Mike Boyle: How to Build a Successful Training Business
I can’t tell you what success is for you. It might be money, but most trainers and coaches are not financially motivated people. But you can be good at this and do good for people and still make a good living. It took me a while to sync that up in my mind. I didn’t realize we could build a facility that helped people and made money too—that we could be successful at both.
Let’s start at the beginning: You have to be nice.
So, why aren’t you successful?
Maybe you’re a jerk.
If you’re a personal trainer, your services are sold by the hour. Someone pays money to spend an hour with you. If you are a know-it-all asshole who stands on top of people’s chests and yells at them, why would anyone give you money?
If people aren’t giving you money, there’s a reason. Either you’re not very good or you’re not much fun to be around. In this field, it’s usually that you’re not much fun to be around.
When I’m hiring people for Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning, I look for nice people. I look for people someone will want to spend an hour with—ideally, three hours a week, because we’d like them to come in three times a week. That’s what I want.
Friendliness and being nice is the primary requirement.
What kind of certification do you have? I could care less. As long as you have one so I don’t get sued, we’ll be fine. It can be any three-letter combination that gets you an insurance certificate and I’ll be perfectly happy that you are certified. I’m going to teach what I want you to know anyway. I don’t really care what you know; I care that you’re nice.
Then you have to set goals
A few years ago—for the first time in my life—I actually wrote out my goals, because I heard for the 100th time that people with written goals do better than people with unwritten goals. I was 50 years old, and actually sat down and made a list. First time in my life.
I checked that list every month, which I couldn’t believe I was doing. I achieved 11 out of 12 of those goals and doubled my income that year. Let me repeat: I made twice as much that year as I made the year before. That has to have something to do with actually writing out my goals.
Figure out what you want. How much money do you want to make? What car do you want to drive? Where do you want to live? You will be amazed when you do this. I was a complete non-believer. Writing things down changed everything for me.
Who succeeds in life today? Early adapters. Early adopters. Everybody can’t be an innovator. Everybody can’t come up with an original idea. The people who succeed are either early adapters or early adopters.
I was an early adapter. I never stayed behind the curve. When I saw somebody present better or coach better, I changed. You see somebody do something better than you, you are either stuck in your ways and do nothing, or you change. I change a lot.
People accuse me of being all over the place. That’s probably that reading thing. I read. I study. I go to seminars. I learn. That stuff really gets in the way of stagnation. Actually, I’d love to just do the same thing over and over again, but I keep getting screwed up with those stupid books. I learn something and I want to implement it. It’s terrible.
People don’t love it that you stay the same. You know what people love? When you say to them, “I was at a seminar last weekend and I learned this and it made me think about you, and we’re going to try this today.” You know what? The bells go off in their head: You were at a seminar thinking about me? That’s unbelievable.
Clients love the fact that you think about their particular situations, about their shoulder injury or back problem. They absolutely love that stuff.
When you learn something new, make the change. Don’t worry what people will think.
If you’re young, from 20 to 30, and you’re not ready to work 80 hours a week, I don’t want you working for me. If you’re not ready to work two jobs, you’re not mentally in the place you need to be. That’s the way this field is. To get good, you’ve got to grind when you’re young. You’ve got to spend hours on the floor actually coaching people. It’s the only way.
Train, train, train, train some more. If you do 10,000 hours training of people, you’ll have something to write about. You’ll have a long list of people who want to train with you. You’ll more than likely have your own business and have other people working for you.
But you have to put in the time.
Then, when you get home from all those hours, make yourself read an hour a day. Start with a good anatomy book and then work your way forward. Write down your impressions of what you read. Make notes, keep a record of what you learned.
You have to be willing to start at the bottom. You’ve got to start with the worst job. You don’t get to get the best job. It doesn’t work that way.
You do the right things. You keep putting your time in. You keep going to the right places and it all rolls around. Ah, you think, it’s not enough money. Forget it; it’s not about the money.
Income equals service
But some of it’s about money, and if you want to make more money, you’ve got to impact more people. If a trainer works for me, he or she makes $30 dollars an hour for a one-on-one session. A session with two people is $40; three people is $50. This is how we impact more people. When you’re impacting more people, I’ll pay you more money.
You want to make more money? The number one way for you to make more money is get more of your clients to double up. Get your schedule full and when people want to train with you, get them to train with somebody else and both you and your facility will make more money.
You want to own a facility?
Think carefully about building your own facility. You will spend at least 80 percent of what you make. If you talk to people who are in business and say you have a business that’s 15 percent profitable, they’ll say that’s a good business. If you can get it to 20 percent, it’s a really good business.
You will soon realize that when owning a business, you live for everybody else. I love owning my own business. I have a blast. I love the people who work for me. I love the whole process. But it’s not easy, not at all.
The vast majority of people who go into this type of business will fail. If you rent out space and do all the training, you don’t have a business. You have a shitty job. If the toilet plugs while you have a client, you have to leave the client and unplug the toilet for your next client. That’s not a business. A business is something where other people work and you make money. That’s a real business.
I’m not very business-like. I’m sure you’re shocked—I mean a guy with an extensive vocabulary like mine—I’m not a good business person. Our business is not a big money maker. Most people in this business are lucky to make a profit, particularly in the early going.
It’s not easy to do.
Nobody started at third base. Most of us started in pretty humble beginnings. None of us had an easy run up. It just sometimes looks that way because you weren’t around to see the early years.
Partners in business
I’ll tell you right now, just like the old adage, partners are for dancing. If you can do it by yourself, do it by yourself. Partner struggles can easily be one of the big horrors of business.
If you do partner up, don’t partner with another trainer; partner with a business person. If you partner with another trainer, you and the other trainer will argue about who has to do the shitty jobs. Who has to do the marketing? Who has to do the bookkeeping? Who has to do all these other things, because neither one of you is good at it and neither one of you wants to do it.
Find somebody who is interested in business and marketing. Don’t find a trainer who has the same likes and dislikes you have and has the same philosophy. That stuff doesn’t matter. You need somebody who can understand the business side of things and can run it for you.
Be a realist. Realize that if you’re going into this, it’s a labor of love. There are a lot of better things you can do with your money than open your own studio or sports performance facility.
You’ve got to be realistic about that. You can’t look at this and think you’re going be making a couple hundred grand a year and sitting with your feet up. It won’t work that way.
How big a facility?
So you’ve decided to open, and now you’ve got to be careful with facility size when shopping for a building. Too small and you have to expand right away. Too big, you get buried under the overhead—these days, think 4,000-6,000 square feet. Don’t open a 1,000 square-foot facility if you’re any good. You will regret it within three months of opening because you won’t be able to do what you need to do in that size building. You’ll be frustrated very fast and you’ll be moving and carrying stuff to the next place you just paid to renovate—again.
That’s a critical decision right there: how big. And it’s not an easy decision.
The business numbers
What you gross is meaningless; what you net is meaningful. How much can you keep when all is said and done?
When I started this I did not understand this. I literally thought as the gross number went up, the revenue number would stay the same and in that gap would be all the money that we would make. And instead, the gross number went up and the net number basically flat-lined right along with it. We make the same percentage of our sales pretty much all the time. It doesn’t change very much.
The way we do better is to service more people. Income equals service. We service more people. We increase our gross. We make more money. If we don’t do that, we can’t find a way to make more money. It just doesn’t work.
This is critical: Start early. Get and train your staff right out of college. Pick the kids who are the nicest, who have the best personality.
I’ll give it to you in a nutshell: People don’t change. Don’t expect them to. Don’t try to change people. If somebody is a drunk, he’s a drunk and is not going to become less of one because he works for you. It might stop for a little while after you talked to him about it, and then once he gets comfortable again, he will do exactly what he did before. The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.
Work with nice people who play by the rules.
Spend your most time with your best people. Don’t spend your time putting out fires and having headaches. If you’re putting out fires, get rid of the person, client or employee—it doesn’t matter who it is. People like this will make you crazy.
If you don’t take care of this problem right away, you know what will happen? You get attached to people. You let people hang around for a while. It’s not fun to fire somebody. It’s not fun to see people realize their whole world just got flushed in front of them. Sometimes, if you’re not careful, you’ll get stuck with people and you can’t get unstuck. Get unstuck early when it’s easier.
Working with kids in your facility
The tough clients are the parents who think the kid is the next Michael Jordan. You have to develop the ability and policies to deal with those people. Our policy is strict: Parents can’t watch. If they’re adamant, we let them watch once. That’s it. They’re crazy and we don’t want them around—and there are too many of them. It’ll drive everyone on your staff nuts.
But these are your best customers. The crazy parent who thinks the kid is going to save the world of basketball generally becomes the person who tells everybody else about your services once you do a good job for the kid.
The kids who bring you the most notoriety aren’t the good athletes.
Bad athletes getting better, that is what will get you a lot of clients. We specialize in that—we make a living off that. Fat kids. Skinny kids. That is how we make our money. We take fat kids and make them skinny. We take skinny kids and make them stronger. They play better than the kids who weren’t training, but who started as better athletes. That’s the way to do it.
The person who’s going to make your facility into a great business is the average kid who wants to make a team. That’s where the business is with kids in the facility.
Be fair, be kind
Be fair, honest and above board. I will tell you, karma is a bitch. It catches up to people. When they say you meet the same people on the way down as you do on the way up, it’s true. Be nice.
Be a great person. That’s the most important thing. Ten years from now, what I want people to say is that I’ve never screwed anybody. That’s the only thing I care about.
Your clients don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. I live and die by that statement. With clients, that is absolutely, positively the truth.
You can do great if your clients know you care about them, if they know you’re thinking about them. It’s not just that hour you’re with them. It might take two seconds to get in touch with your clients during an off-week—you could probably text all your clients in like two minutes. Let them know you care.
Become the most positive and enthusiastic person they know.
Make an impact
Remember this: He who dies with the most toys is probably an asshole with no friends. This is not about toys. If you care about your clients, you will have a successful business and you will eventually make a lot of money.
You have no idea who you’re around. You have no idea what the impact is going to be. You have no idea what somebody else’s impact is going to be on you.
And more importantly, you have no idea what your impact is going to be on somebody else.
Remember that each and every day.
Learn more from Mike Boyle:
Tap into the Brains of Some of the World’s Leading Performance Experts
FREE Access to the OTP Vault
Inside the OTP Vault, you’ll find over 20 articles and videos from leading strength coaches, trainers and physical therapists such as Dan John, Gray Cook, Michael Boyle, Stuart McGill and Sue Falsone.
Click here to get FREE access to the On Target Publications vault and receive the latest relevant content to help you and your clients move and perform better.