Issue Date: June 2011 Web Features, Posted On: 6/29/2011

First-Studio Success Tips
By Kaiser Serajuddin

If you're a fitness entrepreneur, you no doubt understand the value of keeping an optimistic and positive outlook on how you tackle your daily activities and long term plans. That's what keeps you dreaming, building and achieving where most people give up.

However, I have to admit I'm a bit of the opposite-- I'm more of a pessimist, always looking for the downside of any move so that I can first of all avert it, and secondly, cope with it if it happens.

But despite my general pessimism, right now I'm going to ease up and give myself a pat on the back. I just opened my own first stand-alone fitness studio (my last one was based out of a gym) and although it feels like we've made every mistake in the book, things have gone fairly well. I'd like to share six things I did right opening and growing my business that you can take with you if you as you build your business.

1. Having a Minority Business Partner Most new businesses fail and most new training studios fail, so when you go into it, you have to take every precaution. To save money and ease the load from the outset, I brought on a minority business partner. Besides having someone to keep me grounded in the business and to bounce ideas off, it's someone else that is personally invested in it and committed to my business' growth. When it comes to multiple-location (my next step) privately owned businesses, taking on chief employees as minority partners happens more often than you think. It saved a ton of money and time in the beginning, and although I had to give up a part of the biz, I'm expecting it to pay off multiple times over in terms of speed of growth.

2. Networking I try to be a realist at all times, and one thing I knew from the get-go was that I knew little to nothing about running successful bootcamps. And with my goals, I know I needed to become a leading expert on this subject, fast.

You can learn a little through books and seminars, but networking really speeds things along. I networked aggressively during my start up phase and continue to do so every day. I've attended conferences and networked through my old blog, super-trainer.com, and have become friends with many of the top bootcamp operators in the country. Their advice has been indispensable in this process.

3. Doing Some of the Training While we all want to be business owners at a level where we have high-quality trainers servicing our clients, you still have to know your product at a hands-on level. Even though I've been a trainer for years, when it comes to bootcamps, I still had some dues to pay. When it comes to running the bootcamps, I jumped in all the way, teaching many of the classes myself. It turned out to be about a dozen hours a week, but the experience has been priceless in helping me create a world-class training experience for my valued customers. I've learned the product inside and out, and during this vital formative phase of the business, it has given me retention, referral, and long-term contract rates that are off the chart.

4. Doing the Selling Just like with the training, I also had to jump in on the selling end. As I usually do, when I jumped in, I decided to go in ultra high energy and then calibrated backwards until I found the right level. This has allowed me to make sure retention and conversion rates have been at the level I wanted, and it's also done one more thing that relates to a lesson I learned from studying the work of the late marketing legend Gary Halbert. I remember Gary saying the best and in many ways the only way to know who your market really is, what they really want and what really motivates them is to pick up the phone and actually sell them something. Most business people are just too scared to do this and never end up learning the absolute most valuable skills to make a business succeed -- knowledge of your market's desires and hot buttons, and sales. That's what this initial phone experience gave me.

I've since outsourced the sales job but like to jump in on the face-to-face stuff from time to time.

5. Having a Good Location My biggest source of new leads and the biggest factor that has essentially saved my business is my location. I'm in an affluent area, have great neighboring businesses and am on a very busy major roadway. This has gotten me a lot of walk-ins, drive by traffic, call-ins and force multiplication on my advertising. Sure my rent is high, but not as high as you'd think considering the benefits I get from it. I consider my store location an advertising expense, and all advertising goes back to your numbers. It doesn't matter what you're spending as long as it's bringing you an ROI, and so far, my ROI on location has been tremendous.

6. Going Low-Budget on Equipment If you come to my studio you won't find any Vortex machines, treadmills or piece of equipment that costs more than $100. While I have more here than I've seen at some bootcamp facilities, I have way less than you'd find at a personal training studio. This kept start-up costs way down and will probably have me making back the entire initial investment in cash by the end of the year. It's a new age now where service, personality and results trump all. If you can deliver in those areas, you're creating REAL value that beats any expensive, shiny equipment hands down.

So that's it for patting myself on the back on how things have gone so far. Don't worry and think I'm getting a big head -- if I had to write a post about my mistakes so far, the list would be about 100 points long.

Everything I've mentioned has involved a lot of work on my part. If you're currently overworked yourself, you might think "who cares?" The difference is that all the work I've done to now has had the strategic purpose of giving me certain skills so that I could later outsource these tasks, as I am already starting to do. I had the purpose of creating the systems in mind from the beginning. If you want to extract yourself from your business, think about your work and what you do more strategically. And if you don't have enough business to speak of, start hustling a little harder. That will never fail.

Kaiser Serajuddin is the writer of the popular personal training blog, Super-Trainer.com. He guides personal trainers through the challenging period of starting their personal training businesses and helps them on the road to six figures. For more information, you can download his special report, The Six-Figure Formula, at www.super-trainer.com.

Topic: Jump Start Web Column

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