales conversations more consistently when you have the chance, but you need more opportunities. That means more leads. The things you do that may have worked in the past still work sometimes, but it’s unpredictable. You may not feel like you’re confident with your pricing. You may not be charging enough but you’re still afraid to raise your rates because you might scare people away. That means you’re training anyone who will pay you and at times you’re even giving people discounts. The problem is, you’re not thrilled to work with all of them. You’re too stressed out, busy, and confused to market to the clients that you really want.
It’s time to level up your approach to business and marketing. Effective marketing requires you clearly define your ideal client, your core offer, and what makes you unique in the market. This establishes your message, attracts the right prospects, and allows you to be more organized with your follow-up and time management. It’s only now that you’ll have the time and perspective to take a long-term view of your business and be able to set meaningful quarterly and annual goals. These goals will give you the much-needed direction that will help you decide which weekly, daily, and monthly tasks are essential.
Stage 3: System Wise
If you’re in stage 3 then you’ve faced significant challenges along the way and you’re finally getting the hang of this business thing. Congratulations! You have a consistent flow of leads, your schedule is full, and you may have started hiring a team. Training clients has become relatively easy but it’s time to start focusing on the bigger picture. Growth is on your mind and you have a lot of questions. Financially, things are pretty good, but changes still need to be made so you don’t keep doing most of the work yourself. This means making your operations more efficient and figuring out how others can take some of your responsibilities.
You’re finally making a decent income and the stress of not being able to make it has subsided. But now you have a new challenge: time. There’s just not enough of it. You’ve been going hard for a long while now and it feels like burn out is on the horizon. Training certain clients feels like a chore. Everyone is leaning on you for motivation and problem-solving, and you’re not quite sure who you can lean on for your own needs. You have no idea how you’ll find time to teach anyone to do the job you needed to do yesterday. You need a vacation. But you’re spending all of your time trying to run and grow your business.
It’s time to take control. This will require one of the largest shifts of your journey so far. From being a trainer to a fitness business owner. It won’t be easy, but developing a management skill set will fundamentally change the way you solve problems. You can’t do everything yourself anymore and you have to learn to get results through others. You’ll do that by creating systems, developing staff, training them the right way, and holding them accountable. You’ve spent most of your personal growth time learning about personal training techniques and philosophies. Now it’s time to learn about leadership, financial management, team-building, and other important business skills.
Stage 4: Manager-Leader
If you’re in stage 4 then you’ve survived your first employee hires and things are running smoothly with your business and team. You’re spending just the right amount of time on the training floor, and your business metrics look good. Now that you’re drawing a nice income you might toy with the idea of a second location. You think you almost have it figured out but there’s a nagging concern that you’re missing something.
The old fear of being able to pay your bills may be gone but bigger questions have come up. You realize there aren’t too many fitness businesses that make it to this level, so there are few that can offer any advice. It used to be easy to take risks because you didn’t have much to lose, but now people are counting on you and you’re struggling to balance your enthusiasm with a more calculated approach. It’s hard to give up day-to-day activities in the gym and your relationships with members are changing. From here forwarding your progress is dependent upon your development as a leader.
As you progress, improved self-awareness will become a critical component of your success. You’ll have to see the value in being the orchestrator of your business instead of being the main service provider. You’ll spend most of your time hiring and coaching employees, making strategic decisions for the business, and investing in long-term solutions. This is going to be challenging because you’ll have to give up some duties you enjoy and let others handle them, knowing they’ll need time and training to perform as well as you. You’ll be tempted to jump in and micromanage but you must resist or risk undermining your team. Toughest of all, you’ll have to keep your ego in check and remain open to learning from others, despite the success that you’ve got this far.
Stage 5: Entrepreneur
If you’ve got to stage 5 then you’ve achieved a very successful fitness business. You have multiple employees that know and own their respective positions. A manager that reports directly to you and potentially multiple locations that are doing well financially. You have adapted to your ever-changing role as a leader or head strategist. Your daily autonomy allows you to focus on new business opportunities while still maintaining a good work-life balance. You feel like you have it all, but you know your tendencies and that you need continuous new goals to stay engaged.
Most challenges at this stage tend to be internal ones. You’ll find yourself with fewer problems to solve and may even break processes that are working well just to have something to fix. You’ll likely struggle with the fact that your business doesn’t need you to operate most of the time now. You may start to think about checking out completely but doing so could be detrimental to the business. You’ll be faced with the challenge of holding your team accountable while fostering an environment of autonomy. And there’s a question on your mind that you’re scared to say aloud: “What’s next?”
Your responsibilities now lie in preparing for the future. You’ve got to keep the “vision muscles” strong and work to prepare your management team for what the future may hold. Your team will be the linchpin and you’ll need to stay focused on growing their capacities and abilities. This will consist of ongoing conversations, feedback, and coaching that will facilitate critical thinking skills. You’ll need to spend time preparing future plans for your work. Such as an exit strategy or plans for new businesses in adjacent industries. To do this you will guard your time wisely and choose to invest in various forms of personal development.
The Needs Assessment™ for your Fitness Business
Overworked? Want to build a thriving Gym? If you don’t know what to do next this assessment will give you the direction that you need for your business. Instantly receive a specialized snapshot of where you are in the Fitness Business Owner’s Journey. In two minutes you’ll know your next big step!
Click here to take our Free Needs Assessment™.