Thomas Plummer

The business of fitness


The 17 Immutable Laws of Coaching

#1: Never fail to charge what you are worth

You cannot be the cheapest coach in town and then expect to be perceived as the best.

Successful coaches learn to charge what their talent, education and experience is worth to the client. Many new coaches believe charging less than their competitors gives them an edge in the market, thinking that if they charge less now than the other coaches, they will take everyone else’s clients, because they will be viewed as cheaper and; therefore, a better deal.

This strategy fails every single time. The client simply doesn’t believe the cheapest of anything can be the best of anything. Our clients make their decision to choose a coach on whether he or she believes the coach can get the results they desire. In this client’s world, price is secondary, behind the anticipated ability to get the results the client pays for over time, but price is also a perception of quality and if you are a money person, which our clients usually are, the more you charge the better you are valued.

Simply put, if one trainer is $50 per hour and the other trainer is $100, then which one is going to be the best trainer to choose in the eyes of most of our clients? These clients believe the expensive trainer is usually the best trainer. The higher priced coach must have the experience and education to charge this amount and he or she must also have had enough clients to validate that someone else pays this amount.

One of the biggest mistakes a coach makes is undercharging for what they do and who they are. Your price sets an expectation of quality and the cheapest is never the best.

#2: Never tie yourself to a single methodology

Single methodology coaches fail over time. Single methodology people are much like a carpenter that is really good using his special hammer and then he believes that his magic hammer is the only tool he would ever need to build a house. This would be a great theory until you need a drill or saw and then the one tool wonder falls apart.

Single methodology coaches suffer the same fate. We become married to a tool, such as a kettle bell, barbell, yoga mat, suspension trainer, or go so far as to build an entire gym around a single methodology system, and we then try and force every client into our single tool approach, or put another way, I am a hammer and you are going to be a nail rather you like it or not.

Master coaches move beyond tools and think more as an architect who is working with a master builder to create a beautiful house. The architect can design an expected outcome, and the master builder, with all his vast array of tools, can build it efficiently. The master coach has to play both of these roles to get the most out of any client. He must see what can be created, but he also must have all the tools in the bag to be able to get it done, because every client is different and every client might need his own unique application of tools to get it done over time.

Single methodology people limit their businesses to the one client who can benefit from that exact process. Master coaches spend careers mastering many different tools so he or she might always have the right tool for the right client at the right time.

#3: If it hurts you, why do you think it won’t hurt them?

If you are hurt and beat up from your own workouts, then what are you doing to your own clients? There is nothing more pathetic than a coach who is constantly in pain and beaten up from his own workouts applying this same brilliant approach to his clients.

Many young coaches believe that constantly being dinged, in that six Advil a day pain range and held together with tape is a status thing: “Yeah, been pushing it hard lately and going for another PR this week,” is nothing to brag about to any other human, but rather a negative statement on your IQ and mental stability.

If your approach to fitness is keeping you constantly fighting pain, then what do you think you are doing to your clients, who believe every word you utter, but who have so much less base conditioning, technique and experience?

Maybe you are the problem, not the solution you believe yourself to be? Maybe your technique, choice of exercises, willing to push through pain and overall willingness to destroy your body in the name of fitness is just a wrong approach that is killing you and hurting the very people who trusted you with their fitness?

#4: Never lose your integrity

It takes a lifetime to create an image of integrity, but only a few brief moments to kill it.

Integrity is who you believe yourself to be in life. You create your own code, based upon your personal values, and then live by that code. Coaches need to be honest to the extent of obsession; respectful of others, including yourself, your family and especially those who pay you for your help and guidance; are willing to help when others can’t or won’t, and especially willing to never do anything to a client for the mere sake of trying to make a little money off of him selling him something he doesn’t need and he only bought because you told him to buy it.

You can never be a master coach without integrity nor can you ever be a good human being without integrity. Integrity is nothing more than a bond of trust stating you will do what you promised and that the other person will not get hurt in the process. This applies to clients of course, but also to your life in general. Do what you say you will do, when you promise to do it, and make sure you do no harm in the process and you are on your way to discovering the integrity within your soul.

#5: Professionalism is the separator between the good and the great

Everything matters. How you dress, how you speak, what time you show up, how prepared you are for a client, how you follow up, how you do not ever talk about other clients, how you shake hands, how you charge, how you protect yourself by never making a deal with any client that you wouldn’t give every client and how you value your team are just a few small parts of what it takes to be a true professional.

There is usually an aura around those you respect over time, those of whom you want to learn from and emulate in life. The aura you sense is a shield of professionalism that is never compromised or let down. If you are a professional coach, then you live it every day.

Being the best dressed coach in the room, the best spoken, the most prepared and the one who is simply the most put together compared against every other coach is a huge edge as you build your career over time. You can be the most educated person in the room and neglected, or you can be the one who is educated wrapped in professionalism and be a guru to others in your field.

#6: I would rather go broke and die on the street than scam a client

There is always a time in every career of every coach when you will consider, even if it is only for a few seconds, taking advantage of a client. You could be broke, desperate for money or simply the guy who spends more than you make and then you consider looking for the easy money.

You tell yourself, “Hey, just once, and besides, this client has so much money who will care?” Then once you have talked yourself out of your integrity, you now are trying to do some outrageous cash deal with a client to pay your rent, or worse, you enter the world of multiple level marketing and you are now advocating products to the clients that they don’t need, and you may not even really believe in, because you can see yourself making some easy money.

When you cross that line, it is almost impossible to come back to the light. Once integrity is sold, there is almost no way to buy it back. If you want to make a living as a professional coach for the rest of your life, then swear to yourself that you would rather go broke and die on the street than ever scam a client.

#7: You are not a role model, you are a professional coach

Your physical perfection is not why the client comes, and is definitely not why the client might stay with you over time. The client trusted you, because he or she believed that you were the one, and the only one, that could get the results they were willing to pay for over time.

Wait, you say, the client trusted me in the beginning, because he thought all of my almost naked selfies and videos lifting heavy stuff with my exertion/sex face action proved that I am a stud/studette and the client just knew that if I can get myself into this kind of shape, just think what I can do for them?

If you ever said this to yourself, and you actually believe your own bullshit here, then you are too stupid to be a professional coach and should move back to your mother’s basement and go back to being the biggest stud that ever worked for Starbucks, because this is not why 99% of clients you will ever meet chose you.

Professional coaches are chosen because they have the skill set, reputation and experience to get results. Any drunken monkey with a one-day certification can take 20 people through a workout and only kill two or three, but it takes a professional coach with years of experience to be able to get the maximum results, from the maximum number of clients, over time.

Getting this done is not about how you look, but what you know. Despite the misguided belief that every coach has to be a specimen suited for framing at your local art gallery, coaches come in all shapes and sizes, and yes, many of these fine coaches are considered works in progress chasing their own fitness goals and wrestling with their own fitness demons.

Consider that all of your ego induced social media posts might actually be the very things that are keeping serious adult clients out of your gym. Also consider that your need to be in every ad without a shirt, every video in a workout bra and every group shot flexed up might be more of a personal issue you need to deal with rather than ways to help you create a financially successful training business.

And it won’t last. You will not be perfect for ever, but if you base your business on a perfect day on your 30th birthday, then what do you do for a living when you are 40 and not so perfect? Being a perfect specimen doesn’t last, but being a professional coach can feed you until you die.

Replace you in all of your social media with clients that have succeeded because of your caring and helpful guidance. Your potential clients care much more about how you can help them meet their goals than they would ever do about how you look without a shirt.

#8: It is never about you; it is always about them

We push clients too hard, and for too long, because we apply our own personal standard of fitness to them. Your goals and vision for the client maybe the exact thing that will drive him out of your gym, and maybe hurt him as well.

It is not about you and what you want, professional coaching is about them and what they need to be successful. Your client might just want to move and feel better and not give a damn about his weight, although you know that is what is hurting him. You can guide and suggest, but when you push you lose him forever. He is moving, he is happy dropping in once or twice a week and that is enough for him.

The side note here is that purists drive your clients, and probably your family too, crazy. Nothing worse in life than a Paleo freak at a holiday dinner yelling at poor Aunt Edna because she just stuffed a giant biscuit covered in butter in her mouth and washed it down with a beer.

Living pure is your choice. Expecting your clients to live up to your idea of a perfect fitness life is not going to work very well in the business world. Yes, there will always be a posse that will follow you because of your intensity and purism, especially for those coaches who own those single methodology businesses, but will 25 hardcore clients be enough to support your career over time?

Understand that your clients have different goals, lives, time commitments and that while you could create the perfect fitness life for them if they would only listen, most just want to venture down the fitness path of life slowly, maybe stop and drink a beer along the way, occasionally stop for a biscuit and just don’t have the same deep believe that you do… and all of that is okay because at least they are with you and moving forward and that is enough.

#9: One-dimensional coaches fail over time

Coaching isn’t enough. If you want to be successful over time you have to force yourself to be good at all aspects of professional coaching. For example:

  • Have you mastered marketing and branding?
  • Can you handle your own social media and then teach someone else how to do it for you?
  • Do you understand money? Do you save and invest? Can you run the financial side of a growing business?
  • Do you understand staffing and can you hire and create a team to grow your business?
  • Have you learned to speak and can present your ideas in public or speak in front of groups to grow your business?
  • Have you ever had anyone look at your professional image and help package you as a professional?
  • Have you learned about negotiating professional contracts that might affect the jobs you may have in the future?
  • Have you learned to network and surround yourself with a team that can help you and your career grow over time?

Being a professional coach isn’t just about learning to train someone. Being a professional coach is about becoming a well-rounded person able to create and manage a career that could span your entire life. Multi-dimensional is your plan if you want to hang around for more than a few years.

#10: You can help more people with a million dollars in the bank than a $12.92

It is never about the money, until it is. Easy to say I am not in it for the money and be that reverse snob as a coach where your poverty is a badge of honor; but then a kid gets sick, you get married and look for a house or your parents age and need some help, and then it is about the money and the so little you have ever earned or saved.

Money only has one purpose and that is freedom. Money lets you work where you want to work, leave when you don’t want to be there any longer, live where you are happy, help people who need your help and in other words, let’s you live your life on your own terms without being held hostage by anyone else who controls your cash flow.

Chasing money is not important, but the process of chasing money is in your life. The difference is you will build a more successful career, a more financially successful business and enjoy a sense of freedom and peace so many coaches never find who live check-to-check in life, if you make creating money part of your life’s work.

We create money to take care of our families. We create money to allow us to say no to stupidity that makes us unhappy. Most importantly, making money validates your talent in many ways, because making money proves you were right, you are a professional coach and people are willing to pay you for your help and guidance.

You can be happy and poor and you can be a simple monk and change the world, but for most of us who desire to live as a professional coach, you will find you can help a lot more people in life with a few dollars in the bank than you ever could being broke and barely surviving to each payday.

There will also be a day where you might not be able to do what you do any longer. You might become injured, burned out, or simply have had enough and want to move on in life. Money is your way out. Money is your way to turn 50 and say, “I have had enough of this and just want to go back to college and maybe teach for a few years.”

The hardest conversation in the consulting life is telling a guy who is 57 years old that the $2000 he has saved in life isn’t enough and that he will have to work every day until he dies to just stay alive and pay his bills. Remember, money isn’t made as a status and the biggest houses, newest cars, and most gadgets isn’t what you are chasing; you are pursuing the freedom that only comes from having enough money in life to live life on whatever terms you desire.

#11: You did not get to be you without a hand up from somebody

You are you because somewhere, at some time in your life, somebody gave you a hand up. There are no self-made people, only those who have forgotten where they came from and who helped them in life.

Remember who helped you and say thanks and make sure you help others who are further down the ladder than you are. You are who you are because someone cared… and now it is your turn.

#12: Hire a coach to coach you/break out of your comfort zone

You have been training for 20 years and think you know it all? Hire a coach you respect and have him or her train you for a week. You need to force yourself out of your own comfort zone, but most importantly, you need to be reminded there are other ways to get results and what you know is not what everyone else knows and maybe, just maybe, you are all right and you might learn something new.

Same thing is true for life. When you think you know it all is the day you should hire someone to ask the hard questions in life, from everything to money and family to personal goals and retirement. Often asking for help when we think we have it all figured out gets us to the point where we remember that we don’t even know all the questions anymore and fresh eyes can help us leap ahead years of just going our slow and self-dictated pace.

#13: Knowing when to say no is the sign of coaching maturity

One of the best days you will ever have as a professional coach is when you look at a client and say, “I don’t think I can help you, but I can refer you to someone who can.”

That is the day you have arrived as a professional coach, because that was the day you stopped faking it and finally stopped forcing a client into what you know and admitted there are clients that don’t fit your skill set and the best answer is, “No, I am not the guy for this job.”

Young coaches too often force every client into their box, even if the client doesn’t fit their training model, or worse, has medical concerns he shouldn’t even touch. Hey, this is what I know and if I throw you into the box I will force something to fit you somehow. This approach is sort of like a guy buying a shirt and the clerk says it looks fine, we can make it work, you look amazing, while the shirt is a 3XL and the guy wears a medium. I have the shirt for sale, and it is the only one I have, and you will buy it now.

Knowing when to walk is a sign of maturity. Knowing who to refer out to is a sign of a professional coach. You do not need to be right every time, or know how to train every client in the world, but a professional coach does need to know who can get it done if he can’t. Sometimes the best advice you can give a client is to go somewhere else.

#14: Why are you different than every other coach?

Generalists eat last; specialists own the future.

The future of coaching belongs to specialists who focus on narrower populations and then master that area. For example. You might focus on:

  • Fitness after 50
  • Women only after 40
  • Severely obese
  • Junior golfers
  • Stressed out female executives
  • Guys over 50 with fitness and hormonal issues
  • Movement analysis and correction for corporations
  • Male executives who are in the 40s and later

This is just a partial list of specializations a coach could make a living and a career mastering. There is truth in many of the old adages, such as: Find something you love and learn more about it than any other person and you will always make a lot of money.

The age of the generalist coach is fading and that one size fits all approach that worked so well 20 years ago is dead today. People want to work with coaches who understand them physically, but also mentally as well. Someone specializing in stressed out female executives would not only have to know how to train those women, but what they think, what are they going through in life at this age, their special nutritional issues, how they learn and what do they really want in life and from their fitness?

Generalists eat last for a reason these days; the specialists in coaching have driven them away from the table.

#15: You have to earn the right to be called a master coach over time

There is nothing funnier in life than a coach with two years of experience, an entry level certification, 12 clients, a one-day wonder certification that states, “You are now the man,” and who is still working for $10 an hour at a mainstream fitness chain where trainers have the status of a farting uncle in church, now declaring himself, because no one else will, a master coach.

You have to earn being a master coach. You have to pay your dues over time. You have to take the beating through the years that molds you into a coach who has seen it all and who has practiced his craft with discipline through those long years.

What does it take to be a true master coach?

  • You have to have done at least a thousand hours of sessions with every type of conceivable client per year for at least 10 years.
  • You have to have a strong entry level certification, a movement based certification and advanced nutritional certifications and training. Couple these along with a never-ending string of skill set certs, such as kettle bells, the Olympic lifts or sand bags that are added every year as new tools are introduced into the market.
  • At least 30 hours of education a year garnered through attendance at major coaching events, such as Perform Better Summits.
  • The willingness to at least once every two years admit that everything you learned up to this date might be out of date and you need to reinvent yourself one more time.

There is no certification for a master coach, but there is that moment when your peers come to you for help and guidance and then you know you have arrived at the point where what you know, and who you are, is respected by others in the industry. Until then, keep your head down and just keep working.

The driving force behind all of this of course, is the premise that if you do not grow each year, you will wither and die early in your career. Coaching is not only about making change, coaching is about accepting change and what we knew even a few years ago might be considered out of date and something the industry has moved past.

Grow or die should be your motto if you want a career as a coach that lasts and is respected by others, and if you put the years one by one, then one day you might just become the master coach the two-year wonder child already thinks he is.

#16: You will not be successful until you know what it means to be you

What do you want from your experience of being a professional coach? Ten years from now, if you are sitting in a bar and someone asks you, “So you have been a professional coach your entire life? What did mean to be you?”

You can’t ever reach the upper levels of success if you don’t know what you are trying to accomplish in your career. Ask yourself these questions:

What professional mileposts have you set for yourself?  Speak at a major conference? Own a training gym that does a million dollars a year? Get an advanced degree? Create an online training empire?

The problem isn’t that you don’t know what you are trying to accomplish, the problem is that you don’t dream big enough. Create a list of milestones that stretch out for years and dream big. Give yourself permission to chase your real dreams, not those watered-down things you share with your drunken friends over too many beers.

There are other questions that matter too when you come to the end of your career. Did you make a difference in the fitness world? Did you leave the industry a better place because you were in it? Did you help others and create a generation of young coaches on the right path because you gave a damn?

What will it have meant to have been you? No coach whoever amounted to anything couldn’t answer this question.

#17: We change lives

If you want to be a respected coach, then remember this: You exist to change lives!

Changing lives is your purpose in life. If you are a true professional, then this is why you were born; to make a difference and to change the lives around you.

If changing lives isn’t your thing, then you will have a difficult time ever reaching any upper level of coaching. All the great ones make the world around them a better place every single day they are alive. If you think everything written in these last few sentences is something found steaming in a pile under a bull, then you will not ever make it as a master level professional coach.

Changing lives is what you do. Changing lives is what professional coaching is all about in life. You are either in, or you are out, but if you aren’t driven to change the world, then it will be a very short and boring career before you leave to find work that might be important, but that will seldom have the impact on as many people as being a professional coach.

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How Marketing Works

Retro marketing built this industry, but electronic marketing will build its future. Websites, blogs, social media and almost all other forms of electronic marketing change so fast it is almost impossible to keep up. TheImage coupon sites, for example, were a rage for about a year or two and then died. Writing about how to design a coupon would have been an exercise in futility since that form of marketing came and went before the paragraph could be written.

Keeping that in mind, we are going to focus on the theories you need to master that can be applied to any form of social media or electronic marketing that might arise in your future. Understand the rules and any version of the game you play will be easier.

The most important lesson you can possibly learn about electronic marketing can be expressed in another basic rule:

Hits, looks, likes and number of views mean nothing if you can’t monetize it

It is easy to get caught up in the grand game of social media. For example, where you sit in a bar and brag about the number of likes you have on your social media site. There can be great gamesmanship involved here but these numbers mean nothing if you can’t figure out a way to turn those likes into money. The ultimate goal of all marketing is to create interest, which attracts leads, which come to the gym, who become members and who pay you money for the results you will help him get. If this sequence doesn’t end with the getting paid part, then it was inefficient marketing that proved to be a waste of your time.

Here is the entire theory of electronic marketing in one simple chart:

Create content

Develop your own community

Gain influence by having a community

Make $$$$$

Creating Content

People love to learn, be challenged, be entertained and most importantly, people like to hangout with a lot of like-minded folks interested in the same things. All electronic marketing, and especially social media, requires you to supply an endless stream of content. Posting content on almost a daily basis gets people to your sites, and getting people to your sites regularly begins to build the community, or as the powerful writer Seth Godin refers to them, your tribe.

Content doesn’t always have to stem from you. You can repost other’s writings, find a tidbit in a magazine, recommend a book or video and a thousand other things that keep people coming to your sites each and every day. If you post a short informative tip on your blog three times a week, people become trained to go to your site during a break during their day. They will follow you because you are giving them information that somehow challenges their mind or entertains them and if you do this consistently you will eventually end up with a lot of people who care about what you say and now belong to your community. There is a rule of marketing for this thought:

You have to become the source on a specific topic

You can become the weight loss expert, the sports performance for kids expert, the overall fitness expert in your small town, the body weight training guru or just about any other niche you could imagine. You become the source, or the filter, which gathers information for his tribe and then posts the stuff daily that your tribe needs to see based upon you being the master of that niche.

If you own a mainstream gym, your goal is to build a site for your business, but you as the owner should have a site where you become the local expert on everything fitness. This gets you invited to speak at local groups, quoted in the newspaper as needed as a fitness source, and eventually drives people to your business because who knows fitness in this town better than you do, and that is proven by the last 300 post you have made on your sites.

There are rules for content and here are just a few:

You can challenge thought, but you should never insult, be mean or put down someone by name. If you disagree with someone, disagree with class and style and state both sides before making the position for your point.

Never post personal stuff. This includes not posting pictures of your kids, unless it relates to your fitness mission, your dogs, your family vacation, you drunk on a beach in Mexico, you and the buds in a bar or anything that might even vaguely distract the tribe from believing you are the source.

It is hugely important to note that a decade from now everyone who will ever consider hiring you or doing business with you will immediately pop your name into a search engine and go to all the social media sites of the age. What do you want them to see, and remember that anything posted never, ever disappears from the web completely? Many younger people in the industry cry that this is unfair and their sites are their own private business. This is true, except for the fact that any person in any civilized country in the world can see whatever you post, except for anyone in China, and nothing is truly private on the web. Post often, but post with the one thought that you are trying to improve your personal brand, not kill it.

Never repost without giving credit, but always repost with a comment as to why you think this is important for your community.

Post something fresh at least six days a week.

Use pictures and videos several times a week

Remember that every post either enhances your brand, or hurts your brand. There is little in between.

Post and answer the comments as best you can each day. If the community is working, you will start to see interaction and response to what you are writing. Don’t wait a week to answer. If you post something controversial and expect comments, be there to answer and redirect the issue if needed.

Consider hiring someone to manage all of your media. This can be done for as little as a few hundred a month or as much as several thousand or more. The bigger you are, and the bigger you want to be, means you may need help posting daily and gathering the material for the posts.

The Community

The content gathers the tribe. The community gathers around someone that pushes their mental buttons and keeps them challenged. Content and community are both in fact one big circle. You feed content; the community feeds back and around it goes again. The goal is to build a significantly sized group of people that follow what you do and what you write because you are the true source in whatever niche you choose to exploit.

The size of the community will vary from site to site and from niche to niche. One person might be a failure with 30,000 likes on his social media site, while another person might be wildly successful with 500 friends on his social media. Don’t overestimate the need to build the largest community you can in your market. For example, a small training gym in a suburban area that has 500 followers on his site is doing quite well and that is enough to eventually start to turn that number into guests and memberships.

Building Influence

Once you establish your community you now have influence, but what to do with this new power? Think of influence as power to move the herd.

For example, you’re a small country and you declare war on the neighboring country. You summon your army and five drunks show up with a few shovels and a club. This is going to be a short war and it will end badly for you and your army. But let’s say you are a bigger country and you now want your loyal subjects to gather. You notice that you have 30,000 likes on your social media page and you want to sell your first e-book for $1.99 just to test the waters. Your community of 30,000 likes is far more likely to give you back sales versus the army of five. Put another way, when an army of like-minded individuals band together, whoever is leading that army has influence to make change, both monetarily and through driving change in your industry or niche.

Make $$$$$$$

You have content in place that changes daily. You have built your community of followers. Your community represents a large enough segment in your niche where you can alter thought and drive change.

You are now ready to monetize the process.

There are rules to this of course. Here are a few tips when it comes to going after the money:

Do not, and this means DO NOT, try and sell anyone anything until you have at least provided content for six months. Stated differently, build your community slowly without asking anything of them.

Once you starting asking for something, only do it once out of every 7-10 days. Don’t pound your tribe daily. Give, give, give for a week or so and then ask for that e-book sale. Give, give, give and then sell that trial membership. Build slowly and sell even more slowly.

Occasionally give something away free just for being part of the tribe. At least once a month, give everyone who follows you a free something, which is usually some short PDF tip sheet or informational piece. Create one of these a month and recycle each one the following year. You want, you want, but you need to give a little to your followers.

Here is an example of monetizing a social media site. This gym had 1,400 members at the time and had about 900 followers on its social media site. This tribe of 900 was a mix of members in the gym along with other people in the community that followed often due to the health and fitness tips that were posted daily along with the videos that showed workouts you could do at home.

The gym’s manager ran a post after about six months of gathering the tribe that said, “Post a video on this site in the next 30 minutes of you doing a burpee anywhere on the island and if you are a member of the gym you will receive 30 days of training valued at $300 for you and 30 days for your guest. Non-members, if you post you will get 30 days free to the gym, which includes a full training package for you too.”

The gym received 38 posts in 30 minutes. Out of the 38, 21 were members and the gym gave away 21 months of training and 21 guest months to the members to use with a friend. Remember the part from above where you need to reward the tribe with something free now and then. The other 17 posts were guests for a free trial month. In other words, this gym generated 38 guests in 30 minutes at no cost. Also consider that this gym uses primarily group training and another body in the groups doesn’t really cost the gym more money to service.

Another example from this gym was the use of the community, and the influence with this community, at generating revenue for the gym. The manager went to the local sporting goods store and asked the manager there if he would run a special just for the members of the gym, which is only about a half mile from the store.

The manager agreed since he had to do nothing. The sale was set for Friday from noon to three. All members of the gym would get 30 percent off shoes if they presented their membership cards. On Thursday night, the gym’s manager sent out a social media post stating: “special flash sale just for our members. Go to Freddie’s sporting goods from noon to three tomorrow and get 30 percent off any shoe in the store by just presenting your membership card.” The store sold 78 pairs of shoes. The gym’s tribe was rewarded for their loyalty and support. Most importantly, the gym’s manager could now ask $500 to run the sale again since he had proven he has the influence to drive customers to the store. Everyone wins and the community grows since friends refer friends who don’t want to be left out of these great special offers.

This formula as stated above applies to all electronic media since the basic progression is always going to be the same. Marketing electronically isn’t hard if you have a plan and if you realize that everything has to lead to the ability to capitalize on your influence at the end of the day.


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The Burnt Out Lie We Tell Ourselves

There comes a point in many careers where you get up, hit the shower and find yourself leaning face against the wall with hot water Imagerunning down your neck for an extra 10 minutes stalling to face the inevitable day at work. Unless you have a shower buddy in there with you, this is the day you need to consider quitting whatever you call work or a career because you are longer going to be any good at what you’re doing for a living. You are also wasting a day of your life, destined to be repeated, for as long as you continue to let yourself shower in misery, which eventually results in the loss of the most important asset you own…your life.

The mistake is that you should have never allowed yourself to get to that point in your life. How and when did you lose your passion for what you do for a living? If you ever had it. How did you ever let the world take it away from you? Worse, if the work you are doing isn’t important to you then why are you still doing it? Lost minutes in the shower often lead to lost years trapped doing work that is meaningless. Your life’s work defines you in so many ways, yet choosing work that forces you to find ways to avoid it drains you of your best years and most creative energy. You are not the work you do, but you often live your life by the quality of the work you choose.

Here are five questions you need to ask yourself if you are the person in the shower:

1.     Are you living your dream or someone else’s? We too often end up doing work that is part of someone else’s dream. You find a spouse, the spouse has a good job in that area and you then take a job that isn’t firing your passion, but it keeps you fed. You spend a few years doing this and your dreams vanish to be replaced with someone else’s, and if you lose that person, you now are often too late to reach back and rekindle that passion that excited you and your dreams earlier in your life.

Your first realization has to be that what you are doing is not what you were meant to do. Of course you have to make money out of whatever you do, but you can’t change lives when you are the person that needs taken care of in life. So the first question really is: whether the job you are avoiding was your choice, or did you commit to something that allows someone else to live his or her dreams while yours are lost?

2.     Are you in a job you should have never taken? You would not be the first person who spends years preparing for a career that turns out to be a bust. And there are still many more people who take what appears to be a dream job and then find that it just isn’t what it seemed to be from the outside. These people refuse to leave due to pride or embarrassment and end up equally trapped doing work that never delivered on its promise.

If you picked badly, run away now. Admit the mistake and move on now. Pack up your bags and move on now, or at least as soon as you can get other work that moves your career ahead. Remember, every job, certification or course should only have one purpose, and that is to move you closer to your dream. If isn’t doesn’t move you forward, then don’t do it.

3.     If not this, what else would you do? This is my favorite and the most common complaint. Owners or senior people rack up years doing what they wanted to do and then mentally just quit. You can almost tell the exact day it happens. The first thing you hear is, “This would be a great job if it wasn’t for those f%^&*ing clients.” Or “I can’t deal with another person in my face bitching about the same old thing.” The second indicator is that their business begins to immediately fade. The place is dirty, the paint is outdated, the staff is undertrained, if trained at all, and finding the owner actually in the business working would take Sherlock Holmes.

The question is now what will you do? If you worked this business for years, what else would you do or could you do to make the same amount of money? Walking away only means you will again become trapped in yet another business, and this time it will happen sooner. You forgot how to work and you forgot the pleasure work is supposed to give you.

This is sort of like the old married guy who is forever in love with a super model in the catalogue. He dreams of her, buys her pictures and has a secret crush on her for years, but he never learned the most important thing; your dream is someone else’s pain in the ass. The point of this is that if you don’t learn to find a way to make yourself happy in the business you own now, then running away to another business will never change that failure; it just perpetuates you being miserable somewhere else doing something else.

4.     Can you find a different way to get it done? This is really part of the question above. The burnout of an owner or senior manager is often the failure of his management style. If you do the same thing everyday for 20 years you will hate it, but who said you have to do the same thing for 20 years. There are too many owners that cling to the images of the past. “You can’t teach me anything new, I was making money doing this way 20 years ago.”

Yes, you were wildly successful 20 years ago, but how is that working for you now? Everything changes in the world. Businesses come, businesses go. Technology changes daily. The consumer changes, grows and becomes more sophisticated. The market you are in changes too with new competition we couldn’t have imagined even a few years ago. Yet there you stand, too cheap to paint the place and too lazy to sit down and reinvent your business.

Your business didn’t fail you, you failed it and it is amazing that people who are making a lot of money seldom ever complain about being burned out.

5.     What have you done to reinvent yourself in the last year? We all used to be somebody and back in the day I am sure you were the master of all you surveyed, but what have you learned today?

Part of burnt out is that our tool kits start to deteriorate. Ten years ago you were a master salesperson, but now those pressure tactics just make potential clients laugh and walk out. Fifteen years ago you used to be a master trainer, but now there are workshops that teach more in three days then you have learned in those last 15 years. You fail because you cling to glory days instead of admitting you don’t have one clue left in how to do things anymore and that the world has past your lazy ass by.

The perfect example of being trapped by former glory is the 40-year-old trainer who learned how to train during the bodybuilding craze. His solution to every training situation is the application of technology that is older than he is and isn’t every coming back, but to let go of this he would have to attend a workshop and admit that he needs to start all over again and reinvent himself.

Sometimes letting go of something is the most powerful move you can make. Remember that life is about going forward, not living back in the day when we were all young, beautiful, smart and rich, at least in our heads.

People fail to change because the perceived risk is too high so they cling to everything that fails and then here comes that perception of burnout. If what you’re doing isn’t working anymore, and you won’t change because what you might do might not work. This circular thought leads to a person freezing in place and while we might call it burnout to be nice, it is really just a nice way of saying you are going to avoid your problems until they take your business down.

If you are in the trapped, burned-out avoidance crew, sit down and spend a few hours with someone who cares and ask why? You will find that there is fine line between being a crispy piece of toast and a productive passionate person totally laser focused into making money and changing lives, and in kicking a few assess a long the way. Come on, get your ass out of the shower, it’s time to go live the dream.

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A Prayer for Those Who Care

ImageThe holidays should be a time of reflection, but we are often too busy with family, friends and work still undone to sit and think about the year and what we accomplished. This is a time to be grateful for who you are and what you do for a living. What you do looks so easy from the outside and yet is so hard from within. You are responsible not only for your own well being, but you have to take care of so many other people who look to you as a guide and coach. What you do matters, and if you do this for a living somewhere you were given some special talents to accomplish the difficult tasks each day.

People who live within the fitness world often gain a sense of spirituality that they don’t always think about or discuss with friends over the occasional glass of wine, but the perfect workout with friends could easily be viewed as a spiritual event that brings you closer to a universal truth. Fitness is motion and motion is life as life was intended to be. It doesn’t matter who or how you worship to most people, but it does matter that you are on a path that constantly leads you to seek a higher power in the universe.

The touch of spiritualty that someone living within fitness often feels comes from the ability to take what you know and do and change someone else’s life. Because of you, other people are better, and by any definition, of any religion, when you leave the world a better place due to your presence you have gained an understanding of the spiritual side of the universe.

What you choose to do for work in your life should matter to other people and what you do should make a difference in the universe. This is a prayer written for all of you that get up every day at the first light of dawn, kiss the family goodbye and then set out to help people who struggle in their lives reach goals and find happiness through simply feeling better about themselves.

 An Open Prayer to the Universe

Allow me the knowledge and the power to change lives and help those who trust me with their lives find the happiness that comes from the simple pleasure of being a healthier person

Guide me to always do the right thing with the people who seek my help and to keep my ego and personal agendas out of my teaching

Help me always remember that small steps are important and any change is valuable in someone’s life if that change is a positive step forward

Please help me remain patient and nurturing for the people who fail on their journey

Grant me the means to keep doing the right things and to be able to support and protect my family through the dedication to my dream

Please help me be a friend and guide to those around me who are also on the same path and are seeking the same goals in life

At the end of each day please grant me the knowledge that what I did made a difference and everyone I touched left a better person because of my efforts

And at the end of my days, please grant me the privilege of looking back and knowing that my life made a difference and I did not waste the talents given to me by the universe.

 Take a few days off; you earned it. Sit quietly and think about the good you did this year, the people you helped and the lives you changed. There is a new year coming and 2014 will bring many more people into your world. Your job is very simple: you exist to change lives and no one does it better than you.

“Happy Everything,” and thank you for the friendship and support over the years. ~ Thomas Plummer

 Originally Posted – 12/19/2013

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Why Crossfit Matters .. And What it has to do to Stay Relevant in the Coming Years

crossfitCrossFit changed the rules of the modern fitness business. Love them or rage against them, the training gym game changed when Greg Glassman and his team of fitness insurgents reinvented the rules.

Greg Glassman created CrossFit in 2000, although it seems it has been around for decades longer. It would be hard to calculate just how many traditional training gurus railed against the concept of CrossFit when his idea was introduced back in the day. The sad part of the story is that Glassman was lost in the debate. His contribution to the industry as a creative genius and marketer, as well as a wild free thinker about training methodology, were often overshadowed by the negativity thrown at him by those challenged by his approach and take no prisoners demeanor.

There aren’t as many impact players in the history of fitness as you might imagine. Joe Gold created not only Gold’s, but World’s Gym as well. His legacy literally reinvented everything we did for 20 years as a business. Jack LaLanne made fitness popular and something everyone could do through his television show. Arthur Jones invented Nautilus and the commercial gym never looked the same again. Neal Spruce was a pioneer in nutrition and created not only the most successful commercial nutrition applications in the industry but NASM as well. Mike Grondahl almost went broke and in an act of desperation, and brilliant marketing, he created Planet Fitness and the low-priced business concept. And even Arnold turned the need to be big into a commercial proposition that drove people to the gyms in big waves.

Some of these people aren’t well known in the industry, but all of them have changed the way we do business, think about training, and relate to the public we serve.  The common denominator in this group is that everyone on this list was viewed as extremely controversial at the time and was debated by his peers as either the answer to everyone’s problem or thought to be the anti-Christ who would bring down humanity due to his idea of what fitness should be.

Greg Glassman belongs on this list. His genius is that he created a marketing company that reinvented modern fitness as we know it. Group training existed prior to CrossFit, but he made it the centerpiece in about 9000 gyms. No one had built a community in fitness prior to his arrival and no one debunked the idea of traditional circuit training like he did. He created a cult-like player in the industry, and as those on the list above, he was admired and hated at the same time for his work.

The hardest issue for a company such as CrossFit, and Glassman, is how do you stay relevant in an industry that eats micro gyms like a CrossFitter throwing down turkey legs at a Paleo buffet?

Most trends in the fitness industry, which we call micro trends, last for about 12-15 years. These trends have a long, slow build, followed by a quick rise to the top, a hot period, and then a fast fade. Aerobics, tanning, Curves and a number of other fitness phenomenons all lived and died by the trend line. Evolution is the constant and you either let your creation evolve or you watch it die because of failure to adapt and change to meet the current needs of the market.

Aerobics had a long slow build in the 1980s, followed by a quick rise and hot period in the late 80s and early 90s, and then it was gone around 1993 only to be reborn in about 1999 as group exercise driven by kickboxing and next generation group fitness. Even now group exercise has faded again and is slowly being replaced by group training in most gyms. The star can shine brightly, but eventually it does have to burnout.

Most evolution in the fitness industry is driven from the bottom up these days. This means that the gym owners, the trainers and the people in direct contact with the buying public modify their products as the market dictates. If your life and everything in it is put into your own training business, then you are forced to adapt and modify the model or the bills simply can’t be paid. Corporate people are often left out of this direct consumer contact making it difficult to feel and react to what the consumer is feeling today and what his needs will be tomorrow.

The exception to this rule is Starbucks. Howard Shultz came back into the company he created, went out into the stores and talked to the customers and returned the company into the profit zone. He didn’t do it by living in the past and trying to recreate or hang on to the glory days; he did it by reinventing the business around the original product, which is a strong cup of good coffee. He allowed the business to move forward in time and Starbucks now even has units that serve beer and wine.

On the other hand, in my opinion, Curves failed to evolve their original circuit product and the consumer simply moved on to newer and shinier toys. Many corporate people stumble because they know their product no longer works, but they have no idea where to go next. This seems to be the case with Gold’s and 24-Hour Fitness these days. How do you let those giant companies evolve and where should they be positioned to take advantage of the future? Evolution is constant and only the strongest and the ones willing to adapt become sustainable over time.

CrossFit had the long slow build. They had the quick rise. And now they are in the middle of the hot stage. The goal of any business owner is to stay there for as long as they can without succumbing to the quick plunge into fitness history. How can CrossFit stay relevant for another 14 years?

There are three things CrossFit could do to maintain their image as a dynamic force in worldwide fitness over the next decade:

1.     Support the training methodology with a business platform. CrossFit is a marketing company that sells licenses. Eventually, many of the people so passionate about CrossFit, and who want to make a living out of their box, will fail without business direction. Why let them fail? Why not embrace the fact that the coach who operates this box has evolved and wants to make a decent living out of owning and operating his own gym? The community may have all the answers to training questions, but most don’t have the answer when it comes to building a financially successful box that is sustainable over time. There are thousands of master trainers in the CrossFit system, and their next generation coaches are often some of the best in the world, but there aren’t many master level business people in the organization yet, but that will come ultimately and the more experienced box owners will figure out how to get the education and support they need to live their dream on their own terms.

There are a small number of CrossFits that make really good money, but most don’t. A typical 6,000 square foot training box can do over a million dollars a year these days, a number that isn’t really part of the CrossFit culture yet, but easily could be. Remember, Glassman was right in the first place. Group training is a good tool, but the coaches need other ways to charge and serve their clientele over time and if corporate doesn’t lead, it will happen anyway. Evolution occurs with or without leadership and do you want to be the person creating it or the person reacting to it?

2.     Help the younger, more inexperienced trainers keep their clients safer over time. There is probably no one more passionate about fitness and training than a coach with three months of fitness experience who just came home from his first CrossFit certification. This person is on fire and wants to share the newly acquired knowledge with everyone. The problem is that new coaches who just learned complex movement patterns might need some more seasoning themselves before he or she can supervise a room full of people doing a complex exercise, such as a power clean, whenever that group is tired and getting a little sloppy.

I would not change the community approach to posting workouts. It is fun and keeps the community banded together. It would be nice to see a recommend list of workouts for newer coaches focused on the skills they have today, not the ones they will have in the future. Injuries hurt everyone in the brand, even minor ones, and it is the perception of injuries that can ruin any good training gym, whether they are true or not. Control the perception. I don’t think CrossFit is any place as dangerous as the press sometimes fixates on, but it would help to control the perception instead of letting someone else control the conversation.

3.     Offer marketing support, such as a stronger national ad campaign, for a fee, to control the national image more. In marketing, you either control your own image, or the marketplace fills in the void and makes up its own stories.  Once you become a national brand, the marketplace can take over your image if you don’t work hard to control it. You can survive being the anti-gym, but in a small marketplace, such as the world of fitness where only 17% of the people in this country belong to gyms, your image, over time, dictates your place in this market. If you don’t play, the consumer makes up his own story about you and often that is bad. Greg Glassman has a compelling story to tell. Some of his first generation writings on the concept of CrossFit are some of the best marketing and most solid ideas of fitness I have ever seen in the industry, but why not let the story evolve and keep leading from the front?

What do all of these things mean taken together? Glassman created one of the most innovative fitness companies in the history of the industry. His distractors fight over the training methodology neglecting the fact that he changed the fitness world more than most of them combined ever will.

But this brilliant idea needs finished. It is important to all of us in the business that CrossFit grows and evolves to its true potential. No matter what success CrossFit corporate has had during their first 14 years, and it has been significant, they could even be more wildly successful if the boxes ever live up to their revenue potential. Owners that make money will stay in the organization longer and pay longer. These owners will spend a lot more money on education and even more on continued certification over time. Owners that make money stay loyal to the brand. Those that struggle look for other solutions and are willing to leave the brand for any solution that keeps them in business and living that dream of doing fitness for a living.

CrossFit matters to us all. Glassman was right and should be given so much more credit for his creation than he has been recognized for in the industry. It will be interesting to see how he lets it evolve into next generation of CrossFit and how the story will end.



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It was Time for a Rewrite – Introducing How to Make More Money in the Fitness Industry


The industry has changed dramatically since my first book, Making Money in the Fitness Business was first released in 1999. Since that era, the big box mainstream gym have faded and the trainer, and the training-centric business model, has risen to dominate the field. This new revision, titled How to Make More Money in the Fitness Industry, represents our entire business system used by gyms in over 30 countries around the world.

The original book was a combination of a true labor of love and true arrogance. Everything I thought I knew was in that book and it represented to me a giant step forward from the past failures of the fitness industry toward a system where a dedicated owner could learn to make money ethically and professionally without hurting or failing the client. 

The original book sold about 100,000 copies, which surpassed all my other books combined. It is, however, time to move ahead. The book simply had to be revised to represent the market today and how business is done today. The revised book, which will be published the first week of March by Healthy Learning and Jim Petersen and his dedicated staff, covers over 400 pages of how to get it done in today’s market. Very little of the original book exists and it is a revision only in theory. The first seven chapters are new with current information you can use to make money today in a tough and competitive fitness market.

The following is the introduction from the new book, which gives you a taste of what changed and why. The new version will be on sale through Healthy Learning, Amazon and through the National Fitness Business Alliance (  around March 10. I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did writing it.

Introduction to How to Make More Money in the Fitness Industry

When this book was first written back in 1999, it represented everything I really knew about fitness at the time. When I first started in the industry, much of what we did was really all about the owner and little if anything to do with the client. Sales techniques were predatory, the equipment was worthless, few people working in the industry at the time really knew anything about fitness, getting results for clients and the national image of what we did was horrible. There were still pockets of knowledge out there that resided in the small physical physique gyms scattered around the country, but the few who understood fitness were buried beneath the hundreds that wanted to exploit the member for everything he owned.

I grew up in fitness in the era of high-pressured sales. We lived, breathed and failed by learning to sell. The national chains at the time were nothing but repositories of old sales guys who could slam down a dozen a day and then do it again tomorrow. No one thought about, or cared about, the client, who quickly failed in this system and left. Why care? In those days, the member was easily replaceable and the competition was light. Sell, sell and sell again.

This is a system that I learned to hate quickly. The clients then, as they do now, suffered from being overweight, out of shape and miserable in their personal lives and were looking for us to help them achieve a new level of success. We didn’t have the tools, but there were a few of us that tried anyway. Books were scarce and the ones you could find were based upon personal experience and ideas with no research or real information to back up the claims and techniques in the books or magazines.

The best thing about this old information was that it predated the bodybuilders. Almost everything you read in those days, which was the late 70s and early 80s, was based upon a holistic, full body approach to fitness. You lifted heavy a couple days a week and put a lot of heavy metal up over you head as often as you could. You lifted heavy, lifted often, worked your full body and amazingly it worked for our clients.

At about this same period of time fitness changed and changed for the worse. The 80s was a decade of fixed plane equipment and the first generation of workout people who chased isolation for the muscle. The emergence of the national chains and the end of anyone getting any help unless you paid a trainer to work you out six days a week. This was the advent of the bodybuilder, which for better and worse chartered a course for the industry that lasted until just the last few years. We went for show in those days and bigger the better, but we created a generation of false expectations and worthless training knowledge that still permeates the mindset even today.

My absolute distaste for the early fitness industry still burns my lips today. We lied to the client to get him into the gym and then failed him once he was there. We chased image over health and failed to do any research that would have advanced the industry by several decades. The industry was for all practical purposes saved at the turn of this new century by the rise of the functional training mindset and by solid research that pointed the way. Some of the early functional pioneers, such as Vern Gambetta, Gary Gray, Jim Petersen, Cedric Bryant, Mike Clark, Al Vermeil and a few others set the tone for a new generation of trainers and training information. This first wave led to the second and the gurus of change who set the world on fire, such as Mark Verstegen, Gray Cook, Mike Boyle, Dan John, and Carlos Santana then led again to today’s best, such as Alwyn and Rachael Cosgrove, Todd Durkin, Greg Rose and Pavel Tsatsouline, who have combined to create a new generation of educated professionals that are quickly changing every concept we ever thought to be true in the industry. For once, we had tools that worked and that were validated by educated people who could and would test all the nonsense we had carried for over five decades.

My mission then, as it still is today, was to change the fitness industry from an image of nasty sales techniques and failed information to one where the client got what he paid for and could trust the gym and the owner he chose to help him fulfill his goals. One workshop, one gym at a time, one owner until the consumer could look at what we did and trust us instead of fearing us as he did back in the day of the pressured sale in an office.

Writing this first book was a labor of love. It was my chance to spread the word that you could make money in this business and you could do it ethically and professionally and not at the expense of hurting the people who trusted you with their money. There were later books in this long series on the business of fitness, but each new title was only added after I felt I had something new to say and while I enjoyed the writing process in each and every one, this first one was always my baby that started it all.

At the time this book was written, it seemed so fresh and needed in the industry, but as with everything in the fitness world, time diminishes returns and what was once at the edge of the field and pushing beyond any accepted boundary at the time, became dated and no longer the source of vital information that could help an owner understand and master the business side of the fitness industry.

My entire life has been spent going forward. I like living in the “now” and as I have told thousands of clients, you can’t change your past and the mistakes you have made so let’s talk about today and what you are going to differently starting tomorrow. Looking backward has never been productive for me, and nor for you, and once something is done in my life I let it be and keep moving towards tomorrow.

Being an author, however, is a little like having your own personal time machine; just one call from my publisher, Jim Petersen, who said, “This book is getting dated. How about doing a revised edition?” led to me firing up the time machine and heading back to 1999. Once a book is finished there is no going back for me and I truthfully haven’t looked through the first edition of this book more than a handful of times in the 14 years since I wrote it.

Picking it up again left me with two impressions. First of all, the material was right for the decade it was written, but it is not very close to how an owner has to think or work to be successful in a market that has changed so dramatically in so few years. Secondly, I was pleasantly surprised that there were still some fundamental truths in the book that have endured over time. For instance, building a receivable base is still a fundamental rule that can’t be changed even today, short-term debt still can kill a business and customer service still is an essential.

The failings of the original book today, however, were glaring. When this book was first published, there were no low-priced gyms, no training gyms that mattered, trainers were at best clipboard cowboys, and the chains that ruled that era have since faded to almost oblivion. Most importantly, back in the day in 1999, competition in most markets was at best moderate, meaning that most gyms could safely operate with little or no competition and the tools of the years that preceded 1999 going back to the 1950s, the era when the gym business started to first rise, were still somewhat valid.

In 1999, gym owners were still pressuring sales in offices, still just selling access to equipment through an inexpensive membership, and still using price-driven marketing to get leads. All of these concepts, by the way, have totally failed in today’s market including the idea that you can be the lowest bidder in the market and simply rent equipment to a consumer who will be gone in a few months.

There is an important rule in the fitness business that no one recognizes, but most everyone is affected by at some time or another. This rule is the 10-year rule and it states that few concepts in fitness will be sustainable for a 10-year period. Every new idea in fitness has pretty much the same curve of growth, but you as the creator or eventual leader get to choose your own ending. For example, in the 1980s aerobics started a long, slow growth period, got hot and rose to the pinnacle of need, quickly declined in the early 90s and then completely disappeared for about a decade.

This pattern is true of most concepts in the fitness industry, and it is why you constantly need to look at what you own and what you’re doing and reinvent. This is why consultants who write books need to go back and question every concept in their older books and ask if that idea is still relevant and would it work today?

We see the this pattern of long, slow grow, followed by a hot, “must-have-it-now” pattern, the quick decline and then oblivion in everything we do and in the real world too. Starbucks stumbled until its founder stepped back in and reinvented the company. Apple stumbled until Steve Jobs came back and set it again on its original course and only the future knows if that company can continue to amaze after the death of Jobs.

Great companies in the industry, such as Gold’s Gym and World’s, were the rulers of their decades, yet the companies sold and somewhat faded from their once true glory. Gold’s Gym was probably the most recognizable fitness name on the planet for several decades, but again, it is a lot easier to get to be number one than stay number one over time. Can these great names be reinvented by their current management and follow the path of Starbucks or will they fade and become just another former success story in the history of the industry?

The difference between long-term sustainable success and oblivion is evolution. Howard Schultz let Starbucks evolve, but only by remaining true to its roots. This sounds contradictory, but under his second generation direction, the company changed to meet the needs of its continually evolving customer base while never forgetting that it was, and always will be, about the coffee and the experience.

In the fitness business, creators of new concepts tend to sit on the past and cling to original methods and ideas. This list is long, but how many chains and franchises have you seen rise, become hot, and then fade away over a decade or so because the consumer and market simply grew past the original concept. Curves was a brilliant idea at the time, but a decade or two later and the concept became archaic and a hard sell in the market as the total number of units they operated continued to decline for a number of years. Their method of training, based upon a simple circuit concept, was right at the time when it was founded, but compared to the advent of functional training and how the proven methods of training, even for the older woman, has evolved can this business model be sustained into the future? Everything has to evolve or it dies and businesses, even wildly successful ones such as the original Curves franchise model, eventually reach a stage where you grow or fade.

When this introduction was written there were a number of other companies that were nearing that vital period where either they evolved into next generation or begin the long slow march to obscurity. Once you reach that pinnacle position of being really hot after the long, slow build, how long can you truly stay hot?

There is another position between hot and the big fall and that is where you operate as a long-term dependable company that keeps its product fresh, service great and always is moving itself ahead. Starbucks is over 40 years old, but its stores and concepts seem fresh and as if it was a brand new company. Sears is in the fight now to remain relevant. Montgomery Wards disappeared. Almost all of the Curves imitators failed and disappeared. Reinvention is life and whether you grow or you die in the fitness world is driven by your response to  the rapid pace of increasing knowledge, better educated employees, such as the trainers and a much more sophisticated client who all are pushing the gym owner to grow and adapt or face being ignored and fail.

It will be interesting in the near future to see if companies such as CrossFit, Planet Fitness, Les Mills, Gold’s, LA Fitness and the rest of the current big names, or programming giants such as Zumba, will continue to evolve and stay relevant or become a victim of the 10-year rule and start that quick slide to where they are rarely discussed and are no longer relevant in the business world of fitness.

Obviously, the first edition of this book was a victim of the 10-year rule and needed reinvention to stay relevant for a next generation of fitness business owners. The business model I have advocated all these years, and that has been quite successful for thousands of owners, needed to be tweaked, a process we started almost a decade ago. This book now represents all that we know today about running a successful gym as well as validating some of the original concepts that were slightly ahead of the curve.

One of the basic tenets I have always believed in is that going for heavy volume, meaning chasing an endless supply of new clients each month to replace the ones you burned up was not sustainable over time. The concept was right, but it was wrong in that it was introduced too early in the market. Going after a higher-return-client-served was the right idea, but it was hard to sell in the industry when the volume guys were still writing the big sales. In other words, it was the right idea, but we didn’t have the tools we needed to get it done back in 1999. But that has changed, and now is the time to recognize this principle. And most importantly, owners are listening now because of all the things that have failed in the last 20 years, nothing is more earth shattering than the failure of the volume based business model.

The missing ingredient all these years was the training component of the business. It seems absurd now, but working people out for money has been a small part of the industry for over 60 years. We have done nothing since the inception of the industry over 65 years ago, no matter how this is argued, except sell a membership to a person who pays each month to a gym so he can access, or in other words rent, the gym’s equipment.

The statistic that validates this has been constant for several decades. In a typical, mainstream fitness center, whether independent or chain, only about 5 percent of the membership work with a trainer on a regular schedule on an annual basis. If you are math challenged, look at it this way; in this gym, 95 percent of the membership gets no help whatsoever and practice some form of do-it-yourself fitness usually regulated to going around a circuit of set equipment that has been proven a hundred different ways not to get the person into shape over time.

The evolutionary key, and the premise behind the revision of this book, is that the industry cannot last as a rental company for equipment, even at $10 per month. We have to move from a volume approach, where the member is expendable and irrelevant over time, to a training-centric business model where we have to chase the maximum results, for the maximum number of clients, in the shortest period of time, and keep our clients for as long as we can in a hyper-competitive market place.

This revision contains our complete business model to make this happen for you and your business and it doesn’t matter if you own a big box mainstream gym or small training gym on the corner. Everything you need to be financially successful for the coming decades is here, proven by thousands of clients over a 30-year period. We now have the tools, we now have the education, and for the first time, we now have the clients willing to support a system designed to help them succeed.

There is one thing you have to understand if you want to make the fitness business your life’s work. We exist to change lives. We exist to help people who struggle with health and fitness get better. We exist to make a difference in our communities and with the people who trust us with their money. We can do all of this and still make more than enough money to take care of our lives and our families. If you are in fitness because you want to make a difference, then this book is for you.

Chase your passion through fitness,

Thomas Plummer

March 2014

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If You Are A Hammer, Everything is a Nail



We often fail in sales because we end up attempting to sell something to the client that he really doesn’t care about buying. What we sell is what we do and how we do it; but what the client really wants to buy is a solution to a problem. This solution is defined as the expected outcome of doing business with you over time.

For example, one of the oldest examples used in so many sales workshops is the drill. Very few people go to Lowes to buy a drill because they need a drill. You go to Lowes and buy a drill because you need a hole somewhere.  We have all heard this old story, but very few people take the time to understand what it really means and how the relationship between the buyer and seller can break down.

The sales guy is excited to talk about the features of the drill including the power, attachments, case, cord and battery. The buyer just wants to know if this is the right drill to hang 20 pictures in his house. The buyer and seller have a hard time connecting, and the sale might be lost, because each one has a different expectation in the encounter.

The same is true in the fitness world. We lose potential clients because what we attempt to sell is not what the client came into your gym to buy. Clients come to a gym for one reason, and one reason only, and that is to buy a solution to a problem.

My pants don’t fit I join a gym. I am getting divorced I join a gym. I am going to be in a wedding so I join a gym. In the first example, the problem is the pants and the solution he wants to buy is getting rid of a few pounds. In the divorced example, someone is now single and has to get back out in the dating world and needs the self-confidence to do it and in the wedding scenario, the problem is looking good for the woman in a sleeveless dress. They all have a problem and all are looking to you for the solution.

Do any of these people really care how you get this done? If I hire you to build custom cabinets in my house, do I care if you use a Black and Decker drill or a Makita or do I just really care about you being a master cabinetmaker that does good work for a fair price?

Inefficient salespeople, and the fitness industry is full of them, spend all their time in a sales encounter talking about the tools they will use to get you in shape. In the mainstream boxes, we talk about the number of classes, the number of trainers, the total amount of cardio and weight equipment we have. These sales people spend all their time telling you what the gym owns and very little time on how the gym will deliver results.

Training gyms are in many ways worse because the people doing sales there spend so much time talking about how they train, their training theories and belief systems, the initials they have collected behind their names and the latest certifications they have amassed. In other words, we talk about drills, doors and tools and very little about the expected outcome of the application of these tools, which are beautiful cabinets in my kitchen.

The worse offenders in the training world are the new weekend wonders that get those new certifications in one or two days and are now masters of their training methodology. Remember that when you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail and after one weekend with good instructors and 60 other converts, everything come Monday is going to get nailed because you, and only you, now know the only right way to train.

Becoming a master coach is more about having a full toolbox (not referring to the many trainers who are considered by their friends and family as one tool short in their tool box) and being able to use the right tool to solve the problem at hand rather than forcing everyone to fit into your narrowly defined window of expertise.

If you want to sell effectively, which means nothing more than helping the people who came to see you get what they really want, then you have to change your mindset. We have to move from selling what we do and how we do it to selling what we can do for you.

Spend time really talking to your clients about these three points. This does, by the way, work in almost any business where there is a client and a salesperson trying to sell something to that client.

1) Where is the client today? What is his starting point? Why is he here? What is working for him and what isn’t working? Assess what he is doing and acknowledge that even walking the dog is more than most of America does on a daily basis.

2.  2) Where does he want to go and when does he want to get there? In other words, what is his expected outcome of working with you? Is it reasonable and is it something he can commit at least two days a week chasing. Purists, need to walk it back a little. Unless you are a professional fitness person, or in that hardcore group that represents such a small portion of the people in this country, you cannot expect someone to commit to a gym more than 2-3 days a week. Two times is a lot for someone who has family, a tough career and any type of life. Yes, I agree that fitness should be the centerpiece of his life, but maybe two times a week is just all he has and maybe all he will every have so live with it.

3.  3) Project him out for 30/60/90 days. Show him what he can achieve during these time frames and help him see that the effort he will put in can get him to these points. You don’t have to be crazy accurate, but at least build a plan showing where he is now, where he wants to be, how he is going to get there and the benchmarks along the way.

You have noticed that the tools we use just aren’t that important to him. What is important is that you have spent time with him, understood his goals, know what his expected outcome is and most importantly, have laid out a 90 plan of attack to get it done.

Be proud of what you have learned and be proud of whatever organization you support, but be aware that the client is less concerned where you spent last weekend getting down and dirty and cares much more about what you can do for him and if you are the one he can trust to help him reach his goal.