19-YEAR COACH TREVOR LINDWALL REVEALS THE SECRET TO LONG-TERM SUCCESS AND LONGEVITY
One of the biggest shortcomings in the fitness industry is that it’s a young man’s game. Seldom do fitness coaches pursue lifelong careers in the industry. More often than not, personal trainers are young 20-somethings, who leave the industry in two or three years. It’s a problem because the industry has completely failed the coach as it stands right now.
Not only that but imagine if engineers or electricians all left the industry after three years? Or any other professional? There would be no experts to pass on what they have learned to the next generation?
This is pretty much the case in the fitness industry: Best practices haven’t gotten much of a chance to be passed down and improved upon by the next generation.
This is exactly what we have been changing in the last decade or so.
Proof: Trevor ’T-Bear’ Lindwall, a coach at Madlab School of Fitness for 19 years and counting.
T-Bear is a former civil engineer, who worked with Madlab gym owner Craig ‘Patty’ Patterson at Johnson Controls, and who left the corporate world and started coaching at what was then CrossFit Vancouver (now Madlab) in 2005.
He was used to the idea of performance-based pay, so he was immediately sold when Patty told him he’d be getting paid on performance—on his ability to acquire and retain clients.
T-bear knew this would mean humbling down and starting small. He knew it would mean temporarily taking a significant pay cut from his engineering salary, but he saw where the road could eventually lead. So he joined Madlab and became Patty’s first full-time coach.
“I think my first paycheck was for $200 and my second for $600,” he said, laughing at the memory.
But pretty soon, though, those monthly cheques were consistently more than $2,000. A few months later, $3,000. And before long, he was consistently earning $4,000 to $5,000 a month. By 2010, he hit $100,000 annual pay.
Today, T-Bear earns similar to what he was making as an engineer and has way more job satisfaction than working the 9-5 corporate gig could have ever provided.
“I really like having a flexible schedule. I love not having to sit at a desk. After what I went through working 75 hours a week as an engineer, the constant stress, this is way better,” he said.
This flexible schedule allows T-Bear to take as many as five weeks of vacation each year— often traveling to New Zealand where his wife is from—as well as a handful of shorter vacations, something that’s really important to him.
Note: The reason T-Bear is able to take paid vacations is because of the Madlab Coach Co-Op. Read more about that here, and how it also helps with coach retention.
To earn his professional wage (in the expensive city of Vancouver, B.C., we consider this to be above $80,000), T-Bear spends a manageable 20 to 30 (on a big week) hours a week on the floor and has approximately 50 of his own clients.
And he has every intention of continuing on the path he’s on for years to come.
The reason he’s still coaching after 19 years: The Madlab system, he explained.
Would you still be coaching if you were getting paid $35 an hour?
“Not a chance,” he said without hesitation.
“In this system, if you perform well, you get paid. I have always believed in that system,” he added.
T-Bear’s tips for anyone looking to start a career in the industry and eventually become a professional coach:
1. Humble down and be willing to learn: Learn as much as you can from anyone who has been around longer than you. Any chance you get, surround yourself with anyone you can learn from, T-Bear explained.
2. Get good at enrolment and communication: Get some formal sales training and learn to embrace the fact that you’re in sales (which is basically just about learning to enroll others into what you do, and the key is great communication. If you can be a great communicator, you will master the ability to enroll others into what you do, and that is the essence of sales)
3. Compensation: Seek out a compensation model at a gym that pays you based on performance. You do NOT want to be paid by the hour, T-Bear urged.
If you do the above, you’ll be successful, T-Bear said.
And the more young coaches who follow this advice, the more chance we have of changing this flawed industry and creating professional career coaches. And ultimately, the better chance we have at helping the next generation build from what coaches like T-Bear have learned in the last nearly two decades.
Speaking of the next generation…
Two younger coaches at Madlab both attest to the importance of having long-term career coaches like T-Bear to show them the ropes:
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