As you folks know, I bring you articles and products from people that are at the top of this industry. It’s always information from people that I’ve gotten to know and recommend fully.
Well lately, I’ve seen some articles that have made me lift an eyebrow. In some well known places, I’ve heard the idea floated around about starting a personal training studio for under 5K. I know that my studio cost more than that to get started, so I wanted to get some more info to find out if this is all legit.
For that, I’ve brought back on the site my friend Kaiser Serajuddin, who’s the man behind all of this talk. If you’re a follower of this site, I’m sure you know him – he’s been a frequent guest here, and is the creator of the online fitness business magazine SUPER-TRAINER.COM. Well I sent him over some questions to get some more information and clear up my own questions on the idea of staring a studio for under 5K. These were his replies:
Hey Kaiser, so what’s new with you?
I don’t know if it’s a good thing, but I’ve always got something new going on in my business. I guess it’s because I feel the pressure of having a website called super-trainer. As of late, I’ve been very busy in the offline world – I’m a partner in a studio opening up soon. In the coaching world, I have a few joint ventures going on with some major brands and major people in the industry. So even though I have a lot of help from my staff, it still leaves me with a lot on my plate.
Hey Kaiser – the reason I have you on is for some more info on what I’ve been hearing from you about the whole idea of opening a training studio for under 5K. My studio didn’t cost that much and I don’t know many trainers who’s have. So what is this all about?
Yeah Georgette, I’ve been all across the web on the top blogs and in the industry magazines talking about that lately. It’s been talking about more than just keeping your start-up costs to under 5K, but that’s the part I think a lot of people get focused on.
Before I get into why and how that’s possible, I want to first point out that I think people are focusing on the wrong thing here, and the wrong part of my message. Most people have gotten caught up with the dollar figure, but that’s is by far not the biggest barrier to opening your own place.
What most trainers who are thinking about opening a studio are fixated on is the start-up process, but I didn’t think that’s the biggest obstacle. After all, go down to your local business district and look around. You’ll see tons of businesses operating there, by people that are likely far less hard working than any of the trainers reading this right now. So I don’t consider the start-up process or even the fund-raising aspect of it to be the hardest part.
The important part is actually knowing how to make the business viable. To make sure that it’s still open and the income from it is multiplying years from now, and bringing the owner more freedom. That’s the part that people need to pay more attention to, but that’s the part that’s focused on the least.
So rather than just thinking about what the start-up costs are going to be or the start-up process is going to be like, the more important part is actually going in and understanding what you’re going to face once the studio is open. You’re going to have a rent payment for your location that you’ll have to pay for out of profits every month. You’re going to need a way to consistently pay your employees. You’re going to want to make sure that your marketing is predictable. And you’re going to want to make sure that the standards are up to par even when you’re not doing the training.
I see far more trainers screw up the second part, about the marketing, operations, and systems of the business than the first part, about the start up costs and process. You’ll see a lot of driven trainers start a studio, but not have the ability to really turn it into the kind of business they want.
But that being said, let’s now get back to your question Georgette. There are a few reasons why I’ve been spreading the message of staring a studio for under 5K, and there are a few factors that are the basis behind it.
First off, you’re totally right, that it’s really hard to open a studio for that little, but you can get pretty darn close to that figure without much trouble. I didn’t open my studio for that little. The one I’m involved in opening now costs way more than that, mostly because it will be a multi-use center. But for a studio that is meant to serve the general public and that is on top of the latest trends today, it can be done for around 5K, give or take. This has been proven by several of my students and trainers that I’ve coached on the process. And once I go over what the factors are in keeping costs down and quality still up, I’m sure a lot more people will agree with me.
Now a few things contingent on keeping costs low are that you first of all found a place that requires a minimal amount of build out, and that you’re getting a generous rent free period at the start of your lease. Most advertisers will also give you payment terms, which will allow you to do a large amount of advertising but only have to pay a fraction of the costs up front. So on all those fronts, you’ll be surprised how much of those costs you can eliminate or delay until you get customer coming in and your cash flow up.
Secondly, in talking about starting a studio for under 5K, I want to drive home the message that cheaper is better. Again in terms of your build out, you can do an amazing job with just some paint and mirrors; you don’t need anything more complicated than that in the beginning.
And when it comes to equipment, we’re now in age where you’ll see most people are not using traditional, bulky gym equipment. Most of the big gym chains like the Bally’s, Town Sports Clubs, and 24 Hour Fitness’s of the world are these days roping off an area from the rest of the gym for their trainers and clients. What you’ll see here is mostly functional exercises with limited equipment taking place. So if you read between the lines, what the big gyms are saying is that the expensive equipment is for the riff-raff; our best customers don’t need it because they have a trainer. That’s a powerful message that shouldn’t be lost on a trainer that has their own business.
Back on the subject of low cost equipment, there are more types of training now which give tremendous variety to the training experience that you can create for your customers. These days you’ll find are trainers working heavily with kettlebells, ropes, TRX, bodyweight exercises, plyometrics, Lebert equipment, balance work, and other modes of training that do not depend on big, expensive machines. So it’s clear that you can outfit an entire studio for less than the price of one major piece of commercial equipment.
Part of my purpose for putting out that 5K dollar figure is to have trainers thinking along those lines. I wanted to get the idea of traditional equipment out of their heads. And have them realize that you can create and outstanding training experience for your clients and still be a top notch studio that charges high rates.
And lastly, I wanted to drive home the message that it’s possible to open a studio for anyone. Anyone can do it and they don’t have to wait til the “time is right”, which is usually never. Most trainers procrastinate, thinking the costs are so far out of the question that they shouldn’t even give it a shot; I wanted to eradicate that. So while I realize that a lot of trainers won’t be able to keep the costs under 5K, I wanted them to start thinking along those lines. I wanted them to start to entertain the idea that “hey, maybe this is possible for me”. Anything you accomplish in life first starts with an idea, so I wanted to put that idea out there.
Furthermore, I thought this was something important to do. I think the idea of having your own place is important for trainers to seriously entertain. Without taking this next step, training always stays a nice way to make money, but never turns into a real business. And if it doesn’t become a real business, you can never get the leverage of employees, time off, real wealth, respect, or any level of long term success and fulfillment out of it.
At a certain point, you start to lose out on respect and credibility. When you’re going to people’s houses or training them at parks, eventually it becomes draining. At first the money is great. And hey, let’s face it, the majority of people would kill to make 50-100 bucks an hour doing something easy.
But we have the right to be happy. For those reasons, the only way to get there it is to start thinking along the lines of opening a studio. When you consider the fact that the majority of people in the western world today are overweight, there are enough customers for everybody. The only barrier is just stepping up and realizing it’s not as hard as you may have thought. That’s been kind of purpose in spreading this message around to everyone.
From talking to trainers I know that are studio owners, I hear a resistance from them on putting a bootcamp into their training businesses. They think it devalues or competes with their private training services. How do you feel about that?
Yes they can both work together, but the difference needs to be in the marketing. When you have only a bootcamp, you’ll market it as a be all and end all, and you should. You have to take the position of marketing it as better than private training, because that’s who you’re competing against in some cases.
But when you have a training studio, you have to position it differently. You obviously won’t be giving it the same positioning as your other training services. If you do make it sound like that, yes, you will make people think “why the heck do I need the personal training when I can just take the bootcamp”?
So you need to position it as something different from your private training. For example, if you market your private training as a way to achieve “body transformation”, then you can market your bootcamp as a “fat burner”. They both do different things, so it’s conceivable that one person could be a candidate for both products.
You need to make this decision early on, because there are a lot of reasons why you don’t want to be without the bootcamps.
First of all, they’re a tremendous lead funnel. Since a bootcamp doesn’t cost you any more overhead if you have more clients in the class, it allows you to be more flexible in terms of the offers you put out. You can just plain get more people into your business by having bootcamps as one of your offerings.
They are also a great way to get referrals through free trials and ‘bring a friend day” invitations to existing clients. Another thing you have going for you is that people are more likely to join with a friend when you have a bootcamp, which means you get more bang for every new lead. Like they say, women don’t even go to the bathroom alone, so if you have a service that’s easy for people to do with a buddy, they’ll take you up on it.
Bootcamps are also recession proof; they can be a slack adjuster even during a down economic time. A lot of trainers felt a huge crunch 2 years ago from the recession and some are still feeling it in some ways. But having a bootcamp as an added service that allows you to keep clients even if their financial situation changes, and continue attract new ones even if people are cutting back their spending.
Bootcamps are also great for retention. You can put clients into them who would traditionally stop training with you. And you can put your top clients into them for free if you chose, which will bring them added value and keep them coming back.
Your camps can attract a different market than your private training. There are plenty of people in any community that are good, hard working people and excellent candidates for your business, but for whatever reason, won’t turn into private training clients. Maybe they get bored working one on one and want a social environment. Maybe they can’t afford private training. Or maybe they just can’t conceive of themselves spending that much money on private training, but your bootcamps are something more reasonable to them. Whatever the reason, bootcamps create an additional revenue channel for you to get ALL of the money.
I know that was a very long answer. But going back to your question, I kind of wanted to make the point that a trainer really needs to think creatively on how they can bring bootcamps into their business, because there are a lot of good reasons to do it. And I know this site is all about bootcamps, so it doesn’t hurt to really drive that message home!
I hope you got a lot of information from those answers. As you can tell, we’re only two questions in and Kaiser has shared a ton of valuable information. No matter what level you’re at I’m sure he got you thinking and opened up some revenue possibilities for you (I almost feel bad giving away this much golden information for free).
For the rest of Kaiser’s questions, I’ve split his interview up into two posts, and I’ll share the second part with you next time. Look out for that in a couple of days. But like the K-man said, if you’re a private trainer or bootcamp operator, it’s time to start thinking about taking this to the next level. Stay tuned for more.
Georgette’s Fitness Bootcamp Kit