As Chairman of PTA Global’s Certification Board and Fitness Manager at 24 Hour Fitness, Christopher Ybanez is well known for his strong leadership style. With over 12,000 members and 44,000 workouts a month in his gym, Christopher needs to know there is a culture among his team that places customer experience above all else.
We met with Christopher to find out about the impact his leadership style has had on business and what advice he has for other managers seeking to develop a great culture.
How would you describe the culture you have developed among your personal trainers?
There are three pillars to our culture: business management, communication and exercise science.
1. Business management – as an industry we are brilliant at teaching the science to trainers but we have fallen short on providing the systems and tools to improve their entrepreneurial ability. In our team we have a laser focus on developing their self promotion, sales psychology, and organisational skills. It’s also important they adopt a partnership mindset. This mentality views the successes of the company as a result of their talent and efforts. Therefore, this psychology of business management places an emphasis on autonomy and motivates the trainer to take ownership over their future.
2. Communication – We know there is no “one size fits all” approach to communication, therefore we work diligently in sharpening our ability to coach based on the preferred communication style of each client. This improves the efficacy of our program design and gives us the ability to create remarkable experiences at every member contact.
3. Exercise science – I push a lot of education and it begins with me. I would never ask my team to invest if I were not actively doing it myself.
“As an industry we have fallen short on providing the systems and tools to improve their entrepreneurial ability”
Why is strong leadership so important within the personal training sector?
Unfortunately, there is a high attrition rate of new trainers entering into the industry. This statistic is an alarming 78%. We don’t want that. Our members deserve the highest standard of training and that cannot happen when the personal trainers are constantly changing.
When you suffer from high attrition rates that is the fault of leadership. It either means you’re recruiting the wrong people or you’re failing to create the right learning culture within which they can develop and grow.
What impact did your leadership style have? Did it meet with any resistance?
When I first took over as fitness manager there were 17 personal trainers. Within 6 months that had fallen to just 9. You can’t be afraid of losing people. It’s far better to have a small team of trainers that fit your values than a large team of trainers of varying quality. The 9 we had left were the right ones We are now up to 18 and are yet to lose a single one of them.
The impact on revenue was also considerable as the trainers become so much more focused on business development and client experience. In the first year we had a YoY growth in 2014 from $720k to $1.075 million, which is a 41% growth in trainer revenue alone.
“You can’t be afraid of losing people. It’s far better to have a small team of trainers that fit your values than a large team of varying quality.”
If you could give three pieces of advice around leadership in personal training, what would they be?
1. Step back – There’s a temptation to want to spend a large part of your own time training, but the impact you can have by influencing the culture and the development of the trainers is so much greater. You have to stay focused on the bigger picture.
2. Recruit well – Your recruitment decisions are the most important decisions you will ever make, so don’t rush them. The efficacy of good leadership is heavily predicated on the team who did not have to be sold to but rather believe in the vision. Also, ensure that you get the input of other members of the team as it helps to ensure that potential candidates will have a positive influence on the business, team culture, and member experience. It also shows that every person is an integral piece to our fitness culture.
3. Employ the Kaizen model – It is our responsibility to make ourselves the best option for our client therefore we have to be a fanatical about continuous personal and professional development!
And what are the three main attributes you look for during the recruitment process?
My recruitment philosophy all stems from Bobby Cappucio’s book, Winning The Talent War, in which he explains that to build the right culture you need to look at your best trainers and identify the common skills and attributes that they share. At 24 Hour Fitness I have found three things:
“Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care”
1. Humility – Is the person coachable? We want confidence but arrogance is a barrier to learning. If the trainer thinks that they already know it all then you can be sure that they won’t fit with your Kaizen model.
2. Ambition – What are their long term goals? If our trainers are to really buy into the idea of continuous improvement then they need to have an innate drive and determination to be the best.
3. Social skills – Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care. We are in the people market place, therefore the focus is always centered around the service and unselfishly sharing information to improve peoples lives. This abundance mindset builds the value and with the value comes the revenue growth your business is looking for.