by Darrell Ross, firstname.lastname@example.org
I still remember when Vancouver fitness trainer Ted Loo officially appeared on my radar screen. He sent me a thank you card right after I had done something simple for a group that he belonged to. What was cool about the card: the image was a caricature of Ted. What left lasting impact: that he bothered to send it at all. That one simple act set Ted apart from every other fitness trainer I’d ever met, and about 98 per cent of all businesspeople!
Ted started his fitness training business to combine three passions. One is his desire to be fit himself and to have others experience fitness in their lives. Two, to work directly with a variety of people. Three, to satisfy his desire to be an entrepreneur.
For years, Ted had worked for other people. He’d reached a point in his life where he decided he’d be more fulfilled working for himself, at his passion. As with many successful entrepreneurs, his business background proved to be a solid foundation that he was able to work from. Ted had started in McDonald’s management at 18, worked in hotel management, and then became a computer animator and eventually a computer animation instructor.
During this time Ted also worked out consistently – for 19 years, as a matter of fact. He hired a personal trainer, because as a busy professional, he felt that he needed the extra attention to get him to his desired level of fitness. Then, while Ted was on a computer animation contract in Dallas, Texas for a year, other co-workers also training in the gym he frequented approached him for help with their own training programs. Ted’s trainer had already mentioned that he should consider entering the business himself, as he had as much technical skill as many others, plus the necessary people skills.
Ted started casually, working with clients 16 sessions per week, 10 of them overflow from other trainers. This was the most stressful time in his business, as it was certainly not the same kind of income that he had been accustomed to as an animator. However, being methodical, he spent time observing other successful trainers and worked on crafting his own style and business model. Ted also credits resources from a business development centre as having been useful in those early days.
Within a short period of time, Ted saw his business grow more than five hundred per cent a feat he achieved by focusing on a few key areas. The first was his customers. He made sure to listen to their needs, put major attention on building a relationship with them, and geared his practice to busy professionals. Ted says, “Being a businessperson myself means I get it – people want to get rid of their stress, get more energy, be healthy, and do it so that it works into their hectic schedule.”
Next, Ted believes in a variety of marketing approaches. He’s used radio, the Internet, speaking engagements, strategic alliances – and with these he’s been open to being creative, to always try to find a win-win. Most successful for Ted has been word-of-mouth in various forms. He relies heavily on networking and strives to be a connector. This concept from one of his favourite books, Never Eat Alone, which preaches not only doing what you can for others, but connecting people to people who can help each other. Ted also belongs to BNI (Business Network International), an organization that exists to help business professionals increase their referrals. Ted credits BNI with 38 per cent of his current business.
Ted emphasizes that he has a system in place to generate referrals from his clients. Each one receives a welcome package, which includes a letter indicating how privileged he feels to be able to work with them. The letter also assures the client that they will be so impressed with their progress that they will want to tell everyone they know. Thus the seed is planted that they will be encouraged to refer others. After another period of time, the client is asked to give Ted a testimonial. Then, later, if they are comfortable, they will refer three people who they would like to see enjoy similar results.
Ted adds, “In my industry, my clients become walking billboards, so I tell them what to say when their friends comment on how great they look. They can say, ‘Well, I’m working with this great personal trainer .’”
With all the marketing he does, Ted stresses that he tests and re-tests. He won’t waste his resources on something that doesn’t work, and won’t put all his eggs in one basket until the strategy is proven.
The challenge that Ted now faces is how to take the success he has achieved as a trainer and parlay that into a larger company with several trainers that still stays true to his ideals. He already has one full-time employee and is looking to bring on another soon. Like many of us, Ted struggles a bit with being able to delegate and trust others with some of the details that he has become used to attending to himself. Yet he also has a vision to be able to help more people attain their fitness goals, and knows that in order to help more people, his company will have to grow.
When asked to relate a short story, Ted responded with the following. “I have a client who decided that for his 50th birthday he wanted to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. The only problem was that when he first came in to see us he could only run on the treadmill for a minute-and-a-half at a time. After working together for exactly one year, he climbed Kilimanjaro and then went snorkeling for a week.”
Ted Loo reminds us that success in business is helping our clients achieve their goals, often one client at a time.
- From the moment you meet them, treat your customers like gold.
- Teach your network “how” to refer to you.
- Acknowledge the people around you and follow up.
- Be a connector – helping others with win-win relationships
- Grow and strengthen the team around you.
- Systems, systems, systems = consistency and quality
- Test, test and re-test marketing ideas.
- Grow your business by helping others.
- Lead by example. People are always watching you whether they are clients,
staff, peers or prospects.
Books that Ted Loo recommends:
- E-Myth , by Michael Gerber
- Ultimate Marketing Plan , by Dan Kennedy
- Never Eat Alone , by Keith Ferrazzi
Article written by Darrell Ross, Executive Director of BNI (Business Network International) for British Columbia. Darrell is a contributing author to two best selling books: Masters of Networking and Masters of Success . He also speaks professionally on networking, personality styles, and sales. Contact Darrell at email@example.com or 1-800-365-2276 .
Reprinted with permission from www.SOHOBusinessReport.com, helping small office home office entrepreneurs succeed since 1989. Don’t have time to pick up a copy on newsstands? Just visit the website for access to articles, tools and resources to help launch your dream.