And another reason why small group personal training is a better biz model.
What’s up Gym World?
I spent the weekend photobombing the most “tear-jerking moments from the 2023 CrossFit Games.”
Mateo and I also took our first ice bath and posted it on Instagram. I’m not really sure why my account didn’t instantly grow by 100,000 followers. Nonetheless, it’s my favorite piece of content from the weekend.
After eradicating all the brown fat from my body and increasing my dopamine by 8,000,000%, I sat down with James Pratt from Pratt Personal Training, who runs a small training gym that is on track to do $1.9M this year 🤯.
Here’s his story:
James was set on becoming an NFL football coach, so while he was in college, he interned at TEST Football Academy—a facility that preps football athletes for the Combine.
TEST is a 6,000 sq. ft. space
TEST saw James’ potential and hired him. For the next five years, he put in FIFTY-FIVE training hours each week.
At a Perform Better Summit in 2014, he heard speeches by Mark Fisher and Rick Mayo about the benefits of small group training.
He wanted to go all-in on small group training, so he pitched the owners of TEST on transitioning from personal training to small group training.
They said no.
BUT they let James sublease a part of their facility so he could start his own small group training biz.
Instead of paying a flat rate for rent, TEST negotiated a rev-share deal.
Thus, Pratt Personal Training was born. He took 25 of his clients from TEST and moved to the other side of the field.
Like most successful fit pros, James had loved ones tell him starting a gym was a terrible idea.
His Dad tried to push him in a different direction by saying, “you can’t make a real career out of fitness.”
That instilled a deep fear of failure and motivated him to remove any reasonable boundaries between him and his clients.
James resonated with Mike Doehla’s approach to scaling Stronger U Nutrition.
1. Succeeded via brute force
James says he worked every day of the week. Every client and prospect had his cell phone number, and he made himself available 24/7.
This built raving fans, and he wasn’t shy about asking for referrals.
2. “Didn’t do marketing”
Both James and Mike were proud of the fact that they scaled with no paid marketing.
Instead, James constantly—and quickly—called every referral and lead to come in for a session. He said he was fanatical about asking for feedback and wasn’t shy about giving long free trials.
Pratt Personal Training now runs ads, but they grew to $1.5M in revenue using organic methods 😳
3. Had no systems
James’ hiring strategy was to hire people who were as obsessed with training as he was. He met with initial staff members for 2 hours each day to talk training, and that’s about it.
James scaled with no systems in place because he was a magnet for people who were obsessed with training.
When you have the best people, you can go far without formal systems. Unfortunately, most gym owners can’t attract the best people. James, Eric Cressey, Mike Doehla, and Mark Fisher all have an “it factor” that separates them from the thousands of other gym owners and draws great people to them. The hack here is 5-10 years of obsessive dedication to the craft and publicly sharing everything you learn.
Today Pratt Personal Training has almost 600 members, 7 coaches, and they offer nine class times each day.
During peak hours, they run four small group training sessions at the same time. They cap their groups at seven athletes, so that means 28 members are doing an individualized program during peak class times 🤯.
James was able to do this because he shifted his focus in 2022 from being a great coach to being a great CEO. He:
- hired a business coach
- outsourced his marketing
- created a series of standard operating procedures for his time
- removed himself from training
In hindsight, James says he should’ve done all this sooner.
It’s worth hiring mentors or consultants to improve your business and give you honest feedback. It’s hard to spot the flaws in your own business.
James’s advice for gym owners
I asked James what advice he’d give to struggling gym owners. He said this:
- Get good at your craft. This takes relentless focus and years of practice. There really aren’t any shortcuts for this.
- Be obsessive about asking for feedback. This will help you fix things that make your customers unhappy.
- Ask every happy client for a referral. If you get one, call that person quickly.
- If you’re unhappy with your business, do a time audit. Ask yourself, am I really working as hard as I think I am?
Until next week Gym World,