As someone who has run many types of business (all of which have done pretty well), I should be able to answer this question, but here’s the thing: in order to answer it, I have to basically admit to years worth of mistakes, fumbles, and blatant fuck-ups, because, baby, you have no idea just how much failure was involved in my success.
For those of you who don’t know, I got into fitness sort of by accident. A chubby kid growing up, I finally got into shape when I was in college.
At 19 years old, I saw my abs for the first time ever, and thought, “Hey… maybe I could do this for a career.”
Okay, that didn’t happen—I was quoting Zoolander. But still.
At the time, I was in college double majoring in Psychology and Biology, so while fitness became a passion, I didn’t consider it as a career option. Instead, I assumed that I might wind up with a job somehow connected to the degree I was working my ass off for.
Along those lines, I added fitness to my studies: being a bookish sort of lad, the manifestation of being bitten by the fitness bug led to reading everything about it that I could get my hands on.
Within a year, I had been certified and started taking on clients.
In short order, my nerdiness led me to combine two of my interests: writing and fitness. At 20, I had my first article published.
Initially, I put a little bit more stock in modeling—a fantasy from which I was pretty quickly awakened. I don’t want to delve too deeply into my delusions of what the life of a model would be like, but suffice it to say that the pay isn’t great and the benefits of the lifestyle (in terms of parties and women) are usually grossly exaggerated. And when they’re not, the novelty wears off rather quickly.
So instead, I began to take training more seriously, and as my inner scholar (read: nerd) was still not to be denied, I threw myself into literature and seminars to learn more. I learned everything I could about training, nutrition, supplementation, even enrolling myself in university courses on pharmacology.
Unfortunately, it never occurred to me take learn anything about the business side of what I was doing…
(Wait, what? How can you badly run a business and be successful? Ah, that’s the rub. I’ll get to that in a bit.)
Fast-forward 4 years….
By the time I was 23, I was doing pretty well—I’d been training for 4 years and, as it turned out, I was damn good at it: my clients were getting great results and my articles were always well received. I had not only built a repuation locally, but had built great friendships with other young coaches who would later go on to be super stars. Add to that the fact that I was making a nice living with minimal expenses while doing what I enjoyed.
Yup, life in the gym was pretty awesome.
Unfortunately, some aspects of my personal life were not so peachy: roughly around this time, I began to get into pretty massive blowouts with my mother.
You see, for my part, I hadn’t yet decided that training was going to be THE path for me. I was leaning in that direction, but still considered it a sort of “for now” type of gig.
Taking my uncertainty and brandishing it as an emotional weapon as only a mother can, Momma Roman began a series of seemingly endless diatribes on where my life was going. The focal point of her argument was, “Do you really think you can just work in a gym for the rest of your life?”
I don’t want to be too hard on my mom, because she really did have my best interests at heart. Firstly, she didn’t want to see me “waste” my education by not utilizing my degree. Secondly, and more pertinently, she simply didn’t view training as “stable” work and didn’t want me to struggle with financial uncertainty.
(Having been raised in a single-parent household with our income fluctuating between broke as hell and completely destitute, I certainly agreed with her.)
I guess, to put it in the most accessible terms, my mother just didn’t consider training to be a “real job.”
Of course, I was young and stubborn and while I still felt like I was “figuring stuff out” I had recently come to the realization that I most certainly DID NOT want to get a job involving my degree. In fact, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that what I really wanted to do was train.
(In retrospect, part of that may have been me deciding to prove my mom wrong. I couldn’t say for sure.)
What I do know, and what I did know was this: my passion had developed fully, and taken firm root. Fitness had changed my life. It got me published in magazines, changed my body to help me live the life I wanted, and allowed me to have a nice living.
Fitness had also given me social status, to some degree. Money not withstanding, I’d developed a reputation for being the best in the area, and had recently picked up two professional athletes as client. That, coupled with some TV appearances and the general “small town” nature of where I grew up, allowed me a tiny slice of what it felt like to be a local celebrity. I liked it. I LOVED it.
I wasn’t willing to give any of that up—instead, I wanted to make it a larger part of my life. Fitness wasn’t going anywhere.
My only option, as I saw it, was to make my mother view training as a “real job,” and the only way to do that was to make more money.
Right around this time, I heard a quote from Alwyn Cosgrove, and it’s one that has stayed with me every single day.
“Most trainers don’t understand they are running a business. Most fitness professionals are running a hobby and trying to make money at it. That will never work long-term.”
I was thunderstruck when I heard this, because I realized that’s EXACTLY what I was doing.
Remember when I said that I badly ran a successful training business? Well here’s what that means.
It means that I was a hugely successful trainer. I was booked solid all week long. I wasn’t just busy—I was good. I had my pick of clients and chose to work primarily with athletes, models, and goodly amount of “regular” folks.
It means that I got to help people feel good and look good, each and every day.
It also means that at 23 years old, I was the worst businessman on Earth, because essentially, I didn’t treat my business like a business.
If you need stark illustration of my complete incompetence, check this out: I had just decided that I needed to make more money, but then it occurred to me.
I had NO IDEA how much money I made.
It’s true. I didn’t really keep track of my income. I ran a cash business, and all I knew was that my bills were paid, I had money in my checking account, was making (infrequent) deposits to my savings, and always had enough money to do what I wanted.
Looking back at it now, I’m completely blown away by the irresponsibility of my mindset.
Of course, I could make the excuse that I was young and reckless and most of my energy was devoted to my Holy Quest of Trying to Have Sex with Every Woman in the World, but still, you’d think I’d have some brainpower left over for tracking income.
And so that’s what I did. On June 15th of that year, I made an excel spreadsheet of every single session I’d done since January 1st. I then gave each session a dollar amount and realized that I was doing pretty damn well.
At that point, I had mad $42,785.00 from training, the majority of which was cash. Since it was the middle of the year, I could assume that if no major upsets occurred, I was on pace to make about $85,000 for the year.
I was pretty pleased—I was making high 5 figures doing something I loved. In fact, I was making more (in some cases double) than any of my friends who had jobs related to their degrees. That felt nice.
Of course, knowing how much you make isn’t really any big achievement—in order to grow my business, I needed to make more money. To put a pinpoint on my goal, I decided that breaking the 6-figure barrier was going to be enough to get my mom to view what I did as a real job.
NOW, we come to the business discussion. I’m going to tell you what I did, and now, years later, give some insight about why it was wrong and what I should have done.
So I wanted to make more dolla-dolla bills.
The problem was, again, I had no idea how to do that. So, I just did everything I can think of. And made quite a few mistakes….
Now, I want to tell you all about them (and how to avoid them), but this post is getting too long.
Here’s the thing: the BIGGEST mistake I made was NOT investing in my business education. At the time, I didn’t think of it. More importantly, there weren’t resources specific to educating me about FITNESS Business.
Thankfully, that’s no longer true.
I want to just tell you about something I think every trainer or fitness pro should own: Fitness Business Blueprint.
Now, I know a lot of people are going to hedge at the price—it’s 197 bucks. And, yea, that seems like a lot.
But, when you think about how much time and money you’ll save (and make) from the investment, it’s a no brainer.
By way of illustration, here’s a quote from Cressey:
“I spent $25 on a book that taught me the basics of Lease Negotiations, and it literally saved us TENS of thousands of dollars.”
Imagine if he didn’t buy that book? Imagine he Eric didn’t take the time to learn about Lease Negotiation? He’d save 25 bucks. Awesome.
But perhaps the extra thousands of dollars in rent would have been enough to put Cressey Performance—now considered one of the top gyms in the world—out of business in it’s first year.
That sort of return on investment is exactly why trainers and fitness professionals NEED to invest in Fitness Business Blueprint. It’ll save you time, save you money, and probably double your income.
Seriously. It’s an investment you won’t regret. If you’re a trainer or trying to be one, I want you to pick this up.
Sometimes you get lucky, like me—as you can tell, I was successful in spite of what I did, not because of what I did. Most of the time that’s not the case. And even when it is, it’s a struggle.
I want you to avoid the struggles that I had. (Holy crap, now I sound like my mom.)
Okay, okay…enough pitching.
Anyway, like I said, I made TONS of mistakes (many of which could have been avoided if I had access to FBB).
Don’t miss part two of this post, right HERE.