Big Pilates

The rise of Big business has been quickly devouring our urban landscapes and rural terrains.

Its everywhere these days. Gone are the days of getting your coffee from someone who actually knows your name and doesn’t have to ask it just so they can write it on your cup. Pretty much every city in the US is being bombarded by chains. Consumers are being conditioned to follow familiar branding and corporations are cleaning up because of it. No surprise then that Big Business has now come to Pilates.

Corporations have caught on to what we as instructors have known all along- Pilates works and people will pay for those results. We are seeing the rise of gym Pilates programs/certifications as well as dedicated Pilates chains. I’m sure Joe would be happy that Pilates’ popularity is booming but how does this effect what’s nearest and dearest to our hearts- our own Pilates careers?

Throughout my 15+ year Pilates career I have worked in every teaching situation there is. Small studios, big studios, gyms, to opening a studio for myself. The challenges studio owners have grown accustomed to in our industry are being replaced. Where there were once three studios, you can now find ten. Baby instructors are being “born” in certifications every day. I can see the industry has evolved tremendously since I started. With the rise of competition comes the need to stand out in a crowded marketplace, as well as finding and keeping talented instructors in your studio. The private instructor now has almost too many options of where to hang their teaching hat. Work at the studio down the street, for the man, or for work yourself? How do you choose?

In my Pilates NYC studio we have disrupted the industry norms. At FORM we empower teachers to run their own business without the necessity of brick and mortar. While I get lots of teachers applying to become part of the Co-Op, most of my candidates are disgruntled workers from said Big Business chains. Not all teachers are born for the entrepreneurial life which requires much more than just what happens on the mat. What was tolerable for those newborn teachers has become a burden for the seasoned instructor. Teachers with a few years under their belt are now finding that corporate culture can get old, and fast. Not only must you adhere to company policies and procedures, you can work for years in a joint with nothing to show for it other than a line on your resume. As a result of years of resentment, indignant Pilates pros are opting for  “micro” one room studios for themselves and dedicated clientele. One room, with your type of equipment, decorated as you wish, just you and your clients. Sounds like heaven right? But is it?

While owning your own studio may be the Pilates American Dream, it’s just not profitable or recommended for most. Not only do you and your clients feel isolated from the world, instructors start to feel lonely and uninspired when teaching from their solo space. Working dollar for hour, your sessions and clients are your primary income, which could become problematic in time. What happens when you get sick or can’t make it in to teach? I’ll tell you what…NOTHING because you are the only one bringing home the bacon. Teachers who make the break from working for someone else are realizing the value of “owning” their own client list and being their own boss. However, with Pilates popularity booming, chances are you’ll have a hard time finding someone to sub your clients while you are away. That means no vacay and still rent to pay. When your space is tiny how do you leverage your off times? No one wants to rent a space solely during off peak ours. So what’s the solution? Time to pick a side.

I know it may sound like I’m bemoaning Pilates Big Biz, but it can have it’s place. Infusing cash into increasingly expensive brick and mortar operations, Corporate Pilates creates jobs and opportunities where there may not have been any before. Having health insurance and a 401 K are nothing to sneeze at. The key to finding your stride is to feel like you’re being validated and respected wherever you make people sweat. So, if you don’t want to work for the man and opening your own mini studio isn’t sustainable…what’s left?

The FORM Pilates Co-Op

FORM Pilates is where studio meets autonomy. As an instructor, I structured FORM as a place that is serious about Pilates. Fully equipped and manned with friendly and helpful staff, both you and your clients feel like they are getting the experience of a Big Business studio with your own personalization of style and Pilates philosophy. Instructors at FORM can charge what they want and take home 70% of clients fees, but most importantly they own their client list, and THAT is priceless. FORM also offers the business education you’ll need to get more clients, diversify your revenue streams, and do things your way.

Interested in becoming a member of our Co-Op?
Click here for a short application!

How to Survive the Downtime Blues

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You know it. You were taught it. You have experience in what correct Pilates posture is and how to keep yourself upright even in the most trying of times. This is the mark of a true Pilates instructor, but who trained you to know how to keep your business upright when it things start to slump? Like many other industries, the Pilates business has it’s peak and off seasons. The summer holiday hits and suddenly you find even your most loyal clients will have their eyes focused on vacation and their tan lines, rather than their powerhouses. So, what’s a dedicated instructor to do when her pocket book has tumbleweeds and she’s searching in the couch cushions for change? Plan baby, plan.

I’m a huge proponent of being in the moment, but if you only focus on your marketing and cash flow in the moment, you’ll be playing a nasty game of catch up during your busy times just to keep your business afloat. It’s time to be proactive and not reactive and turn your summer blues into summertime bliss…here’s how:

Get Analytical with it. Keeping track of how your business is doing- which month’s are the busiest or slowest, which packages sell better, etc. This is invaluable info. You’ll need to know as much as you can to make smart decisions on how to bump up your sales during the sluggish times. MindBody software has reports built in. If you use Quickbooks to keep track of your books, they have reports you can draw up as well, or maybe you’re just starting out and doing things the old school way. Either way- create a spreadsheet (either on your computer or paper). List the months, your sales, what you sold, and who to. This way you can see how things ebb and flow during the year and what offerings are selling and which aren’t.

Draw up a marketing blueprint. Once you have all the data it’s time to plan. We’re halfway through the year, so this downtime is a great to make your marketing blueprint for your second part of 2014. Take the data you collected and then figure out which months you need to up your regular marketing practices. The key here is to have a plan in place before it’s dead in the studio. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Hanukah are  almost upon us and you don’t want to be singing the holiday blues too. Plan for the next slump now, waiting will be too late.

Get your juices flowing. Ok, creative time here. I encourage you to think outside of the box. Yes, giving a percentage off your packages is an idea, it’s just not a very good one. During the holidays everyone is offering sale prices and most likely your clients are becoming immune to the sight of them. Maybe it’s time to offer a “stay-in-shape” plan that’s 6 weeks of videos or lessons to help them from getting puffy from all those cookies. Or maybe you can offer a bonus if they buy a particular big package before  the end of the year which will boost your December bottom line. Do you have products? Maybe a holiday gift guide would be a nice reminder that you offer more than just sessions. I always come up with awesome ideas in the shower or on the reformer. Get moving and see what comes up. And one more thing- I highly recommend NOT reducing your prices or offering a big discount. This is the lazy way to market. How can you add more VALUE to your offerings and keep the dollars where they belong- with you.

Get Help. No woman is an island, especially not you. Hire out what you’re not good at. Maybe looking over numbers makes your eyes cross, or you aren’t very interested/skilled at creating killer graphics. Whatever the thing is that you hate, it’s most likely because you aren’t very good at it. Instead of wasting valuable teaching time trying to make your weakness your strength, why not just hire an expert to do it? In business, we call this outsourcing and it works. Yes, it will cost you a little cash on the front end but remember we’re making plans to boost your sales and you have to spend a little to make a little.

My challenge for you is to implement some of these techniques NOW, so don’t wait. Collect the numbers, pull out your calendar, do some daydreaming and leave your comments below. Maybe what you’ve done will inspire others. This is the time to make the most of 2015, the ball is in your hands.

Need a little more help getting yourself ready for the New Year? Sign up for Business Coaching with Pilates studio owner and Biznass Coach, Lindsay Lopez today!

If you’re a Pilates instructor in the NYC area and are looking to grow your business, come and join the first Pilates Cooperative, FORM Pilates. For more info click here!

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