Category Archives: Sales

The CEO Trainer

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Yes, I happen to be training CEOs, as in personal training them. In fitness, yes.

I don’t have the pretension to train people to become CEOs. And yes, I have been one, at some point: I was chairman of an LLC I founded, and later even took over CEO duties after the person who had that title and I disagreed on how the corporation ought to be run. I eventually resigned, having reached a communication impasse, despite having positioned all the elements necessary for the company to operate from thereon. Life is too short (#YOLO, right?), and the combination of growing debt, loss of income and personal savings, at the expense of my marriage and children’s present AND future was PTSD enough to make the only logical choice that I needed to make. Here, the “CEO Trainer” concept is mix of analogies of being the CEO of a training session as well as a training business (the latter obvious, therefore less expanded upon today).

Success can be measured a variety of ways. The most common one is through one’s material wealth (no need to elaborate), another is through the resilience one shows at rebuilding oneself from scratch, rising from the ashes. Having had to do the latter several times, not necessarily through failure, rather circumstances (health can be one, on two occasions for me, the most recent tied to the LLC experience, which helped make the choice in favor of my family).

Then there’s success that can be measured in the value you bring to others. It does not get quantified by your bank account, the mansion or many supercars in your “stable”. I received an email from an aspiring fitness trainer that simply stated “You are dropping a lot of bombs to think about (…) You are changing the way I think about fitness!!! Thanks, man”. That right there, is value. Another example was an ex-client thanking me for sending them on an improved professional path by inspiring them to take a specific course/certification, which increased their value as a job seeker. I also offered a third client a revenue sharing opportunity in a project that I spent nearly two years developing, using my platform, my database and captive audience to get professional exposure, in exchange of some sweat equity and services, in the hopes of creating a launchpad for that client’s business, with a barter of services in return (the client’s value).

This isn’t a post where I seek a pat on the back or a medal for recognition. It’s a way to run your business, any business, and if it happens to be a fitness business, of which you are the CEO, even if you are your own unique employee, you need to understand that your greatest asset is also your greatest liability (you). To reduce that liability, you need to increase the value you provide. Not your material wealth (as it can become a target, another form of liability for greedy ambulance chasers), not your resilience and ability to stand back up after a setback (like an economic recession for instance), but the intangible value you provide to others, which is reciprocated in how others perceive you and the services your deliver.

Seth Godin, in his book Linchpin, refers to “delivering” as “shipping”. “You must ship”. If it’s a book, publish it! If it’s a good, manufacture it! If it’s a meal, cook it! If it’s a photo, develop it! (Yes, even digital photography needs developing, in the “digital dark room” that is Photoshop).

It all sounds easy when it’s written. And simply stated, right? Any CEO will tell you, however, that it’s a complicated process that relies on the synchronicity, alignment and understanding of people and external factors ranging from having charged batteries for your equipment, a trusted & verified vendor (not someone who tells you they “can” do something, which you find out later “can” doesn’t mean “should” or “can do it proficiently”) to a clearly defined, understood and acknowledged process you can hold someone accountable to, because inevitably, someone at some point will drop the ball, and in order to recover from that setback, you need to know exactly where and why the ball got dropped.

The CEO needs to have a working understanding of what the CFO, CMO, COO, CTO or any other C-level position is doing, both in function and timeline (function being what the position entails, and timeline being where in the “shipping” process is the individual involved and are they doing their job properly).

When I was learning how to ride a motorcycle, I learned two acronyms to make sure that my bike was safe to ride. T-CLOCS was the first, inspecting the bike itself: Tires, Controls (hoses, handlebar, cables…), Lights (and electric), Oil (and other fluids), Stand (side or center). If you’re a trainer, make sure your gear is safe: rubber bands not worn (snapped those once, cut the top of my hands, bled profusely), rack (someone once left a cable running through my kettlebells. I picked one up and started walking away, the whole rack came down in an avalanche of iron), cables, chains on the heavy bag etc.

The second thing you do as you are about to ride is FINE-C. These are the various things you turn on to start the motorcycle. Fuel (toggle switch, although most new rides these days are fuel injected), Ignition (turn the key), Neutral (that’s your transmission) and Choke (again, lesser concern these days on modern bikes, though I like my bikes vintage, and with a little maintenance, they can outlast the lifespan of a car). Overseeing that aspect makes you knowledgeable as the CTO, or Chief Technical Officer. As the CEO, a working knowledge suffices (you don’t need to know how to build the treadmill or how to cast the iron in the kettlebell’s mold).

For the trainer, that’s your client’s body, form, alignment, understanding of what to do for any given exercise. “Get your motor running, head out on the highway, looking for adventure…”, you see where I’m going. You’re the CEO of the session, the workout, your client becomes the product that you ship, resulting from the services you provide, you oversee everything in that LLC, the limited liability corporation that lasts for the duration of the session, or the training package (i.e. commitment the client made to train with you).

As the CEO, you are responsible for overseeing the (metaphorical) “finances” and be an acting CFO: you manage the budget, allocate funds here based on the needs, make projections. That’s how you manage your client’s efforts, routine, sets, reps and project potential outcomes. You have to know your numbers, adjust them if needed, course correct (after all, they are just projections, sometimes based on previously proven strategies with a certain product/client, sometimes a wishful best case scenario with a new product you’re testing/new client you’ve started, and it doesn’t come out quite as expected, as it’s not an exact science, no matter what the Gurus try to tell you).

You also need to have marketing and sales down (otherwise, you won’t be in business very long if you can’t turn a profit). Your CFO duties overlap to a point with those of the CMO (Chief Marketing Officer), and your marketing starts as simply as having other people see you train clients and how you treat them, how they progress (Advertising). It’s also how you approach a non-client, or how a non-client approaches you and how you handle their query (Glengarry Glenn Ross’ ABC -Alway Be Closing- comes to mind, though today’s approach is more subtle, less aggressive and more rapport oriented). This falls into your Inbound marketing approach. You reading this is an example of this. We’re building a rapport, I am not selling you on my services, not pitching you, rather discussing a problem, or offering a solution. The pitch comes later and the prospect is more willing and trusting to convert into a buyer.

Fitness is a business. Just like Show Business. And it’s not the richest actors you always remember, it’s the ones that make the greatest positive impact, that use their fame to do good, to promote causes, to make you think, tickle your brain, offer a new perspective, and not just entertain.

Don’t just train for the sake of training, going through the motions. I already covered the concept of having a training session, a workout, tell a story. A goal gives you a direction, whereas a program gives you one of many suggested paths to that goal. Value will give you a lasting business.

You Have To Ship!

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Seth Godin, in his book Linchpin, mentions that no matter your craft, you have to ship, to publish, deliver. Artists ship, not just factories from their warehouses. You ship your art by bringing the paintings to the gallery, even if they’re not done in your mind.

Studios release movies, and sometimes may change stuff, add footage, delete some, provide a Director’s Cut on the DVD. But they back something into the theatrical release.

When I took on the task of translating Georges Hébert’s Practical Guide to Physical Education, I wanted to share the content as quickly as possible, within reason of course. The labor of love associated with it, the journey and discoveries along the way, took a tremendous amount of time that a married, working father of two, with a start-up company to boot, had to squeeze at the expense of other things.

I certainly could have taken my time and released it all at once upon completion of the entire translation. Instead, because of trending interest and alignment from friends with their historical research, as well as using the successful model of movie Studios releasing trilogies over time, the process of breaking things down allowed me to get better reacquainted with the material I was exposed to in my youth, and I was able to build, organically with my limited resources, interest in The Natural Method. People who never heard about it discovered something of value and interest, while people who already knew about it, and practiced as well as formed groups, on social media or in their cities, contacted me with appreciation for making Hébert’s work more accessible with the English language.

My self-imposed deadlines are very much that: self-imposed. No one really cares about them, but it keeps me accountable, and on schedule. Keeping things open-ended, as any time management expert will tell you, can result in things never getting done. Additionally, through a tried and true process I experienced myself in everything I’ve done, people are better off with getting pieces of information at a time. Otherwise they tend to skip over what interests them less.

You could argue that I am removing a person’s choice to work at their own speed, and who am I to have such power? It truly only matters during the timeline of the translation of the books. When trilogies like Star Wars, The Lord Of The Rings, The Matrix came out in trickle fashion, audiences were forced to wait. Now, it’s all available at once.

For those familiar with Hébert’s method, maybe getting it all at once would have been the way to go (which right now doesn’t matter, because nearly all the books are out, from this first guide). But for those un-familiar with it, the timely release of each section of the Practical Guide To Physical Education offers gradual discovery, application and everything positive related to the step-by-step learning process.

99% Marketing, 1% Fitness

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Last week, I had the opportunity to meet with Josh Graves from Fitness On Fire TV, who created a channel for anyone who’s passionate and on fire for fitness and wants to help you ignite that with a variety of topics and interests. We shot what was mostly a sit-down & chat interview, which is kinda nice to be honest, and not always be blasting through “workouts” for the sake of create a metabolic disturbance. I’ll post the link when the interview goes live.

I’ll be frank with you also, I had a fun topic to discuss today, but I completely forgot the topic and am at a loss for inspiration. So, I’ll leave you with a short shameless promo for the book, and an observation at the gym this morning that everyone can benefit from, which is 180º from what I am trying to accomplish daily, or my fitness peers alike . First, the eBook is slated for release on October 22, 2014. That’s 8 short days away! I hope I can get it all on time and look forward to everyone’s reviews on Amazon. This is important work, labor intensive and time consuming, self-published and I invested a lot into promotion, SEOs and more, but time is my most previous commodity. It’ll be priced ridiculously low, so please spread the word so I can continue bringing more information like that to you, as I have two more books slated for release in January 2015, parts II & III of the Practical Guide to Physical Education.

Now, there is also something to talk about when it comes to fitness. So, there’s this “new” (sic) fitness program that’s being tested on a focus group at the gym. Typical: high energy, loud music, super motivated lead trainer, people pouring buckets of sweat and participating essentially in an exhausting game of “Simon Says”. No one will come out of it moving better, more athletic or with any measurable mark of fitness. The goal is, once again, weight loss. The process: non-sustainable exhaustion and severe caloric reduction. 99% marketing, 1% fitness, 0% innovation. I understand we live in a society with ADD that thrives on going after the newest shiny object (that’s why I made the SmartFlex™ black. Just kidding…). These kinds of programs no longer upset me. I don’t have time or enough cortisol left in my body to dwell on that. What does bother me is this one gentleman who is part of the focus group.

Mind you, people are getting paid to participate. Humans are the least reliable test subjects (will power, or lack thereof if you will). Attrition rates are high and compliance is usually mediocre. A free fitness program just ain’t cutting it, being healthy and the promise of a better life has as much value as a discarded tissue these days. No one is thankful of the opportunity.

Back to the gentleman; one of my friends happens to be in charge of filming and documenting. She saw this poor sap move as is his spine had been invaded by a telephone pole, his legs swell to weather ballon proportions and make a grimace that would make Mona ‘Hatchet-Face” from Cry Baby look like a Maybelline spokesperson. So, she kindly brought him over to me and introduced us so that he could get proper care and training for his back (and everything else that may be wrong). This was Thursday last week. Today, who do I see back in action and again, sporting the same painful face, movement and dysfunction? Yup, that guy. And afraid of eye contact too. I normally don’t bite, and anyone who knows me would not qualify me as intimidating (at first glance, thin sliced Gladwell style). Thin-slice back at you buddy: you’re what’s called “uncoachable” in my book.

Instead of focusing on jamming a square peg into a round hole finishing the program and trying to lose weight, what he should be doing is: improve his mobility, assess his movement dysfunction, find a sustainable program to maintain beyond the duration of the test group, and by moving more at an appropriate fitness level (not high impact sadism), moving better, eating better,  and being able to do this DAILY. In just a short week or so, there’s going to be a $1.99 practical guide. Just follow the layout of a session, ask questions when needed, and for Pete’s sake, you’re getting paid to work out, spend a little and get the opinion of someone seasoned. Doesn’t have to be me, I can send you to someone near you!

ABS for your business

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During my recent trip to France to visit my family and introduce our second 5-month old son to the relatives living there, my wife and I were chatting and wound up discussing how I grew up and what aspects of growing up, as one notices with their own children, are taught behavior vs intrinsic personality traits.

Somehow, I realized that I always had an entrepreneurial spirit with a focus on sales. While I learned many a technique as an adult through various jobs and experiences, the drive, out of need, came out organically. I don’t believe most people “seek” sales positions, which are traditionally regarded as “not as cool” as the creative or other positions requiring less skin in the game, and what I mean by that is that in sales positions, survival is the key: you only eat what you kill, no guarantees and it’s all on you. Sales also doesn’t mean “slime” or pushing something no one wants. Good salesmanship is about creating value for something people want or need and finding a way to help them get it.

The “abs” in question is fitness business appropriate paraphrase of the ABC’s of sales “always be closing” wherein the closing portion is what concludes the transaction and the exchange of goods and monies occurs. The fitness ABS are Always Be Selling. These days, with social media, people are selling themselves more and more, with greater ease and sometimes at the detriment of true value or quality. It becomes a quest for the self, a web wide popularity contest not unlike a High School experience with its cliques, prom kings and queens, attacks and strategic controversy just to get a read, a comment or a “like”. Allow me to shamelessly partake, though, while revisiting memory lane of what contributed to make me the adult I am.

At the age of 5, when I didn’t know basic additions yet, I would get 5 French Francs  a week (the equivalent of 80 cents). I would go to the local baker’s and get 2 Kinder Surprise which cost 3 Francs each. Obviously, I was short 1FF, but I learned to negotiate the value of a volume discount.

At the age of 7, I was selling FREE movie theatre schedules. Yup. I sold a free good, but that isn’t accurate once you break it down. I was selling a service for a free good I would deliver to your door. There was only one movie theater in the 6 neighboring towns, with only a few screens. There was no Moviefone or Internet. You’d have to call and listen to a recording listing the movies and schedule, and this was done once a week, for the entire week. It was like listening to an 8-track where you can’t fast forward to get to the information you need. The Cineplex owners would post some flyers or hang their schedule at a few local stores only. So, I would grab the schedules and go knock on every door in the neighborhood (we lived in track home areas, so I had a nice territory to cover) and would sell each catalog for a suggested 1 Franc donation or whatever people would give me. Service. Now, I didn’t earn much, got more rejections than closings, though always politely turned down with a “not interested” response, but I learned rebuttal and also to not get greedy. I only needed enough money to go buy some candy, a comic book or something small.

At 8, I had to, as with all kids at school, sell raffle tickets for the elementary school year-end fair. Most of the kids would get their parent and family to buy the tickets. I would go door to door, again, hitting homes where other kids had already tried their luck, successfully or not, and would sell upwards of 300 tickets in a few days after school. Sales pitch refinement.

Fast forward a few years to High School, I am now 14 years old. My brother Alex, who is a very talented graphic artist, painted a T-shirt for himself with a near perfect replica of a rock band’s album cover. I started a “business” of people providing me with a T-shirt and the art work of their choice, and Alex would do the work, while I acted as his agent (Alex was still in Junior High at the time). Most popular design at the time: Guns’n’Roses Use Your Illusion II. That was the more popular album (II vs I) with the release of Terminator 2 and the hit song “You could be mine”. Trending.

The ultimate sales job came the day I graduated High School. In France, you finish High School with a series of tests that earn you the Baccalauréat diploma. You fail, you repeat. You pass, you go on to study to whatever school or University that accepted you. In my case, I was no registered anywhere. Yup, I aimed a little too high during the school year, but my grades in Math were not good enough, so I wound up rejected from every school I applied to. It took my brain 2 quarters to register how to process math (I was told I wasn’t good at math, which was a fallacy, I just didn’t know how to turn on the switch). When I did, I started acing all my classes and I got my Baccalauréat, track C (which had a Math and Physics emphasis, the hardest of all tracks) and graduated with the second highest level of their grading system (the highest is not frequently achieved, to the point the Government was giving away 10,000 Francs and a trip, that year to Moscow and automatic enrollment to Science Po (Political Science university). So, as soon as I saw my grades and got my transcript, instead of taking off to party with my friends, I started walking to every single business prep school in Paris that had rejected me and said “Look, I can do this, look at my grades and listen to me: I am here selling myself and my value, and this is what you want for business school”. I walked for 3 days, dressed for business even though it was very hot, and targeted over 20 schools. Out of the 5 where I was able to actually get a meeting, 2 called me to accept my application. I didn’t find out until 2 days before school was starting, spending my Summer in a no-man’s land of apprehension, anxiety and limbo, whereas all my friends knew where they were going. Resilience, persistence, patience, pounding the pavement.

So, in essence, the ABS of any business revolve around: value creation, staying current with trends, patience, persistence, resilience and presentation skills. Follow these and you won’t need to “close” people, you won’t need to be pushy, because the value is then real and perceived and you’ve relayed your confidence into their trust in you.



How Much Does A Trainer Make (part 3)?

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4 years ago in March, I wrote a blog where I broke down the pay scale of trainers at various gyms, and helping the buying side understand what it’s like to be a trainer, showing what the trainer’s take-home is and the struggle behind it. While the information is most likely no longer accurate (some of these gyms no longer exist and have been either bought out or have gone bankrupt, while others ended up making their pay structure more attractive to trainers), the points remain the same for the most part.

What I wanted to do now is provide an update and because I am on vacation as I write this, I will ask that you simply trust me, and for those who know the information already, back me up. If you open up a fitness magazine, you will find ads that say something along the lines of “work your dream job”, “get paid doing what you love” or “get paid to work out” (the latter is bad for the client, btw) and then offering some kind of online personal training certification (accredited by NRGB, or Not Recognized Governing Body. That’s a joke, btw). These ads a few years ago use to say “make up to $50/hr” and now are down to only advertising $30/hr. Last I checked, that’s going in the wrong direction in relation to inflation.

The health and fitness industry is one of the fastest growing industries. Attend any fit expo (LA Fit Expo, IDEA FIT, IHRSA) and you will see more gear, apparel, supplements, programs than you can imagine. And (very much like myself), the trainers that have been around for a long time try to branch out (to make passive income, independent of the one hour/one client model, or running a small studio which is running 2 jobs). What’s also happening is that the average yearly income of a trainer is under $32k, with a workload of over 60 hours of clients trained per week. The road to burning out is paved with well intended workouts… The career-span of a trainer is 18-36 months. For some organizations, that’s awesome: it’s a constantly renewable source of customers to whom you can sell the same stuff over and over and never need to update your content. The more seasoned of us still, in some cases, buy into those “memberships” to keep active, but with little ROI, honestly, other than being in a community of friends which can sometimes make you lose sight of the forest for the trees.

So, there you have it. The average trainer makes under $32k/year. Works their butt off, burns out and then looks for a way out. I’ve said it before: a true trainer doesn’t enter this field for the money. Some get lucky, some take risks which don’t pay off, while some treat it like a gig better than waiting tables until something better comes along. I once recall some young kid coming up to me when I was working in a corporate box to “be a trainer as a Summer job” (no comment).

If you’re an aspiring trainer: this doesn’t have to be you, but you gotta be sure you’re willing to sacrifice a lot to get a little in the beginning, and if you stick it out, you’ll make something of yourself (read on, so you can be in the category I am about to mention). If you’re a potential customer, you HAVE to vet your potential trainer: ask what’s their skin in the game, do they have another job, how long have they been doing it, what’s their retention rate etc? If the answers satisfy your needs and you feel that the trainer has a commitment to their craft, which translates into a commitment to their clients, you will also realize that that trainer makes more than $32k/year. If you’re going to trust your body to a millionaire doctor, trust your body and your money to a seasoned, dedicated, educated trainer.

So, trainers, the odds are not in your favor starting out. I see a revolving door at the gym of trainers who don’t last. Fastest growing industry with the highest amount of turnover. Corporate gyms grow, studios struggle. But those who stick around are the gems you want to train with. And in that case, the pay per hour is worth it (and still understand that from that, you deduct: gym fees, Uncle Sam, insurance, accreditations, equipment, permits etc, so it takes a significant amount of time and volume). True labor of love!

What are good fitness marketing methods?

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Once in a while I like to help out my fellow trainers with their business. I actually do that quite a bit and I feel privileged to get asked questions by some of my clients who have themselves become trainers over time, whether it’s part time or full time.

At this past week’s IDEA FIT convention,I had the chance to discuss with many new and aspiring trainers about many ways to grow their business. While I was there primarily to promote the SmartFlex™, I didn’t lose focus of the fact that I created it in many ways to also help my and others’ fitness business. Indeed, whether it’s to “augment” the repertoire of “go-to fixing” drills for a golfer’s swing, a tennis player’s backhand/forehand, a volleyball player’s spike or jump, or an older person’s balance (equilibrium), the SmartFlex™ can be used as a conversation starter for prospecting, an ice-breaker (while it’s still a novelty item) or PR promoter, or gateway to further education.

I have always and always will recommend that any newbie enter this industry via a big box gym. I published articles years ago on the best gyms to work for, and you can find that in my archives, although the pay scale may now be changed (for the better I believe, based on feedback I received this weekend), the gist remains the same: a big box provides you with foot traffic you simply don’t know how to generate on your own without guidance, and guidance can be costly. The managing staff usually provides you with basics of sales tactics and strategies, role playing scenarios, rebuttal techniques etc. It’s no wonder so much of our industry revolves around marketing and sales rather than the purity and passion that fuels our calling as trainers. No one truly enters with the goal of making it rich and big fast (there are better ways to do that, and while that happens to some, it’s as hard as breaking into Hollywood).

Pay your dues, learn the systems and get paid for it. It’s that simple. Eat crow, see what you’re made of and you will find your voice. Most of my successful peers always respond with passion and integrity with what fuels them, but are, consciously or not, answering that they found their voice. That”voice” shows in their training, the smiles of success or grunts of effort during a session, and the repeat customers create social proof that “this trainer is good, I want to get trained by him/her!”. So, systems, foot traffic, exposure and all of this without spending a dime of your still not earned cash.

What ensues in that “voice building” is your interest in other aspects of training: corrective exercise, post-secondary rehabilitation and any specialized training. Think of it as a base model car: many are the same on the road, but the options are what differentiate them. That car has a spoiler, lowered suspension, performance exhaust and bright colors. It will not appeal to the person who needs the hybrid version with a roof rack, off-road tires and paint job that shows off dirt less. This comes from, obviously, the CEUs/CEC (continuing education units/credits).

It doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from a good coach or marketing expert in the business. I personally vote for the trainers who have been in business for years either one-on-one renting space, or running a studio with trainers working for them (at a fair wage or in exchange of rent). Too many scammers will sell you on systems they either came up with on paper only, not field tested or not even market tested: the Los Angeles market doesn’t respond the same way the Minneapolis market responds to certain ads, pricing or other.

Watch, learn, observe the behaviors of gym members. Interview seasoned trainers. It will cost you less than an expensive program some less than scrupulous folks, or perfectly legit too, will sell you. If these people are making a living off the products they sell, not how many clients they train and acquire (other than the captive audience of trainers who seek to expand their business), beware.

Things to watch out for are:
-done for you marketing systems where you only need to follow the directions so you can work ON your business rather than IN the business. You’re now no longer training, you’re selling and potentially not fulfilling the demand, which can result in many refunds. You’re spending more time rather than less time away from the gym (the goal is always passive income).
-systems that ask you to hire others for a low wage: you will have a high turnaround.
-strategies that try to establish you as a local celebrity (never works).
-selling you territories (which no one owns, except for the people in that particular network, and I still doubt there is no crossover).

Mostly, you will find that the scripts provided, allegedly expertly written to elicit a certain response, sound like snake oil. And most are stolen from other coaches in other industries! I once had to practice a phone interview and ad libbed based on my style, what works for me and failed. Once I read it word for word (robotic, fake), I passed but never used it on clients. My own way, my style lends me to a much higher conversion rate. it comes indeed from my passion, but the craft behind always transpires.

I am not the smartest, strongest, fittest, cheapest, most expensive. I am always crediting others, inspiring myself from peers who do better (and I ask them too) as well as confident in knowing who I am. In the end, even if it’s not the intention, the end result is I am selling myself, not the tool or program. I am selling confidence in the client that I am the person for the job. ABC: always be closing, right? But don’t sell what you wouldn’t buy, you’ll be sniffed out.

Setting up straw men.

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The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the expression of setting up a straw man as  a weak or imaginary argument or opponent that is set up to be easily defeated.

In the business of fitness where marketing tops everything (a hard knock on the concept of “strength trumps everything”), you can read daily blogs doing just that, setting up arguments only to take them down and promote one’s own product. And before I get attacked myself for hypocrisy considering I invented a product I wish success for, the SmartFlex™, I need to stress that in order to engage the community of trainers and consumers I have been able to reach via my network as well as partners and allies, I used established knowledge and opened myself up to the critique of people smarter than me. But I digress. So-called experts routinely set up said “straw men” arguments by either preying on the public’s lack of in-depth knowledge of a subject, or, conversely, re-focusing the buffet of information plastered all over the Web to “prove” their point by isolating one element out of proper context.

Take nutrition for instance: is there a definitive answer? Is there one plan that fits all needs or populations? The obvious, sensible answer ought to be “No”. However, if you read the copy of an invested proponent of ANY diet, you’ll find it filled with anecdotal evidence with a pseudo-scientific explanation backing it. Did you know that for any test group, you have the right to publish the evidence that supports your claims, but can keep what refutes it mum for over a decade, or publish it in an obscure journal no one will ever bother to find? What’s even more sad, said test group can have a 3% success rate and 97% failure rate, if you’re only shown the success stories, it’s OK to use for marketing/advertising purposes with nothing more than “individual results may vary”? The supplements industry is the perfect example for that. I even received a multitude of emails recently from different online fitness personalities (I like to see what others are doing), all of whom affiliate with the flavor of the month, usually with an urgent call to action before the information is “taken down for good” or with a huge price hike (to make the offer seem like a deal) past the introductory period, which never expires in reality. There is a reason the offer is taken down. Think about it.

I remember learning and utilizing elements of communities I belong to for marketing purposes. Caught up in the excitement, I never questioned those elements (which are still being used), like the burning of 1200 calories per hour for kettlebell snatches. Yes, that is possible. The test was done by having somebody snatch a 24kg/53lb kettlebell for 10 minutes, which measured 200kcal (calories). That person, to the best of my recollection, was in the 180-200lb range. So the measure is appropriate to the individual, not everyone. And to extrapolate the 1200 calories/hour, you essentially multiply the 10 minutes of work by 6. The math works, the theory works. Now, ask that same person to snatch for an hour instead of 10 minutes. Will the individual  actually burn 1200 calories? Is it safe? Will form falter and potentially increase the risk for injury? Respective answers can be: maybe with elevated EPOC or “afterburn” levels but good luck surviving that (not for the average person), most likely realistically there will be a drop in rep quality & quantity, hand callouses forming then tearing. Benefits are possible, just maybe not likely or plausible. Am I setting up a straw man myself right now by not verifying that this maybe applied to kettlebell swings instead of snatches (way more manageable), hoping no one will call me out or banking on the reader not knowing and trusting my years in the biz? Am I not thorough enough, using my recall of the “Burn up to 1200 calories per hour with kettlebells without the dishonor of aerobics or dieting” with the wrong exercise? Truth is, a little bit of everything applies here. I am however owning up to it and still making my point that this is routinely done without full disclosure, which is where one argument can become law. And kettlebells are one of my favorite tools that I have been using for 7 years now.

I personally have learned to question everything, and like to engage anyone I train to even question what I teach them. I have no problems admitting I was wrong, or that “to the best of my knowledge ____”, or “in my experience, _____” because I like to stay current, informed, and also, I remember the basics of philosophy where every theory is right until proven wrong, and also know that empirical evidence can be skewed or refuted. Which doesn’t necessarily mean that I am one day for something, against it the next day if evidence shows me otherwise. I take it as it is, process it, apply it, present it. This works well if you have nothing financial at stake but your integrity. And just because someone said something bad about something that works doesn’t mean I have to throw that thing away. Instead, I file the newfound information into the “addendum” category. I like the Paleo diet, I even was on it for a while, and just like a weight training routine, the body adapts, things don’t work anymore, goals change and you need to change/adjust variables. Many times I used a high protein, low carb, high fat diet with nutrient dense rich carbs for short term goals, and later found the addition of starches to actually promoted further fat loss -if such was the goal- (when the starter plan of no starches started to fail and affect my hormones).

I have worked with people who built their entire businesses around a concept, but if you dig into their personal regimen (nutrition and/or training) and you’ll find little synergy with what they’re selling. We’re not cavemen needing to survive on food we forage, but we are indeed in need of moving more. Cavemen didn’t work out, they were nomadic, either chasing or being chased. They didn’t lift rocks for fun. But they also didn’t have 156 HD channels and desk jobs. And they sure as heck didn’t enhance their mate’s bosom with silicone or inject anti-aging hormones into their veins. Similarly, the guy who invented the Nautilus line of equipment rarely used it, but was spotted using traditional tools like barbells and dumbbells while saying he relied primarily on his Nautilus gear, with the argument of “checking his strength” as his excuse (checking it 3-4 times a week for a couple of hours at a time. Um, yeah, not buying it).

You can get extremely confused these days reading how everything will kill you, and also that this guy’s coffee is better, or that brand’s lotion is safer or more effective because it has this breakthrough ingredient (usually in concentrations so small it barely moves the needle in any direction). I actually really enjoyed reading about Paleo as the Scientology of diets because it provides some really good light on the Straw Man topic. Mainly it shows that smart people will have a harder time letting go of certain notions because it took them a while to understand the notion. This happens a lot with educated people because they need to justify the high cost of their education at the expense of common sense. It’s called “cognitive dissonance“. I myself have been guilty of that many times, and it’s hard to find out or accept sometimes that yes, you, me, we can be the smarter person, instead of the person we learned from or the world renown expert whose book we bought that yielded a big goose egg worth of results. Sometimes you know what’s right for you, but you can’t either accept it or dig it out of your brain because you may not have the confidence to do so. Yes, we should always seek the advice of experts, but who is an expert these days? Even the experts make mistakes if they remain caught up in their ways.

Change is inevitable and even lack of change promotes change (not in a good way, though).

Tips to make it as a trainer

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So, you just received your shiny, new certificate from __________.

Yay! Clients are about to flock and you’re gonna make this career successful!

If you recall the article about the career span of the average trainer, the hours worked weekly vs the income, this fast growing industry also carries a high rate of turn-over. Trainers don’t last, because while that may be the meat of the sandwich, you still need the trimmings to make sure it doesn’t fall apart! I recently polled some of my peers also to get their input as to what made their own careers as trainers last: passion, overdelivering, servicing all populations, continuing education were at the top of their lists.

Compiled is a non-exhaustive list of tips to keep your training successful, with bullet points you ought to explore. More practical than idealistic, business oriented tips for newbies. Feel free to add and comment!

1) ABC: Always Be Closing.

While this one sounds like a car salesman’s approach to training, cold, sneaky, it really isn’t. You can’t make a living without getting paid for your services. Now, I have never “sold” a client by promising things I cannot deliver. Reputation is key, it’s a results-oriented business. But my passion and knowledge, as well as rapport-building makes the prospect comfortable with investing in themselves and my services. Don’t be shy about offering the training pack, the transaction, because you are entitled to pay your bills, it’s not a favor.

2) Retention is the new acquisition.

Don’t be like those cell phone companies that only offer a good deal to their new clients, or those gym membership salespeople who only see you on your first day, then forget about you once they have you in a contract. Keeping a client is better than constantly getting new ones. What are you doing that they’re not staying with you, by the way? As a trainer, you keep extending yourself to your clients and make them feel appreciated, genuinely, and your focus is on them, their goals, and you’re here to support them no matter what. Don’t think of it for sales purposes. You’re doing this also because you love your job and you want to make this enjoyable and beneficial mutually, with reciprocity.

3) Know your boundaries.

As a trainer, our duty is to provide a service. It’s an invitation to an exclusive club (your brain, your knowledge, your skills). You’re there to give your clients your honest best so they can achieve theirs. But you’re not there “at their service”. Clients come to you because you’re supposed to be an expert and have some authority in how to best provide for them. Why is it that a doctor’s office can charge a cancelation fee and it’s not argued but too many trainers still are afraid of that? Last minute changes affect not just you, but other clients as well. Help your clients with some homework if they miss a session, so you are still keeping them accountable, even if last minute, but have confidence that you are just as important, if not more, than a doctor’s appointment, a car service or a tax audit!

4) Know your numbers.

This is one of the most important aspects of training. You can’t sustain a business if you don’t know your numbers. What are those numbers? It’s about your nut: to pay your bills, home or gym rental, paying off equipment, your overhead, your profit. How many sessions do you need to cover your overhead, then to be profitable, then to allocate for slow times vs busy times, for expansion, education, marketing, etc? You’re dead in the water if you avoid those. Also, know your prices, offering sliding scales and rewards. There will always be a trainer that charges less, one that charges more. Know where you stand, what you’re comfortable with and be confident in your skills. Otherwise, your prospective client will not be confident that you’re the right person for the job. They come to you with trust.

5) Marketing.

You can be the best trainer in town, but if no one knows about you, you’re not going to be sustainable. There are many ways to get one client, not one way to get many clients. Some work, some don’t and you won’t know until you try them. Word of mouth, referral incentives, free sessions or intro classes… Working for a box gym vs independent also has its pros and cons (built-in foot traffic vs giving up a larger cut of your earnings, or higher risk & higher reward).

6) Differentiate.

What makes you the better choice than Trainer X? Know your competition. Research the best in a non-competing geographical location, ask, learn, implement. Observe the direct competition and offer something different. It’s called a Unique Selling Proposition.

7) Listen.

Don’t be the trainers that knows everything better than the client. I once learned an acronym when I was doing some security work: LEAP. Listen, Empathize, Anticipate, Proceed. Listen to your clients’ needs, Empathize by relating to their goals or problems (empathy by using examples among your clients, not always sympathy unless you have experienced the same), Anticipate by having a flexible but goal-driven plan of action (which can include anticipating concerns, clients do come to you for help) and Proceed (ask for the business, transact and put the plan in effect by setting up the session).


There are of course other aspects to building a successful business, and this is merely an overview. However, operating a training business without any of these in place will not lead to success, and unless you’re independently wealthy or just doing this as a hobby, pure passion doesn’t last without a solid foundation, like any relationship.