Last updated September 1, 2023
The past few years have taught health coaches and exercise professionals that innovation is vital to long-term success in the fitness industry. The COVID-19 pandemic was a scary time for countless reasons, and the sudden loss of income was certainly among them for a lot of professionals. Those who continued to thrive in that constantly shifting landscape were able to evaluate their offerings and be innovative in finding new fitness business ideas and creative ways to continue serving their clients and participants—and even reach new ones.
Today, potential clients and class participants have a lot of options, from the reopened fitness facilities to the online sessions and classes that many pros found success with and continue to offer. While many of your current customers will likely continue to be loyal to the tried-and-true relationship you’ve worked so hard to build and maintain, it is in your best interest to honestly evaluate yourself and your business and find ways to innovate.
Stated simply, consistent innovation is the secret to success. But if you’re like many people, you suffer from innovation intimidation. Many pros equate innovation with massive change, which sounds significant, scary and challenging as a solopreneur or small business owner. While it’s true that innovation may lead to change, it’s better to lean into the natural changes that will (and should) occur and manage them proactively.
Innovation, by definition, involves a new idea, method or device—it’s a novelty. But it is a misconception that coming up with this innovation requires genius, a long stint of solitude free of devices in a secluded cabin or tons of investment money to try something new. There is a simple model to make constant innovation a reality, and the steps outlined below will help you focus on allocating your energy, time and resources to stay relevant throughout a long and fulfilling career.
The following are three activities to prioritize if you are to be truly innovative. Each is equally important, and while you don’t need to do them all weekly, or even monthly, you can start allotting time to regularly viewing your business through the lens of innovation—whether you offer in-person workouts or run an online fitness business.
Part of innovation is continuing to tweak what you offer. Based on client or participant feedback, trends in the industry or self-identified gaps in what you currently offer, gradually take what you’re doing and make it better. Iteration ought to be a constant in your business. Keep track of what’s working and any ideas you have for upgrading, evolving or otherwise improving what you do, and make a plan to put those ideas into action. Continuing education can help in this area of innovation.
Discontinuing parts of your business is often an overlooked part of innovation. Continually look at what you’re doing and evaluate what’s not working, providing a good return on your investment (whether that be an emotional, financial or time investment) or producing the results you want. Then—here’s the hard part—get rid of it. This may not always be a product; it could also be a process, system, marketing plan or weekly to-do item that’s been on your list for far too long. Removing things is the hardest part and it’s natural to struggle with it. But streamlining your business makes space for iteration and generation.
Finally, you will, at some point, need to create something totally new—not just a new program or package (this is iteration), but a new way of approaching your business. This is not something that happens in a quarter or even a year. Generation can take multiple years, but getting started now is essential if you are going to make it a reality.
Suppose you constantly engage in iterating and eliminating, keep your finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the industry beyond your geographic area and pay attention to the world in general. In that case, you will start to think bigger (you probably already do this). Instead of stressing yourself out and putting pressure on yourself to capitalize now, you start experimenting with the new. You formulate a hypothesis, put a small experiment out into the world and see what you get back. If it works, do it again. If it doesn’t work, adjust one variable at a time and see how it goes. Before you know it, you’ll be moving in the direction of a big breakthrough.
None of this is possible if you don’t make the time to work on your fitness business, not just in your business. None of the three innovation ingredients will happen magically between clients or classes, and they require dedicated time to do the deep work—thought, reflection, contemplation and action. Creating a personal productivity plan will help you prioritize consistently engaging in iteration and elimination, making the generation possible.
If you are an ACE Certified Professional, be sure to take advantage of ACE Pro Compass, where you will see an unprecedented suite of career-support tools and resources to help you chart a personalized career path in the fitness or coaching industry.?