Small-Group Personal Training: Why You Should Transition

Episode Summary

In this episode, Rick and Matt explore the post Covid-19 fitness landscape. Small group personal training is the future of personal training. We discuss the best strategies to transition your fitness business from your current model to small group personal training. 

Episode Notes

Covid-19 has brought a lot of disruption. One thing everyone in the fitness business should be prepared for is the changes that will come after the lockdown measures are lifted. The future of fitness is small group personal training. Having a business model that is based on a smaller number of people who are more controllable and more specific and who can social distance is the future. 

We take you through the transitioning process. Whether you are running one on one programs or bigger classes. The transition might be scary at first, but you’ll soon realize the benefits of small group training. You have to convince your clients and coaches why you are making the change. Building systems and programs to help with the transition makes it easier.

If you manage to get your coaches on board with the new model, it will be easier to convince your clients. Coaches have personal relationships with clients and can easily convince them to try out the new small group training model.

Tune in to find out how to go about the transition and all the benefits of small group training. 

Key Takeaways
  • Why you need to transition your fitness business to small group personal training (04:02)
  • Why is much more profitable to run a small class fitness business (5:00)
  • Building systems and programs around small group training (12:35)
  • Benefits of group training and why it is the best model going forwards (20:05)
  • How to convince your coaches and clients to shift from your current model to small group training (23:39)
  • Getting the coaches on board who will then convince the clients about the new model (36:18)
  • Why small groups help you have accountability sessions with your clients to address any specific issues (42:18)
  • How to make your small group training feel like personal training rather than team training (45:12)

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Mentioned in this episode

Matt Helland

Rick Mayo 

Alloy Personal Training Franchise

Small-Group Personal Training: Why You Should Transition

We’re talking about three things. Today, we’re gonna talk about why you should transition to small group Personal Training, how to do it if you’re a one on one training business, and then how to do it if you’re a team training business.

The question everyone has burning right now is what happens when COVID is over? What happens when the restrictions are lifted and people can go back to the gym? Now we don’t have a crystal ball but I will tell you that having a business that is based on a smaller number of people makes it easier to social distance. No one had any idea this was ever going to happen.

There are other reasons why we did it. Look at what the business model needs to look like post COVID. I think if you’re a business that crams a lot of people into a small space, it’s going to be a little bit tougher to come back than it will be if you’re us, which has a max of like 12 in that same space. Now, granted, they’re higher-paying, and these are all things we’ve touched on in another podcast, it’s personal training classes. All of these factors help. However, post-COVID this is gonna be a really good model for people to look at.

We’re going to give you some tactical ways to transition. The other reason why transitioning to a smaller group is beneficial is for your business itself, it can be much more profitable. If you look at a class-based business, the percentage of profit can be pretty high. This is because the labor is relatively low, you’ve got one coach servicing 20 to 30 people. At Alloy, we have a coach servicing six people. That’s about as high as we can go and feel like we can still claim personal training. We tried to for seven, eight, and anything above six, it really makes it hard in our world to make the claim of personal training.

When you look at the profitability of the business, certainly if you’re coming from a one on one setting, it’s much higher if you’re going to a small group. A little bit of our history was a good deal of one on one training. When we transitioned, we were doing (as we’re a lot of people) 30 minute one on one training. We did this because it’s like you’re doing an hour when you first started this course is 92. We were the first people to even offer personal training.

Then we went for 30 minutes. Why do we go to 30 minutes because we couldn’t raise our prices from $50 to $80? Training for an hour but we could go to $40 half hours, right, which would be a reduction, we tweak our programming a little bit. Then we had an $80 hour by default. Well, we moved from that structure to training four people because we were transitioning that business.

When we did, we’d talk more about the rates and stuff in the one on one, but we were able to essentially double our capacity and double our potential profit margin on those same hours. So there’s that. I like it for your business model. I think when you look at the percentage of profit might be higher in a team and keep in mind, we’ve run a high volume team in the past, up to half of our membership at one point was group training. While the percentage of profit was higher, the overall profit was still lower, because the price threshold is lower. We’ve talked at length here about the race to the bottom price-wise for group training models because there’s so many of them. It’s just basic economics supply and demand. 

What’s going to happen? From a business structure, literally, if this was going on or not, obviously, we’ve gone all in there with a franchise, and we’ve done it for a reason. It’s a great business model and is very profitable. Other benefits to the clients would be obvious, they’re going to get more for their money. What we didn’t anticipate was when we transitioned our business from one on one to a small group, one of the things we’re really worried about losing is that personal relationship, because it’s very sticky.

If I just work with my guy, and you’re Matt, you’re my guy and I just work with you every time and you know all my ailments and what I like what I don’t like, my kid’s names, where I went on vacation last week, we have inside jokes, you know all these things. Also, we serve people at such a high level, it’s like don’t get a towel, I’ll get your towel, I’ll get your water, don’t get any of your own weight, you just sit down or you stand here.

As you can imagine there wasn’t a whole lot of ownership of the program. It was also very isolating. To your point, social is one of the things that people would come in and they would hardly know any of the other clients or coaches. Even though we were afraid of these elements being disturbed and wondered how our clients would feel about that what happened was the exact opposite. 

First of all, the coaches didn’t have to carry all the social aspects. Then the clients, instead of it being a detriment to them that they had to fetch their own weights or towel it gave them a little bit of ownership in their own fitness. All of a sudden, we were having all the benefits of team training and group exercise that I’d seen. I’ve been in the industry forever, and you’d always see a group exercise class lead out and then they’d all sit around talk and become really good friends, you know, and there was this social stickiness to it.

All of a sudden we had all the benefits of that coupled with the specificity and scalability of real personal training. It was small enough that we could still keep intimate relationships, we still knew people’s kids’ names and what they were up to, and where they went on vacation and all those things. However, we had a little bit of a professional boundary and all that social sort of support was almost carried within the group itself. 

When the clients carry a little bit of the social right and you can just be what you’re supposed to be, which is a coach having way better professional boundaries, you’re left with more energy in the tank. You have more energy because you’re not having to teach group exercise like a TV star jumping around with a microphone on. You can still stay calculated, you can keep talking not screaming at everyone the whole time. l

We have had 25 -30 people in a group, we’ve done a ton of one on one training for the first 11 years of our business, and then we’ve had all three running at the same time. So the reason that we’ve picked this one and why I think it’s imperative moving forward is that it is the best of all worlds. It’s also the best for your team, which is really important. I mean, look at our retention of our team. And our coaches stay eight 9-10 years too long sometimes. 


I think we’ll start you guys with two questions that you have to answer anytime you’re making a change to the person that’s affected by that change. Why are you doing it? What’s in it for me? 

I open this business to help as many people as possible. We’re limited by selling time to a certain amount of people. We do a lot of partner training. We’ve seen the benefits in that, you know, people might pay a bit less if they’re doing one on one or they get more time if they’re doing 30 minutes. We had to sell our coaches on this first. Because again, they’re the ones that are going to have to have these tough conversations with clients. What you tell them, well, the upside for them as they were going to make a little bit more money. The opportunity and all the other things that developed over time, like more margins and professional boundaries, and we didn’t even really know that. At the time no one was really running true small group personal training. 

It took us a year. Now there are two ways to approach it. Let’s look at the pricing structure a little bit. We talked about the why and what’s in it for me, right? Well, if you’re doing 30 minutes one on one training, the “Why” is through the lens of the client’s program is that there are probably things that you’re not accomplishing in 30 minutes that you could get done if you had a little bit more time. For us, It was like a dynamic warm-up. Meaning better movement quality, because people would come blowing in three minutes late. It’s a 30-minute session. They’re stressed for time, and you’re like, hey, let’s get your warmup in because you’d ask them to get here early and do it right. They’d say something like, “I’m good. I had my seat heaters on. I’m good. Let’s just do this.” From where you are sitting you know they only have 25 minutes. Now you just have to get into it.

It’s not the best way to do it. Certainly with an active aging clientele who needs to be who movement quality is important, right? So, there’s a good dynamic warm-up, there’s probably some extras that they want to be working on that you can’t do, right? There’s maybe some corrective exercises that you want to do because they’re a little bit dinged up again, extra movement quality stuff. Well, none of that can happen in 30 minutes.

Therefore, the value proposition to a 30 minute one on one training client is that you’re going to give them more time essentially right more program that they need and speak to why specifically to them these conversations, by the way, are not good email blasts now are putting on your private Facebook page. These are sit down conversations with clients, right face to face, typically done by the coaches. 

It’s the same money so that’s how we price our 30-minute training is to set your market rate for 30 minutes one on one training. We think we’re charging $40 at the time, so you’re still gonna pay 40 bucks. You’re gonna have to share your time with a couple of other people, but I guarantee you it’s going to be just as good, you’re gonna have more fun. And you’re going to get more for your money. That was the value proposition. Now, if you’re training people in a one on one, one-hour setting, which not as many people are doing, it’s already on a price to have a premium price.

If you’re at $150 – $200 bucks an hour or something, even that doesn’t matter. We were still making more money in a group before. Then when we were in one on one. So if you’re doing one hour, the value proposition is “Hey, you’re gonna get the same program, the same amount of workout and equality and time, you’re just going to pay less for it. One is extra stuff, better programming for the same price. The other one is the same programming for less price and lesser price. 

Coming out of this, you know, virus pandemic, and all the things that we have going on, I think the personal trainer is gonna make a big comeback. If you’re an independent owner, and you have the ability to do this, now’s your chance. Start putting your ducks in a row, reach out to people that you know, we’re doing some small group training, and start to transition your business model now.

When you reopen, bring those team training clients back in so that you can get that revenue up. Maybe you’re training them online now. Start to move towards a personal training model. You’d be in a much better place in the future, certainly with what’s happened. This is how we would do it. We’ve been in business 28 years, we’ve run all of these different layers at high volume. And we’ve settled on the one that we think makes us unique. That’s the best and it’s the differentiator right now, and it’s really the best thing coincidentally, again, coming out of this pandemic.

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