The email came from a friend in the fitness world who was about to strike out on his own after building his personal training business in space rented within a gym. The scenario’s not all that uncommon. It’s how many personal trainers get started. Gym owners get rent and trainers get an as-needed space to train in. Everyone’s happy.
My friend’s success had proven to the club the viability (and income potential) of a personal training program. So, as he headed out the door, they decided to ramp their own in-house program…and they had much deeper pockets. My friend was a little freaked about the prospect of now having to compete with them.
So he asked me what to do. And with his permission, I’m sharing my advice to him with you…
First, step back. Stop looking so tactically. Look big picture. Why do people come to you in the first place? Pretty sure its’ not because you suck. It’s because of (1) who YOU are, (2) the experience YOU create for them, (3) the family YOU build to deliver that experience, and (4) the way YOU AND THAT FAMILY make them feel.
F@#k the other guys. Let them do whatever it is they need to do. THEY ARE NOT YOU!!! Own that. Take who you are and how what you create is special and do it better than you’ve ever done it before. You’re not competing against them unless you give up what you do best and let them drag you into playing on their field and by their rules.
You are the place 85% of people who wanted to workout would never have gone before BECAUSE you were housed in a gym that scares the crap out of them. You are everything a gym is not. Own that. Relish it. Amplify it. Build your brand around it. Treat people like gods, blow their minds, know their names, make them feel welcome coming in and amazing walking out.
The next few weeks will pass. Whatever happens, doesn’t really matter in the scheme of what you are building. Market, first and foremost by realizing and revealing how you will be different. Blow peoples’ minds on a consistent basis. And that includes your employees, give them every reason in the world to fall in love with you. Lead them, treat them with respect and compassion, like family. Then encourage everyone at every level to evangelize what you’ve created.
Yes, let the press know, run promotions, launch [top secret pre-launch strategy]. Get crazy creative.
But DO NOT FORGET THE CORE…you are not competing against the gyms, you are everything they are not. Own it, amplify it, feature it.
Reading that, it may sound like I’m anti-gym, but I’m not. The current model works for a certain percentage of the population, the 15% of U.S. adults who dig how big box facilities are run and what they offer. And there are enough of those people to keep most facilities in business (though it’s getting harder and harder to compete).
Sadly, though, this same model also alienates about 85% of U.S. adults who refuse to join or stay members. That number has stayed pretty consistent for decades, no matter how many bells, whistles, machines or marketing campaigns are added. Because, as I’ve discussed in an earlier article, the the problem runs core and culture deep.
And that has created a massive opportunity for niche newcomers and outliers who solve problems, offer lifestyle experiences and solutions and do business in a radically different way from day one. This is exactly what I did when I launched and grew two companies in the health and fitness world.
I didn’t care about the giant facilities that surrounded me on all sides or the established players. They had their place and they served their 15%. I wasn’t competing with them, my market was the other 85%. I was creating my own new solution tailored specifically to those who’d never do the big gym thing. My own blue fitness ocean. I turned the very fact that I didn’t have rows of machine, tons of TVs, busy locker-rooms, entertainment systems, key tag sign-in and loud music into an asset. I was there to serve those the rest of the industry had stepped around.
“Not being a gym,” though, isn’t a business model. Nor is “not being an XXX” in any industry. It’s an opportunity and a point of differentiation. But the business model is about what opportunities to serve, solve and delight this counter-mainstream positioning affords you.
It’s often about doing things in a way others either don’t yet understand are aren’t willing to explore because there’s too much uncertainty in contrast to a business model that’s relatively proven, but operating at a fraction of its potential.
Uncertainty, properly harnessed, is manna for innovation.
Lean into it. Dance with it.
The challenge is to focus not on how to be incrementally better, but how to change the game.
It ain’t easy, but if you can pull it off, it’s worth it.
Curious, how might this apply to your current career, business or life?
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