Kyle Davey offers personal training in Salem, OR, as well as performance training, remote strength and conditioning for team sport organizations, performance analysis, consulting, and writing. Kyle has special interests in speed development, injury prevention, and performance analysis. He owns the Salem Personal Training and Speed Academy, where he provides high-level training for athletes and adults alike.
Freelap USA: Where’s the line for you in renting space, buying equipment, etc.? What’s absolutely necessary for training, and what’s a want versus a need when being completely self-funded?
Kyle Davey: The cost of space is often a solopreneur trainer’s biggest expense. Leasing space from an existing gym offers great benefits—not having to purchase equipment is one of the biggest. Starting your own facility requires you to enter into a larger lease and comes with other overhead expenses, like utilities, taxes, higher insurance requirements and premiums, financing of equipment, etc.
For solopreneurs starting a small training business, leasing space from an existing gym is likely the wiser route. Remember: The top line isn’t what matters; it’s the bottom line. In other words, what good does $30,000 monthly revenue do if your monthly expenses are $27,500? Business owners must seek to maximize profit, not revenue.The top line isn’t what matters; it’s the bottom line. Business owners must seek to maximize PROFIT, not REVENUE, says @KD_KyleDavey. Click To Tweet
If you can move beyond the stigma, CrossFit gyms are often excellent places to lease space. They tend to offer classes before work, at noon, and after work, leaving the bulk of the day available for training adult clientele, who usually generate the largest portion of revenue. They also typically have plenty of open space and all the basic equipment someone needs for training (barbells, plates, KBs, bands, and sometimes DBs and select machines).
Furthermore, as many CrossFit gyms are in industrial areas, there is usually space outside to sprint. The parking lots in industrial areas are not high-traffic areas, and if proper safety precautions are taken, you can lead a small or even large group of athletes in sprints outside prior to lifting inside.
Regarding equipment, I would think barbells and plates are the bare minimum requirements for resistance training. You can do anything with a barbell. Dumbbells, kettlebells, bands, and cable machines are nice options to have.
When self-funding, I recommend starting with the basics—a barbell setup—and moving on from there.
If money is not an obstacle, a robotic pulley device like the 1080 Sprint is a great consideration. Resisted sprints are the most popular exercise those devices are known for, but there are many other applications as well, particularly for the general population (where there are many training clients available). VBT and other tech are nice bonuses, providing training value and also a differentiating factor between your business and your competitors. Business is business, and sometimes the flashy, cool, and novel sells. As long as you truly offer a great product behind that marketing, play the game.
Freelap USA: How can you establish a referral relationship with other trainers and their clients?
Kyle Davey: To be clear, I currently lease space and operate my business—the Salem Speed Academy—out of a CrossFit gym in West Salem. Adults who participate in CrossFit often have kids in sports.
A business owner is unlikely to lease space within their own gym to a competitor. Thus, if you have secured a lease within a CrossFit gym, you have effectively communicated the difference in service between sports performance training and large group general fitness to the gym owner. By nature of having a non-competitive relationship with the gym, you position yourself for the CrossFit clients to refer their kids to you for sports performance training—to us, an obviously distinct service from general fitness/CrossFit, but not to the typical person.
Are there common training practices between general fitness and sports performance training? Yes, of course. Namely—strength training. Your athletes will deadlift and squat, and so will general population clients. Some gen pop folks may perform what we’d classify as “power training” as well: box jumps, and maybe even cleans and snatches (especially in a CrossFit box).
The devil is in the details, of course, with load, volume, rest periods, etc., that affect the desired adaptations. Spotting those differences in programming is impossible for someone outside our industry. For the average personal training/CrossFit client, if they saw your athletes deadlifting and box jumping, they would not identify anything different about your training from theirs. Thus, this particular exercise selection provides no impetus for them to refer athletes to you.
But are there distinct types of training that athletes complete that most general population clients do not?
To name a few:
- Sprint technique work
- Neck training
- Soleus training (bent knee calf work)
- Varied jumps (broad jumps, single leg, etc.)
- MB throws
Imagine a 39-year-old man, fit as all get out, walking into a gym and seeing you teaching a group of kids what to do with their arms and legs while sprinting. He’s immediately intrigued because he was never taught how to run as an athlete; he probably wasn’t aware one could even be taught how to run, and he wonders what athletic benefits he missed out on as a result. He overhears you coaching and sees the kids engaged, thinking, and improving.
There is an immediate distinction in service provided, and he recognizes that you’re the person for athletes. He’s thinking about his 14-year-old daughter and his 11-year-old son. They’ve done CrossFit with him before and have likely seen improvements…but they’ve never done what you do.
During his CrossFit class, he peers over every now and then. He sees athletes doing pogos, neck training, foot training, isometrics—whatever it is that you include in your training regimen that most general population clients don’t. He continues seeing how different your services are—further distinguishing your expertise and piquing curiosity and interest.
Without saying a word to this man, you have effectively sold your service to your ideal and likely buyer: an adult (the bill payer) who believes in fitness and training and is willing to pay for it (as evidenced by his own membership to a relatively expensive gym).
Now, all it takes is a friendly attitude, a smile here and there, and an introduction with a firm handshake to earn a little more respect and begin a conversation.
The same process happens with the CrossFit trainers themselves. CrossFit trainers are typically laser-focused on CrossFit and don’t always come from the same path many sports performance coaches come from (general fitness to sports performance, if you didn’t come from the collegiate S&C field). They are often equally intrigued and impressed with what you do and how it differs from what they do.
Likewise, I admit I’ve been impressed with how well the trainers at the gym I lease space from teach complex lifts—like hang snatches—to groups of 20+ adults at a time. CrossFit does get a rap, and some gyms perhaps deserve it, but it happens that the gym I work out of does a great job. Their clients execute movements quite well, and I’ve learned from watching them coach.
Freelap USA: In your experience, what pricing model/structure yields both a high monetary value for the coach and a high retention rate for clients?
Kyle Davey: I’ve worked in models that were session-based and membership-based. In my experience, a membership-based model is superior both for the client and the business. It offers simplicity in pricing and provides a clear expectation from the client and the business owner. The client knows what the bill will be each month, and the business can count on that income when predicting cash flow.A membership-based model is superior both for the client and the business. It offers simplicity in pricing and provides a clear expectation from the client and the business owner, says @KD_KyleDavey. Click To Tweet
I offer a few types of training. A brief description of each:
- Small group training: In my business, this is reserved for athletes and not available for general population adults, but offering classes for general fitness is a great option for other trainers. The programming is general, and I limit the class size. If classes fill, this can be the most profitable type of training you offer.
- Partner training: Custom programming, typically for two people training together. Those two people often know each other—like a married couple or two athletes who are friends or teammates—but occasionally, I pair people together. This is less expensive than one-on-one training for the client but more profitable for me, as each person pays more than 50% of the one-on-one rate.
- One-on-one training: Custom programming, one-on-one sessions.
- Remote training: One dedicated one-on-one session per month, whether in person or remote, with programming supplied.
All billing is done by the month, and the cost varies between training types and the number of sessions per week.
Freelap USA: What other tips do you have for effectively collecting billing?
Kyle Davey: It goes without saying that one needs a method of collecting payments digitally. Cash and check payments are excellent as they avoid credit card and other processing fees, but the vast majority of folks prefer to pay digitally.
Take caution when choosing which payment platform to sign up for. They all have different fees associated. In general, the best (lowest) fee structures I have seen have been in the 2.5%–3% range. If that doesn’t sound like much, wait until you see a couple hundred dollars or more taken from your account to pay this fee. It hurts less if it is taken from each transaction versus one chunk per month, but the math remains the same.
I built my website through the WordPress platform provided by GoDaddy. GoDaddy offers a payment processor, which has worked well for me. The fees are low, and by the nature of operating through WordPress, there are many customizations available.
Other than fees, there are a few key considerations:
- Does that platform save the customer’s payment information for you to charge at will?
- Can you send and track invoices?
- Can you use the platform to charge for other products you may sell, including digital products?
- Will you have to send and track invoices, or does it offer a subscription/automatic charge program?
Expanding on the final point: Consider paying for an automatic payment subscription. This saves you the hassle of having to hunt down your invoices each month and allows your conversations with clients to be 100% focused on building and maintaining rapport rather than asking for money.
Additionally, storing payment information with flexibility is important, as it prevents unnecessary time spent interacting with your clients. For instance, say they are going out of town for a month or dropping to once per week for an in-season training program. Will you have to cancel their current billing and ask them to sign up all over again under a new subscription model, or can you do that legwork for them on the back end?
Those little things matter in customer service and make a big difference. You don’t want it to be a hassle to work with you. Payment is often the most painful part of any service; don’t make it worse than it has to be!
Freelap USA: When it comes to running your own speed clinics, what’s the thought process and logic for putting on that type of event versus traditional regular training? And what methods did you use to market and get 30+ kids registered for your first speed clinic?
Kyle Davey: When I first started doing speed training clinics, I was working full time for a sports rehab physical therapy clinic, where I was half manager and half personal trainer. Offering personal training independently would have been a conflict of interest for the clinic, so instead, I started running one-day speed clinics to scratch my entrepreneurial itch and make extra money.
Thus, the Salem Speed Academy was born.
The speed camps actually generated clients for the traditional training business that was run through the PT clinic. My private clinics were a lead generator for my employer, which worked well. Now, the clinics function as lead generators for my training business.
Aside from business, I’ve found that speed camps are a great way for kids to learn the technical fundamentals of sprinting. Are they experts when they leave a three-hour camp? No, of course not. Are they better than they were before? Yes, almost always.
If I can help kids become a little faster and—more importantly—a little safer and less likely to get hurt via a three-hour speed clinic, that’s a huge win. That money comes my way is another great bonus.If I can help kids become a little faster and—more importantly—a little safer and less likely to get hurt via a three-hour speed clinic, that’s a huge win, says @KD_KyleDavey. Click To Tweet
Lastly, not every athlete has the time or the money to train 2–3 times per week in a traditional setting. Charging a fraction of that cost for a one-day clinic is much more financially feasible for many families. I see work as a public service and an avenue to honor God. I’m happy camps provide a wider range of folks to serve.
On the business end, my primary concerns with hosting a speed clinic were insurance and field rental fees. Standard personal-trainer business insurance—including the NSCA preferred vendor—does not cover one-off events like camps, combines, etc. That insurance typically is restricted to training sessions executed within your facility. Obtaining insurance for events like camps is not an insignificant expense. It eats at the bottom line.
Likewise, field rentals are an additional cost. In my area, the cost of renting a field is actually less than event insurance, but it is still an expense. Going into my first camp, I wasn’t sure how many kids would register. What if not many signed up and revenue hardly exceeded expenses? Or worse—what if expenses exceeded revenue and I actually lost money on the event?
Luckily, I found an avenue to avoid those risks.
I have a great relationship with the directors of the most prominent soccer club in my area. I negotiated a deal with them whereby I used their already-in-place insurance, and the field rental cost would be a fraction of the total revenue for the event. On the technical and formal sides, we did this by making the clinic an official soccer club event, and I was brought in as a contractor, as opposed to this being a Salem Speed Academy event.
This provided a few advantages:
- I did not have to pay for event insurance.
- I would not be upside down on the event, as my fees were simply a percentage of revenue.
- The soccer club was incentivized to promote the deal, as the more kids registered, the more money they made.
Part of this deal was also marketing on their platforms (emailing their list and social media posts). They agreed to do so because they recognized that more registrants meant more revenue for them. This created a win-win situation for them because, rather than the field going unused, it generated revenue for them and provided a cool opportunity for their club members.
I also hustled on Instagram to reach out and connect with kids to invite them to the camp. I had success, but I only did this for the first camp I hosted, as there was a bigger ROI on time for me to leverage paid Facebook marketing and the soccer club’s social and email lists.
I also keep my own email list of parents of athletes. I utilized that list, and I personally reached out to parents of current and former training clients to see if they’d be interested in the camp. All in all, the camp had more than 30 athletes and netted more than $2,000. Subsequent camps have been about the same net revenue, give or take 10%.
Freelap USA: Being in the Pacific Northwest, in combination with the flexibility/freedom of the private sector, what’s the key to navigating inconsistent weather for the entire year?
Kyle Davey: The key is to have an indoor facility and to capitalize on the dry days. During the summers, one can run speed-only training sessions outdoors. I used a local public track to host sessions that focused exclusively on kinematics and sprint workouts. Many of the athletes who came were doing strength training at other gyms nearby, but by focusing on the niche of speed, I was able to work with them. Win-win, because they got the speed work in, and I earned the income.
When it’s cold and wet outside, I focus more on resistance training and do short sprints in the limited indoor space I have available.
Freelap USA: This is an ever-evolving field. What’s your process for your own continuing education and growth when it comes time to “rabbit-hole” and deep dive on a topic of interest?
Kyle Davey: I realize now more than ever that time is money. I have a wife, kids, and businesses, and less time to devote to other ventures than ever before. Thus, I need to be wise with my most valuable resources: time and attention.
In humility and recognition that I am still young, with much to learn, I have been training and diligently studying for more than 10 years. I believe I have acquired the basic knowledge of training that is required and can now focus on niche and specialized topics. If I am to do so, however, I’d like to see one of two lights (ideally both) at the end of the tunnel: an impact on athlete outcomes and a clear financial ROI.If I take the time/money to explore a niche topic, I like to see one of two lights (ideally both) at the end of the tunnel: an impact on athlete outcomes and a clear financial ROI, says @KD_KyleDavey. Click To Tweet
For instance, I’ve come to believe neck training affects concussion risk. I had an obligation to explore that route, feeling it would be negligent to withhold concussion mitigation from my athletes. Developing that knowledge and skill set is time well spent.
When I do dive down the rabbit hole, it often happens before 5:00 a.m. and is guided by a mentor or expert. I learn everything I can, try and find opposing points of view, and then form my own opinion. Often, there is money involved, meaning I’m paying for books, mentorship, or other expenses to acquire knowledge.
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