Business Perspective: Group Fitness Instructor versus Professional Coach

Business Perspective: Group Fitness Instructor versus Professional Coach

Business Perspective: Group Class Coach vs. Professional Coach

The client, the coach and the business: If you’re in the fitness industry, the hope is that all three can be successful.

For this to happen, the client needs a solution to his/her problem—to get and stay fit and healthy. The coach needs job fulfillment and an opportunity to make a professional wage so he can have a long-term career in fitness. And the business needs clients and coaches to stick around in order to be profitable.

None of this is possible if your gym is run by part-time group fitness instructors who are getting paid $20 an hour to run a class. This is only possible if coaches become professional fitness coaches.

In the sixth article of this six-part series, we’re going to look at the business perspective between group fitness instructors and professional coaches.


#1: The Economics

#2: Client Perspective

#3: Job Fulfillment

#4: Incentivizing Your Coaches to Care

#5: Group Fitness Instructor or a Professional Coach

Business Perspective: Group Fitness Instructor versus Professional Coach

Four well-known problems many gym owners admit they experience:

  1. “I’m overworked and burnt out.”
  2. “I keep losing clients.”
  3. “I can’t seem to develop a full-time coach who sticks around.”
  4. I don’t make enough money

Let’s consider what is required for business success, and for the gym owner to avoid running himself into the ground:

  1. Clients who pay enough money and stick around.
  2. Coaches who make enough money and stick around.

In order to stick around, it goes without saying that:

• Clients must value your service enough to keep paying for it. And to value your service, they need to be consistently getting a solution to their problem.

• Coaches need to feel fulfilled—like they’re making a difference in people’s lives. And they need to be earning (or have the opportunity to earn) a professional wage.

Is this possible in a gym, where group fitness instructors are getting paid $20 an hour to coach a class? Where the only service clients are receiving is a group class workout coached by a group fitness instructor making $20 an hour? Even at 20 classes a week the coach can’t make enough money to survive.

A golden rule in business that we can probably all agree upon is: All business decisions must help the client, the coach and the business. If not, one aspect of the business will suffer, which affects all aspects of the business.

Offering only part-time jobs to instructors simply doesn’t help any of the parties involved—not the client, the coach or the business. Because:

  • Clients never develop a one-on-one relationship with their coach, someone who is invested in their lives to help them fix their problems, problems that extend well beyond just the workouts they do at the gym. Instead, they pay for hard workouts and are coached by cheerleader coaches in a class. Inevitably, they eventually stop valuing the service you’re providing and they quit.
  • Coaches quickly realize there is a ceiling both on how much they can help clients, meaning how fulfilling their job will be, and certainly a ceiling on their financial earnings. As a result, they eventually become disillusioned and leave your gym or the industry altogether because they don’t see a future as a professional coach.

This means the business has no chance of success, and the gym owner becomes burnt out running around working 60-plus hours a week picking up the slack, putting out all the fires and trying to re-invent the wheel each month to figure out a formula to attract new clients each month, not to mention his constant search for a way to develop and keep coaches.

Another option for the gym owner is to squeeze the coach for lower and lower pay, making their model more and more reliant on the equipment that doesn’t require teaching, simple workouts. This hurts the coach, as well as the long-term success of the clients, and only the owners can then succeed financially because they turn the business into a marketing engine and lose focus on long-term client and coach retention.

Worse still is the gym that seeks to serve a massive number of clients in a low value (and low cost) model. The membership fee is so so small clients keep their memberships but remain, inactive members, because it’s easier than canceling, or they simply forget about it. Again, this kills the coach and the long-term results of the clients.

The answer to all three problems a gym owner faces—the client problem, the coach problem and the business problem—lies in one single solution: Develop professional coaches.

First of all, let’s define a professional coach:

In this video, OPEX Founder James Fitzgerald described a professional coach as:

“It’s a job, forever.”

“It means that it’s a profession.”

“You do it, it’s your full-time shit.”

In order for this to happen—for it to be a job, forever—coaches need to be paid a professional wage, Fitzgerald explained.

So how do you create professional coaches, who will solve your client retention problem, as well as your coach retention and business burnout struggles? And ultimately help increase your business revenue and profit?

First, the incentives need to be lined up for your coaches to care enough to try to become a professional coach. Read more in this article about how to incentivize coaches to act more like business owners.

Second, the economics need to be there, so coaches have the opportunity to make a professional wage. Read more here about the economics for the professional OPEX coach in this article.

It goes without saying, when your coaches are professionals, they will take better care of their clients. Read more about the client perspective of being coached by a professional coach here.

The Bottom line: Business decisions need to work for the client, the coach and the business. If your gym’s full of group fitness instructors, nobody’s best interest is looked after. But if you develop professionals with their own book of clients who also align with your brand, everyone wins.

Get an introduction to our system of professional coaching with The Free Coach’s Toolkit.

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