What I've Learned From Starting My Own Business
This month marks the 2 year anniversary of Pippin Performance and I couldn't be more grateful for my clients, colleagues and the things I've learned along the way. This has been over 10 years in the making. It started by taking the leap from a comfortable job in Chicago, to completely starting over at a new gym in San Diego, to then opening up my own coaching business at a private gym. While this blog is in celebration of the 2 years at Pippin Performance, I also wanted to take this time to help other coaches who are new to the business, (no matter what level you're at).
IT ALL STARTED IN CHICAGO
For those who don't know me, my career started as a football strength coach in Tampa, FL but my real journey to owning my own business began when I moved to Chicago a couple of years after college. I was very fortunate to find the East Bank Club, which is where I started training the general population. As a Master Trainer, I had an unlimited amount of clients to choose from. My schedule was always full, and I even had a waiting list for when new spots opened up. I never ever had to sell packages and it allowed me to have countless hours fine tuning my craft. I spent 8 years there and learned so much, but unfortunately I didn't learn how to sell my services, which proved challenging in my next adventure.
SAN DIEGO HERE WE COME!
A little over 4 years ago, my wife and I decided to move to San Diego to start something new. I had a job lined up at a local health club and went into it thinking, "Hey, I was a top trainer in Chicago and am really good at what I do. Of course I'll do great!" What I didn't realize is that I'd have to not only start over but start from the ground up, swallowing my pride and doing entry-level floor duties at the health club. For those that aren't familiar with this, it's where you walk the floor, clean equipment, make sure the fitness floor is nice and tidy, close the gym down at the end of the night and hopefully meet potential clients. Looking back on it, it wasn't that big of a deal but I'll never forget my first shift where I thought I'd walk in with a million members waiting to meet me and was brought back down to earth when I was handed a spray bottle and shown how to lock up. My ego took a big hit that night, (which is probably a good thing) and I realized this wasn't going to be as easy as I thought. As the next few weeks went by, I also realized that I had zero skills when it came to sales.
THAT AWKWARD CONVERSATION
The big question for many coaches or trainers is, how do you get a new client to plop down their credit card for a package of sessions when they've only known you for about an hour? You're sitting there stumbling over your words with sweaty palms, not able to look them in the eye. The potential client starts to get uncomfortable and before you know it, you've practically said you'll train them for free just so you can end the conversation.
Every day for the first 6 months in San Diego, I struggled with this question. I was so good at what I did but didn't know how to convey that to the person standing in front of me. Couldn't they just take my word for it? Fortunately, the club hired a trainer who had a background in sales training. He started to offer weekly training courses to help those who wanted it and I jumped at the opportunity. Long story short, I had to learn how to present what I could/would do for that person and let that sell itself. One thing he said that still sticks with me today is, "You can be the smartest and have all the certifications, but if you can't package it in a way to show your value to a potential client in an hour, then you'll never get the opportunity to help that person reach their health and fitness goals."
After about 15 months in San Diego, I started getting into a groove I was more comfortable with the sales pitch and my numbers were at an all time high. And then BAM! Out of nowhere we get a notice from management that they will be closing our gym in 60 days. What?!?! Where do I go from here? Why me??? (insert sad violin song in the background).
Luckily, I wasn't alone and a couple of friends found a private gym in a biotech campus that would allow us to bring our own clients in without memberships. Most of my clients from the health club came with me, but now I realized there weren't going to be any new potential clients walking through the door anytime soon. The gym would eventually have some office workers from the surrounding buildings, but that would be at least a year before that was up and running. How can you make that work? Keep reading for my 8 tips that helped me.
We're still here after 2 years (phew!) and continue to grow and expand. To me though, it's all about sharing the knowledge so for my fellow fitness industry coaches and trainers, here are a few things I've learned along the way that may help your business.
Your Clients Are Everything
Seriously. Treat them like they are royalty and bend over backwards for them. Always check in on them and make them your number one priority. Your clients are truly your life-blood and pay a lot of money for your help and knowledge. Not only that, but referrals are most times the number 1 source for new clients, so if you earn your client's trust and are able to help them, they will sell your services better than any advertisement, commercial, or networking function will ever do. Plus the best part? Anyone who is referred to you already trusts you to a certain extent and are way more likely to want to work with you. This was how I was able to build my business. Never stop taking care of your clients - they're the most valuable resource you have!
Get Some Business Skills
You're in the business of helping people but don't forget that this is a business. If you don't have a background in sales, marketing or business, start reading books or blogs from others who are experts. Even if they aren't necessarily in the fitness industry, you can still apply the concepts they're teaching to your business. If you have a resource at your health club, even better.
Certs Aren't Everything
While it's important to learn new business skills, I'd recommend being selective on what courses you take to amp up your training knowledge. All too often I see coaches get that "shiny object syndrome" wanting to get certified in everything under the sun but make sure it's something that will actually help your clients and isn't just the latest fad. Otherwise, you're wasting your money and your time and won't see a return on that investment if it's not something you'll use and that you can stand behind.
Connect With Others
It's so important to connect with other coaches and trainers. Find someone way smarter than you in your network and pick their brain on a regular basis. You can also use social media as a way of finding others who inspire you. Can I just say this too - I think all too often we think of other coaches or trainers as the competition but they're not. Everyone has their own special skillset so use that to learn new things and help your clients instead of trying to be competitive. A lot of times, I refer my clients to other coaches who have a specialty in nutrition or other coaches refer their clients to me because I can help with injuries. There are plenty of people in this world to go around and who need your help. Sharing is caring folks.
This sounds simple but it's actually the biggest mistake I've seen people make. If you're not at the gym on a regular basis, how will potential clients see you, get familiar with you, build up that trust with you and then, when they're ready to look for coaching, even think of you as an option? Don't complain that you don't have clients if you're not putting in the effort to at least show up at the gym. I know it can be a little boring at times but guess what? If you're not there you must not care that much.
Be Consistent In Your Efforts
This goes for anything you do in life but specifically if you're going to tackle writing blogs or using social media as a way to promote your business, consistency is key. I hate to say it, but you can't go into it thinking you'll setup a website and the clients will come flocking to you. That's just not how it works. You have to provide content on a consistent basis that drives traffic back to your site, establishes who you are and gives you some credibility. I've been writing blogs for about 9 months now and just got a notice on my site analytics saying I've now shown up on Google 10 times when people search "strength training". That's not an astounding number by any means but it tells me I'm making progress. Do you want to know what showed up in the beginning when I searched for my own business name? Nothing other than Pippin the musical performance. You have to be patient and not get so caught up in the logo or website design. That's the fun, exciting stuff but it's not necessarily going to get you found online. For me, I've been focusing on providing content that will help people and I'm slowly starting to make progress (shoutout to my homies at Google!).
No matter what kind of day you're having, keep your game face on at all times and say hi to everyone who walks by. You can even make a game out of it. I've said hello to some people who just kind of look at me as they walk by or put their head down but over time, you better believe my dazzling smile and bubbly personality cracks their shell and what do you know? You eventually get a nod, then a "hello" right back. Score one for Pip Dog!
Don't Undervalue Yourself
This is a good one to end on. If we go back to what I was saying earlier about how uncomfortable the whole sales pitch can be, just remember that you're providing a service that is helping someone reach their goals. You've worked hard to hone your craft and want to make the world a better place by helping others. Think about the time and money you've invested on yourself to be the leader at what you do. Now it's time to put what you've learned to work and do what you do best. You've got this!
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ABOUT COACH MATT PIPPIN
Matt is a Strength and Mobility Coach with over 15 years experience in his field and has coached over a thousand professional, collegiate and everyday athletes with the goal to help them move, feel and perform at their highest level. He's incredibly passionate about bringing simple and effective online mobility training programs to everyone who wants to take control of their self care and make lasting change. CLICK HERE to learn more.
NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist
Level 3: Fascial Stretch Specialist
Level 1: Institute of Motion Health Coach
Certified FRC Mobility Specialist (FRCms)
Level 1 Kinstretch Instructor
Weck Method Qualified