Tony Was a Weirdo, So Mark Started a Gym

"Without Tony Gentilcore, there would be no Mark Fisher Fitness."

Let that sink in for a second.

I had the pleasure of speaking alongside Mark Fisher at the Structure(d) Business Seminar this past weekend. After the presentations had been delivered and the featured speakers gathered in front of the room, a common question was posed to the "expert" panel: What is your best piece of advice for someone who would like to achieve opinion-leader status within our industry?

My fellow presenters cycled through all of the usual relevant answers:

  • Be patient because this takes time...
  • You need to accrue relevant and noteworthy experiences...
  • Consistency is key...
  • Say things that haven't been beaten to death already...

And then it was my turn to talk.

"There is nothing more important than authenticity."

Allow Me To Tell You A Quick Story

In 2010 we decided we were ready to take Cressey Sports Performance (CSP) out of the hobby zone, and into the "they actually have a real website" category.

We found a reputable web-design firm, outlined our needs, and told them to take some creative freedoms with the product. One of the interesting features they came back to us with was a scrolling blog feed at the top of the home page. This plug-in allowed for the most recent blog posts published by Eric Cressey, Tony Gentilcore, and Brian St. Pierre to populate in a revolving fashion right at the top of our page. We’ve always worked to give our audience as many avenues as possible to perceive our expertise, and this feed was a great tool for doing so.

Tony doing his "thought leader" thing at the Motivation & Movement Lab

Tony doing his "thought leader" thing at the Motivation & Movement Lab

At the time, we catered primarily to youth athletes. Parents accounted for the bulk of our site traffic. We quickly discovered a problem that wasn't going to solve itself. Tony had a habit of dropping f-bombs in his material, including the occasional appearance in a blog title. As you might imagine, we (Eric and I) were firmly of the mentality that this wouldn't reflect well on the business in the eyes of high school athlete's parents.

Tony was reminded again and again: "Stop it with the foul language. It's bad for business."

For a while there, he really tried. He pulled back on the expletives. I think he even scaled back on using some of his favorite phrases such as "I feel like slamming my face into a brick wall every time I see (insert exercise description here)."

After a while, though, he realized that the censoring was hurting his ability to communicate authentically as he had in the past.

"Can you just take my blog out of circulation on the company homepage?"

I did as he asked...and business at CSP kept right on cruising in an upward trajectory. At the same time, Tony watched his readership grow at a similar pace.

Good on Tony for taking a stand. His personal brand has managed to remain an accurate reflection of who he is both on the internet, and in person since he first made the mistake of titling his blog "The G-Spot" back in 2006 (true story).

Fast-Forward to Today

I finished my story for the audience, and before anyone in the room could raise their hand with a follow-up question, Mark chimed in:

"Without Tony Gentilcore, there would be no Mark Fisher Fitness."

He took a few moments to elaborate, explaining that Tony's decision to avoid embracing a 100% by-the-book approach to professionalism in the realm of content creation allowed him to feel comfortable in bringing his own unpredictable and original brand to mid-town Manhattan. At that point in time, the general assumption was that you had to write as if you were hoping to be published on T-Nation if you wanted anyone to pay attention. Tony's commitment to pop-culture references, elaborate cat stories, and an obsession with Star Wars on his site became the impetus for Mark throwing caution to the wind and bringing MFF to the world by embracing an approach that he described as "full crazy."

It's kind of scary to think that my efforts of censorship could have deprived the fitness industry of unicorns and glitter, but it's true. The lesson in the end is simple - Authenticity creates more than website traffic. It also inspires creativity.

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