Is your coach development process designed so your coaches stick around?

Time and time again the biggest complaints from gym owners involve their coaches:

My coaches can’t sell.

My coaches keep leaving. 

The answer is usually pretty simple: Your coach development process isn’t designed in a way that incentivizes coaches to bother trying to sell (nor do they have the sales training) or to retain clients. As a result, neither your gym or your coaches are able to have adequate financial success. So, they don’t stick around coaching in your gym very long.

Before I go into the 5 keys to a coach development process that allows coaches to earn a professional wage at your facility and ultimately stick around (I have never had a coach who earns $100,000 and quits the next year), I’m going to provide a bit of background in terms of how we came up with these 5 keys. 

In other words, why should you listen to me?

Currently at Madlab School of Fitness in Vancouver, I have six full-time coaches who have been there for 14, 13, 12, 10, 8 and 6 years respectively, all of whom earn a professional wage coaching full-time ($70,000+), while our top coach earns well over $100,000 a year.

Our crew today…

To get where we are today, we made a lot of mistakes…

My first mentor was Greg Glassman. In the early days, he tried paying his coaches by the head (meaning they were paid based on how many people showed up to class), but that was a nightmare. It pitted coaches against each other—a total shit show. So then he moved to an 80-20 system, where trainers earned 80 percent of the revenue they generated, and the house took 20.

I tried a similar system, but knew the house needed more than 20 percent to even pay the bills. I went with 70-30 to anyone who wanted to coach. Again, it was a disaster. It was the wild, wild west. Coaches weren’t being mentored properly and the house suffered from paying out 70 percent.

Our crew back in 2008: Five out of 7 of us are still around MadLab today

And so began a long process of figuring out what works best for the coach, the client and the business—what exactly allows all three parties to have success. 

From our own mistakes, and from working with hundreds of small gym owners over the last 15 years, and from gathering data (Read more about what has gone into gather our data here) with the help of outside parties like Zen Planner, we feel pretty confident we know what it takes to create professional coaches who stick around your facility pursuing a lifelong career in the industry).

5 Keys to a coach development system that allows the coach to earn a professional wage and stick around:

5. Mentorship

Like any profession, coaches need a true mentor to teach them how to be successful.

Our apprentice coach program teams each apprentice up with a mentor coach. He/she begins by shadowing the senior coach, and eventually (after he finishes our online school and gains enough practical knowledge), he starts building his own book of clients.

The lack of true one-on-one mentorship is one of the shortcomings in the industry today.

Part of this is because often there’s no system in place to compensate the mentor financially. In the Madlab model, the senior coach also earns a percentage of revenue from the apprentice coach’s clients (while the apprentice earns a smaller percentage as he’s working his way through the apprentice program). Eventually, as the apprentice becomes more and more self-sufficient, the apprentice graduates and starts earning a higher percentage, while the mentor is slowly weaned off as the apprentice needs him less and less.

For example:

The apprentice coach begins by earning 20 percent from a client he/she brings in, while the mentor coach earns 30 percent, and the house gets 50 percent. As the apprentice gains experience, he goes up to 30 percent while the mentor drops to 20 percent and the house gets 50 percent. Eventually, the apprentice becomes an associate coach and earns the full percentage for his coaching.

The lack of official mentorship, and lack of compensation for a mentor coach, is one of the biggest shortcomings in the popular 4/9ths model many gyms are following these days. (Read more about the pros and cons of this and how it compares to the Madlab model here).

4. Sales training

Part of the reason your coaches can’t sell is certainly because there’s no financial reward for them to bring in new clients. But even if there is some sort of financial reward, often coaches simply don’t have the formal training.

All Madlab Group coaches go through sales training, taught by sales guru Greg Mack, where they learn to rethink the way they think about sales to being but a conversation between two people to see if you have a solution to their problem. Here are some more sales tips from Greg Mack here.

3. Coach compensation

It goes without saying, if your coaches have the opportunity to earn professional wage working a sustainable number of hours each week, and have the opportunity to take paid vacations, they’re more likely to stick around for years.

This comes down to your coach compensation system.

In short, if you coach by the hour, it’s next to impossible to do this. Read more in these two articles about why paying coaches by the hour doesn’t work for the client, the coach or the business:

As we already pointed out, the Madlab coach compensation model compensates coaches on a percentage of revenue basis. Apprentice coaches begin by making 20 percent and associate coaches can earn as much as 50 percent of revenue they generate (60 percent on specialty programs). In this way, there’s no ceiling on what a client earns and our hybrid gym model is producing more and more professional coaches. Read more here about the Madlab hybrid gym model and how it dramatically increases both revenue and client retention.

For a fuller picture of the Madlab coach compensation model, refer to this article to get an idea of what it looks like on a practical level.

2. Avoid burnout

Another reason coaches often don’t stick around long is because they get burnt out coaching the same group class over and over again, or the same personal training clients day in day out, to the point that they feel like they’re simply babysitting adults and  starting clocks for workouts. On top of this, they often have to work 40 on-floor hours a week, often coaching the same group class workout five times a day, to earn a barely adequate living.

Madlab coaches work 20-25 on-floor hours a week and never coach more than two group classes each day. Further, the entire model is relationship-based (their clients buy a relationship with a coach instead of just a hard workout), meaning coaches have one-on-one relationships with their clients and take each client’s unique needs and wants into consideration.

This essentially means the coach can finally make a difference in their clients’ lives in areas beyond just providing them a good sweat. As a result, the client is more fulfilled, the coach is more fulfilled and burnout is kept at bay.

Check out this article about Tom Sarosi, our top earning coach and what his life as a professional coach looks like.

1. Coach Co-op

Another deficit in personal training studios and group class facilities is a lack of teamwork between coaches and the ability to scale. It is this ability to scale that allows coaches to earn a professional wage.

Also, if you’re a personal trainer and you’re on vacation, chances are your clients will take the week off, too. Or you have to pay someone else you hope you trust to coach them if they have time in their schedule. Same is true of being a group class coach: If you take off, you’re not getting paid for the time away.

The Madlab coach co-op model means coaches work as a team. They divide up the classes among them (each coach coaches between 5 and 7 classes a week maximum), and they cover each others’ classes when they’re away.

And because all of the coaches went through the same training, they trust their fellow coaches to cover their clients and classes when need be. More importantly, all clients then also receive the same type of care when they attend another coach’s class, providing a more consistent experience than they might otherwise have. 

Read more about the Coach Co-op system here and how it benefits not just the coach and the client, but also the business here.

If you find yourself wondering why you can’t keep coaches, why they don’t give a shit about your business, and why they have never made an attempt to sell a new client, re-consider the system they’re working under. If it’s not designed to benefit them, they likely won’t stick around for long.



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