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Reality Check

According to current IHRSA data, one of our industry's top five successful profit centers is personal training. In fact, personal training is ranked as No. 1. As such, the questions that have to be looked at are: (1) how do we continue to make this happen? (2) How do we expand/grow our success stories? And more importantly, (3) How do we continue to increase our net income from personal training to the point that it is a viable contributor to EBITDA? The one answer is the “M-word” — the manager of personal training.

How many senior club managers, owners, and investors have woken up in the morning and said, “Let's make money in personal training.” Then they go to their best and most productive personal trainer and promote him or her to be the manager of this profit center. Unfortunately, reality has shown that there is no direct correlation between being a great personal trainer and being an effective manager of a profit center. Now that's not to say that this can't happen. Of course, there are a few instances where someone had been trained in another business sector, comes into our industry and does a fantastic job! This, however, has been the exception as opposed to being the rule.

After 14 years in the fitness industry, my experience has seen a continual turnover of fitness professionals who were promoted as profit center managers with no “real” professional training to speak of. And the very few who did succeed, did so on their own “street-survival skill sets” as opposed to being formally trained by either their club or our industry.


There are certain management competencies that should be looked for, as a minimum, in a perspective manager before selecting and sending another sacrificial lamb to the “slaughter.” Some of the key competencies to look for are the ability to manage time, resources and projects; problem solving and decision making skills; interpersonal skills; the ability to handle change; and more. [see sidebar for complete list.] By making the wrong management choice, your organization could potentially suffer from the following: high personal trainer turnover; high personal training client turnover; and an unacceptable rate of membership attrition, to name a few.

Meanwhile, the progressive club operator who has developed a highly successful personal training strategic business unit (SBU) by investment spending in its management team, has been able to consistently realize converse benefits from their investments such as membership growth, reduced attrition, and increased revenues and EBITDA.

Bob Esquerre is a program design specialist, a business planner, master trainer and program developer for Reebok University. He is also the owner of the Esquerre Fitness Group International, and a personal trainer.


What to look for in a manager

  • Problem Solving & Decision Making
  • Managing business processes
  • Managing change
  • Interpersonal skill sets
  • Technical skills
  • Displaying professional ethics
  • Setting and sharing a vision
  • Ability to focus on customers
  • Ability to manage time, resources & projects
  • Handling emotions
  • Leadership skills.
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