Four-to-One

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Advantage Training, operating since 2016 in Scottsdale, Arizona, has learned this lesson well after first starting out as a provider of various wellness services.

In fact, today’s iteration is much different than the company’s intended business model.

“Originally, we started as a personal training and wellness company,” said Mark Santistevan, the president of Advantage Training. “Our intention was to partner with health clubs and provide all the personal training and wellness services to their members.”

This initial iteration of Advantage Training was founded in 2010 in Bowling Green, Kentucky, but the company quickly hit a roadblock, which Santistevan used as a learning opportunity. “We learned a lot in that first inception,” he said. “We learned we didn’t have the tools necessary to support the personal trainers in the way we thought — making sure the naming conventions, exercise terminology and programs were fit for the individual.”

Santistevan found it made more sense to offer personal training services in-house, rather than outsourcing them. “We pivoted from our original intention of partnering with health clubs and providing services to their members to instead opening up our first studio, with a plan of opening up more,” he said.

After the aforementioned pivot and a move to Scottsdale, Advantage Training began operating as a personal training-focused studio with a simple principle: four-to-one training, with one trainer assigned to four members per session.

The idea was to give members a tribe with which they could embark on a fitness journey, while getting instruction more akin to that of one-on-one training. However, that proved challenging. “If you’ve got one trainer assigned to one person, it’s pretty easy to hold a conversation and dialogue, and stay in touch with them,” said Santistevan. “But the four-to-one model changes everything.”

As a result, trainers have had to be more diligent in their follow-up, since they were given, in theory, one-quarter of the time they would with each individual than during a traditional personal training session. Member engagement outside the club’s walls is a top priority. “It’s not just the relationship you build with the people in front of you,” said Santistevan. “How are you staying connected with them when they’re not in front of you, when they’re beyond the walls of our facility?”

To help overcome the challenge of trainers having less individual time with members, Advantage Training has leaned heavily on its MINDBODY management system to document every interaction and facilitate timely follow-ups.

Photo courtesy of Advantage Training

As far as helping trainers master the nuances of the four-to-one system, it all started with getting the right trainers in the building in the first place — the individuals who excel at one-on-one instruction but can also give the right amount of attention to a group. “We really wanted those educated individuals who are interested in continued education and want to help people on a pathway to success,” said Santistevan.

From an operational perspective, Advantage Training has come a long way. According to Santistevan, there have been two keys to his studio’s success since moving to Arizona, both of which were deficiencies during the early days of the business: staffing and technology.

Hiring the right people is probably the most pivotal element of our success — we had some learning curves there,” said Santistevan. “Getting the right people, putting them in the right seat, and having them apply themselves has been pivotal.”

And implementing the right technology was a game-changer. “That helps us stay organized and brings information to us so we can act,” said Santistevan. “We’re continually measuring our numbers, looking at ways for us to stretch ourselves, improve our delivery and processes, based on the data we’re being presented.”

Through all the early challenges of starting Advantage Training, Santistevan never lost sight of the original purpose of his business: empowering trainers to help members become the best versions of themselves.

“That’s been one of the strengths we’ve had, creating an environment that brings out the best in both our trainers and members,” said Santistevan. 

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