ACSM CPT Chapter 21: Business Basics and Planning
ACSM CPT Chapter 21: Business Basics and Planning

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Chapter Objectives:

  • Discover how you should sell and market your services for training possible clients.
  • Find out how you might price your sessions.
  • Discover how you can maintain the professional standards that protect your business reputation.

The Personal Trainer’s Position

Personal trainers have the ability to work in many different settings.

We also have various modes of compensation in fitness center settings.

Business Concepts

The success of training as a business depends a lot on the factors that affect a lot of other service industries. Long term viability relies greatly on the trainer’s ability to establish and keep repeat business.

Pricing Concepts

The following questions need to be answered:

Who are your buyers? Is the byer using your service, or is their spouse, some significant other, or another person?

How does your buyer decide on the value of what you offer? Is this based upon the effectiveness of your service, the location, the convenience of scheduling, the qualifications of the staff, the capabilities for motivation, the convenience of your processing of credit cards, the prices that your competitor has, or any combination of these. 

What are your objectives for your business when setting the prices? Do you want max profits or max market share?

Who is your competition? What do they offer? What are the prices they use, and who are their customers? Will you be directly competing with these trainers or do they target another clientele?

Is the competitive environment a primary determinant in setting the prices? Would you put them differently if there wasn’t competition? How different would it be?

Who is the main leader for establishing the customer’s perception of value? Do you do it, or does the competition? What is done to your pricing strategy and flexibility?

Managing a Personal training Department

A personal trainer might be asked to manage the training department if they ae in a commercial fitness setting, a corporate wellness setting, or even a nonprofit community recreational center. This would of course add more in terms of organization and managing time.

Hiring Personal Trainers

These are the steps for hiring personal trainers:

Carefully review the resume for their educational background, the certifications they hold, their credentials, the training experience and the type of clientele they have rained, and the innovations they have in their training programs.

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Applicants are wanted to bring copies of their fitness and CPR certifications.

The trainer that is managing needs to make a list of standard questions for asking applicants.

The trainer should make sure the people are available and their schedules work with the center. 

There should be a form of a practical or hands on component for the interview. They should show the right technique for exercises and the proper ways for spotting.

Setting Training standards

Some guidelines for setting the department’s service standards:

Personal trainers need to give their undivided attention to their clients during their sessions. 

The trainer should start the sessions on time and end them on time for the respect of the client.

There needs to be a standard dress code or uniform that the trainer uses. 

The trainer needs to keep the written forms of the workouts done with the clients and any measurements, tests and tracking for performances.

There should be a client confidentially policy in place.

Honesty and scope of practice standards need to be emphasized.

Trainers should keep current certifications in check and valid.

Training and Empowering Personal Trainers

Trainers are encouraged to read, learn, and stay current in the standards and trends that are in the industry. It is a good idea to subscribe to trade journals and other publications for keeping up with the trends. 

Managers should empower the trainers to share training program ideas in their meetings, to help plan and implement new training program approaches like small group training or sport training and share their ideas for increasing clients and sales.

Fitness Management

Some practical guidelines or fitness management:

  • Setting schedules for the available times of training and the managing of responsibilities.
  • Use a time managing system to keep yourself organized.
  • Training exercise specialists and trainers to follow certain procedures that simplify their workload.
  • Handle issues with personnel and problems that arise in a timely manner.
  • Train staff in the processes of providing quality customer service.
  • Explain tasks to other staff and delegate tasks to those they can do them on time. 
  • Take time to lead people by example. Both members and the fitness staff.

Starting a Business

Sole Proprietorship

A sole proprietorship has one person owning the business. This is the simplest and the least expensive model of business, and usually only requires a license form the state or city that you are located.

Personal income tax is paid on the earnings of the business. The two drawbacks here are the capital expense for starting the business, and the personal liability you assume for incurred debt.

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Independent Contractor

Independent contractors give some services for people or their business. A lot of personal trainers do this for fitness and other health facilities. 

The client here will pay the facility for the services and the facility would then pay the trainer. 

These trainers will often work in many locations, set a schedule they like, pay each session at a time, and have some form of control over the format of the sessions and their fees.


A business partnership is made by 2 or more people and is either formed with an informal agreement or some form of a formal written contract that they file with the state or local government. 

These are subject to personal income tax that is based upon the shares of ownership each person has.

These partnerships allow for pooled financial talents and resources.


This is a formal business entity that is subject to laws, regulation, and the stockholder demands. A corporation is a legal entity separate from the owners and the management, and thus they are taxed that way. The profits paid are taxed individually.

S Corporation

The S corporation is a popular small business alternative that combines the advantages of the sole proprietorship, the partnerships, and corporations. The benefits are:

  • Limited risk and exposure for assets that are personal.
  • Yu aren’t taxed double on salary and income from the business.
  • Freed for the partners for distributing dividends.

Limited Liability Company

This is flexible for the small and medium businesses and usually it is more advantageous than the partnerships or S corporations.


Establishing a Budget

Market analyses make the available valuable info useful for making an annual operating budget. For the establishing of a budget, trainers need to consider the following:

  • Estimate the business expenses.
  • Find the right number of training hours for a realistic schedule.
  • Find a dollar charge per session that reaches your ideal income and covers expenses.

Management and Policies

To manage businesses effectively, trainers need to work from a plan for business that includes the business vision, mission statement, business values, and some description of business services, the choice of a model for the business, and the operational policies listing like these:

  • Billing
  • Cancellation policy
  • Late arrival policy
  • Vacation policy
  • Payment methods
  • A check for insufficient funds


A marketing niche is a group of clients that have similar needs and goals.

The following are niche market ideas:

  • Client type
  • Training needs
  • Training location

The ways that your service can be marketed are by:

  • Client referrals
  • Lead boxes
  • Advertising
  • Homeowner association and realtor alliances
  • Direct mail marketing
  • Community involvement 
  • Reputation management
  • Promotional materials
  • Strategic alliances


Step 1: Making Contacts

Get your foot in the door with clients by being seen on the gym floor and greeting people nicely and simply having a conversation.

Step 2: Building Rapport

Trainers need to build trust and have people believe that they can help them to accomplish their goals.

Step 3: Assessing Need

The trainer needs to not talk ad simply listen to the client about their needs.

Step 4: The Tease

This is one way for building trust and showing their value. The trainer will assist in some way while the person is exercising, and this will likely show that they know what they are talking about.

Step 5: Presenting a Winning Proposition

Ask for the sale by showing a solution to their problems through a program or ideas for one.

Step 6: “The Close”

The trainer needs to give the yes and no questions so they can get firm answers.

Step 7: The Fall-Back

This is opening the back door. People who answer no to be a future prospect will still be in the trainers database of contact and personal information so that one day they may become a client.

Step 8: Keep in Mind

Simply let the person keep you in mind as a good option for one day or for someone they know, and this may lead to increasing your clientele in the future.


Some things you should do prior to choosing your pricing are: demographic studies, competitive analysis, consumer surveys, demand projections, financial considerations, focus group information, and consider the four E’s: Education, Experience, Environment, and Expenses.

Business Planning

Budgets are needed for forecasting financial expectations and goals. They also provide accountability, track the progress and projections for results, and they allow the justification and scrutiny. 

It is optimal to enlist the guidance of legal and accounting professionals.

Professional Standards

The code of ethics of the ACSM registered and certified professionals is already established and this is what guides the ethical practice for their personal trainers. 

  • The code is in chapter 1.
ACSM CPT Chapter 21: Business Basics and Planning 1
ACSM CPT Chapter 21: Business Basics and Planning 2
ACSM CPT Chapter 21: Business Basics and Planning 3

Tyler Read

Tyler Read, BSc, CPT. Tyler holds a B.S. in Kinesiology from Sonoma State University and is a certified personal trainer (CPT) with NASM (National Academy of sports medicine), and has over 15 years of experience working as a personal trainer. He is a published author of running start, and a frequent contributing author on Healthline and Eat this, not that.

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