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Should you Start a Boot Camp?

Should you Start a Boot Camp?
by Kaiser Serajuddin
If you’re an independent personal trainer that’s been doing well training clients one-on-one, there’s still an urge that I’m sure has been calling to you…

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It’s the desire to expand the size of your training business and your income by holding large group sessions, aka, bootcamps. And why not? When done right, boot camps offer a lot of advantages to a trainer, including increased pay, a larger client base, lower price resistance and fewer working hours among them.

However, just like any business opportunity, there are negatives to the situation, too. Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of boo tcamp sessions.

But before we do that, let’s take a minute looking into what boot camp training really is. The term ‘boot camp’ is derived from the very large group training that happens in the military. The earliest boot camp workouts had a military theme, pointing to their military origins.

Now you’ll see these large group classes take on many shapes and forms beyond their original military theme. In fact, when it comes to large group training, you can drop the term “boot camp” entirely and still do well with different themes for your large group training sessions. In athletic sports and conditioning, you’ll find large group sessions of 20-plus clients is the norm, supervised usually by one head trainer and a few assistants. In other specialized forms of training, such as MMA conditioning or kettlebell classes, you’ll find similar large group sessions. What these examples show is that beyond boot camps, there are literally an unlimited number of ways to enjoy the benefits of training large groups, even without calling them “boot camps.”

In New York City, where I’m from, specialized group classes are very common, with many facilities devoted strictly to this type of training. The fees are usually less than $25 per session, and with some a specialized theme and a great instructor, you will find many of these classes have a very loyal following.

Now that we’ve established that large group training can be many things beyond a boot camp, let’s look at the pros and cons of holding these sessions. First with the positives:

More money per session: The size of group session can grow to basically limitless size — I’ve known trainers that have fit nearly 100 clients into a single session. What that means is even if these clients are paying only $15 per session, if you have 20-30 in a class, you’re looking at a very high hourly rate. With good service and client retention in place, what you’ll have is a client base that will be coming back week after week for their scheduled work outs, and you’ll have a very stable source of revenue.

Less price resistance: For the most part, personal training services are limited to just the people that can afford them. But with large group training, the per session price is generally lower, creating a situation where there is much less price resistance. When marketed correctly, clients are more likely to join, train for longer periods of time and to refer more friends.

Fixed operation costs: Probably the greatest advantage of boot camps is the economic advantage they provide you. Because the amount of time and cost to run them are fixed, you can spend much more money to advertise, because the more clients you bring in, the greater your profits. As soon as you know what your lifetime customer value is, you can spend very close to that number and still earn an ROI.

Despite the positives, there are some drawbacks that you rarely hear discussed but need to keep in mind.

Boot camps can be draining to teach: It takes a lot of energy and enthusiasm to hold the attention of a large group of clients. For a lot of trainers, this isn’t really their style and for that reason they don’t like training boot camps. For others, they soon find themselves burning out, especially if they’re holding multiple boot camps per day. The solution to this can be to hire an instructor to administer the class, but this can have its own problems.

Boot camps can be tough to staff: Hiring another trainer to run your boot camps can be tougher than it sounds. It takes a special, energetic, highly qualified trainer to run a successful boot camp. Finding this type of trainer can be very difficult. However, they are out there, and once you’ve found one, do whatever it takes to hold on them. This will allow you spend your time on the most important responsibility, finding more clients to put into the class.

Requires many more clients to be profitable: Another drawback is the fact that you need to get many, many more clients to make a boot camp profitable. If, for whatever reason, you have a hard time finding clients, you’ll find that your total revenue is less than if you were holding private training sessions. The bottom line is that considerable marketing skills are needed to make boot camps work.

When you consider both the positives and negatives, it’s apparent that the positives are very appealing, which explains why so many trainers are jumping on this trend. Even if running large group sessions isn’t your style, the positives are so great that group training is something everyone should look to implement. Although there will be a certain portion of the population that will demand one-on-one service, if you’re still doing all of the training, grouping them is the most profitable and convenient way to go.

Kaiser Serajuddin is the writer of the popular personal training blog, Super-Trainer.com. He guides personal trainers through the challenging period of starting their personal training businesses and helps them on the road to six figures. kaiser@super-trainer.com

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