One of the biggest mistakes I see fitness entrepreneurs make is getting in the habit of doing what everyone else in their market does.

Everyone runs group training and sells it for $129 per month.  Me too.

Everyone runs a one-size-fits-all FB ad.  Me too.

Everyone has month to month memberships.  Me too.

This is a terrible approach to doing business because only about 1% of those other people have a clue what they’re doing.

The rest fall somewhere between business ‘on the verge of bankruptcy’ and ‘just getting by.’

What you should do is study the top 3-5% of our industry and what they’re doing and study businesses outside of the fitness industry and what they do.

In fact, I spend a decent amount of my study time watching and learning from businesses outside of fitness.  My favorite of these businesses is Disney.

I’ll admit, I’m biased because I’ve always been a Disney fan. In fact, when I was 4 and my brother was about to be born I wanted to name him Cubby after the character on the Mickey Mouse Club.

When my parents decided to go a different direction I called him Cubby anyway and to this day many of my childhood friends refer to my brother by that name.

So now, my family goes to Disney World several times every year, we host several meetings there, I own Disney stock and have become something of a Disney historian – reading a number of books about their business.

But, that’s part of the reason I study them.  I’ve graduated from everything else I was fixated on in my youth except baseball. How’d they keep me as a fan?

Reinvention without deviating from their core values I’d suspect.

I’ve watched how they expanded both who their customer was and how they maximized the value of each of their different types of customers. Disney is an incredible example of a business outside of our industry that can teach us a LOT about how to improve our businesses.

From Where They Were To Where They Are

Disney actually started as an animation company, creating animation shorts.  They moved into films and that’s where they had their first breakthrough.  They became the best in their field at that one thing.  

This obviously opened some small doors with things like merchandising based on the films and made for some solid additional revenues – but nothing like what they have today.

Eventually Disney deviated from simply creating animated films and they developed Disneyland and at the same time broke into the then new medium of television.  

They started adding in live action films as well.  

Every one of these different channels fed one another with publicity, marketing and potential revenue streams.

Fast forward to today.  Disney has 7 of the top 10 theme parks in the world.  

They have a Cruise Line, a Film Production arm, a television arm that includes ESPN, ABC and all the Disney content driven channels.

They have business development training, resorts and even a real estate arm.  

They own several of the most popular entertainment franchises in history like Star Wars, Marvel Comics and Indiana Jones.  And in each of these arms they’ve done countless things to monetize their opportunities.

Not bad for a guy who started all this by drawing a few animated characters.

How You Can Run Your Business Like Disney

When you think of everything they do now it can become difficult to see how there are any ways that your small business could be similar to Disney – but I’ll give you some good, actionable examples and you can go from there.

Identify What You Really Are – Disney figured out that they weren’t an animation company, they were actually an entertainment company.  

Once they did that it opened up a world of possibilities and you can see what it’s spiraled into today.  So the first thing that you could do is to identify what you are.  

You’re not a bootcamp or a personal trainer.  

You’re a business that provides X.  

Maybe you’re a fat loss company or a sports performance business. Once you start to see what you are in a broader sense you’ll start to see all the other opportunities that are available to you.

Maximize The Value of the Client Relationship – When Disney’s previous CEO, Michael Eisner took over he learned that when people visited Disney World they spent about $4000 for their vacation on average.  Disney was only capturing about $1000 of that even though they were the destination.  

Through several changes in their business like the addition of more hotels and resorts, new and better restaurants in the parks, improved merchandising in the parks and getting more involved in the travel side of vacations, Disney was able to soon up that $1000 in value that they were capturing to $3000.

How could you apply this? Very few people are coming to you for a workout.  

They’re coming for a result that the workout plays a part in achieving.  

You could easily start being a more complete solution and providing some of those other parts like nutrition and supplementation solutions, more education and workshops and maybe even more accountability.  

The more complete the solution that you provide, the more value you can capture from the client relationship.

Deliver An Experience That No One Will Match – Over 70% of Disney World’s guests are repeat visitors.  Considering the price tag and the fact that many of the guests are young children (who’ve had fewer years to make a previous trip), that number is staggering.  How do they do it?  They focus on guest experience.  

If they run a TV commercial or FB ads, anyone can match those pretty easily.  But the massive investment and amount of attention they pay to staff (or Cast as they call it) training, quality of attractions and attention to detail is something that almost no one will even try to match.

This is a clear opportunity for you.  

Like Disney, everyone in your area can run similar ads – but the experience once someone is inside your business is something that you can provide that, if done well, few will even try to match.  

You can make sure you’re delivering the best, up to date programming.  

You can make sure everything is clean and the atmosphere is motivating.  You can train your staff to make everyone feel like family and to offer the best coaching possible. These are areas that no one will likely put the time or energy into trying to compete with you – so use them…like Disney.

There are dozens of other things that you can learn (and apply) from Disney, but stay with these 3 and you’ll see immediate improvement in your business.

Written by patrigsby
Father. Husband. Entrepreneur. Coach. Author.