What’s better for the client, the coach and the business: A group class or a professional coach?

Oftentimes, we think about business decisions as a zero sum game—meaning if the coach wins, the business loses, or if the client wins, the coach loses, and so on.

It makes decision-making seemingly hard sometimes, as you feel like you’re trying to balance everyone’s needs so one party loses out too much for the sake of another.

What if I told you this thinking is completely false?

In other words, you can have it all!

GOOD business decisions work for everyone: the client, the coach and the business. In fact, the fundamental MadLab Group principle says this: All business decisions need to work for the client, the coach and the business. If they don’t, they’re not worth considering. 

Never is this more true than when we consider the coach’s role at your gym.

Let’s take a look at the group exercise class coach, which is what most small gyms have.

A group class coach generally:

• Gets paid by the hour to coach a group class

• Does not earn a professional wage ($70,000-plus a year working as a coach)

• Coaches as many as 6 group classes per day (if he’s a full-time coach), often coaching the same workout six times a day

• Is most commonly a part-time coach with a second job

• Does not ‘own’ his own clients within your gym

• Is not directly responsible for sales or client retention

• Has no personal relationships with the gym’s group class clients

In other words, this coach shows up, coaches for one to six hours, clocks out and goes home. 

Now let’s consider what I mean by professional coach.

A professional coach:

• Is a full-time coach who is pursuing a lifelong career in the fitness industry

• Gets paid a professional wage to take care of his clients

• Gets compensated based on performance (percentage of revenue basis) based on his ability to bring in and retain his own book of clients. In other words, he’s directly responsible for sales, client happiness and client retention

• Coaches 5 to 7 group classes a week and no more than two per day (all clients who attend group classes have been through 20 personal training sessions as their fundamentals program with their coach, and continue to meet their coach once every 6 weeks so they’re experienced, self-sufficient clients who have been properly trained to cater the training program to their needs).

• Has his own business (his own book of clients) within your business (similar to a physical therapist or massage therapist)

• Has a personal relationship with his clients, which is key to truly taking care of their changing needs and goals

• Has the opportunity to be a coach for life!

The results for the client, the coach and the business in the group class model:

Group class client: The group class client doesn’t receive any individualized or personalized care from a coach who knows his wants, needs and goals, not to mention what’s going on in his life at any given time that might affect what he needs fitness-wise. Instead, he receives a generic group class workout program. In other words, he is basically just paying for hard workouts. As a result, group class clients usually don’t stick around for years. MadLab Group data shows churn rates to be close to 80 percent in group class only gyms (meaning gyms who’s group class revenue accounts for more than 60 percent of the gym’s gross revenue). So in other words, clients don’t get what they need physically or emotionally, so they usually don’t remain committed to their health and fitness for life (at least not at your gym).

Group class coach: The coach doesn’t have a whole lot of job satisfaction because he doesn’t actually really help his clients—he doesn’t provide a solution to their problem. Instead, the group class coach provides a workout. That’s it. He also usually gets bored and burnt out pretty quickly coaching the same workout to a group over and over. And, getting paid by the hour in the $30 an hour range means he has little to no chance of ever making a professional wage in the fitness industry, so he does it as a part-time gig after his full-time job, or he eventually leaves the industry.

Group class business model: The onus falls 100 percent on the owner to do everything. The owner is the only one who really cares about the business, about bringing in and keeping clients. His coaches are but a labour cost to the business, and most coaches don’t stick around so it’s a constant revolving door for the owner to replace clients and coaches. The owner gets burnt out, and at the end of the day has little to no business profit to show for it. 

The results for the client, the coach and the business in the professional coach model:

Client: The client has a coach for life in his corner to help him with his problems and challenges, be it injuries, nutrition, work stress etc. The client receives individual attention that considers his strengths and weaknesses, and as a result, he gets more fit and stays more injury-free. The result: Clients stick around. Churn rate in MadLab Group gyms who follow this model is close to 10 to 20 percent (and half of the churn is generally because of clients leaving the city).

Coach: The coach actually gets to make a difference in his clients’ lives, meaning job satisfaction skyrockets. He also has all the freedom in the world to set his own schedule, and he’s considerably less bored as he’s not coaching 5 group classes a day. Most MadLab Group coaches spend 15-30 hours a week on the floor, depending on the week. Further, the coach now has the opportunity to make a professional wage in the fitness industry ($70,000-plus a year). The top MadLab Group coach earned $120,000 in 2018.

Business: The owner is freed up to develop coaches and the business as he now has coaches he can depend on to bring in and retain clients (i.e. coaches who care about the business, as coach success is tied to business success and vice versa). His coaches are no longer a labour cost; they’re revenue generators for the business. The owner now knows clients are taken care of, and they stick around longer, so there’s less pressure to bring in 30 new clients each month. The ultimate result: business profits increase significantly.

Not a zero sum game. 

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