A Conversation with Nick Mitchell

1st March 2019 31 Minute Read

Nick Mitchell

Nick Mitchell

Founder of Ultimate Performance

Nick Mitchell is a straight-talking, uncompromising and leading personal trainer, best-selling author and founder of Ultimate Performance, worldwide specialists in personal training. Nick has previously been hailed as "one of the world's leading body composition experts" by Men's Fitness and "London's Best Personal Trainer" by Time Out London....
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Interviewer’s note: The following is a transcript from a lengthy and incredibly illuminating Skype conversation with the founder of Ultimate Performance, Nick Mitchell. The views and opinions expressed by Josh are his own and don’t necessarily represent those of HFE.

 

Josh: Talk me through the early days of setting up Ultimate Performance. You’ve previously been a barrister, worked in investment banking and financial recruitment, why the leap into fitness?

 

Nick: You want to know the motivations? I was 34 years of age and what had happened with me was that I sold a recruitment business when I was 29/30 years of age because my heart wasn’t in it.

It was in 2001 when the tech bubble had burst and I made a decent sum of money, but not a life-changing amount. I didn’t have a mortgage on my flat, I had a few hundred grand in my pocket and I didn’t know what I wanted to do with myself. So, I decided to go out and see the world. I partied a lot, that’s really what I did. I played at life. In my 20s, I’d never really done it, aside from a few brief episodes, and that was really because of the bodybuilding.

Nick Mitchell in his younger bodybuilding days

My dream since I was 12 years of age was to be Arnold Schwarzenegger. That was the seminal moment of my life when I picked up Arnold: The Education of a Bodybuilder, which was his autobiography. I picked that up in the first year of senior school. So, I’d spent my 20s… you know, it’s going to sound like a cliché but I didn’t go and sow my wild oats. That means different things to everybody. For me, I hadn’t gone out and had fun.

I sold my business, I got out of a relationship at the same time, funnily enough my girlfriend at the time left me to go to Australia because I worked too much. My wife now would definitely relate to that. So, I did that for a few years, made lots of mistakes, made lots of personal mistakes, but also invested in a few businesses. I didn’t have proper skin in the game though. If you don’t have proper skin in the game in business, if you don’t have a bit of fear… at least for me, I can’t make any progress.

Fast forward, I’m 34, I’m in the City, putting my suit on every morning and I hate my life. I’m not one for massive introspection because I generally think things through and take action. One of the things I’m pretty good at is being decisive and taking action. For me I had an extended period of inaction, I would go as far as to call it anxiety. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life.

I thought I’m 34, if I don’t do something now then it’s too late. You’re not doing something challenging and interesting, and life-changing when you’re 40, it’s not happening. I’d run the clock down thinking ‘I’m going to do this tomorrow’. I’m lucky I came from a family and school environment where I was basically told if you work hard you have the ability to do whatever you want.

A friend suggested becoming a personal trainer and I thought he was insane. I’ve got a working class, northern background, but my father had made good. How do you tell your dad, who was proud of you for getting a scholarship to bar school, that you want to become a trainer? It doesn’t have the social cachet.

Josh: You’re right, it’s such a big leap, such a change…

 

Nick: It’s a fall backwards, you have to see it for what it is. I mean I can talk to about my opinions on the personal training industry later. So, it was a hard, hard decision, a reluctant decision, but I didn’t really know what else to do with myself. I looked at the industry and I wasn’t impressed. I actively thought to myself ‘I’m going to limit my earning potential but I need to do something I’m going to feel fulfilled with’. I need to go into something where I feel like I can make a difference.

Nick Mitchell, founder of Ultimate Performance

There were two things in the front of my mind really. One, the primary thing was that I thought the client experience was atrocious, that’s what I really thought. I come from tough, hard, bodybuilding gyms where it’s not exercise, it’s training, it’s a visceral experience. Back in the day one of them was a men-only gym, the story behind that is quite interesting…

It was owned by a Greek Cypriot and his wife wouldn’t let him have women in the gym. This was a Muscleworks gym, very famous. Now they allow women but back in the day they didn’t. So, I come from gym environments, these really visceral places where you have men coming back time after time. Flipping the regular gym model on its head. It’s almost like Muscleworks in its day was like the bodybuilding version of Cheers, do you remember that?

Josh: I know of it…

 

Nick:  The theme song has a line: ‘It’s the bar where everyone knows your name’. Everybody knew your name in Muscleworks. I mean I went there for 20 years and there will be men that have been going there for 30 years. 50-100 men at least that just keep going back. It’s because they get something out of their training, they enjoy it. I would observe the way most trainers work with clients and I thought ‘I wouldn’t come back for this, what would be the point in coming back for this?’ It’s boring, it’s dull, there’s no excitement in it. You need to make exercise exciting and interesting.

Now the world has cottoned on to this which is one of the reasons why the pom-pom waving, cheerleading, disco-mimicking group exercise classes have done so well. That’s why Barry’s Bootcamp has done so well. They’ve realised that exercise in most gyms is fundamentally boring, let’s make it more interesting.

I also looked at the trainers who had no career platform, nowhere to go, exchanging time for money and that’s it, they flatline. I wanted to change that, I wanted to create a platform for the trainers who work for me.

I decided to do that in 2007 and it took a couple of years of graft. I felt like I had a huge head start on most personal trainers. By that time, I had spent over 20 years in the gym, thinking about training, thinking about getting results and my work life had been spent knee deep in and amongst your standard personal training clients. When it came to it, I knew my clients, I could speak their language and I had a similar background to them. I could get inside their heads and understand what they were after. I felt better equipped than a 19-21-year-old trainer would in a mainstream gym.

There’s a real disconnect between the trainer and what the trainer needs to do, which is really getting inside the client’s head. The trainer’s background and where the trainer’s coming from, their life experience is different from their clients. Take a typical client in the City. The average City of London client is certainly going to be successful, at least in their mid-late 30s. Whereas the trainer is going to almost certainly be from a different educational background and on average be around 10-15 years younger. They’re essentially just at the start of their working life.

So again, what my business tries to do is bridge that disconnect by educating the trainers on what they need to do. It’s certainly not as simple as sets and reps, green vegetables, eat your chicken and eat your steak… It’s much more complicated than that. Most of the advice is far less complicated than the process. The process is extremely complicated and requires a lot of managing.

In 2009 I opened the first gym, that will be 10 years in May. I opened that on a very tight budget. I worked my ass off on that, seven days a week. Basically, from the moment I decided to do this business, I’ve been all-in. From the moment I decided to do it, I’ve been obsessed with growing the business, it’s dominated my waking thoughts for the last 12 years. What I had that I never had before was the fear factor.

Ultimate Performance

As I’ve said before, I was 34 and I thought ‘okay, this is last chance saloon, my back’s against the wall’. Rather than be paralysed by that fear, as a lot of people are, I managed to use that in a very positive way. It was a lot of hard work, no magic. I’m talking to you now from Los Angeles, we’re in four different continents and eight countries and we’re going to be opening more very soon.

Josh: That’s a lot…

 

Nick: Yeah. Three of those are new countries because we’re going to go for Switzerland as well as mainland China and India.

Josh: Thinking about that, with all the facilities that you currently have and all those you’re going to open in the future, how do you make sure your values, the ethos you first had when you started UP is still there in these facilities. You’re only one man and your time is finite…

 

Nick: That’s a very good question. In some places, it’s been one of the hardest things to do and in others, it’s been relatively easy. It simply comes down to people. I sincerely believe that a number of things distinguish UP from other personal training businesses and other fitness businesses. What all good companies have in common is that they have a very distinct culture.

If you come and work for me, for example, it’s intense. There’s no apology for that. If you want an important job in my business and you’re a nine till fiver, it’s not going to work. If you want an important job in my business and you can’t take constructive criticism… I’m being specific here Josh, it’s not about bawling people out. People don’t like constructive criticism, they’re not used to it.

I will give constructive criticism, I have very high standards. If I had lower standards, my life would be easier.

Josh: Would that be true to your nature if you ever did lower your standards?

 

Nick: If lowering standards was true to my nature, I don’t think I would have been as successful as I’ve been. The people within my business look to me and I can’t think of an occasion where I’ve had to get someone to lower their standards. Once or twice you do because some people get so wrapped up in not compromising if they see any weakness in someone they think ‘oh no, this is terrible’.

Standards of work, standards of how we should behave, standards of performance, standards of results – these are all things that I’m extremely dogmatic about. So, the way the business has evolved, the most successful examples we have are people who have come from the core, key culture. What that really means is we’ve tried and had partial success with hiring people externally to be managers. We’re talking about managing trainers here, not managing a club. We don’t really have clubs and we don’t have anything like a membership model at all. The only way for us to grow the business is for us to grow internally.

Everybody in a position of authority within my business has come up through the junior training ranks. We have tried to hire people who are great people, have great CVs from within the fitness community, and we’ve brought them into the business and without a single exception, they’ve failed. Have they failed, crash-and-burned-closed-a-gym-down failed? No, but they have not been as good as the people who have come up the hard way. I have empirical evidence of this because we replaced them with people who have come up the hard way and our numbers go sky high because these people understand the standards.

Nick Mitchell is the founder of UP Fitness

I’ll give you an example. All the time I’m approached to open in Saudi Arabia. It’s an interesting proposition and the idea of expanding health and fitness into a region that doesn’t currently have much there is interesting. I’m struggling to wrap my head around going there because I have finite resources. My resources are the right people to open gyms. I could open 50 sites across North America tomorrow, but I don’t have the people. The limiting factor on the growth of the business is that we have to bring people up the right way, that’s the secret sauce.

Business people often wonder how we’ve done what we’ve done, and trainers don’t understand the results we get with our clients… they think we lie, that we give clients steroids. Forget about ethics because it’s very easy for me to say I’m too ethical. We’re too big. As you know, the fitness industry is very bitchy, trainers are extremely bitchy. When people leave, as they always do, if we lied, if we manipulated results, we’d be found out.

Josh: You’d never get away with it considering how high profile you are…

 

Nick: Never. And our clients see our results so can you imagine if we were Photoshopping results? The clients would see it. And also, the type of clients we get, if you’re charging £150 an hour, these people are not coming in to take Dianabol.

Josh: They want actual results, that’s what they’re paying for.

 

Nick: They want real results. They don’t want steroids. I have no moral objection to steroids, I have a moral objection to results being passed off as natural when they are enhanced. If you would go and ask some of the other high-profile trainers about our results, 100% they’ll say things like ‘we give our clients steroids’ because they don’t understand what it takes.

That DNA, doing things by the book, runs right through us. We’ll do what it takes from our business perspective and we’ll have massive accountability and we’ll deal with massive scrutiny. I could go on to my computer and tell you what each trainer is doing at all times and we have 100 plus trainers. Their managers, their mentors can dig into this info as well. We know about trainers’ results.

We promote trainers. Trainers don’t do sales, trainers don’t get paid more for doing more sessions. Every gym in the land pays their trainers more if they’re doing over X number of sessions in a week or month. No, in actual fact, if I see a trainer doing more than 30 sessions in a week, my stock response across the board is to ask the manager if that is the right number of sessions for the trainer. Is it too many? Quality drops after 30 sessions in a week for the majority of people.

Ultimate Performance Manchester

We really are a different business. You get promoted in my business based on results and the UP level of results, not the industry standard level of results.  You get promoted on what I view to be a result. What I view to be a result can’t be what I call a ‘Weight Watchers’ results. I’m not being negative about Weight Watchers but if you go there, spend £15 a month, it’s much different from spending £500 a month (on a UP trainer). You’d want to see a commensurate upswing in value.

One of my books sells on Amazon for £4. If you can follow a programme in my book and get half a result and you’ve spent £1000s on personal training, a half-baked result doesn’t count. For us, we’ve got very high standards with results. The trainers know what they have to do, which of course everybody prefers, especially in a male-dominated profession. Men like very specific targets, they respond best to it. Trainers know how to progress, they know how to get more money, it’s very simple – it’s results.

Josh: Thinking about results and goals… in previous interviews you’ve talked about never being satisfied and the fact that you continually move your own goal posts… talking to you know I see why that is. Perhaps I’ve felt guilty when I’ve done that to myself…

 

Nick: You shouldn’t feel guilty. Why should you feel guilty? I don’t. What I tend not to do though is look at my work and take the time to feel proud of it.

Josh: Are you proud of what you’ve done with UP though? Or does that seem too vain to think like that.

 

Nick: I’m proud now because I can see, it’s incontrovertible really, I can see what we’ve done. I’m not the proud of the financial success per se, I’m proud I can feed my family well, I guess. I’m proud I can give them certain things without having to worry about it – so I get pride in that. I’m most proud of seeing the younger people who have invested their time, faith and energy in me and my beliefs, my dream, my vision.

These are people with talent and good ethics who have really put heart and soul into my vision and taken my vision and made it theirs. We have three staff in very influential positions in the business and they have all come through the junior training ranks. Two of them were the juniors I first hired straight out of university. To see them evolve and develop, via the platform I’ve conjured up, gives me pride.

Josh: If you ever stop working, will you look back and think ‘I’ve done it, it’s done’? Is there ever a natural end point?

 

Nick: Right now, there’s no end point but there is a finite amount of business in the UK from a personal training perspective. So, for me it’s the US, possibly China, we’re looking at Shanghai this year, and Mumbai. I’m very excited about that. Everybody focuses on China, but that’s an extraordinary tough nut to crack.

India is big business. English is really the choice of language there. I mean the population of India, I don’t know if you know this, but India is so big that the variance is 300 million either way when it comes to a census. In other words, the variance is so big it’s roughly the size of the population of the United States. It’s that big and they’ve got to catch up with the rest of the world in some ways, but they’re smart. It’s almost an interesting sociological look inside the world, the number of ethnic Indian staff we have across the business, across the world, and see how successful they’ve become in the last 20 and 30 years. India is very exciting.

There’s a finite amount of business you can do one-to-one, I feel. At some point, I’m going to move on to different things and it’s whether or not I leave the fitness industry, which I often think about doing because I don’t like the fitness industry, in truth. Or whether we look at something else. We’re developing an app right now, we’re spending a lot of money on it and I want the app to be a game-changer. Then I don’t think anybody has really cracked high-end membership clubs. I like Equinox in principle, but I don’t think anybody has done that model truly right. The people at Equinox know far more than I know about running membership clubs.

I question whether the people running commercial gyms are natural gym goers themselves. I think one of the reasons why I’ve done well at personal training is because of everything I did leading up to starting UP. I have an instinctive view, a real insight into it. It didn’t mean I knew how to be a personal trainer back then and certainly doesn’t mean I know how to run a gym. Running a gym is very different from running a personal training business.

Nick Mitchell working with a client

There’s just something playing in the back of my head that there’s something there. As the fitness industry and the gym industry niches off and continues to mature, I see opportunity in a new high-end offering. But the high-end offering, the way I would do it, isn’t ‘Yes, sir. No, sir. Obsequious three bags full. Here’s your fluffy towel when you get out of the shower’ – the spa thing. There’s obviously a market for that, but that’s not the route I would go down.

I just wonder if there’s something, somewhere that a high-end, high-spec, high-performance gym can exist that’s not about piling the gym high with people. As you know, for every commercial gym to work you have to pile high. If you go to London or any big city at 5’o clock it’s going to be rammed.

Josh: That, in particular, is one of the reasons why I personally don’t like going to the gym local to me at this time of the year. I mean it’s great more and more people are coming in wanting to exercise, but it’s just too busy for the things I want to do in the gym, I just end up feeling squeezed out. It’s honestly horrendous for me at times.

 

Nick: It’s an awful experience so that means there must be an awful lot of people out there that can pay more. It always comes down to economics, you’ve got to underpin any idea with sound economics. The question is, are there people willing to pay more, it doesn’t have to be a lot more, in order to have a different type of experience?

Josh: I certainly think so…

 

Nick: It is a hard proposition though. If you’ve got a high-end gym with great equipment, though equipment doesn’t make a gym, you’re going to have to charge £250 to make that work. Are you really going to want to pay that a month?

Josh: For most people, no. If especially if you can pay less at mainstream gyms.

 

Nick: It’s a hard pill to swallow for people who are price sensitive. There are certainly things however I’d like to change in the fitness industry.

Josh: Very briefly then, what would you change? Some big things that you’ve seen that are just not working.

 

Nick: I can really only speak from a position of authority with personal training. I struggle to ever think it’s ever going to change. What holds personal training back is the global commercial gym business and the rental model. What the rental model does is exacerbate everything that is currently wrong and we know it’s wrong by the way, it’s not a controversial subject.

You’ve got certain certification courses that mean nothing. They mean absolutely nothing other than a vehicle to get you insurance. It starts with certification and it’s now just a pile ’em high, sell ’em cheap way of doing things. Then the gyms take on these trainers. Some training providers have arrangements with the big gyms, that’s the thing, they’re a factory for the commercial gyms. They’re not a factory for providing expertise for the commercial gyms, they’re a factory for providing temporary rental revenue.

My grandma is 97, she could do an online course and get a job in a gym. I love my grandma, she’s mentally all there but you don’t want her handing you a weight, right? It’s appalling. What they then do, as you will know, they will take a gym that could accommodate 15 trainers working the gym floor and they’ll put 40 on there instead and it’s like Lord of the Flies. I don’t know what the dropout rate is for personal training but it will be more than 50%.

Josh: I don’t have the figures to hand, but it’s going to be high in a situation like that.

 

Nick: That’s all you need to know about the industry, it’s absolutely appalling. So, you’ve got that problem. Then you’ve got the problem of who survives, who flourishes in an environment like that? The good trainers, the ones who spend time with clients off the gym floor?

Josh: I know where you’re going with this…

 

Nick: Or the ones who are pushy on the gym floor? You know the answer. Another problem… one thing I’ve learned in life from running my business is that everybody responds when there’s a degree of accountability and scrutiny on them. Everybody.

There is no quality control with what trainers do with their clients. The gyms could not care less, as you know. All they care about is, are you selling? It’s a race to the bottom, if I want to make money as a trainer, if I want to feed my family, pay the rent and keep the wolf from the door, what do I do? Do I go on a lot of courses? Do I limit the amount of sessions I do because I want to keep the quality high? Or do I just whizz people through? There are so many trainers doing 50-60 hours a week, it’s terrible.

There’s no accountability and no scrutiny with the traditional model. There’s no career progression. Trainers get to their 50 hours and they’re a hamster on the wheel, what are they going to do? They’ve got nowhere to go. How many 40-year-old trainers are there? Not a lot.

Maybe it’s always been this way, but the world discounts experience at its peril. When you’re 20 and just starting out… how old are you Josh?

Josh: 29.

 

Nick: You’re 29. So, I hope that you’re going to tell me that the 29-year-old Josh would look at the 20-year-old Josh and think the 20-year-old Josh knew nothing.

Josh: Exactly… Definitely… 

 

Nick: Let’s just pick 20 as a nice starting point. If you’re just starting life at 20, you’re essentially a kid and male brains stop developing at 25. You want the 40-year olds who have double, treble, your practical, actual life experience. You want them there to help you and guide you through. There’s no incentive for a 40-year-old to stay in personal training and guide these young guys, help bring them through.

There’s no quality control on behaviour and I’m happy for you to publish this… if you’d want me to do a separate piece on this, if you wanted a lot more, I’d be prepared to give you a lot on this because I feel very, very strongly about it…

Sex with clients. Sex with clients is absolutely appalling. If a doctor has sex with a patient, they’re struck off. There are rules. You get complaints about it. If your GP ended up making a pass at you or you had a relationship with your GP, they would lose their career.

Your GP sees you when you’ve got a cough and a cold. Your GP sees you when you have a proper illness or you get referred to somebody else. If you get referred to a specialist, they’ve got a nice manner about them but they’re not getting inside your head. It’s not their job. They ask the questions and they tell you what’s wrong, diagnose, prescribe… done.

A trainer sees you three times a week. A large part of a trainer’s job is to get inside the client’s head in order for them to change their habits. This is the biggest thing. You often get young, fit, attractive trainers paying lots of attention to Mrs Jones, whose husband is now bored with Mrs Jones. Transference happens and that’s how these ‘relationships’ start. It happens all the time, in all the gyms across the world. It’s a disgrace.

I did a poll on my Instagram about this and you can quote me on this. I was shocked. 5000 people submitted an opinion and it was very clear. Two thirds thought sex with clients was wrong and one third thought it was totally acceptable. There were people with valid points, ‘I met my wife this way’. You did but it’s still wrong.

We have a simple rule at UP, if you feel like you’re developing feelings for your client you have to drop the client, we have to let the client go, wait six months and then if you want to do it, do it, we won’t fire you. Anything before that, we’ll fire you.

We’ve caught trainers before and they’re gone, straight away. It’s a gross breach of trust. That’s a great example for me of how the personal training industry needs to look after itself, but it never will. Do you think the commercial gyms care at all?

Josh: Not unless it publicly gets in the way of business, I’m guessing.

 

Nick: But it doesn’t. They go ‘well, we’ll disassociate ourselves from it, but maybe it’ll pull a few extras Mrs Jones’ in’.

To sum it up, there’s no career progression, no accountability, it’s the Wild West. Oh, the other problem is this, the financial model is also completely screwed up. The financial model works against businesses like mine. The model as it stands is this: client comes in, pays, no VAT, cash in hand, money under the counter. Short term for the trainer, great. Long term for the trainer, again, it’s a disaster. When you’re in your 20s, very few people are thinking long term.

Josh: I guess. Going back to 20-year-old me compared to where I am now, I wasn’t thinking about future plans, investments, pensions, family… It was all about living in the moment.

 

Nick:  It’s like that the world over. That’s why there are no real authentic personal training business, aside from UP. There’s an inevitable comprise that has to be made. That’s why we work really hard to give trainers careers. Proper, long-lasting careers, that they can branch out from if they want to. There’s nothing wrong with staying on the gym floor but we try to offer a myriad of opportunities into different areas, while still allowing time for the gym floor because trainers love it. They don’t have that anywhere else and trainers burn out and burn out fast. They think the grass is greener.

Would I do this business again, starting from scratch? No. I wouldn’t do it again because I put too much of myself into people in order to grow the business and all industries are full of fickle people, because that’s just the people. The fitness industry, with this perpetuation of every man and women for themselves, that’s the big problem.

The fitness industry with that huge problem means loyalty is scarce. If you speak to anyone in fitness, they’ll tell you just how bad loyalty is. I’ve had great loyalty from some people and terrible loyalty from others. It’s hard when that happens. You put so much time and effort into helping people and they just think the grass is greener. You give them access to clients, rich clients who suggest to the trainer, ‘why don’t you open your own gym?’. It’s happened to us everywhere and it will continue to happen.

Josh: Do you feel betrayed in those situations?

 

Nick: It depends how it’s done. When I first started, if anyone left me, I felt betrayed, just because they left. I didn’t have the well-rounded perspective I have now. I took everything personally, as you’re going to do. This was my baby so you take everything personally.

Now, the truthful answer is, it depends…

Josh: On the situation and the context…

 

Nick: It’s very simple, it’s conduct. If you leave and set up a rival business, I’m not going to be your friend, but there are ways to do it without trying to bite the hand that feeds you. The instances of people doing that are rare, fortunately. Usually, though people try and steal your photos, contact your clients and bad mouth you. I’ve heard stories about myself that I’ve been in jail, just all kinds of nonsense.

The personal training industry is a bizarre industry that would change if we could find a way to change the commercial gym model. If we turned it on its head, told trainers we were going to give them careers and help them. Tell them we’re going to have our thumb on top of you to make sure you do the right thing.

Ultimate Performance logo

If that happened then there would be a period of great pain and great change. A lot of people would leave the industry, which wouldn’t be a bad thing because there are too many trainers. Within five years, ten years you’d have a proper profession. I’m going to hold my breath…

Josh: That was actually going to be my follow up question, in our lifetime will it happen?

 

Nick: No. Never. It’s all about money for the commercial gyms and group exercise business, that’s all they care about.

Josh: Does it take someone like yourself then, with your mindset to make those changes? Could you do it given the time?

 

Nick: I think I’ve changed certain aspects of the personal training industry in the UK, for sure. I have a global perspective of the personal training industry. The UK is now, without question, the most results-focused place for personal training. It’s a results-focused country, a million miles ahead of America for instance.

I feel that I must have had some kind of influence on that. Certainly, if I look at some of the websites that have copied me and the businesses who have copied me. I feel like that’s not too much of an arrogant thing to say.

Would I like to change it? If the business continues to grow and more copycats spring up, people will recognise that there’s a chance to grow a career…

Josh: Rather than just get a short-term job…

 

Nick: It’s something I’d like to see. I could envisage myself… to be honest, I probably will try and make those changes. When I have the time, when I’ve stepped away from UP, in part. I’d like to do something to look at the ethics in the industry. Try to sign up trainers and gyms to a code of ethics that actually works and is actually followed. It would stamp out giving drugs to clients, though I don’t think it’s as big of a problem as people think. To be fair, if clients want to get drugs, they’re going to get drugs. Pushing drugs on clients is awful but I don’t think it’s a widespread problem.

The sex with clients is awful. It’s just a total breach of trust.

Josh: Absolutely.

 

Nick: That’s maybe a separate article for you and I would be happy to go on the record. I would tell you more. We’ve fired two people because of it. As soon as we found out, they went.

Josh: Rightly so. It goes back to what you were saying about GPs. In other industries, other sectors, it’s a shocking thing to hear about. You’d be punished for it. 

 

Nick: My understanding is that in some gyms, in the bigger cities, it’s rife.

Josh: It’s sad to hear. I love championing the good in the fitness industry when it happens, but at times it feels like it’s holding itself back.

 

Nick: It is.

Josh: And perhaps it’s not maturing in the way that it has the potential to.

 

Nick: No, but you know what, it’s got better. It has got better. The candidates who we see now, compared to the candidates we saw a decade ago are more career focused. Maybe that’s just those who are attracted to my business, I only see the world through my straw.

We get hundreds of CVs a month from the UK. We hire about 1 in 100.

Josh: I’ve read that before.

 

Nick: It’s not getting harder in the UK because we’re expanding, but it is 1 in 100. It’s hard to get a job with us.

Josh: Sounds like one worth having if you are cut out for it, if you are the right person.

 

Nick: For us it’s all about the start. We take them on an all-new junior programme and we expect 50% to drop out of that.

Josh: It’s been really illuminating to finally talk to you. You have a feisty, fiery online persona which I enjoy.

 

Nick: I’m me! I mean I exaggerate a little, but it’s me.

Josh: It’s a good thing though. If things are going to change, people need to talk more openly and, on the record, otherwise, it’s never going to work.

 

Nick: Exactly. To end on a positive slant, trainers are in amazing positions to change peoples’ lives. I don’t think it’s too much of an exaggeration to say that trainers are in more powerful everyday positions, change clients’ lives, than doctors are to change patients’ lives. I have to be careful how that’s taken, but you understand where I’m coming from?

Josh: I do.

 

Nick: Because we can get inside peoples’ head. A doctor tells you you’re overweight and gets you to stand on scales, maybe that will make a difference in 1 in 100 people, but that’s it. What a trainer can do by getting inside someone’s head and learning the triggers, is amazing. The feedback we get from our clients is phenomenal.

I’ll tell you something, it’s not relevant, but you’ll like this. The biggest challenge we’re finding in the US is that nobody believes us. We show them the results and they just think we’re lying. I mean I guess it’s a great problem to have.

It’s incredible, it’s like Apple producing a computer so good that nobody believes it’ll do what they say it’ll do. That kind of tells you all you need to know about the fitness industry over here and also advertising in general over here. There’s been so many lies that the default reaction is we’re making it up.

That’s been an eyeopener for me. That’s what it is right? It’s been a challenge.

Josh: One it seems like you’re well matched to face.

 

Nick: Thank you. Touch wood we’re going to get there. We’re currently negotiating to get a site going in Washington DC and Los Angeles.

Josh: Thank you very much for your time, Nick. Hopefully, we’ll talk again in the future.

Nick: Thank you, Josh. Appreciate your time and interest.

 

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