Starting a Personal Training Business Part 4

Be the Best

The reason customers hire personal trainers is that they are confident that the personal trainer has the methods and the knowledge to get them to where they want to be, whether that’s to a certain body weight or to develop another area of their fitness.  Also, on top of that something even a bad personal trainer can offer their client is accountability. Knowing that they are not just doing it for themselves anymore but they are also doing it for their trainer, can deter them from quitting quite so easily, like they may have done several times in the past when they attempted training on their own.

Now if you are in the job for the right reasons i.e your passionate about health and fitness and helping people, then you will want to give your customers the best customer experience possible. Therefore you must consider two things:

  1. Meeting customer expectation
  2. Exceeding customer expectation

Meeting customer expectation

There is one thing that every customer expects and that’s results. Writing the training programme and offering nutritional advice is actually the easy part. It’s getting your clients to follow the advice and not quit that is the bigger challenge. This is where it comes down to customer support. Using tools and strategies that support your clients and that keep them motivated is critical to their success. Here are some basic techniques that all good PTs have been using for years to help keep their clients on the path to success:

  • goal setting
  • assessment
  • rewards 


Goal Setting

PTs are all taught to goal set with their clients as part of their personal training certification but how many of them are still doing it? I can’t stress the importance of this enough. It’s one of the many characteristics that successful people share, they all goal set.

It doesn’t take long. Find out what your clients want to achieve and write it down. Even better, use the SMART acronym. It takes some practice but it will help.

Structure your goals so they are:







You can take it one step further and make them SMARTER by adding onEvaluate & Review.

I would suggest you then break the goals down if it’s practical to do so. For example a SMART goal for someone, might be to lose 2 stone of body fat in 6 months. However, focusing on two stone can be intimidating for the client. They could be making great progress but not even be half way towards their goal. I would therefore break that goal down into how much they should lose in a month, and even further into how much they should lose in a week. This in this case would be 1-2lbs a week, which is far less intimating than thinking about 2 stone. Plus they will have success every single week if they lose the 1-2lbs, if not you can address the reasons they have not been successful rather than wait six months to find out they have made no progress. Try to discuss these goals with your clients regularly. Link the lifestyle advice you give them and the training programmes you write to the achievement of these goals.


Once you have these goals, your training programme, lifestyle and nutritional advice will reflect this but what many trainers make the mistake in doing is taking the bootcamp style approach and they expect their clients to knock all their bad habits on the head over night.

This could include the following:

1)      Cut out chocolate

2)      Cut out crisps

3)      No more cake

4)      No sugar in tea or coffee anymore

5)      No booze

6)      Exercise everyday

8)      Drink more water

9)      Eat more vegetables

10)   No fizzy drinks

11)   Eat smaller portions

12)   Eat a healthy breakfast

13)   Take a healthy packed lunch to work

14)   Go to bed earlier

15)   No takeaways

16)   Cycle to work

17)   No more biscuits

18)   No more chips

19)   Bin the deep fat fryer


Behaviour change is dam hard work. It takes enormous focus to develop a new habit/behaviour and eliminate an old one, if you’re expecting your clients to focus on more than two to three at once then their chances of success drop quite significantly. If you ask them to attempt too many changes at once then frankly you are putting way too much pressure on them, and your trying achieve too much too quickly. They will find it too difficult and lose motivation and you will lose their business.

If you are learning to play a new musical instrument, a new sport or to speak a new language then your teacher or coach would not send you away after each session with a huge list of areas that you need to work on.  This would be unreasonable and unrealistic.  Good coaches, teachers and instructors all understand that we as individuals only have so much attention and focus, the more areas we try to develop at once the quicker our focus and attention runs out. So with that in mind coaches, teachers and instructors prioritise their client’s needs. They will compile a list of what needs to be worked on and will focus on just the first two to three areas on the list first before tackling everything else. In fact, even focusing on just one thing at a time is best for some individuals who have busy lives.

For example, if your tennis coach has agreed with you that in order for you to develop a more consistent serve, you need to practice tossing the ball in a straight line, then that might be one of the areas they ask you to focus on. If you return the following week and your ball toss is now perfect then your coach would replace the ball toss for the next priority on the list. However, if it still needed further work then you would continue to focus on that before anything else is added to your plan.

By all means look at the areas of your client’s lifestyle that need development in order for them to achieve their long term goals but remember to prioritise them and just pick two or three to focus on that week and do not work on anything else until their old habit has been replaced with the new one. This may take several weeks.

Now there are occasions where you might disregard behaviour change and not use the small steady approach. For example, if you are faced with a client who has a wedding in 6 weeks and wants to drop as much body fat as possible. Then you might want to utilise the bootcamp style approach and give them a list like the one previously. These individuals are highly motivated so they may be able to stick to all the changes for that short period but be aware, and you must also make your clients aware that it’s just a quick fix and this approach doesn’t guarantee lasting results.



I was talking to one of my students recently who has been having regular personal training for years. I was discussing with her the important of health and fitness assessments. During the conversation she stated that her trainer never carried out any assessments on her. I then asked her how he knew whether she was making progress or not. She replied I don’t know.

Regular assessment is essential to measure progress. Good coaches and trainers will do them regularly. Now this could be something as simple as an observation of ones performance at a given task/skill i.e the number of tennis serves that land in compared to the number of attempts. Or it could be a physical measurement i.e body fat percentage, or waist and hip circumference.  What assessment method they choose must obviously be relevant to the client’s goal.  The results of these assessments will determine what areas need the most work and will strengthen motivation if the assessment shows an improvement.  I strongly encourage PTs to regularly assess their client’s progress towards their long term goal and furthermore write down the results.  Weekly weigh-ins, waist measurements, 5K time trials, choose something that will give you an indication that they are getting closer towards achieving their long term goal.



It’s important to have recognition for our achievements in life.  Children respond brilliantly to praise and seek constant confirmation from their parents, teachers and friends that they are doing something well. I don’t think we ever really grow out of that.  How many of us have complained that our boss at work didn’t give us the recognition we felt we deserved for a job well done. Well, good PTs will draw attention to the fact that their client has achieved a goal and praise them for this. Intrinsic motivation is very powerful and is essential to keep us working towards our goals but if you don’t recognise each time you achieve something and just focus on how far away you are from your ultimate goal then you’re missing out on a regular dose of intrinsic motivation.


Exceeding customer expectation

One of the greatest businessmen who understood the importance of exceeding customer expectation was Ray Crock. When he bought the restaurant business off the McDonald brothers he thought long and hard about customer expectations when it came to taking the family out to eat. He concluded that the three main things parents looked for when choosing a restaurant to eat in with the kids was:

  1. Cleanliness
  2. Cost
  3. Speed of service

Whether you’re a lover of McDonalds or not, you have to hand it to Mr Crock, he definitely exceeds those expectations. There is always somebody cleaning in McDonalds, in fact it’s part of their operating procedure. It’s cheaper than cooking at home and the kids even get a free toy and providing the queue isn’t too long the service is superfast. Yes it’s terribly unhealthy but it’s the most successful restaurant franchise in the world. So the customer expectation clearly isn’t healthy food.

Now put yourself in the shoes of a personal trainer’s customer. What expectations do they have? This can vary depending on the area you choose to specialise in i.e weight loss or sport specific training. It might even vary within the town you choose to work in. It would be worth doing some market research first to find this out. Talk to friends that have had personal trainers before and find out what their expectations were. Once you have a good idea what they are then you need to plan how you intend to exceed those.

It’s about adding value to your services. You don’t want to be the cheapest personal trainer but you should aim to be the best value.

If you are just starting out in the industry or trying to give your current PT business a boost remember Rome wasn’t built in a day. Treat your business like your clients fitness goals gradual progressions over time will lead to life changing results.

Now go out there and make your own luck.

Best Wishes

Jon Bond

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