Fitness instructor with client

Don’t Just Hire, Hire Smart – 3 Steps to Success

By Chuck Leve

Have you ever noticed that there seems to be a shortage of highly-qualified, motivating trainers? Not a shortage of trainers, mind you, but a definite scarcity of the type of trainers you want to hire for your studio.

In interviews conducted by the Association of Fitness Studios to its membership base, it was revealed that the second-greatest challenge that arises on a day-to-day basis for studio owners is finding and keeping great talent. 

So, where are they and how can you hire them? 

Start with these three hiring tips for your fitness business:

1. Know Who You’re Looking For

There are lots of different trainers out there. Before you start hiring, know who you’re looking for. Do you want to hire someone the same age as your customers, who works well with all genders? What type of certification are you expecting?

First and foremost, seek trainers who share your vision, your mission, and your philosophy. You almost certainly won’t find these qualities in the first person you interview. As painful as it may be to be understaffed for a while, it’s much more painful to hire poorly.

Also, make sure your business model is set up properly when deciding between employees and independent contractors. Not only do your trainers need to buy into and expand upon your vision, but they also need to create and sustain the positive experiences that clients and members expect. 

This will generate word-of-mouth and referral marketing, and keep your social media humming with positive vibes.

2. Recruit

While recruiting may take time and resources, it’s better than waiting for Mr. or Ms. Perfect Trainer to knock on your door—particularly when you’ve got demand for trainer services that you can’t meet. Recruiting is worth the commitment, especially since the effort is really a commitment to your business.

So, how do you recruit, and how do you make your studio a compelling opportunity for just the right trainers? Here are three quick strategies:

  • Reach out to the certifying organizations you hold in high esteem and post on their job boards. This likely includes ACE, ACSM, NASM, NSCA, and others. Post on their job boards, rent their mailing list, and comment on their blogs.
  • Establish an internship program. Many companies prefer eager, raw talent that they can mold, rather than more experienced, set-in-their-ways candidates.  An internship program connected to certifying organizations or local college/university programs is a good source.
  • Host workshops and seminars. Almost every credible certifying organization holds seminars for continuing education credits and workshops to advance learning opportunities for their professionals. Organizations are always looking for local studios to host these events. If that’s you, you now have the opportunity to meet with some of the most influential trainers in your market, as well as show off your studio! You can’t beat that free recruiting.

3. Be The Employer You’d Want to Work For

Fitness is a people business and trainers deliver the product. As the heart of the business, trainers can create the personalization that differentiates your studio from the competition. So, treat them well. And by well, I mean: does your fitness studio offer perks for employees?

Let’s face it—compensation is almost always a major influencer in a candidate’s mind, so you need to have a fair (tilted toward generous) compensation program in place.  It’s important that the program has clarity and stationary (as opposed to moving) targets for bonuses.

It’s best for your bottom line to take money out of the equation. A well-compensated (and happy) trainer will always outperform the grousing trainer who thinks you’re being cheap.

Lastly, manage your employees (or independent contractors) in a professional, non-demeaning manner. When issues arise, deal with them with a positive, let’s-solve-this-problem approach.

Are you making a common business mistake?

View the guide

About the author:

Chuck Leve

Executive Vice President of Business Development

Association of Fitness Studios (AFS)

Chuck is a 40-year veteran of the fitness industry and proven successful developer of fitness industry associations. Currently, he serves as the Executive Vice President of Business Development for the Association of Fitness Studios (AFS). He's been involved in the creation and development of some of the most successful trade associations in the history of the fitness industry. For more information on AFS, visit

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