By Josh Leve, AFS Founder & CEO
Vertex Fitness Personal Training Studio is located in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. Learn how owner Dwayne Wimmer took his astute business knowledge and applied it to a highly successful personal training business.
What were the motivators that made you want to get into the business of running a fitness studio? I worked as a strength and conditioning coach at Villanova University, for health clubs and other studios in the past. As much as they understood the exercise protocol I never felt they understood what it took to truly be successful. I have always seen myself as a knowledge seeker, not just about exercise but also of the inner workings of an organization. I was never satisfied with where I was.
The businesses I worked for in the past got to a level of comfort and complacency and I wanted to keep moving and making something happen. In my opinion, the businesses could have been bigger and better if they had put more time into areas to help the business and staff grow. Because of this, I decided to open a studio to continue to grow myself and help others along the way.
How did you get your first clients? I found my first clients by getting out of my comfort zone and putting myself in front of people I didn’t know. This was not easy as I am an inherently shy and reserved person, meeting new people does not come naturally. So, I started by visiting places my clients invited me to such as the Chamber of Commerce, holiday parties, and networking events. After gaining confidence, I then started visiting local businesses, going to networking events on my own, finding places where people were getting together.
I did whatever was necessary to meet new people every day. Eventually I found the people who liked what I was saying and they became my first clients.
What does your business look like today? Vertex Fitness is a no frills, back to basics, one-on-one personal training studio. We believe that concentrating on systematically strengthening the whole body will lead to a more balanced and healthier body. What we do isn’t the latest whistle and bell in the industry nor is it sexy or glamorous. It is simply a Safe, Efficient, Effective, Evidence-Based program to help our clients get their best results in their busy lives. Our team of trainers play an integral part of the business at Vertex.
They are mini business owners, responsible for providing exceptional customer service, teaching our prescribed exercise system, maintaining client relationships and building the business through networking, prospecting and selling
Tell us a little bit about what differentiates your studio from others? The biggest differentiator in our business is the amount of time and effort we spend in teaching our trainers not just about exercise and our protocol but how to take charge and help grow the business. Vertex trainers learn the skills and are exposed to the mindset needed to be tremendously successful in the fitness industry and life.
If you were starting over today, what would you do differently? If I had to start all over today, I would have a slightly different model for both the trainers and clients. I would have a model so that a potential employee, who is right out of school or just completed a certification, could step in and start making money at an entry level position. As it is now, they need a high level of understanding not just of our training system, but of business as well. It very hard for most potential employees to come in and get started in our business.
The fitness industry and colleges have failed to educate them on what they truly need to be successful as a personal trainer. The are getting what they want to learn, biomechanics and a basic understanding exercise but not what they truly need to achieve success.
I would change the business model to one with multiple levels of service so the client could choose from services from a basic monthly membership with guided service performed by entry level staff, through one-on-one focused workouts performed by the seasoned veteran. I believe these changes would help both attract more trainers we could train in our system and more long-term clients.
If you were advising somebody whose dream is to open a studio – what would be your primary nuggets of advice? I would advise someone starting in this industry to learn about business. I have had a number of parents of children who are interested in becoming personal trainers ask me what should their kids major be in college. I have always advised them to pursue general business. Being a personal trainer means having your own business and if you have in depth understanding an knowledge of business skills it will much easier to be successful. In addition, if the fitness industry doesn’t work out, business skills can be used in almost any industry.
Which came first – Dwayne the elite trainer or Dwayne the astute businessman? The businessman. As a kid I was always interested in selling things. I would find things that other people wanted and sell it to them for profit. I remember as a kid, my dad worked at Maple Grove Raceway, a drag strip near Reading, PA, we would go to races with nationally known drivers and they would hand out promotional pictures of the drivers and cars. I would walk around the pits and collect these and take them to school and sell them. Looking back, it was only once I became a personal trainer that I realized I had an entrepreneur mindset and I could build on what I did as a kid.
What drives profitability? The continuous process of retaining current clients and prospecting for new ones has always led to the success of Vertex. Even when session totals are high, we always are out there meeting new people. We never get comfortable.
What is your philosophy on generating new clients? To generate new clients you have to meet a lot of people before you can find someone who is ready to try something different than what they already know. Keep putting people into the funnel. The right people will filter through. It is a numbers game, the more people you meet and get to know, the more potential you will have to get clients.
What are your biggest day-to-day challenges? My biggest day-to-day challenge is finding staff that wants to learn and grow. Most trainers come to me looking for a job but we don’t have jobs. What we offer is an opportunity to grow professionally, personally and monetarily. This means stepping out of one’s comfort zone and learning the things they didn’t teach you in school and/or the certifications that are out there. Trainers need to learn things like marketing, prospecting and selling.
Most trainers want to take people through workouts, like a workout buddy, but at Vertex our expectations are high. We want you to understand the business end of personal training as well as being a teacher and coach on the technical end of things. We are not the typical rep counters and weight caddies you will find in most places. Trainers need to sell, teach and coach each rep, each exercise, and each workout. A true personal trainer understands these concepts and realizes the client has already been sold on the workout they are now doing, but this workout is selling the next one and future workouts. Successful trainers have to be professional, self -motivated and have a desire to step outside their comfort zones and continue to grow.
Anything else you think a studio owner or wannabe would want to know? Most studio owners and personal trainers think they need to know the latest and greatest workouts, gimmicks, equipment and fads. What they need to do first, is ask themselves the question, Why? Why am I doing what I am doing, will it yield the desired result? The latest and greatest tool or technique is usually just a gimmick to sell something. A lot of facility owners and trainers think they need to have it to keep pace with others.
But the reality is if you know what it is you are doing and why it is you are doing it, you will keep clients for a lifetime. Good clients are there because of the experience and results, not the whistles and bells of the latest and greatest gimmick that comes along.