At my barbershop recently, I observed an interesting phenomenon. All the barbers there will cut the hair of anybody that walks through the door. Every new customer is an adventure in haircutting for them, and I think thats what holds them to $12 per haircut and such long hours its the lack of specialization.

            Many health club trainers are the same way; theyll train anyone that walks in the door. For that reason, most of them probably earn much less than my barber. They train whomever theyre assigned, and it could be someone different every hour. They think this allows them to see more clients and add to their incomes, but what it really does is hold them back and leads to their failure.
            In medicine, we know that the doctors that earn the most money are the specialists. But specialization in training doesnt require an additional degree or any other particular differentiating strength, at least not initially.

 

All It Takes Is a Decision

Once youve made this decision about what to make your specialty, it then becomes the focus of all your future work. It guides the knowledge you accumulate and the clients you take on. It becomes the basis of your success image, how you describe your job to others and all of your promotions and marketing. Needless to say, its a pretty important decision to make.

            Its also essential for your job satisfaction and well-being. If you dont specialize, youll find your job satisfaction begin to diminish. We all need growth in order to be happy, and youll find mastery hard to achieve if you dont specialize. Just like any professional, your career and personal success are closely aligned. Therefore, its not only important for your happiness, but its also one of the most crucial things you do for your success as well. Youll either burn out or find your training practice die out one day, unless you make this choice early on.

 

My Search for a Specialty

When I first started as a personal trainer at a major health club, I was expected to train anyone that was thrown at me. With just a general understanding of overall fitness, all the other trainers and I were expected to be able to troubleshoot the problems of every potential client. The only mastery the management in those positions was looking to instill in their employees was sales. Indeed, the trainers youll find in most health clubs, even the best gyms, are a group of unhappy journeyman trainers moving from one place and one career to another.

            After leaving my job as a health club trainer and creating my independent practice, I still continued to generalize. Among my client roster was an 84-year-old woman, a schizophrenic and a 12-year-old boy. Weight-loss, sports performance, body-building I was expected to know it all; however, this kind of diversity didnt give me the opportunity to specialize. Since I didnt consistently do one type of training, my ability to deliver an outstanding product to my clients was limited. At this time in my career, I had a high level of client turnover and couldnt figure out why. Although I had the thrill of being on my own, I was miserable; I didnt like what I was doing or who I was training. In fact, I was actually looking to move out of personal training and find other work because I was so unhappy with it!

            This also created a lot of confusion from my potential clients. They couldnt understand or identify what I stood for and what problems I was skilled at solving. They would see me with one type of client one hour and another the next. When any new potential client would see me in action in the gym, training such a diverse range of clientele, they probably could not identify in their mind that I was the right type of trainer for them.

This is a trap Im sure many independent trainers have fallen into, one they can ill afford. Their success depends on differentiation developing whats called these days a mavenship position, where everyone knows what you do and they find you when they need that problem handled. Here are a few more benefits:

 

·         Reduces your marketing costs Specializing allows you to focus all of your marketing and advertising on a smaller group of potential clients

·         Keeps you training the people you want to train These are people that you enjoy spending time with and bring you satisfaction beyond just the money you earn.

·         Increases your level of expertise You dont have to spend your time studying information from every possible subject; you can instead concentrate on just one area that is vital long-term in your career.

·         Creates mastery It causes the routine and repetition in activities that eventually leads to a superior quality of your training.

·         Competitive advantage When youre a specialist, you can slowly accumulate more knowledge in your niche than anyone else. It makes it harder for new trainers to serve your same client base.

 

Choosing Your Specialty

Besides its importance, choosing your specialty is also one of the most fun things you can do. Itll force you to find yourself and analyze what you enjoy teaching as well as partaking in the most. In some ways, you can turn your area of highest interest or your hobby into your specialty.

            For me, choosing a specialty was built simply around the most obvious set of standards: my own training regimen and goals. I simply looked to attract people that shared my particular workout goals and were willing to train at my level of intensity. This narrowed the list down to people that were already in shape, were younger (so they could handle the intensity) and were looking to achieve outstanding, well-balanced bodies. This specialty limited the total pool from which I could draw clients; for example, I could no longer train children or senior citizens. But at the same time, it created a small group of clients that I was best suited to train. When these clients met me or came in contact with me, they knew right away that I was the right trainer for them.

To put it in words, this is how I would describe my new specialty: helping committed and motivated individuals achieve a higher level of fitness and improved appearance through intense training and a results-focused approach.

This does sound king of broad, but it defined a prerequisite ability level, stated what to expect from my training and described what the client would have to be bringing to the table. If youre already a trainer, you know that a large number of clients do not meet even the broad criteria Ive outlined in that specialty.

Although I didnt use these exact words all of the time, this specialty was apparent in all of my marketing materials and in how I described my services to other people. And I backed it up from their very first session, my clients knew that they were getting exactly what they signed up for: complete focus on achieving their best possible bodies with the absolute minimum in wasted time and effort.

Inherent in this new self-image were a few new rules:

 

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How much of your time would you estimate you spend growing your business?