Dr. Erin Nitschke by Dr. Erin Nitschke

As health and fitness professionals, we wear many hats. We are coaches, educators, sounding boards, confidants and experts in our respective fields and specialties. It can become exhausting to be everything to every client and to fulfill each expected role with excellence and energy. Even more challenging is accomplishing all that while remaining within your scope of practice.

To successfully manage these varied expectations and roles requires thinking beyond your own skill set and asking what types of other professionals you need in your network to not only help you better serve your clients, but to elevate your own level of performance. It’s important to remember that the benefits of establishing a quality referral network are both numerous and powerful, and transcend the most obvious benefit—increasing the number of potential clients you serve.

Fostering a robust referral network offers many benefits, such as: 

Elevating a professional profile.

Referral networks offer great marketing opportunities. By establishing a variety of connections, you will have several professionals willing to promote and support your efforts.   

Reducing liability.

While you have a long list of skills, there are certain services that fall outside of your scope of practice. This is where a strong referral network can bridge the gap. Imagine, for example, you have a client who is complaining of an injury. If you have a physical therapist or athletic trainer within your network of professional contacts, you can refer that client to someone who possesses the skill set to effectively examine and treat a suspected injury. This allows you to remain within your established scope of practice.

Making new connections.

It’s important in any business or professional pursuit to establish connections in the community. These connections can serve as information resources and business partnerships, and as an avenue to influential individuals who may be able to provide you with advice and mentoring opportunities.

New/expanded prospects.

A referral network offers “outside the box” business opportunities. It may mean a discounted ticket to a relevant conference or community outreach//educational endeavor. Consider partnering with a local registered dietitian to offer a four-week healthy eating class for underserved populations. Or explore the feasibility of partnering with a physical therapist to craft “after therapy” transitional exercise programming for graduating patients. The possibilities are endless. It just takes some creativity and conversation with members of your network.


It’s safe to assume that each person within your referral circle has his or her own network, and the services you offer as a health and fitness professional may be enticing to another individual within your contacts’ networks. You refer clients to those in your network for services you can’t provide and, in turn, they send potential clients to you.

A professional reference pool.

Today, most people don’t tend to stay in the same job for years on end, especially when starting a career. Establishing a solid network provides you with a long list of professional references should you decide to pursue a new endeavor.


The professional connections you cultivate and nurture may evolve into lasting friendships. Success is not meant to be a lonely journey—who better to travel it with than the friends you make along the way?

As much as a referral network is intended to work with you by providing outside resources to help you better serve your clients, it is also meant to work for you—to elevate, support and promote your professional services. Establishing a referral network is a critical step in starting a successful business—it takes time and effort to build quality relationships with professionals outside of your health club or gym. These relationships, like the ones you develop with your clients, require an honest investment; invest wisely and continuously to cultivate success.

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