The ‘E-myth’ for personal trainers
People who run their own businesses usually have certain character traits in common including determination, a hard-work ethos, self-discipline, integrity, commitment, enthusiasm and the ability to overcome barriers with a positive approach.
Does this sound like you?
Do these character traits sound like the very reason you have a passion for health and fitness and why you trained as a Personal Trainer? If so, then you are off to a great start – but just because you have some or all of these traits yourself doesn’t necessarily mean that you can apply them in a business setting. Qualifying as a Personal Trainer is only the start of your journey.
One of the most informative books I have read was The E-myth by Micheal Gerber  . I certainly had a light bulb moment that revolutionised the way I ran my PT business - working on the business rather than in it, as Gerber would say.
Although most fitness professionals are sole traders or the only person in their company, the principles of The E-myth still apply and can make the difference between being afraid to stop working long hours in case you lose income and making the money you want whilst working less hours.
For those of you unfamiliar with it, the E-myth is this:
"Because I am good at the technical aspects of my job, I would be great at running a business based around that job".
The 'E' stands for 'entrepreneur'. So, for example, a plumber who considers himself adept at fixing taps and installing showers may believe he could run a successful plumbing business. This may of course be true, but it also requires the plumber to have abilities in other fields as well such as marketing, sales, accounting and administration, or at least the desire to learn them very quickly. Without these skills to run a successful business, the individual is left with nothing more than the trade skills that enable them to fulfil a job, which is what they were doing before.
Many personal trainers fall victim to a version of the E-myth within the fitness industry. Indeed the problem often arises before they have even begun their qualification. The version of the myth is "I enjoy exercise and training so therefore I can run a business training other people."
Again, this proposition can be true in some cases although the two fundamental points to consider for a lot of budding fitness professionals are as follows:
- Training yourself is not the same as training someone who has different goals, different motivation and different physiology to you
- Being able to coach someone in exercise and nutrition is one thing, but finding them in the first place and getting them to pay you for it is another
The first point is of course addressed by completing a personal training qualification along with continual research and learning, which all trainers should want to do. Many people come into the industry with boundless passion and enthusiasm for training and helping others but no idea of the harsh realities of business.
Here’s a fact to consider - 80% of personal trainers leave the industry in the first 12 months, not because they have lost their love of exercise and fitness but because they can't make a living from it.
This isn't meant to be a cynical and negative slur on the industry - the intentions of those who want to become part of it are genuine and laudable - it is a plea to those people to learn as much as they can about business. Go on courses, read books and watch videos about branding, marketing, sales, management and accounting to make sure you're prepared for success. Of course you can't learn everything at once - the technical aspect of personal training is never-ending - but by being aware of where you need to further your knowledge you can at least 'know what you don't know' which, although initially scary, is a lot less dangerous than not knowing what you don't know in an increasingly competitive market.
Gerber, Michael E., (May 1991) The E-myth: Why Most Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It, Harper Business; 2nd revised edition