Your work saves lives, remember that!

Every once in awhile I run into a story (usually from a prospective client) that disturbs me.  They’re not getting results and hence they’ve gone looking for another trainer.  That’s where I enter the story…

We go through the usuall drill of discovery about why they’re interested, what they would like to accomplish and why they’ve been struggling to achieve it on their own.  And while it comes as no shock to me that the guy charging them only $25 a session is not producing results, it comes as a big shock to the prospective client that what we charge is almost 4 times that amount!

The price you demand for your services is a direct reflection of your self confidence, your self-esteem, and your passion and belief about the value of what you offer.  In order for all of us to demand the respect we deserve as fitness professionals and to continually communicate the value of the work we perform, we all need to make sure that we charge the right amount for our services and that we communicate to each and every prospective client the importance of what we do.

I do this constantly through my fitness blog (http://www.fitnessnomadblog.com) and it works swimmingly.  In fact I just landed another client today who has been regularly reading my blog posts and recently read one in particular that she felt spoke to her directly.  This stuff really works, but you have to write to make it happen.

Probably the even more significant blunder this trainer is making, and that concerns me even more, is that he believes that 10 sessions is all he needs to get his clients up and running and able to achieve long-term success on their own.  10 sessions!  That’s about a month of training and coaching.  That’s complete non-sense, but makes for great blog material so I’m happy.  And if you’d like to read the direction I took this same story for my fitness blog, you can see that here:

http://madisonfitnessblog.com/2009/05/13/walking-barefoot-in-your-garden/

Communicating to clients and prospective clients and the world at large that your service does not hold much value (by charging insignificant amounts of money for training; and being ignorant about how to deliver it) and then telling them that they only need to see you for about a month, is a disservice to all of us.  Especially those of us who have spent the last 16 years honing our careers, taking on the risk of a fitness business in a small midwestern town, and spending as much spare time as possible working to get better and better at what we do.

What we do is worth a lot of money, takes significant time to teach, and should not be treated like a 4-week holiday on Catalina Island.  This is serious stuff.  Just ask any of my clients and they will tell you the same story.  This process saved their life.  In fact, if you’re interested, I’m in the process right now of writing their stories and turning them into a series on my blog called, “The Journey.”  You can click here for stories:

http://madisonfitnessblog.com/category/thejourney/

In the mean time, stay true to your dreams, believe in what you do, and for the health of the fitness business in general, get clear on your vision, and the true value of what you do for people.  All of our lives are at stake…

Critical Mass or Critical Mess?

“The cash flow statement is often the most interesting and at the same time the least understood part of your monthly financial reports…”
-Luella Schmidt, CPA, Fine Point Consulting in Madison, WI

I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “Cash is King.”  If you haven’t, well, then I think I may have just done you a favor.  It’s a simple truth and in today’s current economic climate, I think those words ring as true as the liberty bell.  Because all of that money you had on paper in your 401K account?  Well, like I said, “Cash is King!”

Here’s another example…a client pays me $300 cash for a month of semi-private training, and I have two choices.  Take it to the bank where it becomes a number on a statement and earns interest (more money), or put it in my pocket, walk down to the local coffee shop and buy my friends a latte and a piece of marble bread.  Tip the barista, flip a 50 cent piece into the homeless guy’s coffee can, buy a newspaper in the machine, and save the rest for a rainy day at the bookstore.

Not all of those activities require cold hard cash, but about half of them do.

So what’s the point?

There’s nothing like a little cash in your pocket and in your bank account, and it will act like a magnet for more if you can manage it’s elusiveness, and understand exactly how it relates to your profit and loss statement and your balance sheet.  Cash is easy to spend, and can blow away in a good breeze if your money clip’s not on tight.  So hold on, there really is a lesson in all of this that even I’m only beginning to understand…my own private MBA program.

There are self-proclaimed experts in the fitness business that have ideas about how you should think about the early growth of your business, and what you can expect might happen in your first year or two.  The term they like to use is “Critical Mass.”  It refers to their naive belief that even though you might be spending aggressively, and in fact in excess of what you are actually earning each month in your fitness business, you will become solvent in the long run once you reach the magic land of critical mass.

In other words, it’s OK that you spent the 10K that came in this month in personal training sales already, even though you haven’t delivered those services to the client yet. Because assuming you spent it on business growth opportunities, your business will continue to grow, and another 10K in sales will come in again this month.  Only now, you have to spend twice as much time to deliver those services.  Do you see what’s happening here?

Eventually, these experts promise, you have a solid staff in place and they are delivering those services for you.  You can spend more of your precious time finding more clients and making more sales.  After all, you have more overhead in your payroll department now and someone has to pay that bill…

Can you see the problem with this unfounded, vague and unsupported philosophy?  I’ll bet you can.  I only hope it didn’t take you as long as it did me.

What you end up with instead of critical mass is a critical mess.  A monthly race in which you are always in last place, trying to catch the leader out on a cross country trail that you’ve never run before, gasping for breath and unable to see anything except the ground in front of you with any real clarity.  No matter what you do, you’re always one new trainer, one new client, and one $5 bill short of a financial statement that you can sleep with at night. If you’re reading them at all.

Tonight at my board meeting (yes, I now have an advisory board for my fitness business now.  One of the best things I’ve done for my business, ever) I reviewed with my accountant and other board members in attendance a 30 page financial report that provides a clear picture of exactly how healthy my business is right now.  A full report on how much of that cash I have laying around, and how much I can actually use this month to buy another piece of that marble bread from Starbucks I like so much.

I’m happy to report that in spite of tough economic times, mistakes on my part, and a little too much spending in 2008, we are in good shape and I’ve never been more clear about the numbers of my business, the bedrock.  This is important for many reasons that I will begin to communicate in future posts.

For now, I’ll spare you the details and instead bring you back to that statement I started with,

“The cash flow statement is often the most interesting and at the same time the least understood part of your monthly financial reports…”

My guess is that you might not even know what I’m talking about and that’s OK, because that’s the point.  And for those that do know, you are aware that the cash flow statement is only one of many reports you should be looking at each month in your fitness business.  And if you’re not, hold on, because you’re in for one helluva ride very soon.  Trust me, I’m just now returning from mine, and it will be nice to remove that seat belt that fit so tight for awhile.  It was beginning to constrict my vision.

“Know your numbers!”  And if you don’t, get to know them and get plenty of help.  It will become one of those life lessons that pays dividends forever, in your business, your personal life, and probably both.  It will make you a KING (or Queen)!

The Sheer Importance of Your Personal Brand

I read a good article about Michelle Obama over the weekend.  The story talked about the control she maintains over her image and why this is important to her and for her role as the first lady.  On the March cover of Vogue magazine, you will see here wearing another sleeveless number that she was in charge of picking out for this cover shoot.  Unlike her last two predecessors, she did not let Vogue dress her, she dressed herself.  I already like her a lot just based on that one fact!

This story alone tells you a lot about who she is, how she works, and what she represents.  A strong, assertive woman who is in charge of her own role as first lady, and who is not afraid to follow her own instincts about  the best way to present herself to the country.

The article goes on to explain other aspects how Michelle tackles this challenge so there is no need for me to repeat them here.  I simply want to make another point today about the importance of your own personal brand.  Whether it be for the you are marketing services as a personal trainer and fitness business, or trying to advance your career as a fitness professional, establishing, maintaining, and continuing to develop your own personal brand is paramount to your success.  And it’s a lot of work so please pay attention.  It is no longer enough to post your resume online and hope for the best.  It never was, but what I’m talking about here takes this idea to the next level.  Especially in a job market as tight as this one, your presence both online and off must be crafted with forthought, originality, creativity, heart, passion and kept up to date and added to constantly.

Can you say that you know what I’m talking about and that you are following through on this process?  If the answer is no to either of these questions, it’s time to get to work on your personal brand.  And before you disregard this advice because you don’t really understand it or are uncomfortable thinking of yourself as an actual brand, consider this passage from the New York Times article:

“By focusing on her domestic persona and harnessing the fascination with her family, the first lady and her communications team have emerged as the key architects of one of the most remarkable political transformations in years. Only 10 months ago, Mrs. Obama was described as an angry black woman by some conservatives and as a liability to her husband. Now, she is widely admired for her warmth, and her vibrant and accessible manner, and her race seems almost an afterthought to many Americans. She has the highest favorability ratings of any incoming first lady since 1980, and is even more popular than the president.”

“Obama administration officials say this shift has occurred organically as more people have had the opportunity to see and hear the first lady for themselves rather than through the lenses of her critics.”

femara

Now yes, Mrs. Obama has a team of people working for her to help create the result, but she is in charge of all of them, and you are in charge of you.  Which in turn means that you are also in charge of your personal brand and how it is created,  by you or by others, because it will happen so you better be in charge of it.

The last sentence of the text from the snippet above is very important.  Once Mrs. Obama had a chance to allow people to get to know her, she became even more popular than the president!

How popular could you be with clients, prospects, and employers, if you took some time to create a personal brand that is always working for you?

Look for more articles on this subject coming soon.  It’s an important topic for all of us…

The Magic is Waiting Within…

Do you know who you really are?

I had a good conversation with an old coach the other day. Someone who I confided in and received help from last year. We have both now moved on and the conversation was both intense, confusing and completely rewarding and satisfying for me personally.

The truth is that we no longer agree on how I should grow my fitness business. Yes, I learned a lot from that program, and it helped me in some ways, but it’s time to move, up and forward. I have learned one very important thing from this relationship and this experience, and I would like to share that with you today.

Stay true to who you really are and what you want to accomplish in life, whether it’s owning your own business, trying to advance your career, finding your wife and starting a family, developing solid relationships with your colleagues, whatever. The most successful people in life surround themselves with the right people, and when they discover that certain people they have been working with or are close with are no longer serving their life’s mission, they move on quickly, and they don’t feel badly about it. Test Fast, Fail Fast, adjust fast…write that one down.

There is also another very important insight I want to share with you. I heard President Obama touch on this in an article I read about him recently. You need to be very careful with any coach you work with, because if you’re not careful, and your coach is not as skilled as they should be, or has an agenda beyond helping you achieve your potential, the relationship can skew and ultimately take you to a place you don’t want to go.

Simply put, if you don’t maintain full awareness of who you really are at all times, your coach can end up holding too much power over you.

A true trained coach’s job is to help you achieve the goals that you have set out to achieve, whatever those might be. You might be working to advance and grow your fitness business (as I am) or you might be trying to advance your career, lose weight, find your wife, work through past problems with family members, etc.

online feldene

One of your coach’s most important jobs at all times is to help you unlock your true potential. Doing this effectively requires pure skill, compassion, empathy, talent and attention at all times to the nuances of the process. Each coach has the program that they believe in. They have their method, their tools, etc, but at the core of the process is the client, and how they decide to best put the coaches tools to work for them.

For me personally in this situation, it was time to move on. Not because this particular coach has a bad system, but because that system was never really designed to unlock my full potential. Did it work for me for a time? Well, yes in some respects. And there were many other ways in which the process, the tools, and the recommendations were doing me a serious disservice. Why? Because I made the mistake of forgetting who I really was, why I’m here, and what got me here to begin with. I take full responsibility for that. And I take full responsibility for the task ahead of me of moving forward too.

What I hope you take away from all of this is the importance of staying true to yourself, your goals, and your values at all times. I think we all get caught up in the fitness business trying to find the best ways to grow our businesses and be successful. And as a result, we go looking for the next best thing or tool that’s out there that will help provide the magic. When all along, the magic is waiting within. You just need to open the curtain and start the show…

How and Why You Need to Create "Brand You"

Like it or not, to thrive in today’s business world as either a business owner or employee, branding yourself is essential. As Alina Tugend points out in her article over the weekend in the New York times, “You’re not a worker, you’re not a job title! You’re a brand!”

I realize that to those of you who don’t own your own business, and have no intention of starting one, that this might sound like complete craziness. To the non-business owner, the idea of branding oneself starts to feel a little too much like selling and marketing and I realize that for many of you, your passion lies more in simply helping people achieve their peak health. I get that. But here is the reality…

Job markets are tighter than ever and if you want to secure your position for the long run, branding yourself is part of that. Remember, you’re not a worker, you’re not a job title, you’re a brand.

When I worked for Dean Ornish

back in California, I was known by all of the participants in the research we were doing as the Squat King. Every time I led a workout with these folks, we performed lots and lots of squats (within reason, of course…these people were older folks).

I did this because in 5 years working in the clinical arena, I learned that if I could improve the lower body strength of older folks by just a little bit, there were dramatic improvements in their overall quality of life. One thing was for sure though, they always knew that if we were exercising, we were going to do some serious squatting – every time!

This is a small isolated example of how you can begin branding yourself as a fitness professional, but I think it helps to begin making the point.

Today, there are many tools available for helping you create “Brand You.” And the tools online are probably the most powerful and the most important. Not having a presence online today could be considered the equivalent of not existing.

Like it or not, your employers, your client prospects, your friends and colleagues are going online to find out about you. Will they be rewarded for their efforts, or be left wondering if you even exist. Or worse, will they be left wondering if those photos of you on Facebook doing that beer bong are just part of your past, or still a regular ocurrence on a Saturday night. (By the way, if you’re a serious career fitness pro now, all those photos need to go anyway).

What kind of impression are you leaving people online, and what do you need to do to both improve it, and make it more visible?

If you’re a business owner, you already have a presence online (you better). Is it doing for you what you intended? Is it working for you 24/7 to reinforce your brand? Or is it just sitting there like your 90 year old grandfather, asleep in the recliner, attracting attention only once in awhile when he snores and turns his head?

If you’re a job seeker, you have likely posted your resume online in various places, but have you considered how much more powerful your online presence would be if you actually spent some serious time and effort creating an online presence designed to promote “Brand You?”

This blog site is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. The writing itself is a reflection of me, my belief system, and my philosophies. If you spend time reading the posts, you will hear a voice and be able to decide whether or not I am someone you might want to network with, hire, or form a strategic alliance with. But it doesn’t stop here…

I also have a fitness blog , a personal blog, and a web site devoted to my fitness business here in Madison. And in each of these places online, I create and post even more content that is unique to each venue. In my case there are a few different brands I’m trying to create in each place, but overall, there is still the all encompassing, “Brand Me!”

Every post I make to Twitter, Facebook, and each blog site is considered carefully to make sure that it fits in line with my philosophy and the image I’m trying to create. I don’t update my Twitter and facebook accounts with little tidbits about how I just gave my kids a bath, or brushed their teeth. I work hard to considerr my following and continue to create writing and content that I trust is helpful in people’s lives. This is part of my brand.

Now, before you get carried away and begin creating profiles on every social networking site out there, creating blog sites to post to, and spend any money re-building your web site, let me guide you.

Spreading yourself too thin in this process can be a disaster! Believe me, it’s a lot of work keeping all of this stuff alive, active, and fresh. You also need to think through the process carefully. Finding your niche is the key. And along with that, deciding on what your ultimate goal is for working to create your brand is vitally important.

You might be looking for a job, building a business, or simply trying to create ways for colleagues to communicate with you. Or it might be all three of those. The important thing is that you know what you are trying to do before you start.

Dan Schawbel, author of “Me 2.0: Build a Powerful Brand to Achieve Career Success” (Kaplan, April 2009), and a personal branding guru (that’s his brand, by the way) recommends a four-step process for making your brand happen:

Discover, create, communicate, and maintain. Create your own personal branding toolkit.

This means, finding your passion and putting it together with your expertise, and then creating a “personal branding tool kit”, which may include a résumé, online profile on Facebook or LinkedIn, a blog and a portfolio of your work if you have one. All of this should consistently reflect your brand.

You then need to pitch your brand online and offline; and probably most important, you need to update and monitor any conversations about your brand. You need to communicate through these online mediums on a regular basis so that people can continue to learn about you, your expertise, your passions, and your pursuits. Give people a reason to know and follow you.

“Find Your Passion” by the way, is the title of my more personal blog (which has just been re-created and I still need to move some posts over there so there is not much there yet). In this arena my goal is to inspire others to find their own passion for life by experiencing mine through my own writing about my every day life as a Dad, Business Owner, and entrepreneur.

If you are intersted in learning more about how to create your personal brand online, stay tuned to this blog for announcements about programs and services that we will soon be offering to help you do just that.

In the mean time, if you’re a fitness business owner and already have a blog site, but find it difficult to post to it regularly enough, we have a new content service here at FitnessProBlogger.com that can help. Click here for details