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It’s a familiar storyline. A business professional has a vision to create a successful business whose service and/or product can positively enhance the lives of consumers. The business professional takes a leap of faith and leaves a secure, well paying career and seizes the opportunity to follow their vision and passion and become an entrepreneur.

In 1992 that’s what Fitness By Phone® founder and president, Susan Block Vézina did. However, unlike most professionals who start their own business, the storyline Susan followed was one that hadn’t been written before.

Not only did she transform her personal fitness training firm into a fitness coaching business that had never previously been created, but she single handedly jump-started an entirely new category in the fitness industry.  In the years that followed the formation of Fitness By Phone®, in 1997, the impact of Susan’s vision for bridging the gap between coaching and fitness training far surpassed even her expectations. Today, there are Fitness By Phone® Coaches in 45 of the 50 states in the U.S. and in Canada, and thousands of consumers have participated in Fitness By Phone Coaching,

While the story of Fitness By Phone® has been told countless times in both the consumer press and fitness industry press, nobody tells the story of Fitness By Phone® as well as its founder, Susan Block Vézina.

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When I first started my personal training business in 1992, I was excited that my chosen profession, as a personal fitness trainer, had repeat business as a natural part of the proposition.  Clients know, painfully well, they need to exercise at least three times a week to get any kind of results.  Most of our clients know they will not exercise without our physical presence, right?

As fitness trainers, we are truly in a fortunate profession--my fellow entrepreneurs in other fields have to continually drum up new business: phone calls; advertising; networking--keeping the pipeline of new customers open.  In fact, their main business must be as a marketer.  Otherwise, once they finish a job with a client, they will have economic downtime.  Most professionals do not have the luxury of their customers needing their services 2-5 days a week on an ongoing basis, like personal fitness trainers.

 

Limited Income as a Fitness Trainer

Like I have, you may be sitting here thinking how lucky you are that you have clients who  train with you day after day, week after week, month after month, or maybe even year after year.  I know I always told myself how glad I was that I didn't have to market myself or sell my services all the time.

However, once I got a full load of clients, I realized that my income potential was severely capped. After all, there are only so many hours in a day and so many clients I can train and still be effective.  After several years of one-on-one training, I started to get bored and burned out. And it didn’t matter how creative I got with exercise routines. I mean, let’s face it, there’s only so many ways to teach someone a bicep curl.  I knew there had to be a way to earn more money and enjoy greater satisfaction in my work.

After much brainstorming, I came up with what I thought were the only two ways I could make more money - work more hours (i.e. train more clients) or raise my prices.  And, if I implemented either one of those strategies too often, I would end up losing clients, right?

I considered hiring other trainers and concluded that I didn't want to spend my time buried under paperwork and handling personality and scheduling conflicts.

I finally realized the only way I could conceivably increase my revenue in an effective manner would be to find ways of getting people motivated to exercise without me being physically alongside them (or any trainer being there). The answer was to begin coaching them over the phone. I knew I was onto something and would need to capitalize on it.

 

Self Efficacy for Clients

Within a matter of weeks of implementing this new way of working with clients, via the phone, my client base expanded, my income increased, my clients started to get far greater results, and my work became much more interesting. For the first time in quite a while I found myself having fun again.   

What happened was that I changed my thinking from my clients being dependent on me for their motivation and results, to a philosophy of self-efficacy for my clients.

A person has achieved self-efficacy when they believe, deep inside of themselves, they have the control, on their own, to produce the results they want.  Up until adopting this philosophy, I thought I was encouraging my clients to exercise on their own.  While some would, most would not.

It wasn't until I changed my inner thinking--deep inside of my belief system--from my clients being dependent on me for their success (and for my success)--to my clients being independent of me for their success (and for my success) that I started to double my income with one-tenth of the work time, compared to traditional one-on-one personal training.

 

Your Parent Type

But if clients are independent, what happens to the idea of having repeat business built into our service?  The answer is another question: What kind of client is more motivated to continue using and referring our services than one who has saved thousands of dollars, has complete control over their motivation and is yielding far greater results than ever before? 

I'd like you to take a critical look at your motivation behind most of your sessions with your clients.  As trainers, our roles are much like that of a parent raising a responsible child.  Just as some parents think they are making things easier for their children (and themselves) by doing things for their children, we sometimes think we are helping our clients by showing up for their workouts which they already know how to do. 

You decide what kind of “parent” type you are playing. In other words, what is your part in your clients' lack of responsibility? 

1) Do you buy into the clients who say they won't exercise on their own and you really believe they won't and you choose to take them on as clients anyway?

Or

2) Do you fear that unless clients are dependent on you, they won't need you?

These were the very questions I was asking myself as I developed the concept for Fitness By Phone®. I specifically paid close attention to answering question #2.  As Fitness By Phone® started to grow and we began certifying more and more fitness coaches, I realized the notion that your success, as a personal fitness trainer, was not as dependent on clients being dependent on you as we had all been brought up to believe.

As more and more personal fitness trainers found greater success coaching their clients over the phone, the breadth and depth of Fitness By Phone became clearer, not only to me but to both the coaches we trained and the clients they worked with. Along the way, I discovered that the renowned research institute The Stanford Research Center had been conducting nearly two decades worth of intense research into the positive affect phone counseling had on one’s health and fitness goals. Their findings were right in alignment with what Fitness By Phone® Coaches were discovering.

The truth is, as long as personal fitness trainers believe that success for both themselves and their clients is correlated with their client’s dependency on them, they’ll continue on their current path of financial stagnation, lack of client results and overall boredom and burnout in their career.  In essence, if you want to continue coddling your clients, you will continue to attract clients who want to be coddled. 

 

1,000 Clients Later

Isn't it time to consider changing your role as a fitness trainer and thus, changing the results you and your clients generate? That was the very question I asked myself way back in 1997. It is also the question personal fitness trainers, much like yourself, asked themselves prior to becoming Master Fitness By Phone® Coaches. For myself and the coaches we’ve trained, the answer was a resounding, “YES!”.

Starting, building, and growing Fitness By Phone has not been easy.  Let’s face it, running a successful business is never easy. But it doesn’t need to be overly difficult either. Over the years I’ve learned some very valuable lessons. I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to marketing and branding a fitness training and coaching business.

Of course, as business owners, we’re always learning, but the question is, are we putting to use what we’ve learned? If you’re like me, you do your best not to commit the same mistakes twice and learn to duplicate the things you do well.

Another thing I’ve learned is that to duplicate anything well, you need a system. Having a system allows you to work on your business rather than working in your business. This system has been expanded upon and put into place for all of our coaches to leverage and effectively grow their own fitness coaching business.

Perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned as a business owner, or rather the one thing that’s been reinforced the most, is the bigger the vision you have the more quality people needed to bring that vision to reality.  

With Fitness By Phone® Coaches in 45 of the 50 states in this country and in Canada, we estimate that thousands of FBP clients have participated in Fitness By Phone® Coaching, and this is just the beginning.  Our goal is to support each and every one of our amazing coaches and members of the Fitness By Phone community in growing their business.  This goal supports us in bringing more permanent achievements in health and fitness directly to the people who need it most.

 

To Your Success,

Susan Block Vézina

 

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