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3 Ways to LEAD your Business to GREAT Success

By Todd Durkin, MA, CSCS

One of the questions I often hear pertains to “How do you find great trainers, build a staff, and keep them?”

It’s a great topic and one that I feel is vitally important for the growth of any organization. Here are 3 ways you can build and lead your training business to great success for many years to come.

I.  Hire Smart. Trainers MUST fit the culture of the business.

  • If you intend to build a “one-team, one philosophy,” culture, you must ensure your new people want to be part of a team. If they prefer independent contractor status, and you are committed to team building, this “individual” would NOT be a good hire.
  • Core values. Core values should be defined by your company, (regardless of size, including one-person solo-preneurships) and your entire team needs to understand and live by your core values. Otherwise, “next.”
  • Positive energy and attitude. Nothing brings a team down quicker than a “cancer” amongst the group. If you control the decision-making, make sure you cut that out quick.  Are you the problem? If you are, then get your mind right and change your attitude! If you “aren’t the problem and ‘so and so’ is,” remember what Gandhi said, “You be the change you wish to see in the world.”
  • Hire EAGLES.  As Jeffery Gitomer says in his book, “The Little Book of LEADERSHIP,” eagles are smart, happy, self-starting, honest, reliable, and have a hunger and desire to succeed.
  • Make sure you listen to your gut.

II.  Grow and lead your trainers to excellence.

I often hear that it’s hard to find ‘great’ trainers. Well, of-course it is. Greatness just doesn’t happen. It must be built. A pro athlete doesn’t become an All-Star or Pro-Bowler by just showing up. It takes years and years of mastering the craft.

It is the same with trainers. We must continually master OUR craft. This means watching DVD’s, attending workshops and conferences, surrounding yourself with other great minds in and out of your business. Additionally, as a leader, manager, or owner of a facility, you must invest the time to help your staff grow through clear communication, focused education, and honest feedback.

Representative examples include:

  • Have a monthly staff “TFT.” TFT’s (Training Fellow Trainers) can be a great way for on-going learning & motivation for your team. It will also help build camaraderie, discussion, and creative thinking.  TFT’s can and should be taught by each team member, challenge your teammates and spread the wealth!  Encourage your teammates to lead a 30-minute TFT on their chosen topic and incentivize them for doing so. For example, gift a massage, pay them $50.00, or provide them with some complimentary apparel.
  • Attend conferences together.  I recently taught at the IDEA PT Institute in DC. The Hockessin Athletic Club in Delaware brought 27 of their trainers to this conference. Think about that, 27 trainers. I would venture to say that hundreds of sessions did not happen at that health club for the 3-4 days that the trainers were away at IDEA. Is that an investment or an expense?  Certainly the Club paid for registration fees for their employees, hotel rooms, travel, and “lost revenue” during the 3-4 days of the conference, etc.

Is that an expense or an investment?

Investment! Think about it. 27 people learning new information. Energy getting renewed. Camaraderie being built. And having fun while doing it.  I bet the INVESTMENT will pay off 10-fold for this club…And then some!!!

And whether you have 1 trainer, 27 trainers, or 2,000 trainers, it’s about the INVESTMENT you make in them and for them.

  • Provide feedback to your team.

I believe LEADERSHIP is one of the most difficult things to do for a fitness entrepreneur. In many cases, we weren’t taught how to manage and lead people. We were taught how to be a great trainer. We weren’t taught to empower, lead, and grow a team. So how BEST, do you do this?

  • “Spot” feedback. Catch a teammate doing something good and praise them for it. It’s easy finding what you don’t like about behavior.  Observe what you DO like and share that “positivity” with your teammates.  .
  • And you do NOT have to be the manager or owner to do this. Imagine if EVERYONE on your team (including YOU!) practiced this and tried to find 5 positive behaviors or experiences a week and shared that with their teammates.  Can you say “game-changer!”
  • Reviews. Whether you choose to do this quarterly or annually, reviews provide a great opportunity to communicate more formally on what is going well, what’s not going so well, and to set some goals both personally and professionally.  Some people do not like reviews, but they definitely play an important role in getting folks on the same page.
  • Create a “Google-Group” for your team. We did this a while back and it has a been a great way for our team to give “shout-outs” to each other, communicate quickly, or to just provide a quick jolt of inspiration, a quote, or thought of the day.
  • Create leadership meetings. And delegate, it doesn’t have to be you that runs them all the time.  It can be someone on your team that has consistently demonstrated the ability to lead, live by the company core values, and does a great job in their sessions. In this meeting or series of meetings, you are essentially building leaders within your organization.
  • Model great behavior.
  • Have a great attitude yourself and be enthusiastic.
  • Celebrate, recognize, and reward great performance, achievement, and victories.
  • Help OTHER people win.
  • Encourage…always!
  • Do the right thing all the time!!!

III.  KEEP Your Trainers.

Another thing that I often hear is “Why should I build my team? I am going to invest time and effort to build them and eventually, they will leave me anyway?”

Wrong attitude. If you don’t build them, they will leave. You must provide growth.  You must provide opportunity. You must provide learning. You must provide a great environment in which to work and train.

Here are some ways to provide your team this:

  • Encourage each teammate to be a leader and to teach at least one annual educational workshop to all clients/members of the business.
  • Encourage them to write a blog post and post it in your newsletter, on your Facebook Like page, or on your Twitter feed.
  • “Teach them how to fish.” Some trainers don’t like to sell. Some trainers don’t like to teach classes or small-group training. Some trainers don’t want to go outside the box. Keep exposing them, honing their skills, and encouraging them otherwise they will become obsolete. Dinosaurs. Extinct.
  • Acknowledge them. All people want to feel special. Trainers are no exception. You can acknowledge your team several ways:
    • Tell them how much you appreciate them.
    • Highlight them as “Featured Trainer of the Month” in your newsletter.
    • Display professional and high-quality pictures of them on your wall.
    • Creatively THINK yourself!
      • Feature them as a guest on a radio show that you should think about starting.
      • Better yet, have them run your radio show under your company’s brand name. You can mix up and highlight a different staff member each week or month.
      • Have your staff member do a “Facebook” chat on the company’s LIKE page.
      • Have your staff member handle your Twitter feed for an hour for a “TWEET-UP.”  I recently did this with Under Armour and it was wildly successful.  Why don’t you do the same thing with your brand and your followers? Don’t build in excuses why you CAN’T do it. I can hear it now, “I’m not big enough”, “I need an apparel company behind me”, “I don’t have enough followers”, blah, blah, blah. Just do it and the practice will come in handy when you do have a massive following.
      • Encourage them to create a program or product that you can help support.  Whether that be through email, social media campaigns, or word-of-mouth, you can help keep your teammates grow and positively support them.

The bottom line is this:  You’re only as good as who you surround yourself with. So hire smart and be steadfast about “growing” your teammates. Regardless of where you fit into your team, you MUST make sure everyone is on the same page and working to define and achieve excellence. Regardless of your title, remember that you are a leader. I think the great Henry Ford, said it best; “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” So keep encouraging, keep leading, keep learning, and YOU WILL continue to be the change you wish to see in your organization.

Many blessings.


Todd Durkin, MA, CSCS, is an internationally recognized performance coach, personal trainer, massage therapist, and author, who motivates, educates and inspires people worldwide.  He is the owner of Fitness Quest 10 in San Diego, CA, where his wonderful team of 35 focuses helps transform the bodies, minds and spirits of a broad clientele.  He is the head of the Under Armour Performance Training Council and is a featured presenter on the Perform Better educational circuit.  He is a two-time Trainer of the Year (IDEA & ACE) and has authored 35 DVDs on strength and conditioning, functional fitness, massage/bodywork and business/personal growth.

Todd’s also coaches trainers and fitness business owners through his 3.5 Day Mentorships that occur two times per year.   His next one is April 26-29, 2012.  You can get all the information at

Additionally, if you are a junior or senior in college or a current graduate student, Fitness Quest 10 is currently accepting applications for their unique summer internship program.  For more information on this program, visit here:

Feel free to comment on Todd’s article at his Facebook LIKE page at: or on Twitter at:

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