Whenever things have gotten out of control, became overwhelming or are just plain confusing, I go back to the good ol’ KISS formula; Keep It Simple, Stupid.
As we grow as professionals, we can sometimes be too clever for our own good. The business owner that was once the trainer, administrator, billing agent and the towel folder becomes the boss, sets up systems and hires staff to deal with each aspect of the business. While this is an inevitable part of growth, timing and handling is vitally important.
I have a personal story that relates directly to this month’s article. I was the classic personal training entrepreneur. When I started All Canadian Fitness in 1993, I not only did the training, I did all of the scheduling, marketing, billing and everything else that goes along with running a new business. In 1993, this included bookkeeping by hand on paper with a pen!
As business grew, burnout loomed, and it was time to grow an organization. First, I added trainers; then I felt the business needed an administrative assistant. Not having to answer phones, pay bills or schedule appointments seemed too good to be true! And for a while, it was. I had someone to delegate to, and I could focus on being creative and working on the business as opposed to in it.
Our gross revenues quadrupled in about three years. I added yet another trainer, and we had never had so many success stories and happy, satisfied customers.
But what happened next confused frustrated and disheartened me. As our gross got bigger and bigger, our cash flow dried up, and we started getting into debt in areas we never had before. I kept working on the business and kept hoping that my assistant was looking after things. It then occurred to me that I hadn’t been to the bank in over a year to make a deposit. I had no idea what our monthly expenses were, and I left payroll tax remittances and tax payments to my administrative assistant. I had gone from doing everything to doing almost nothing. I was no longer delegating effectively - I was dumping! I had taken my eye off of the ball.
A sobering visit with my accountant revealed that, although our gross was outstanding, our expenses and overhead were creating an impossible situation for us to survive in. If we didn’t change how we did business, we would not survive. Plain and simple. The numbers never lie. Some research on my part revealed that many clients had not been billed for months, bills were left unpaid, and government tax debt was piling up.
It was time for me to act and to take control over what was, in the end,my business. My assistant was let go, and I brought billing up-to-date, paid off overdue debts and basically righted the ship. I now write my own checks, bill our clients, make my own deposits and deal directly with anyone that is owed money. I can see that I let things get too complicated and move too far from my original vision.
Looking at things using the KISS formula helped me to recognize that a personal training business only does three things. It finds clients, trains clients and gets paid for training clients. That’s it; there is nothing else.
While your success grows, never move too far from where you started. Question everything. Be a part of everything, keep your eye on the ball and remember that the numbers never lie. In time, growth will happen. Just make sure that it happens at the right time and in the right way.
Ernie Schramayr is an ACE-Certified Personal Trainer and the owner of All Canadian Fitness, a private training studio in Hamilton, Ontario (www.allcanadianfitness.com).


What is your average annual income for your fitness-related work/business?