FBA 54: 5 tips for recruiting and retaining industry-leading coaches and instructors

Jack goes through his top 5 tips for how to attract, hire and retain coaches and instructors that will lead the industry.

In our industry it’s important we have the right people, so this episode is a must for anyone who works with or hires coaches.

In this episode we cover:

  1. Make the hiring process tough
  2. See them in action
  3. Show staff you really care
  4. Use your vision and mission to inspire and retain
  5. Don’t let any coach become bigger than your brand









My name is Jack Thomas and welcome to the Fitness Business Asia podcast

First up, a big shout out to everyone who was at the FIT Summit in Hong Kong.

I made some great connections and had some top conversations, it really was a great time all round, and it was also a pleasure to host our panel on successful SMEs in Asia.

One of the panelists was Danny Yeung of Asia’s top genetic testing company, Prenetics, and Danny was interviewed last week in what was one of my favourite episodes so far. If you haven’t heard that, go back to episode 53 to check it out.

Next year’s FIT Summit in Singapore will be huge and they are offering tickets at a super early bird rate of 500USD so if you’re thinking of coming I highly recommend you go to their site and get your ticket now.

Now for today’s podcast we are talking about attracting and retaining your top coaching talent. We are specifically looking at coaches and instructors here, some of the principals will be the same for front of house, managers and the like, but coaches are a bit of different breed so they get their own dedicated podcast episode.

OK, today we’re going through my top five tips and number 1 is:

Make it as hard as possible to join your company. A little trick that’s used by Alex De Fina of Pherform in Hong Kong is to have instructors send through a 30 second video of themselves talking about themselves and why they want to join Pherform.

I love this for two reasons – one, It helps you see their personality and how they come across, which is essential in our industry.

Two, creating a little barrier like this shows who’s serious and who’s not. I think you can safely argue that anyone who’s put off by having to record a 30 second video doesn’t really want it that badly.

At BASE, we want people who want to be with us, so anything we can do to make the process a little harder helps us to wean out those who don’t really want it. There’s plenty of studios that make it very easy to join, and they will probably be better suited to them.

Funnily enough, even just asking for a full up to date resume and cover letter stating why they’d like to work for BASE is often enough to put people off. Some applicants literally can’t even be bothered to put that together so we know straight away they won’t be a good fit.

So in summary – make it hard to join by creating little barriers that help you better know them, but also help you see if they’re willing to work a little for the opportunity to work at your studio

Tip number 2 – always do a trial training session with potential applicants. Have them train you, or a coach or a client and give them comprehensive feedback on their session afterwards.

This is important for two reasons – one, you get to see them train which is absolutely pivotal, of course, in a coaching role. You need to see how they coach, cue, connect with clients and everything else. Will they be a fit for your company’s coaching style – of course you need to know that.

Secondly, how do they receive feedback on their session. For us, we need to know they’re open to feedback and constructive criticism. Give well thought out constructive feedback on the session and see how they take it. In my experience, those who have got defensive or uncomfortable have generally not worked out, and those who have been open have usually worked out great. We even have it as a stated company value that two-way feedback and communication is an integral part of being at BASE.

Summary – a trial training session to see how they coach and how they receive feedback should play a huge part in your recruitment decision.

Tip number 3 – this is more on retention of great staff and a principal that I try to live by in management and that is: make your staff feel as though you’ve got their best interests and their personal development at heart. Make them feel like you really care about them as people over numbers and they’ll be inclined to stay.

Now the only way to do this really is to actually feel it, live it and believe it. The development of my team is one of my biggest and most powerful drivers. I love nothing more than seeing coaches grow and develop and I think that’s helped us retain such great coaches.

If you care more about numbers than staff then if another opportunity comes along for them they might not think so hard about leaving. Not to say the numbers don’t matter – far from it – but if your staff feel as though their manager or the company owner is truly invested in them, they will want to stay.

Tip number 4 – have a strong vision and mission for the company that the team buy into. If your coaches are simply churning through the hours to make money then if another company offers them more money, they might switch.

If your team buys into the company’s vision and mission then it becomes about more than money. Part of our vision at BASE is to use technology and data to change the way people train and we’re excited for how we’re seeing that help our clients train harder and more regularly. We, as a team, are pumped and excited to be creating and developing this and we’re also pumped and excited for the impact it can have on people’s lives. Bringing this vision into life is not my project, it’s our project, and creates an environment that everyone feels proud to be a part of. I want to help create an environment so great, special and inspiring that no one would want to leave.

If you’re trying to build a lifestyle business that allows you to go and live by the beach, it may be harder to inspire your team in this way. You may need to rely more on money to retain your staff, which is great until someone comes along and offers a little more

Think about your vision and mission and how much the team are on board with that. If it inspires them, they won’t want to leave. Especially the younger generation who need some meaning in their work.

Finally, tip number 5 – don’t let anyone become bigger than your brand.

We’ve all experienced it or seen it – the superstar trainer bringing in big numbers for their classes. Over time, if it’s not managed well, the coach starts to think they’re bigger than the company. It’s easy to understand why – they might be the most popular coach, their classes might be the busiest. They might have friends telling them that they’re the best.

Things can start to get bad if one of two things happen – one, they believe their own hype and start thinking they’re bigger or better than the business. Secondly, you start to treat them differently and give them preferential treatment because you’ve started to believe they’re bigger or better than the business.

If both of things happen then they probably will become bigger than the business, and that’s a disaster for you and everyone else at the company.

No one person is bigger than your brand, and that includes yourself if you’ve built a well rounded and strong fitness business.

This a big topic that probably deserves its own podcast but in summary – treat everyone equally, don’t pander to your superstar’s every whim and needs and develop a culture of team players building each other up rather than individual superstars competing against each other.

I would argue that the day you start compromise your personal and company values to appease a high performing coach is the beginning of the end for your business.

OK – quick summary on the 5 tips.

For more on recruitment – check out episode number 2 of the Fitness Business Asia podcast.

I hope you enjoyed this episode – if you did please do leave us a review or send us a message, it’s always a pleasure to read them!

In the meantime, have a great week and we’ll catch you next Monday on the Fitness Business Asia podcast.


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