Episode 244

Turning Clients into Coaches with Mark

In this episode, Mark and I are talking about how and when to consider turning a client into a coach. We share our experience at Mark Fisher Fitness, some lessons learned, and dos and don’ts. So if you’re looking to hire and think a client may be a good addition to your team, this episode is for you.

[00:00:00] Hello, fitness business nerds. What’s up? Welcome to another episode of The Business for Unicorns podcast. Today I’m here with Mark Fisher. Hello my friend. Hello. Good. Good to be with you sir. It’s good to be here. Happy Tuesday. Let’s before we dive in, we wanna just take a quick pause and give a quick shout out to our friends over at Kilo.

Do you wanna just talk a little bit at Fisher about what they do at Kilo and why our listeners should consider checking them out? Yes, kilo makes websites and gym management software specifically helps streamline your lead, follow up, your email marketing, your sales pipeline. And the reason you should sign up is we say it’s the only vendor we don’t get repeated complaints about.

It’s true. Just kidding other vendors. Yeah, we were just talking about that literally at a meeting an hour ago with si, we talked to our unit Unicorn Center members every day about different software they use and Kilo is consistently one that really does what it says it’s going to do, and works efficiently[00:01:00] to help them save time.

I literally had someone just tell me that less this past week, that they’re saving hours per week with some of the automation built into Kilo. There’s a testimonial right there from you, from our conversation last week. And if I can just offer briefly just in case other vendors are listening or ruffled, or people that make software, listen, making software is hard and in practice, depending on what it is that you’re doing, invariably there’s gonna be bugs of some kind, right?

So my favorite definition of technology is things that don’t quite work yet. On the one hand, I think is maybe a general principle to offer to everyone watching this. I do think gym owners have a tendency because you’re humans to tend to expect a little more than is realistic from a lot of these tech software platforms because the reality is what they’re doing from a coding perspective is very difficult.

The more complex you make things, the more invariably things tend to break down. So I think at a, as a separate aside from a principle perspective, I think it’s important to expect and become for the fact that. Technology is things that don’t quite work yet, right? All of our vendors, particularly in the tech space, are [00:02:00] trying to do things that’re just hard to do.

Having said that, it is also not true that I don’t know what sort of magic they’re whipping up there with Kilo, but while I think it’s normal to expect bumps here and there, In practice, we just don’t really hear about bumps at Kilo. Like they seem to be able to do what they say and yeah, anytime we’re having issues with someone’s website, it’s also just a no-brainer financially.

It’s just go have them outsource it, make them make you a good thing, and then that’s just less things than we all need to worry about, and we can help you focus on what your sales conversations are like and what your front-end marketing messaging is, et cetera, et cetera. Yeah. Yeah. Great one. Yeah, friends, go check him out.

Use kilo.com. You won’t be disappointed. You won’t be disappointed. So let’s dive into today’s topic. This came from one of our listeners who also happens to be a unicorn site member. Greg Morone. Thanks for your great question. And Greg wanted us to talk a little bit about, he knows that a lot of our trainers at Mark Fisher Fitness were.

Clients first, and we have a long track record of turning people who are clients into coaches who wanted to hear what do we, what have we learned about that? What are some [00:03:00] some dos and don’ts of turning clients into coaches? Let’s start with the dos. Some things that have gone really well. So you wanted to kick us off on a positive note.

Why should people consider clients as possible candidates for trainers and coaches? Yeah, I think clients can be a great source of potential sources. I think it’s not lost in anyone. It’s been famously a somewhat challenging environment of late to acquire quality labor, and the advantage of working with a client is on the one hand, Sometimes you’ll have to pick up some sticks to help get them up to speed on the technical requirements of coaching.

I think for obvious reasons, this is usually frankly a little bit of an easier lift for classes than for some, it’s more technical nature, like either small group or semi-private, or one-on-one personal training. But in practice, these are individuals that already know your culture, right? So one piece of this is.

If they’re coming in with, some of the batteries are already included, they already understand what you’re doing, presume that they already have a real passion and buy-in and believe in what you’re doing. They get the culture, they love the culture, and then on your [00:04:00] end, you have the ability to have some kind of assessment of how this person is, because I think.

The reality is you learn a lot about somebody, about how the way they train your interactions with them as a client and a consumer of your brand, you’re gonna pick up on a lot of things about their way of being, how they conduct themselves, what they’re like as a client, how do they communicate, what is their vibe, what is their general energy level, right?

So you’re actually getting a very, and particularly if you hire a client you’ve been working with for a long time. You might have a lot of data. You might be working with someone for a long period, so they really know they like what you’re doing and they have a good at least general handle on how your sessions are conducted.

And you’ve got probably a pretty good handle on is this somebody that I wanna spend more time with, that I think has the chops to really light up a room and be the type of person that our clients are attracted and wanna be around. Yeah. Yeah. Said my friend. I’ll plus one, both of those and say, one of the things we’re trying to simulate in an hiring process is truly getting to know someone.

The reason that we ask all those questions and hopefully put them through kind of stress tests and call [00:05:00] references. Trying to be like, what does this person really like at their best? What’s this person really like at their worst? What are, are they a good fit for us? Are we a good fit for them?

And when you have clients that you’ve worked with, and many of you have clients you worked with for years, as Mark said, you have all that data. You have, it’s the longest interview ever. You’ve known this person for years. You’ve seen them show up when they’re happy and having a great day and a great workout, and you’ve probably seen them at their worst.

And so I think that’s just you’ll never be able to replicate that in an interview process or a regular hiring process. I think, and maybe the more, the most important part of that is, is the flip side, which is that they know they like you. That they’re already, if they’re interested in working with you, then they’re such a big fan.

And I can say that, both at MF and other gyms that we talk to, CL trainers who were clients first are often some of the best brand ambassadors and cheerleaders for the community. They were often super connectors as clients. And if they can remain super connectors [00:06:00] as a trainer, that’s just so priceless for the business.

So I think we’re both saying there’s a lot of pros to considering clients. Lemme just talk a little bit and you start to mention a few, but what are some of the possible downsides or, challenges of hiring it? A client. Yeah. You mentioned, a coach. Yeah. Yeah. I think I, I think there are a few when it comes to coaching, I think we mentioned, but it’s worth reiterating that, yeah, you’re gonna probably have to pick up some sticks when it comes to actually teaching them on the technical elements of coaching and that might require supporting them and getting some certifications.

We’ve had many occasion mff where we either were involved in somebody’s training or just sent them away and be like if you go and do this thing and then come back then we will. Be able to take this more seriously. And we’ve done this different ways over the year, but regardless, there is gonna have to be some period of training if you choose to do that, which you totally can.

There’s also gonna be some bumps, right? Because it’s, it can be hard sometimes for your clients to accept that another client is now their coach. I think that probably varies based on the culture, but mff the client’s. Place a real premium on [00:07:00] the expertise of coaches. So if somebody comes on, even if they like the person, they wanna root for them as a ninja, they still have pretty high standards.

And if they have a sense of oh, this person doesn’t really know how to give me individual technical coaching correction, but the way the other coaches do, then that can lead to some not ideal feedback and not ideal experiences from the rest of the clients. I would also note there’s one other logistical challenge you run into.

So the way in most markets this is gonna work is. You are gonna wanna start people part-time before they’re full-time. Maybe they’re doing super part-time. And I think one great way to leverage this is essentially like a work study on steroids where you maybe have a client that just does a few classes per week.

And I would note there are certain large group training models where you don’t need the capacity to do in large group. Maybe you only offer, let’s call it thirty, thirty five classes per week and you’ve got sufficient capacity. We recommend business unicorns, at least 20 people per class. If you can get closer to 30.

That’s optimal. There’s, it’s not a, it’s not a secret. That’s why the larger class base franchise chains do that. If you can fit 20, [00:08:00] 30, 35 people per class, if you offer 30 classes per week, that’s lot of capacity, right? So you’re good to go there. And that means you might be able to build the business around you and maybe a part-timer and just a handful of super part-time clients.

But the downside there is the same downside you have with any sort of part-time coaches, if they have a full-time gig. On the one hand, it’s great because you’re not as responsible for their livelihood, but on the other hand, you’re never gonna get full attention because they like this. But it’s a hobby.

They only have so much bandwidth to do. Maybe the continuing education you wish they could do. They don’t have unlimited flexibility. If other coaches need them to cover, they’re gonna have things come up and then you just can’t use them in that week. I don’t think it’s a deal breaker, but I would highlight that as definitely one of the challenges just from logistical perspective, if you’re hiring a coach who, at least in the short term, is on and reasonably part-time me, position.

Yeah, I think I’m so glad you brought that up. Cause I think there’s something about the logistics and mechanics of how you start to train and onboard. A client who wants to be a coach is often because they don’t have a lot of experience. There [00:09:00] needs to be a little bit of a slow burn, a slow on-ramp for them.

And because it needs to be so slow and part-time at first, it’s often a logistical challenge to make that work. The other challenge that I know we’ve seen and I’ve seen from some unicorn study members as well, is that sometimes. Clients are so enthralled with the kind of magic of being a client that they get a little sad when they peek behind the curtain.

Mickey fight. Wait, Mickey, exactly. I thought they were just in love all time. It’s it’s like being a kid at Disneyland and looking, backstage and seeing, goofy take his mask off and on a smoke break, it’s like the magic’s a little gone. And I don’t say that. I don’t say that because I don’t think it’s a.

Deal breaker, right? I don’t think that’s a thing that you should, a reason to not do it, but I think it’s something to get in front of, to be like, Hey, you’ve had a very magical experience, watching us on the stage as a client and now you’re gonna be seeing us in meetings, you’re gonna be seeing us fight.

You’re, debate. Argue, have bad days, call out, have to fire people. You’re gonna see what it takes to run this place and that might be a different [00:10:00] experience to you. So if anything I say it because I think it’s a good moment to set expectations that it’s gonna be a different experience to work here is different than to come here.

And it should be. And I think that’s worth getting in front of with clients who really put you and your team up on a pedestal, which clients often do. Yeah. Would you add that? Yeah, that’s, I would just highlight that’s a very important part of our onboarding. I think this is not a bad idea to do regardless, because people are excited to come and work for you and understand what we’re saying here.

We’re not suggesting that you want to completely make them unhappy that they’ve chosen to work with you and be like you’re gonna hate this job. But honestly, a lot of what. I need to do in that onboarding is whether they’re just new to M F and they’re looking at it from a distance because it is a cool brand, right?

People are like, oh wow, this is like a amazing place and everyone’s got such good energies around here is let them know there’s going to be tension, there’s going to be conflicts. People are gonna fight. There are people are gonna mess up. People are gonna be annoying to you over time. And after the first, three to six months, like any relationship.

There’s gonna be things that are frustrating, and [00:11:00] that’s okay. And here’s how we deal with that. What is the way that we deal with it in a direct manner with candor so that we can continue to prove as an organization, because I think your point is well taken. Just as you will have an interesting phenomenon and you can resonate with this, if you’ve ever done this as a.

Owner, if you’ve hired someone, it’s an interesting dynamic when they’re paying you and how you feel about them as a client when they’re giving you money versus how you can start to feel just a little less patient with them when you are giving them money. Right now you have expectations that if they’re not meeting.

That’s maybe having a negative impact on your business or how your workflow is doing. Cause you’re having to pick up some sticks. So similarly, there will be also same dynamic with you, where right now, if you’re just the trainer that they love and the owner of this business, they’re so passionate about, as soon as they begin to identify you as the boss, the person that is the monkey, highest up the tree with the bananas, who is responsible for an assessment of their performance and potential.

Future financial opportunities. It’s not wrong, but it just changes [00:12:00] the dynamic and it’s important I think, to go into that with open eyes. Yeah. Yeah. Said my friend. I think it’s a dynamic to get in front of and it’s weird the first few times it happens and then you’ll learn to, you learn to manage it.

Yeah. Proactively. Yeah. Let’s do this. I think we covered a lot of the pros and cons. Some logistics. Maybe, if you wouldn’t mind, just summarizing, if you were to do this again today and take a client and help turn them into a coach, what are some things, some steps you would take in the process to, to ensure its success?

Yeah, I think that certainly I. I think having a good onboarding is gonna be an important piece of this, regardless that maybe goes without saying, but if not, you wanna take them through the same onboarding as you would anybody else related to that, you wanna probably still take them through a very similar interview process.

Now again, you’re gonna come in with a lot of data, but you don’t wanna skip steps. You’re still gonna wanna do stress tests, you’re still gonna on check references. So I think that’s another thing to know about this, is this doesn’t mean you’re gonna pass them through a lot of those things. Maybe there’s a case being made for expediting some steps if you’ve got a good sense [00:13:00] of how they move in the world.

But overall, you probably wanna take them through basically the same interview process as everybody else. It’s just that you already know them. I think the other thing that is a little different from this client, which we’ve alluded to, but to give you again an action step is if you have clients that you think could be a good fit.

Particularly because this is a longer tail, and this is something we’ve done a great effect over the years, is just have a conversation with ’em. Reach out, find out if this is a thing they might be interested in. At the very least, they’re gonna be flattered, and if this is something that they are actually considering either to make a career change or even do super part-time because they love your business.

That way you’re not having to do it the last minute. You could begin to, and this arrangement can look differently based on your business and what the way you wanna set it up is, but you could potentially give them some educational resources. You could give them free ones. You could pay for things, you could have them pay, but make suggestions.

You could have them potentially start to attend team in services. You could begin to support them. In whatever ways you need to try to begin to fill some of the gaps. So it’s a little bit easier once they sign up. I’ll note in brief here. If you [00:14:00] look at the models for a lot of bar and Pilates facilities and yoga facilities around the country, and this is, I think it’s interesting I haven’t thought enough about this.

I don’t wanna say there’s Things interesting, ethical way about it. But in practice, if you look at their businesses, a large percentage of their revenue is expensive teacher trainings to their clients. So they offer te now that this isn’t a standard at all in the world that we move in, we’re obviously a little bit more centered around strength and conditioning gyms and training gyms.

But in that particular world of the boutique bar, Pilates, yoga, A big part of their revenue is teacher trainings, right? And it’s great for them because they make a lot of money doing it. It functions usually just as a great upsell opportunity to have a real nice payday teaching their existing systems to people that are just passionate about what they’re doing that may or may not wanna do as professionally, but just love so much.

They want to dig in more. And it also allows them to, again, further vet, train and onboard future coaches. At the coach [00:15:00] expense as a profit center. So again, up to you, whether that will make sense for you in your model or not. I think if anything, it probably is an underutilized opportunity if you have a sufficient number of people at your training gym, and you’re a super nerd anyway, if you’re gonna be doing this.

As always, we’ve have a lot of content. In fact, I just today listened to the one from Pete and you Keeler about should you add more service to your gym. So I think you need to consider that too, and I would encourage you to think about that before you add this as a service. Line, but I do think depending on your proficiency, technical coaching and how well your systems are dialed in it, this could be a thing that your facility considers offering, which could also be a great way to set you up and fill your tank and pipeline for future hires out of your clientele base.

Yeah. Yeah. I think that’s well said. I’ll just underscore three things I think our listeners should really take away from this and write down. One is, even if you’re hiring someone that’s an existing client, take them through a hiring process. Take them through the regular process.

You would take anyone else, which means you, I’m gonna check their references, et cetera. Might be able to [00:16:00] go a little faster, but don’t skip. The vetting. The other thing I heard you say, Fisher, regardless of important onboarding is gonna be important no matter what. Make sure you have a really good onboarding.

There’s some caveats I think we highlighted on this conversation that are unique to hiring clients. So get in front of those. The third thing I think I heard you say was it’s okay for this to be a slow courtship. Like it’s okay if you just buy them a book, invite them to your in-service, invite them to a team meeting.

I think those are the three ones that really stand out to me for folks who wanna hire. Clients anything else that I missed that you wanna underscore? Yeah, I think the final thing I’ll share is because we didn’t touch on explicitly here, but I do wanna highlight, you can also hire clients for non coach roles and specifically for vendors.

And the most common mistake I hear I see here is similar to what we’ve alluded to the coaches is skipping the process. So a lot of people will hire. An accountant, a lawyer, an insurance, social media, health worker. Financial planner, yeah. Yeah. Just because it’s a client and they’re there and they’re a body and [00:17:00] they’ve asked, so okay, sure.

And that’s not the best way to make that decision. That’s not to say that you can’t hire clients because listen, if you can get them and charge them, Quote unquote retail and do a barter arrangement, which by the way refer to your accountant. You actually have to give them a 10 99 at the end of the year.

A lot of people don’t know that, but ultimately that is in your best interest, of course, because they’re getting the value of the retail costs, but you’re getting it for you. Whatever costs it costs you to deliver the service, which of course is gonna be substantially less. So this can actually save you a lot of money.

It’s somebody you have a lot of the similar advantages they already know and are already passionate about the business, but it has the same perils that. That’s not the best way to make a decision for something like, for instance, a cpa, if you make a bad choice there, it’s gonna cost you a lot of money.

So you still want to follow the laws of hiring a vendor or accrued recommendation Business unicorns is, you want at least three vendors. You probably don’t want more than four or five, cuz it can start to get unwieldy, but you still want to vet different vendors to get a feel for, is this actually the best person for that [00:18:00] position?

Because cheapest is not best for a lot of vendor roles. Yes, I think that’s a really great asterisk over this whole conversation, whether you’re hiring clients as. Trainers or clients as other vendors is, this is not a good idea because it’s convenient. That’s not the reason to do it.

The convenient choice is often not the best choice. So I think, don’t skip the vetting process regardless of the role you’re hiring from. I think it’s a really good, asterisk over this whole chat. All right, my friend. I think we covered some good base on this short episode.

Let’s let’s leave it there. Listeners, if you found this podcast useful, please give us a five star review everywhere you listen and let us know what you want us to talk about next. Email, us market, PIs unicorns.com, michael lip unicorns.com. Thanks for the great chat Fisher, and I’ll see you all the next one.

Have a kick ass day.