Thomas Plummer: The Immutable Laws of Money and Coaching

This is an excerpt from The Soul of a Trainer

Number One—Never fail to charge what you are worth.
You cannot be the cheapest coach in town and 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. These coaches believe if they charge less than other coaches, they will take everyone else’s clients, because being viewed as cheaper and therefore a better deal is what the client is looking for in a coach.

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 decisions to choose a coach on whether they believe the coach can get the results they desire. In this client’s world, price is secondary, behind the anticipated ability to get the results they are paying for over time. 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 by them as buyers.

If one trainer charges $50 per hour and the other $100, who is going to be the best trainer in the eyes of most of our clients? These clients believe the expensive trainer is usually the best trainer. The higher-priced coach, in their eyes, must have the experience and education to charge this amount and must also have enough clients to validate that others paid this amount.

One of the biggest mistakes coaches make is undercharging for what they do. Your price sets an expectation of quality; the cheapest is never the best.

Number Two—Never tie yourself to a single methodology.
Single-methodology coaches fail over time. Single-methodology people are like a carpenter who is really good using a special hammer and then believes the magic hammer is the only tool needed 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. People become married to a tool, such as a kettlebell, barbell, yoga mat, or suspension trainer, or go so far as to build an entire gym around a single-methodology system. Then they try to force every client into this single-tool approach. I am a hammer and you are going to be a nail whether you like it or not.

Master coaches move beyond tools and think more as an architect working with a master builder to create a beautiful house. The architect can design an expected outcome and the master builder, with a 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. You must see what can be created, but you also must have all the tools in the bag to be able to get the job done. Every client is different and every client might need a unique application of tools to get it done over time.

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

Number Three—If it hurts you, why do you think it won’t hurt them?
If you are hurt and beat up from your own workouts, what are you doing to your clients? There is nothing more pathetic than a coach who is constantly in pain and beaten up from workouts applying this same brilliant approach to 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.” This is nothing to brag about, but rather is a negative statement on your IQ and mental stability.

If your approach to fitness is keeping you constantly fighting pain, what do you think you are doing to your clients, who believe every word you utter but who have 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, ability to push through pain, and overall willingness to destroy your body in the name of fitness is a wrong approach that is killing you and hurting the very people who trusted you with their fitness.

Number Four—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. You create your own code based on 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. They are willing to help when others can’t or won’t, and especially are willing to never do anything to a client for the mere sake of trying to make a little money selling something they don’t need and only bought because you told them 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 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.

Number Five—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 a client 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, those from whom you want to learn 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, you live it every day.

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

Number Six—I would rather go broke and die on the street than scam a client.
There is a time in the career of every coach when you will consider taking advantage of a client, even if it is only for a few seconds. You could be broke, desperate for money, or simply be with a guy who spends more than you make and find yourself looking for the easy money.

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

When you cross that line, it is nearly 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, swear to yourself that you would rather go broke and die on the street than ever scam a client.

Number Seven—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. The client trusts you because he believes you are the one who can get the desired results.

Wait, you say, the client trusted me in the beginning because he thought my almost-naked selfies and videos lifting heavy stuff with my exertion face proved I am a stud. The client knew if I can get myself into this kind of shape, just think what I can do for him.

If you ever said this to yourself, and you actually believe your own bullshit here, 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 who ever worked for Starbucks, because this is not why 99 percent of your clients 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 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 a local art gallery, coaches come in all shapes and sizes, and yes, many of these fine coaches are considered works in progress, chasing their fitness goals and wrestling with their own fitness demons.

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

None of this will last. You will not be perfect forever, and if you base your business on a perfect day on your 30th birthday, 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 who 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 ever do about how you look without a shirt.

Number Eight—It is never about you; it is always about them.
You push clients too hard and for too long, because you apply your personal standard of fitness to them. Your goals and vision for your clients may be the thing that will drive them out of your gym, and maybe hurt them as well.

This is not about you and what you want. Professional coaching is about them and what they need to be successful. Your clients might only want to move and feel better and not give a damn about their weight, although you know that is what is hurting them. You can guide and suggest, but when you push, you lose them forever. They are moving; they are happy dropping in once or twice a week and that is enough.

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

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

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

Continue to Part 2 for Thomas Plummer’s Laws nine through seventeen.

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