Pat Rigsby is the co-owner of several businesses in the fitness industry, including the Fitness Consulting Group. He also serves as an industry consultant focusing on the development of profitable personal training departments. To learn how you can improve your club’s retention, referrals and profitability, sign up for his free newsletter at www.fitnessconsultinggroup.com. Pat can be reached at pat@fitnessconsultingroup.com.

Most health club owners who I consult with are meticulous about tracking their new-member sales and many of their other sales-related numbers. Unfortunately, this level of diligence doesn’t usually carry over to the way they run their personal training departments. This lack of enthusiasm for developing their club’s personal training department not only makes for unimpressive personal training revenues, but it also diminishes their club’s retention rate and number of member referrals. With this in mind, I’ve decided to let you in on several strategies that you can start using to start running your training department like a business and maximize its impact on your club’s bottom line.

Systems, systems, systems. The first step to running your training department like a business is the implementation of systems. At minimum, you should have the following systems as part of your personal training department:

  • Lead-generation system
  • Sales system
  • Training service and assessment system
  • Retention and referral system
  • Staff hiring and development system

Personal training memberships instead of training packages. My guess is that you don’t sell gym memberships by the visit, so don’t sell personal training that way, either. By shifting the way that you sell training from “by the session” or “by the 12- or 24-pack” to an EFT-based system that allows you to sell anywhere from 1 to 20 sessions per month, you’ll immediately start viewing the value of your personal training department differently. With this approach, each training membership can add at least as much to your monthly receivables as a club membership—and usually several multiples of that.

Better pay and a career path. If you’re paying rock-bottom wages to your trainers and running through a new PT staff every few months, you’re likely on a crash course with diminishing profits. Personal trainers have seen that there are opportunities to make a nice income by providing solutions to people who want to lose weight, improve health and enjoy a better quality of life. Personal trainers no longer limit themselves to dead-end jobs at clubs that don’t treat them well. In fact, just recently, two colleagues and I launched a coaching program for entrepreneurial-minded personal trainers and sold it out in only a matter of days. You can create a compensation package that includes a fair per-session rate coupled with a variety of other performance-related bonuses and commissions. The package should satisfy the assertive trainers who you want to keep on board and provide a career path that allows them to increase their income and responsibility by meeting certain benchmarks. This allows you to keep the trainers that help your business and keep the members that those trainers impact.

Expect and inspect. If you want to see your training department improve by leaps and bounds, set goals and hold your staff accountable to meeting those goals. Set targets for new clients, renewals, sessions delivered and department production, as well as individual goals. Then, track how your staff is producing relative to those goals, just like you would your sales staff. This attention and subtle pressure will keep your training staff producing and allow you to provide staff training to address any areas where they might be falling short of their targeted performance.

With the ever-increasing competition for new members, your training department can be the difference between struggle and success. Use these strategies, as well as others that have served you well on the club-side of your business, and start reaping the rewards that a well-run personal training department has to offer.