Sean Jones is no stranger to different gym business models.
Having been in the fitness industry for 20 years, he first owned a personal training studio that offered both personal training and small group training, and then he became a CrossFit affiliate in 2012.
Neither model worked particularly well for the client, the coach or the business, explained Jones, who now owns OPEX Healdsburg in California.
“In the personal training model, the two big problems (for the client) were scheduling and cost. …If you’re going to the gym at least two or three days a week, you’re paying $1,000 or more a month as a client, and it’s really hard schedule-wise as a coach. You can only fit in so many people at 9 a.m. on Monday morning,” Jones said.
Another problem was a lack of understanding of the bigger picture on the client end, Jones explained.
“Clients never really gained autonomy. They relied on the coach so much so they never truly learned. At least that was my experience: There was a big gap in the learning process for the client,” he said.
When Jones transitioned and became a CrossFit gym, new client problems emerged.
“The biggest thing was there was one training program for 150 people. And the whole thing about selling intensity. I fell into that trap and I’m as guilty as the next person, but it’s not sustainable, not for the client, the coach or the business,” he said.
As a result, client retention wasn’t great, he admitted.
“We had a lot of turnover in the group (model). It’s funny because I just threw away intake forms from when we were a CrossFit gym. And I think I probably had 500 of them, and we’re in a small town of just 11,000 people,” Jones said.
Such is not the case anymore.
In June 2017, Jones became a licensed OPEX Gym. Today his retention rate is close to 95 percent, he said.
Clients are sticking around because they’re taken care of properly: they have more independence and they’re seeing results, Jones explained.
“More than anything it allows us to meet each client exactly where they’re at with their fitness, whether they’ve never been to a gym before or they’re very experienced, we can design a program specifically for them,” said Jones, who charges his clients US$359 a month for individual programming and monthly consult with their coach.
The full-time coach he has working for him is also better off in this model, said Jones, who hopes to bring on a second coach soon. His coach is on track to earn US$60,000—earning 45 percent of the revenue he generates—in his first year working at Jones’ facility. And there’s a ton of potential to earn a lot more in future years, Jones explained.
“The coach has so much more autonomy and there’s a sense of participation in the business because their growth helps to grow the business and helps them make more money, and there’s an educational side of things too, so there’s just a ton of room for growth,” Jones said. “Not only that, the coach is actually coaching now, and not just instructing, so that’s a huge thing. They’re actually thinking and planning and helping clients a lot more.”
Jones added: “There’s a place to have a career in this model, whereas with the group there was so much turnover and burnout.”
For Jones personally, he said the biggest difference now is how he feels going to work every day.
“For me, it has been about connecting more with my clients and finding out what’s going on outside the gym, instead of just what’s going on in the gym. That has been huge. …It’s more fulfilling overall, whereas when it was group classes it was exhausting and I didn’t really want to come to work,” Jones said.
He added: “But now I have a lot more moments where I connect with people, where they uncover something that has been holding them back. …Moments like that help re-ignite the fire, and there are a lot more of those moments now. I love that I get to be a part of that.”
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