Episode 333

The Secret to Delivering a Consistent Training Experience with Ben Pickard

In this episode, Ben Pickard joins me to talk about the secret to delivering a consistent training experience.

[00:00:00] Hello, my friend on today’s episode, I’m speaking with Ben and we are talking about as the title suggests, the secret to delivering a consistent training experience. I know many of you who have a team or a growing team, really struggle sometimes to get everyone on your team, everyone, your training team to sing from the same songbook, to really be on the same page about how to consistently deliver.

Day after day, a consistent high quality training experience. So today we’re going to share with you the system that we think all of you need to be able to do this well. And I hope you bring a notepad because it’s a really great one. We’re going to walk you step by step through how to consistently deliver a high quality training experience on your team.

So keep on listening.

Welcome to the business for unicorns podcast, where we help gym owners unleash the full potential of their business. I’m your host, Michael Keeler. Join me each week for actionable advice. Expert [00:01:00] insights and the inside scoop on what it really takes to level up your gym, get ready to unlock your potential and become a real unicorn in the fitness industry.

Let’s begin.

Hello, fitness, business nerds. What’s up. Welcome to another episode of the business unicorns podcast. I’m back with Ben. How are you, my friend? I’m great, sir. Thanks for having me. Yeah, I’m excited for today’s chat before we dive in. I want to just give a quick shout out to all you listeners who have not yet followed us on Instagram.

What the fuck are you waiting for? Click the link down below in the show notes and follow us on Instagram. We put out clips from this podcast and other great tools. We also engage with you there. So if you have questions about running your gym, DM us and we’ll actually talk to you and help you with whatever you got going on.

So go follow us on Instagram and let’s be friends there. That being said. Let’s dive into today’s episode, Ben. I’m excited about this one because I think it’s a system that many gyms need and they don’t have a very good one. And the [00:02:00] system we’re talking about today is creating trainer audits. We have a, for all of our Unicorn Society members, we have a trainer audit playbook.

It’s a process for creating a trainer audit system, but let’s just, before we talk about All the tips we have on this topic, what the heck are trainer audits? What does that mean? Let’s start there, Ben. Yeah, that’s a great question. Good place to start. The trainer audit is the tool you’d use to make sure that your coaches are delivering a consistent experience.

In fact, they’re delivering the experience that you want to deliver. And audit is a strong word because it’s always. I know when you, someone says audit, it’s like, well, the government’s going to look at my taxes. Maybe I did something wrong, even if you’re doing everything right. You’re like, am I doing something wrong?

But it’s the way that you check in to make sure that the trainers are doing their job properly. If, if you own a landscaping company, you might check that the landscaping was done properly at the end of somebody doing the landscaping for a customer and trader audits, because we’re delivering a, a real time service.

The audit is us checking in to make sure that your trainers are checking all the boxes properly, [00:03:00] which we’re going to talk more about later. Yeah. 100%. Many of our listeners know I used to work in hotels and restaurants. And one of the things that happens in, in good restaurants at least is before your plate goes out the kitchen and goes to your table, there’s someone there usually call it an expediter whose job it is to make sure, did y’all do this?

Is the hot food hot? Is the cold food cold? Is it plated up properly? Does the plate look clean? Is it getting to the right person at the right table? And someone needs to be doing that on a regular basis. And so a trainer audits are basically the process that you have in place to make sure that. Yeah.

Consistently delivering a high quality training experience, which I know all of you listeners who own a gym, there’s nothing I know you care about more than delivering a high quality trainer experience to all your clients. So let’s just start with why do we do it this way? I mean, just big picture, man.

Like why do we do a trainer audit and what does it look like? Yeah. The, why do we do it? Like maybe we can have a real talk moment. Yeah. Most of the gym owners that I talked to, including myself, probably I think even [00:04:00] including. You and Mark, maybe Mark to a slightly larger degree, like they started a gym because they loved fitness and what it can do for people.

And they spent tens of thousands of hours getting really good at it. And then they went out on their own for whatever reason and got their own place. And they were the only person there for a while. And And they were able to deliver the service because all the SOPs were in their head. It was, they probably didn’t even have the SOPs.

It was, this is just the way I do it. It was your natural approach. And then at some point you brought on another staff member who might be the best coach on the planet and they might be somebody else who’s up and coming, but they’re going to have a slightly different approach. And in order to standardize that approach, there needs to be some sort of, here’s what those standards are for our approach as well as, Hey, are you doing all the things?

Because a lot of things happen in a session. We have to use people’s names the right amount of times. If you have a habit coaching element, you need to ask them about their habit. You probably have an approach to [00:05:00] how you cue. Maybe it’s mostly external cues instead of internal cues. So you’ve got.

Progressions within a program that you want people to hit to see whether they’re getting stronger, burning more calories or whatever the things that you care about are for your clients. And as soon as you have a second person doing a thing, it’s going to become inherently different because you’re different people.

And if you’re not touching base on, is it done the way that Not necessarily the right way, but the degree to prone way that aligns with your approach, you’re going to end up having a, if you extrapolate that out, you’re going to end up having a bunch of trainers who all do things the same, but drastically differently.

And it doesn’t feel like a consistent experience, which doesn’t really work. I guess that can work if you only do one on one and it’s very loosey goosey, but for most gyms, it doesn’t work well. So this is the best way to ensure that happens. Yeah, I think it’s a great, it’s a great way to start this episode.

Honestly, Ben is the idea that many of our listeners out there started as one on one trainers doing things our own way, and the minute they have to start to teach other people to do what they do to [00:06:00] follow their approach to getting client results. They have to codify what they do. And that first step is really hard for a lot of folks.

It’s hard to reverse engineer something you’re really good at. If you’ve been a trainer for five or 10 years, most of the training you do with your clients is automatic. You don’t even think about what you’re doing. What you do, but creating a trainer audit process requires you to sit down and reverse engineer.

What do I care about? And Ben mentioned a lot of the things you might care about. And I’ll mention a few more. The other things you might care about when it comes to delivering a quality trainer experience are just basic customer service stuff. Do they start on time? Is the programming ready and easy to read and available for the client, right?

Is the trainer like groomed and look professional? Is the space clean and organized in a way that necessitates, that, uh, facilitates a great service. All of that in addition to how are they queuing? How are they interacting and relating to the client? So all of this stuff you probably have opinions about as a fitness professional and your first step to creating a trainer audit system is to write down all the [00:07:00] things you care about.

Okay. We call those standards and you, when you put them on a piece of paper or record them on a video, we call it a standard operating procedure. And you’re basically writing down, here’s how we do this at our gym. So let’s just assume, Ben, that people have taken that first step, that they’ve written down a bunch of stuff that they care about for what happens in a training session.

How does that turn into basically an audit? an auditing process. You know, you’re going to take those standards and turn them into specific observable behaviors that you can then watch happen in a class. So for instance, one of your standards can’t be that the trainer used good cues. That doesn’t mean anything.

It means something to each of us, but it doesn’t mean anything. I’m like, so you’re going to turn them into those observable behaviors and smush some together as needed to make them things that can, people can, you or someone else on your team can say the trainer I was watching did the thing or didn’t do the thing.

I’m making a check or an X with my hands in the air for the audio people, but you’re going to turn them into [00:08:00] those. Instead of behaviors that you can go through like a checklist to see, did they do all the appropriate things? It’s akin to, even though it’s much harder to do, it’s akin to the opening and closing checklist.

Did they turn on the lights? Is the music at the appropriate level? Is the temperature set? Did they did all the stuff? Now you’re just going to include more customer service and coaching slash fulfillment related things. And that becomes its separate checklist style, one or two page document. Yeah. Cause the end goal here is that this audit process, basically you as the owner or a manager, or maybe you’re a trainers watching and observing each other or watching, observing a trainer and observing their performance against this established checklist.

The audit is basically just a checklist of did they do this thing or not? And so that’s what we’re aiming for here. Let’s just go back. I really want to pull the thread a little bit more on that phrase you used, Ben, which is specific observable behaviors. Cause I think this is where a lot of people get hung up, right?

And I’ll give you, let’s talk through a very quick example that we hear a lot of. One of the most important things that people want out of a trainer during a training session [00:09:00] is they want them to have good energy. Good energy. So if you put on your audit, your trainer audit, they have good energy. Yes or no.

That doesn’t, as Ben just said, that doesn’t mean anything. Good energy means so many different things. So Ben, what are some examples if you’re looking for like good quality, high energy of a trainer, how do you observe through their behaviors that they have good energy? What are the, some of the things you might look for?

Yeah, it is a tough one. So here’s a few ideas that you might be able to use for your gym. Obviously these eat that using good energy that would be backed up by like other training and role playing. Like I want to be clear that the trainer had good energy. Isn’t like the only piece of training surrounding how people do this properly of supporting checklists, SOPs, training exercises, onboarding all the stuff.

So what I’ve seen work really well, and I believe something you do at my gym is we define it as the coach’s energy is plus two for the room. So if person a is six out of 10, person B is seven out of 10, person C is eight out of 10, I’d expect that trainer to be in like. The nine ish range. [00:10:00] So it’s like kind of meeting people where they’re at with their energy.

Now, obviously reading everyone’s energy is subjective and someone could say eight and someone else could say seven, but it’s starting to put some sort of measurable thing to that, that people can then discuss. Something else I got from wheels when she did the coaching and queuing course for our members was that your hands feet or mouth are moving at all times.

I thought that was genius because good energy doesn’t mean a cheerleader who’s had nine coffees. That’s that morning. Good energy can also just look like engaged as an example. I’m not that extroverted of a person. I’m quite introverted. So my approach to coaching is not like MFF style. But I’m definitely engaged with my clients and I’m paying attention.

I’m making eye contact. I’m calling to them from across the room. You could also, you could define that as like head is on a swivel and they’re using an appropriate tone of voice so that they’re always making sure everyone’s being paid attention to and that their tone of voice is like bringing the group together as a whole rather than, Hey, Michael, like good job with this.

Ooh, [00:11:00] Sally. Good with that. People can be like, is this person like that? Their dog gets sick this morning. What’s going on? So there’s different to Michael’s point, different ways to define it, but you’d have, you’d take good energy, which is just a descriptor and then turn it into what does that actually look like in practice?

That’s it. And the question you want to ask ourselves, those are all great examples, Ben, is if I was sitting across the room 20 feet away, but I was watching this trainer give a session, what are the observable behaviors I would see that tell me that they have good energy? I’ve been listed a ton, right?

It’s just that they, They, their mouth and hands and their feet keep moving. They’re fully engaged and active. They’re making eye contact. They’re using client’s names, using appropriate volume of their voice, right? There’s so many things that tell me they have good energy. So you want to write those things down on your audit and look for those behaviors that can be very clear.

Yes or no, they did it or not. Do you want to avoid as many subjective things as possible? Although there might be some subjective questions on an audit, you’re really looking for a checklist of did they do it or not? [00:12:00] Did they start on time or not? Did they make eye contact or not? Did they give good coaching cues or proactive coaching cues or not?

Did they? And those are the kinds of things we’re looking for. So thanks for going down that little rabbit hole, but those are awesome examples, Ben. All right. So then let’s just talk through a little bit more about. So they have some standards for what they want from trainers in a coaching session.

They’ve put those into a checklist to be an audit so people can watch and check, but how does the actual audit happen? What are some best practices here for teaching people about this, rolling this out to your team? Like, how do you actually get this to happen on a regular basis? Yeah, well, step one is letting your staff know that this exists and getting their review and input because they probably have some other wonderful questions and clarification because this ultimately is something that long term will tie into their performance evaluations.

And are you doing the job the way we said we do the job here? Can we, can I ask you to just pause right there? I just want to say, that’s like a, I want to just underline that or highlight that with a big green. Highlighter and say your team can and should participate in [00:13:00] the creation of this audit template.

Yes. Even though you as an owner might be the ones establishing many of the standards, they should be involved in the process of creating this at the very least giving feedback and iterating with you. The more you engage them earlier in this process, the more buy in you’ll have to their participation in it once it launches.

So that’s, I think a really big tip, Ben, but sorry, keep on going. Oh, that’s great. Yeah, definitely asking them even, Hey, what does good energy look like in a session to you? They might spitball a few things at them. But if you have two or three trainers and they all spitball a few things, you’ll be able to define the good energy quite well.

So. Step one is letting them know it exists and it’s happening, and you’re going to do it at whatever frequency you deem appropriate. I’d suggest at least once a quarter. What we do at our, with our staff is every coach and the man, every coach has to audit each coach once a quarter, plus the manager has to audit the coach each aqua quarter.

So that means if you have four staff, everyone has four audits every quarter, just so you’re not getting. Too biased of an opinion. You’ll definitely need to make sure that you’re like, once you tell them that it’s happening, then comes the question of, [00:14:00] do you prebook your audits in advance and let people know?

Cause as you roll this out, you’re going to have a shitty first draft. Please continue to embrace the idea of a shitty first draft as a perfectionist. It takes practice, but your first audit isn’t going to be perfect. And maybe that’s a discussion for us, Michael around. Do you think you should give, Hey, Michael, I’m going to be auditing you next Tuesday at 5 PM.

Just be prepared. Or is it, Hey, I just randomly decided to audit the session. And I know exactly how I feel about that, but that’s a piece that. I know a lot of our members have asked, am I supposed to warn them? Yeah. Listen, I think in many situations, certainly like an MFF in many cases, like you really can’t sneak up on them.

Cause you have to put your name on the list and get into the class or save room for yourself in the training session. I think if people are allowed to just observe and not participate, I think you totally can, uh, Surprise them. And that’s fine. I don’t think it needs to be an advanced heads up, but it really, if you want them to participate and actually join like an actual member into the session, they might have to know in advance that it’s coming either way, right?

The act [00:15:00] of observing something changes it. As we all know, so whether you give them a heads up or not, once you’re in the room with your eyeballs on them, it will change their behavior. There’s nothing we can do to avoid that aside, apart from putting in cameras, which I don’t recommend. So I think no matter what, you’re going to get the observation effect and that’s fine.

It still can generate a really great observation and conversation about ways to improve. So yeah, I don’t think it really matters that much. Yeah. Yeah. That makes total sense. I agree. You’re always going to have the observation effect. I like that. But in a vacuum, and maybe this is just my optimistic dream for humanity, that because I’m watching you, it’s not going to drastically change your behaviors, not the bosses in the room.

We all got to do look productive again. Like I’d hope that we’re all trying to build a culture that people don’t walk on eggshells around the owner or the manager or other staff, but there’s always going to be a slight change. 100%. I think that’s a great goal and by definition, mostly impossible for humans, right?

Our behavior is connected to our context. And so different people in the room [00:16:00] make us behave in different ways. I think that’s fine. My attitude about this is that if, if I’m in the room and I can see you give a 10 out of 10 training session, then you have no reason for me to ever see you not give a 10 training session.

I shouldn’t hear that the next day I was not in the building and you gave a seven out of 10 because I know you’re capable of it. And so I think that’s all we’re testing here is that are you capable of giving a 10 out of 10 and I hope that you, I hired people with enough integrity to want to do that all the time.

And if not, you’ll find out, you’ll find out from feedback from your other trainers or feedback from your clients. And that’s another podcast for another day. But I think at the very least, if you audit them and they are capable of scoring high, then that is someone who’s capable of doing a good job. And we hope that they would more times than not.

Yeah. So keeping us moving forward, you’ve created your standards, you’ve created your audit, you’ve told your staff about it. You’ve now scheduled the frequency that they’re happening. You’ve now done. Or two people on your team. This has been rolled out and audits are happening. The next step is to close the loop between what you observed in [00:17:00] that session and giving the feedback to the person doing the session for here’s what I like best.

Here’s what I’d like to see next time. Here’s where you nailed it. Here’s where you missed. Here’s an opportunity to improve. So generally speaking, we’d recommend the feedback happening as soon as possible. You don’t want, it would feel really shitty to me if Michael did an audit on me and I bombed. And then three months later, he like throws it in my face.

That’s not cool. Just tell me so I can get better. So you’ll have to establish what the standards are for your organization for this. But generally speaking, the person doing the audit should tell the person who was audited Ideally same day or maybe next day, depending on how schedules align. And then you’d also want to make sure that audit is given to that person’s boss.

So it can be added to their file. And because over time you’ll see, Hey, Michael did really well on a and B, but struggled to see. And the next audit, he did really well with a and B and C is drastically improving. And then he did really well on a, B and C. And you can see that this coach is getting better at the things that you care that they’re getting better at or vice versa.

It could be going the other way, but. We hope not. [00:18:00] I think this is such a critical part of the process here, Ben, and I think because how you, man, how you teach your team to give this feedback and engage in these, this feedback conversation can make things go really well or more really poorly. And I think this is a part of the process that you really have to practice this.

I would use a few team meetings, sit down and be like, Hey, let’s practice actually giving each other the feedback from these audits. And I think very simple feedback format. Ben mentioned it before this, a shout out to our friends over at Zingerman’s, but they use that framework of like best next time, which is a little bit of a tongue twister, but a really simple format to remember, which is you sit down with a person, you just did the audit with you and say, okay, here are a few things that I liked best.

Then you ask them to maybe say a few things that they liked best about their session. Then I would say, okay, here’s a few things I may be encouraged to try differently next time. Then you ask them just to share a few things that they might do a little differently next time. And that simple kind of two step.

Check in, I think can be really effective. They don’t need to sit down and go through the whole audit. You need to go through the whole checklist. So you usually it’s a one or two page checklist, [00:19:00] so we shouldn’t take that long. But for the most part, there’s no need to go like line by line. Did you start on time?

Did you use names? Really? What you want to do is sit down and teach your team how to give a high level overview of things that went really well and opportunities for. For change the next time. And then as Ben said, make sure that happens quickly after the audit and that information in writing gets shared with them and their manager so that the manager can address any patterns in one on one meetings and it gets put in their file.

So long term you can see how people are growing hopefully or not over time. Yeah. Yeah. Those are some really key things. Parts, anything else that’s important about this system we haven’t touched on yet. Not from a nuts and bolts standpoint. I think we were thorough on that, but I just wanted to circle back to the, it can be really hard to download your training brain into a two page checklist.

It’s, I think it’s Hemingway’s. If I had more time, I’d write a shorter letter. Like I know how hard that is because I’ve done it and still make tweaks here and there to it. But as you’ll see the beauty of this is that it’s no longer your training brain and you’re hoping that they read your [00:20:00] mind or that you can get them up to speed based on like your elbow grease.

Now you’ve got a system of here’s the arbitrarily let’s say 10 things that we think are the most important in a session. And someone else on your team can see if they’re doing that. And that other person on the team can be like, Hey, this is how I’ve approached this one. Here’s the trick I use to remember everyone’s name.

Here’s the resource that I learned the queuing that aligns with our standard for. Now you’ve got long term a team that is working towards a common thing. Rather than you as the owner being like, Oh shit, my coach isn’t good. And I got to go fix a bunch of stuff. Now, you know, where are they good? Where are not that good?

And how can the team as a whole rally around that? Maybe you need to do some different in services because you’ve got a new member on your team to get them up to speed. But it’s a, it’s now a much different approach that you don’t have to feel like you’re wearing all the hats. And even at my gym, my general manager doesn’t have as much of a fitness background, but she can do these audits as well as I can, because I’ve made them into observable behaviors.

Michael could come into my gym and do the audit and probably. understand 90 percent of it rather [00:21:00] than, because if it’s not, if it’s not simple for anyone to understand. There’s probably a lot of subjective interpretation and on their part, but probably also a huge lack of clarity on your part that if they don’t know what success looks like, they’re not going to be able to win.

I think that’s such a key piece of this, but I’m glad you said that because what we all know this from the research and from our own lived experience as managers and owners of businesses that are best a players on our team, the employees that we think are the most effective, but we want to keep around the longest.

The thing they want to know is how do I win at this job? What does success look like for us? And this is a key part of giving them that is saying, okay, the thing that we do best here, which is training clients, this is what success looks like here. The 10, 20 things that we need to have happen every training session.

And it’s so important that we’re going to actually give each other feedback on this on a regular basis. And that is something that I think is. So critical to scaling a gym, to scaling beyond just you as a single personal trainer, you really can’t do it unless you make your expectations of your trainers [00:22:00] really explicit, really clear, really easy to understand, and then teach them how to give and get feedback about that.

I think building that kind of feedback culture is a big part of, I think the output. of a system like this. The last thing I’ll say, and we can maybe start to wrap this up is, and I don’t want to end on a Debbie Downer note, so you can help me make this sound more positive. Ben, for most teams who have not done anything like this before, they won’t like it at first.

This will likely create some anxiety on your team. The fact that there are standards that are being measured against might be upsetting for some people. The fact that there are standards that are getting measured against, and they’re asked to measure each other. The fact that they’re asked to give feedback to each other, the fact that feedback is being recorded somewhere, there’s.

It’s just all kinds of twists and turns in this process that can trigger some team anxiety. So one is expect that going in. That’s a normal part of this process. The minute you get some people who are stressed out about the, even the word audit, uh, is not a sign that you should stop doing this. It’s a sign you have to maybe slow down a little bit.

Explain a little bit more, [00:23:00] make sure they know the why behind the what, but you will get friction in rolling out a system like that. And it’s because people are nervous that he didn’t make sure they need to know that one bad audit doesn’t mean they’re going to get fired. They need to know that someone’s going to give them feedback about their audit in like a kind, but firm way.

You need to know that they’re not going to get their colleague in trouble by writing down what they actually saw in a training session. So you have to work through all this in your own time. But I want to end on the sentiment that like, you can do this. This is a really important system to have in your business.

And it may not, it may not roll out as smoothly as other systems that aren’t as deeply cutting. Is there any way to make that sound more positive, Ben? Yeah. Like everything you do in your business is going to come with a little bit of pushback, whether it’s from yourself, your staff or your clients. And again, point is rarely that there’s an idea that it’s like, everyone is like, this is the greatest thing on the planet.

And this isn’t, should we have cake for people’s birthdays kind of decision? This is like a, this is like, how do [00:24:00] we examine our performance more clearly and make sure that we’re all leveling up is a little harder. Yeah. As someone who did at one point have a culture of terrible culture of not giving feedback in my gym.

Easing into this and just continuing to remind yourself that you’re the chief reminding officer for them to be like, Hey guys, remember why we’re doing this. This is why we’re doing this. One individual audit isn’t a huge deal. Let’s get better at doing this. Like it will normalize the feedback piece and people will stop being as afraid to give each other feedback and point things out and they’ll all be working towards the greater good.

But because it’s a system that doesn’t happen like every hour of every day, just remember that even after a quarter. Even if you do what I do, and everyone audits everyone else in the business after a quarter. Everyone’s only done a couple of those and everyone’s only received a couple of those. That’s not that many reps.

So don’t rush it because you feel like this is a missing hole in your business and you got to solve this problem now. Just start this process and see where it goes and get your team on for on board that it’s a bit of an [00:25:00] experiment, even though you know what the outcome is going to be. Yeah. 100%. Awesome.

We’ll leave it there. I think that’s a great summary. Friends. That’s a quick reminder. Go follow us on Instagram. And if you have any questions about today’s episode, just DM us, we’ll answer your questions over there. Or you can always email us. Michael at businessunicorns. com. Ben at businessunicorns. com.

We’re happy to talk about this topic and anything else you want some help with in your business, but thanks for a great conversation there, friend. I’ll see you on the next one, Ben. Thank you. Talk soon.