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.

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