Business advice for the private training facility

Who are you? That is the most basic and essential of life’s questions. For a private training facility, who you are isn't just a good question but something that must roll off your tongue if you ever expect your business to thrive.

Now that you've seen “who are you” three times in this article, you've probably thought about it a little, so let’s do a little exercise. Set a timer for ten seconds. Start the timer and say who you are as a business. In that ten seconds, you must explain your entire business as you want the outside world to see it without saying "umm" 47 times. This includes, but isn't limited to, who you are, what you're about, who your clients are, what your culture is, and where you are. OK, go!

How did you do? If you're like 99 percent of private training facility owners, you didn't do so well. That’s alright. We'll change that. If I asked you to explain who the local “box gym” place was, I bet you could do it in ten seconds. This is because people generally understand what these places are. They know what they're about and where they are due to their large marketing budget and facility. Also, because they're part of a franchise, people have some awareness of the brand.

You might say something like, “Blah blah is a big box gym at X location with tons of machines, crappy overpriced trainers, and a bunch of fat people who don’t really want to work out. But it’s a big, pretty facility if you wanna pick up chicks.” So how is it that you can describe the box gym down the street, but you have trouble saying who you are?

It's because you have to carve out who you are from scratch. No one has ever owned your gym before. They aren’t you. They don’t know the culture you want, the clientele you want, or how you want your facility to be perceived. These are all things that you must put serious consideration into, hopefully before you open. However, honestly, it won’t really be complete until you've had a little time to figure out who you really are.

A great example of this is my tagline. When I opened, my tagline was, “Sweat hard, see results.” I thought that this was a great way to tell people what we were about. After a few years, I changed my opinion. Yes, we were still about results, but everyone says that they're about results and the sweating hard part didn't convey what we were about because any idiot can make someone sweat. We changed the tagline to, “We build champions.” This still encompassed the results part but let people know that we actually train in a manner that get results by building champions. Whether you're an Olympic wrestler or a stay-at-home mom, everyone wants to be a champion.

When you meet a potential client, he will ask you about your facility. Potential clients ask because you aren't a franchise, you don’t have a huge marketing budget, and you probably aren't a recognized brand in your community (especially as a new facility). Those first ten seconds are your opportunity to let this person know who you are. You must take advantage of this if you want to build your business. So let’s start defining who you are. My “who you are” goes like this: “The Spot Athletics is a private training facility located in upper Arlington. At our elite facility, we specialize in building champions through strength and conditioning and speed training for athletes, personal training, and fitness classes for adults.”

It took many hours to come up with this, and I screwed up a lot until I finally got it down. When coming up with your “who you are,” you need to remember that the person you're speaking with doesn't have a clue about your business, industry, or brand. To build your 10-second “who you are,” you need to start with the basics—your name, an overview of what you are, and where you're located.

As an example, we'll use a fake business called the Compound located in London. Membership is by invitation only and it's set up for serious strength athletes. When describing the overview of who the Compound is, don’t go into detail but rather give the category that the facility falls under. Next, describe the culture and what you do, specifically who you work with. So the “who you are” for the Compound goes like this: “The Compound is an exclusive, invitation-only facility located in London. Our training facility boasts the best equipment in the world and is set in an environment that breeds success. For this reason, we only let serious strength athletes train here.”

I’ve been doing this a very long time, so coming up with the “who you are” isn't that hard for me. This example is easy because I know what the compound is, what the culture is all about, and who the target clientele are. For your facility, you have to spend some serious time figuring this out. If you want to succeed, this isn't a task to be taken lightly. For example, if you don’t want the general, casual exerciser, you can't say that you're for everyone. If you're for everyone, you're competing against the box gyms and this isn't a great marketing strategy.

For private training facilities, you must carve out your niche, something that people can identify with. You don’t need 10,000 members to be successful. It’s probably more like 100. So if who you are really speaks to 100 people and you get your message and brand out to them, you'll have a successful business. Obviously, I'm not advocating that you set your facility up to only appeal to 100 people in your area, but you must narrow down your market if you wish to be successful. A big part of that process is just figuring out “who you are.”