This is it! This is the year that you finally follow through on your desire to be your own boss. But you don’t have to be an entrepreneurial Lone Ranger, nor do you have to reinvent the fitness business wheel.
Take a few moments to read what the seasoned and successful exercise professionals of Exercise.com have to say about starting, developing, expanding, and maintaining a thriving health and fitness practice.
How do you manage your time between working on your business and working in your business?
- Mark Fisher: I have a great team. I also teach time management, so that is helpful. In fact, one of the things I teach through Business for Unicorns, which is our other company, is time management. So I think I’m pretty proficient at setting up my days in ways that really work for me. There are a lot of pieces to that. One that immediately comes to mind that I think I’ve used to great effect that has been very helpful to allow me to be productive at a very high level is simply knowing my own body, my own rhythms, knowing when I’m most effective, and really being meticulous about setting up my day so that when I’m at my highest energy levels, I’m most creative, which for me is pretty much between 7:00 and 10:00 AM. That’s the time I’m doing my most cognitively demanding, highest possible impact things that are really going to move the business forward. So for me, that’s going to be things like writing, email copy, creating courses, creating content, working on presentations that I deliver at seminars throughout the country, throughout the world. And that has been incredibly helpful. I think the other thing that has been very useful for me to get a lot of stuff done is learning how to effectively delegate, which is I think both a mindset and a skillset. I think the mindset piece is just trusting that you can find people to do a lot of the things that you’re doing and being willing to give people the trust and the ability to do things for you, and then learning the skills of delegation management.
- Scott Schutte: Luckily, we’ve gotten to a size that I could get off the floor. My main time on the floor, it’s Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday morning. So that gives me a lot of other time that I can work on the business. Really, that’s the key. If you want to be in this and you want to run a business, you can’t be on the floor for 40 hours. And it’s really, it’s a weekly task in a sense of, like, it’s not easy. I mean, budgeting the time, it’s easy to have that sneak away. It’s easy to, kind of, just do busywork. For me, it’s more of prioritizing what are my big rocks? What do I need to take care of? And I have a good team, too. That’s the other thing that’s super important. I had a business partner on the gym side. I have two partners on the RedEfit side and then I have a staff that really helps me with support in a sense of we have two assistant managers. We have trainers. It really… The team is where it’s at.
- Kara Palley: Well, I’m going to have to get back to you. It’s really hard. I mean I, just, I always, people always say, “Oh, you’re so organized.” And I am, but when I worked, I worked where these were the hours, here was my office, here was what I had to do. And now, I have the kids and I have the house and I have the business, and it’s not structured. So it’s forcing me to become structured and I’m working on it…Flowing with my clients consistently, trying to add more things in. I get up really, really early to do my own workouts, which frees up time, and, of course for me, going to bed earlier so that I’m not doing whatever, fooling around or eating or scrolling on my phone because I know I have to be up, so I have to get to bed. So that’s where I’m starting, and I’m going from there.
- Leigh Peele: Lots of organization. In fact, it’s funny. I have my bullet journal right here. Every day, I get up and—most days I get up and I try to map out my plan for the day: what it is that I have to do, who it is I have to consult with. I map out my research, my writing, all of the things that I need to get done. I used to be more, “It’s cool. I’ll get to things. The day will happen as it happens.” But as life has gone on or as I’ve gotten older—I don’t know which one it is, or maybe as I’ve worn more hats, I’m not entirely sure—that whole laid back, Californian style response to business is no longer working for me. So I’ve found that I have to be a lot more rigid and organized and methodical. I will say, it’s made for a far higher quality of work as well and a better response in the content and the way that I articulate and the way that I produce information for my clients and for my members and things like that. It’s a lot of organization, like a lot. But I’m happy with it. I’m happy.
- Andy Luukkonen: Well, over time, I’ve learned to incorporate systems, policies and procedures, and I kind of take it like a franchise mentality. And that’s what helps run the business day-to-day. And we spend a lot of time on training our staff, and we don’t micromanage. And that allows us to take time off or work with clients and to keep our flexible schedule.
How did you establish a brand that is unique?
- Anthony Balduzzi: I really think it’s probably three things. The first thing is we have a very specific person we’re talking to. As fitness professionals, as medical professionals, there are so many people we could help. But we honed down and became the Fit Father Project early before anyone here. And that was huge because that means that the conversation that we could have online in our marketing and in how we designed our programs, we could be hyper-specific.
- John Wolf: You know, one of the things that I think we do really well is, rather than tell everybody what it is that they’re supposed to do, we empower them with a framework that allows them to kind of critically think about the whys. You said context is king, and I think that’s really important for people to understand, that we aspire to be a platform of education that creates thinking coaches…We need to be able to connect with them as human beings, validate their experience, their presence, and where they are on their journey. So there are so many of these soft skills that really are of utmost importance: being self-aware and empathetic and able to be empowered to think on your feet. Realistically, that’s what we do, I think, really well. Secondarily, that process and this kind of open framework that we empower individuals to build something uniquely them on our education platform. So it’s been a long journey to get where we are now, but we’re starting to see the acceleration of people being able to not only be a good representation of our common belief system but to be able to contribute something uniquely them into the body of work…We have to be able to deliver something that’s holistically beneficial for the people we work with. But we should also be able to inspire them through the expression of the coach as well as the individuals themselves. And creating a culture around that is something that I think we’ve done relatively well and we’re trying to do better.
- Niccole Hendrickson: Yeah, so the number eight has—I’ll start there. The number eight has always has been a super significant number in my life. It was my jersey number for a lot of years, but the reason why I had chosen it back then was I loved what it meant. It’s infinite, it’s connected, and it represents all the facets of my life and all the preparation that went into that. At that time, my focal point, obviously, was competing as a collegiate athlete. And so I loved that number. And oddly enough, when I met my husband, that was a number that he wore. It was a significant number in both of our lives. And so I just really—as you navigate and learn a little bit more about my business, I am more of a lifestyle business. I’m more of an all-inclusive as far as how your nutrition, how your fitness, how your lifestyle, your mindset all comes together. So, when I was thinking of a brand when I first moved to Colorado… I wanted it to have a little bit of that athletic, strong background, but I also didn’t want it to be something so intimidating that when I later launched a sub-brand that’s more focused on females or the other sub-brand that’s more focused on brides, I didn’t want it to be something that was—it didn’t include all of those things because it’s a lot about me and so I wanted something like that. So I knew I wanted the number eight because again it connects all those facets of life and everything that I find to be extremely important in order for you to achieve that physical goal. Something I always share with people is people come to me oftentimes for maybe like a physical aesthetic goal or maybe like a nutrition coaching goal, but really it comes all together. How we’re going to be successful in the long run is connecting all of that.
- Mark Fisher: At Mark Fisher Fitness, our specialty really is helping people that don’t like and/or hate working out in gyms, finding a fitness home that they actually enjoy, they love, and that they’re willing to do for the long haul. So because from day one, coming from a background as somebody who had been a professional actor, working with other actors, people in the Broadway community, various people that didn’t identify as athletes and they were often off-put by traditional fitness culture. I wanted to speak to them in a way that was aspirational, that was interesting, that would draw them in. There are two benefits to that. One just from a branding and marketing perspective, it was differentiated. It was different because everyone else was doing similar gym stuff, which is cool. I like gym stuff, but it certainly stuck out, creating what Seth Godin called Purple Cow marketing. But outside of the marketing piece of it, I think also signaled to the people that were looking for something different. I think everything we’ve attempted to do with the brand, with the iconography, with the color, with the images is to create—to make it clear what a kind and inclusive and nurturing and supportive space Mark Fisher Fitness is. Because our passion is to find the people that are afraid of gyms and people who don’t feel like they fit in. People that maybe were picked last for the sports teams, people that perhaps ate lunch alone in middle school in the bathroom stall. Those are our people. And I just—we felt that by speaking to them and having something a little bit more aspirational, something that captures their imagination, it would really help people self-select into our culture if they were the right fit, and that has borne out to be pretty true.
- Brad Baker: I think a big thing for us is—and it’s something that we’ve kind of learned or tried to build on—is just not being afraid to fail. Not being afraid to be wrong, right now, to ultimately learn what’s best later. Taking risks in that way. And then just using our logic of the years and years of background we have in this space of trying to find what is most efficient for people. A quote that I love is: “The only failure is quitting. Everything else is just gathering information.”
What have you learned that you wish you’d have known when you first started your business?
- Tom Broback: Well, there are a lot of things I wish I would have known. I guess the biggest one is to have that end goal in mind. When an event changes, that’s fine, but you always got to know what you’re working towards so you’re not just trying the shotgun approach and going a million different directions. Having that endpoint [in mind]: “Where are we trying to take this? Who are we trying to impact and how are we trying to help the people around us?” Having that always centered is going to get you to where you want. So, keeping that in mind through the whole journey, it can definitely make a difference.
- Jayme Limbaugh: Be patient and don’t micromanage. Be patient, don’t micromanage, and just don’t stress over the things you can’t change.
- Steve Cotter: Scheduling time. Laying out the use of my time is really important, and that’s something I didn’t do for a long time.
- John Bezerra: If I would have looked at the entrepreneur part of my life, the actual business part, or even the fitness part, the business fitness part, if I would have just—and I got this a while back—if I would have just put the same program together that I did for a bodybuilding show, I would have had success. And it’s basically just having your roadmap written out, having the right education, the right frame of mind, and just making sure you get from steps A, B, C, and down the line without stopping. I mean, literally, business is just like that…That’s what I’ve learned: just have a good game plan, have a good mentor, make sure the people you’re listening from are people that you want to emulate, make sure that they have the things you not going to become a trainer day one and ask your friend that became the trainer the same day as you. You want to make sure you’re listening to the right people. I think that kind of goes for everything in life.
- Colleen Goethals: That it’s not easy. Because I think everything’s easy. I’m one of those people that just dives in head-first. Like, I got it. I didn’t think about—I would work for free if I could. And that’s a problem for me. You know, I wish that I would understand the business concept of you do need to charge people, you do need to do this. You can’t do everything for free. I guess that part because when you’re in a healing business, you just want to help people and you can tell when people need help, but you’ve got to help yourself first. And I guess I didn’t anticipate that part of it. So that’s a struggle for me.
- Victoria Wickett: Oh, my god. So many things. Even [something] as easy as “do you need building permits to do certain things?” We really came into it with an open mind, and I think that really helped, but I think if we had had a coach at the beginning, a lot of these little things that we’ve learned along the way would have been so much easier. I think the biggest thing that I wish that I knew back then that I know now is on the fitness side, people just want to be somewhere where they feel good… I guess that would be another thing that I should have done sooner is just listened to what people actually want, and then give it to them. Things get easier from there.
- Pauline Juhle: That it is hard. I mean, I knew it was hard. I didn’t kid myself into thinking that it was going to be easy, but I think sometimes in our heads we think it’s going to be a little bit more intuitive than it is. And it’s not. There’s a lot of aspects of business that I wasn’t prepared for because I didn’t have any kind of education in it. I literally just decided I was going to go out on my own and start a business. And so I think had I known how difficult it was, I would have done a little bit more research into the process, and maybe looked for a mentor instead of just jumping into it without looking and just kind of going, “Oh.”So I’ve learned a lot on the fly. So, I would maybe recommend finding a really good mentor and doing some planning before you jump in. But it’s worked out well for me. And so, I guess I can’t complain.
Grow and manage your fitness business better with Exercise.com
- Haylin Alpert: We rely on it pretty heavily. I mean, word of mouth and social media are how we help get the word out. But one of the things I know that we try and do really well—and I think we do—is we’re really transparent about who we are and what we do. Any social media representation of Core Principles shows who our clients really are. We use real pictures of our people in any paid Facebook advertising or any of that blog writing that we do, or anything that shows up on your social media is our real people because we’re super proud of our people—A. And B: We want to attract more people who are just like the people we have now.
- Josh Bowen: Well, we blog. We send out different types of articles on nutrition and fitness to a variety of different people. Social media, obviously, is a huge driver of getting your word out and your mission out, who you are, what you’re about. I’ve hired a virtual assistant, and she has taken some of these things off my plate and then enhanced it because while I’m sleeping, she’s working. It’s helped with creating an online platform for me to garner some clientele online, to help with some of the social media, to help with the technology things that I’m okay with but not great at. I can go ahead and put that on somebody else’s plate. So, that answers your question.
- Tyler Carpenter: I would say, I would put those in two totally different realms. I would say social media, the athletes definitely love the little bit of a pump up that they get from seeing themselves on our social media account, the retweets, and the likes and all those things of them hitting a heavy squat or doing something with an agility drill. So that’s really fun and we like to get them charged up through those methods. But at the same, on the flip of that though, the technology piece, we’ve been fortunate here at Pitt to make some serious investments. Whether it’s Sparta, the software that we’re running for our force plates, that’s been a huge tool for us. We’ve got multiple teams here that are using Catapult. It’s able to do some great things with GPS and we’ve got a couple of teams that are using Polar and Firstbeat [Editor: See GPS watch comparison video below], some different heart rate technologies.
- Ally Diamond: I use my personal pages to try to educate as much as possible, but I also have the privilege of being the social media strategist for the Channelside location (Orangetheory). So I get to create the content for our Facebook and our Instagram page. And I just think that there’s so much to look at on social media, so I think that we’re able to stand out and promote a little bit better because we provide education in our content. And I think it’s a good way, too, to connect with our community and our members. Because that’s part of it too, the relationships.
- Geoff Girvitz: I don’t have much of a strategy to be real with you. That may change. For now, where I’ve landed—We’ve tried in the past and there’s some, there’s value in that for sure. But where I’m at now is simply to go look, “Do I think this is meaningful or do I find this funny?” Then it gets posted. That’s about the only strategy that exists right now. I know part of marketing is just let people know you exist, their knowing why you’re good at what you do and hopefully show your culture. So show your personality so that the right kind of people find that and if it resonates with them, those are the folks we hope to see.
What has been your biggest challenge and your biggest reward as an entrepreneur?
- Geoff Girvitz: I think the freedom component answers both questions and I kind of mentioned that before. Some days I really wish I could just show up and someone would say, “Hey Geoff, here’s a list of stuff. Get through this. You’ll get paid the same. Everything will be cool.” And there’s no guarantee. So a lot of times I have to sort of take a leap of faith or say, “Okay, I believe in this, let’s flesh it out.” And these things don’t always work. A lot of the experiments do not work. So I have this tremendous freedom to be able to do that, but I also live and die by that same stuff. This is the stuff I support my family with. So that can also be nerve-racking. That can also be really scary.
- Calvin Richard: Ego. Ego is one of the biggest things. Ego and not having systems. When I first started out, I was a good fitness coach. I didn’t know how to run a business at all. And so one of the things was: I put everything on myself and I didn’t have any systems and structures in it. I finally had to start investing in business structure and different programs to really get my stuff organized…[As for most rewarding,] I’ve been blessed that all of my coaches that I’ve had over the last four years or so, they’ve all come from being clients. I saw leadership on them—it wasn’t that they were just awesome, amazing—I saw leadership on them and coached them on the system, so now, I’m not at the trenches as much. I coach some, but I don’t coach as much as I used to.
- Jayme Limbaugh: The biggest challenge, I think, would be getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. So with that being said, marketing, I can talk to people all day long, I love talking. I can’t imagine having a job where I can’t talk. But being able to go out and kind of toot your own horn and be like, “Hey, I’m actually good at this. I really want to help you.” That’s been the hardest part, is getting other people in front of you to come into your business. So I would say marketing has been the hardest. The most rewarding is that I get to be my own boss and I get to make my own schedule. And I work a lot and I enjoy that. It’s nice, though, that in the middle of the day last week, I got to go chop out apples at my kid’s school. So the rewarding part is that I finally get to utilize my time management skills so that I can accomplish everything that I want to do in a day.
- Mike Doehla: I think the biggest challenge is a kind of knowing where to spend your time. As your business grows, and it grows pretty quickly, you get distracted and you don’t really know what to focus on. So I think, internally my struggle is trying to figure out where the best time is spent, what projects are the best to spend time on, how to grow without affecting customer service. One thing we’re really proud of is, as we grew, our customer service ratings have improved. We might have to play catch up internally, but our members don’t feel that. Then the biggest reward is really changing thousands and thousands of lives. You get text messages and emails all day long that’s like, “This thing changed my life.” It’s a daily occurrence. That is the best thing in the world.
- Jake Eisenhut: The first two things pop into my mind is one, leaving my gym. I obviously had to leave some clients and stuff behind. So, losing those relationships essentially was hard. But I would say just from a running a business standpoint, at a gym, I was just a trainer. As a business owner, I’m a trainer, I’m the marketer, I’m the bookkeeper, I’m the janitor, I’m the equipment guy. I wear lots of different hats now. That was challenging to learn all those roles.
- Kevin Hollabaugh: So, as an entrepreneur, the biggest downfall is you don’t have somebody telling you what to do. So always making calendars that kind of hold yourself accountable and following through with that, especially with social[media], that’s helped a lot.
- Josh Bowen: The biggest reward for me is just being able to impact people. I know that’s so cliché, but that’s so true. Just people. I love to just impact people in any which way possible. They may not have gotten any results with me as a trainer, but they’ve improved themselves and they’ve gotten better. They’re a better version of themselves, and I think that’s a win. Biggest challenge? There are so many challenges in business and so many challenges in being an entrepreneur. I think probably everyone’s challenge is time. How do you use your time? And how do you leverage your time? We all have the same 24 hours, and how do you use it is what your result is going to be. I think that’s a huge challenge for me. I think it’s a huge challenge for everybody. To answer your question, the best thing is, is the impact I’ve had on people, and the hardest thing is just utilizing my time in a way that I can be the most impactful.
What resources have you benefitted from that you would recommend to our audience?
- Kevin Miller: Yeah, I think there are so many coaches out there right now willing to help each other out, which is fantastic. The field is growing. I think everybody is starting to challenge each other in a good way, and I think you see the trend moving in the right direction for the field of strength and conditioning. Some podcasts that I listen to, I already mentioned his name, but Mike Boyle The Strength Coach Podcast. I think is a fantastic resource. He’s one of the leaders in the field. He’s been doing it for so long. That’s just a tremendous resource. Just Fly Sports Performance is another really good podcast that gives a lot of information on speed training. I think the host does a fantastic job. Zac Cupples is a coach who I have not personally met, but I think does a really good job of bridging strength and conditioning and from a physical therapy standpoint together. He does a fantastic job with his podcasts. Mike Robertson on The Physical Preparation Podcast is excellent. And then, I also think there’s—I think that conditioning coaches and sports performance coaches need to look outside the field too, and look at some podcasts that can help them with mindset or business. Like, one podcast I just started recently listening to is called Life Coach School podcast, and it’s really good because it talks a lot about your brain and how you form habits, from changing your habits, and I think that is really important for coaches.These are just some of the podcasts I’d recommend—those five or six are really good. Eric Cressey is a coach whose fantastic as well. So, those coaches are the coaches that I tend to follow on a daily or weekly basis.
- Brad Baker: Well, number one, of course, is Bold Based Performance podcast. But really the first things that come to mind for podcasts I’d say the TFC Audio Project. That one’s put on by The Foot Collective and that’s just really great for anybody in this space. I really liked Gary V, Gary Vaynerchuk, he’s got some great content. And Tony Robbins as well. And then some books that I really like are You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero. That’s where that quote that I mentioned earlier came from Find Your Why. Finding your why is crucial.
- Breanne Celiberti: So I am a big podcast person. I like to listen to them while I’m driving and working out sometimes. So one of my favorites, that I know is a really popular one, is How I Built This. Sometimes it features fitness entrepreneurs like SoulCycle or Peloton. But just in general, how hearing the stories behind these entrepreneurs it really leaves you feeling motivated and ready to make progress in your own life or to just do something bigger. So I think that’s a great podcast. And then there’s obviously a few fitness business podcasts that are out there that are really helpful. I think everyone just needs to find whatever helps motivate them, whatever genre that is.
- Niccole Hendrickson: A book that’s been super inspirational to me and that I love, it’s called 12 Rules for Life: An Anecdote to Chaos that has given me like huge perspective on just a balancing of adulting and career and motherhood and just life. Really great perspective.Another book that—everyone in most relationships is going to laugh at me when I share this with you—but has been extremely helpful for me as a business person is The Five Love Languages. Having a better understanding of each of your clients and how they operate and what their—how they respond. That’s another really great one.And I would say as far as nutrition-wise, there are all kinds of really awesome people out there. I love—there’s a gal here local in Denver, PaleOMG Juli Bauer, who’s phenomenal and just really upfront.And then—a friend of mine. I’m lucky to call her a friend. People know who she is, but—Jen Widerstrom has been really inspirational in my life as a mentor and she’s awesome. Everybody should follow her and get inspired by her as well.
- Scott Schutte: Yeah. With this kind of recommendation, I usually keep it more broad and fundamental. Because there’s a ton of books I can recommend if we’re just talking marketing if we’re talking time management or something like that. But my number one is the Dale Carnegie, How To Win Friends & Influence People. That’s something that I think everybody can read and have a positive impact. Now, my others are more philosophical like Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. And then I really like a lot of Ryan Holiday’s work because it’s kind of modern-day to its philosophy and he does a lot of American history stuff in there too. His Daily Stoic is something I do almost on a daily, and I’ve done for the last few years. His two books, Ego Is The Enemy and Obstacle Is The Way, both just phenomenal books.
Take Advantage of Collective Wisdom
The journey of the entrepreneur can be a lonely one, cant’ it? When you decide to start your own fitness business, there will be many challenges that arrive, both predictable and unforeseen, that will threaten to further isolate you from success.
But you don’t have to go it alone. Learn from the successful fitness professionals featured on Exercise.com. They have already traversed the terrain that you’re now traveling and have made many of the mistakes you can hope to avoid. Their experiences, knowledge, and honesty will assist you to create and maintain a successful fitness business of your own.
If you’re ready to grow and manage your business better, schedule a demo today.
Schimri Yoyo is a writer for Exercise.com and a financial advisor with active life and health insurance licenses. In a past life, he covered Villanova Men’s Basketball and Big East Football for Examiner.com. Schimri has also produced freelance copywriting, editing, and proofreading for various websites and online publications for over a decade. He is an avid sports fan, possessing an encyclopedic knowledge of all things Boston Celtics, Boston Red Sox, and San Francisco 49ers. Schimri is an educator and a storyteller who is eager to assist individuals and families to stay financially and physically fit.