Episode 282

Transitioning from Personal Training to Small Group Personal Training with Pete Dupuis

In this episode, Pete Dupuis joins me to talk about transitioning from personal training to small group personal training.

[00:00:00] Hello, my friend on today’s episode, I’m speaking with Pete and we talk about a topic that we get a lot with our Unicorn Society members, which is for those of you out there who do one on one personal training at your gym, and you want to, or you’re trying to transition from offering one on one personal training to small group personal training.

We walk through why we think that’s a valuable transition to make. And some pitfalls we’ve seen people experience. So if you thought about making that change or you want to make it, uh, you’re in the process of making it is a great episode for you. 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 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 [00:01:00] in the fitness industry.

Let’s begin.

Hello, fitness business nerds. What’s up? Welcome to another episode of the Business for Unicorns podcast. Today, I’m here with Pete. What’s up, my friend? How are you today? I’m very well. Thank you. Good to be back. Yeah. Good to see you. Good to see you. So let’s dive in. Before we get to today’s topic. I just want to give a quick shout out that if you’re listening to this podcast in November, then we are still doing enrollment for our Unicorn Society group, which we only do twice a year.

You’ve heard us talk about a ton of podcasts. I won’t go into a ton of detail, but just know that if you’re listening to this in November, when this podcast comes out, enrollment is still open. Our early bird ended November 5th. So if you missed November 5th deadline, we’re still open. You might save a little less money.

Enrolling after November 5th, but we still have enrollment open. Go to our website or the link dope down below in the show notes, click the link to apply. And we’ll still have a conversation about whether our business coaching group is right for you. Today’s topic is going to be one that comes up a ton in the last few [00:02:00] years.

And I think Pete and I probably have this conversation at least once or two a week with Unicorn Study members. And it’s for all of you out there who are moving from one on one personal training. To small group personal training, and I’ll just define terms here before we dive in. When I say small group personal training, some of you call it semi private training.

What I basically mean is basically three to one to six on one small group training. Some of you do that where your small group all is working off a similar program. Some of you do it where there’s a shared program. But I’m not talking about one on one and I’m not talking about classes. I’m talking about small group training, which is somewhere between the three to one ratio and a six to one ratio for most of you and making that transition from being one on one personal training studio to a small group studio is something we see a lot of people doing these days.

For good reason, which we’ve talked about before on this podcast, but what Pete and I wanted to do today is talk a little bit about how you make that transition. What are the nuts and bolts things we’ve seen people do that worked? What have we seen people do that doesn’t work? [00:03:00] And what should you be thinking about as you go to make that change?

Any other context you would add to this conversation, Pete? I want to start by saying how cool it is that I can put an idea on the table and 30 seconds later, you can do a two minute intro with no planning. It’s brilliant. It’s because we talk about this stuff literally all the time. That went from zero to a hundred real fast and you didn’t even blink, so good on you, man.

I, let me say that I think we, uh, it would be a good idea for us to start with the disclaimer. Why? Why do people want to make this shift? So in my eyes, this is because people are pushing up against the ceiling. They only have so many hours in the day. They only have so many slots as a result for clients.

The way to optimize their calendar and basically squeeze blood from a stone is to put a few more bodies in the space for a lower ticket price point. But Three people at 40 bucks is better than one at 99 the [00:04:00] deal and those are not concrete pricing strategy recommendations That’s just How you slice it when you put three to four six people in a room?

They’re always gonna be able to pay more than a single person Unless you’re charging insane amounts for your one on one and if so good for you That’s a pretty limited pool of people you’re pulling from in most markets So unless you’re in New York or LA, you probably can’t charge 500 an hour for personal training and have an unlimited pool of people to pull from.

And so, and that’s what really you have to charge if you’re going to compete with small groups. So I think that’s a great place to start. Where do the headaches lie? Where are the missed opportunities? Here’s the first mistake I’m seeing right out of the gate consistently, and that is that people’s actions in how they present their operation are not in line with their interests.

So you’ve got someone who’s saying, I’m not getting any small group personal training leads, and then I go to their website and I’m like, It’s the [00:05:00] seventh thing on your list, and personal training is the top thing on your service offering. It’s not just deprioritized, it is irrelevant. And so, that’s my first piece of advice.

Make sure that what you’re messaging is in line with what you believe you need. I had the same conversation just last week. I’m not going to name names, but if you’re listening, you know who you are, but maybe there’s probably more than one person who did this recently, where they said they were, they’ve been switching to a small group, personal training, and they also have a low barrier offer that’s for not small group, personal training.

I was like, you’re driving all of your leads to try out. A service different than the one you just told me you want to sell the most of, right? So if you’re trying to have the focus of your revenue, you want your top seller to be smaller, personal training. It’s got to be prominent on your website as a thing you do with clear features and benefits.

And it’s got to, there’s got to be a low barrier offer for it. If you’re someone who believes in a little more offers, and we do, there’s got to be a way for people to try before they buy. And if you are driving. [00:06:00] Funneling people to some other low bar offer for a group class or one on one. What the hell are you doing?

So let them try the thing you want them to buy when they’re done trying. Yeah. What else are you seeing? Absolutely agree. If I were, let’s say, Michael, I was speaking to a new coaching client and I said, how do you split up the pie personal training versus small group, personal training, what’s it look like today?

And they say it’s 80%. personal training and it’s 20 percent small group, but I’d love to see that shift. And then I say, Hey, in a perfect world, three years from today, what would that split be? And they’d say a hundred percent small group, personal training to which I say. That should be the only thing listed on your website.

This is no different from when we say, Hey, it’s time to raise prices. Effective immediately. Nobody who comes through the door pays the old price. I don’t even care if you’ve announced it yet. New people don’t know what the prices were. Just like new clients don’t know that personal training was an option.

So if your objective is To be [00:07:00] entirely small group somewhere down the road. It doesn’t need to be today or immediately, and it doesn’t mean you’re antagonizing your existing clients because by show of hands, if you asked 100 existing clients when the last time was that they went to your website and looked at your service offering, you’d see zero hands.

So I’d say make that shift immediately. Yeah, I love that. It’s so good, Pete. And again,

when you don’t want to be doing. A year, three years, five years from now, stop fucking selling it. , like, if you don’t wanna be doing it at some point, just stop. Right? It’s still more of the thing you wanna be doing more of. So I think that goes hand in hand with the first one for sure. I’ll share one that I see a lot, which is when people go to switch from small group training, the, sometimes I’ve seen people, what they do is they’ll just start offering it before they’ve really figured out how to do it.

And so the, the thing I think that they should be doing instead is a pilot. I think they should be testing out at least for three [00:08:00] weeks, six weeks, eight weeks. I don’t care. Find a group of clients. That was interested in trying something new, let them do it for cheaper than what you would normally sell it for.

I don’t know, maybe even free, but I think some skin should be in the game, ideally, and test out what it’s like to have a three on one or five on one or a six on one model. Test out your programming, test out your scheduling, test out how you set up the room, test out how you get them to interact, test out how you coach that many people at the same time.

There’s a lot to learn going from one on one to three on one, five on one, six on one. At MFF, we’re six on one and we used to be three. And our trainers had took a while for them to figure out how to go, how to coach twice as many people in the room. And we also learned through that process, we had to change the way we were programming.

Instead of like highly individualized programs for each person, we really changed our framework to really highly individualized coaching. So the programs were all more similar, but we’re still offering a really highly individualized coaching experience. So even when we started transitioning from three on one to six on one, there was a lot of learning [00:09:00] that we had to do.

You don’t want to do that learning. While you’re trying to sell it to the most number of people. So before you decide to flip the switch and sell it to as many people as possible, which you should do a little pilot first, test it out with a few people. Give it a month or so, get their feedback, get their testimonials.

Test all your systems. See if they still work when there’s twice as many people in the room. But if, when you don’t do that, I see it go wrong more times than not. Would you agree with that one? Yeah, it’s alarming how many people skip the proof of concept Part of this process because they saw another gene doing it on the internet.

Yeah, exactly It’s not the same thing doing one on one or even large group, right? Because we do that mff2 we do large group We have never really done one on one at scale, but it’s just a different thing to do. It’s different to sell It’s a different thing to onboard, it’s a different thing for the trainer to do, it’s a different thing to program.

And you need to give yourself and your team and your clients time to figure that out and learn how to do it. Yeah, my next piece of advice was going to get into the selling piece. And [00:10:00] I would suggest that people who want to make this move think a little bit differently about the way that they discuss the service offering.

They’re spending so much time talking about what it isn’t. When in reality, it’s a lot closer to personal training than people realize. Instead of catering, or I’d say feeding into people’s hesitation, that it’s not one on one, it’s not one on one, it’s, it’s too many bodies in the room, it’s not one on one, that’s all it, they do.

I talk about what it is, and what it is, All of the nuance of personal training with a better social dynamic. And so I explained to them, if you were to personal train with me for 60 minutes, how many of those 60 minutes are you actually under tension, being handheld, instructed through a movement? What is it?

12 to 15 maybe? Now if we’re telling you we’re going to go 3 to 1, and we thoughtfully design the programming, and we make sure that the material that’s being executed in the room by three different clients during this window of time, are [00:11:00] complimentary in nature. You can have the exact same amount of hands on attention.

And the biggest difference is that between sets, you don’t have to make small talk with the same person one to three times a week for 60 minutes at a time. You have different personalities in the room. You have different exercises happening around you. Everything about the experience is more. I don’t even know what the word I’m looking for.

It’s just, it feels like a more full socializing. Kind of an energizing thing. Whereas I I’ve had one on one trainers a lot in my life because I actually don’t like working out with lots of people, but I do find it boring sometimes because we’re just making small talk. Like they spend a lot of their time just like putting weights on my bar.

I could do that myself or going to grab my kettlebells. I don’t need you for that. All right. But if there are other people in the room, like I get to watch them working out, we get to cheer each other on. We get to ask each other questions. What are they doing? And so there’s such a sense of like.

Community and camaraderie, and even people who are introverts, three on one is not [00:12:00] overwhelming. Even six on one is a small group of people, right? And so I think you’re, this is a really great point, Pete, which is you don’t have to frame this as being dramatically different than one on one training. In fact, I see a lot of people sell it as here, just sharing a trainer for an hour.

Yep. It’s really, it’s more for less. If you want to position it appropriately, pay less dollars for the same amount of touch points and have better conversations while you do it. And to me, this is, this feels like a no brainer just because I never offered personal training in the first place. in my gym.

We’re 17 years into this concept. I’m working with Kilo right now, and I got chastised for repeatedly using the term semi private as we were talking our way through our services page for Cressy Sports Performance web update. And I get it. It is small group personal training as far as what makes sense to the general public.

But since 2007, we’ve been talking about this as semi private strength and conditioning. And I never had to sell personal training. Our LBO was a [00:13:00] 99 initial evaluation, which meant that everybody starts with a personal training session, but eventually they’re jumping right out of it. And it has never been a hurdle that I needed to get over because we were never selling it in the first place.

But I can count on one or two hands the number of times in 17 years. That a lead has come to me said, Oh, wait, you don’t do this exclusively one on one. Nevermind. No, thank you. And it’s a problem that we’ve created in our own minds before we’ve even had to solve it in a lot of circumstances. Yeah. Cause the reality is that most consumers out there really only want one on one cause it’s what’s been available.

That’s what they know. That’s what they’re asking for, what they’ve been trained to buy, and they want to stick with what’s familiar. If they’ve done it before, they’ve liked it. Frankly, that’s why I’ve sometimes had a personal trainer time and time again, because for many years it was the only thing I ever knew.

I didn’t, their small group wasn’t as popular back then. I was never going to be a crossfitter just because I actually don’t want to try that hard. You just described my relationship with all training, Michael. [00:14:00] And I knew I didn’t want to do Olympic lifting. And anyway, so, so yeah, so, but I think, but I learned only because I was exposed to it by starting a gym that actually small group training is actually like the best of both worlds for me.

And I think the same would be true for your clients. Cause I am many of your avatars because I’m not a trainer, right. That once they’re exposed this new way of doing things, they will like it more. They will like it more. There’s a lot of, we have countless examples at MFF of people came in saying they wanted one on one training and being, Oh, you don’t have one on one, but then they are diehard smoker personal training.

Like they will never go back because they come more. For less money and get the same kind of attention and results. So it’s, and it’s a win for all of us. We can pack our gym with more people per hour, making more money in profit per hour than we can with one on one. It’s just, it’s a win. It’s why so many of the franchise models these days in fitness are moving to a small group because it’s really, it’s a pretty, pretty winning formula.

I think there’s a hidden perk that goes [00:15:00] undiscussed as well. And that is that it, it helps toward employee retention. Because there’s a much more engaging experience there for the coach when they have three times as many interactions. Yes. Yeah, they can also make more per hour. Because if they’re getting a cut of one person’s income per hour versus a cut of three to six people’s per hour.

They have more earning potential and it’s so much more interesting for them. Right. You’re not going to be bored with three or six people in a room in the same way that you can push through it, but you can be bored just chatting with the same client the third time that week for an hour, as much as you enjoy them.

You can’t be, you can’t really look forward to seeing all your clients every single week, that same amount. That’s why I look forward to our office hours, to be honest, here in Unicorn Society. I know that a 50 minute call with someone who maybe isn’t the highest energy. Unicorn side member, we won’t name names, but that is perfect.

That can be a grind compared to. 60 minutes where nine different faces [00:16:00] will show up with nine different unique but relatable problems. That 60 minutes flies for me. And so it’s no different. Yeah. Yeah. Good for you. Oh, I think we covered some good ground here. We reiterated why we think small group personal training is something that most of you should probably consider doing.

If not. You better fucking do it. And we also talked about, I think, some good tips for transitioning. Yeah, I’ll repeat the ones I can remember and you can jump in, Pete, but I remember I was sharing, like, definitely do a, do a pilot, test some things out, Pete was talking about how you want to sell it a little bit differently.

Make sure you really practice. You’re not apologizing for the fact that it’s not personal training. Cause it is a lot like personal training. It’s like sharing a trainer. What else did we mention in terms of how to make the transition easier? Just, you emphasized the importance of celebrating the pros instead of the cons.

And then my initial point was that if you don’t want to sell it long term, stop selling it, period. And so, get it off the radar of potential [00:17:00] clients yesterday. And you don’t need to worry about your existing personal training clients coming at you and being like, I was auditing your website and I thought you might take this thing away from me because that’s just not going to happen.

100%. Yeah, that’s a good one. Let’s leave it there. ’cause I think we can keep talking about this. But listeners, if you have any questions about this topic, any other areas you want us to go, because this is a really important one, email us michael gros.com, p unicorns.com. We do read the emails and we put out, we have a giant Google doc where we put all of your questions.

We turn to them every time we start and try to answer as many of them as possible. And or just hit us up on, on Instagram at business unicorns. And one last pitch is, if you wanna work with us, your time’s ticking for. 2024, we are, this is our last chance for opening enrollment in this year. And so go to businessunicorns.

com, click on Unicorn Society or click down below in the show notes and apply to work with us to start a conversation about whether Unicorn Society could be the right fit for you. And we hope to hear from you soon. Thanks for a great chat, Pete. I’ll see you on the next one. Take care, Michael.[00:18:00]