Corporate Wellness Programs are one of the most appealing opportunities for trainers today – they can also be the most confusing and intimidating.
And since this blog is all about eliminating confusion and overcoming any fear that’s stopping you from making big things happen in your life using fitness, I had to get to the bottom of corporate fitness once and for all …
For that I enlisted a man who needs no introduction – he’s the world’s authority on corporate wellness, who’s educated countless trainers about it. And most importantly, he’s really doing it himself. I’m of course talking about Greg Justice.
Greg is one of the originators and leaders in the entire trainig industry. He’s a long time training gym owner, an international corporate bootcamp operator, and now the head of the American Association of Personal Trainers as well.
Greg was cool enough to come on the blog for an interview and the info he’s shared here is killer. He dropped some gems of wisdom from his years of experience, and shared the info everyone is looking for – how to start a corporate bootcamp yourself. Here it is:
Hey Greg, I’m not sure if it’s known well enough, but you’re one of the pioneers in the personal training industry. You first opened the doors to your training facility in 1986 – what was personal training like when you started?
In 1986, in Kansas City, personal training was more of a hobby than a profession. There were a handful of trainers (gym rats) working in big box gyms, but from the beginning, I wanted to do it differently. I made a conscious effort, early on, to make personal training my career and treat it like a ‘real’ business. Before I opened AYC, I had developed a five year business plan with measurable goals each step of the way. That was an important process, for me, because it held me accountable.
For a lot of trainers getting started on their own, some adversity in the beginning can be expected. You had your share at the start of your training career. You were let go from your first job. What’s your advice for trainers to get through those bumps when they’re getting started?
Yes, my first ‘real’ job after finishing my undergraduate degree was managing a fitness center, making a whopping $18,000 / year. I loved that job, and when the owners told me they were selling the club I was scared to death I was going to lose my job…and I did. Less than a week after taking over, the new club owner fired me and brought in his own management team. I was devastated…for about 12 hours, then I took immediate action and changed the course of my career. With my wife’s encouragement, I called my graduate adviser and asked him if he had an opening for a graduate assistant. As luck would have it, a position opened three days earlier and he immediately offered me a job that would pay my tuition and housing costs. I was just one semester short of completing my master’s degree and this was a blessing from above. It was during those five months that I created the business plan for Kansas City’s original personal training center.
Two interesting things happened during the next week after I was fired from that job; first, the club owner, who had just fired me, called to offer my job back, because several club members had advocated on my behalf. I was flattered, but my course had now been set and there was no looking back. Second, here’s a lesson in not burning bridges…I was pleasantly surprised to be asked to come back, but I knew I couldn’t, so I made a spur of the moment proposal to him. I told him that I would come back in five months, after completing my education, and work for him, if he would allow me to start my personal training business at his club. He thought about it for a minute and said “Yes, that’s a good idea, you’ve got a deal”. He also became one of my very first clients.
So, to sum up my long winded answer about advice I’d give to trainers going through bumps in their career…I would tell them to understand that THEY are responsible for their fate, not anyone else. The only way to make things happen is to take action. Have a clearly defined goal in mind and do whatever it takes (morally and legally) to make it happen.
You had a choice early on in your career of being either an employee at a stable job or heading up your own business, and you chose the latter, even though you had a family to support and a lot of expenses to maintain. Why did you make that choice?
Four months after starting my business, I was offered a position as a Corporate Wellness Supervisor at our local park and recreation district. It was “an offer I couldn’t refuse”. It was a great job, with a good salary, benefits and stability. It also afforded me the opportunity to work with more than 60 businesses in the Kansas City area. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this job would come back to pay big dividends as my career progressed.
Suddenly, I had two full-time jobs and a part-time job…something had to give. I hired a trainer to run appointments from 8 am to 5 pm, while I was at my corporate wellness job. I ran personal training appointments at 5:30 and 6:30 am, then again at 5:30, 6:30 and 7:30 pm. I maintained that schedule for two-and-a-half years, at which time my employee informed me that he going back to school to complete his doctoral degree.
I was at a crossroad in my career. If I stayed at my corporate wellness job I would have a good salary, benefits and security. If I chose to focus 100% of my time and energy to my personal training business there were no guarantees. To make things even more interesting, my wife was six months pregnant with our first child and we had just purchased our first home.
My entrepreneurial spirit got the best of me and I chose to focus all of my time and energy to my personal training business. It was the best professional decision I ever made.
The story of your personal training facility is an interesting one – it started just a 600 sq ft studio, and is now a full blown 3,000 sq ft gym. What was that process like?
In the early days, I may not have had much business savvy, but I was smart enough to understand that it was location, location, location. I leased a 600 square foot studio on the corner of the most affluent neighborhood in Kansas City and put on my walking shoes. That may sound a little crazy, but that was the extent of my marketing budget back then. I literally placed a brochure in every door of every home in a three mile radius of my studio. Like Chet Holmes says…All it takes is getting one ‘best’ client and many more ‘best’ clients will follow. As soon as I filled each available time slot in the 600 square foot studio, I hired more trainers and leased another 600 square feet. Each step of the way I decided I would fill our existing space, and then commit to more square footage. It’s a conservative approach, but one that was right for me.
And beyond the growth of your facility, you have expanded your business into corporate wellness. That part has experienced rapid growth, with your program now in other cities including New York. What are the advantages of starting a corporate wellness program, how does someone do it, and how did you expand yours to so many locations?
The simple answer to that question is efficiency. All you have to do is sell one contract and the company gives you 25, 50, 75 clients. As I mentioned earlier, I served as a corporate wellness supervisor early in my career. I’ve worked with more than 75 local, national and international corporations, so I know the industry like the back of my hand. I’m going to attach an article with this blog post that explains the major differences in regular and corporate boot camps.
I have been able to expand to other cities because of my extensive network of corporate executives. They know about my corporate business model and want their employees to experience the energy and excitement.
Here’s a question I got recently from a reader…”I run a corporate wellness program. My goal is to make it more comprehensive and have a network of preferred vendors and speakers, everything from dietitians to spa owners. Any advice on how I should build such a network? For example, should the vendor pay my company an upfront fee, a referral fee, should it be free, etc.? I don’t know if you already have a blog post on this. Any help you can provide is appreciated.” Hey Greg – can you help me out with this one?
The easiest way to build your “comprehensive network of preferred vendors and speakers” is to develop relationships with those suppliers individually. I have each of those positions on staff, but that’s not realistic if you’re just starting a corporate wellness program. I would suggest having you collect the money from the corporation and offering the service provider a percentage. There really isn’t a right or wrong way to do this, it’s just a matter of where you are in your individual situation…I’d be happy to discuss your situation with you individually.
You’re the head of the APPT – what is your mission with that organization?
We created the Association of Professional Personal Trainers to give trainers every opportunity to succeed, with a clearly defined career path. Whether they’re an employee or entrepreneur, we’ll offer resources every step of the way.
It’s an association for trainers that are tired of watching our relatively new profession being tainted and flouted like it were the oldest and want to take back their integrity and worth.
We’re calling out the “Meat Head” trainers and putting them on notice that they’re going to be exposed. They are a cancer that must be cut out at the root. They will be made to stand up and be accountable through the tireless efforts of APPT to promote professionalism in the market place and a positive image among consumers.
And below, you’ll find an article Greg attached all about the Corporate Boot Camps:
The Major Differences of Corporate Boot Camp Clients and Regular Boot Camp Clients
By Greg Justice, M.A.
The Paying Client
– Regular boot camp clients pay from their own pockets. They have to budget and weigh the value of what they are getting and what else they want. Sometimes your boot camp is competing with mortgage payments and utility bills, sometimes with vacations and family member needs. This budget is usually a lot tighter than a corporate budget.
– The corporate client is usually the business itself paying your bill. They have a budget for employee programs and benefits. The boot camp still has to be worked into the budget, yet the process of deciding on the extent the type of program is determined by a more scientific method of calculation than the regular boot camper. The corporate client has some government and insurance perks that they can realize if they establish a program. Most of our corporate accounts have an agreement where the company will pay for the program when the employee achieves measurable results – if the employee doesn’t achieve measurable results, or doesn’t show up, the employee must pay for it.
The Exercising Client
– Regular boot camp clients are just exercising for themselves, usually. They know what they want to achieve and they are working toward a fitness goal. They made the decision to join your boot camp based on their individual needs and their knowledge of those needs, as well as their desire to meet those needs.
– The corporate exercising client on the other hand, has usually been given a choice. If they join the boot camp, there is usually a reduction in their insurance premiums or co-pay. They may feel that they have in a sense, been given an implied ultimatum. The company they work for is aware of poor lifestyle choices and poor health. The company has taken a stand in favor of a healthier workplace and healthier employees. The employee can choose to participate or deny the ramifications of their job security if everyone else around them gets in better shape, has better health, better attendance, less tardiness, more productivity. They will probably realize that they won’t “fit in” anymore. There is definitely more pressure for the corporate exerciser to participate than a regular boot camper. Their reasons for participating are different than regular boot campers. There are front line workers, management personnel, telemarketers, sales people, janitors…all working equally, while sweating and straining. It’s more personal than a regular boot camp.
– Regular boot camp clients can be as noisy as they want. There’s lots of whooping and hollering and a more boisterous atmosphere. They may wander in 15 minutes early and stay another 15 minutes or a half hour longer, talking with others or with you. These programs run 45 minutes, and hour, sometimes they last 2 hours. These people are more in a social frame of mind.
– Corporate boot camps must be quieter because others are still working, concentrating, talking on the phone just around the corner. These clients need to be in and out in a half hour. They usually have one hour for lunch – a half hour to workout and 15 minutes to get cleaned up and changed and 15 minutes to eat, then they have to be back to their work station. They do still have fun, yet they have a purpose and a time frame, and are also in a business frame of mind.
– Regular boot camp clients do need motivation. They came to you for a concrete reason. They want to lose a certain number of pounds. Or they want to get in shape or build more muscle tone, or lower their
blood pressure and cholesterol. They know what they want. You just have to deliver it and keep them on track with their goals. They want you to deliver it. They expect you to deliver it.
– The corporate boot camp client (the business) also knows what they want in their employee’s health and performance and they expect you to deliver it. The corporate boot camp exerciser (employee) may or may not know what they want or need. Some will feel pressured and just want to get through the time without expending much effort. Others will be aware of what their health issues are and know what they want their bodies to look and feel like. Those individuals will be more like regular boot campers. The pressured individuals will have to be helped along and encouraged a bit more. Another factor in motivation – there is less of it naturally when the thing you are doing is not being paid out of your own pocket.
– The regular boot camp client may not know many of the people participating in their boot camp. They may build bonds and friendships during the boot camp, some will not. They leave afterwards and all go their separate ways, back into their lives.
– The corporate boot camp client knows who almost everyone is that they are exercising with. They are more conscious of their body, their effort and/or strain, their abilities. They see these people on an almost daily basis. When they are seeing good progress they will gain more confidence. Peers at work tend to support and encourage each other, applaud the efforts, and build stronger working relationships. They are all in this boat together with more, or less, a common goal – keeping their boss happy and showing definitive results and positive changes in their health and their bodies. They all go back to work together, after their program.
The Pay Off
– The regular boot camp client reaches their goal – the reason they came to boot camp in the first place. Now you can set another goal with them to help them reach higher. You can reinforce the value of what they received.
– The corporate boot camp client that shows results usually gets more than just the benefits of the results. Their insurance premiums, any bonuses or other perks that have been established by the company are theirs. The feel of better job security is tangible. They have more confidence and stature with their peers, bosses, employees, at work. They have achieved in more areas than regular boot campers, usually without having to pay for it.
Do NOT Make These Mistakes or your corporate fitness account may be in jeopardy
1. Do NOT make the company responsible for a lot of paperwork. You must make your program as seamless as possible to blend into the corporate fabric that already exists. They have channels and procedures they already follow. They do not want to add another pipeline of information, another task to do or delegate.
2. Do NOT make excess noise, a mess that you don’t clean up, or be casual about your presence in the building.
You have been given a certain element of trust and are being paid for it – be professional, courteous, and respectful of that trust.
3. Do NOT sacrifice on your price. It is a fair price. Provide an add-on service or product if they need a better deal. Once you start cutting prices, next it’s cutting corners, and they might have you jumping thru hoops. Know your own value. Know the value of your program. And it better be a good program.
4. Do NOT deviate from the time schedule. Show up 15 minutes early, and stay up to 15 minutes later to answer questions, and then quietly leave. Do not cancel a session. The company is depending on you to come thru for them. Do It. Be dependable and reliable. Be professional.
Even if starting a corporate bootcamp wasn’t on your radar, it’s just motivating to know how many opportunities there are for you in fitness. This is just one more type of deal you can make to get your training practice established and get your business rolling.