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ACSM'S Health & Fitness Journal:

The Business Side: A Business of One

Couzelis, Paul M. Ph.D., FAWHP

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Paul M. Couzelis, Ph.D., FAWHP, is a founding partner and senior vice president of MediFit Corporate Services, Inc., which is a diversified management and consulting company with nationwide interests in worksite health promotion, physical fitness, health screening, and worksite physical therapy. Dr. Couzelis was the 1996 International President of the Association for Worksite Health Promotion (AWHP) and served as Chairperson of its Professional Standards Task Force. He also served as the 2001 president of the National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity (NCPPA). Currently, he is a member of the Editorial Board of ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal® and is part of the writing team that is revising the ACSM Health/Fitness Facility Standards and Guidelines. He received his B.S. and M.S. from Springfield College and his Ph.D. in exercise physiology from Kent State University.

The premise of this article is that your life can be viewed as a "business." The talent and ability with which a business plan is created and implemented will contribute to the speed, direction, and quality of your career advancement. Therefore, it makes sense to give consideration to more than your goals and objectives; think about your moral and ethical practices, product/services, human resources, marketing, sales, customer service, and finances if you expect to fare better than the competition. It doesn't matter whether you are an employee or employer; those who plan and prepare are likely to fare better as their lives and careers proceed. Business planning is nothing more than a method of taking multiple factors into consideration and planning to do things well. So, life can be perceived as a business. Are you handling your life as a business?

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If you desire to view your life as a business, the question arises as to what kind of a business person you are. Are you an honest straight shooter, manipulator, egomaniac, control person or one who effectively delegates, team leader or team player, enabler or so detail oriented that you get in your own way? Think about it. Pick some terms that describe you now as well as some terms that describe the way you would like to be. These decisions are vital because they will provide consistency of style and direction to your actions.

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Moral & Ethical Practices

If you want to succeed and be respected for the long term (as in, your career), it is easier and better business to do things the right way so that your colleagues/customers will recognize you for your quality, honesty, and integrity. As your skills evolve and develop, everything you do will not always be perfect, but your effort will be, and people will respect you for it. This perception will engender a trust that translates into growth and opportunity for you.

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Whatever you do is your product and whoever you do it for is your customer. We all deliver a product to customers. Your product can be emptying the garbage at home, leading a class, providing a personal training session or putting a sign on a bulletin board; in brief, your product is anything that you do that somehow affects other people. So the questions you must ask yourself include: Am I doing the best possible job? Have I somehow made things better for others? Does anyone else do it better? Who? How? Mentally, break down everything you do into its component parts and think about how each segment might be improved.

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Personal Marketing

The ability to express yourself accurately, with poise and confidence is one of the important attributes that will determine your personal success; and luckily, it is a skill that we can all improve on. While your knowledge is important, your ability to provide that information to your customers in clear, concise, and accurate language is vital. Often, the perception of the messenger is every bit as important as the message that is being conveyed. Decide how you would like others to perceive you as a messenger and then do something about it. If these are areas where you could use some improvement, consider joining a nearby Toastmaster's Club or enrolling in a business writing course. You are far more likely to be an effective professional if your speaking and writing skills are as strong as possible; and your appearance is always appropriate to the situation.

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Customer Service

We all see examples of good and bad customer service almost every day-in the supermarket, the fast food restaurant, gas station, and at the gym. Occasionally we experience extraordinary customer service that wows us and we never forget it. Recently, while staying at a hotel I went out for a run. When I returned, the doorman (outside the hotel) unexpectedly handed me a towel and a bottle of water. I was blown away and now never miss an opportunity to tell people about this hotel. On a Friday at 8 p.m., before needing to leave for a trip at noon on Saturday, I found that I had to replace a credit card that had been abused. I called the help line and they promised me that I would have a new card before I left the next day (needless to say, I had trouble believing this). I live in Connecticut, and before 9:30 a.m. on Saturday a new card was delivered to my door, from Idaho! These are two examples of extraordinary customer service that exceeded my expectations. Become aware of when you receive exceptional service and ask yourself what it was that made you feel so good. Then, learn to do it yourself. Become a deliverer of service that wows your customers in personal training or greeting people at the desk of a facility. It will become a habit.

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Nearly everyone believes that their efforts are worth more money than they are currently being paid. Whether you are employed by an organization or self-employed, income is generally determined by factors such as talent, drive, ability, education, productivity, industry demand, and value added. Experience is valuable to the degree that it makes you a more knowledgeable and productive worker whose output contributes more to the success of your employer or your own endeavor. Ask yourself what your services are really worth, and why? Simply putting in time does not mean that your value should increase or that you can successfully increase your rates. As your own personal business of one, you can always be looking for ways to add incremental value to the work that you do. Examine how you can do your work better; piece by piece. If you do it well, your services will become more valuable. If not, you will find that you are repeating the same activities without consciously improving your communications, skills, or knowledge.

Whether you work in the health & fitness industry or any other field, it is always beneficial to look at yourself as a business by looking inward and asking yourself two key questions:

1. What does success mean to me, and will I know when I have achieved it?

2. What is my personal business plan for becoming successful, and have I identified the pieces of that plan?

In the final analysis, you are the CEO of your life. Engage in self analysis, think through the various factors and make the best possible decisions. If you are realistic you will know when it is time to promote yourself and give yourself a raise.

© 2005 American College of Sports Medicine


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