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By Eric Said - Leader of Learning
on Thursday, 22 December 2016
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Service Design Thinking for your Fitness Business

Creating a service that best meets the needs of your clients requires a great deal of strategic design, collaboration, trial and error, and a leap of faith.

The first and foremost position to start with when developing your fitness business or re-designing your current business is to ask 5 whys?

  1. Why would a client require your services?
  2. Why are you selling?
  3. Why do you put in the hours to make your fitness business work?
  4. Why are you unique in the market?
  5. Why do you really, really, really want this for your business?


Plan, Plan, and plan some more.  Time is the only expense when you continuously plan.  Planning can open up Pandora’s box but it helps you define what key themes you wish to pursue within your fitness business.

You must listen to the clients you attract.  When I first entered the fitness industry I was convinced I would train clients 25 to 35 years of age who want to look good and feel great.  Well, how wrong was I.  My age, life cycle, training background, education and social networks attracted clients on average aged 50 who have the disposable income, children who are now independent, and their GP simply told them its now or never to get their health back in check before real chronic issues develop.  I was required to pivot my original fitness business plan and objectives to respond to the needs of the market and the clients I attracted.

When creating a design process for this unique clientele cluster, my exercise prescription was modified to address chronic disease, acknowledge and train around past sporting injuries and become a good listener to support clients who were at an age where their parents were facing issues of morbidity and therefore required the care and attention of my clients, which posed many issues of time restraints, financial stress, and the need to focus on their own families while be at the service of others.

This is when your fitness business moves away from product driven of creating exercise programs to create an output of weight loss, and moves towards a social design platform that nurtures and supports clients through fitness.  This then becomes the 1st WHY of the fitness business.

Developing the social paradigm of each client allowed myself to create a fitness business that was solely designed to meet their individual needs.  The best way to do this is to speak to your clients and ask them what does a typical day look like and where does fitness or exercise fit in this.  It is here that you realise that people are so time poor and you are supporting their lifestyle through time-add strategies.  This is a 2nd WHY.

In developing a social design strategy for your clients you will soon discover that there are key signs and symptoms that can make or break their commitment to turning up to training with you.  We can call this the fitness businesses critical wellness instrument.  What this means is that there are critical aspects of each of your clients’ social context that will affect whether they turn up to train.  For example, one client may not turn up to train with you when they have to stay back at work.  Another client may not train when they have a doctor’s appointment, and another client may not train when it’s raining and you train that client outdoors.  This does not seem like much to be concerned about but collectively they all affect whether your clients cancel or commit to their appointment with you.  They each form part of the social paradigm of your business and affect whether it thrives or flounders.  Therefore it is important for you to design a strategy that creates alternatives to make your clients feel that they are supported even in the presence of life’s pressures. This is a 3rd WHY.

When does a fitness business know whether to pivot or persevere?  It may be difficult to accept but all businesses are destined to fail unless they have the tenacity to know when to pivot at the right time to keep up-to-date and become innovators within your field.  Service design thinkers are programmed to continually challenge the status quo and find solutions to new and arising problems that arise within developing societies.  The simplest behaviours that you have done every day for many years can be tweaked ever-so-slightly to improve the design of your fitness business.

For example, I weighed my clients once weekly and recorded their results.  It took me some time to realise that the social paradigm of my clientele did not feel comfortable weighing in.  They were focussed on health, well-being and mobility through exercise to know whether they are improving or not.  They all knew that they will be weighed-in next time they visit their GP.  This awareness created an extra 10 minutes of training without the added angst of the dreaded weigh-in. All in all a win-win for the trainer and clients.  A fourth dimension to WHY we are selling?

Service design thinking does not always need elaborate, complex changes to the way you run your fitness business.  They are usually cost effective and authentically designed to support clients and bring them to the forefront of service.

And finally you must ask yourself WHY are you in business?  What is the lifetime value (LTV) that you can provide to your clients AND NOT what they provide to you.  You have a corporate social responsibility to provide for your clients, as well as for the families and friends that they interact with.  This is when your fitness business accepts its why in creating a social ecosystem for health and wellness through the services you have designed and offer.

When designing your fitness business or re-designing or pivoting your current business, ask yourself the 5 Whys and consider the social design of the services you offer with your client’s needs first and foremost in mind.