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The Secret to Being the Ultimate Personal Trainer

By Neesha Kanaga

Published 12 April 2021

This edition of FitNation’s Lunch & Learn webinar featured James Lorey and Aaron McCulloch from Your Personal Training UK. They shared insider tips on how to become the ultimate fitness service provider and earn up to $ 60k just by chasing your personal trainer dreams!

Watch the webinar recording by clicking on the play button and read the transcript below.

Tips for being the best personal trainer

Meet the Speakers

Aaron McCulloch, Managing Director at Your Personal Training UK and James Lorey, Operations Director at Your Personal Training UK.

Interviewer: Alex von Hagen

Alex: Welcome everybody. Thanks for taking the time to join us for another Fit Nation Lunch and Learn. Joining us this week out of the UK and from Your Personal Training is Aaron McCulloch, he’s the managing director, and James Lorey, he’s the director of operations. So these two are really leading the charge for the UK’s largest PT management company. They both started their careers as PTs themselves, and they’ve climbed the ladder to get to the leadership positions they’re in now. Today what we’re going to discuss is how to become the ultimate fitness service provider. So what that means is how to attract new and recurring PT clientele, how to earn up to but not limited to around 60K per year in revenue, as well as highlight the best practices for running a hybrid PT business with face-to-face and digital coaching, not only in 2021 but moving forward as well. So without further ado, James, Aaron, thank you guys for taking the time to join us.

Aaron McCulloch: Thanks for having us.

James Lorey: Pleasure. Yeah. Absolutely.

Introductions

Alex: And guys it’s always a good starting point maybe if we can get a little bit of an intro and a background on yourselves, maybe we can start with James.

James: Yeah, absolutely. Thanks, Alex. So my name’s James Lorey. I’ve been in the fitness industry now for around 15 years. I know I don’t look that old, Alex, but it is true. It is true. So I studied sport and exercise science at Loughborough University over in England back in 2003 and kind of veered to the industry into the sort of a commercial sector initially. So I worked for health club chains, such as GGB Fitness back in the day and also Esporta Health Clubs. But really my big passion for the industry was personal training. So I joined Your Personal Training in 2010, myself and co-owner Aaron, we now run Your Personal Training. It’s the largest PT management company in the UK. We work across 400 plus centers. And it’s great now we’re coming up to the back end of the pandemic and really looking forward to the supercharging over the next few months.

Alex: Awesome. Thanks. And Aaron?

Aaron: Yeah. My name Aaron McCulloch, as you said. Yeah, very sort of similar to James. I think James started slightly more operational in gyms than myself. I actually qualified with Premier Training, which is now Premier NASM, did like three months in a classroom, eight until four every day, level two, level three, did all of that. And then jumped straight into being a self-employed personal trainer. So that was 14 years ago, in September that happened. So I was at Fitness First for a couple of years and then very much as James moved over to Your PT about 11 and a half years ago. And then kind of progressed through and exactly as James said to now be at the point where we’re kind of co-owning and leading Your PT and taking it in a slightly different direction than we were 12 months ago, should we say.

Alex: Yeah, definitely. Well, I think it’s super cool to know your guys’ story a little bit and understand where you came from and now I think it could also be a good model for success for PTs who are maybe just starting now and want to look to how they can make this a career as well. So I think you guys have some good insights to share, not only today but to anyone else who reaches out to you, both now and in the future. So we mentioned the three topics that we want to cover today, which are really around attracting the right clientele, earning a good salary doing this, and then best practices for a hybrid model. I would say right now in order to achieve that it seems like the order is probably to start with understanding the best practices to go hybrid, use that to attract the clientele and then leverage those first two to get that right salary in place. So we don’t want to beat the dead horse and talk about corona all episode, although that is something that is front and center in the industry right now. But I would say in your guys’ opinions, what kind of structural shifts do you think have happened specifically in the PT space as a result of the pandemic?

Structural Shifts in PT as a Result of the Pandemic

James: Yeah, it’s a great question. I think the world has turned upside down, hasn’t it, in the last 12 months. And certainly, fitness as an industry has not been unscathed from that process. So certainly personal trainers have had to become very more versatile in the last 12 months. And a lot of PTs that we’ve worked with, some have just gone into a survival mode and just done what they can to get through this pandemic. And others have really thrived and taken this as an opportunity really to try something new and try something a bit different and think outside the box. So there have been lots of side steps towards digital integration and online personal training, which we’ve seen. And it’s actually interesting because that’s been a skills development over the last 12 months.

Personal trainers were very nervous about that functionality in the initial phases. And now we go sort of circle 12 months down the line, they’re becoming very adapted and very professional in their delivery online as well. But also PTs have been moving to outdoor spaces and delivering their services on that basis as well. And we’re just finding new ways of working. We’re really getting to grips with the new society, the new demands of what our customers are demanding and really being versatile in terms of our delivery services. And it’s a great opportunity as we kind of progress now with the industry to not just think about the four walls that we operate within in a gym space, but also reach out to wider audiences. So there’s certainly been lots of learning and we’re really excited about how PTs are going to influence the health of the nation moving forward.

Alex: Yeah. I think that’s exactly it. You said that you do need to thrive in order to kind of adapt to this new environment, to these new different challenges. And as you say, like moving to the outdoors, that’s just one way that they can start to broaden their business model. I think that starts to attract a lot of new customers and consumers to fitness as well. And so along with what’s happening with the industry trends and the shifts we’re seeing there, it’s also been putting a lot of focus on this new consumer that we’re going to… It’s going to be a very holistic style member so to speak. Someone that is not just at the gym for the aesthetic but someone that’s there for real health and well-being reasons. How do you guys think a PT could cater to that new member in order to help them kind of venture into fitness?

Further reading: Online Personal Training: The Future of Client Coaching?

How Can a PT Help a New Member Into Fitness?

Aaron: I don’t think that those people are new members as such. There’s certainly a lot more of them now than there was previously. I’ve said this quite a few times. I think there’s now a sort of heightened level of consciousness of what happens or what could happen if you are overweight or if you have respiratory problems or you don’t have a great immune system and how quickly it can go quite badly, unfortunately. People in the gym I think as I said, there’s probably going to be a larger proportion like you said, are not really looking for, they don’t want to do a photoshoot in six months’ time. They don’t want to be on the front cover of men’s health or whatever. They’re not really looking for a specific goal. They just don’t want to feel like crap all day.

Like they want to be able to move, get out of bed without aching, which we’ve all been there at some point. I would say even as PTs, you’d go out and say, you don’t want to do a workout and not be able to move for three days. So it’s probably more about just wanting to feel better, feel healthier. If your friends are going out for a bike ride, like being fit enough and healthy enough to say yes and not avoid that. And it’s not just people in the gym, it’s kind of coaches who want to feel the same way too, right? Like not every personal trainer, you don’t need to have a six-pack or an eight-pack all year round. You need to know how to do it if somebody wants to come to you and that’s what they want to get to, but ultimately they just want to feel better. And all they can do to help is actually listen to what your clients say.

Like when you sit down with them and have that initial phone call consultation, whatever you want to call it and find out what they’re looking for. Kind of read between the lines a little bit of what they’re telling you and then deliver what they’re after actually using your knowledge and expertise, whether that’s like James’ background in terms of obviously his degree or just coming from a personal training background. It’s more about listening and understanding what they want and then just giving them something they’re actually asking for rather than just right, we’re going to go and do circuit training, irrespective of what your goal is. This is what’s happening. Not everybody’s the same. But yeah, listening, I would say is the big key thing for personal trainers to deliver that.

Alex: Nice. Okay. Nice to hear. And I think also along the lines of that, a lot of these new consumers coming in, the pandemic has given a lot of people kind of a chance to evaluate their lives and maybe what they want to do. And I think it’s fair to say that a lot of people are going to transition may be to become a personal trainer because that’s a passion of theirs. You know fitness has been a big part of their life and maybe they want to take this opportunity to start getting back and helping people maybe not find themselves in the same position they were at the beginning of the pandemic. So there could be a lot of new PTs joining the industry. So given your guys’ experience in this place, what would you say are some common mistakes that new PTs that are venturing into this space make, and maybe we could also address some ways that we could try and fix those or help them avoid them.

Common Mistakes of New PTs and How They Could Avoid or Fix Them

James: Yes, it’s a really good point, Alex. We’re also seeing this as a company now. There is a real uplift in applications to vacancies that we have across the UK. And lots of people, as you said, are retraining. The fitness industry is highly attractive. It’s a fantastic industry to get involved in. But what we often find that the common traits that we see are that there’s often a skills gap from what you learned on your course to what you have to deliver in the industry to be successful. And at Your Personal Training, we very much pride ourselves on the soft skills kind of education that we provide to our PTs when they start out. So you know how to communicate effectively, how to generate leads in-club, how to generate leads online, and how to deliver effective consultations as Aaron mentioned.

So I think the number one tip really for new personal trainers is to align themselves with a mentor. So someone who knows the industry inside out. Again, we have personal training managers who mentor new personal trainers coming into the industry, and they’ve all done their hard service. They’ve done their ten thousand hours. They’ve become experts in this industry and they’re very authentic in terms of their delivery, what they offer in terms of support. But I think another key consideration for new personal trainers joining the industry is to also find a warm market. So surround yourself with like-minded people who are interested in your services, what you’ve got to offer, and the gym environment is perfect for that. So that wheel is not broken. That’s going to continue to be a really successful angle for personal trainers going forward. And I think we see all too often personal trainers coming into the industry, knocking doors, giving out leaflets, and it’s a really hard gig. Even within a gym space, we look at 5% of members that engage with personal training. But now PTs have got such an incredible opportunity ahead of them because they can influence more and more members on a frequent basis.

So yeah, we often see it, the common pitfalls are PT finishes a course, they dive straight in. Some even go to the extent of setting up their own PT studios, which is a large cost but there’s certainly a stepping stone process to get to that level. So yeah, hopefully, that probably helps share some guidance for the newbies coming in.

Aaron: Yeah.

Alex: For those listening in. Yeah. Go for it, Aaron.

Aaron: I can share one more thing with that, is I think James is a hundred percent right, and we kind of tend to agree on this stuff. But I think one thing to probably add for that is before you even go in to decide where you’re going to PT and how you’re going to do it, is do your homework.

James: Yeah.

Aaron: Like there are so many people that sort of go into an interview at a gym, get offered a position, whether or not they were good at the interview or not, they will generally be given a position just because maybe the gym needs bodies on the gym floor. But I did that. I didn’t ask any questions when I joined Fitness First. I think I was PT Number 22, in a 2,000-member gym. Now, 18 months down the line if I was to do that again, I would walk out the door. As soon as I saw those profiles and got the membership numbers, I’d be out the other side. There isn’t a limited number of positions or opportunities, whether you do online, outdoors, in the gym, a combination of all three, which is generally what we promote to our PTs and is the best way to sort of getting longevity. But just kind of take a step back, do your homework, go to interviews, don’t make any rash decisions and work out what’s going to be the best route for you because there are options.

Alex: Got it. Okay. And let’s say early on in their PT career, we’ve talked about some of these pitfalls, but would there be any trigger signs that you guys see? As I said, like, they’re just getting started, or maybe they’re six months down the line, like some trigger signs or some cracks in the foundation, so to speak that maybe need addressing before they fall into some?

James: We see this often. I mean, what we endorse with personal trainers when they start out is to create a 90-day business plan. So set some common objectives for 90 days, be accountable to your PT mentor throughout that time. And we help support and navigate through that to get your optimal results. But usually, the blame game starts kicking in, Alex, is what we find. So, personal trainers have this uncanny ability to burn, I’ll refer to external variables a lot of the time. But the only variable that we often find is themselves. And if they’ve been teachable, willing to work and they’ve been consistent in their delivery, and nine times out of ten, the PT will smash their targets. They’ll work towards their common objectives and achieve great results in the industry. The issue happens when you go off pissed. But yeah, I think.

Nowadays as well, there’s lots of noise in terms of online personal training and influencers. When Aaron and I started personal training influencers was a different concept. But personal trainers are now almost working against that market as well. If they feel that they have to sort of play in that market, they feel they have to put their photos on Instagram, wearing their pants in their living room and stuff. But personal trainers shouldn’t get obsessed with followers. As I said, there’s a warm market in our communities, in our gym facilities that are seeking services of PTs on a day-to-day basis. PTs get much better results because they work on that one-to-one level and get a true understanding of what the client’s objectives are.

Alex: Awesome. Okay. Thanks for that. And you say, we talked about 90-day business plans. So maybe that leads into something that I was really curious to get your guys’ take on. Would you say there are any hidden, or maybe less obvious metrics or KPIs that a PT, let’s say outside of booked sessions, like something a PT could be tracking to make sure that they’re on track?

How Can a PT Make Sure They’re on Track?

Aaron: Yeah. So I don’t think they’re generally hidden. I think that they’re hidden from PTs potentially because they’re not perhaps looking at their business as a business. They’re just like, “I’m a personal trainer. If I’ve got people in front of me, then I know I’m successful.” Whereas, even for us, when we’re looking at how we analyze engagement and loyalty of personal trainers, we’re looking at how long they’ve been with us? Do we get referrals from them? Same with our gym operators, like how long we’ve been working with them? Do they sort of refer us to other gym operators who we ended up kind of working with? Also, I think obviously communication frequencies are generally a good marker for engagement. So I know because I have a coach for example, that I speak to on a weekly basis, we do video check-ins, texts back and forth whenever I’ve got kind of things that I need changing or updated in my programs or whatever. But he’s also got people that maybe check in once a month that probably aren’t getting the results that they want. So it’s whether or not people actually feel engaged, are you doing enough?

And this is what we kind of said, probably even more so over the last 12 months. If your clients have stayed with you, over the last 12 months, despite the gyms not being open and doing sessions on Zoom, on outdoors, that’s a pretty good indicator that you’re doing a good job. Some trainers have been really unfortunate and lost a lot of clients. But some other trainers might argue, well, actually, if you were doing a good job, they may have stayed. Now, there are other variables, they may have lost their job and they’ve had to move away and all this kind of stuff. But there’s probably like half a dozen reasons why someone wouldn’t stay with you. But the main one is they’ve not been getting results. So, if people are staying with you for a long time and they’re getting the results, they’re referring people, they still engage with you and they’re still coming in. They’re turning up to sessions on time. I think even just using those kinds of four or five, you can get a pretty good gauge of how successful you are as a PT with your clients.

Alex: Got you. I think you can see that across a lot of other industries as well. It’s like how engaged your own prospects or your own clients or members are, that’s going to be saying a lot about the service that you’re providing and then that can also provide clues. Maybe if they’re not as engaged, where you can pick up and kind of leverage some of the knowledge that you guys could be helping them with, say, for example, at Your PT to help kind of fill those gaps a little bit.

Aaron: Yeah.

Alex: Okay. So moving then and just trying to think of 2021 and moving forward, how are you guys motivating your PTs to expand their horizons or expand their business model? What kind of things are you coaching them up on?

Motivating PTs to Expand Their Horizons

Aaron: As I said, we kind of survey our PTs quite a lot. So we ask them what they would like help with and obviously, there are certain things that we also see that they might not see. Motivation-wise, we’ve never found that really difficult. James and I are hugely optimistic about anything. We’re not just looking at the gym opening next week. We’re looking at three, six, nine, 12 months down the line where, even 18 months’ gyms are back to sort of pre-COVID membership levels, more engagement. Less of the membership is sort of what they call the sleeping members that don’t ever come into the gym. There are fewer of those more active users. And obviously, we keep in contact with our managers. So obviously, they’re the team that actually looks after the PTs on a day-to-day basis.

James and I both kind of feel the attitude is generally a reflection of leadership. So if we over the last year, we were a bit kind of down in the dumps and switched off, a lot of people did, especially in the fitness industry, a lot of gyms just stopped talking to staff, stopped talking to PTs. And then when gyms reopened in July wondered why everyone had left. They’re like, “You didn’t help me. There was nothing you could support with. You didn’t even ask how I was.” So we’ve kept that kind of message throughout the last year that we obviously are optimistic. Obviously, we know that, I’ve said it before and it’s going to get quite boring.

With that higher level of consciousness around health, fitness, general wellbeing, some more people want help, and PTs are well-positioned to help those people, especially in the gyms where unfortunately there’s been some financial cutbacks for clubs. They don’t have a lot of gym instructors now on the gym floor, which means people don’t have anyone to talk to other than the PTs. So they can build that rapport and that relationship and they can deal with the demand. Gyms cannot deal with 2,000 members a week coming in for reprograms with two members of staff. Whereas four or five PTs will quite happily do that. They tend to work longer hours. They’re more flexible in their day, whether that’s face-to-face or online programming or whatever it is. They can actually expand and help more people, which is why we’ve always kind of said, you’re now more open to having a hybrid approach to your business. Which is something that we’ve kind of been probably since 2016 actually where we’ve kind of been in that jump for a while, but maybe we were slightly ahead of the curve on that one. I don’t know.

Alex: Nice. Okay. And because there’s so much talk about hybrid and being digital and moving forward in that space, let’s just say there’s a PT who maybe doesn’t feel as digitally savvy, what kind of resources or groups would you guys recommend for them to become more competent there?

Resources for PTs Who Are Not as Digitally Savvy

Aaron: So this is exactly the thing we had over the last 12 months, they didn’t know what to use, which apps were good. Don’t know how to use Dropbox or create Excel spreadsheets and put all the colors and the micro-cycles and things in there, as strength and conditioning coaches do and all the rest of it. And they just didn’t want to create word documents with exercises on there. Quite frankly, those are things anyone would have made. So yeah, the overriding response about going online last year was, I don’t know how or what’s the best way to do things. There isn’t the best way. It’s the best way that you feel your know-how. So it’s also why when we kind of came back in and James and I started to kind of look into it a little bit more, we thought, well, they’ve actually told us what they want. Like the PTs have asked. It’s not just about coaching. It’s about managing their entire business, coaching, and everything else all in one.

So that’s ultimately why we ended up creating Your Wellbeing with Virtuagym because it kind of ticked all of those boxes and we put it all into one app and gave them a step-by-step playbook. And then we assigned them an online coaching mentor, which I’m sure there is. If you go on Instagram, there are loads of online coaching gurus and mentors and things like that. They’ve never actually been PTs and never coached people in their life. Whereas actually the people that we have are experienced, successful personal trainers who have done it in the gym, they’ve done it online. They’re the people to kind of speak to and understand how it works. I don’t think you have to be that digitally savvy to kind of build your business or kind of expand your digital offering. There are just so many easy-to-use tools.

But I think that’s the problem. There are so many and we don’t really know. You might have to use two or three different apps or kind of Google sheets and things like that to run your business, which is why we thought, well, actually we’ll put it in one place, then PTs don’t have to do anything. They can easily go online, run their accounts, model their programs, do their nutrition plans. Their clients could all talk to each other. They can talk to them all. And it’s all within one space. Then it takes all of those questions out, which ultimately just makes everybody’s life easier. And if you make people’s life easier, then you’re always onto a winner in my book.

Alex: Yeah. I would agree with that. And I think when you talk about just centralizing as much as possible, and it’s also because now the business model is becoming really front and center. The message here is about, love the business, not just going to the gym. I think that’s what we see a lot of times with PTs is that they had such a passion for just working out and being in the gym. However, now that there’s actually a business model behind it that maybe can fall a little bit to the wayside. So it’s really about building that side of your business up and maybe that’s going to segue a little bit later in our conversation about how to turn this into a real career that has a good salary attached with it. I guess looking at YPT specifically, because maybe just to go a little off-script here, but you guys are giving a lot of coaching. You’re giving a lot of guidance here and I’m sure you’ve probably seen a lot of success stories. From your own personal perspectives, like have you seen, or would you guys like to share something that you’ve seen YPT help achieve for a coach?

A YPT Success Story of Training a PT

Aaron: I think we’ve been quite lucky, but I also don’t really believe in luck too much. I think it’s a combination of things that end up being sort of called luck or lucky. But we’ve had a lot of really good success stories over the last 12 months of trainers that even if they just started in the industry or they’d been in the gym for the last seven or eight years, they’ve kind of gone online temporarily. And then I think around May, last year, we were allowed to do outdoor one-to-one at some point, if I remember, right James and they were able to do that and obviously, that’s carried on. We’ve always kind of promoted that kind of hybrid approach so if you can’t train people in the gym, you can train people outdoors. You can do small group training, large group PT. You can do online coaching. You don’t have to do it all, but you can do a combination. And that’s what we kind of always meant by hybrid. And it’s worked really well.

We’ve encouraged personal trainers to keep doing that even when gyms have reopened. So yes, in the club is where their core business is going to be. It’s where a lot of their warm leads and everything is going to be in the gym with people who actually want to get fit and healthy. It’s a good place to pick up new clients. But many of our trainers kind of went back in, I think I spoke to quite a few and within three or four weeks, they were back at their pre-lockdown PT session numbers, which people weren’t really expecting. But obviously, over that time, we were talking about communication. Like even the old clients that had left, they were like, “Are you okay?” You know check in with them and just to be nice. And funnily enough, some of those came back and were like, “I need your help. I won’t mind some coaching. The gyms are closed. I don’t know what to do.” You can train outdoors. You can train online. Awesome if you’ve got those options. And even people that didn’t sign up maybe did a consultation, and then said, no, I’ll leave it for three months, were like, “I’m glad you’ve been in touch. I actually really need your help now.” So they kind of put themselves in a good position and all we did was kind of give them that kind of encouragement and that push to, do you know what? There’s actually a lot of people here that now need you to help and we kind of continued that message throughout.

But I think if it’s probably more recently, actually we kind of started working with a couple of PTs in the North who run outdoor fitness groups and boot camps. They had no digital offering. Weren’t making a huge amount of revenue. We’re kind of looking at other bits and pieces they could do to support their clients outside of their outdoor sessions. And they signed up with Your Wellbeing at the start of the year. I think at the end of January, and then by the end of February, they were generating another 1600 pounds a month from having a digital offering and creating like a sort of hybrid membership where people weren’t just turning up to the sessions, but they were now getting the support outside of it. They were able to have a community within that. So people weren’t relying on a private Facebook group, it was an app where everyone’s on their phone all the time and everyone’s kind of been to those sessions and coming in. So I guess that would be a one really good example, but we could probably give you 150 where PTs have been, some of our guys have been in the papers and Top 10 Influencers Next to Joe Wicks and things like that, which is brilliant. So it’s hard to name one, but I think that’s probably a more recent standout for us.

Alex: Awesome. Yeah and that’s super relevant to like how they’re kind of adjusting that business model on the fly. When you were talking about going back to old customers and just making sure that they were okay and just kind of keeping that communication line over, reminded me of the quote, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” Where you can say like, look we’re all in it right now and everyone’s experiencing the same, but this is actually your opportunity to turn the tide a little bit and be that shining light here and then help someone out. And it sounds like for these PTs, like this actually had good business ramifications for them as well. But the end motive here was that they were helping. They were making sure that someone who they were giving guidance to in the past wanted to make sure that they were still on the right track. And I think that’s a really cool thing to hear. So yeah. Thank you for sharing that. So maybe thinking than about any future predictions that you guys have your finger on the pulse of the industry quite a bit. I think so what would you say you think the PT role is going to look like in five years or maybe even 15 years?

Further reading: Successful Personal Training in Today’s Consumer Market.

A YPT Success Story of Training a PT

James: Yeah, absolutely. No, we hope we’ve got our finger on the pulse, Alex. Absolutely. But yeah, I think essentially the principle of personal training isn’t going to change because PTs are skilled professionals who help deliver fantastic health results, and never has there been a time where health has been put in the spotlight so much over the last 12 months. So personal trainers have a key responsibility there. But we believe from an in-club perspective, personal trainers will certainly be utilized more. There’s going to be more digital integration clearly which again goes with the notion that we’ve been supporting for many, many years that personal trainers need to move away from selling time and go to more subscription-based programming. And I think that offers a lot of security for a self-employed personal trainer in particular.

So go into that concept and the digital integration just adds added value to that process from a consumer perspective. But I think the personal training COG isn’t the one that needs fixing. I think to a degree it’s probably the industry that needs looking at as a vehicle really for serving members effectively. And I guess the analogy of personal trainers is almost like having Renaldo in his soccer team and making him the physiotherapist for the squad. It’s personal trainers we believe should be the heartbeat of your fitness facility. They are your playmakers. So, I think they’ve certainly been looked at in a different light, a more positive light, and someone who can really move the service provision forward within the industry.
But what we’ve been looking at in recent years, Alex, in the UK is we focus a lot on PT penetration as a rule of thumb. And what we’ve been discussing with operators recently is to look at the bigger number, look at the PT effect. So not just the physical sessions PTs deliver, but how many people do they communicate with? How many people attend their workshops, their group exercise classes? How many have a free consultation on a weekly basis? These are all members that PTs are affecting on a day-to-day basis. But yeah, I think obviously with digital integration as well, it allows us to cast on that further, reach a wider audience. Like Aaron said about your wellbeing, we’ve strategically worked now to offer a solution to our personal trainers that cater to a hundred percent of what they look for in a PT management app. So if they have the ability to coach, manage and engage their client base, I think we’re onto a winner, or we can help members get fantastic results, stay on their health journeys for longer. And that’s going to help with the whole economy of health and wellbeing.

Alex: Yeah. Very cool. Yeah. I think you’re really onto something there too. And I would like to see that model expand more where it’s not just about selling one-time slots, it’s really that subscription service. And this is one more way that hybrid models can help them just boost the value in the service they’re offering to make that subscription. It’s not really just subscribing to multiple sessions. It’s all the services that come beyond that, that make that really appealing for the end-user as well. Cool. Okay. And yeah, on the same note of trends, you guys have hundreds of coaches around the country who are involved with a ton of different gym chains, and fitness facilities around the UK as well. Would you guys say that there are some trends that you see picking up more momentum or that you think are going to be really popular in maybe six or 12 months’ time?

Popular Trends in 6 Months or 12 Months

Aaron: I think bizarrely and rightly or wrongly personal training is still seen as a trend on a yearly basis. I think it tends to be in like the top 10 trends of the year for fitness. I think it was like…

Alex: It’s true.

Aaron: This year or something like that, which is really strange to me. But then at the same time, we have actual conversations with new gym operators that we’re starting to work with and they’ve got eight, nine gyms, 19, 20,000 members, no personal trainers, which to us that are in it all the time and work with PTs every day and we see the benefit. We’re just like, how? Where? Who gets results in your gym? Might you’ve got a couple of gym instructors at every club? You’ve got quite a good group X offering. But what about the sort of 3,000 people on a regular basis that might need a little bit of extra support? Might just want some programming from a PT and things like that. So as weird as it sounds, I think personal training is still going to be a trend over the next couple of years. It has just been one of those permanent ones. Youth activity and youth engagement and family engagement fitness over the next 18 months, I think a lot of people have spent a lot of time with their kids and are looking to kind of get active. Some of the people we know and speak to their teenagers don’t really want to train with them that much because obviously, they want to go work out with their friends and go play sport.

But certainly, where we still have an issue with childhood obesity in a lot of countries, and especially in the UK, there need to be some changes with that. And there’s a lot of programs we see coming out with sort of industry bodies and things that are kind of promoting, a bit more funding coming through. And there’s even a couple of things that we’re actually working on ourselves to look into and how we support personal trainers going into that area. I think digital is here to stay. I don’t think it’s going anywhere anytime soon. You know, I think I was listening to Hugo actually on a chat with the guys from Matrix and it might’ve actually been a Fit Nation webinar that I was on, is that it’s not going to replace the gym. Digital is kind of like an accompaniment. It is something that kind of supports the club. And I think it kind of likened it to watching movies just because you have Netflix doesn’t mean you stopped going to the cinema.

Alex: Yeah.

Aaron: Like if you enjoy them, you’ll do both. And that’s where we see digital being a really big benefit. And sadly, some gyms are probably going to switch their digital offering off. They’re not going to put things up and do Facebook lives and things like that when we go back, which would be a big disappointment. But some gyms will keep it and it’s now part of their normal membership offering where you kind of pay 30 pounds a month and you can’t make it to the gym. You can still do a stream session, which actually is going to get people fitter and healthier. And I see that as a win-win for everybody really.

Alex: Yeah. Okay. James, would you add anything to that or?

James: No, I agree with all the points really, Alex. I think certainly that digital integration is the key and it’s allowed us to sort of move into a different field. And I think realistically, we need to consider the communities, the population who aren’t engaged with fitness interventions. What are the reasons behind that? You know often it’s confidence. And I always use the analogy of Mrs. Jones. So Mrs. Jones is a 65-year-old female, lives at home is really of the notion of using a gym facility. But how can we engage Mrs. Jones, if you did send to her a fitness professional who builds the confidence and then almost creates a pathway to regular activity? I think that’s the key and it’s certainly the key features that operators need to be considering now going into this sort of new way of working in this new world. But personal trainers can be the biggest asset to that process as well. So it’s really crucial that we embrace that concept and allow the professionals to do what they’re designed to do.

Alex: Yeah. And Aaron, you had mentioned too, that there’s going to be a lot of like say family fitness initiatives and say trying to tackle like childhood obesity. Do you have any PTs doing like group PT sessions, but specifically dedicated to one family? It sounds like…

Are There Any PTs Dedicated to Working With One Family?

Aaron: It’s like something that’s actually within the sort of rules and regulations that I guess if you could call them that, that we’re allowed to do is actually training within your household.

Alex: Yeah.

Aaron: This is what personal trainers are doing. So where husbands and wives are training together or people that are living together are working out and just to get the kids out the house at the minute. I think that’s probably the thing that they can go and do. And while we’re training outdoors, I think I might be completely wrong, I don’t have kids myself, but James might be able to kind of help me with this one, but ultimately are kids going to be more engaged training with their parents outdoors or like going into a gym? I would think they would prefer the outdoors, myself.

James: They tend to show me up a bit too much now, Aaron. They’re faster than me.

Alex: [Inaudible 41:20] … sessions. Yeah.

James: Yeah, absolutely. They’re a bit quicker than me at over 60 meters. So I tend to keep them at home while I’m doing my workout.

Alex: All right. Nice. Okay. And you guys also mentioned some things that you think the industry could be doing better. So maybe we’ll keep it without going too off course here, but what kind of things do you see, like some challenges the industry is facing right now and maybe how to fix those challenges. But not necessarily challenges, but like making the industry better than it is now.

Making the Industry Better Than It Is Now

Aaron: Yeah. I think you’re right. You could completely go down the rabbit hole of this one. And if you want to really nitpick at what the industry can do better, we’d be here for two or three days. We don’t have enough time to do that. So I mean, obviously the challenges that everyone’s kind of had over the last 12 months, obviously couldn’t be predicted. I think it highlighted a lot of issues that gyms already have, not just issues. But maybe personal trainers, things that they were missing, weren’t doing. I think certainly around those kinds of sleeping memberships where I believe it was around about 22% of members that were paying, but not coming. That’s ridiculous to me that someone would do that. I mean, they’re obviously doing well enough to ignore that 20, 30 pounds a month coming out of there and only maybe going a couple of times a year. I’m a bit more frugal with my money than that. So maybe I would notice it if I wasn’t doing anything with it.

But definitely, the engagement side has been a challenge. And it’s an opportunity now for gym operators and a lot of them have been doing that over the last year. They’ve really improved what they were doing. Well, actually, we need to keep doing this. This is going to make things better. We’re going to get more engaged, get people in the gym. And I think also understanding what members want and how to use what they’ve got. So, one thing that I’ve kind of said before about making the industry better is a collaboration between absolutely everybody. So with personal trainers and gyms, they have the same goal, right and they never really worked together on that, which to us makes absolutely no sense. Like when we speak to a gym operator, they’re like, well, “What do you do when you come in?” We’re like, “Well, we don’t just take over. We’re not going to rip out the inside of your gym, change it and make it really super PT friendly. It’s a collaboration.” You know what your members want. We know what personal trainers need and what they need to kind of help their members. So we kind of bridge that gap.

But there are opportunities for gyms to do that with their members. People come to the gym to get results, ultimately. But only 10% ever get there. That means the gyms don’t do what they say they’re supposed to do, which is again, it just makes no sense. But a personal trainer’s job is to get results. The members want their results and the gyms want them to get them so they stay, which is what a personal trainer will do. If they get results when they go to group X or they do personal training, they’re going to do better than if they were training on their own. There have been several studies to prove that, and it keeps going and they will continue to be so. And they want to get fitter, stronger, healthier. Gyms want them to use their clubs. PTs want to help them and Members want to get there. Surely, that is just the easiest job in the world.

It’s everybody who wins in that scenario. The members win because they can get results. The PTs win because their clients are getting results. They’ve got a great reputation and the gym doesn’t lose members because they’re not getting results and no one’s talking to them. It just ticks all of those boxes. And I think now is an opportunity if it hasn’t been done to kind of start looking at that, whether they do it themselves or they work with us. We were very, very fortunate with the groups that we work with. That’s how they see things. And they’re like, well, we actually want to engage personal trainers more. We want more people to use them because we know they’re going to stay if they use a PT. So it’s great that we have that. But if gyms in general, that we don’t work with can take that on, it’s going to be better for everybody in the entire industry as a whole.

Alex: Okay. Nice. Thanks for that. That’s some good advice there, and I think it’s always good to get your guys’ take too, like coming into the industry. What’s some of the best advice that you guys have ever gotten when, say you were a little bit younger there, James in the industry? Yeah.

Best Advice Ever Received in the Industry

James: Yeah. So in terms of advice, I think nothing really stands out specifically really, Alex. But I think there’s a lot of talk within the PT industry now around creating a niche market. And I think that definitely has its purpose. It’s great to specialize in strength and conditioning or GP referral as an example. But aside from that, it’s important to understand what the consumer wants as well and let’s not beat around the bush. Generally, personal training clients, seek weight loss and they seek body conditioning a lot of the time. So I think certainly developing a unique selling point is important for personal trainers and especially to stand up from the crowd these days as well. I think it’s important to have some markers to show that you are the go-to person for your area of expertise and whether that be showcasing qualifications or client testimonials. I think that’s often something that personal trainers could 90% of the time do a lot better. So I think certainly having the ability to showcase and market yourself effectively is a great tactic for a new personal trainer or current PT in the industry.

Audience Questions and Answers

Alex: Okay, nice. And we’re going to start switching over to some customers, some audience questions here that have been coming in. One of them and this is one I think we like to ask a lot as well. Best book recommendations, you guys would have. Either of you. Yeah.

James: We’ve read quite a bit over the last 12 months. We’ve got quite an eclectic collection.

Aaron: [Crosstalk 47:26] … time, haven’t we?

Alex: Yeah.

James: What I’ve recommended on a few podcasts, actually, Alex’s is Black Box Thinking by Matthew Syed that kind of focuses on aviation and the healthcare environment where they learn very quickly from their mistakes. They learn never to repeat the same mistakes twice, and I think that’s common in business as well. If you’re a personal trainer and you’re developing a brand and developing a business, it’s absolutely fine to make mistakes, but learn quickly and readjust and make sure that you move forward on the right foot.

Alex: Aaron, do you have anyone you want to throw in there?

Aaron: Yeah. Similar, just like James said, when we get asked this quite a bit and I’m getting further along from it. I use audiobooks because I’m not really good at reading. I left that behind when I finished going through level three. So it’s not for me. But I’m almost through David Goggins, Can’t Hurt Me, which is kind of slightly, maybe a sort of different way from what James is doing, based is kind of, define the odds and sort of resilience and sort of mental toughness is kind of the key thing from that. And there’s a lot of kinds of messages and sort of lessons to be learned along the way from it’s a great life story as well, actually. So it’s very, very engaging. But it’s what he’s picked up from that and obviously how people can use that. Yeah, we’ve been flicking through those. We went through quite a lot of those books and made our way.

Alex: Yeah. Me as well. Okay. And this one, this is a question from a listener named Kevin is from a YMCA in Canada, and he says as a new personal trainer and currently full-time employed at a health and fitness facility, what advice would you give to someone looking to leverage their evening and weekend opportunities knowing that flexibility and adapting is key?

James: That’s a really good point. I think if you’re in a full-time position, you really would optimize that space of time that you dedicated. So if it’s a weekend concept, I used to run some programs called the weekend warriors and what my niche was are strength and conditioning. I attracted a lot of ex-sports performers to come and join in with the Weekend Warrior Program because they never lost that kind of desire to do better, to push themselves. They were elite sports performers previously, and they never lost that edge. So they were interesting workouts. But I think really, again, look at our 90-day business plan, have an end destination in mind and that will allow you to optimize your time to build the stepping stones in order to achieve that common objective that you’re looking for. So if it’s to influence 50 people, that’s a great target to start off with. If it’s to influence a thousand people with digital integration that’s very, very much achievable as well these days. So I think, have a clear goal and some stepping stones to get there.

Alex: Excellent. All right. And then this one is from Kristin, she’s a PT out of Australia, and she was wondering your guys’ take on client attraction with a really high price point. So what kind of differentiating services you guys would have if you are coming in at a much higher price point than say your local competition?

Aaron: Yeah. I think that’s a good question, actually. And it’s kind of, again, when I was actually a personal trainer, I had kind of my standard core offering, which was just my kind of face-to-face personal training, the support, and everything else. But I actually then had a package that started at 1,750 pounds a month, which was basically, I’m going to run your entire life. And I was like, well, actually, if I don’t have it, then people won’t buy it. So there are always those people out there. I think sometimes it’s just like well, I have something really high priced. I’m going to find it really difficult to find somebody. There’s always one around that’s going to do it. And they will always buy something or pay for something that holds really good value. So if you’re charging in Australia, I’ve got friends who work out in Brisbane as personal trainers, so if you’re charging like a thousand bucks a month for a personal training package, it has to have a perceived value of 2,000. So it’s not just the kind of face-to-face thing.

It’s the other side of the value that you’re offering. Now, I used to have dual bone devices, which now don’t even exist as Fitbit and Apple have kind of taken over that one. But it would track your calories, your sleep. There’ll be client rewards. There would be other practitioners that I would work with to offer a more rounded service. So they would come to me with PT five days a week, and then they would see a masseuse twice. But I would sort that out for them and do it all for them. Make sure if they need supplements, for example, nothing heavy. Create a team. Make sure they are having caffeine for workouts. If they weren’t getting the right vitamins from food, then I would obviously get that all for them. Generally, with the clients that I had doing it and funny enough, they knew each other because they’ll recommend you. It’s almost like I ran their entire life. I’d even take them shopping and say, right, go through what you would normally buy and change it. These are the swap-outs you want to get. It’s really easy now because back then it wasn’t online shopping that didn’t exist. So I wouldn’t even have to take them shopping now.

But the fact that you could create all of that for them. It is a lot about value and if you’re getting results, people will pay you anything. Like the coach that I have, if he said to me, right, you’re going to look like this in 12 months’ time, and it’s going to cost you 5,000 pounds. That’s done. It’s how you’re going to look in 12 months. I’m not even going to worry about how much it is. If that’s what is going to get me there, then that’s, what’s going to get me there. So I wouldn’t focus too much on the price. If you think it’s expensive, everybody else will believe it as well, because it will come across when you’re talking to them about the price. You won’t sound confident at all but if you believe in it and you believe it’s worth the value that it is, then that will come across and everyone else will believe it as well.

Alex: I think that’s super on point. Thank you for that. And then the last audience question here. So this one is from Ray Mondus, he’s coming out of Lithuania. He was curious, your guys’ take on bestselling PT packages and other revenue sources for a small studio. And it sounds like you guys had mentioned some personal training studios you were working with up North already this year. So maybe just to kind of combine some of those learnings into this answer.

James: Absolutely. Yeah, I think like in any other business, I think all of the operators that we work with always focus on yields. So client yields, how much revenue is being generated from each member, and a PT studio shouldn’t be any different. So having bolt-on options and added value services will certainly help with that process. And I think having your digital integration, so that’s the whole reason why we created Your Wellbeing is to give that additional functionality to the personal trainer and then understand their key objectives as well. I guess, is there an appetite for nutrition offerings? Is there an appetite for food preparation options in there as well? Is there an appetite for clothing? There are lots of multiple revenue streams that you can build that are of a standalone PT studio base.

So it’s kind of identifying those trigger points and then market to your audience effectively. And again with PT studios, you’ve got great ability to build communities. And I think once you go some allies and foot soldiers on the ground, they certainly bang with jungle drums and reach further societies and bring people in. They act as lead generation magnets for you. So I think, yeah, have a good understanding of what your consumers look for and just provide the services to align with it.

Conclusion

Alex: Awesome. Yeah. And I think in any business, you’re totally right. Like the ones who can promote your services for you, if you’re doing a good job and they want to do that word of mouth, that’s going to be the best way to grow that kind of revenue as well. Awesome. All right, guys. Well, we’re about to wrap up here. So always a classic question to end one of these podcasts or webinars, where does someone want to go to find you if they want to learn more about you guys or maybe connect with you?

James: Yeah, sure. So jumping on our website is the best point of contact, Alex. So www.yourpersonaltraininguk.co.uk. You can see a little bit more about our company there. There’s a great video testimonial of what our personal trainers think about the company, which is the biggest point to us is what our PTs think of us and there are job opportunities there and a whole host of added value. We have released as part of our efforts to support the industry through the pandemic. We have released a business and sales training workshop, which is available free of charge to any followers of Your PT. So just pop your details on one of the comments forms on the website and we can get that webinar sent out to you.

Alex: Awesome. Yeah. And I think maybe we can move to put a link to that in some of the show notes as well. Great. Well guys, hey, it’s been a super pleasure talking to you guys once again. We want to thank you a ton for coming on the show and hopefully, I will be able to catch up soon again.

James: Pleasure. Thanks so much, Alex.

Aaron: Awesome. Thanks.

Alex: Yeah. This has been another episode of Fit Nation Lunch and Learn. Thank you everyone for tuning in and we’ll see you next week.

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Neesha Kanaga

Neesha is a copywriter and wanderer who currently finds herself bound to the weather-challenged Netherlands due to the unforeseen circumstances of 2020.

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