Monday, February 28, 2011

Is Working for a Commercial Gym the Right Fit?

QUESTION: "I am a certified personal trainer and I have interviewed with a commercial chain fitness center for a job. What things should I look for before I accept this position?"

JOHN: Great question! It seems there is a "hurry" to start up a training business as soon as one becomes certified nowadays. Although it is not a bad thing to think like an entrepreneur, however, one needs to muster up as much experience as possible to really be able to work well with clients and manage a business. Therefore, I always bring my answer back to working in a commercial gym. Typically shunned by most, I believe a commercial facility will hasten your experience faster than being on your own. Why? Commercial facilities have 3 factors that WILL work for you (if you can respond to them accordingly):

1.) The clients are already in-house. Think of it as "shooting crabs in a barrel"...each gym member is a potential client. They are using the facility for one reason or another and CAN use personal training services. I repeat: they CAN use personal training services. No need to fish out of your business zone here, simply get out on the floor and start marketing yourself. The more clients you work with,  the more diverse your exercise programming will become and the your sales tactics will develop with more 'flow'.

2.) Business development. Every commercial gym service has a quota. The shake bar has a monthly quota, the tanning beds have a monthly quota, membership has a quota, and so does personal training. What does that mean? If you learn the business side of personal training, you will understand what it takes to be successful and stay afloat. Working with a good sales team will enhance your experience at meeting monthly income quotas and help you understand expenses and profit. You will either succumb to the pressure or you will embrace it. In either case, its just business.

3.) Team competition. Working with other trainers can not only be supportive, but it can be competitive--in a positive sense.  Learn your strengths and team up with fellow staff trainers to encourage each other and keep you motivated on the business-side of things, as well as keeping you updated on exercise programming. A good department head will know how to play off each trainer's strengths and provide you with keys to be successful. You can have 20 trainers working with you on staff, but only the ones that get their clients results really shine! Team competition is also great for networking and learning how to work alongside other professionals.

Finding the appropriate environment to hone your skills takes doing some research and investigating. It's not a bad idea to send your resume to a few local gyms and attend some interviews. It gives you a chance to figure out which 'system' you will flourish in. Most commercial gyms operate on familiar systems. They prosper on creating a social environment for members that includes relaxation, convenient amenities, and state-of-the-art ambiance. This environment begins with management and team leaders. If the personal training department's supervisor is a dud that only hits on female clients, looks at his Blackberry non-stop, or steps out most times, it will not a be a great place for your to grow as a professional. Conversely,  if the supervisor is an anxious, stressed narcissist that emphasizes dollars and monthly quotas non-stop--he/she may not create a great environment for you to prosper because of the pressure.

Before you attend an interview, I usually recommend new trainers to 'scope out' the gym beforehand. This is typically conducted during peak times. While checking out the facility, pay particularly close attention to the following things:

1.) How busy is the overall gym?

2.) What is the staff doing? Is the front counter staff mingling, busy, or painting their nails?

3.) Are the trainers busy? Do the trainers seem attentive with their clients?

4.) How are the trainers dressed? Professional? Tanks? Shorts?

5.) Is management present? (note time of day)

6.) Does the staff seem to know its members?

7.) Does the club feature new, working equipment? What other amenities? (massage, boxing, classes) This is important because it tells you that this club has a big budget and can pay $$.

8.) Club cleanliness? (Very important!--tells you alot about ownership)

9.) Does the club or management recognize its staff (employee of the month, staff bios) or members (member of the month)?

10.) And most important...were you get greeted at the door?

Remember, as a fitness professional you are also doing the interviewing. Be proactive and ask as many questions as possible. Don't be afraid to ask questions related to sales and business. Some managers like to be asked questions like that. It shows them you are prepared for business success and willing to learn. If you find that the management's philosophy doesn't match up to big deal. A simple handshake or courtesy message is all it takes to respectfully cut ties.


  1. GREAT article, John - and overdue in the field!

  2. Thanks Kwame! I appreciate you taking the time to read my blog!


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