Chantal: It’s an absolute pleasure to welcoming on today’s guest. I’m speaking to Sue Richards, the co-founder of Tribe Team Training. Sue, welcome on to the show.
Sue: Thanks Chantal. Thank you for having me. It’s really, really nice to get together and have this catch up.
Chantal: I am very excited to be talking about this topic, because I know it’s one that is going to be of interest for so many of our club owners, and our managers, out there. Of course we’re going to be talking about five key strategies to maximising club profit with small group training. I thought that that’s probably the small group training pieces are a really good place for us to start the conversation today. Maybe you could share with us your definition of small group training.
Sue: Yeah, absolutely. You know, SGT, or small group training is a hot topic in the market right now. We all know … you know, I remember when we first started working with small group training, or small team training, and I’ll go into a little bit about that shortly. You know, not a lot of people knew about it. It was something that was new to the industry six, seven years ago. What was happening in the industry was people were doing pockets of it whereas now, small group training is everywhere, and all club owners know that it’s something that’s really important that they need to offer as part of their exercise offerings within their club.
Going back to your original question, how do I define small group training, or what are my thoughts about small group training? Look, I feel that small group training sits differently to what I believe in, which is small team training. We can go into more depth about that a little bit later, but I feel that the biggest key thing that we need to talk about is the difference between a group and a team.
We will get into that, but my definitions is very much, what I like to call small team training versus small group training.
Chantal: Now, Sue, in your role in the industry, both with [Tribe Team Training 00:01:49] and as a club owner, what would you say some of those common challenges, that you meet around the industry when it comes to making small group training or small team training profitable?
Sue: Yeah, great question. Because, even though, again, as club owners we all know we need to offer that, that’s great. But, a lot of us are still struggling with that. Like “How do we make this a profitable department?” I think some of the common hurdles that I hear, or again what was born out of our club, and where in my own club owner had on, I’m like, “Gosh I faced all these challenges as well.”
One of the biggest mistakes that was happening in the industry is people were offering small group training within their clubs for a set period of time. They might say “Hey, it’s a six week weight loss programme,” and then that’s it. Or, they might go, “It’s a ten week get fit for summer programme,” and then that’s it. Or, they might call it a boot camp style training, or whatever it is. What clubs are doing, or I find as a hurdle to creating profitability is offering these small little offerings of small group training, but not having any follow up, or any consistency with that.
I see that as being a hurdle to profitability. Another hurdle that I see is that a lot of clubs are very trainer-centric because they might have a fantastic trainer, and we all have great trainers within our clubs, and we might turn that responsibility over to them, and say, “Okay, I want you to put together this really cool small group training for us. We’re going to pay you “x ” amount. We’re going to charge this amount, and let’s do this kind of thing.”
That’s great, because that trainer is going to do a great job, but then what happens if they leave or their circumstances change? So then, clubs again are held back because it’s not extremely scalable, because that trainer for example could only do certain time slots, or could only offer so many sessions per week. We want to able to offer something that’s scalable and that can grow within our club as well.
So, being trainer centric I find is a concern and a hurdle. Another hurdle that I think clubs do is offer equipment centric type training. They might offer, or particularly goal specific, looking at both of those, they might say “Hey, it’s a weight loss style boot camp, or small group training programme.” Whereas that’s clearing out a massive demographic. You know, it’s taking away a whole bunch of people that might necessarily not want weight loss. Or, they might call it a hit stall training boot camp, or a small group training hit stall thing, which is great. But, again, it decreases that opportunity to reach that wider demographic within our clubs.
I feel that there’s quite a few barriers and mistakes that we are making, or that we’ve made, actually I should probably clear about that, that we’ve now overcome, and we’ve made those mistakes, and now clearly see, that, “Oh, actually those were great to try, but now we know better.” So, yeah, those are probably three or four examples of what club owners are probably faced with in day to day operations of their clubs, and finding it maybe hard to create profit within their club.
Chantal: So, I’m imagining right now, that there’s probably a whole lot of club owners and managers who are listening and sitting there, probably nodding their heads, feeling as though they can definitely relate to some of the challenges that you’ve just identified. Let’s flip that and rather than talking about the challenges, let’s actually talk about solutions. You’ve been able to identify five key strategies for maximising club profits through small team training. Can you talk us through those strategies?
Sue: Certainly. Like I said before, Tribe Team Training, or our small team training was born out of challenges and was born out of those concerns that we just talked about. I feel that it’s really important to acknowledge that we all understand that the craze and boutique style offerings is absolutely huge now. As club owners were faced with boutiques on every single corner, I think what we need to take, the positive of that, is that people are prepared to pay for value. The other positive is people are also prepared to feel like they belong. They’ve got that sense of belonging. They’ve got that sense of community and camaraderie. They are prepared to pay more to work in smaller groups, or in my case, smaller teams.
I think as club owners, it’s really important to know and understand that that’s actually okay. Now what we need to do is create a model within our own exercise offerings that sit alongside group exercise and that sits along personal training, but it’s its own stand-alone department. I think if we can really get our heads around that and know that actually, our small group training or small team training doesn’t sit under group X and doesn’t sit under personal training. It’s its own thing. Again, to pre-frame everything we’re about to talk about in terms of strategies, we also need to really talk about the language we use and how we market this differently to the other exercise offerings in our club.
Words that we use. In my opinion, a group exercise instructor is an instructor. Your coach is a small team training coach, and then your personal trainer is a trainer. If we confuse things to our members and say, “Oh, go to this small group training class,” how is that perceived differently to a group exercise class? Or, how is a coach different to a personal trainer to an instructor? I think really understanding that this stand-alone department needs to be unique, it needs to have a family of friends, and we’ll talk about that shortly as well, but also we all need to understand that it sits differently and the language you use must be marketed differently to our members.
That’s the beginning of it all. The first key strategy that I’d recommend on the back of that is really thinking about small group training like we touched on earlier as small team training. Touching on that boutique-style offering that we’re all faced with in our community. To stand out in an overcrowded market, we really need to create value within our own clubs and we need to do that. We know what works is that when people work as a team and work together with the same community of people with the same coach in the same programme in the same days and times, we get a far greater sense of camaraderie, of community, of belonging. We know this because we can liken it to sport or activity. If you were learning music or you were playing tee ball as a kid. I did. You had your practice days and time and then you had the same coach and you had your same teammates. That is the biggest difference to groups. If you’re considering small group training for your club or you’ve got it right now in your club but they’re just classes that are sporadically altered on a schedule, then that could potentially be a massive barrier to increasing profitability within that department. Consider it as teams and not groups. That’s the first strategy.
Chantal: I think that is such an important terminology for us to use, Sue. When I think about the word team versus the word group, team is something that your members want to be a part of. If you think about basic human psychological needs, it’s about that belonging.
Sue: Yeah, that’s right.
Chantal: [crosstalk 00:09:00] naming that and using that terminology just amongst your team members, your staff members, the members within your gym environment that you’re really going to start to trigger that mindset that they are now coming in because they’re part of a team. I think that’s such an important point. That’s our first strategy. Talk us about the second one.
Sue: The second one piggy backs on that a little bit. Again, what we just touched on is thinking about it as a stand-alone department. Really, when we do that, we have to have a strong business model attached to that. It’s having a team business model or a small team training, or in our case, in our club, it’s a Tribe Team Training business model where what happens from point of sale all the way through to when the member’s experiencing and being a part of that team. What does that look like in terms of marketing? What does that look like in terms of communication to our members. What does that look like in terms of our coaching team? What does that look like in terms of scheduling? Then of course, what does that look like for our members?
Looking at it as a stand-alone department and having a really strong business model associated with that will guarantee that it sits differently to group x and personal training. People see different value within that. Then we hit the nail on the head before. All members want to feel like they belong, and ultimately as a club owner, I want my members to feel like they belong. The best member that I’ve got in my club is the member that actually comes to the club. I want them coming. I want them to feel a part of the club. I want them to feel a part of each other and that sense of community. With your business hat on, think about it as a stand-alone and understand that it has to have its own business model associated with it.
Chantal: Sue, that is a massive point for me. I have come across so many clubs that thought, “Yep, I definitely want to implement small group training into my club,” but so often it’s kind of just shelved underneath or as part of the group exercise time table and it’s not given that level of priority that you’ve just talked about. It’s not given the attention as far as creating it as a silo within the business. I think the real key that I’ve observed from that is the difference between clubs that do actually embrace. I’ve seen specific examples through Tribe that do actually embrace the Tribe Team Training model, and embracing that as a business, versus those who just kind of added it as an extra. The difference is huge in profitability, in success, in longevity. There’s so many boxes that are ticked when it’s actually introduced properly into a fitness centre. To me, I know you’ve still got three strategies to go, but I just think that is such a cool case for all of our owners and managers out there who have maybe tried but failed at small group training before.
The question that I would be asking them, which, Sue, you’ve just really posed for us is did you treat the small group training as a stand-alone part of the business, as a silo within the business, or did you introduce it as a bit of a test, we’ll just see how it goes, we’ll kick it around for six weeks and hey, guess what, it didn’t work? I think that’s [inaudible 00:12:25] point, so thank you. We’ve got strategy number one was around the language. Number two was around the business modelling. What’s number three?
Sue: Number three, again, leading beautifully into this, it’s about offering the best available product on the market. You’re right. If it’s trainer-centric, or equipment-centric, or just a random time slot on the schedule, it’s never going to work. What we need to do is look at what’s available on the market and make sure that we provide the best product available out there. We’re strong believers that it has to be a family of brands. It can’t be goal specific. We’ve got to make sure that we cater to all demographics. What we do know is that, and this is through all of our research and club owners will agree with me, five to seven percent of our membership will pay for personal training. There’s a whole whack of people out there that won’t do group exercise. Maybe some clubs are lucky and they’ll get up to 40, 45% of members attending group x.
We’re saying, overall, we’re going, “Okay maybe in a great club we’ve got 50% of our members having some point of contact with our staff other than front of house at any given moment in time.” What’s happening to the other 50%? That was where my question came. The interesting thing is I wanted to make sure that those people that were coming in using the gym floor were drawn into something that go, “Okay, I’m not going to do group x.” We know some of those people just won’t do it, but man they’re attracted to small team training and to what we do.
The interesting thing, and you touched on it before, clubs that do this successfully is it actually ends up growing the other departments. The personal training departments as a result grows. Why? Because small team training, or in our case Tribe here at the club, people are now experiencing the benefit of what it feels like to be coached and then see the value in that and go, “Actually, I will pay for a one-on-one session now once a week,” or, “I will look at getting a trainer to support me even more with these goals because man, I’m getting some great results.”
The other thing is depending on the programme that they’re doing, the coach will sit down and say, “Hey, I love that you’re doing this programme with me. I love that you’re going to see a trainer for some extra support on your strength work,” let’s say. “But look, I really would love for you to attend yoga because I think that’d be a really great way to balance out what we’re doing with our training programme.” All of a sudden those people that refused to do group exercise or refused to do personal training are now all of a sudden doing these other programmes that we offer as well. Offering that through a team training with the best products available on the market will really grow the entire club community and get people … You know, my best members are people, and I do have lots of people, that see personal trainers here, that do Tribe Team Training, and that also attend our group exercise classes. Those are my best members. I want all of my members doing that.
That comes from induction, it comes from point of sale, and it comes from, like we talked about with those first two strategies, having the language, having the stand-alone department, and then knowing hand on heart that our members are receiving the best products available and that they are getting results session after session, season after season. Hand on heart, make sure you have the best product out there.
Chantal: I love that Sue. I love how we’re building all of those points one on top of the other. I think it just makes so much sense in what you’re talking about. I’m intrigued now to hear strategy number four. I think that hopefully what all of our listeners are seeing is the picture coming together as to just how important it is that we really are addressing each of these issues. We’re ticking each of these boxes because really we set out to understand how we can make small group training or small team training profitable. That’s what this is all coming back to. It’s not just about a one hit wonder putting it into the club. We’re talking about what are those elements that we must do in order to lead to that profitability, which is what our end goal is. Talk to us about strategy number four.
Sue: Absolutely. You’ve hit the nail on the head. It is about profitability. Putting those three key strategies in place are super important. Then of course the next one is making sure that the people delivering these programmes for us are absolutely qualified and that they can deliver a great experience, and that they take the best out of personal training and they take the best out of group exercise, and they can really offer a fantastic session season after season and week after week.
I think the biggest thing is and what we’ve achieved with Tribe Team Training is that we’ve developed, we’re the only people right now on the market that have qualified or recognised from all the education providers the training that we do to really educate coaches for small team training. It’s a different skillset. If club owners feel that their personal trainer or their group exercise instructor can come along and coach or teach or whatever language they want to use, small group training, please be aware that it’s not going to be the best out there. We need to make sure that that skill set, or recognise firstly, that that skillset as a coach is completely different, and that once you go through that world class training, now all of a sudden you’ve got these amazing coaches delivering a great product and ensuring that our members are coming time and time again.
That profitability comes from longevity. The longevity comes from great coaching, great environment, and great results. That ties back in to ensuring that the product is world class as well. The fourth strategy is ensure that the quality of coach is qualified in the small group training and making sure that they know and understand the delivery is completely different.
Chantal: Can you explain that to us a little bit more? How is it exactly that … Let’s say Tribe specifically. How is it that you’re training the coaches? How is that delivered? What’s the method of training?
Sue: Great question. We’ve got two methods, one obviously is through modules and face to face. Really to get into the nitty gritty of that and how it sits differently is we want to be able to reproduce an amazing environment that as group instructors we can create. All group instructors are great. They can stand up on stage and go, “Hey, welcome along everybody. Welcome to x, y, zed. It’s a great class lined up for you today. Music on, let’s get started.” Away we go. They’ve got this ability to create environments. They can create peaks and troughs. They use general cuing to get the team going, or in that case, a group going. They don’t specifically have those same one on one skills that a personal trainer will have. With a personal trainer, as you know, this one to one is a very intimate relationship, or very hands on. We’re always looking at the ability to technically adjust and cue people within that one on one session and inspire them to get those results that they’re really after.
The coaching system or the training system that we use embodies the best of both of those worlds and gives those instructors the skill set to be able to know what to look for. We’ve developed what’s called the Tribe coaching system. It’s a simple and effective way to ensure that all of our members get the personal training attention in that small team training environment. That’s a massive skill because to do that, and that’s why the numbers that we saw in our team training sits differently as well. We haven’t touched upon that yet, but through all of our research, we know that eight to ten people is a perfect number for small team training because we can give that quality coaching individually and at the same time create that amazing environment for success.
From a developing a coach perspective, we recommend that obviously they go through the training. They need to become certified and qualified within Tribe Team Training to be able to deliver it. As a club owner, you know hand on heart that the product that you’re getting, going back to that third strategy, there’s coaching tips, there’s objectives, there’s the progression and regression. We know that within our club environment, we can have someone who is, for example, a de-conditioned Debbie all the way through an athletic Adam and the exact same team because our coaches know how to manage that environment, they know how to inspire and cheer that individual technically as well as inspirationally.
Those are massive skill sets that we need to possess as a coach in order to deliver great small team training.
Chantal: Wow. That was an amazing answer. Thank you for diving into that. I think that’s a really important part of it that we understand how that’s delivered, especially for anyone that hasn’t explored this option for their club before and they want to make it a profitable, successful silo within their business. We’ve covered our four strategies. What’s the fifth one?
Sue: Okay. Now it’s looking at, again, that business model but now integrating team training into your sales and marketing plan. What does that look like? How many opportunities, and that was something that we really looked at. What we touched on before, remember how back in the day, and maybe it’s still happening, I see it now as well, where you’ve got that six week weight loss offering or you’ve got that ten week whatever? Incorporating something into your sales and marketing plan is really important to have that consistency along with it. We touched upon that family of brands before as well because your brand becomes quite powerful. We know that through some really strong group fitness brands in the industry. We know that.
With team training as well, it’s important to have a brand that members know, trust, and love, and it also means that they can filter in and out of different programmes. As life progresses, I’ve got some members who absolutely were doing Tribe fit for two years, but then something’s different and their lifestyle is happening, and now they’re doing Tribe life, but then they go back to Tribe punch, and then they come into Tribe fit. They love it because they know the brand, they know the family of brands, and they know the quality of training that they’re going to get with that great coach. Just to tie quickly on that fourth strategy, remember that the coaches love this training as well. As a club, to be able to offer that skillset or to be able to offer that upscaling for coaches is massive because it gives them a higher earning potential as well.
Again, we want our coaches to be successful, because if they’re successful, we’re successful. A happy coach is a busy coach. It all ties in together. Going back to that sales and marketing plan, if we go back to that front of house strategy, what are we doing with our members when they come in the door? There’s so many different induction processes out there with all these different clubs. From that point of sale where I feel that it’s a real basic way. We ask three basic questions. One, do you like training individually with the trainer? Have you done that in the past? Do you like training in small groups or would you prefer training in a smaller group? Fantastic. Here’s our options for you. It’s really once you understand their goals, understand they’re style and environment of training, it’s a real easy way to filter people in to those exercise offerings that you know hand on heart they’re going to achieve great results with.
That fifth strategy, tying that all back together, is what are we doing at point of sale? What are we doing with our marketing? And do members know? That’s the biggest thing, again, tying into the make that stand alone department, have that business model in place, because members need to know that it sits differently to your group x. It sits differently to your personal training. They’re all valuable and they’re all marketed. Are we celebrating the success of people in our small group environment, or, in our case, our small team environment? Are we celebrating those results? Are we celebrating people that come back season after season? What are we doing with our sales and marketing and how are we using that to increase that profitability and that stickability? What I’ve found with some clubs is the minute they stick to that system, they’ll start with a schedule, and then the popularity grows. That’s where your coaches become busier and busier, that’s when the programme grows, and then that’s where it’s scalable because profitability just increases massively.
Chantal: Sue, what I love about everything that you’ve just talked us through in those five key strategies is I feel as though by breaking it down into such clear areas, it makes this achievable and it makes implementing this into our business feel like it’s something that we can absolutely providing we follow the structure that you’ve just talked us through.
Sue: That’s right.
Chantal: One of the things that you did briefly touch on, and I know that many of our listeners will be familiar with Tribe because obviously you’ve been part of the show for a long time, but I think it’s important that we actually do just talk a little bit more about that family of brands. You just mentioned a few of your family members in that last answer, but for anyone that isn’t familiar with Tribe and with that brand of the family of brands that you just talked about, can you just tell us a little bit more about that?
Sue: Certainly. Look, again, it ties into what we first started and talked about. What are those concerns? What are those hurdles? How can I ensure that my members keep coming back time and time again? I don’t want to lose them to those functional studio spaces that are popping up everywhere. I want to have my own stand-alone department, my own functional studio space. That’s the beauty of Tribe Team Training, just quickly, is Tribe can be offered anywhere within the club. Just give us the floor and it can be offered. That’s what is. It’s using equipment that all clubs have.
Really, telling people a little bit about what Tribe Team Training is, it bridges the gap between personal training and group x. It’s all of those things that we just talked about, but more importantly, it gives us the opportunity as a club to offer value to our members so that they feel that they’re getting something that’s specific to them and also gives them the opportunity, like we talked about before, feeling that sense of belonging, feeling that sense of pride, really. I love that our members love being a part of Tribe Team training. Looking at that meant that when we did our original research, what we quickly discovered, and this was a massive Aha moment for us as club owners, was the fact that actually regardless of your ability, your exercise experience, or your age, that doesn’t matter.
What actually matters, and it’s the behavioural psychology behind it, is how you like to be coached and what style of coaching you really like. That’s how we’ve positioned our coaching stall within our family of friends, and all of our programmes, just like in group x, if you said you had a barbell class. Can you tone up? Yes. Can you get fit? Yes. Can you lose weight? Yes. But we’re working around the barbell. It’s a barbell class. Can we do that with a cycling class? Yes. Can you tone up? Can you lose weight? Yes. Can you get fit? Yes. Same thing in mind. All of our programmes can achieve that. Whether it’s a Tribe fit programme, whether it’s Tribe punch, Tribe core, Tribe life, or Tribe kids, we can achieve all of those results with all of those programmes, but how they sit differently is the style of coaching. That’s what’s really exciting for club owners because all of a sudden now at that point of sale, and that ties into that sales and marketing, if we can tap into how people like to be coached, then it doesn’t matter how old they are, what their exercise history is, what experience they’ve got. Again, our coaches are then qualified to coach to that level and that style and to that environment.
I think that’s the biggest thing that we need to understand as well. That’s what makes Tribe Team Training so successful is the fact that we’ve got those different offerings. They can achieve all of those goals, but importantly, they all have a different environment that caters to absolutely everyone within our demographic, within our club. It’s 5 to 95 is our motto. We really want to capture all those people, and we do. It’s really looking at it from that perspective. The other thing is, again, where I’m super passionate about is going back to what we talked about. If you offer it like a class or you offer it as one equipment-centric or results-centric type programme, you’re wiping out a massive demographic. By offering the family of brands, you’re having a whole bunch of people attracted to Tribe Team Training and you’re covering way more people than you normally would with one offering, a weight loss offering or a kettle bell offering or a Swiss ball offering. It’s looking at the whole thing and making sure that we can capture absolutely everyone in the club.
Chantal: That is an amazing explanation, Sue. Thank you so much for that. I just want to touch on, for everyone that is listening at the moment or watching the video at the moment, what we’re going to do is transcribe this interview. We have obviously gone through a huge amount of detail, and I know if I was sitting there as a club owner I would probably be thinking, “Man, I’ve got to rewind this and listen to it all over again.” Of course, yes, you can rewind and listen to it again. You can also go to the show fitness business podcast.com, download a transcript of our conversation today, so you can actually step through those five strategies that Sue’s just taken us through. I think, to finish off with today, Sue, because this has been such a valuable time that we’ve spent together, if someone wants to have a chat to you further, if they want to find out more information about implementing small team training into their business, implementing Tribe Team Training into their business, what’s the best way for them to contact you?
Sue: Just come to us, firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll have a chat. I think the biggest thing for club owners is just, seriously, pick up the phone or call us, you’ll see it on the website, or send us an email and we’ll call you. Because we’ve been there, done that, and are club owners as well, we’ve made all those mistakes and we’re super happy to talk through those with you. I feel that sometimes when I share this information with people, it’s overwhelming. They’re like, “How am I going to do this in my club or chain of clubs?” Leave that to us. We’ll do that for you. It’s all there. It’s a turn-key solution. If you find that you’re doing something on your own and you just want to try a few things and ask a few questions, do that with us as well. We can certainly help out and help you overcome a few of those obstacles. All of us as club owners really do want to ensure that our coaches are happy, that our members are happy, of course, and we talked about that profitability an ensuring that we could always reinvest within our club and ensure that our members stay with us, and that longevity and that stickability of our members. We want our members to stay with us for 10, 12, 15, 30 years. By doing that and by offering this, it does ensure that that happens.
Reach out to us, ask us any questions, but email@example.com is a great place to start.
Chantal: Wonderful. The only thing I’m going to add to that to finish off our conversation today is I have known Tribe Team Training and the team at Tribe for the last couple of years. They have been amazing supporters of the podcast and to me that says so much because it means they support fitness professionals and support ongoing education within the industry. But here’s the thing: I go to a lot of conferences around the world, and I can tell you this. The club owners that actually have Tribe within their clubs will go out of their way to come and tell me just how successful the programme is in their clubs. 100% I cannot tell you, people will come up to me and actually talk to me about it. They’re passionate about it. They’re huge advocates of having Tribe in their clubs, and that’s because it works.
All I would say is as a closing message today, guys, is reach out to Sue to find out more information. Reach out to the team. Reach out to me if you don’t go directly to Sue and I will put you in touch with the guys over at Tribe. Sue, I want to thank you because you’ve given you such a fantastic overview of the importance of putting that structure behind implementing the training into our businesses. As I said earlier, I feel now by breaking it down into those five sections, it makes it easy to consume, it makes it feel achievable, something that we can all introduce into our businesses. Thank you for just breaking it down in such specific detail that it feels comfortable and it definitely feels achievable. Thank you for joining us today.
Sue: Thank you for having me. It’s super exciting times in the industry right now. We can all get this right. It just takes time and energy. It’s been super exciting talking to everybody about this. Thank you.
Chantal: Thanks, Sue.
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