Forget the MBA — Fine-Tune These 3 Skills to be a "Biz Guru" at Your Gym

Outside of filling some additional white space on my resume, the MBA I earned in 2007 doesn’t carry a whole lot of value at this moment in time.

It’s not that I regret going back to school. I don’t.

It’s just that the business world has changed dramatically since that moment in time.

People might make the argument that the term “social media” was coined right around 1999, but I can tell you that there wasn’t a single course of this nature available at my college during the four years that I was an undergrad (‘99-’03), and I have little to no memory of it being a factor as I was in graduate school.

In fact, the inaugural Tweet was published by Jack Dorsey less than 60 days before my first day of graduate classes, Facebook had yet to introduce the concept of the newsfeed or business pages, and the Instagram that we rely heavily on to build business today was still 4+ years away from being a thing.

Imagine running your gym today and generating leads without the assistance of social media...

You can’t, right? I can count on one hand the number of facilities that I am aware of who are able to do so.

So...tell me again how my archaic MBA makes me more qualified to run a gym than anyone out there reading my blog?


things about biz school that people undervalue

The B2B Marketing concentration I pursued over a decade ago may not be a great reflection of how gyms and businesses in general function today, but the staples of a business school core curriculum will never go out of style. Managing profit and loss statements will never be a passing fad. Who you know continues to be more important than what you know today as it was in ‘07. And grasping the concept of time value of money is and always will be a timeless skill.

In hindsight, I took some real gold away from my business studies. The thing is, thanks to the abundance of entirely free and accessible information now floating around on the internet, the most important lessons I learned in those classrooms can now be picked up with a drink in-hand at the local coffee shop so long as they have a decent wifi connection.

As I take inventory of lessons learned as a sleep-deprived (and poor) graduate student, there are three fundamental components of the process and curriculum that set me up for success as a gym owner. And there’s good news: All three can be replicated without financing a $50,000+ education.

Here’s a look at the three most important skills I walked away from graduate school with:

1. Biz School Mandates Proficiency in Basic Accounting

The core curriculum of both my undergraduate and graduate business programs mandated that I understand the difference between revenues, expenses, assets, liabilities, income statements, balance sheets, and statement of cash flows. I’ve got an appreciation for the difference between managerial and financial accounting.

All of this stuff is imperative if you want to run a healthy business. This being said, I’m so tired of gym owners telling me I have an upper hand in running a profitable operation because I learned accounting in school.

Guess what...that information that cost me a small fortune and dozens upon dozens of hours of my life to accumulate is now available in the form of a ten minute tutorial on youtube.


In fact, two of the first three videos featured in the results of a Google search of the term “accounting basics” offer an opportunity to learn these concepts in seven and ten minutes respectively. Crazy thing is, I watched one, and it got the job done.

You can stop telling yourself that an MBA would make you better at managing your books. Even MIT (yeah, the freaking Massachusetts Institute of Technology) offers a free online accounting course these days.

2. Biz School Students Are Masters of Networking

If there is one thing that they did well at the Babson College F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business, it was facilitating networking opportunities. The alumni network is engaged and accessible, networking events are plentiful around the country and even globe, and program coordinators made a great effort to get students together both on and off-campus throughout the duration of the program to ensure that connections were made beyond the classroom.


If you’ve been in fitness for any period of time, you know that there’s a continuing education event option every weekend of the calendar year. As much as the concepts being shared by presenters bring value to your career development, I would contend that the conversations that happen before, between, and after presentations are the ones that are going to blow up your earning potential.

You don’t need to attend business school to fine-tune this skill. You just need to force yourself outside of your comfort zone, and appreciate how impactful the power of reciprocity can be in building your business. These events are where you go to run into the specialists who run complimentary businesses in your area. The sooner you drop the “I’m just too introverted” attitude and start making small talk, the sooner you’ll be funding your retirement account with gym profits.

Build your network, or die a slow death on your gym-shaped island.

3. Biz School Students Either Sink or Swim in Tons of Work

I actually completed a traditional two-year MBA curriculum during a 51-week window thanks to the One-Year MBA Program at Babson. From Memorial Day Weekend, until Labor Day Weekend, we attended classes six days per week for as many as 8 hours/day. On top of the class schedule, we finished each day with a homework load that actually accounted for more reading hours than any individual could ever complete if he wanted to sleep that night.

This meant that classmate collaboration was imperative from a studying and information consumption standpoint, and long nights were the norm.

By the time the summer ended, I was numb to the workload. I’d conditioned my mind and body to expect to be “on” for as many as 100 hours/week, making the two “normal” semesters to follow feel like an absolute breeze. With just four classes on my schedule, I was able to participate in a 30-hour/week for-credit internship, and coach high school soccer during the afternoons in addition to school.

When school ended that following May, and people asked me what the hardest part had been, my answer was always the same: the summer portion of the program. The good news, I thought, was that I’d never need to log those kind of hours again in the future.

And then I opened a gym with two buddies…

One of the biggest mistakes I see new gym owners make is going into the process with the expectation that one can maintain the client volume and workload one had while coaching at the local commercial gym, and “just get the administrative stuff done during off hours.”

The first six to twelve months of running a business will kick your ass. I’m talking “first three months of a one-year MBA program kick your ass.”

We worked seven days a week for months on end, and also knew we had to eat, sleep and breath gym ownership during the hours we weren’t at the facility.

You don’t HAVE to get an MBA to learn to embrace the workload that comes with surviving the early stages of gym ownership, but I’m sure glad I did. The prior experience allowed me to maintain my sanity during the summer of ‘07 when CSP became a thing.

I’m not looking to talk you out of chasing this dream. Instead, I want to talk you into embracing the suck that is early-stage entrepreneurship. MBA or not, you’re gonna have to endure it.

One Spot Left…

Interested in something along the lines of a 1-Day Gym Owner’s MBA? I’ve got an idea for you.

29 of the 30 available seats at our upcoming Business Mentorship are spoken for, and I’d love for you to be the magic number 30.

My business partner Eric and I are going to spend Sunday, April 7th 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.

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