Making Sure to Hire the Right People when Starting a Personal Trainer Business

Introduction: Finding the best people to help you with your work, for the right salary, and a good attitude is difficult. First you have to know in specifics what you expect a person to do and be up front with this. They will want to know if you will give raises for good work and if there is a future with you. They need to be aware of your vision and understand the mindset you have for this fitness center, no matter how large or small. 

Finding the right person should not be rushed and sometimes it is better to wait as opposed to simply hiring the only person interested. There is no need to pay someone a salary if you will end up doing all the work, or redoing it. There is more to a job than merely the skills needed to do the work. In this business the staff have to be able to talk to people, show respect to everyone, and find ways to resolve issues. A good people person can always learn the skills but a person who has skills without being able to work well with others will be a problem. Every job in this industry is a job where there will be interactions with people.


A. Professional Staff to help you manage your business is required with every size or level of the fitness training business. For the freelance trainer, those positions that don't require more help will be filled by you. Examine some of the positions you will have to work at yourself or hire someone else to step in.

The first, and most time consuming job is an operations manager. This person is over the entire operation of your business. It is their job to make sure your staff, equipment, and facility are working well. This job requires good people skills, the ability to be flexible, and an all-around knowledge of business, machines, and people.

Another job that you will claim if you don't hire someone else to take on is a sales manager. The total focus of this person is to bring new members who become your clientele. The sales manager might also do the marketing or if you have a large center, your marketing might be done by another person or be freelanced to a professional marketing company.

As your facility grows, or if you start off big, you will need to add personal trainers to work with people, keep you apprised of client needs and develop new ideas. These trainers should have enough knowledge that they can also give specialty classes or niche service.

Niche services are those that will be marketed toward a smaller group of people with needs that are specialized. These might include community members with mental or physical difficulties, those who suffer from ongoing illness, those who suffer from emotional stress, those who want just strength training, body building, competitions, or for senior citizens. You might also offer classes for children, pregnant women, babies and moms or babies and daddies. The only way to end this list is to end your creative thinking. You can focus a class outdoors on how to exercise while walking your dog, on swimming, just walking, for beginning joggers, 5K or marathon competitions. You can also concentrate a class on endurance, hiking, backpacking, skiing, and other sports. Think about where your community is located, what you can access, and who lives there.

A large facility or even a fitness studio might have a receptionist who answers the phone, keeps records, and solves issues. In a smaller facility the trainer/owner/manager, with appropriate technology could manage this job on the go. Another hire you might consider is someone or professional teams of people who do maintenance, service your machines and help maintain the health and safety of your facility. There are many ways to connect these positons in a boutique facility. If you have a person who is good at several jobs, make a special job description and title for that person.

As the owner of your own business, it will be up to you to know what positions in your business you need to hire others to fill, and what you can do yourself. You will have to make sure the cost of hiring is offset by the income they will help create. It is good to review your strengths and weaknesses to know what you are and are not capable of doing well.


B. Hiring/Firing Processes: When you hire others, you should do a background check which is well worth the cost, have your attorney or business manager develop a contract, require they adhere to health standards, updates shots, take a class in C.P.R. and first aid, and demonstrate they understanding and knowledge of machines, people, and exercise programs. It is important in these beginning planning steps for you to take time to analyze exactly what jobs your business requires, what you are unwilling or incapable of doing, and what you envision for the future. If you don't know what you need, you aren't prepared to hire anyone. This is where the dreaming connects with reality. You have to put the ideas you are mulling over in your mind, into concrete form. You have to put the costs of running the business you see in your head, into numbers on a spread sheet.

Interested in learning more? Why not take an online class in Personal Trainer?

According to Monster, a job website, the three most important steps in hiring the best staff is to interview as many people you can. Narrow it down to your top handful and re-interview them in a different environment. The wisdom behind this is that many people are skilled in interviewing and changing the environment brings out different parts of their personality. Then narrow it down a few more and do a third interview, again in a third place. According to their research, this is an effective method. The second suggestion is to use three different interviewers in each different environment. This combination of different people and different places will give you the best idea about their ability to be flexible, perform in various ways, and to it will bring out the person's true nature and skills. Just don't jump the gun and hire anybody who needs a job. It could bring all of your hard work to a crash.


Another idea is to use the mnemonic SWAN. It stands for smart, work hard, ambitious, and nice. What those mean is the person hired should be knowledgeable in all things of the fitness industry or willing to learn. Hard work is required and if a potential employee cannot give references and examples of their hard work, it is best to give it lots of thought as to why. You want a person who sees a future with you. Turnover is a big cost in any industry because of the time and effort put into hiring and training. Hire the right person the first time and you will be ahead of the game. The word nice means the person is sincere, has empathy, cares about serving people, and will represent your business with respect. The people you hire will be the face of your business. Don't take that lightly.

Firing happens. It happens when the people you hire do not follow their job description, become incapable of doing the job, or who develop an attitude that affects your facility, other staff, and clients in a negative way. The decision to fire anyone on your staff requires a decision based upon these three basic elements. It is not easy, especially if you have become friends, have known each other for a long time, or are aware of circumstances beyond their control.

Sometimes with the best intentions a staff member will decide to step beyond his job description and do things for which he wasn't trained, work that interferes with his job, or work that he has decided he is better able to do than the person doing it. Before firing an employee, you should talk to them and see if you can get them back on track, but if that doesn't work you have to tell them their job is over. You can't afford to pay people who don't do the work you need done.

There are many reasons you fire someone. Perhaps they do the job well but don't fit into the mission of your work and doesn't want to. Then there is the person who can't change with the business or stay motivated and willing to continually learn. Sometimes a person is great in the beginning but as you add to your business they become stressed. They need to stay in a company that remains small. Of course there are the obvious reasons to fire someone immediately without giving notice. Theft, talking to others about the state of the business, using company materials for personal use, and expressing negative opinions about personnel.


C. Job descriptions: Before you ever hire your staff, you have to develop a specific job description for the person and the job you expect them to do. Remember that just because a person has the skills is not a good reason to hire them. They must also have the temperament, ethics and ability to work with others.

A job description can never detail every small thing that is expected, however, you can list that they need to be flexible, work as a team to keep the center clean, healthy and running smoothly, and demonstrate respect at all times. This will cover a myriad of inappropriate behaviors that might come up. The staff want to know what you expect of them so the job description requires thought. Job descriptions can change as the company changes, so most of all you want staff who are eager to grow and change with your program. Because this industry is a service industry all those you hire should demonstrate good customer-service skills by being polite, friendly and encouraging to clients and peers. Each person should have the skills to listen well, motivate and be physically fit themselves. All jobs will eventually require some problem solving skills and the ability to communicate.

Most should be able to write well, assess the client's fitness, have basic math skills, multitask, and enjoy the people. You want your staff to be confident, able to follow through on their work and able to keep good records. A professional appearance, friendly manner, and the attitude that the center success depends on everyone to pull together as a group. From the front desk to the facility maintenance, everyone shares the responsibility of a smooth running operation and should be willing to jump in and help or cover for others as needed. The use of profanity, anger, and disrespect of others should not be tolerated.

On top of all that, each staff member should be on time, have regular attendance and help maintain a professional attitude no matter how small or large the gym is. As the owner, you are ultimately responsible for all your employees do and say. Because of that it is important that you have regular meetings with each person to review what their job requirements are, to listen and learn about any issues, and to decide if they require more training. Staying close to your employees, watching and listening to them is the best way to preclude negative issues. It is easier to meet with your staff regularly with some positive interaction than to be forced to meet with them only when negative issues are aroused. Your staff need to know that you care about what they are doing, that you are aware of the issues they face, of their needs, and ideas.


D. Conclusion and Assignment: The fitness industry is a service industry. You are selling services to people on a daily basis. Those who work with you to maintain and grow this business must have great people skills before anything else. You can learn how to work the computer, teach the exercise, fix a machine or clean the bathrooms. You can develop skills over time in management, organization, and bookkeeping, but relational competence comes from experience you have growing up.

The attitude and energy, the motivation and problem solving ability, and the kindness and sincerity of an individual has been honed and melded together over time by experience and is difficult to simply teach. The job descriptions will contain many specific jobs and chores for each staff member, but it will also contain some value and ethical requirements that are more difficult to express in specifics. These should be discussed at length with each potential candidate to gain some idea about their feelings in these areas.


1. Make a list of any employees you might need. If you are beginning as a freelancer think of the possible employees, you might need down the line if your job becomes very busy.

2. Make a list of skills the employee will need. Brainstorm, stop and come back to it another day and brainstorm again.

3. Make a list of values, relational and ethical requirements that each staff member needs to support the vision of your work.


Over the next few days or weeks, come back to these and reread what you wrote and make changes as you give it more thought.

P.T. Tips 
Becoming a personal trainer can be an experience that is motivating, exciting, and worth all it takes to do well. Becoming a boss is another matter. In order for you to continue in business for a long time you will need to get creative, think about hiring people who can help you to your goals and look for those who can see your vision. A good boss is one who is honest about the requirements, is flexible, but is also firm in his expectations. Don't placate a candidate for a job by insinuating you are easy about time schedules, that dress codes are relaxed or that the client is not important. The process of hiring staff is a time for you to express your demands for a team of people who are on board with the service standards you will set.