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Three Elements for a Profitable Training Department

Three Elements for a Profitable Training Department

Dave McGarry earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida in exercise science and an MBA from the University of Texas, Dallas. Along with his degrees, McGarry is certified through the NSCA as a certified strength and conditioning specialist and is the current fitness director for the Cooper Fitness Center at Craig Ranch. His experience consists of more than 12 years as a personal trainer and fitness manager. McGarry also is actively involved with the community as a public speaker and presenter to corporations for health and wellness. His most recent accomplishment is a self-published book for fitness professionals and personal trainers called “Anatomy of Sales.” If you would like to learn more or read his blog, visit

Is it possible for a personal training department to generate more than $1 million in revenue in this struggling economy? Of course it is. However, if you want to do so, then you must implement these three key elements into your business:

1. Strategy. Most clubs or businesses have a mission statement but do not have financial or strategic objectives defined for their business. To define these objectives, you need to go through a method called the strategic planning process, which involves asking yourself critical questions that will directly impact your success in carving out a profitable personal training department. Simply put, the strategic planning process asks questions such as:

  • What is your competitive advantage over your competitors?
  • What are your core values that are irreplaceable?
  • What are your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats? (SWOT analysis)
  • What are your long-term objectives?

By using the strategic planning process and ultimately having a definitive strategy in place, your chances of succeeding in establishing a $1 million-per-year revenue-generating department increases dramatically.

2. Don’t follow the herd. It is in our nature to naturally follow what is working with other business, but if this is your strategy and philosophy, you will have a challenging time creating a personal training department that generates $1 million in revenue. Earl Nightingale said it best: “Find out what your competitors are doing and do the opposite.”

To stand out in the marketplace, you need to be different. Find your strengths and capitalize on them. In Jim Collin’s book “Good to Great,” Jim refers to the story of the hedgehog and the fox. The story shows how the fox tries to outsmart and outwit the hedgehog, but every time the fox tries to attack, the hedgehog just balls up and uses its pointy spikes to protect itself. The fox has no other option but to retreat.

This story needs to apply to your personal training department. Ask yourself, what is the one strength that you have that your competitors do not? Once you assess that strength, use it to your advantage and position yourself in the marketplace capitalizing on it. For instance, you may have personal trainers who have extensive experience with special populations. Market this to your current and prospective members.

3. Educate and train. Educating and training your personal trainers need to be high priorities and goals for your department. Any astute business owner knows that if you want to grow the company, you need to invest in resources that will contribute the highest return on investment, and unfortunately, often overlooked in the fitness industry, is the investment in your staff and personal trainers. Just satisfying the CEC requirements are not enough. You need to hold weekly meetings with your new staff, monthly meetings at a minimum with the entire department and bring in outside experts quarterly.

The first area most businesses want to cut is in staff training and development, but that is a mistake. More time and resources need to go into training and educating your team. Having a highly educated staff will do two things. One, it will position your business as the experts in training, and two, it will help keep your personal trainers from seeking out other employers. Trust me, anyone who has had one of their top-producing trainers leave to go to another club will tell you that it significantly hurts the bottom line. Don’t let this happen. Spend the time to train and educate your staff, and you will see the top line increase to that $1 million mark.

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