INSPIRED & WRITTEN BY Arcadier
Gavin Loh, the founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of Gotrainer.sg, flashes a smile before the camera. Photo courtesy of Gavin Loh.
Personal training has never been this accessible. Even in the comfort of your own home, you can have an invigorating vinyasa yoga session with a live instructor, who would be correcting your pose as you flow into the next one. Sounds too good to be true? It isn’t.
Dubbed as Uber for personal trainers, Gotrainer.sg brings fitness coaches to you instead of you searching high and low for them. Whether you are looking for a sweat session at your own home or in private gyms, you can take your pick at the plethora of personal coaches on this marketplace.
So to whom do we owe this game-changing marketplace that caught Singapore by storm last year to? It’s none other than Gavin Loh, a personal trainer who has many accolades to his name, with immense experience in training well-known celebrities such as DJ Jamie Yeo and musician Sara Wee.
We got up close with Gavin at Energia Fitness (a private gym listed on Gotrainer.sg) and learned a trick or two about setting up your own marketplace. One can only imagine the pains in developing and managing a marketplace, particularly in finding supply for the marketplace without first knowing the demand for it.
Arcadier: How did you bring in a ready supply of fitness trainers for Gotrainer? Did you run into any roadblock doing so?
Gavin: There is not much of a problem on the recruitment side because I know many of the existing professional trainers on my marketplace. The personal training industry is small and you are bound to cross paths with them somehow, so contacts is important in mine and in fact any industry. Moreover, my marketplace solves a problem for these trainers as they can expand their clientele instead of relying on just referrals. This drew them to my marketplace. In fact, as Gotrainer grew, I received more enquiries from personal trainers each day asking to join my platform.
Arcadier: What are the obstacles that you faced as you started up Gotrainer?
Gavin: One huge obstacle is being the go-between between clients and the trainers, where you have to deal with issues on both fronts. Some customers are surprisingly reluctant to book a session on a marketplace even when that is easier than doing it offline. On the other hand, there are also some personal trainers who did not take to the idea of being on Gotrainer like I expected. Hence, I would usually meet them in person to give them some assurance and guarantee as to how the system works.
In case you were wondering, Gotrainer does not charge a listing fee for trainers to onboard its marketplace. A commission fee is taken for every transaction that changes hand between a trainer and a new customer. The session that a customer signs up for with a trainer is akin to a paid trial session; so after which if the individual decides to sign on a package or a series of sessions with the same trainer, then a commission fee will be charged.
Arcadier: As the marketplace scales up, would the issues you have mentioned cease and would any new ones arise?
Gavin: These issues will remain, and being the go-between, there is a need for me to step back and make the process more automated, perhaps when it grows so big I can’t afford the time and effort to do it manually. As Gotrainer grows, I certainly need to have the trainers being able to control their available dates and timings themselves. As of now, I am doing it manually and that will be a huge problem once the volume of transactions increases to an extent I cannot manage.
Gavin also shared a key problem, which certainly resonates with many other entrepreneurs alike as they put in place measures to evade this. In spite of the guaranteed transactional security, such as having reliable and certified modes of payment like Paypal in the marketplace, it does not completely eliminate the likelihood of customers circumventing the marketplace and going straight to the trainers themselves. That would spell a looming doom for the marketplace.
Fortunately, there has not been such an incident, at least not to Gavin’s knowledge. As Gavin explained, “In reality, the success rates are high as you try to recruit more experienced personal trainers who know how to close a deal. So with that, one foot is in the door already and at this point in time, it is not really that big of an issue but I am aware of it.” This gives us an idea of what to expect and a head-start on ways to counter this problem, which is recurrent in almost every other marketplace.
Gavin, also a fitness enthusiast, professed of his keen interest in training at the gym and keeping fit since young, as he frequently maintains his toned physique. Photo courtesy of Gavin Loh.
Arcadier: As you face these challenges in starting and running Gotrainer, what kept you going?
Gavin: I knew that it wasn’t going to be smooth-sailing and being prepared for difficulties makes it easier to get around any obstacle. That being said, I didn’t take anything too harshly for I ultimately believed that this product will make a difference to the industry and that is the big picture view that I had. When I encountered poor returns on my social media efforts, I was dejected at first. However, I tweaked my strategies as soon as I realised that old-school marketing still worked better because it offered that personal rapport and connection, which are pivotal to win customers over.
It just goes to show how you should find an alternative if something is not working. Trial and error is still a great way to go about finding out if your method is feasible. Generally, being open to more experiences has enriched Gavin immensely. He shared with us that you do not know for sure whether you will succeed in the end or not but one thing is certain - you will learn a lot. He has progressed from being clueless about the technology that goes behind a marketplace to gaining enormous insights into this area.
Arcadier: What made you decide to go vertical and target customers who want personalised training? What are the tips you would give to our readers?
Gavin: The fitness industry like any is affected by trend, but at the end of the day the customers want results so they need to get a personalised trainer. Granted that spinning classes at gyms or boot-camps can get you a good sweat, but do they guarantee you to be in the best shape? That’s why you need a customised program to follow and guide you more in terms of diet and recovery. Personal training is always going to be in demand, and if anything, that is the obvious path to take.
One tip Gavin offered in going vertical is to be deeply familiar with the industry and market that you are going into with solid research and experience. This will help tremendously in deciding what is more applicable to your niche market and provide just that. See your marketplace as disrupting the economy, facilitate the demand and do it better than everyone else.
While it may not be the word we expect from an entrepreneur in starting his own marketplace, that is the word which Gavin summed his marketplace journey in. It really is different when the motivation behind a marketplace comes from a place of sheer passion and striving to achieve something above and beyond. Indeed, it was admirable and inspiring to learn that one of his personal core belief and vision is to build a community for the fitness industry and provide the best service available that need not be restricted by any particular gym or space.
So for aspiring entrepreneurs who are all ready to jump into the collaborative economy of marketplaces, Gavin Loh has an interesting quote from a hit song, “Renegade” by Jay-Z that goes like this, “I drove by the fork in the road and went straight”. Essentially, you should go for it because you’re better for it. Of course, you need to have the end in sight and give it your best shot.