Perception is Reality. What is your clients' perception of your business? Whether you're running an outdoor boot camp or have an indoor facility, it's important to run your business in a professional manner. When I started my business in the mid 80s, most trainers were "gym rats" without any formal education or business knowledge, just a bunch of "muscle heads" that liked to workout. One of the first things I did was to develop a formal business plan and formally incorporate Kansas City's original personal training center and ran it like a real business. I hired an accountant and a lawyer and I built a team of formally educated fitness professionals. About three years into the business, as one of my clients was leaving, and several clients and trainers were mulling around the studio, she said to me "Wow, this is turning into a real little business, isn't it?" With that statement, it was clear that her perception of my business had been elevated to a higher level by the professional structure I had developed.

Sixty percent of small businesses -- most of which fail -- begin because the owners want to make money from a hobby. They see their recreational activities as social and financial opportunities and expect to enjoy spending the week engaged in their favorite activity. Businesses do not often succeed based on this idea because businesses have one purpose: to make money. To succeed financially, you do need to know your "hobby" inside and out -- but that is a small part of running a business. Knowledge of accounting, marketing, customer service and other business components are essential. If you are not able to handle these things yourself, you need to have the capital to hire accountants, attorneys and great salespeople in order to run a real business.

Upon entering your establishment, an employee who can provide an established pricing structure based on detailed descriptions of everything that your business offers should greet potential clients. They should also be given brochures or printed packets detailing the information you give them. Included should be client recommendations, employee credentials and certifications, and your contact information. Most importantly, it should direct them to your website for additional information. If you don't have a website, your business is not taking advantage of a low-cost way to reach a large portion of potential customers.

The success or failure of your business is largely influenced by how it is perceived. These days, consumers are informed, knowledgeable about researching companies and have expectations that you need to meet in order to even be considered as their choice provider. Demonstrate knowledge, professionalism, training and a past history of success and you will retain and increase your client base.

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