Let’s talk about the initial spark that ignited your desire to work in the field of Pilates. How did you get started (and keep going) along this personal and professional journey?
Hard to believe now, but I once thought that Pilates was some kind of infomercial fitness thing, that it wasn’t “real.” But I took a colleague up on her invitation to join her at a Pilates class. I was immediately hooked. I joined the studio where the classes were being offered, and I changed my work schedule so that I could go to my Pilates class five days a week. Pilates became my workout of choice.
Years later, after I moved from Orange County to LA and started taking classes at a new studio, my instructor bought the studio and asked me if I’d like to teach classes.
At first I thought it would be a hobby that would pay for itself. (I don’t know why I didn’t think that it could be a full-time job.)
In less than six months, I built my business up, so I was able to leave my job and take over managing a pilates studio. Most studios offer initial free classes and then, if the student is interested, she can buy a package of classes. The conversion rate on this is typically 25 percent; mine was near 100 percent. One of the studio managers asked me, “Lesley, what is it that you are doing in those first-time sessions that gets individuals interested in becoming clients of the studio?!”
Here I was, a brand-new instructor. I didn’t realize that I was doing anything different. I was just trusting my foundation as a teacher, using my own method. This made me realize that there is actually a “way” for a potential client to leave a first-time session feeling confident enough to sign up for classes. What you say and what you do is as important, if not more, than the workout that you are offering your potential clients.
So I started to analyze what I was doing to ensure success. Then, when I was asked to manage a studio, it was my turn to hire instructors. So many of the teachers who applied, even those with years and years of experience, were not acceptable for me to hire.
I realized that they lacked the ability to sell their work.
The term “sales” has such negative connotations attached to it, but the truth is that we are selling a product, a service. If you are not successful in getting people to buy what you are offering, you don’t have a business. Teaching alone does not guarantee success. Pilates does not just sell itself.
I thought about the thousands of dollars that people spend to become certified, to offer their own classes, and to open their own studios. That’s what led me to write my book, Profitable Pilates.
When I was starting out, I wish that there had been something that I could have read about how to become an instructor. What if I had not been fortunate to attend a good training program? You don’t really know the effectiveness of what you learned until you get out into the world and try to apply it. There is no state licensing required to teach Pilates. And no one is regulating the industry.
Writing my book provided a natural transition into offering workshops for instructors. Amazing instructors who had been teaching/honing their craft for 20 years have attended my workshops, and reveal to me that they were not busy enough to be profitable. I analyzed what worked well for me, and I also looked at a variety of advice and information from other successful businesses.
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I really love when teachers reach out. Bombard me with questions! Every teacher is an inspiration to me. It’s a beautiful thing to work with teachers who are just starting out as well as those who have been teaching for 30+ years. I really want to help teachers become as successful as they can be.
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