2016 in Review
The New Year is five days old, and the glut of year reviews on social media has dried up. What better time to create a new one!
I am a proponent of reviewing goals/programs/progress on a daily-annual basis. While the daily, weekly and monthly reviews are great for measuring progress, it is the quarterly and annual reviews where the greatest takeaways and lessons can be found.
This article will outline some of my main takeaways from 2016. Unlike most articles, this won't increase your training, nutrition or recomposition IQ. But since it is a bit different, you might just find it interesting!
1. Going Pro
Professional: a person engaged in a specified activity as a main paid occupation rather than a pastime.
In the fitness industry, there are too many ‘sometimes Trainers’: working full-time and doing personal training 'for fun'; doing personal training to get them through university; or simply PT being where they ended up because nothing else worked out and will be gone when any better-paying job comes up. Low barriers to entry make all of this viable, but it also allows the potential for a seriously low standard of coaching.
To be clear, I am not saying that you can’t be a good coach without being full-time, because I know plenty of them. If anything, there are many good part-time coaches who would be phenomenal full-timers!
My point is that the bottom half of the industry will always be people not willing to put in the time to continuing education, gaining experience and improving themselves. Inevitably, these people are part-timers... because when you are in the industry full-time, you cannot afford to provide a poor service or get left behind, otherwise you won't be eating!
In my experience, coaching full-time has provided the immense opportunity to learn and refine my craft. Instead of coaching five sessions per week, I can coach 25+. This leads to a faster accumulation of experience, even though I may have been 'in the industry' for the same amount of time as someone else. On top of that, my skillset and knowledge also develop more rapidly, leading to better results with clients as I gain experience.
The same goes for professional development - I can prioritise and dedicate time, that others simply cannot. For someone working 40-50 hours/week in another role, there would be little time and/or energy to invest in learning from others in the industry. From a cost-benefit perspective, I have an unfair advantage over them. Let me explain...
Let's say there is a five-hour course from which we would both learn something new. If I am coaching 25 sessions per week, I have more opportunities to implement the new tool/strategy and reap the rewards. If someone else only has five sessions per week, they have less opportunity to harvest results. In their case, it makes sense to focus on learning for the 40-50 hours of other work they are doing, to gain maximal benefits from their professional development.
In 12 months time, I can assure you I will be doing things somewhat differently to what I am doing now (just as what I am doing now is different than 12 months ago). Experience on the gym floor, education, and experience with different clients and what works, will be what determines how those systems change.
The more experience and knowledge gained, the better results you can deliver and more you can charge for services (because people pay for results). Accordingly, the more time that can be invested into acquiring experience and knowledge, along with making mistakes that you can learn from, the more advanced a coach you can become.
Steven Pressfield wrote the following passage on Professionals and Amateurs in his book The War of Art. In three lines, he summates this point better than I have in the past several paragraphs and outlined one of my biggest learnings/moments of clarity from 2016.
The word amateur comes from the Latin root meaning "to love." The conventional interpretation is that the amateur pursues his calling out of love, while the pro does it for money. Not the way I see it. In my view, the amateur does not love the game enough. If he did, he would not pursue it as a sideline, distinct from his "real" vocation.
Enthusiastic amateurs are well-intentioned, sight a passion or love for their involvement in fitness, and often charge less than a professional would. Instead of competing with them, the professional has to upskill and play the waiting game. After 2-3 years, the enthusiastic amateur eventually falls out of the industry, and their place is taken by someone in the same position as they were two years. Now, the professional has significantly more experience and knowledge, and there is no competition.
As Phil Learney says...
The fitness industry is saturated, but it is not competitive.
Focus on you and the results will come!
2. You Can’t Win on Defence
At the end of 2015, someone locally set up a carbon copy of Integrated Fitness & Nutrition – similar name, logo, services (-20% of my prices) and even copied my first Facebook post.
At first, I was very disappointed and upset. I couldn’t tell if it was foolishness or laziness, but either way, it was an evidently a CTRL+C job.
By the end of the year, that business is no longer and to some extent, I don’t know if it ever really was.
It is probably spiteful to bring it up here, but it was certainly a good learning experience for me to adapt to such circumstances, which I have since learnt is commonplace in the fitness industry.
I wasted time and energy checking to see what was copied next, checking updates, and taking a bit too much glee in the fact they had no bookings in their online calendar. From a personal a professional perspective, there was nothing to be gained from that, which I eventually realised.
In December 2016, I heard a great quote along the lines of forgiveness is giving up the right to hurt someone back. This made a lot of sense, so I reached out, cut all ties, and let it go. Even though it took 11 months, we got there eventually, and I haven't thought about it until reviewing this year!
It goes to show that you can’t win on defence, which I attribute to a Chris Sacca quote - and important lesson - I came across in 2015.
Before you do anything, ask yourself: are you on offence or defence?
They were playing defence by copying my content and model, which did not work out well for them.
But I was also on defence by being checking up on them, being gleeful in their lack of success, and wasting time and money seeking advice that was ultimately not worth pursuing. Again, this did not work out well for me, either.
At the end of the day, does it really matter?
The fitness industry is not a zero-sum game, where if I get a new client everyone else fails. Further on that, if someone is copying you, that confirms what you are doing is good. Learning that – albeit very slowly – was a great lesson from 2016.
The Sacca quote is very applicable because neither of us were making any progress whilst on defence. There will always be a time and need for defence, but it is easy to get caught up in it and let it take away from your offence. At the end of the day, you have to be on offence to score, and win, at any game. This is no different!
3. Refer Good People
We want to be of service to other people. So when someone is looking for a professional in any industry, we are often quick to recommend those people we have had success with.
I'm sure you have read reviews before buying a product or service that you were unsure about. But what is superior to reviews is referral - I have personally used x and experienced y hence, I can recommend them to you. In 2016, I made a concerted effort to refer family/friends/clients to professionals whom would suit their needs.
On a personal level, I referred to Lawyer's, Accountant's and Mortgage Broker's with whom I had good experiences with.
Professionally, I referred potential clients to other Trainer's better suited to their needs; Dietitian's for nutrition considerations beyond my scope; physiotherapists, Exercise Physiologist's and probably others that I cannot recall (note: currently looking for a GP who understands resistance training - please let me know of your recommendations!).
The benefits of referral is that people get what they need, you build a network you trust (eventually) and have confidence in referring to. As I progressed and become more confident in the service that I offer, I now refer more people out than I ever have.
Early on, it is very easy to be scared of referring out, because you think someone will never come back or the other professional will talk poorly of you. However, once you see the benefits of good referrals and improved outcomes for the client (which is the goal), you won't stop. And also, having professionals refer clients directly to you helps too!
4a. Selling Isn’t That Bad.
I listened to a great book by Jay Abraham on marketing and communications, where he basically said if you have a good service or product, you have an obligation to reach out to those who it will provide value to.
That made a lot of sense to me. I am not big on self-promoting (despite all the articles and posts I have written) or even selling, despite being in small business.
A premium personal training and nutrition service certainly is not for everyone. However, there are people looking for 1:1 or 1:3 coaching and wanting experience and knowledge, who will find great value from it. If I don’t reach out and connect with them, and they hire the $30/hour trainer and do not get results, I would be doing them a disservice.
With this in mind, I have become more proactive in reaching out to new clients and making sure they are aware of our services and potential suitability for them. In 2016, we introduced a complimentary strategy consultation for anyone who completes the seven-day Tracking Challenge. Everyone receives a one-hour strategy session where I outline the strategy I would use for them, at no cost.
This strategy consultation has been a great initiative. It allows us to educate the client on exactly what we need from them to get results, whilst also allowing them to get a feel for us. Most people come through the door ready to start, and by getting them to demonstrate their intent by tracking for seven days (doing something for us) the people we meet are ideal clients.
Sure, some people don't become clients and we lose the time invested into them. However, this is an insignificant price to pay for the quality of client we do attract. I can genuinely say there is not one training session on my schedule that I do not want to do, or that I hope they cancel on me. In the fitness industry, that is a rare thing!
4b. Social Media Isn’t That Bad, Either.
I gravitated away from social media during the middle of 2016, due to being unorganised. I am also not a fan of the fakeness of social media and only showing your best side, and the fact that I do exactly that when I use it.
As a result, I spent more time on making sure I had plenty of content for my email list (The Integrated Insider) and took the view ‘if people are interested, they will opt-in to the Insider’.
Whilst the Insider grew massively in 2016 (105 to 251 people), email certainly isn’t everyone’s favourite method of communication, and fortnightly updates are not frequent enough in today's world.
Again, on back of listening to Abraham's book, I took the same approach to social media as I did selling, and invested more time in connecting my content to people. This resulted in the last four articles I wrote in 2016 all being top-10 all-time views, despite only having been live for six weeks.
What’s funny, is that I didn’t even promote those articles any more than I would.... however, simply showing up with other content was enough to get people heading to the website, where they inevitably end up reading those articles.
Followers and engagement have increased on both Facebook and Instagram, leading to more people taking advantage of the 100+ articles on the blog and applying new strategies to their training and nutrition. The content is already there, I just needed to do a better job of linking people to it.
By leveraging automation tools and having a simple content strategy in place, I am not worrying about trying to create new content each day. Instead, I can create posts in advance and then share something in real-time if it is of interest. This has lead to more content and engagement, without spending all day on social media.
2016 was a great year for the business and myself personally. I am very lucky to be able to be self-employed and working with clients both in Canberra and across the world. Ten years ago, even five, I am sure that wasn't possible. I am looking forward to 2017 and the exciting times ahead!
To everyone who I have worked with or has read any article in 2016, thank you. I look forward to seeing you all in 2017!