In 1986, I opened AYC Health & Fitness, the first personal fitness training center in theKansas City area. During the past 22 years, I've built my business by establishing long-term relationships with my clients. My average client tenure is 18-plus years, and it's my belief thatclient retention equals cash flow. Our focus isn't on a "quick-fix" program, but rather lifestyle changes that allow for long-term success for our clients.
When I opened my business in 1986, there weren't any business models for me to follow, and I was told many times that personal training would never work in a conservative market likeKansas City. In August of 1986, I was a guest on a local radio (710 AM) show talking about my new business — the host, Mike Murphy, made the comment that I should move to Los Angles or New York because personal training would never work in Kansas City. I think that those comments actually motivated me to work even harder to prove him wrong.
I was just out of graduate school with no job and no money, so I guess I had nothing to lose. I had a brochure put together that told about my qualifications and services I could offer, and I literally went door-to-door looking for business. You know the story from there: I got one client, and they told someone about what I did for them, and so forth. Still to this day, word-of-mouth dominates the growth of individual training businesses.
I think the most important strategy regarding success in the personal training industry is to have a sincere love and respect for what you do. In the early days, I didn't have any business experience because I spent my seven years of college studying exercise science, never taking a business class. I made lots of mistakes early on, but the key is to learn from those mistakes and not to repeat them over and over.