Group Fitness Instructor versus OPEX coach: incentivizing your coaches to care

The economics of a group class instructor vs the opex model

The client, the coach and the business: If you’re in the fitness industry, the hope is that all three can be successful.

For this to happen, the client needs a solution to his/her problem—to get and stay fit and healthy. The coach needs job fulfillment and an opportunity to make a professional wage so he can have a long-term career in fitness. And the business needs clients and coaches to stick around in order to be profitable.

None of this is possible if your gym is run by part-time group fitness instructors who are getting paid $20 an hour to run a class. This is only possible if coaches become professional fitness coaches.

In the fourth article of this six-part series, we’re going to look at how you can incentive your coaches to care.

OTHER ARTICLES IN THIS SERIES:

#1: The Economics: Group Fitness Instructor vs. OPEX Coach

#2: Client Perspective: Group Fitness Instructor vs. OPEX Coach

#3: Job Fulfillment: Group Fitness Instructor vs. OPEX Coach

Group Fitness Instructor versus OPEX coach: incentivizing your coaches to care

I’ll never forget the brief time I spent working in a union job during university. I was hired to clean out the residences during the summer for $16 an hour—a decent wage for a 19-year-old student at the time.

Naturally a hard working person, I showed up ready to roll up my sleeves and scrub hard all summer.

On Day 1, I was teamed up with a full-time worker and went out of the gate hard. I was motivated to earn my keep and make a good impression. After a couple hours, she instructed me to “slow down.”

“If we get too much done, then that will become the expectation. Don’t work so hard,” she said.

The next day, I was paired up with a different cleaning partner and the same thing happened. I was told to chill out and be lazier.

Pretty soon, I realized this job was more about finding ways to look busy while not actually working than actually doing the work.

By the end of the summer, I had become one of them: a lazy union worker who didn’t give a shit.

What was the point in busting my ass when those around me were working at one quarter of my pace and getting paid the same, or more if they were more senior than I was?

Can you imagine what this job would have looked like had the university paid its workers per unit cleaned, as opposed to by-the-hour? Naturally, people would have worked much harder knowing the harder and faster they worked, the more they could earn. Instead, we were overstaffed with overpaid and lazy workers. No wonder tuition keeps going up.

I digress.

I have been in the fitness industry for almost 10 years, and one of the biggest complaints I hear from gym owners who pay their coaches by the hour to coach a class is:

“My coaches can’t sell.”

Or, ‘“I’m the only one who cares about the business.”

Or, “My coaches are lazy.”

If someone gets sick, it usually falls on the owner to cover the class in a pinch. If someone spills a water bottle, good luck getting your coaches to mop up the mess without you asking them to. If someone in a coffee shop inquires about the gym, there’s a good chance your coach won’t even bother to try to book this prospect for an intro session. And if one of your clients looks like they are thinking about quitting, chances are your group fitness instructor isn’t going to bother trying to save the client.

Can you blame the coach?

Even as a naturally hard worker, by the end of my housekeeping summer there I was dogging it next to everyone else, embittered that there was no way to really succeed or move up in this job.

Similarly, what is the coach’s incentive to try to bring in new clients when he is getting paid an hourly wage to babysit adult clients through a workout?

What’s in it for the coach to really get to know clients and make sure they’re getting the service they need so they stick around?

Or to ensure the gym is clean at all times?

Why would an group fitness instructor go out of his way to do anything above and beyond coaching a group class for $20, $25, or $30 an hour?

There’s no incentive for the group fitness instructor to do more.

Such is not the case in the OPEX model. In this model, there’s motivation for the coach to bring in new clients and ensure the ones they do have stick around: Their pay check is tied to it.

This was one of the main reasons Julie Migliaccio, the owner of OPEX Gold Coast in Norwalk, Connecticut switched to the OPEX model: She was chained to her business because there was no incentive for any of her coaches to step up.

“I hadn’t scaled (my old gym business) in a way that allowed me to have other coaches I could rely on, and there was a ceiling on what they could do. There was no way to grow the business, not just financially, but in any way,” she said.

Today under the OPEX model, OPEX Gold Coast coaches get paid on a percentage of revenue basis —between 40 and 50 percent of the revenue they generate—meaning the better they are at bringing in and retaining clients, the more money they will earn.

Most OPEX gyms pay out around 40 percent to their coaches, and often there’s a range depending on the coach’s experience. OPEX coaches also receive floor hour cash on top of their %. it isn’t all that much, of course, but it pays them for the time so that their interests are truly aligned across the board with the business owner’s.

Jesse O’Brien, for example, the owner of Central Athlete in Austin, Texas is a longtime OPEX Coach that follows the OPEX business model—starts his coaches at 40 percent commission, but increases their percentage once they reach a minimum client retention level and have 40 of their own individual programming clients.

Abi Hammond is a coach at OPEX Gold Coast who is benefitting from the system. – Abi is now a partial owner in OPEX GC if it matters

“I couldn’t make a living coaching group classes alone, so I ran myself down and killed myself doing it, working full-time and then coaching after work,” Hammond said. “I was working at two different gyms, and I could never take a vacation.”

Today, she has 38 individual program design clients, who each pay US$345 a month.

“(The hours are) totally manageable and I’m actually making money doing it,” she said.


In the OPEX model, not only can coaches earn more, but there’s an incentive for them to work harder, care about the business more, and there’s no longer a ceiling on their earnings. Gone are the days where coaches are but a cost to the business, where gym owners complain about how their coaches don’t care about client retention. Instead of fighting each other, now gym owner success is directly tied to coach success and vice versa. This is also why floor hour payments are so important; in the beginning, when the coach has few clients, they still get paid for their time which is far more fair/equitable for them.


As a result, the business owner is finally free.

“Honestly, I barely have to be there. When I’m in town, I spend about two days during the week on the floor and a few hours on Saturday. Before, I would have to be at the gym at 7 a.m. and would be there all day. I was chained to my business back then,” Migliaccio said.

O’Brien added: “I have what 9 out of 10 people don’t have. I wake up every day, hang out with friends and have a good time, and don’t feel like I have worked since 2015.” – powerful!

Learn how you can follow the same model of incentivizing your coaches with The Free 7-Day OPEX Coaching Course. Sign up today, and begin your journey toward learning the business model of the future.


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