Time is your most valuable resource. That’s true whether you work 80-hour weeks or 8-hour weeks.
An anonymous survey of 507 personal trainers by REPs (Register of Exercise Professionals - UK) found that 70% of respondents said that attracting enough clients was their biggest challenge.
Often this isn’t a case of too few clients. It’s more about the inability to find the time for business development, or to fit enough clients into a day.
To make the most of your business, you’ve got to work smart. I bet you probably heard this before, but for a good reason.
The best way to start is to assess all the tasks you do and divide your time into three main activities:
Look at your business in 3 phases: start up, growth and max. The below charts illustrate how smart management can impact your business.
Time spent on management hurts you twice. It hurts you once because you’ve got to do it – it’s unavoidably dull. It hurts you again because if you’re doing it, you’re not delivering sessions or generating sales. Every minute you spend on management is time not being spent generating business or delivery. That’s a big opportunity cost.
In the max phase, Business 1 is spending 40% of its resources on business management: see how the pink bar climbs as session delivery increases. They’ve still got to sell and that leaves just 50% of its time on delivery: they’ve hit a resource cap.
Business 2 starts from the same base of spending 20% of its time on management but, because they’ve got their systems under control, the management burden only increases marginally which allows it to devote 70% of its time to delivery.
At maximum output, for every £100 Business 1 makes, Business 2 brings in £140.
The road to smart working isn’t sexy. It's about putting in place scalable, automated processes for business management that will require a higher initial investment in time, in budget or both. However eventually the system can be maintained without increasing the numbers of hours you spend on it. Hours you can use to do what you enjoy most, training your clients.
There are 4 essential elements that make up the workload for business management.
If your customers need to contact you with a question, 95% of the time it’s because you aren’t providing them with the right information.
5 minutes on the phone to respond might not seem much but if that happens 12 times every week you’ve just lost over 6 days a year.
A couple of hours of work on your website and social media pages by adding all of the information your visitors need to know will save you and your prospects a heap of time. When you get asked a general question about your services, add the answer to the pool because chances are that someone else will ask it in the future too.
With all the obvious information, add an FAQ section or a video explainer to the Services page of your website. These can include who can benefit from these services, what fitness level is required, what type of workouts are involved and how they are delivered, etc. Keep it clear, accurate and organised and don’t assume knowledge.
Also make it easy for them to get in touch or if they are ready to sign up for their trial or entry package, direct them through the process with clear instructions.
2. New Clients
New clients often want to know what your classes or sessions involve, what type of atmosphere to expect and, if they’ve not met you before they will want to get a feel for your style.
Imagine talking to your newest recruits on the phone for half an hour just to answer all their newbie questions, or emailing back and forth for hours. 2 new clients a week, half an hour on the phone each means 52 hours a year. Why not spend some time to put together a Welcome or On-boarding pack to all new recruits, whether they are joining a free trial or a paid program?
Related: Client Welcome Pack
This can include an email, a PDF, a handout or a video induction depending on your business model and delivery. Whether you are an in-person or an online trainer, being able to send your new recruits all the info they need to know will create a great impression for the client and will save time for you on the long run.
Setting up a system that delivers this package will be crucial so you can automate the process and direct people to it in seconds. You can add them to a dedicated page of your website, send them via email or add them to the files of your closed Facebook group.
Content you share here can be a combination or all of the following: a video of a killer session, an introduction where you talk about yourself, your philosophy and your style. It's also worth explaining how they can book their sessions without picking up the phone.
Handling bookings by phone, Whatsapp or Facebook is doable but it’s a time killer and, frankly it’s an inefficient allocation of human resources if you have more than a handful of clients.
Even if a booking goes perfectly smoothly where you read the message, add the booking to your list then reply to the message without having to discuss other scheduling options, it’s going to take you minutes to deal with.
If you take 20 bookings a week that takes you 2 minutes each to process, over a year that’s 35 hours and that’s just the booking.
Think about reminders, cancellations, no-shows and for any group exercise, scale-up the bookings and add the time you’ll spend checking your customers in to the class. Just 10 minutes of additional daily session admin adds up to over a week of your time in a year.
Bottom line: Once you hit a minimum number of clients and want to grow your fitness business further, employing a booking system will pay for itself very quickly.
There’s nothing wrong with taking payments by cash, cheque or bank transfer. Many fitness businesses still do it.
But there is a cost to this: once you have over a dozen clients it’s simply not efficient. You will have to arrive at your session earlier and probably leave later if you take payments on the spot, making sure you log who paid so you can track it when you do your cash dash. Cash and cheques mean a trip to the bank plus additional accounting demands.
There’s clear evidence that clients are more likely to cancel a session that they haven’t paid for in advance. Cancellations cost time and money so adding advance payments as extra commitment serves you and your clients well.
Add up those cancellations, think about the customers you’ve turned away because you were booked that you now have to chase – how long does that take you to fill the spot?
Taking online payments is very easy and systems that include that feature don't need to cost a fortune either. The good news is that as the online fitness industry grows, the number of available software that come with online booking and payment features are on the rise.
There’s now a good choice of systems on the market and you don’t need to choose one that takes a cut of your revenue if you don't want to. Your ideal booking system should be user friendly, mobile optimised and saving you time and money. If it’s not, you’re using the wrong system. Shop around.
If you’re working hard running a fitness business make sure you’re working smart.
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