We, as a fitness industry, have all read about corporate wellness. We have learned the statistics. And now, we recognize not only the value of a fitness program in terms of employee productivity and camaraderie, but we also have discovered that companies can save on rising health care costs. Whether through intensive research or simply through industry journals, you no doubt have "the benefits of a corporate wellness program" at your fingertips. However, there are two pertinent facts most professionals seeking "the corporate deal" fail to consider. One, there are a significant number of large corporations set up to design, implement and manage corporate wellness programs independently with a complete staff and operating template that would take even the most ambitious professional years to develop. And two, the HR department serves a company internally by recruiting, screening and protecting key staff members. The "Human Resources people" are the most efficient gatekeepers in the entire corporate world, and in fact, they "protect" so politely and professionally that it takes time to realize that you're being masterfully filtered out of having any true opportunity to present your offer.


Finding the Right Corporate Deal

            If you're like most professionals with a great deal of passion and little corporate experience, you simply need to reframe things a bit. Forget, for the moment, about the large companies with cafeterias, childcare programs and parking garages. Think about the business owner who has a greater sensitivity to cost. Consider the business owner who doesn't have an HR department. Think about the business owner who wants to talk to you directly, the business owner who has his or her own fitness needs and who clearly recognizes the virtues of saving money in reducing absenteeism. This is the open door.

             If you like the idea of a "corporate connection," stop here. Grab a pen and a notebook. And spend the next 10 minutes listing businesses in your immediate community that have between eight and 80 employees, businesses where with a phone call you can get in touch with the owner, businesses you can fully grasp and understand and ideally, businesses you personally use or frequent. Only read beyond this point when you have your list. Hey, c'mon now!!!! STOP! Write the list. Then continue.

            If you're reading this sentence, you either have your list in front of you or you're reading for the sake of reading. Those who will find great value in this article are the same ones who are now reading with a list in front of them, and if you're one of those people, I'm going to stop you again. I want to show you yet another door that leads into a corporate arrangement, one that's even easier to walk through than identifying smaller businesses with a clear need. On a new page, begin a list of those clients or patients you already know who own businesses with a handful of employees, who work within companies where there are a variety of positions, ranging from administrative to physical, who are married to people who are visible within the realm of corporate activity and those that you know who are active in groups, which include small business owners. Stop now, and compile your list.

            If at this point you have two lists, you will start to sense genuine opportunity. The people and companies on your list are not those companies who have busy HR departments, slammed every day by high school cheerleading squads seeking donations or local donut businesses offering recurring breakfast supply. You have before you people who are reachable, who can either secure an arrangement or personally introduce you to those who can and who have more to gain by bringing you under a corporate umbrella than they may realize even now. So, you've completed STEP one identifying your target universe.


STEP Two Making the Preliminary Offer

            If you'd like, you can review your "benefits" information, or you can downplay the language of wellness and turn it into an offer in which small business owners will respond to. Keep it simple. Don't attempt to get into areas you have little expertise in (such as the specifics of corporate insurance programs) and speak primarily in terms of the measurable benefits you know you can deliver. Some examples of statements that almost every fitness professional can express and stand behind that are related to small businesses becoming involved in getting their employees healthier are: better health means better attendance; better health means greater productivity; better health means a greater sense of well being, greater confidence and a more balanced employee; and better health means reduced health care costs.

            Here's what else you know:


  • You can minimize the risk of the early onset of disease, which we've come to associate with aging, but we should really associate with lifestyle.


  • You can increase mental and physical energy.


  • You can get people hooked on something constructive, which may replace some of their less supportive habits.

                The goal of step two is to arrange a 15-minute presentation, where you can speak to the decision maker, not a gatekeeper. That's it. Don't attempt to wrap up the deal until you've secured the meeting.


    STEP 3 The Presentation

                Now, let's look at two different approaches approaches I've personally used successfully, approaches that are fully within your grasp and allow you to outshine the larger wellness corporations because of your personal input, your creativity and your connection with the owner.  You can spin off from any of these ideas or come up with your own, but propose something that is well within your scope of practice,  that fits within your ideal calendar and that you absolutely know is going to be instrumental in delivering the benefits you promise.


    1. A program with a fixed time frame and a flat fee. I have used this structure to set up groups of 12 people where we meet three times (for three consecutive weeks) in a group setting, and each participant gets a preliminary assessment (45 minutes), three one-on-one sessions (each 30 minutes) and a post-program follow-up assessment. I would personally spend a total of three hours with each 12 clients. With the three group sessions, the total time investment is 39 hours over three weeks. I present this for $2,100, paid by corporate check in one lump sum prior to the program onset. It amounts to about $50 per hour, but it becomes comfortably profitable when the group concludes, as the post-program assessment guides participants into personal training on a recurring series for $75 per session, and then, a new group of 12 begins. The real beauty of this arrangement is the perceived affordability and the extreme benefit you can deliver for just over $2,000. Once you're "in," the benefits become clear, the company sees the virtue in keeping you on board and every client you've touched becomes a raving fan.


    2. A program based on assessment and follow up. There are many hospital-based groups finding opportunity in offering health risk assessments to large corporations. By assessing risk profiles, insurance costs can be re-evaluated, efforts can be made to up the collective health score and lost productivity can be minimized. While I'm steering you away from the large corporations, the "assessment" element is something that most fitness professionals can capitalize on. Using a standard PAR-Q and a battery of assessment tests, you can set up a regular appointment at each of the participating corporations, during which you "assess" whichever employees are scheduled. You would charge a set fee per assessment, which includes the preparation of a report. Because you'll invest time in compiling data and perhaps providing recommendations, you should feel comfortable charging three times your standard per-hour fee for each assessment. Each assessment should be repeated every eight to 12 weeks, so you establish a recurring schedule with a set billing schedule per month. Of course, you can include one-on-one training, a series of workshops or in-house seminars for additional fees.

                Suppose using the "assessment" strategy, you designate in a given company that Monday is "assessment day," while Tuesday and Thursday are exercise days. You can determine a monthly schedule based on hourly billing. Suppose you charge $120 per hour. If you have four assessment hours each Monday and commit to two hours of exercise instruction each Tuesday and Thursday, you generate $4,000 per month for working eight hours per week. $4,000 can be the cost of one treatment protocol for someone who suffers from some chronic condition. $4,000 can be the loss one employee is responsible for if he or she is absent for four days. $4,000 to get a company fit is a bargain, and for a professional, it's a nice clean deal that requires only 30 to 40 hours a month.

                Whenever establishing a corporate relationship, be sure it provides security. Seek a contract for at least one year with a simple renewal procedure. Set your proposal up so you never feel a need to go back and renegotiate. Give yourself room to grow within the scope of your initial offering. 


    Breaking the Mold of Corporate Fitness

                Are these the only options? Of course not. The options are limitless. You can conduct an ongoing in-house program for a monthly management fee with a menu of additional services; you can work with an established health risk assessment company to handle the exercise prescription element of the follow-up program; you can involve a few corporations and create an ongoing competition (Corporate Olympics); or if you are affiliated with a health facility, you can develop in-house programming specific for busy executives. The primary challenge for professionals seeking to break into the world of corporate fitness is the pigeon-holing of the approach an approach that is laid out to connect corporations to corporations with its own internal screening system, placing fitness professionals in the same category as solicitors. Thinking outside of the box, reframing the idea of "a corporation" and recognizing that any group you touch can find dramatic improvement, not only in appearance but in performance as well, will allow you to find doors you might never have noticed and more importantly, to align the plan with your talents to send those doors flying wide open!


                Phil Kaplan is a fitness professional committed to raising the bar, to setting a new standard of excellence. His new program, "Change Your Mind Change the World" is available at www.philkaplan.com.