Business Q&A With Tony-G at 30,000 Feet

So I was sitting on the couch last night, thinking about the fact that I’d be hopping on a 3+ hour flight to Kansas City with Tony Gentilcore the following morning (Fitness Summit weekend is upon us), and wondering what I should blog about this week.

And then I had an idea…

What if I were to jot down a few questions relating to Tony’s experience in 6-months of his “I’m not a businessman…I’m a BUSINESS, man” Experiment and then simply slide my laptop in front of him once we hit a cruising altitude?  He wouldn’t say no to that, would he?

He didn’t.

Here is some awesome insight for any of my readers who are considering making the jump from employee to owner.  Tony has experience in corporate fitness, big-ish gym creation and design (CSP), and studio-based fitness instruction.  He’s seen and done a lot.  Take notes, people.

PD: Coming from a facility of the size and scope of CSP, what are the environmental and/or cultural factors you spend the most time working to recreate in your new space?

TG: There’s been a great degree of “expectation management” on my end on this front.

I guess the appropriate response here is to state that it’s pretty much impossible to recreate CSP’s culture and environment. And, frankly, it’s never been my intention to attempt to do so.

Don’t get me wrong: much of who I am as a coach – my general approach and philosophy – has its core deeply embedded in CSP’s roots.  That, I think, will never go away.

However, when I decided to branch off on my own, my goal wasn’t to try to recreate CSP.  I’m still very much interested in getting people strong, helping them move better, possibly win a fight against a grizzly, and doing whatever I can to help people become the best versions of themselves possible…but the culture and “vibe” is still being developed (for lack of a better term).

People are deadlifting their faces off, I drop f-bombs incessantly, and there’s no shortage of techno blaring between the walls; my personality is nudging the culture in many ways. But it’s important for me to keep things in check and not marry myself to the idea that I need to “recreate” anything, or that it’s about ME in the first place.

Because it’s not.

Mark Fisher discusses the concept of culture all the time. It’s kind of his bag. There are ZERO gyms in the world that do what Mark Fisher Fitness does.  Unicorns, dildos, spontaneous dance parties, and naked glitter paint whateverthef*** are par for the course there.

The thing is: he didn’t seek out those things when he and his partners opened up their gym, and truthfully, I think he’d be the first one to say he has no idea how MFF became synonymous with Unicorns in the first place. It just sorta happened.

That said, Mark has always said that the culture at MFF – via a combination of himself, his business partners (Michael and Brian), as well as the STAFF, and the CLIENTS – is what resulted in dildos and Unicorns.

It’s about the PEOPLE; everyone. Not any one person.

In short: Matt Damon should totally train with me for the next Bourne movie.

PD: You waited nearly a decade to begin truly branding “Tony Gentilcore.”  What are the pros and cons of waiting as long as you did, and would you approach it differently if you could go back in time?


Pros: I didn’t propose to my wife until four years into our relationship. We got married at year five.

You can only imagine how many times we were asked, five months in, “soooo, are you two gonna get married?” from our parents, friends, and acquaintances.

We allowed ample time for our relationship to marinate, develop, and to figure stuff out. I mean, shit got real when we moved in together and adopted a cat. But we had a lot of tough discussions about finances, family stuff, and why I suck at washing dishes before we decided to get married. We had to duke things out to a degree.

When we were ready, we were ready. We were all in. And I feel our relationship is all the better for it.

In the same vein, with regards to my career, I waited until I was truly, 100% ready before I decided to take a big leap and venture off on my own.

Mind you, I started writing/blogging/website shenanigans back in 2006.  I’ve written over 1700 blog posts, hundreds of articles for various websites and magazines, and only now, 15 years into my career, that I feel I’m kinda-sorta ready to maybe write an ebook or produce a fitness product.

I just had my first t-shirt made and there are some trainers who haven’t been in the industry more than six months who are releasing books.

I’ve spent 10 years “building a brand within a brand,” which has helped tremendously and helped to soften the thud of the “WTF did I just do” moment in the initial days of leaving CSP.

We opened CSP in 2007. Business is not my strong suit. I still have a hard time differentiating between the terms net and gross income. But I had eight years watching and listening to you and Eric talk business…I absorbed a lot.

That’s a pretty baller “pro” if you ask me.

Cons: I don’t really have any, other than having to listen to Eric play “Linkin Park” radio on Pandora for so many years. My ears can’t stop bleeding.

PD: What’s been your biggest and most unexpected challenge since leaving CSP to be a one-man show?

TG: I miss being around the staff. Part of what made CSP so valuable was the immense amount of learning I was immersed in.  The opportunity to talk shop and bounce ideas off the other coaches is what helped keep me sharp.  Sure, I know a thing or two about a thing or two, but having the day-to-day contact with the coaches and staff at CSP is priceless and something I really miss.

I don’t miss Tank….;o)

PD: What’s the most under appreciated aspect of working with athletes primarily in a one-on-one format at a time when everyone seems to be preaching the importance of semi-private training?

TG: Technically I don’t train any of my clients in Boston one-on-one, and very much still follow the semi-private format I grew accustomed to at CSP.

I assess everyone in a one-on-one format, write full programming, and typically train anywhere from 2-5 people at a time in my studio.

That said, there have been more opportunities for me to work with people in a one-on-one setting, and it’s been sorta refreshing going back to my roots.

You forget about the importance of building interpersonal relationships with people and how cool and interesting everyone is. You tend to miss out on that component when only using the semi-private format.

PD: If I told you I’d pay for you to enroll in a single business school course to help improve your business acumen, what would it be and why?

TG: Is there a course on how to build Excel spreadsheets?  If so, I'd take that.