This week Blueprint Fitness celebrates it’s 5 year anniversary! Some of you have been with us since the beginning and have seen us evolve over and over again. To you, we say “THANK YOU!” To those of you have have been part of our family and those who are new we say “THANK YOU! ” It sounds cheesy but it’s true; YOU make this facility what it is. Everything we’ve become is based on what we’ve learned from you over the years. From programming to facilities to our name (yes, we were once called The BAR Fitness) we have changed. And, guess what? We’re just getting started! But, in order to understand where we’re going we have to take a look back and see what we’ve changed since the beginning.
Our doors opened on May 5th, 2012, just 5 months after I quit my last job as a trainer. As crazy as it sounds I didn’t even think about opening a facility. My plan was to be a freelance trainer for private clients. My brothers came to me and said, “You think you’re a good trainer?” “Of course I am! I know more than most trainers I’ve ever known!” (ok, I had a little bit of an ego but that would soon be put in check). They asked if I could run my own facility and, if so, they would help me put the finances together and get started. That was only a few days after my birthday. I don’t think I could’ve asked for a better birthday present.
Things didn’t go as smoothly as I had hoped for the first 1.5 years. Heck, our website wasn’t even recognized by google for the first 6 months. I was wearing every hat an entrepreneur wears their first few years of opening a business. I was the manager, trainer, programmer, janitor, marketing exec, accountant, financier, and so on. I had only 2 trainers to help me with teaching but no other duties were assigned. I finally went to my brothers and said, “I don’t know if this is going to work.” Shane, the younger, who was doing very well in his early days as a realtor, said he would come on and help figure things out on the administrative side. He would take care of the website, marketing, promotions, etc. Basically, we finally had assigned duties. I would take care of the program and clients while he would work on getting our name out there. Shane stumbled across a networking group for fitness facility owners and headed to New Orleans for a conference where he spent 3 days learning everything we needed to fix about our business model. It was the best decision he could’ve ever made. He came back with the knowledge and laid out the groundwork for 3 big changes.
First, and most important change, we would be a small group training facility. To understand what this means you have to first understand what we were; a group training facility. In industry terms this means any class that has more than 5 people is no longer considered “personal training” but “group training”. We were, for lack of a better description, a knockoff of a Crossfit gym. Sure, I created the programming from scratch (even had a fun cocktail name for each “drink” served haha) but when every prospect came in asking us if we were a Crossfit gym I would cringe. It didn’t matter what I did with the programming, the look of our facility screamed “Crossfit”. We had climbing ropes, tires, barbells and bumper plates everywhere. The only key difference was we provided an archaic version of what we called a ‘blueprint’ to help track clients progress. Shane said we needed to take the blueprints a step further and make it even more personal. Beginning January 2015 we changed all of our class sizes to 4 (5 is the limit on small group personal training so we gave ourselves some leeway). What soon followed was quarterly updates on clients blueprints. First, it was just the Functional Movement Screen. Then, it was corrective exercises. Next, strength progressions. Kettlebell progressions. Powerlifting progressions. You get the idea. I wanted to have so much info in a clients blueprint that it would minimize any confusion on what a client should do for their program. The program has only continued to evolve since that decision.
Second, we changed our trial process. Let me tell you, this was the most enjoyable part, as an owner, of all the changes coming that year. Believe it or not, we used to offer 1 month free trials. You read that right. 30 days. FREE! At the time it seemed to be a good idea because it didn’t cost us anything to have an extra person in class and it was a way to get our name out there. It didn’t take long to realized 99% of the people who used it had no intention of actually joining. Soon, we knocked the 30-day free trial down to 2-weeks. Then, 3 days. Finally, one free class. The problem with this system was that we didn’t put value into our program. You don’t get to “try out” a restaurant for free. We valued our program and needed to be compensated for it. Sure, free trials work well for large franchises like LA Fitness or Snap Fitness. But, we were an independent small group facility and needed to keep the lights on. The big change came when we switched to a 30-day trial for less than $100. It gave a prospect time to test out our facility and get to know the program while at the same time compensating us for our time. After a year we noticed the majority of trial members who joined did so within 2 weeks of starting their trial. As you expect, the trial was knocked down to 2 weeks. The benefits to this decision are obvious but a surprising and positive response came from our members. They appreciated not having to deal with prospects who would take up space but were just using the facility as “free” training instead of seriously considering the program. Two weeks was tolerable. Four weeks was annoying.
Third, our pricing had to change. Our average membership was hovering in the low $100s. If we were going to offer small group training we had to increase our price point. It was a painful move that had to be done. The decision came out of the need for advancing the program, not greed (if you saw my income you’d wonder how I made ends-meat). The programming would become more detailed, better blueprints, more trainers, more hours. Every extra penny went directly back into the facility in order to keep the program moving forward. I’ve worked for my fair share of gym owners who increased the price willy nilly to increase their take-home pay. Sure, I wanted to make more money but I did not want to be that owner. If price went up, we had to offer something in return. That offering was small group personal training. Every client had a trainer paying attention to them while training. Every client would feel important and unique, not just another sheep in the herd.
To help with this transition we allowed current members to ride out their agreements with the new program. Those who saw the value stayed. Those who didn’t left. This process took nearly a year to complete. Everyone new came in on the new pricing while those on old pricing converted or left. It was no joy seeing members leave who couldn’t afford our services. Some of my favorite members I’ve ever known wanted to stay but the price was too high. Almost all of them valued the program and were surprised we weren’t charging our new prices sooner. This lead us to make another decision and that was to hold onto a class called Team Training (similar to what we currently have in our weekend workouts). They could stay on their current prices but they would no longer have access to small group training. As time went on we realized 90% of our current and new members were only doing small group. After a year we realized we had made the right decision.
After writing this article I’ve realized it’s probably more suited for trainers trying to open their own facility haha. Alas, it’s a story that not many of you know. There were numerous ups and downs over the last 5 years and it’s helpful, even insightful, to know how it began and how it has changed. I guess the point I’m trying to make, after 5 years, is that all of our lives are like a new business. We have great hopes and dreams but life sometimes comes crashing into use like a freight train. The only thing you can control is how you think and act in response to life’s chaos. This chaos can help us build up to peaks or go deep into valleys. I plan on having far more peaks than valleys and I plan on seeing all of you at the top. And what better way to finish off this article with one of my all-time favorite movie monologues:
“Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it . You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done! Now if you know what you’re worth then go out and get what you’re worth. But ya gotta be willing to take the hits, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody! Cowards do that and that ain’t you! You’re better than that!”