Personal training is as much about helping people as it is about building a personal business. But no matter how many books you devour on the subject, few things prepare you for business success like real-world experience. The problem is that experience is often painful and exposing.
While accounting knowledge and prospecting tools can help trainers stay afloat in the business world, you basically need to act like you’re mentally running a marathon if you want to succeed at building your own business. It’s exhausting, a lot of work, day in and day out, and exhilarating all at the same time. You can see all of that as drudgery or as exciting opportunities around every corner. For me, it took these four principles to transform my approach to business. Here’s how they can help you, too.
1. See opportunities in more than dollars and cents.
I had big goals for what I wanted my revenue to look like during my first year in business. It was going to be six figures and grand, and I’d be on my way to the big life in no time. You know the drill.
Well, I was pretty disappointed when that didn’t happen, but through all the surprising twists and turns, I learned something important:
There’s more to business success than dollars and cents.
Without a doubt, your blue-sky goal is to create a profitable enterprise that brings value to everyone involved, but there are opportunities along the way that can’t be fully quantified by black and red digits.
A major reason businesses fail early on is owners lack foresight to plan for the fluctuations of income, as well as not understanding the benefits of revenue streams that can’t be cashed at the bank. Disappointment sets in and they give up.
Learning to see these potential opportunities (and failures) is crucial, and it’s a practice that comes with mindfully and habitually exploring what each experience brings to the table.
Ask yourself what could come from this experience. What can (or did) you learn? How could this be turned into a strength, or a profit stream in the future? In what way will the experience shape my life?
Owning my own business has afforded me the opportunity and flexibility to spend more time with my kids, travel, build incredible relationships, and support causes for which I am passionate.
I’ll admit, it’s possible my financial situation could’ve been much different if I’d chosen a different path–but maybe only at the very beginning. The enrichment and quality of life are immensely different knowing I get to write my own story, and in turn, give that same opportunity to my clients and trainers.
It’s also worth noting that failure can quite possibly be the most valuable experience of all. Don’t deduct it as a waste.
2. The process matters more than the accomplishment.
If you’ve ever been on a lengthy road trip, you’ve heard someone ask the dreaded “Are we there yet?” question.
We all understand that feeling. When we have a long way to go, it can be easy to focus on what we haven’t yet achieved, that we haven’t yet arrived.
It’s important to remember that success is the journey, not the destination.
What we do and who we become, as part of the overall process, are as important as, if not more than, what we achieve.
One of the things I like about vacationing on a cruise ship is it forces me to enjoy the journey. There’s no rushing the process. With few exceptions, the ports are nothing to marvel at beyond parking garages and cargo ships. They reek of diesel fuel and the sounds are anything but serene. The pristine beaches, the gentle sound of waves knocking against your ship, the sights along the meandering path, and long, lazy days sunbathing on deck are the real experience and source of enjoyment.
This is so with business–with life. Cruising is not the fastest way to get anywhere, but it would be ridiculous to skip a day on a crystal clear shoreline solely for the sake of arriving at the final destination.
Having goals and knowing where we want to end up is important, but at some point we must sit back and focus on the journey and process at hand, enjoying each individual mile because it adds up to our final destination. This idea of a final destination, however, may not really exist, as there’s always more to achieve and new ways to evolve. (But that’s kind of the point!)
3. Guaranteed outcomes only come from quitting.
“There is no failure except in no longer trying.” – Elbert Hubbard
The single biggest reason our clients fail in their weight loss endeavors is they stop doing the things that would bring them closer to their goal. They quit because they don’t see things immediately happening.
The problem is that people do things that just aren’t sustainable. They don’t build habits or create the right foundation; they sacrifice future progress for immediate gains; and they rely on intentions and willpower.
I’m not being a downer here. I’ve written before that we’d all be a lot more successful in business if we would just follow the very advice we give our clients: create accountability, use the right metrics to measure, and adjust when necessary.
The takeaway here is that you can’t lose 20 pounds until you lose your first two. You can’t get 100 clients until you get your first 10, or even your first one. And ultimately, just because something worked in the past doesn’t mean it will always work in the future.
There are a lot of diets out there that produce phenomenal results for a lot of people, in much the same way there are a lot of business coaches who produce some phenomenal growth for companies. The common thread here that produces results is consistently doing the “right things”, over and over, diligently.
My mantra in life is the above quote from Elbert Hubbard. While I can’t say that having the right forward-looking focus and attention to the journey will bring guaranteed success to your fitness business, I can absolutely guarantee zero results if you walk away.
4. Investing in yourself is an investment in the business.
If I got a free tank of gas for every time I failed to fill mine up, only to find myself stranded on the side of the road, I wouldn’t have to pay for gas–ever. I’m notorious for skipping out on the gas line and convince myself I can make it just a few more miles because I don’t want to take the time to fill up.
This sounds ridiculous, but we do this daily with our real lives, with our actual bodies. We get so focused on “getting there” that we don’t do the things that will actually get us there. Self-care isn’t something that eats away at our schedules and sidetracks us from making progress. It’s the maintenance of our bodies that enables us to keep going.
Now I’m not saying you should take three hours a day to just veg out when you have a business to build and targets to achieve (although the opportunity to take three hours daily for yourself may be something to add to your “list”.) However, do something to fill up your tank, so to speak, and do it often. Ask yourself what you can do, and build it into your schedule just like you would to take care of your car, for example.
If you don’t do something, burnout is not just possible; it’s imminent. You’ll miss the graduation after-party because your tank is on empty. (Not saying this actually happened to me or anything…)
For me, I recognize that it won’t happen if it’s not on my calendar. So each week, I sit down and plan out when I’ll workout, when I’ll have quiet time, and even when I’ll meet friends to connect. Sometimes planning these times isn’t as easy as planning what I’ll do if I get these times. I keep a running list of the activities I enjoy and want to fulfill should the time show up. That way, if I have an unexpected block of time, I’m not wasting it trying to figure out what to do with it.
The best part about taking this time is it gives your mind an opportunity to rest and recuperate. Some of my best ideas have come while I was out on a run, at dinner with a friend, or indulging in an extra-long hot shower.
The brain doesn’t operate properly when it’s under stress, so look at this time as an opportunity to work through problems by not working through them.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide what success looks like for your business and life, and knowing this is in and of itself a secret to surviving your first years. While the nuts and bolts are certainly important, like knowing your numbers and mastering your schedule, seeing a more rounded picture is essential. What you do with it is limited only by your vision.