Good to GREAT! … for Personal Trainers

GOOD TRAINERS light a fire under people. GREAT TRAINERS light a fire inside of people.

“Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t” is a bestselling business management book by James C. Collins that outlines that factors that help companies transition from being good to exceptional in how they run and operate. These principles can also be used as guidelines for personal trainers looking to become exceptional at what they do (and generate more revenue with each session).

According the to book, the seven characteristics of companies that went from “good to great” include:

  1. Level 5 Leadership
  2. First Who, Then What
  3. Confront the Brutal Facts
  4. Hedgehog Concept
  5. Culture Discipline
  6. Technology Accelerators
  7. The Flywheel
Level 5 Leadership

According to the research supporting James Collins’ book, high performing organizations require Level 5 Leadership. They do not exist without this type of leadership. Level 5 Leaders are those who are humble, but driven to do what’s best for the company.

Although the book refers to organizations with a structured leadership team, a personal training business also requires great leadership skills and characteristics. Level 5 Leadership is especially important for personal trainers as it can be easy to put one’s personal gain ahead of what’s best for the business (i.e., recognition, fame, reward, etc.). Remember to put the success of the business ahead of your own personal gain for long term success.

First Who, Then What

James Collins identified that great companies identify the “right” people to grow the company and then determine the direction of the company once the people are put into their rightful place. This involves finding the right people and then trying them out in different positions to create the perfect combination of strengths.

As a personal training business of one person, literally getting the right “people” in place refers to the education and certifications you acquire to build your assets as a personal trainer. Carefully seek out the fitness education and certifications that match your philosophy as a personal trainer. These assets support the three components of your Hedgehog Concept (see below).

Confront the Brutal Facts – The Stockdale Paradox

Great business leaders are able to confront the brutal truth of a negative situation, yet at the same time, never give up hope (the Stockdale Paradox). As a business owner it’s important to be realistic and honest with yourself when it comes to how your personal training business is operating … without taking it personally or getting emotional about it. Once you get emotional about a bad situation it is easy to lose hope and give up.  Stay clear and stay on course to getting your business to where it deserves to be. Obstacles are bound to happen. How you respond to them is what makes a GREAT leader and business owner.

Hedgehog Concept

Businesses are more likely to succeed if they focus on one thing, and do it well. By doing so, they can beat their competitors and become a truly great businesses. To find its “Hedgehog Concept” a business must make three separate assessments:

  1. What are you passionate about?
  2. What are you better than anyone else at?
  3. What will make you money?

An organization can find its “Hedgehog Concept” by making three separate assessments. First, it can understand what its people are truly passionate about. Next, it can identify what it does better than anyone else. And last, it can determine where it’s good at generating revenue.

These three assessments are also valuable for personal trainers and focusing your efforts on building your business … one that you will be proud to watch grow for the long term. The hardest assessment is always trying to determine what will make you money and what your services are worth. Take your time in answering each question carefully. It is essential to your success.

Culture of Discipline

Great organizations create a culture filled with self-disciplined people who are willing to go to extreme lengths to fulfill their responsibilities. People function effectively because of the availability of both freedom and responsibility, within a structured framework.

As an organization of one, you need to be incredibly disciplined to the actions that will create a successful business. You need to hold yourself accountable to the many small tasks that need to be done every day that will help you grow (i.e., call clients, market your business, show up, smile, send out birthday cards, ask for referrals, etc.).

Technology Accelerators

Great organizations apply carefully selected technologies that benefit the three components of the Hedgehog Concept … they do not use technology fads. These organizations use technology as an accelerator of momentum, not a creator of it.

When it comes to technology that can help your personal training business, it’s important to focus on the word “business”. There are lots of cool gadgets and gizmos out there that are neat to have but are not useful in making your business more effective or profitable. Examples of technology accelerators for a fitness business include:

  • Branded website – a personal training store that is open 365 days a year (24 hours/day)
  • Online scheduling system – saves time as client can schedule and track their training sessions online (without you wasting time booking or reminding them)
  • Fitness trackers – accountability tools so your clients can’t blame you for results they are expecting (even though they eat poorly and fail to exercise appropriately away from your training sessions)
  • Broadcast messaging – saves time and money sending out important sales and customer service communications (i.e., via text message or email)
  • Square virtual payment terminal – ensure you can get paid immediately via credit card if they do not have cash on hand (no need for cash or check only sales)

These technologies are dedicated to sales, marketing and customer service (away from the one-on-one training experience).

The Flywheel

Remarkable transformations (of good to great businesses) may look dramatic and revolutionary on the outside but are actually the result of many small actions that happen to produce overall change. There is no single defining action or miracle moment. An organization builds momentum over time to produce the end result. As people start to see positive changes, the momentum continues and the organization keeps moving in the right direction.

As the owner of your own business, you need to recognize that your consistent (and accountable) actions you put into your business every day leads to success. It won’t happen overnight … but it WILL happen!

Going from a “Good” to “Great” Personal Trainer (in Business)

In the fitness industry there are a lot of personal trainers … some are bad, some are good and very few are truly great. Great personal trainers (those who maintain loyalty of their clients for long periods of time and who receive ongoing referrals) become exceptional in their field over time … and by doing the right things right one day at a time.

The choice is yours … do you want to be “good” or “great”?

Written by TodaysFitnessTrainer (

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