Dragon Door Interviews Rolando Garcia III, RKC-II, CK-FMS, Manager, Motivational Speaker, and Author of “The 4 Competencies Method"
Dragon Door: When did you begin as a personal trainer?
Rolando Garcia: I started as a personal trainer in 2008. During that time, I realized why many people get started in personal training—they believe their hours will be flexible and they will be doing what they love in an environment they enjoy. Personal training is often described as a dream job and many people—myself included—are drawn into personal training for this reason. I remember thinking, "I’m already in the gym all the time to work out, I’ll help someone by giving them advice, spotting them, and making some recommendations—while I make $100-150 an hour—how hard could that actually be?"

I entered the field with that attitude, and my eyes were opened very quickly. On the job, there was not a lot of the energy you experience when working out. Soon I understood that personal training is also about managing a successful business. And that will completely take away the notion of doing what you love—unless what you love to do is running a business. I saw many personal trainers who loved their job, who were very qualified but who still failed because they had not accepted the fact that they were running a business. And many of those well qualified trainers actually quit.

After about three months as a personal trainer working for the company that currently employs me, I had about 26 clients. A year later, in 2009 I was in the top 100 out of 1,600-1,700 trainers employed at that time. In 2010 I was promoted to my first managerial position, then 7 months later I was promoted to my location’s head of division for personal training. When I inherited that division, it was at an all time 11 year low. I wondered how I could hire more successful trainers who were "like me". This was a dangerous idea because I did not know what "somebody like me" meant. I also did not know if hiring people like me was even desirable. In the process of trying to understand what would turn my division around, I had to investigate what really drives the success of a personal trainer.

At first I thought it might be a level of education, a proficiency in certain exercises, or a particular personality. But, I could hire based on those qualities and sometimes the trainer still would not be a good fit for the job. That is when I asked myself a very serious question—did I know what made a successful personal trainer? When I broke it down in terms of competencies—the components that drive the success mechanisms of personal training—I found four: technical expertise, customer care, sales, and business development and strategy. I soon realized that 75% of what drives success in personal training had nothing to do with personal training.

From that insight, I created a strategy for hiring, screening, and developing top producers. A year later we had double digit growth, and the following year we produced the highest revenue in the history of our location. In my current division, I am applying the same model and we are looking to break our all time division record. I have only been assigned to this location for about a year.

Dragon Door: What was your background before personal training?

Rolando Garcia: I was a mixed martial arts instructor with a background in classical theater. As I mentioned in The 4 Competencies Method book, I do not have a business background. But, I am an autodidact—someone who self-educates. When you are under the gun, trying plans and strategies which are not working, the only thing you can rely on is your ability to create strengths and competencies on the spot. That was the situation when I managed my first division. My personal philosophy is, "If it must be done, then it can be done." I had to create my own strengths in order to improve my capacity. I had to educate myself while I managed and transformed the division.

Dragon Door: How did you narrow it down to four competencies?

Rolando Garcia: I looked at the daily tasks of a successful personal trainer. Part of the initial allure of the job is being at the gym, wearing a uniform, training clients, high-fiving, and encouraging clients. The reality is that the successful trainer is doing a lot of other things. Investigating those tasks and processes helped me understand and identify the competencies. While a trainer might be working a 10, 12 or 14 hour day, there are only training clients for about 4-5 hours. The trainer is doing other things for the remaining 5-7 hours. The most successful trainers know how to manage their time and focus their efforts—they interact with gym members, reach out to potential clients and are really implementing a customer service model whether they know it or not. Successful trainers are also working with a sales model and know how to manage any possible objection. But, I found even the very best trainers do not have a full grasp of how to manage their own careers by thinking one to three years ahead. So, by observing what was actually necessary for success and growth in the industry, I came up with these four core competencies.

Dragon Door: Many personal trainers seem to struggle with the idea of financial success and have negative feelings about money, sales, and pricing. How would you help a trainer overcome this?

Rolando Garcia: I was at a workshop a few years ago with about 30-40 fitness professionals. At some point, the speaker asked the entire group if they liked sales. Only two hands went up which was very concerning. After thinking about how some personal trainers view the job as only helping a client bench press, stretch, or stay motivated, we must ask, how did they get that client? Obviously there is a sales component that involves determining what the potential client needs, communicating what you can offer and a price. Problems arise when the personal trainer…read complete interview here: http://www.dragondoor.com/dragon_doo...tencies_method