Tackling the Cranky Local Football Coach Conundrum

Just about every high school in our country has a weight room in it these days, and that feels like a problem to you, the gym owner…

Maybe it’s a problem because the football coach has his guys in the gym at 6:00am banging out ugly squats and aggressive training material that may not be in the best interest of your long-time client who is too afraid to speak up.

It might be a problem because that same coach is telling the kids that you don’t understand football like he does and that training in your gym is a waste of time and money.

Whatever your circumstances look like, it feels like a problem. So, what are you going to do about it?

You could play the political bad-mouthing game and tell an athlete that his coach is in over his head because he doesn’t have an exercise science degree and a CSCS like yourself, or you could take the high road and kill everyone with kindness. I’d imagine you know this already, but I’m taking the high road if I find myself in this situation.

Here are a few solutions you can take to this perceived problem and hopefully begin playing nice with the local high school coaches:

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1. Compliment Instead of Competing

The first thing you can do in advance of a pending season would be to reach out to the coach and introduce yourself. Explain that you’ve had the pleasure of working with his players, compliment him on the work ethic that he’s obviously instilled in his guys, and ask how you could design their training material to compliment the existing game plan for team-lifts, extracurricular conditioning, etc.

Tell him that you want to ensure that the material you prepare for his players during their time not spent at the high school gym is designed to build off of the progress which you expect them to be making in his weight room, and consider even going so far as to ask his advice.

At worst, he’ll blow off your email while knowing that you’ve proven yourself to have some semblance of professionalism. At best, he’ll acknowledge that you know the ins and outs of the weight room better than he does, and ask you to consult on his strategy for morning lifts.

2. Offer to Help

Imagine the tables were turned and you received an email from the local football coach saying the following:

“Dear World Class Strength Coach,

As we approach the start of the high school summer break I would imagine you find yourself ramping up for an influx of my football players looking to prepare for the season. I’d also imagine those guys can overwhelm the space pretty quickly. With this in mind, I thought I’d offer to drop by and be an extra set of hands if you guys are ever in need of some coaching help.

Please don’t hesitate to let me know how I can be of assistance, and thanks for taking care of my crew.

Sincerely,

Coach So & So”

Answer a quick question for me, and be honest…would you read that email and think to yourself: “Here we go again with this a-hole….”

Nope.

You’d be pleasantly surprised, and might even take him up on his offer.

Take that template and make it your own in a way that will effectively communicate the message that you’re here to help. Remember this: Many states have rules in place that keep athletic faculty from interacting with their athletes on school grounds while not in season, so it is in your best interest to be positioned as the best alternative in the minds of these coaches if such rules exist.

3. Show Face

Show up to everything you can, and make sure to bring the right attitude. Fund-raising car wash? Bring your car by and leave a big tip. Informational meeting for players and parents? Make an appearance to get a feel for the questions and concerns of the parents, and make note of how the coaches respond. Game day? You’d better be on the sideline wearing team colors and finding a way to deliver a congratulatory handshake to Coach So & So on his way to the bus.

Be a team player, even if you aren’t actually on the team.

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4. Donate Equipment

While it is common to find weight rooms on premises at local high school these days, it is similarly common to find woefully under-equipped spaces. If you find yourself replacing an old squat rack because you’re upgrading to the collegiate set-up, buying a new olympic bar because the knurling is wearing down on yours, or installing some pretty new hash-marked turf in place of the old stuff, consider donating it to the school.

You’ll improve the work environment for the coach you currently feel like you’re competing with, while also improving the likelihood that your clients get safe and effective training in off-site from your own gym.

In Summary

If you’ve made it this far, you know that my solution for the grumpy local football coach problem is to kill him with kindness. There are more than enough entitled parents and athletes breathing down the necks of those coaches, so there’s no need for you to be another rock thrown on top of that heavy pile.

If none of these suggestions are welcomed in some way shape or form, I’d suggest that you bide your time, and wait for the inevitable firing that is sure to come!


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Two Important Types of Training You Didn't Expect to Deliver at Your Gym

I knew it all when I was 25.

I opened a gym that was going to take over the world. There was literally zero chance I could fail, or make a mistake for that matter. How could I not crush it? I had an MBA, after all.

Oh how fantastically naive I was.

Twelve years have passed. Twelve quick years that featured both successful and failed objectives around the gym, employees coming and going for a variety of reasons, and a series of metaphorical kicks in the teeth that led to 186 blog posts just like this one.

This week I want to share two more lessons learned along the way. While these both fall far outside of the “kick-in-the-teeth” category, they have resurfaced on my radar on more than one occasion this week, leaving them fresh in my mind. Both will serve as valuable takeaways for those of you who’ve yet to encounter these inevitable certainties of gym ownership in the performance training space.

Let’s discuss the training you didn’t realize you’d be delivering…

1. We train parents, and it has nothing to do with the weight room.

I used to joke that my time spent running a gym catering to young athletes has been a crash course in “how not to parent your kids.” I’ve since come to learn that it wasn’t a joke. The kids we train may not arrive with the work ethic we desire, but that is usually more of a lagging indicator of the tone set by parents than it is of an athlete’s actual potential in the gym.

Turns out we can begin dramatically improving the potential of a kid even before handing him an individualized training program. We do this by outlining some strongly suggested rules for engaging with our business. At some point during each athlete’s first day with us, these two things are made clear to the athlete, in front of a parent:

  • If you’re old enough to carry around your own cell phone, you’re old enough to schedule your own training sessions.

  • If you have concerns about the direction of your program, or any pain you may feel during the training process, YOU tell us immediately, not your dad via telephone during the ride home from the gym.

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Long story short, we’re trying to build proactive athletes who take ownership of the training process and learn to engage effectively with adults. They can either embrace these guidelines and flourish, or they can stay the course, and likely struggle to find a place to play at the next level when the coach at the local university is turned off by the feeling that he’s recruiting a helicopter dad more than an athlete that can contribute to his program.

If we train a kid to minimize his dad’s role right in front of him on the first day, we (usually) find that the dad voluntarily takes a step back in handling each of the logistics along the way.

On a similar note…

2. We owe it to our young athletes to keep them accountable to more than just training.

I’d imagine you opened your gym with the intention of “making an impact,” right?

Well I can say with certainty that I’ve made a lasting impact on a high school athlete named Ben. This impact had nothing to do with his squat technique or cleaning up his lunge pattern.

I helped Ben by telling him that I would no longer tolerate scheduling emails that did not take proper grammar or punctuation into consideration. I explained that I want to see an acceptable greeting in the opening of his messages, and a removal of all acronyms that only make sense to teenagers who spend their days firing off 400 texts.

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Instead of:

“i’m coming at 3 today to lift. TTYS”

I now receive:

“Good morning, Pete. I’d like to train today after school. I expect to arrive around 3:00pm. Please let me know if this will not work on your end.

Talk soon, Ben.”

I initially felt like a curmudgeon while delivering this message. I then realized I’d just fast-tracked a life skill that will likely help Ben get into college, land future jobs, and function as a productive adult. Someday he will score a spot on a college roster in a great program, and I’ll be able to take comfort in knowing that he did so by carrying himself as a mature adult during the recruiting process. I’ll also be the guy celebrating his commitment to said academic/athletic program on our company’s social media platforms because I’m a greedy opportunist.

Kidding, sort of..


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Don't Make a Hire Without Making This Clear

There is one type of employee you definitively do not want to have as a small gym owner, and that’s the “that isn’t in my job description” guy. That person can certainly thrive in a defined role within a mature organization, but not in your lean startup that rides a rollercoaster of emotional highs and lows every day of the year.  

Hiring strong technicians is a great idea, so long as they are willing to acknowledge that we’re trying to 2x our business every day, week and month of the year. With this in mind, roles are going to change over time, objectives are going to evolve, and expectations of every member of the team need to be treated as malleable if we are going to keep this thing reactive and flexible. 

I’d imagine you’re not managing a 15+ person team of personal trainers out of a massive big box gym, so closely sticking to the defined job description is rarely an option. If your back is up against the wall, and you’re worried about making payroll or rent in a given month, there isn’t room for coaches who aren’t prepared to embrace an all-hands-on-deck mentality every day that they come to work.

If your uniform looks like this, “that’s not part of my job description” is more acceptable…

If your uniform looks like this, “that’s not part of my job description” is more acceptable…

This means that if you’ve got a coach on salary, or pay him a defined hourly wage, he needs to know that he’ll likely be asked to go off-script during quiet parts of the day. The contract he signed probably doesn’t say: “will walk door-to-door handing out flyers promoting a charity event,” but that doesn’t mean you should feel guilty asking him to do so during operating hours.

This mindset applies to the gym that is struggling to just barely keep its head above water every bit as much as it applies to the one that can just barely keep up with explosive growth. Everyone needs to be prepared to bend when necessary for the greater good.

Ben Horowitz hammers this concept home repeatedly in his great business book, The Hard Thing About Hard Things. In it, he explains that even the founding CEO’s in fast-growing tech companies are faced with a lack of job security, especially when they do their jobs well enough to drive rapid growth. It is often assumed that the skills necessary for launching a viable operation are significantly different from those necessary to scale it. As a result, great founders often find themselves being replaced by a board of directors that wants experienced veterans charting the course for their hefty financial investments.

Arguably my favorite book of 2019 thus far.

Arguably my favorite book of 2019 thus far.

With this in mind, founding CEO’s either have to do the hard work to convince decision-makers that they’re prepared to effectively pivot in their role if necessary, or get out of the way for a more seasoned executive to do so. Our coaches in the private sector of the fitness instruction space are faced with similar realities. They can either embrace the fact that gym growth (or survival) will likely require that they embrace the need for more than assessing, programming for, and coaching clients, or they can get out of the way for someone who will.

The next time you sit down with a potential hire and find yourself running through a structured list of bullet-pointed daily tasks, remind that person that you may have to tear it all up and start from scratch if and when you hit the new client lottery and need to get creative. Your gym that is designed to accommodate 40 clients today will hopefully be taking in 80 a day in the coming year. Does the candidate sitting in front of you understand the realities of that kind of change?

If you don’t convey this message, you’ll likely find yourself both disappointed in that employee’s willingness to step up, and feeling like the bad guy asking more of him.


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How We Built an Online Community…That’s Actually A Community

Today's guest post comes to you courtesy of my good friend, Todd Bumgardner. He is the co-founder of an impressive online community called The Strength Faction, which I’ve had the pleasure of working with on many occasions during the past three years. What he and his colleagues have created is special, which is why I’m excited to share this post. Enjoy!

If you Google “community” you’ll find two definitions listed:

First, “a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.”

Second, “a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.”

When building an online community, the first definition doesn’t do all that much for you—save for having a particular characteristic in common. But that second definition, that’s the one. For those looking for true human connection in an effort at producing positive, life-improving outcomes, it’s bathed in a golden glow and beckons like a muse calling to a greater cause.

It’s what we’ve built in Strength Faction.

Community has become the Frank’s Red Hot of fitness industry buzzwords—people are putting that shit on everything. But a sincere, enduring, online community isn’t just some forum where people that bought the same product hang out and is framed in by clever word choice. It’s, well, definition number two from above. We’ve been running ours for four years. I’m going to share with you a little about how we’ve built it.

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We Didn’t Treat it like an “Online” Community

Online is just a means of access—and we have to remember that. I think the main mistake that we avoided when we started what would become Strength Faction in September 2015 is that we didn’t start out all online business-y. Maybe it was just lack of skill, and it was likely to our short-term monetary detriment, but the foundation of our community was built with real human connection.

We began with folks that we already knew, liked, and trusted. Typically, you hear that conversely stated—that your marketing should invite people to know, like, and trust you. That’s true. But when building a true community, you have to start with people that you have a sincere and strong connection with. Those folks have experience with you and know that you’ll be offering something of value. More importantly, in the context of community, you share the same values—and you’ve had opportunities to demonstrate that to each other in world outside the internet. These were people that we were friends with, that we had previously taught in our workshops, that we sat across the table from and listened to.

After a short trial that gave us the opportunity to teach ourselves the initial logistics of how the program would work, we started inviting these folks into the Faction. How did we do it? I actually talked to them. Through personal emails that led to phone calls, or phone calls the led to descriptive emails, I actually had real conversations with the people that we were asking to join us in this experiment in online, community learning. The whole thing started with real connection. I don’t thing that can be overstated or overvalued.

When we gave these folks a clear picture of what Strength Faction would be, we asked if they knew anyone like them that they thought would love to be a part of it. And wouldn’t you know it, they sure did.

I continued on with that process—reaching out to folks that I know, like, and trust and asking them to introduce me to folks that they share the same sentiments for. It worked. We finished our trial with two people out of twenty that were willing to pay for Strength Faction (and they both had met, and had positive experiences with us, in person). After my personal operation to connect with everyone I knew, we started the very first full round of Strength Faction (the program runs in seventeen-week cycles) with forty-seven members.

We Made it Safe…And Fun

On the first day of each new Strength Faction semester (the term semester affectionately coined by the Faction Family members) we do an introduction post. Folks introduce themselves in the standard way, but then there’s also a question that does a bit guard lowering. We ask something silly—often in the form of a would you rather question. 

Our Vets lead the charge, introducing themselves in seriously and silly ways, and welcoming the new members by saying that they are here to help, while also encouraging the new ladies and gents to participate and reminding them that they made a good choice. New members immediately feel welcome, and they start to introduce themselves. Inevitably, members old and new find common threads running through their lives and instant connections are made.

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The coaches and mentors—there are five of us in total—follow suit in a similar-silly-yet-serious fashion. I often quote Dr. Evil’s soliloquy about “summers and Rangoon, luge lessons, and making meat helmets in the spring” and pass it off as my childhood. It’s not that far from the truth.

Guards are immediately lowered, and the tone is set. We’re here to help, we know what we’re doing, but goddamn it we aren’t dealing with grenades. Let’s not take ourselves too seriously.

This same tone resonates through the interactions in our Open Forum where anyone can post truly anything they want—as long as they aren’t being an asshole (that gets you a talking to from me). It’s mostly questions and offers to help. As well as during our bi-weekly QnAs, where we meet up on ZOOM and chat face-to-face…well, through a computer screen…bullshitting and working through each other’s day-to-day problems of life as a coach. And shit gets weird sometimes…in the most fun yet productive way possible.

Dan John’s Intentional Community in Action

It’s impossible to be a quality-minded fitness industry coach and escape the positive influence of Dan John. He’s the godfather of the industry. As with many others, he’s profoundly impacted how we think about, and carryout, our coaching—in our gym (BSP NOVA) and in Strength Faction. His idea of intentional community had to be manifest if we were to be successful in creating an actual community-based coaching program. I think we nailed it.

If you’ve never heard Dan talk about intentional community, he describes it in terms of vertical and horizontal axis. Descending down the vertical axis is the mythology, story, education, and leadership of the community. The horizontal axis represents the peer connections. We made a webbing, connecting each person in as many ways possible on each axis.

Vertically, we have our coaching structure, the education that we offer, and the stories of how we’ve gotten to where we are in our lives and careers. There are the coaches—Chris, Mike, and me—and then the mentors, three coaches that have successfully completed multiple semesters of our program before we asked them to help guide newcomers. All of the coaches and the mentors “sing in the same key”, so to speak. While we all have unique experiences, we all use the shared experience of the curriculum to guide the Strength Faction members. We’re connected to each other, we’re connected to the story of the program and what it teaches.

The curriculum and story are important, but it’s the true, human connection that makes it work. This isn’t some figurehead-type-shit-rife with nice ideas a no action. Our mentors actually interact and guide their mentees. Mike, Chris, and I actually coach—whether that’s during one-on-one phone calls, our ZOOM QnAs, or in our Facebook Open Forum. We didn’t just set up the program and then step back and let it run, we’re still in there, connecting, coaching, helping. That creates a strong vertical pillar.

Horizontally, we create tons of opportunities for our folks to genuinely connect…and help each other. There’s this crazy thing about people—we don’t want to just take, we also inherently feel a need to give. And when you give folks the opportunity to give to each other, and connect them via a common goal and language, they end up forging strong bonds.

I mentioned the introductions, the ZOOM QnAs, the Open Forum. Our members don’t just sit back and listen to the coaches and mentors in these spaces, they actively converse with each other, coaching each other based on their personal experience and what they’ve learned from us. We do our best just to sit back and facilitate.

Members are connected to each other, they’re connected to their mentors and coaches, and they’re connected via a shared story from the history and education of the program. It’s all genuine. It binds them all together into a true, intentional community.

Pete jumps in on the occasional Faction Q&A.

Pete jumps in on the occasional Faction Q&A.

Fellowship, Common Attitudes, Common Goals

I’ll leave you with a few thoughts—mostly words of warning so that you can avoid floundering.

First, we didn’t create a community because a business guru told us it was the best way to run a business. In fact, quite a few folks tried to talk us out of doing things the way we did because it would be too labor intensive and not profitable enough. They were right that it’s been a lot of work, but they were wrong about sustainability and profitability. Very wrong. It’s been worth all of the effort—for all involved.

We created a community because we sincerely knew that it would be the best way to positively affect change in a lot of lives. And we’ve held that idea dearly to our chests as we’ve continued to evolve Strength Faction and improve it. That genuine feeling is palpable. It’s like glue. If your goal is to build an online community, the foundation is the genuine motivation to connect people because you know it’s the best thing to do. Start there, or you’re lost.

Be about the community, not just the freedom and reach that the internet provides. If you put the latter in front of the former, you’ll stall quickly. It’s easy to get excited about growth and scalability, but if you don’t have something genuine and of value to offer the folks you want to serve, you can forget about growth and scalability.

Build the community you want to build. As I mentioned a few paragraphs ago, we had quite a few folks telling us quite a few things about how we should build and manage this community. While we were sincerely appreciative of their input, we didn’t listen. We smiled, nodded our heads, and did whatever the fuck we were going to do anyway. Because we knew it was right. Because we were being guided by our own values. And there’s nothing that’s going to foundationally support, and bind a community together, more than genuine value and values.

 

Enrollment for the Fall ’19 Strength Faction is currently open. Click the link below to learn more or to enroll: 

Fall ’19 Strength Faction Enrollment

 

 

Todd Bumgardner, MS, LMT is a strength coach and business owner located in Northern Virginia where he operates Beyond Strength Performance NOVA with his partner Chris Merritt and is the Director of Staff Development and Internship Coordinator. He’s also the co-founder of Strength Faction, a personal and professional development company for personal trainers that he’s owned and operated with Chris Merritt and Mike Connelly since 2015. Apart from these two great gigs, Todd does the strength programming for the new recruits of a full-time, Federal tactical law enforcement group. When he’s not working, Todd’s fishing, hunting, playing one of his guitars, or gallivanting through the mountains somewhere.

The Thin Line Between Loyalty and Defection

It took all of ten seconds of poor customer service to eliminate a shade over $1,500/year in effortless annual revenue…

It was a normal Sunday morning. The Dupuis Family was kicking off a big day of activities and before we could start, I needed to address my empty gas tank situation. I pulled up to the pump, punched in my credit card information, and popped the nozzle into my car to begin pumping my usual bi-weekly tank of gas. My wife was in the front seat of the car, her door open, sitting roughly six feet away from the pump. 

I’m going to go grab a cup of coffee, I said. Can you keep an eye on this?

Sure, Pete. No problem.

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As I stepped through the door of the mini-mart, I heard an abrasive shout from behind the register.

SIR. IS THAT YOUR RED JEEP?

Yes. Yes it is.

You and I both know that you’re not supposed to walk away from the car while gas is pumping (still sort of shouting).

My apologies. My wife is sitting right there in the front seat, eyes on the pump, taking care of that for me.

That’s not how this works. Get back out there now or I’ll turn off the pump.

Roughly ten customers throughout the shop had their eyes fixed in my direction, looking at me in a way that made me feel like a criminal of sorts. I wanted to argue my case further, but was so caught off-guard by the aggressive approach being taken by the cashier that all I could think to do was walk out of the store.

I returned to my car, stepped over the pump line, and approached my wife to tell her what had just happened. The gas was still pumping. As I stood there ranting, with my back to the pump, I heard the click.

The cashier had turned off the pump before the tank was half full because I didn’t have eyes on it...as I stood two steps away. He was on a nice big power trip, and his victory would have long-term implications.

Just like that, Cumberland Farms had lost my business until the end of time. No more gas. No more cups of coffee or quick snacks. No more anything. A minimum wage employee had unknowingly made the decision to cut ties with a patron who had spent more than $5,000 on fuel alone in the last five years since moving to town, and he surely would not lose a minute of sleep over it in the future.

For the record, I now understand and acknowledge that I was breaking a rule. But clients unknowingly break rules all the time, and there are two directions businesses can go with delivering that message...

Rating my Cumberland Farms customer service experience.

Rating my Cumberland Farms customer service experience.

The thing that makes gas stations and gyms similar

Gas stations are a dime a dozen. They sell a commodity, and spend their days competing on price and location. If we don’t like the way we’re treated at one station, we get back in our car and take our business a quarter of a mile down the road.

Like it or not, the average fitness consumer looks at gyms nearly the exact same way. Sure, we employ coaches with related college degrees, constantly spend continuing education dollars on improving ourselves, and ultimately spend far more time preparing ourselves to deliver exceptional customer service experiences than the local Cumberland Farms...but that’s a story that the soccer mom living around the corner is rarely told. Instead, she believes our gym to be no different than the $0 down, $10/month Planet Fitness offer sitting right around the corner.

As a result, we are every bit as susceptible to client defection during the early stages of the customer life cycle as the gas station with the unpleasant cashier. 

We can’t afford to have bad days, minutes, or moments. Office Managers can’t choose not to smile. Coaches can’t get away with resting bitch face while walking to the restroom. And independent contractors, who are perceived to be an extension of our businesses, had better not make a habit of “taking plays off” when a parent in the parking approaches him looking for the right lobby to access the gym.

Every interaction may not be an opportunity to earn additional business, but it sure as shit is an opportunity to lose it. 

The service we deliver is anything but a commodity, but that doesn’t matter if we’ve failed to shift that perception in the eyes of our potential consumers. We convey that message slowly and systematically over a series of training sessions in month one. The bad news for us is that those sessions will be the last we have the opportunity to deliver if we employ people who take it upon themselves to tell a client: “You and I both know that’s not how this works.”

Sorry, Cumberland Farms. I’ll see you never.




Want to go even further down the customer service rabbit hole?

My business partner Eric and I are going to spend Monday, September 23rd digging deep into everything from lead generation, to pricing strategy, gym design, and everything in between. If you’re interested in learning exactly how we’ve attacked building and maintaining the model we’ve had in action since 2007, this packed day of information is for you.

*** Take note that this registration includes complimentary attendance to the CSP Fall Seminar which is set to take place during the two days before our mentorship event. This one will be a good bang for your buck continuing education opportunity.

Check out all of the details HERE, and make sure to shoot me an email (pdgymsolutions@gmail.com) if you have follow-up questions.




Gym Owner Musings - Installment #16

Every month or so the “content ideas” page in my iPhone notes app begins to fill up with topics that aren’t quite beefy enough to justify an entire blog, but also a little too bulky to cram into a Tweet or Instagram post. I’ve once again hit that point, meaning it’s time to unload a couple of quick-hitter discussion topics that have been kicking around in my head (and notes app).

Here’s your August edition of Gym Owner Musings:

1. Pricing strategy is about more than just numbers.

There are multiple ways to sell the same thing, at essentially the same price. Allow me to illustrate this point with a pair of selling scenarios.

Pitch #1 - “We’re excited to have you this summer. I’d imagine you would benefit from a combination of our service offerings in the next twelve weeks. Your unlimited supervised training will cost $400/month. Additionally, the weekly pitching lessons will be $60/session, the weekly manual therapy appointments will be $60/session, and a pair of $50 nutrition consultations is suggested over the course of the time you are here.”

Athlete response - “Sounds like those costs will pile up quickly. Let’s just sign me up for the initial month of strength training and I’ll mix in some of the other stuff where I see fit.”

Pitch #2 - “You should definitely consider securing a spot in our comprehensive summer program. The cost will be $2,750 and it will cover everything, including daily supervised training, weekly manual therapy and throwing lessons, and a pair of nutrition consultations. We’ll handle all of the logistics and all you have to do is show up and put in the hard work. We’re only going to be enrolling 20 athletes in this year’s program due to the high level of planning involved to make sure you have an exceptional experience.”

Athlete response - “How do I put down a deposit?”

The lesson here is that selling is as much about positioning as it is about the numbers involved. In fact, the second scenario I’ve outlined is the exact same service offering, except for the fact that it is actually $10 more expensive than that which I suggested in pitch number one. In my experience, the latter approach closes a considerable amount more business than the former.

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2. Your voice may not jive with your brand…

My buddy Zack runs an consulting firm catering to insurance providers around the country. I’ve casually followed (and admired) his brand from afar for a while now, and recently spotted a pivot of sorts in the messaging. More specifically, I noticed that he and his business partner had shifted their whimsical and humorous branding strategy to something a little more deliberately buttoned up, for lack of a better term.

I know Zack well enough to realize that a change of that magnitude doesn’t happen by mistake, or as a result of impulse, so I asked him what’s up…

“You ever see Rolex build humor into one of their advertisements?”

With that one simple question, it all became crystal clear to me. He’d realized that he aspired to deliver a service that is so elite that it serves as a signaling tool, but his messaging wasn’t telling the same story. Humor is great, but it doesn’t serve the overarching purpose attached to his growing brand. As a result, the jokes had to go.

This lesson is of the utmost importance to the gym owner who delivers a premium priced personal training service, or even the business guru offering a top-dollar mentorship service. As much as you like to humanize your business and brand with humor in your social media strategy, you should know that it may be contradicting the branding strategy you’ve put in place.

Positively impact the resumes that leave your operation…

Positively impact the resumes that leave your operation…

3. Improve your gym’s reputation with one simple habit.

We’ve put a new policy in place for outgoing interns here at CSP. If you want to be eligible to receive a letter of recommendation from us as you transition out of the program, you need to submit a resume for review during your last week with us.

We then review the material, make specific suggested modifications that will allow the coach to stand out in future applicant pools, and all but guarantee that the people who come out of our program reflect well upon us moving forward. Everybody wins.

So, assuming you have out-going interns or employees who are moving on (hopefully on the best of terms), it would be in everyone’s best interest for you to assist them in effectively navigating the job search process that lies ahead. If you don’t, you just may find that your business is inaccurately depicted time and time again without you even realizing it.

DID THIS ONE RESONATE WITH YOU?

My business partner Eric and I are going to spend Monday, September 23rd digging deep into everything from lead generation, to pricing strategy, gym design, and everything in between. If you’re interested in learning exactly how we’ve attacked building and maintaining the model we’ve had in action since 2007, this packed day of information is for you.

*** Take note that this registration includes complimentary attendance to the CSP Fall Seminar which is set to take place during the two days before our mentorship event. This one will be a good bang for your buck continuing education opportunity.

Check out all of the details HERE, and make sure to shoot me an email (pdgymsolutions@gmail.com) if you have follow-up questions.

10 Habits That Are Just as Important as Tracking KPI

If you ask me a generic question regarding business advice for the average gym owner, I’m going to tell you to track key performance metrics first every single time. With the increasing accessibility of “business-y” blogs such as mine, the importance of chasing specific performance indicators seems to be trending closer and closer to the common sense category amongst the gym owner community.

This is great.

The problem I’m beginning to see with increasing frequency, however, is the habit of getting lost in KPI spreadsheets while some of the most important basics are being neglected or left unattended entirely. With this in mind, I want to put ten simple reminders on your plate that can all be easily implemented the moment you return to work next week:

1. Never, ever stop reading.

Without question, the strongest business owners (and minds) in my network are the ones who can always tell you exactly what they’re reading, and what their definitive “go-to” books are. Some are prolific consumers of content (think 100+ books annually), while others shoot for a book or two a month. There is no right or wrong number of books consumed in this case. All I can tell you is that I am more thoughtful and intentional about the way I run my business when I am constantly consuming new ideas in this format.

Take this great advice from AngelList Co-Founder, Naval Ravikant, if you don’t particularly enjoy reading: “Read what you love until you love to read, and you’ll eventually get bored with the basic stuff.”

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2. Use your gym.

Seriously, there aren’t enough gym owners who prioritize their own training the way they’d like to see their clients embrace it. I’m not a big “you have to look fit to sell fitness” guy, but I do believe that you need to experience your services and believe in them because they work for you. Otherwise, your sales pitch runs the risk of coming across as lacking authenticity.

Make your own health a priority.

3. Ask everyone for feedback.

By everyone, I mean clients, employees, colleagues, spouses, and even your landlord. We don’t collect enough insights from the people around us, especially when times are good. It is so easy to fall into the trap of enjoying strong revenue while in the midst of your inevitably busy season, as the clients who you’ll need during the down months are quietly walking out the door because you didn’t realize they were annoyed about something trivial.

When business is good, keep searching for the bad.

4. Thank your peers.

Your gym doesn’t exist without the coach standing alongside you on the training floor. Stop what you’re doing right this very second and send a text to a colleague who you know does a particularly good job at being a team player.

A simple “I see you working hard” goes a long way.

5. Develop hobbies outside of work.

I play co-ed recreational indoor soccer every Wednesday night. I knew one person the day I joined the team. Here I am multiple years later, continuing to show up every week to an event that allows for both casual exercise, and conversations with people who could give a shit about the fact that I own or operate a gym. In fact, I’d imagine 90% of them have no idea what I do for a living.

You likely need to stop living your business, and that starts with making friends outside of work.

6. Smile More.

When did it become a badge of honor to self-identify as the king or queen of resting bitch face? Seriously, smile more…like all the time. Smile when you pass clients and neighboring business owners in the parking lot. Smile when you pick up the phone to give the sales pitch. Smile when you remind a client that he’s overdue for this month’s training payment.

Smile 50% more and every aspect of your life and business will improve. I promise.

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7. Think huge in terms of business goals.

As I mentioned earlier, we have a tendency of getting caught up in the KPI-tracking spreadsheets. Thing is, these sheets are typically meant to keep us on track for incremental increases in short-term business growth. But when was the last time you answered the question: “What’s an absurdly ambitious goal I can set this month?”

On July 1st I decided I wanted to hit 10,000 Instagram followers by the end of the month because it would enable me to utilize the “swipe up” feature in stories, allowing for far more effective distribution of links to blogs like this one you’re reading. I had 8,200 at the time and it had taken me three years of continuous posting to get there. The goal was audatious, and it was exactly what I needed.

I began asking questions of people with larger, more engaged audiences. I began consuming information from specialists like the content creators at Buffer and The Social Media Monthly. I began sharing material from others that I knew would bring everyone value, and they in turn reciprocated.

I finished the month with a shade over 9,600 followers. No, I didn’t hit my goal. I did, however, increase my audience size by 1,400 members after having averaged 260 or so in each of the 31 months preceding July of 2019.

Big goal. Big strategic shifts. Big results.

8. Reinvest in your business.

Someone recently asked me how important I believe facility upgrades to be since he saw them as an unnecessary investment when business was good. I told him to ask the first client he encountered in the gym if he was aware of any broken equipment. That client listed 5 areas of concern without hesitation, including 3 that the gym owner was entirely unaware of.

Fix the little stuff as soon as you spot it. People notice.

9. Network often outside of your industry.

Going to the Perform Better Summit annually and connecting with old friends is great, but old friends typically bring old ideas. If you want to learn new stuff and think differently, you need to talk to new and different people.

10. Question the value of your own services.

I’ve got a question for you, and I want you to be 100% honest with yourself when you answer it: Would you pay your current rates to train in your gym if you lived just down the road and needed a place to exercise?

Seriously, would you?

If you even felt the slightest moment of hesitation while answering this one, there are problems to fix, and services to improve.



I’ve got 100 more of these habits to share with you…

My business partner Eric and I are going to spend Monday, September 23rd digging deep into everything from lead generation, to pricing strategy, gym design, and everything in between. If you’re interested in learning exactly how we’ve attacked building and maintaining the model we’ve had in action since 2007, this packed day of information is for you.

*** Take note that this registration includes complimentary attendance to the CSP Fall Seminar which is set to take place during the two days before our mentorship event. This one will be a good bang for your buck continuing education opportunity.

Check out all of the details HERE, and make sure to shoot me an email (pdgymsolutions@gmail.com) if you have follow-up questions.

Will the Approaching Recession Bury Your Fitness Business?

So how do you see a looming recession impacting the fitness industry, I asked.

I was sitting across the table from a longtime friend who is currently a vice president at a private equity firm that holds the third most franchises of one of the largest commercial gym businesses on the planet. His operation has a proverbial “seat at the table” in an operation that, like it or not, has the power to make a measurable impact on the fitness industry as a whole. 

Between his inner knowledge of the workings of the typical commercial gym, and his reasonably complete understanding of the Cressey Sports Performance model (he’s been a client since day one), my guy knows his shit as it relates to fitness business.

His response punched me right in the gut.

I’d be terrified to exist in the $45 per session model, that’s for sure.

My business exists in the space he is referring to, and I’m not out of touch with the fact that strategic adjustments are going to need to be made if a gym like mine wants to continue to thrive if and when we see the economy take a dip.

He wasn’t bashing my operation, though. Instead, he was helping me understand the reality that as times get tight for the typical fitness consumer, and concessions need to be made as it relates to this type of ancillary spending, it is the guys in the middle of the pricing table who are going to be skipped over entirely during the cost-cutting process.

This may begin to look more appealing to your current clients.

This may begin to look more appealing to your current clients.

There are effectively three types of spending categories in the broadest sense of gym memberships: 

  1. There are the premium amenities and price point guys, such as the Equinox and Lifetime Athletics of the world (think $200+/month commercial gym membership). 

  2. There are the $20 to $80 per session service providers who live in the group fitness and semi-private space (think CSP or your local $199/month bootcamp operation). 

  3. And, lastly, there are the $10/month Planet Fitnesses of the world that own the rock-bottom pricing strategy approach.

Here’s how I imagine things will play out when the time comes for fitness consumers to evaluate their spending habits...

The Equinox members will either be too wealthy to feel the sting of a monthly premium gym membership and continue to let that monthly EFT train roll on, or find themselves too attached to their gym amenities to even entertain the idea of spending with your bare bones operation when they do decide to downsize their fitness spend. As a result, they stay put, or drop all the way to the bottom of the pricing pool so that at the very least, they have some form of gym access.

The clients currently in your gym will be more aware than ever of the $1 dollar down and just $10/month option down the road. That competing gym can quickly drop a “no contracts” offer the moment they see blood in the water for private sector operations such as ours, making you especially vulnerable to a defection.

Lastly, as much as cost-cutting will be a necessity for their members, the Planet Fitness clients are likely to conclude that the $10/month draw on their bank account is too little to justify putting the time and energy into cancelling. As a result, most choose to let it ride.

So, who is the big loser here? Yup. It’s us.

How do we insulate ourselves from this market correction?

If you are of the belief that our sitting president will do everything in his power to maintain our economy’s current performance on up until the pending election in November of 2020 (I am), this means that you’ve got 15+ months to make leaving your business a difficult decision when we finally hit a cliff.

With this in mind, here are three things you need to focus on during the coming year:

1. Differentiate yourself.

I want you to separate your business from the pack on more than just customer service, cleanliness, and basic programming strategy. 

I’m talking about having an area of expertise in a space that is effectively recession-proof. In our case, that meant thriving in ‘07 and ‘08 because we catered to youth athletes. More specifically, we came to learn that when times get tight, parents cut off their own spending before they eliminate valued services relating to their children.

I get it...my son Collin will continue to play youth soccer with his friends while my wife and I stop enjoying meals out and paying the babysitter if and when that decision ever needs to be made.

This isn’t limited purely to operating in a performance niche. For example, you could focus on being the best at helping people bounce back from a specific common injury. You think people are going to stop tearing ACL’s simply because the market is in the can? I think not. Position yourself as “the guy” to bring you back from a knee reconstruction, and you’ll be standing on the other end of an economic downturn.

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2. Make your business stickier.

By sticky, I mean that you should look to deliver more than just an exceptional training session in your gym. When my clients come to CSP, many of them arrive with the intention of training, getting a massage, buying their supplements, and banging out a pitching lesson. Deciding to cut out one of these services might make sense for a client, but eliminating them all simultaneously is somewhat unlikely.

There are probably plenty of ways for you to make your operation a little more sticky as well. Maybe you explore keeping a freezer in your space to allow for an on-site food delivery service to cater to your clients. Maybe you bring in an established physical therapist to function as an independent contractor. You could add a smoothie bar...offer childcare...whatever. Just make your business more difficult to walk away from than it currently is.

3. Identify operational inefficiencies.

You’re probably not running an operation that is as efficient as you think. Are you a little overstaffed? Are you cranking the air conditioning 24/7 at 66 degrees when 70 would suffice? Are you paying for a mastermind that you haven’t bothered to log-in to or attend for the last six months? 

You’re spending carelessly somewhere, and cleaning those habits up now, while cashflow is fine and the team isn’t stressed about the performance of the operation, will be far less exhausting than doing it all at once in a reactionary format when things get a little grim.

not trying to be Johnny Raincloud…

I just want to see as many gyms as possible with their doors continuing to be open on the day that our country comes out of its next recession. Today is the day to begin taking a proactive approach to preparing for a correction that is an absolute certainty according to history.

Did this one resonate with you?

My business partner Eric and I are going to spend Monday, September 23rd digging deep into everything from lead generation, to pricing strategy, gym design, and everything in between. If you’re interested in learning exactly how we’ve attacked building and maintaining the model we’ve had in action since 2007, this packed day of information is for you.

*** Take note that this registration includes complimentary attendance to the CSP Fall Seminar which is set to take place during the two days before our mentorship event. This one will be a good bang for your buck continuing education opportunity.

Check out all of the details HERE, and make sure to shoot me an email (pdgymsolutions@gmail.com) if you have follow-up questions.

My Biggest Leadership Blindspot, and the Moment it was Exposed

Imagine you employed a team of six strength coaches, and rather unexpectedly, three of them left to start a competing business…

This is the game we played at Cressey Sports Performance - Massachusetts (CSP) during the second half of 2017. As you might imagine, it was a time of turmoil in a business that was just passing its ten-year anniversary of operations. There were challenging transitions in our business that followed, and so many valuable lessons learned that my business partner Eric and I could probably write a book about the experience.

Today, it appears we’ve righted the ship, having positioned ourselves to make an honest run at CSP’s best year ever just 16 months removed from the third and final employee defection. It is important to note that we absolutely, positively, did not do this ourselves. Eric and I have leaned heavily on spouses, incredibly motivated and talented employees, and each other along the way.

As the dust continues to settle on a tumultuous period in our entrepreneurial journey, there is one lesson that stands above the rest in my own personal adjustment. I’m sharing it with you now because I’m certain that any gym owner who reads my material is either dealing with challenging times, or vulnerable to them in the not so distant future.

The lesson I learned was not an instantaneous one, but instead a necessary adjustment that took place over time. It was during recent a transatlantic flight that I stumbled upon a quote that made this experience all seem so simple and obvious in hindsight. And as they say, this hindsight stuff is always 20/20. 

The quote read as follows:

“No one yet has managed to figure out how to manage people effectively into battle; they must be led.”

Quote pulled from this bad boy. Great read.

Quote pulled from this bad boy. Great read.

Competing with former colleagues is a business battle of sorts, and I was fully aware of this reality in 2017 as we worked to rebuild our team while taking care of existing clients. I was not aware, however, that my efforts to manage the situation would be unproductive if I continued to misconstrue micromanagement for leadership. I’d somehow convinced myself that the things we needed were limited to tighter systems and as much structure as I could possibly throw at my organization.

I wasn’t wrong that these needs existed. 

I was, however, wrong to assume that my time was best spent being the person to deliver change on this front. As it turns out, an intelligent and detail-oriented employee was perfectly capable of dealing with the complexities of management, while only I was truly in a position to handle the biggest responsibility of leading us through a period of change.

Employees wanted clarity on the direction we would be moving with the structure of our staff. They also wanted to know that there were strategic objectives in place for retaining existing business and repositioning ourselves to generate new leads. At the time, I was capable of creating a strategy to address these factors, but too bogged down in the mechanics of managing to find time to share the message of where Eric and I saw us to be headed.

I needed a manager to assume control of all things relating to staff coaching assignments, continuing education calendars for the team, and so much more. The man for that job was (and continues to be) John O’Neil. 

While John was the first coaching hire we made following this staff shake up, it was nearly eight months before we realized that I needed a Chief of Staff, of sorts.

Today, John serves in a Director roll, and has assumed what I would call a leader-manager identity at CSP. He deftly handles the surprisingly complex logistics of delivering a quality semi-private training experience in an operation that averaged 102 athlete training sessions daily during the month of June (a 25-session/day increase from where we were at when the wheels came off in 2017). He also serves as the unofficial voice of the team, helping me to stay better in-tune with the collective attitude of our staff at any given moment in time.

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I, in turn, am now able to spend more time behind closed doors discussing strategy with each of my employees. I am also given the opportunity to address circumstances of employee dissatisfaction in something closer to an immediate style, as opposed to in a retroactive format as was my habit in years past. Lastly, and arguably most importantly, this newfound freedom from the technical process of managing helped to free up time to drive more business through the doors. 

In short, I got my head out of my ass, stopped confusing a busy spreadsheet and calendar-management life with productivity, and got back to allowing my employees to see me as someone willing to lead.

Want to know the best part, outside of the revenue growth? John is better than me at every single task he inherited. Feels good to put that out there.

Does this sound like you?

Identifying and addressing our blindspots is hard as hell. Thing is, you’re probably already loosely aware of those blindspots, and just not willing to acknowledge them. Do yourself a favor, and empower an ambitious employee to assume some control of your operation. Shell out a few additional dollars in conjunction with a promotion in title, and use your newfound time to generate business that will far outperform the resulting increases in payroll commitment. 

The minute you stop trying to manage your team into battle, and instead start leading, you can expect to start winning.



WANT MORE OF THIS STUFF?

My business partner Eric and I are going to spend Monday, September 23rd digging deep into everything from lead generation, to pricing strategy, gym design, and everything in between. If you’re interested in learning exactly how we’ve attacked building and maintaining the model we’ve had in action since 2007, this packed day of information is for you.

*** Take note that this registration includes complimentary attendance to the CSP Fall Seminar which is set to take place during the two days before our mentorship event. This one will be a good bang for your buck continuing education opportunity.

Check out all of the details HERE, and make sure to shoot me an email (pdgymsolutions@gmail.com) if you have follow-up questions.

2 Counterintuitive Sales Tips for Your Gym

I spent six months repeatedly crashing and burning during the sales process when we started Cressey Sports Performance (CSP) in 2007.

Day in and day out, leads would roll in to our voicemail and email accounts, and my business partners Eric and Tony would sit alongside me in a tiny little office listening as I delivered cringeworthy fitness instruction sales pitches despite having never actually instructed fitness myself. This period of trial and error was a necessary evil, as the guys knew I’d be a far more effective salesman in the long-term if given the opportunity to develop my own approach, as opposed to simply memorizing and regurgitating a canned pitch.

Here we are, almost twelve full years later, and I’ve got more than 4,500 pitches under my belt. During that time, I’ve come to learn that the effectiveness of my pitch is often more driven by what I’m not willing to commit to during the process, than it is by what I’m willing to promise.

With this in mind, I’d like to share two of my favorite counterintuitive selling lessons I’ve learned along the way.

Lesson #1 - Sometimes clients need to hear what you can’t do

I’d venture a guess that roughly 80% of the parents of young athletes I speak to will ask me what kind of training outcomes can be expected. How many pounds will my son gain if he works out with you? How much faster can I expect him to become? My boy is a pitcher…how much of a velocity increase can he expect?

If my answer to any of these questions is anything other than “that depends on your son’s commitment to the process,” I am doing my business a disservice. As gym owners, we need to fight the urge to assume optimal training outcomes for each of the potential clients we pitch. This doesn’t mean that we need to tell parents that their kids likely have a shitty work ethic. Instead, it means that a little transparency and education in your response can go a long way toward closing a sale.

“You know, Mr. Johnson, your son’s potential in the weight room and on the field is really a function of his ability to put a number of good habits together. What he does here in the gym will be an important piece of a big puzzle. We’re going to give him all of the tools he needs to be successful in this space and make sure he has an understanding of how to execute the material properly. Assuming he compliments this training with quality nutrition habits and plenty of good sleep, increases in athleticism will be an inevitable outcome of the process.”

Translation: We can’t be accountable for the lifestyle habits your son maintains outside of our space, but we can guarantee that we’ll knock our role in the overall process right out of the park.

To date, I have yet to have a parent take issue with this response. In fact, more often than not, they find the honesty and logic refreshing. When every gym in town is promising the world to you during the sales process, it must be a nice change of pace to find the rare one that is willing to be brutally honest about the challenges ahead.

Your post-it should probably read: “Be honest and up-sell less.”

Your post-it should probably read: “Be honest and up-sell less.”

Lesson #2 - Up-sell in the gym, not on the phone

It is appalling to me how eager the average performance gym owner is to process payment on a 4+ day/week training package for a pre-pubescent thirteen year old with zero training experience. Is there a single thirteen year old on planet earth that needs to lift weights four days per week and mix in some recovery days and movement training?

If your answer to this question was anything other than “hell no,” then you’re thinking with your wallet and not your head. I make a habit of telling every one of those parents that I refrain from making training frequency recommendations without the benefit of actually assessing an athlete in-person, and that I can’t imagine a scenario where we’d advise for a kid that age to train more than two or three times in a given week.

“But I talked to a guy at XYZ Gym down the road and he insisted that my kid wont make the progress he desires with anything less than four days a week on a twelve month contract. What gives?”

If I make a habit of selling young athletes more training than they need, I’ll eventually be exposed as someone who is more interested in monetizing an immediate opportunity than I am in taking an athlete’s best interests into account. That 13 year old can make great progress in one or two sessions/week, and will soon grow up to buy justified three and four day/week packages from me when the time is right.

Try it Yourself

You’ve probably been programmed to “always be closing” over the years. At the same time, you likely have not been programmed to say no to potential clients who are dying to give you money for services they don’t need. Take a transparent approach to your sales process in moments such as these, and you’ll soon earn the reputation of being a guy who delivers desirable results while maintaining integrity.

People like to recommend that guy’s business to friends.


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Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this, make sure to say hello on Instagram or Twitter, and subscribe to my newsletter here.

Gym Owner Musings - Installment #15

Every month or so the “content ideas” page in my iPhone notes app begins to fill up with topics that aren’t quite beefy enough to justify an entire blog, but also a little too bulky to cram into a Tweet or Instagram post. I’ve once again hit that point, meaning it’s time to unload a couple of quick-hitter discussion topics that have been kicking around in my head (and notes app).

Here’s your July edition of Gym Owner Musings:

1. Standardize Your Seller

Everyone on your team should understand how to deliver the sales pitch, but it doesn’t mean that everyone should do so. Whenever possible, I encourage gym owners to standardize the staff member who delivers an explanation of the service model and pricing structure. Assuming you have a most popular training model (CSP is 95% semi-private training, for example), it is safe to assume that you are vulnerable to consistent service misconceptions.

In our semi-private training format, this means that parents and athletes need to be informed in advance of their first post-evaluation training session that they should not expect to have the same coach assigned to them every time they walk through the door, that the client-to-coach ratio will sit at a maximum of 5:1, and that sessions should run roughly 90-minutes in length. If I were to allow six different staff members to deliver six different versions of this message, I might end up with clients that expect sessions to run:

  1. “Never less than an hour”

  2. “Definitely under two hours”

  3. “As long as it takes to get it done properly”

  4. “Roughly 75-90 minutes”

  5. “Depends on which coach you’re working with”

  6. “Depends on who writes your programs”

While none of these answers are definitively wrong, they collectively will fill a busy training space with a wide variety of service expectations. In short, only one or two people on the team should qualify as your “go-to” seller. The rest can tag in during unique circumstances where absolutely appropriate.

In case you’re wondering, this is what a compelling sales pitch looks like.

In case you’re wondering, this is what a compelling sales pitch looks like.

2. Getting “Buy-In” is a Matter of Transparency

I had a question pop up in a recent Instagram Fitness Business Q&A that read as follows: How do you get potential trainers and clients to buy in to your methodology?

I temporarily wavered on the answer to this one, thinking that if I dug deep into our systems, I’d somehow find language in place that says: “Here’s how we get buy-in!” Turns out this hypothetical document or system doesn’t exist. It doesn’t need to, because in everything we do, we go further than just “the how.”

From the moment you walk through our doors, be it as a client or an intern, you’re bombarded with “the why” behind our actions. Interns learn why our warm-ups are designed to work from the ground up, and why we list our packages from most to least expensive in our pricing sheet. Clients learn why we’ve built specific corrective exercise into their warm-ups that don’t show up on any other programs in the gym, and why we might be advocating for a three-day full body format as opposed to a four-day upper/lower split. In short, we’re teaching as much as we are instructing.

Buy-in is a byproduct of procedural transparency to all. This is exactly why we don’t protect our gym’s “secret sauce.

3. Behavior Unchecked Becomes Behavior Sanctioned

Another of the 40+ questions I answered this past week on Instagram was what one thing I would change about my business habits if I could go back in time. I explained that I’ve made the mistake of letting bad attitudes exist for extended periods among staff members in years past. Every time a perpetually grumpy employee moves on, I am surprised to learn that clients were seeing and feeling it every bit as much as (if not more than) I was.

I’m guilty of avoiding the responsibility of being the bad guy because I like a given person, and it is never the right thing for the business, our clients, or even the employee in question.

If you have a disgruntled coach on staff, and you’ve genuinely made an effort to improve their work circumstances to no avail, you don’t have time to waiver. Clients quietly leave without complaining following bad service interactions. Fellow employees emulate that which they interpret to be socially acceptable based on your failure to act as a manager, and your business catches on fire all around you while you hope someone “just comes out of a funk.”

The best time to terminate an unpleasant service employee is weeks or months ago. The second best time is today.




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Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this, make sure to say hello on Instagram or Twitter, and subscribe to my newsletter here.

Stop Bashing and Start Observing

You have to carry a big basket to bring something home.

This is a quote from a fascinating story told in the book titled Range, by David Epstein. In it, he explains the story of an education event attendee complaining that he wasn’t taking anything of value away from the experience. Epstein went on to state that a mind kept wide open will inevitably take something away from every experience.

Does this disgruntled event attendee remind you of a number of fitness professionals you know who love to bitch about the quirky service alternatives in their market?

Crossfit is just a dangerous model featuring reckless programming and minimal supervision.

OrangeTheory is a fluffed up service that counts on distracting you with trendy technology.

The Title Boxing Club down the road is just a passing trend where no one actually gets better at boxing.

Imagine color translates to open-minded exposure to local competition…this basket is nice and big.

Imagine color translates to open-minded exposure to local competition…this basket is nice and big.

You name it, I’ve heard the bullshit whining. And guess what…I catch 100% of these people by surprise when I’m not complicit with their agenda. In fact, I like to remind people that Crossfit has generated enough awareness to justify mainstream television coverage, a partnership with Reebok, and a level of demand that allows for multiple locations to pop up in some of the smallest towns you can imagine.

I also like to point out the fact that OrangeTheory did 137% growth in revenue between 2015 and 2018, and is currently operating 800+ locations. Now I don’t know about you, but I can’t stand in front of numbers anywhere near this level in my own business.

So maybe, just maybe, there is something to learn from these titans of brand development in our booming fitness space. Instead of complaining about the local competitor, you think it might be a good idea to open your mind to the fact that they’re open (and thriving) for a reason?

Spend a little money to experience their services. Infiltrate their operation and expose yourself to their best practices that could likely be easily replicated in your own shop. Accept the fact that your shit stinks just as bad as you’ve convinced yourself theirs does.

In short — carry a bigger damn basket.


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Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this, make sure to say hello on Instagram or Twitter, and subscribe to my newsletter here.


Cost-Benefit Analysis: More Than Just an Exercise in Dollars & Cents

Why don’t you guys have batting cages in your gym? Why aren’t you open for semi-private training in the mornings? Why haven’t you guys explored franchising your operation?

These are just a handful of the many questions that my business partner Eric and I encounter on an almost weekly basis. They all make sense. In fact, if I were observing a fitness business that clearly caters to a baseball-specific population, I would also wonder why pitching instruction is available, yet on-site hitting is nowhere to be found.

The answer to these questions, in part, lies in the answer to the question of why we decided to open our own gym in the first place. I can’t think of a better reason to start your own operation than to design a model that allows for you to enjoy your craft while maintaining some semblance of work-life balance.

That right there is exactly what we did.

There’s more to cost-benefit analysis than this…

There’s more to cost-benefit analysis than this…

People hear the term “cost-benefit analysis” and immediately assume there was a calculator involved. However, the exercise applies to decisions in gym ownership that can be as simple as determining what time to open your doors for the day. The answers to all three of the questions I opened with are driven by our willingness to prioritize quality of life over the tireless maximization of dollars collected:

1. We don’t offer hitting instruction in our gym because we don’t care to listen to the pinging of aluminum bats all day long. We’re cranky old men who don’t want to deal with that stuff.

2. We don’t open until noon because we have decided to serve a segment of the athletic population that doesn’t care to roll out of bed at 6:00am to train. We also realize that we deliver a better product following a restful morning that prioritizes our own personal affairs and training efforts prior to being locked in with clients.

3. We’ve chosen not to franchise to date because we’ve prioritized the quality of the product (and resulting brand image) over the need to scale geographically in a chase for a quick cash infusion.

In short, we’ve asked ourselves if the benefit of more dollars coming into our operation would offset the cost of compromising our own personal time, training outcomes for clients, and sanity within the workplace. The answers were no, no, and no respectively.

The end result? We filled our gym, during the hours of our choice, with the athletic population we selected. This was all made possible because we were (and continue to be) fired up to come to work every day, and remain singularly focused on the task at hand when we are here. A more engaged staff leads to a higher-quality client experience, and a great client experience enables the kind of word of mouth advertising need to allow for us to work exactly the hours we desire.

With this in mind, I encourage you, the gym owner, to be a little selfish as you firm up the details of your hours, services, and growth strategy. After all, it is YOUR gym, and you aren’t doing your clients any favors by creating a dynamic you are unhappy with simply because you’re chasing short-term dollars.


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Mistakes Happen - How Does Your Business Respond?

Imagine the last time you took an employee or new intern through an orientation at your gym...

You probably explained how important your systems are, and how they allow you to eliminate slip-ups in the client experience. Stick to this plan and we won't have any problems, you said.

Well guess what...problems happen. In fact, the most systemized businesses in the world stumble from time to time.

We could have 100 staff meetings at Cressey Sports Performance (CSP) in the coming year regarding timely program design, but sometimes those clients show up a day earlier than expected. Sometimes printers break. Sometimes employees are late due to extenuating circumstances. Stuff, in general, goes wrong from time to time.

But I’m not worried about stuff going wrong. What I’m worried about is how we respond to it.

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What is Service Recovery?

The art of solving client problems is sometimes referred to as “service recovery,” and it is as important to the long-term success of your business as the systems you’ve designed to theoretically eliminate mistakes in the first place. You know that moment when an olympic gymnast loses her balance for a split-second on the beam before self-correcting and continuing on with her routine? Yeah, that’s what great service recovery should look and feel like.

So how do you react when things don’t go according to plan? Do clients see flustered chaos, or do they walk away from the experience with a positive attitude about your operation?

The biggest danger to you as a business owner in these circumstances is an employee who is too adherent to the operational rules you’ve put in place. “I’m just following protocol” is a shitty response when a customer has to wait for you to fix an error. Clients want to feel heard. They crave empathy and authenticity in your responses. And, most importantly, they expect a prompt resolution.

With this in mind, an employee shouldn’t need to run a proposed solution up the managerial chain when one can be reached in a quick and low-cost manner. This means that if a program isn’t finished when a client arrives, my Office Manager Julie doesn’t need to come to my office to ask if she can pull a coach off the training floor to prepare material on the fly. Instead, she apologizes for the delay, moves quickly to offer a resolution, and maybe even throws in a bottle of water and a protein bar for the inconvenience.

The best thing you can do as an employer to get ahead of service recovery failures is to empower your team to break the rules, alter the routine, and help the customer.

For example, you could set a cap on how much money an employee can spend without permission to improve a client’s experience. You could keep a stack of free drink coupons for the coffee shop around the corner to help ease the blow of the occasional delayed consultation start time. You don’t even necessarily need to make a financial investment in a service recovery. As long as people feel like you’re taking action quickly, you’re headed in the right direction.   

The Bar is dreadfully LOW

A client walked into my office earlier this week to tell me that, while he is appreciative of the training he receives while at CSP, the thing he has valued most to-date was Julie’s willingness to drop what she was doing and resolve a problem of him being double-charged the day before. The mistake was entirely ours, and here he was telling me that one of the best things we’ve done for him was to quickly solve the problem.

That’s just how low the customer service bar is currently set thanks to the many businesses that have conditioned their clients to expect bad service. Don’t miss the opportunity to take advantage of these disappointingly low expectations.

If a service recovery plan or policy doesn’t currently exist in your business, put it at the top of your agenda heading into your next staff meeting.

You wont regret it.


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16 Meandering Thoughts on Gym Ownership

Want to jump inside my chaotic and unpredictable gym owner mind?

I tried hard to lock down a single concept to write about this week and couldn’t keep from bouncing from idea to idea in my brainstorming efforts. The end result? Sixteen quick thoughts, including some tips, a rant or two, and likely some concepts that I’ll figure out how to develop further in future blogs.

Maybe one (or 16) of them will change the way you do business starting today...

An inside look at my content selection process this week.

An inside look at my content selection process this week.

1. You’re never too young to lead, or too old to learn. Embrace this mentality, and make sure your employees know you believe it. Otherwise, you’ll never extract their actual potential.

2. It only happens a couple of times per year, but those three payroll months really sting when it comes time to cut checks to owners. This assumes you’re on a bi-weekly pay schedule and manage a reasonably large team.

3. If you do a good enough job, you’ll eventually find yourself training your competition. This includes former interns, employees, and even clients. Consider it a compliment and never stop learning or you’ll fall behind the people you helped jumpstart.

4. Some of the best equipment investments I’ve made include a ping-pong table, mini-basketball hoop for the warm-up area, and a cornhole set-up. Everyone likes to talk about making their gym a third space for their clients, but most don’t deliver the amenities that inspire said clients to embrace that mentality.

5. Clients break clipboards at an astonishing rate. In close to 15 years of strength training, I can’t remember a single moment where I found myself dropping a dumbbell on a clipboard. How do I find myself replacing 50 wood clipboards annually?

6.If you say you open at 12:00pm, you can expect the phone to ring repeatedly from 11:55am until 12:15pm, and roughly 1% of all callers will leave a message. The rest will just hang up and call back continuously until they break your will.

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7. If your lease is expiring this year, and you intend to renew, start the dialogue 6-9 months out. A good landlord will do this for you, but many of you have less-than-good landlords. You never know if they intend to sell the building, choose not to offer you to stay, or even triple your rent. You can’t afford to begin a new property search 30-90 days prior to needing a new home.

8. The canned responses feature in Gmail just may be the single most impactful time-saving mechanism you’re not using. I’ll bet a quick search of the term using the Google Machine just may get you pointed in the direction of productivity if you’re interested.

9. When a fitness business tries to reposition its training model, it exposes itself to the risk of alienating the longtime customers who chose their gym for what it was in the first place. You can’t just declare that your established personal training facility will be a semi-private gym moving forward and expect clients to fall in line. Remember the haphazard roll out of “New Coke?” That’s about how well you can expect it to go.

10. Your coaches and interns need to know that you believe in their potential, and simply adding them to the team isn’t enough to convey that message. The next time a coach tells you that he aspires to one day coach in the NFL, tell him you know he can get there. And then ask how you can help.

11. Self-proclaimed “efficiency gurus” are going to tell you you’re leaving money on the table if you waste time swiping credit cards, answering phones, and sweeping the floors. Those are tasks to be delegated 100% of the time, they’ll say. Ask them to remind you of how many gyms they’ve owned and operated. None of us are above doing an undesirable task in our small business.

12. There is no such thing as a perfectly harmonious fitness operation. Don’t be fooled by the beautifully crafted Instagram stories and filtered images. We’ve all got “stuff,” and there’s nothing wrong with admitting it.

13. My gym started with a blank spreadsheet and an operating account with $0.00 in it just like yours. In fact, every gym you’ve ever followed and maybe admired did. Your chances on day one are just as good as anyone else’s.

14. Attempting to maintain an existing gym culture instead of allowing it to evolve is a recipe for failure. Culture isn’t installed. Instead, it is the manifestation of a collection of fascinating personalities coming together to make something special. When clients leave the gym, the culture changes. When interns finish up and go back to school, culture changes. When you make a new hire, culture changes. Embrace change.

15. In my experience, there are two types of employees: the ones who thrive on busyness and demanding to-do lists, and those who can’t wait to tell you how exhausted they are when we come out of a quiet time of year and get smashed by an influx of returning athletes. As much as it terrifies you to do so at the start of a busy period, you’ve got to clean house of the coaches that fall into the latter category. You’re better off short-staffed with motivated team members than you are fully-staffed with uninspired contributors. Tear that bandaid off as quickly as possible.

16. Our optimal client-to-coach ratio at Cressey Sports Performance is really just that...ours. We started by putting two kids in the gym with a single coach and quickly realized that adding a third, fourth, and eventually fifth would work perfectly fine without compromising the quality of the product or the client experience. Like everything else in life and business, getting to that point was nothing but a series of trial and error. Stop looking for other business owners to dictate your optimal semi-private model, and start experimenting.




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What if Your Gym Was Chasing a 3-Star Michelin Review?

I’m a big proponent of the cliché: “Dress for the job you want, not the one you have.”

This attitude applies to far more than the outfit you wear on a given day. If we were to think this way about customer service in the fitness space, we could say: “Deliver the client experience expected in a $200 personal training session, while knowing that we only offer $40 semi-private classes.”

So, where do you find your inspiration for world-class customer service outside of your own business?

Maybe you’re a Disney enthusiast, a hardcore believer in “the Zappos way,” or even just trying to recreate the vibe of a well-run Trader Joes. The origin of your inspiration is less important than simply having an inspiration.

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In my case, I like to look at the way a high-end restaurant operates.

My wife accumulated years of customer service experience serving in nice restaurants prior to transitioning into the corporate world. Despite being nearly a decade removed from her last serving experience, she continues to be an astute observer of the art of exceptional hospitality at well-run restaurants.

It drives her crazy when servers walk past empty plates and credit cards awaiting processing simply because it wasn’t their assigned table. In the world she operated in, the best teams functioned as just that, a team. This meant that, to an extent, every table was her table, and she acted accordingly. 

Katie only had to point this out to me once or twice before it became a pet peeve of my own. I began to realize that at the best restaurants, “my server” was really just the person who took my order and graciously provided the bill. Otherwise, there always seemed to be an army of hospitality-centric faces coming and going from the table.

This is exactly why I could stomach the idea of paying $50 for an 8oz cut of meat and a couple of $22 side plates of potatoes and asparagus.

So why does the experience in our gym have to be much different? 

Maybe, instead of walking past the client unloading a trap bar in between sets simply because you haven’t been assigned to work with him, you stop to help out…with a smile.

Maybe the next time you walk past the front desk to find your Office Manager handling a phone call as a client waits to schedule her next session, you stop and promptly take care of that task for her?

Maybe you start thinking of every client as your own client, and every task as potentially your own task, and the overall client experience will improve.

If you begin to think of your gym as a restaurant that is competing for a 3-Star Michelin review, you just may be able to justify doubling or even tripling your rates in the not-so-distant future. At the very least, your retention figures will skyrocket.



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Eyes Forward, Gym Owners

(2-minute read…I promise)


My 5 year old son loves to take off sprinting every time we go for a walk. Without fail, every time he hits top speed, he looks over his shoulder to see if we’re trying to keep up with him. 

No matter how many times I tell him to keep his eyes on the road to avoid stumbling, he can’t bring himself to stop being concerned with what might be creeping up behind. 

One of these days he’s going to fall. The consequences will likely involve tears, Neosporin, and a few bandaids. This seems to be a lesson he will have to learn the hard way. 

The mistake Collin is guilty of making again and again is much like the one we as gym owners routinely make. We can’t help but lose sleep over what the competition is doing. We monitor their Instagram feeds, we second-guess our own training decisions based on what we think they may or may not be doing, and we lose sleep over things we can’t control. 

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So, I’ll tell you the same thing I tell Collin every single night as we take our post-dinner family walk...

If you’re already sprinting as fast as you can, there’s no point of wasting the limited energy and resources you have left on being concerned with what’s potentially sneaking up behind you. Unless you’ve got a gear we’re all unaware of, your best is going to have to do, and you can’t react to the hurdles approaching in front of you when your eyes are pointed in the wrong direction. 

Focus on being the best version of you that you can be, and you’ll be able to say that you’ve put your gym in the best possible position to survive. I’ll promise you this — the gym that’s chasing you has their eyes forward, and they see your operation as one of those aforementioned hurdles just waiting to be leaped. 

Can you afford to slow down by looking back?



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Gym Owner Musings - Installment #14

Every month or so the “content ideas” page in my iPhone notes app begins to fill up with topics that aren’t quite beefy enough to justify an entire blog, but also a little too bulky to cram into a Tweet or Instagram post. I’ve once again hit that point, meaning it’s time to unload a couple of quick-hitter discussion topics that have been kicking around in my head (and notes app).

Here’s your May edition of Gym Owner Musings:

1. On Selling: Don’t Take the Email Shortcut

The opportunity presents itself to me time and time again...

“Would you mind emailing me pricing information for your training services?”

It’s not a rude or unreasonable request. In fact, this is probably exactly how I would go about engaging with my business if I were an interested consumer exploring my fitness options in the area. The problem for the gym owner, however, is that emailing a pricing sheet all but eliminates your opportunity to counter the hesitation we routinely encounter with price-sensitive potential clients.

You already know your premium priced services are justified by the level of attention to detail you deliver, but how are you supposed to convey this message when the email recipient scans the material you sent looking for a dollar sign, and immediately jumps to a conclusion on the viability of you as an option based entirely on a number that comes with little to no context?

You’re doing yourself a disservice by taking the easy way out and sending off that email without requesting an opportunity to jump on a quick phone call to discuss the options available. If you’re going to personalize your training material, you should also make a habit of personalizing your sales pitch.

You’ll close more sales on the phone than via email…I promise.

You’ll close more sales on the phone than via email…I promise.

2. On Educating: Never Quit on an Intern

A typical internship at Cressey Sports Performance runs somewhere in the vicinity of 100 to 150 days in length, with the shortest period being our summer session. With just over three months to make an impact on a young coach in the shortest scenario, it would be easy to conclude that bad apples come and go, and your best option when one is identified is to make sure said coach isn’t put in a position to hurt anyone or reflect poorly on your business. In effect, sweeping the under-performers under the rug with the mentality that it will all be over soon.

This sucks for a number of reasons, with the first being that the intern in question likely put a number of other opportunities and responsibilities on hold to come learn from you. Often times the worst performers are blissfully unaware of just how far short they are falling in relation to their peers. One-strike policies on underperformance are unacceptable in this realm.

The second reason why you can’t afford to can’t afford to look the other way when an intern fails to meet your expectations is that, like it or not, that coach is going to move on to a next step in the fitness industry and your business name is likely to sit at or near the top of his resume. I’ve written in the past about the surprising lack of reference checks I receive on former interns, despite there being well over 200 of them out there these days. Can you afford for a shitty intern to be presumed competent simply because he apprenticed under your supervision?

All it takes is one coach with a bad attitude to list you as a former employer and quickly eliminate any future coaching opportunities in a given organization for 100% of the fellow intern alumni hailing from your gym. Telling yourself “sometimes we’ve just got to make it to the end of this internship period and move on” is both short-sighted and dangerous for your reputation.

3. On Scaling: The Biggest Bottleneck for Growing Gyms

I’m always looking for trends in the questions presented to me by fellow gym owners, and the latest is regarding how and where to find quality coaches as businesses grow quickly. When we started our business, there weren’t dozens upon dozens of fantastic resources floating around to assist us in scaling as fast as possible. Today, it seems everyone, with the right work ethic and advisors in their corners, can build a viable operation quickly.

You need help designing a logo? Just download a free version of Canva to your phone and throw a nice looking one together this afternoon.

Need help with Facebook advertising? Pop on to your good old Facebook feed and crowd source recommendations for the best free PDF on the topic floating around these days.

Everybody has “a guy” when it comes to FB ads, and many are delivering free content.

Everybody has “a guy” when it comes to FB ads, and many are delivering free content.

In search of time management hacks and business book recommendations? Do yourself a favor and sign up for Mark and Michael’s (Fisher/Keeler) newsletter over at Business For Unicorns and begin seeing your account flooded with information that probably should cost thousands of dollars entirely free of charge.

Point being, the tools for success are in place and shockingly accessible if you’re in the early stages of business. The road from zero dollars in revenue to, say, $200K+ is far shorter today than it was a little over a decade ago.

However…

I’ve yet to find a free resource that explicitly outlines how to quickly find the perfect coach once you’ve hit capacity on your existing staff. My inbox is filling up with gym owners who’ve achieved early-stage success in a rapid manor, but suddenly hit a wall because they keep striking out on finding competent employees to help them jump past the newbie gains threshold.

Bad news, friends…

The best resources and consultants in the world cannot point you to a shortcut or “learn from my mistakes” solution to creating badass coaches. You want the perfect coach for your operation? You’re going to have to build that person, and it sure as shit doesn’t happen by executing a checklist found in a PDF.

It is for this reason that I advise 100% of my consulting clients to begin outlining some form of an internship or mentorship program starting as early as their first year of operation. This is not to say that I believe a brand-new one-man operation can or should employ interns. What I mean, instead, is that the thought process needs to start long before the need or opportunity presents itself.

Ask yourself: If I wanted to manufacture the perfect employee, what books would I like him to have read? What courses should he have attended? How many hours shadowing on my training floor would be optimal? If I were delivering an online college course touching on private sector strength and conditioning, what would the curriculum look like?

The process of building your dream employee is a long-vision game, and one that needs to be played if you have aspirations of running a seven-figure fitness operation. The best time to begin educating your next perfect coach is days, weeks or months ago. The second best time is today.



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Life, Fitness, and The Road to Hana

I need to know everything you can tell me about Hana, I explained.

I was discussing an upcoming trip to Maui over a meal with my good friend Michael Keeler (Co-Founder of Mark Fisher Fitness). We’d already touched on his favorite restaurants and meals on the island when we got to the topic of the popular excursion known as “The Road to Hana.” 

Michael spent two and a half years in Hawaii fine-tuning his customer service and management skills while working for the Four Seasons about a decade ago, and he quickly proved himself to be the most-informed trip-planning resource in my network. 

You want my best piece advice, Pete? Stop at the spots that fascinate you, buy some banana bread from a roadside vendor, and then turn yourself around and head home the moment you feel like you’ve got your fill. Experiencing the road to Hana has little-to-nothing to do with Hana. It’s about the experiences along the way. 

The thought of only completing a portion of the trip hadn’t even crossed my mind. What’s the point if you can’t say that you made it to Hana, I thought. Michael had quickly repositioned my expectations and objectives for the experience ahead, while also showing me that the road to Hana is a pretty good metaphor for life in general.

I went home from that meal and pulled up a list of the dozens of potential stopping options on the journey, highlighting the five or six that specifically matched with the interests my wife and I share. (If you’re interested in seeing why this is such a popular trip, drop the term into a google image search and it will all make sense.) 

As it turns out, we made it to Hana and never even bothered to stop. There was nothing in that little town that garnered our interest, so we kept on rolling past it to the last potential stop along the way, Haleakala National Park. There, we did a wonderful two-mile hike to the most beautiful waterfall I’ve ever seen in person. We never once lamented the fact that we’d taken the Hana out of the road to Hana. 

The picture doesn’t even begin to do it justice.

The picture doesn’t even begin to do it justice.

What the hell does this have to do with fitness, you ask yourself?

Well, your current and future clients mostly share the same bad habit I brought to the table when preparing for my travel experience...they come to you with nothing but a destination in mind. 

To some, it’s a specific body fat percentage that’s going to suddenly make them happy. To others, it’s looking good at their approaching high school reunion. It could even be an aspiring powerlifter who has convinced himself that capturing the elusive 500-lb deadlift will equate to him finding his own personal promised land. 

It doesn’t really matter what the singular goal is, because your objective as a fitness service provider is two-fold: manage expectations on the longer than anticipated road to supposed happiness, and make sure that the client stops to take in the scenery along the way. 

You’ve got to deliver life lessons on the nutrition front that will carry forward far beyond a singular event on the calendar. You’ve got to teach people to think strategically about their own fitness needs the next time they walk into a hotel gym while on the road and don’t typically know where to start. You need to hammer home the importance of quality technique to the dad who will one day set up a rack and some weights in his basement so that he can teach his son how to prepare for football tryouts. 

Every single thing we do with our clients in the weight room is about getting them to the metaphorical waterfall on the other side of an initial target that usually just turns out to be nothing more than an unremarkable sleepy village. 

Teach your clients to celebrate the process instead of the outcome, and you’ll actually leave a lasting mark on some lives.


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Why I Bother to Write a Newsletter

Every Friday at noon I email a newsletter I’ve titled the “Friday 4.”

In it, I share a quick link to my own weekly blogging efforts, and the links to four pieces of content that caught my eye during the week prior. All of the material at least loosely impacts the way that I think about (and actually go about) running my business, and I share two to four sentences explaining why and how. While the concepts are not my own, the spin I put on the information is.

People seem to appreciate the information, as open-rates have remained far above what I understand to be acceptable levels in the three years I’ve been publishing, and many kind folks even take the time to fire over the occasional “thank you” email in response.

One such recent email included a simple question that I’ve never been asked before:

I’d love to know more about why you prepare a newsletter, if you would recommend other facility owners/industry experts doing so, and what benefits you’ve seen from having one?
— Stuart A.

I typically refer to my newsletter design habit as one of content curation, which, according to Wikipedia, “is the process of gathering information relevant to a particular topic or area of interest.”

So…why bother?

I should start by saying that my intention for curating content each week is different today than it was when I started a few years ago. Since early 2016, I've come to see a number of benefits that I didn't initially expect. 

Here's how that looked:

The 3 reasons why I initially started a newsletter

  • Everyone said (and continues to say) that the only list you can actually own is your own, so I figured I had to do it. This makes sense, as social media platforms are positioned to pull the rug out from under you on a whim, leaving your earning potential in their hands.

  • It would afford me the opportunity to remind people that I've published material each week beyond announcements on social media. Since we can never be sure that our “announcements” of new material will beat the algorithm and find their way on to everyone’s feed, more exposures to the message is always a good thing.

  • I could use it to drive revenue-generating initiatives. I don’t currently have products to sell, or a habit of pushing affiliate links. For the time-being, my readers are enjoying an influx of content with little to no selling. This can, and likely will eventually change, but for now, I’m in the midst of delivering a series of what Gary-Vee would call “jabs.”

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Why I have Since come to see it as valuable

Much like my experience in brick and mortar business ownership, establishing yourself as a trusted content provider is effectively a never-ending game of trial and error. I spent a year or so churning out these newsletters with the agenda of focusing on the perks outlined above, but eventually came to realize that the real value came from these six outcomes:

  • Curating content forces me to consume a bunch of material each week. I’ve never found that the first four articles I clicked on hit the target, so I read a TON. I’ve got roughly a dozen standard content sources that I frequent for ideas, and there is thankfully no shortage of free information floating around on the areas of business that interest me.

  • These reading initiatives expose me to a number of different concepts that inspire creativity in my own blogging efforts. Interesting articles lead to interesting takes relating to running a gym, which I am happy to kick out in posts like this one every Thursday.

  • Sharing material in this format requires that I continue to develop my own writing style. As mentioned above, every link I share is accompanied by a blurb explaining why the material I am sharing is relevant. I’m not what one would call a great writer, but I’m far better today than I was when I started. In my case, practice makes passable. I’ll take it.

  • Delivering information of this nature every week allows me to stay on radars of fellow gym owners who may one day need my consulting services. I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that I’m not occasionally looking to make a buck. A little transparency here wont stop you from reading, right?

  • In that same vein, preparing a newsletter is the perfect way to continuously reaffirm expertise in the eyes of potential consumers so that when it comes time to fill the room for one of our CSP Business Building Mentorships, I have a far easier time asking for that sale.

  • As mentioned above, people respond every single week to either say "thank you," or put additional articles on my radar that they think might be a fit. Either way, a wonderful outcome, as anyone who blogs knows, there are many times where you find yourself thinking: “Is anyone even listening?”

Maybe you should try it?

Whether you’re looking for new forms of inspiration, in need of a habit to keep you accountable, or just seeking an excuse to read as much as possible, a newsletter may be a great idea for you.

I’d be remiss to not mention that you can get a taste of this Friday 4 newsletter here, where you’ll find archived examples of recent installments, and an opportunity to sign yourself up on the left-hand side. Check it out!

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