A Niche Isn’t Required to Start

There’s a common misconception that Cressey Sports Performance (CSP) is the product of a business plan that clearly articulated an objective of capturing market share specifically in the baseball niche from day one. It isn’t.

I finished a one-year full-time MBA program less than 8-weeks prior to us starting our business. Every week for that entire school year, I was reminded that roughly half of all new businesses fail. This fact was not lost on me, so when we opened our doors for business we were more concerned with collecting any money we could get our hands on than we were with collecting it from a specific subsegment of the population.

Sometimes the best thing you can do in your pursuit to identify a niche is to put your head down and work. Work with as many different types of athletes as possible. Work on collecting all of the experience you can with a broad array of injury histories. Work on building your network. Work on identifying your own strengths. Just work.

If you prioritize accumulating opportunities to learn during the early stages of your business and then double down on those that you find to be particularly interesting, the niche thing is likely to figure itself out.

And remember, if you’re feeling a little overwhelmed by a lack of direction getting started, you can take comfort in knowing that CSP was a business without an identity for nearly six months before firmly settling on targeting a specific underserved population. In fact, we didn’t even get our website live until day 93…oops.

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How Do I Know When to Add My First Employee?

(2-minute read, tops)

Every one-man operation in the fitness industry is wondering the same thing: How will I know when the time is right to add an employee or a partner to the mix?

There is no universally correct answer here. Your business is unique, and you shouldn’t take general solutions to unique problems.

How I would attack it…

If I were in your shoes, I would establish a measurable performance target, and make a commitment to “taking the next step” once it has been met.

Maybe it’s a semi-aggressive revenue objective…

“When I get to $15,000/month in revenue I make the jump.”

Maybe it’s an active client headcount…

“Once I’ve got 30+ regulars on EFT, I’m doing this.”

Maybe it’s average workday length…

“I expect to be on the cusp of burnout when my workday starts exceeding 8+ one-on-one sessions, so I’ll pull the trigger then.”


I care far less about the metric you choose than I do about you respecting the target.

Once you hit that target, you pull the trigger on adding an employee or partner. More specifically, you’re going to need to spend money to make money. You can be 100% certain that you’ll be temporarily reducing your own take-home at the end of each month. Remember, you’re investing cash flow now, to increase your earning potential later.

As you work toward this target, set aside time to outline the tasks and expectations that your future hire will encounter. Establish a job description that you are eager to fill when the time is right, and you’ll be prepared to hit the ground running when you make the informed and strategic decision to take the jump.

Hold yourself accountable

Write down your goal. Paste it on the wall or marker board in your office. Next, work tirelessly to get there. With a defined target to shoot for, you can begin the process of competing with yourself. With this approach in place, that eventual temporary pay-cut will hurt less, making you more likely to honor your commitment to business growth.

The good news is that hitting targets feels great, and this major business move of expanding your team will come with a whole new series of goals to chase.

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10 Considerations as You Plan to Host Your First Seminar

We’ve hosted our annual CSP Fall Seminar seven times since 2012. In that time, we’ve accommodated more than 1,000 attendees, 15 different presenters, and a whole buffet of unanticipated headaches.

A lot of things have changed since we first opened our doors for an event of this nature, including many of the faces on our team, fitness trends in general, and the ease with which event coordinators can fill seats.

Putting bodies in the room gets harder every year. However, this doesn’t mean that hosting an event is a bad idea. You just need to accept the fact that filling the room will present a challenge, and take a deliberate approach to promoting outside of the same old Facebook advertising spending spree that everyone else seems to fall back on.

Assuming you do accept the challenge of organizing a seminar, here are ten common hurdles in the process that you may not have anticipated or planned for:

Your Checklist

1. Website – If you want your seminar to feel legitimate, it would be a good idea to create a website outlining the event. A simple flyer posted on Facebook and Instagram isn’t going to get the job done. List your presenters, provide details on presentation topics, outline the time table, and offer a platform to process registration payments.

2. Merchant Services – Speaking of paying to register, you can’t get away with “cash on arrival” events, and nobody pops a personal check in the mail anymore. This means that you’ve got to accept online payments, and it’s going to take some sort of a merchant services account to do so. Be warned: Processing credit cards will run you somewhere in the vicinity of 2-4% of each transaction.


3. CEU Application – Many of your attendees are going to be looking to accumulate continuing education units in exchange for attending your event. Unfortunately, offering CEU’s isn’t as simple as declaring the number of credit hours you intend to deliver and mocking up your own certificate. You’re going to need to fill out a CEU provider application, and you can expect that part of the process to cost you more than $100 depending on the organization. Wait until the last minute, and you can expect to pay some sort of additional accelerated processing fee.

4. Printouts – Your guests may anticipate printouts of presentation slides. This will prove to be a headache for two reasons. First, you can expect at least one or two of your featured presenters to drag their heels on submitting material in a timely manner, so delivery to the print and copy center is sure to go down to the wire. Second, these things aren’t cheap, especially if you’re trying to keep it classy and offer spiral-bound material.

5. Chairs – How many gym owners own more than a handful of folding chairs? Expect to find yourself renting seating for guests, which will run you $1-$2/chair, plus the cost of delivery, a damage protection fee, and tax. Side note – we picked up 30 chairs from Costco a couple of years back and they’ve proven to be immensely valuable, especially when hosting smaller mentorship-style events.


6. Projector / Microphone – You’re going to need to showcase those beautiful PowerPoint presentations, so a projector will be a must. Those babies typically start around $400, and are probably worth investing in if you intend to make a habit of hosting events. If you’re anticipating a larger crowd, amplifying the volume of your presenters will be a need as well. We picked up a Bose PA system to take care of this problem, and also invested in a wireless microphone of our own. Neither of these were cheap, but are now worth it after years of use.

7. Registration Assistance – Things move quickly when it comes time to actually welcome guests through the door. Plan on having multiple staff members available to check people in, confirm payment has been made, deliver CEU’s, and point out things like restrooms and places to put personal belongings. As the owner of the gym, you’ll have more distractions than you can handle at this moment, so steer clear of trying to handle this piece of the process entirely by yourself.

8. Presenter Wages – The best way to put butts in seats will be to fill presenter slots with speakers who can attract a crowd. The influencers who can fill a room don’t typically come free, and often live a flight away from your space. If you’re going to entice “a name,” plan on budgeting for airfare and accommodations at the very least. Speaking fees may also be a reality, so address that matter up front in the planning process. This will drive your registration pricing strategy.

9. Follow-Up Materials – We’ve never hosted a seminar at CSP that didn’t feature multiple attendees requesting electronic versions of the slides. Some want access to videos, and some would rather not have to revisit their printouts for takeaways. Either way, expect the requests to roll in, and the least you can do is assemble all of this material in one place and make it easily accessible. I typically save the presentations in a single PDF, and then reduce the size of the document using SmallPDF.com.


10. Feedback Collection – If you intend to turn your seminar into an annual tradition, it would be a good idea to collect detailed feedback from your attendees. We send a survey to all of our guests immediately following each seminar and ask for specific reviews and ratings for the event. This information helps us to improve future events, and to gather topic ideas to use moving forward. The free survey services on TypeForm.com are perfectly sufficient to get the job done here.

A Bonus Tip

Setting a Future Date – I mentioned earlier that seminars are getting harder and harder to fill, and this is because of the abundance of competing events flooding the market. Every weekend seems to feature a new option. The earlier you can establish a date for your upcoming event, the better.

With all of this information on your radar, you’ll hopefully find that your first seminar moves a little smoother than it otherwise may have. Also, you might feel better equipped to budget appropriately for the event.

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Identify Your Next Hire Before You Need to Make It

If you’re looking to make a hire today, this blog post probably wont be much help in getting the job done.

This is a post about taking a proactive approach to staffing issues. If you’re beginning your search for a good coach because a spot just opened on your staff, you’re already behind the eight ball.

In my 10+ years of engaging with fellow gym owners, I’ve come to realize that the businesses with the best teams are the ones who always know who their first call will be directed toward when an opportunity arises. My good friend Mark Fisher refers to “the bench” when talking about candidates for future hires, and we call it the “the short list” here at CSP. Ours consists of our top-five former interns in the running for a job at any given moment in time.

With this in mind, I have three strategies you can consider employing as you begin your proactive search for employees. Here’s a short-term objective, a medium-range option, and a bigger-picture long-term solution to your hiring problems:


Short-Term: Network Electronically With Online Communities

The first thing you can do to build “your bench” is to network your ass off. Due to the nature of the continuing education calendar, and the high costs associated with travel and accommodations, attending large seminars and summits on a regular basis isn’t a sustainable solution for networking purposes.

Instead, consider joining a collaborative online community like The Strength Faction or Lift The Bar. These groups feature a collection of ambitious and accomplished fitness professionals who are interested in sharing knowledge and appreciate the fact that a rising tide lifts all ships. I had a hire to make and a distinct lack of candidates, I’d start here.

Engage in the online forums, participate in live Q&A’s, and soak up every opportunity you can to connect with other people. When the time comes to make a hire, you can announce to the group that you’ve got payroll dollars to spend. At that point you’ll know who knows their stuff, and how committed they are to ongoing learning.

Medium-Range: Identify the Talent Developers & Propose Collaboration

The gyms with productive internship programs rarely have job opportunities for the majority of the coaches who come out of their systems. They all want to be able to assist outgoing interns in securing employment, but they rarely have “go-to” gyms that they funnel talent toward. 

We routinely receive emails asking for candidates when gyms have a spot to fill, but I can’t think of a single gym that proactively worked to establish a relationship with us that would position them as a logical employment destination for the great coaches who we don’t have room for.

If I had an up and coming gym with aspirations of growth and no internship program, I’d make extra effort to engage with the fitness businesses I admire. I’d request the opportunity to shadow at places like CSP, MBSC, and IFAST so that I could demonstrate to the staff there that I care about great training models and methodologies. I’d attend seminars and mentorships at their facilities and always make sure to say hello to the entire team and stay on their radars. I’d produce content that positions me as a potential thought leader. And, most importantly, I’d identify the internship coordinator at each site, and let them know that I’d love to connect with every quality outgoing intern in search of work, regardless of my current staffing needs. There’s no such thing as being too friendly or too accessible in this circumstance.


Long-Range: Build a Productive Internship Program of Your Own

The only way to guarantee that you never make a bad hire (from a cultural “fit” perspective) is to select exclusively from candidates who have coached extensively alongside your team in the past. Every intern on our short-list of coaching candidates has completed a minimum of 300 coaching hours in our space and demonstrated a personality fit with the team and athletes.

Identifying competent coaches is easy using resumes, but the only way to confirm chemistry with the team is by giving it a test-run. A well-structured internship program will give you the opportunity to “try it before you buy it.”

This is listed as a long-range solution because there isn’t a manual that will take you from no internship offering to established program in a brief period. You’ve got to put in the work to establish your own systems and curriculum. It will feel like a grind assembling the pieces and attracting candidates for the first year or two. Take comfort in knowing that our program took three to four years before we began thinking of this as a business within our business. Nothing happens overnight.

Don’t Have a Hiring Need? Start Today Anyway

The important lesson here is that the best time to prepare to make a hire is before you need to make one. Staff members who are the product of proactive hiring strategies will outperform reactive ones 100 times out of 100.

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The Biggest Challenge in Offering Semi-Private Training – And How to Solve It

Let’s talk about the biggest headache I face on a daily basis in delivering a semi-private training model. You might be thinking this has something to do with multi-tasking on the training floor, or ensuring that there is sufficient equipment to accommodate multiple clients simultaneously…

It has nothing to do with either.

My biggest challenge in offering semi-private training actually lies in managing client expectations from the moment they walk through the door.


In my business, most clients are youth athletes whose parents foot the bill and expect to feel comfortable in knowing that their son is being appropriately supervised. Rarely does a day pass where a parent fails to ask our Office Manager Julie or a nearby staff member: “Who is going to coach my son today?”

My natural inclination is to respond by explaining that semi-private training doesn’t allow for one-on-one instruction permanently moving forward, but this is an urge I have to suppress.

If I respond as such, parents don’t hear: “Your son will always have eyes on him as he executes these complex movements and lifts.” Instead, they hear: “I’ve already got your money, and now it’s time to toss your son into a busy gym and allow him to get lost in the shuffle.”

Language is Everything

The language I use in explaining my model can take my biggest perceived weakness (inadequate supervision), and turn it into a strength in the eyes of a parent. Here’s how I attack this conversation to ensure a positive outcome:

Your son will eventually transition into an entirely semi-private format, but he’s going to have to earn that privilege in the eyes of our coaches before we loosen the reigns on his supervision. He’ll be coached in a one-on-one format until the moment that he demonstrates a capacity to execute the material safely and effectively. When that time comes, we’ll transition to our standard 5:1 client to coach model.   

If the client in question has aspirations of playing sports in college, it is also helpful to remind the parent that this training environment is extremely similar to that which athletes encounter in a college weight room. The ones who thrive in this setting are well positioned to impress influencers such as the collegiate strength staff at a time when making a team is very much in question.

An Important Tip - Assuming you’re larger than a one-man operation, you should be careful about consistently maxing out the capacity of your entire staff in the semi-private format for two reasons: First, being at the absolute top of your advertised client-to-coach ratio means that you can’t deliver nuanced attention to newer, higher maintenance clients as discussed above. Secondly, it limits your ability to accommodate new business on the fly. During our first year of business at CSP we always made sure to book sessions in a manner that would allow for either Eric or Tony (Gentilcore) to execute an initial assessment on short notice as it was common for athletes to show up with interested friends.

Be Honest With Yourself & the Client

Any good coach and gym owner would agree that allowing an unprepared client to flounder dangerously on the training floor simply to prove a point about an advertised supervision format is a bad look. We need to stop acting like we wouldn’t adjust accordingly to provide the coaching needed while having this conversation with an athlete or parent.

Every parent wants their kid to be capable and self-sufficient, but they also want to know that they’ll be guided to that place in an appropriate and safe manner. Give them the piece of mind they need, and make sure they know that your system is designed with the athlete’s best interests in mind, as opposed to simply to drive the bottom line.

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The Important Customer Service Lesson I Learned at a Concert

You want to truly command the attention of your audience? Make sure they know how much you appreciate and value their attention.

I made a trip to Colorado with my wife during the summer of 2013. While there, we decided that our vacation to-do list needed to include a visit to the Red Rocks Amphitheater to take in a concert at one of the most visually and acoustically impressive live music venues in the world.

If I could go back in time I would have got a photo of my own. Instead, this one from Wikipedia Commons will have to do.

If I could go back in time I would have got a photo of my own. Instead, this one from Wikipedia Commons will have to do.

A quick Google search told us that Keith Urban would be performing during our stay, so we made our way over to Craig’s List and bought a pair of tickets. While we weren’t the biggest Keith Urban fans in the world, we knew enough of his music to be excited about the experience.

A band named Little Big Town was scheduled to open this show. We were vaguely familiar with their music as well, so we made to sure arrive early.

Before playing a single song, Little Big Town won me over.

“Holy shit…we’re playing Red Rocks…I’m blown away by this moment,” explained one of the band members as he addressed the crowd.

He proceeded to request that the “house lights” be turned on, allowing for the entire crowd to be illuminated. Next, all four of the band members showed us, the audience, their gratitude by pulling out a cell phone and taking a “selfie” with us in the background. They seemed genuinely touched by the opportunity to perform that evening.

Little Big Town was GREAT

Little Big Town was GREAT

Next came Keith Urban…

Instead of showing any form of gratitude himself, Keith showed up late, proceeded to “thank” an opening act that wasn’t even there that evening, and jumped right into his first song so that he could rush through his set (I’m sure Dustin Lynch appreciated the unwarranted shout-out, though).

Guess whose music I left fired up about that night?

While it may not have been their intention, Little Big Town won that audience over with authentic appreciation for the moment, while Keith Urban lost us by disrespecting both our time and the opening act.

How can I apply this lesson in the gym?

As fitness professionals, we are capable of converting more leads, delivering a more engaging training experience, and fostering stronger client relationships by applying the lesson I learned at Red Rocks that evening. The cliché once again holds true: People don’t care how much you know (or how well you play a guitar), until they know how much you care.

The next time you give a sales pitch, tell the prospect that you are aware of the abundance of training options at his finger tips, and appreciate him giving you the opportunity to outline your service offerings.

The next time you find yourself making small talk during a client warm-up, fight the urge to pick apart his breakfast decisions and instead hit him with a simple “thank you” for setting aside some time to work with you on that given day.

And, if by chance you find yourself standing in front of nearly 10,000 people with a guitar in your hands, remember to thank the proper opening act and the people who paid good money to see you.

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5 Big Mistakes Trainers Make When Opening A Gym (And How To Avoid Them)

A note from Pete: Today I bring you a guest post from my friend, David Crump. With a successful gym of his own, and more time in this industry than I've managed to accumulate, David has gathered a lot of valuable insights for aspiring gym owners. I'd encourage you to take notes if you're entertaining the idea of opening your own space. Enjoy!


Having played a key role in the opening and expansion of my own gym as well as 5 others, I’ve seen or personally experienced a lot of bad moves. The worst part is that most of them seem to be relatively common and can be avoided with a little extra knowledge or planning.

The last thing that I want is for more fitness professionals to experience these challenges, so if you’ve been considering opening your own facility or are in the process of doing so, here’s 5 potential pitfalls to be aware of and how to avoid them:

Mistake #1 - Not Having Enough Clients

Cashflow is the lifeblood of a business and in fitness that comes from paying clients. Quite often, trainers that consider themselves busy underestimate how many clients they actually need to make the transition to gym owner. This typically occurs because some clients are lost in the transition and the cost to run a facility is generally higher than anticipated.

I’m not here to rain on anyone’s parade but this isn’t Field of Dreams; building your dream gym won’t ensure that people come.

When calculating the projections of how many clients are needed to run your gym, you should expect that you’ll lose 10-15% (potentially more if you work in a big box gym) of your roster. Change is hard for most people and even if your clients like working with you it may be too much of an imposition for them to drive to a new location across town or acclimate to a new environment. It’s best to not take it personal and instead prepare for the worst. On the other hand, if they all do transition with you, you’ll be in an even better position than expected.


Mistake #2 - Paying Too Much In Rent

Finding a location for your new gym can be tricky because there’s a lot of things to consider such as what part of town you want to be in, how much space you’ll need, and how much you can afford to spend. I often recommend using non-negotiables as a filter to help make the decision-making process easier. However, price is always the most important factor.

A large space can be very appealing, but it’s best to start small and outgrow it quickly than it is to try to downsize if bills can’t get paid. The ideal solution is to find the smallest and cheapest space that will allow you to deliver a great service without breaking the bank. This will ensure profitability which is priority one.

I would suggest spending no more than 20-25% percent of monthly revenue on rent. While that number is actually high for a mature fitness business, it will feasible for a newer business since there should be significant potential for growth.

Mistake #3 - Choosing A Location That Isn’t Zoned Correctly

I learned about “zoning” the hard way. When opening my first location, I found a space that was just the right size and the price was perfect. I marched down to city hall to transfer my business license over to my new proposed location and was swiftly met with a “No, you can’t do that. This location cannot be used for a fitness facility.”

Naturally, I was crushed, but I learned everything a trainer could ever need to know about zoning.

Cities are designed by planners and those planners choose what areas are going to be residential, commercial, or even recreational. Beyond that, commercial areas feature many different designations and those designations determine the type of building construction that can happen and the types of businesses that can exist in those buildings/areas.

The bottom line is that you can’t just open a gym in any building you want and if you sign a lease on a location that isn’t zoned correctly, you’re screwed.

To avoid this, it is critical to make sure that you confirm your proposed location fits the zoning requirements of a fitness facility. This can usually be done by visiting the local property appraiser website or confirming with the folks at city hall.


Mistake #4 - Not Obtaining Appropriate Operating Documents

There are few things that could be worse than investing your life savings into finally opening your dream gym only to have the local authorities shut you down because you didn’t get some simple paperwork.

Sounds extreme, but it can really happen.

The last thing most trainers are probably thinking about during the planning stages of opening a facility are the licenses or certificates needed, but it’s important to do your due diligence. While requirements vary from state to state, it is likely that you’ll need a city or county business license (maybe both) as well as a Health Studio Certificate from the Department of Agriculture.

The best method to making sure you’ve got your bases covered is to do a quick internet search for the requirements of opening a fitness facility in your state as well as the requirements to run a business in your city. Follow that up with a call to your local city hall to see if there is anything that you missed and you should be pretty well covered. An hour of investigation could save you a ton of headaches or days of lost revenue.

Mistake #5 - Spending Too Much On Equipment

When most trainers think about opening their own facility, they often dream of a large, beautiful space filled end to end with all the nicest equipment. However, that grand vision carries a huge price tag that is more likely to result in financial ruin than a steady stream of clients with cash in hand.

Most clients don’t care about what kind of equipment you have. They only care about whether or not you can help them reach their goals.

While that statement may seem off-putting initially, it’s actually good news. It means that you don’t have to spend a ton of money, because if you’re a good trainer then you can probably get clients great results with minimal equipment and that’s a huge advantage over the big gyms in the area.

The most successful way to go about choosing and purchasing equipment is to set a firm budget that won’t break the bank and start by purchasing only the equipment that you feel is absolutely necessary to get great results for your clients. Obviously, this will be heavily dependent on your training style, philosophy, or client demographic, but if any piece of equipment won’t be used in the majority of programs then it shouldn’t make the cut. Then as the business becomes profitable you can add in some of those less practical pieces without jeopardizing your finances.





About the Author:

David Crump is an entrepreneur, fitness business consultant, and NSCA certified personal trainer. Since entering the fitness industry in 2006, he has climbed the ranks of corporate management, opened multiple fitness facilities, and helped hundreds of clients improve their lives. Crump has been featured in PFP Magazine, NSCA’s Personal Training Quarterly, and is a regular contributor to The Personal Trainer Development Center. Additionally, he currently owns and operates Spark Fitness, a private training facility in Orlando, FL and works with trainers around the country to help them achieve their dream of opening their own gym. More info can be found at davecrump.com.

* If you’d like to learn more about opening your own facility don’t miss David’s presentation at the 2018 NSCA Personal Trainer’s Conference in Baltimore on October 5th-7th.

Is Your Gym Setup Functional, or Just Pretty?

So you’ve found the space, signed the lease, and begun to envision the look and feel of your soon-to-open gym. I’m excited for you. Facility design is probably my favorite part of the entire gym start-up process.

Be warned: Hastily setting up your spot in a way that is visually appealing as opposed to functional is likely to cause a number of headaches for you and your business soon down the road.

Here are three quick and simple recommendations as you map this out in your mind:


1. Consider the Flow of Programming

When you look at a typical Cressey Sports Performance (CSP) program, you’re likely to see a progression that moves from foam rolling, to mobility work, to movement training on the turf, to the med-ball area, on into the weight training space.

If you were to then review a floor plan of our training space, you’d see that this programming format forces clients to utilize the gym in a way that allows for them to move from one step in the process to the next without crossing the training space or getting in the way of athletes who are in the midst of later stages in their program.

As you design your gym layout, make sure to ask yourself whether the placement of equipment or space for movement training compliments the typical format of your program design. If you’ve got to walk between power racks, across the farmer’s carrying lane, and through a deadlifting station to get to the med-ball area after finishing your warm-up, it’s time to revise your approach.


2. Put Thought Into Sightlines

You never know when you’re going to be operating up against the top of your advertised client-to-coach ratio while running a semi-private training model. When you are, it is helpful to operate in a space where your coaches can see the entire training floor from just about any vantage point in the gym. Your space should be arranged in a way that a coach could spot something from across the gym and quickly react to share a coaching cue. This is impossible if there’s a big functional trainer sitting in the middle of your space.

Important Note #1: Outside of equipment positioning, I’d also encourage you to avoid spaces with blind spots or multiple rooms. Two rooms means two coaches, even if you operate a semi-private model with just a pair of athletes in the gym.

Important Note #2: There is a point at which the space becomes too large to allow for coaching “across the room,” regardless of clean sightlines. Once you get up above the 10-12,000 square foot space range, this becomes an issue. There’s only so much ground you can cover in a pinch.   

3. Think About How You’ll Showcase Your Space

Whenever I have the opportunity to give the CSP sales pitch in-person, I begin the process by walking the prospective client through the gym. This step allows me to expose him to our training environment and provide a clear visual of our coaches instructing clients through their individualized programming. As I do so, we walk past a series of signed and framed MLB jerseys (social proof) while athletes are showcased working hard (tangible proof).

When executed properly, the gym walk-through can effectively close the sale before I’ve even had to discuss pricing.


The reason this option exists is because we’ve deliberately positioned our facility to accommodate non-training-related foot traffic (parents, observational guests, etc.). We can transition from office to warm up space without impacting the flow of the gym. This also allows for incoming clients to smoothly transition from checking in at the front desk to kicking off their warm-up.

This approach requires that we tie up some valuable real estate that could otherwise be used for training, but we know that we’ll strategically put it to use as a selling tool. Make sure to ask yourself during the design process if you’ve created a setup that will accommodate impactful facility tours while clients are in the gym.

Not Just for New Gyms

Unless you’ve bolted your equipment to the floor (which you should eventually do with your power racks), there’s still time to rethink your approach. In fact, it took a handful of unpleasant CSP staff member shin injuries for us to conclude that the chest-supported row needed to be repositioned in our first space.

Only time and experience will tell you exactly how your clients will move through the gym, so nothing should be deemed permanent until you’ve found your groove. However, a little planning on the front end will reduce the likelihood that you find yourself taking it all apart and starting over again before you’re out of month one.


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Creating Great Gym Culture - Avoid These 3 Mistakes

If you want to achieve long-term business success, the top task on your to-do list should be to establish a memorable gym culture. Commercial gyms may get by by differentiating using equipment selection or amenities, but that’s not a valuable angle for us private sector gym owners who can’t compete with the resources of the larger chains. If we want to thrive, it’s going to take a training environment that people can’t seem to shut up about as soon as they step outside of our space.

While this sounds like a manageable task, there are a few traps that gym owners have a bad habit of falling into along the way. Here are three such mistakes to avoid as you work to build something beautiful:


Mistake #1 - Lacking Authenticity

I understand why you were fascinated and inspired by the glitter, disco balls, and unicorns showcased at Mark Fisher Fitness (MFF) after watching one of their YouTube videos. What I don’t understand, however, is how you came to the conclusion that you were in a position to recreate it. There’s a reason why those guys embrace the slogan “ridiculous humans, serious fitness,” and it leans heavily on the ridiculous piece of the equation.

Excentricities work for those guys because it is genuinely who they are. None of their friends outside the gym would be surprised to hear that they coach in a leotard, and that’s the key to their believability.

Ann Handley (author of Everybody Writes) says that writers who attempt to use a voice other than their own will end up with an audience that is “allergic to their lack of authenticity.” You can expect the same reaction from your own clients if you return from an MFF event and immediately begin coaching in a cape and tagging the walls with spray paint.

Be yourself, and you’ll never be accused of trying too hard. If you’re secretly obsessed with Star Wars, bring it up in conversation on the training floor. If you’re not comfortable being the high-energy guy, move at your own pace and differentiate with meaningful social engagement. If you love a certain band or genre, crank it up and let it motivate you to do your best work.  

In the end, I just want you to do you.

Mistake #2 - Impatience with the Process

Finding your voice or approach can take a while, but patience is incredibly important. There is nothing worse than a gym with an identity crisis. Don’t be the gym that dabbles in a trendy new complex training methodology one day, and then throws it all completely out the window in favor of ass-kicking boot camp sessions the next. Your culture and business model need to go hand-in-hand, and this means you have to commit to making your objectives work for long enough to know if you’ve got the right system in place.

The “let’s throw shit at the wall and see what sticks” approach to gym culture is both off-putting, and uninspiring for clients. You’re asking your clients to embrace consistency and process...the least you can do is show the same commitment to your craft.


Mistake #3 - Failure to Appreciate Importance of Relevance

One of the best things you can do in the training space is to showcase your quirkiness, but this initiative is only valuable if your background is aligned with the target market. I’ve made the mistake in the past of hiring fascinating people who don’t share an interest in baseball, and it has backfired because what made them interesting people wasn’t necessarily interesting to the athletes in the gym.

I’ve since made a commitment to hire coaches who are both technically and socially in-line with the needs of our primary demographic, and it has dramatically improved gym culture. In any gym other than CSP, it would be incredibly weird to see John O’Neill walk around the training floor wearing a batting practice jacket and holding a fungo, but it plays especially well in this space.

If you employ coaches who understand the unique personality traits of your typical client, you’re likely to create a fun energy in the gym every day of the week.

Important Note -- This article originally appeared in the continuing-ed forum of The Strength Faction, a community of professionals committed to advancing the fitness profession, and their own skills in general. I regularly contribute business-specific content to this group, and would encourage all of my readers to check out the great work they're doing. Their fall session is just around the corner, and I’m sure they’d love to have you!


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Speaking the Language of Your Audience is More Important Than Being a Brilliant Tactician

We hired a coach directly out of our internship program this spring. One day Kyle Driscoll was an intern, and the next he was preparing to assist in on-boarding an incoming class of summer interns and begin collecting a paycheck. He deserved it, but maybe not for the exact reasons you'd typically expect. 

Kyle would be the first to tell you that he wasn't the smartest (textbook) or technically proficient intern in his intern class here at CSP. He was surrounded by some truly talented up and coming fitness professionals. He had less relevant academic experience than his peers, less exposure to complex training concepts and methodologies, and a resume that wasn't packed with coaching experience.

He did, however, communicate more comfortably with 90% of our athletes than anyone on our entire full-time team (and continues to do so today). Kyle played four years of Division-1 collegiate baseball at Rutgers University, shined during a summer of pitching in the Cape Cod Collegiate Baseball League, and found time to volunteer as the Pitching Coach at a local high school during his internship. Stepping on to a training floor that featured 85% baseball players was anything but anxiety-inducing for him.

He dominated little league photo day.

He dominated little league photo day.

He is now the only guy on our team who can look a "baseball dad" in the eye and explain exactly what to expect from the perspective of an athlete during the recruiting process. He also saw his own playing career cut short by a shoulder injury that could have been avoided had he been exposed to quality strength training and arm-care protocols at an earlier age, so he can effectively speak to the importance of what we do here.

In short, he’s walked the walk, and can talk the talk.

Do you think the previously mentioned dad holding the credit card in my office is concerned with whether or not Kyle has attended a dozen PRI conferences?


If you're interested in further discussions relating to assembling a cohesive team of strength coaches, I think you'd enjoy our upcoming Business Building Mentorship. We'll touch on hiring and all things relating to how we developed Cressey Sports Performance into what it is today during this event. I hope to see some of you there!

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Is Semi-Private Training Overrated?

Semi-private training is not the be-all-end-all of profitable gym ownership, and people need to stop acting like it’s the only logical way to improve a gym’s performance.

I am constantly encountering gym owners seeking guidance in overhauling their existing personal training models so that they can roll out a new format that will supposedly instantaneously maximize the efficiency of each hour in the workday.

Semi-private has worked for my business. 99% of the clients who have come through our doors have trained in this format, but this doesn’t mean I think it is the definitive “go-to solution” for everyone. Yes, putting four bodies in your gym for $45/session will translate to more revenue than a single $99 one-on-one client, but it is short-sighted to think that employing this model is as simple as revising your pricing and firing off an email announcing the change to clients.

Here are three things I want you to take into consideration as you entertain the idea of this big strategic shift:

1. Your schedule is likely full because your clients are happy.

You know what makes clients unhappy? Telling them that you’ve decided to take away something that they currently love. Is it a good idea to rock the boat?

Maybe you haven’t actually hit a ceiling on your personal training rates. Your packed schedule doesn’t tell me it’s definitively time to transition to semi-private…it tells me you might be a little too affordable. Consider increasing prices in your existing format before flipping a properly functioning system on its head.


2. Your schedule is probably full because you’re a damn good personal trainer.

I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is that you’re good at what you do. The bad news is that being an exceptional personal trainer doesn’t guarantee success in a group setting. Coaching multiple athletes is about more than just making better use of the down time between clients’ sets.

It takes hundreds of hours of coaching in our Cressey Sports Performance internship program before coaches fully acclimate to our training model. A parent once described our training environment as a “strength training ant farm” as he observed 40+ athletes moving through individualized programming under the supervision of our team. Do you think that a handful of years of coaching one-on-one has equipped you to dive in to this type of training setting?

Maybe you should embrace the fact that you’re a kick-ass one-on-one service provider and continue to hone that craft. There’s got to be plenty of opportunity to own that segment as everyone else seems to be jumping ship with the “if some is good, more is better” training model mentality.

3. Your operation may not be designed to accommodate a significant increase in foot traffic.

When you operate a semi-private training model like the one we employ here at CSP, you quickly learn that the single most valuable “piece of equipment” you can own is open space. This presents a problem for gym owners operating in facilities that were initially designed to accommodate an entirely personal training-based format.

If you really want to do this, you’re going to need to increase your warm-up space, add second and even third units of equipment you already own (medicine balls, kettlebells, etc.), and possibly reconfigure your floor plan to accommodate a new flow of clients within the space.

You don’t HAVE TO follow the crowd…

Who cares if everyone seems to be saying that you’ve got to move to semi-private? You may have a great operation that isn’t broken, so don’t go looking to fix it if you don’t absolutely have to.

* Some additional recommended reading: My business partner Eric made a wonderful case for the staying power of quality personal training back in 2015. Check it out here.


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So You’re Considering Putting Your Name on Your Business...

The private sector gym segment had not yet exploded when we opened Cressey Sports Performance (CSP) in 2007. At the time, many of the biggest players were gyms named after their owners, with operations such as Mike Boyle Strength & Conditioning and DeFranco’s Gym being among the heaviest hitters. These guys established a track record of success for business owners who had made the decision to take their personal brand into the brick and mortar realm, and we followed their lead without hesitation.

In 11+ years of day-to-day operations since, I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly associated with our decision to name this business after Eric. CSP is alive and well today, so we obviously didn't make a back-breaking decision, but was it the right one? 

Let’s take a closer look at some of the pros and cons associated with this strategy, and the answer to the common question of “would we do it again” if we could go back in time:


Pro #1

Some Level of Brand Equity Likely Already Exists

You’re unlikely to find a gym named after its owner that didn’t carry an existing client roster into day-one of operations. Personal trainers typically open up their own shop because they’re looking to more effectively monetize an already packed schedule, and the best way to fill your calendar is to make a name for yourself locally, and in many cases, on the internet.

This is exactly why putting Eric’s name on our business was an easy initial decision. He delivered a list of 40+ athletes ready to pay for our services, and a personal brand that was rising thanks to content creation, product sales, and speaking engagements on platforms as big as the Perform Better Summit Series. His brand awareness momentum was already gaining steam, so we ran with it.

The outcome was a dramatically reduced risk of failure from the start.

Pro #2

No Concerns About “Finding Your Voice”

It can be tough during the early stages of operating a gym to identify the personality you would like your brand to convey.

Are we going to be the loud and energetic place? Or, maybe we’ll be the more deliberate and research-based type of training model? Should we just try to replicate the most successful gym in our area?

These are questions you don’t have to ask yourself when you name the business after a person with existing brand awareness. The personality already exists, and the market has deemed it valuable enough to fill a training schedule. The last thing you want to do in this circumstance is to deviate from a style and approach that you’re already publicly known for.

This means less time in brainstorming strategy meetings, and more time allocated toward doubling down on the message that is already in place.

Pro #3

Proper Incentive to Bust Your Ass to Succeed

Your reputation is everything in this world, and there’s no bigger way to put it on the line than to throw your last name on the sign out front. This is exactly why it’s rare to find a gym named after the owner that doesn’t feature a CEO with an unrelenting work ethic.

The potential problem here is the common mistake of working harder instead of smarter. It's important to remember that once you’ve opened a gym and put your name on it, you are no longer evaluated exclusively by the volume and quality of your work; you’re rewarded for the quality of the decisions that you make.

Those Are Some Good Pros, But There's a Catch...


Having an individual's name on the business doesn't always translate to rainbows and butterflies. Let’s get into three BIG reasons why you should think twice before making this move:

Con #1

There’s Only One of You, and Everyone Wants a Piece

You think I’ve ever taken a phone call from a parent that didn’t want Eric Cressey to handle their kid’s assessment and program design responsibilities?

This presents a problem when you take into consideration the fact that everyone needs off-days, the occasional extended vacation, and opportunities to explore professional growth in other capacities. Eric cannot (and wouldn’t want to if he could) handle the workload that would come with one-on-one face time with every person who comes through the door in a scaling business. This is especially important to remember when expanding from one location to two, as he can only be in one place at a time.

This problem is called key-man risk, a topic that I covered in my first blog way back in 2015.

Con #2

Discredits Knowledge & Skills of Employees

When you’ve named the business after yourself, nearly all of your incoming clients will assume that every other member of the team is an inferior alternative to the namesake. Regardless of career accomplishments, if a coach's name is something other than the one on the wall, he is fighting an uphill battle from day-one.

This can limit your ability to attract exceptional talent from an employment standpoint, as ambitious fitness professionals may not be that psyched about busting their asses for results that will ultimately be attributed to the boss first, and everyone else second. This doesn’t make the owner selfish or greedy, it’s just the way things work.

Con #3

If You Intend to Sell, You’ll Never Get Great Value

It may be hard to conceptualize the fact that you’ll one day need an exit strategy for a business that you’re just getting off the ground, but putting your name on it significantly limits your options when that time comes.

If we decided that we were over the gym ownership grind and chose to sell CSP, we’d never get the same value from a clean separation as we would if Eric agreed to remain aligned with the operation. Any smart investor would know that the optics of Eric Cressey leaving this business would negatively impact the existing lead-generation and client retention strategies.

The “Cressey Sports Performance” client list caries less value from a business acquisition standpoint than it would if we’d named our company “Baseball Sports Performance” back in 2007. I realize that few gym owners open up shop purely with the intent to flip it for a profit, but it doesn’t change the fact that everything comes to an end eventually, and it is best to take a long-term vision into a decision as big as this one.

The Verdict

Putting your name on the business is a bad long-term play. Learn from our mistake, and fight the urge to take the path of least resistance when naming your operation.

If you've found value in these insights, I think you might enjoy the upcoming Business Building Mentorship Eric Cressey and I will be hosting on Monday, October 15th. Check out complete event information here.


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Everyone Raises Prices - You Should, Too

Imagine your favorite service provider. Pick one that is especially good at what they do. Maybe we’re talking about your dentist, your accountant, or even your mechanic.

Now I want you to imagine that you were to receive the following email from this business:


Hi _____,

I’d like to notify you that we’ll be introducing an incremental price increase at the start of the New Year. This adjustment is a reflection of our ambitious objectives for continuing to educate our team to stay at the leading edge of our field, and our commitment to continuously improving your client experience by investing in the most current and appropriate technology available.

We appreciate your business, and hope that you continue to value our unique services moving forward!


Your Favorite Business, LLC


I’ll bet very few of you, if any, imagined walking away from this service provider as you envisioned this scenario. They’re on your “favorite” list for a reason, and it isn’t solely because of how affordable they are.

Your gym can and should be one of your clients’ favorite service providers. It should also make a habit of periodically increasing prices.

The pricing structure we offered at CSP in 2007 on the day we opened is different from the one we employ today. A quick look at inflation during the past decade will give you a pretty good understanding why an increase in the cost of training has been necessary:

Source: www.OfficialData.org

Source: www.OfficialData.org

Now that you know your clients will understand…

Rolling out a price increase isn’t a task to be taken lightly. A quick and hasty change is likely to frustrate clients. There are dozens of potential rules to live by here, but these are the four that I personally like to stick with:

  1. Emphasize a commitment to adding value. If you’re explanation for the change is “I just need to make more money,” you’re already headed in the wrong direction.
  2. Explain without apologizing. Articulate your objectives clearly and with conviction, and pushback will be minimized.
  3. Embrace honesty. It would be difficult to argue with me if I told you my health insurance coverage has increased on a per-employee basis by 283% in the past decade. This is one of the many reasons our prices have gone up over time, and I haven’t been bashful about explaining why.
  4. Always end with a “Thank You.” Always.

Stop selling yourself short. If you’ve been in business for more than a year or two and haven’t entertained the idea of a modest price increase, it’s time to consider doing so. Your clients wont hate you for it, and your bottom line is sure to look nicer in time.


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Avoiding the Fancy Property Trap

A beautiful baseball complex opened roughly ten miles from our flagship facility a couple of years ago and the owners were eager to discuss the possibility of us opening a satellite facility on-site. The proposed space was 4,000+ square feet overlooking an aesthetically pleasing field, and provided unlimited field access for sprint work, throwing, and more at times that games were not being played.

There was, however, a hitch.

Two of them, actually.

The first issue was the fact that our clients started catching wind of the potential new location and location-change requests began to roll in from those who found the new option to be geographically more desirable than our current spot. With more than a third of our clients falling into this geographic category, we quickly realized that our fancy potential new space was going to cannibalize more business from our primary operation than it would initially add in new faces. Not good.


The second problem was the price. This spot is situated adjacent to a major interstate, and across the street from a desirable shopping plaza. Despite being located on the field-facing back of the building, landlords intended to collect street-facing dollars, commanding as much as 2.5 times as many dollars per square foot as our gym just twenty minutes down the road.

We had to ask ourselves, is the newfound high-traffic location going to bring enough new faces through the door to justify spending nearly the same amount of monthly rent on 4,500 square feet as we were already paying on 15,000 elsewhere?

We ultimately passed on this opportunity roughly 36 months ago, and watched the space sit vacant until just the last month or two.

The lesson for me was twofold: First, don’t fall in love with the busiest address on the map, as storefront real estate fees are typically established to align with the earning potential of retail stores and restaurants, not performance centers that require ample space for movement training.

Secondly, if you’re considering a second location, you may want to find something that is inconvenient to get to in relation to your first space. Otherwise, you’ll quickly find yourself sharing clients, dealing with tracking payments and attendance spread over multiple locations, and subject to ongoing compare and contrast discussions relating to your two spots. There should be no grey area as to which location you are a member of, unless you offer an open-gym membership model.

** Please Note **

This article originally appeared in the continuing-ed forum of The Strength Faction, a community of professionals committed to advancing the fitness profession, and their own skills in general. I contribute business-specific content to this group in an ongoing basis, and would encourage all of my readers to check out the great work they're doing.


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Dominate Your Internship - 3 Tips

Hundreds of summer internships will kick off this week. In many cases, program participants are anxious, overwhelmed, and uncertain of what to expect.

Am I adequately prepared? Are the athletes in the gym going to take me seriously? Will my employers trust me with their clients? Can people tell how nervous I am?

Having seen roughly 200 interns make their way through CSP over the years, I can tell you with certainty that crushing your internship, especially in the first week or two, is surprisingly simple.

Commit yourself to practicing these “3 P’s,” and you’ll find it easy to differentiate yourself from the weaker links in your program:

1. Punctuality


I can’t believe it needs to be said, but punctuality is actually a differentiator for many in the fitness industry. Vince Lombardi said it best: “If you’re five minutes early, you’re already ten minutes late.”

Show up early for staff meetings. Wrap up your own training sessions with fifteen minutes to spare in advance of hitting the gym floor to coach. And make sure not to be the first one out the door at the end of the day. We can tell if you don’t want to be here, and the biggest illustration of this attitude is showing up 2 minutes before your shift starts, and bolting as quickly as possible.

2. Positivity


I don’t really care about your competency on day one. You made it through the thorough application review and interview processes and found your way into a spot in our program, so I already know you deserve to be here. Trust your skill set and focus on being likeable.

Make friends. Learn names. Smile.

By the end of your first week, the staff will already know if they see you as a potential hire in the long-term, and it will have little to do with your ability to coach a deadlift. Be so likeable that we can’t ignore you, and we’ll take responsibility for developing you into an exceptionally competent coach during the coming months.

Our most recent hire, Kyle Driscoll, stepped into my office at the end of each of his coaching shifts during first week of his internship to look me in the eye, shake my hand, and say thank you for the opportunity. His positive attitude did not go unnoticed.

3. Proactivity


I’ve never met a gym owner who got mad at an employee or intern who took it upon himself to change the trash, refill the water fridge, or vacuum up the gym chalk on the floor next to a deadlifting platform without being told to do so. Make a habit of “getting caught” tidying the training floor. Show up early to review client programs and get ahead of preparing for the day. Ask your fellow interns how you can help them improve on a given day.

Being proactive rarely costs much, but it will leave a lasting impact on the memories of your colleagues, and the clients who may ultimately tip the hiring scales in your favor with an unexpected endorsement directed toward your boss.

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"You guys would kill it if you opened a gym in ____!"

If you've operated a reasonably successful facility for any period of time, the title of this post probably put a smile on your face. We've all heard it from people who would rather we bring our business to them, than they hop on a plane or get in the car and make a long drive to experience our services. I've got to admit, I used to get pretty excited about the idea of telling people I owned multiple gyms during the early years as we kicked this idea around.

Newsflash: No matter how excited some random stranger is about the idea, I'm pretty sure my business would not "kill it" in Anchorage, AK.

There's a common misconception in our industry that opening your own gym equates to the pinnacle of fit-pro success. Fortunately, word is getting out that running a gym is no cake walk. This is great news for some of the misinformed big box gym trainers who might not have had the chance to read my blog titled: "Because my boss sucks" is a shitty reason to open a gym.

Not surprisingly, though, there are very few people discussing the risks associated with becoming a multiple location business. Not every gym owner needs to aspire to open a second space (or franchise multiple locations). The mentality that if some is good, more is better could quickly put you in emotional distress and financial debt without a whole lot of net profit upside to show for it.

Sometimes more is just more. More expenses. More staffing nightmares. More competition to worry about. More landlord relationships to nurture. More driving around from one location to the next. Just...more.

Having 27,000+ makes you legit. Two? Not so much.

Having 27,000+ makes you legit. Two? Not so much.

The Abundance of Opportunities

I'm asked a couple of times each month if we'd consider opening a satellite facility or even franchising in the (insert random city) market where we'd "absolutely kill it" according to the person on the other end of the phone or email thread. Saying "no" without coming across as unappreciative is easy, especially if you can justify your decision with a concise and thoughtful response. I had the opportunity to do so this week, and thought I may be able to deliver some value by sharing my approach to politely declining the suggestion.

In response to a franchising opportunity in the midwest, I wrote: 

While we truly appreciate the compliment of you offering to partner up in some capacity, we choose not to go the franchising/satellite facility route at this point in time for CSP. Due to the nuance of our individualized approach to assessment and program design, our biggest bottleneck in scaling the business responsibly is always going to be people. I'm not currently sitting on an abundance of exceptional candidates that I'd feel comfortable with handing the keys to our brand, so expansion isn't on our current to-do list.


  1. Opening a gym isn't a status symbol that declares to the world "I've made it."
  2. Once you own one, don't bite at every opportunity that presents itself. There will be plenty if you run a respectable operation.
  3. Always be prepared to explain your rationale for passing on opportunities. You may eventually conclude that expansion is the right move, and bridges are less likely to be burned if you fight the urge to hit someone with an abrupt "NO" the first time around. 


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Gym Owner Musings - Installment #10

I've kicked up my reading habits in 2018, resulting in a whole bunch of newly highlighted concepts and ideas. Here's a look at three quick hitters that recently caught my eye, and how they apply to running our gym here in Massachusetts:

1. From the Book Traction, by Gino Wickman

"Your hiring success ratio will increase if you evaluate applicants' core values before their skill."

I have a confession to make: Off the top of my head, I couldn't tell you what college my employee John O'Neil attended. Honestly...no idea.

When John's name was first thrown into our candidate pool, my first reaction was not to pull up his resume or cover letter. Instead, I connected with the people who coached alongside him as he interned at our Florida facility in 2014. I sent text messages to mutual friends in the fitness industry to get their take on John. And I focused on connecting with people who could speak to his character.


Universally, the responses looked like this:

  • "He's a great person."
  • "He's as loyal a guy as you'll ever find."
  • "No one outworked him during his time with us."

You notice that none of these responses mentioned John's undergraduate GPA or the names of his high-profile clients at recent jobs? 

It didn't take long to recognize that we were considering a candidate who was even better known for his integrity and work ethic than for his skill-set (which is exceptional, by the way). We hired John for his core values first, and it is working out just fine for us.

2. From The Book Crushing It, by Gary Vaynerchuk

"An entrepreneur's lust needs to be counterbalanced with a manager's prudence and discipline."

This quote reminded me of the lesson in The E-Myth that in order for your business to survive, you need to cover the roles of the manager, the entrepreneur, and the technician. All too often I see gym co-founders go into business sharing two of the components outlined here, and completely miss the boat on the third. If you're considering going into business with a friend or a colleague, make sure to ask yourself if you've covered all three bases.


Thankfully, my business partner Eric and I touch on all three, conveniently overlapping on the "entrepreneur" piece. We have had more than one occasion in the past where Eric's "entrepreneurial lust" was counterbalanced by my tendency to say we should pump the breaks.

Thankfully, both pieces are important. Without his creativity, we likely never would have made the strides we did, but it was also my prudence that probably kept us from stretching ourselves a little thin with too many objectives.

3. From the Book Hug Your Customers, by Jack Mitchell

"Training is for dogs. Education is for people."

We're constantly modifying our approach to delivering a valuable internship experience here at Cressey Sports Performance, and have made some big changes in the past month as we prepare for our summer interns. Instead of thinking of our internship as a program meant to cultivate our next hire, we're embracing the mentality that we are a talent supplier for the industry as a whole. 


Our objective is to churn out exceptional coaches, so our internship program needs to be more about experiential learning and structured education than it is about properly executing our singular business model. Interns who are being educated instead of trained to be cogs in a system will reflect better upon our brand when they move on, and still prove to be employable here at CSP should we choose to go that route.


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Marketing With Integrity - A Long-Term Competitive Advantage

My fellow gym owner Chris Merritt offered to share a guest post on my site this week, and it couldn't have come at a better time. We're into day three of no power at the Dupuis Household thanks to heavy wet snow in our area, and I'm not exactly swimming in free time to write. For now, I am thrilled to share this piece discussing the long term implications of employing dishonest marketing tactics in your fitness business. Enjoy!


In the book “How to Be A Great Boss,” by Gino Wickman and René Boer, the authors introduce a discipline from Todd Sachse of Sachse Construction called the “10, 10, 10 Rule.”

“… the first 10 represents the first ten minutes after making a decision.  Emotion usually drives your initial reaction.  How do you feel about the idea? Are you happy, sad?  The second 10 represents the first 10 months regarding a decision, which he considers short term.  You usually ask yourself, how much money am I going to make this year?  What resources do I need and what will they cost me?  The third 10 represents the first ten years after a decision.  Now you’re asking yourself, how will it affect my reputation, relationships, community, and family?”

Book Cover.png

I don’t know about you, my fellow fitness business owners, but I think we could all benefit from running our decisions through the 10, 10, 10 Rule, especially when it comes to our marketing. 

I’ve been seeing these Facebook ads lately—and based on the number of people using them, I’m sure you have too—and they’re all the same, literally.  They’re pushing a 6-week challenge that uses the exact same landing page, they’re advertising it as free (shocker: it’s not), and oh, by the way, “this is your last day to register!” 

Then, once people register, they’re told all spaces are taken, manipulating them to feel like they lost the opportunity.  All of this so that the business can reach out and save the day soon after, letting them know that a spot just happened to open! 

Further, I’ve been seeing the dude that’s pushing the system all over my own Facebook, every time I log on, advertising his services by showing success story after success story.

And here’s the thing—I believe that they’re legit.  I truly believe these people are having massive success with his systems.  In fact, I know some people that are using it, and they are having massive “success” in the form of tons of leads and so-so retention—which, with the volume the ads bring in, is great for their bottom line.

But if we run this approach through the 10, 10, 10 Rule, how do we think this is going to pan out in the long run?

I get the first two 10’s.  These business owners desperately want to increase their bottom line, and they buy into this marketing program on emotion.  Within those first 10 minutes, sure there’s probably some “holy crap, what did I just do?” going on based on the investment in the system, but there’s also hope and excitement. 

10 months into this thing, their numbers are way up—and that’s where many of them are now.

But it’s a new system, and there is no long-term proof.

10 years?  Based purely on the amount of manipulation involved in the marketing tactic—even with the people who stay on and enjoy these gyms—there’s still the fact that they were lied to in the beginning, and they know it.  Worse, there are all those ones that not only know it but didn’t sign on for more after the challenge—or worse yet, walked out the door as soon as they realized it was a bait and switch. 

You don’t have 10 years.  In my opinion, it’s not going to take even close to that amount of time for the word to spread, and your reputation to be tanked.

I really hope it works out for these gym owners’ sake, but my gut says it won’t. 

When does the well dry up?  When does your reputation for being deceitful precede you?  Time will tell.

And here’s the kicker—the owner of this marketing company opened a gym just down the road from our facility in 2016.  At the time, no one else was running ads like these, so we took notice.  To be honest, I was impressed, even nervous and worried about how it would impact our own business.

Well, his gym didn’t last long, and it was GREAT for our business while it did.  The place so quickly earned a negative reputation that it became the talk of everyone coming over to join up with us.  The gym has been gone since about November of 2016 (estimated), but I can still pull their reviews on Yelp and Google—one of which was written by his former employee:


At the end of the day, I’m just a small business owner playing the long game.  I don’t see a place for manipulative advertising in our business, regardless of how much money it will bring in the long run. 

My aim is, and always has been, to provide value in multiple forms and put the needs of our clients first.  And through that approach, our gym has grown month after month, year after year, for coming up on 7 strong.

As Jay Abraham says in “Getting Everything You Can Out of All You’ve Got,”

“The more value you give others, the more value you generate.  Not only for your clients but for yourself.  The more contributions you make to the richness of the lives of your clients, the more bonded you will be to them and they to you.  And the more successful you will become.

The focus of your concern should state to the client, in essense, “You matter.  Your well-being is important to me.””

At the end of the night, when you lay your head on the pillow, you shouldn’t have to rationalize your actions in order to sleep soundly.

Play the long game, take care of your people like family, and deliver a phenomenal product. 

About the Author:

Chris Merritt is the co-founder of Beyond Strength Performance, a strength and conditioning facility located in Northern Virginia. He is also a co-founder of the Strength Faction, an online community that focuses on providing fitness professionals with the support, education, and experience they need to transform their lives and careers.

Collect More Effective Testimonials

Social proof is imperative if you are looking to drive leads toward your fitness business. Of the many types of social proof you could accumulate, few are more powerful than a good old-fashioned client testimonial.

Your potential customers want to envision their own success in your space before making a commitment to working with you, and hearing from people like themselves in this context will often give them the nudge they need to make the investment. Fortunately, asking for a testimonial is easy, and often interpreted as a compliment by the client.

Potential Responses

There are two types of responses we typically receive when requesting a complimentary quote for our website or social media content:

  1. Absolutely! I’ll get you something ASAP!

  2. Really? Me? I’m not very good with stuff like this. What would you want me to say?

First things first, you should never attempt to redirect those who offer the first response. Ride the momentum of their positivity, and thank them profusely for their efforts. Their enthusiasm and can-do attitude regarding the request will only be soured if you attempt to dictate their approach to the process right from the start.


In my experience, the clients who fall into the latter category far outweigh the former. Don’t ever abandon this population as a result of their hesitation. You made this request of them for a reason, and can extract some golden material with just a little bit of direction.

Try This

The next time someone asks you what an optimal quote would look like, ask them to answer these four questions:

  1. Was there a frustrating problem that inspired you to get in touch?

  2. What led you to believe we may be the optimal gym to help?

  3. Was there a specific moment you began to notice training results?

  4. How has your life improved as a result of the time you’ve spent with us?

Here’s an example of a testimonial from a client who visited CSP for a short-term consultation and has since been executing our programming in a distance-based format. He worked off of these four questions and came back with the following:

"I spent years guessing my way through the process of strength training prior to discovering Cressey Sports Performance. Thankfully, a friend of mine recently shared a CSP exercise tutorial on Facebook that caught my attention. I was thrilled to finally find a gym that was as interested in sharing “the why” behind their exercise selection as they were to demonstrate “the how.” I now have a better understanding of the importance of proper warm ups in advance of each training session, and a newfound desire to get my work in at the gym."

That quote will drive more business my way than a generic: “These guys are the best. I’d recommend them to anyone!”

If you can present a story about training at your gym that is easily relatable, you’ll soon be headed in the right direction.

My Landlord Understands the Long Game

Do you have a favorite parable that guides your professional decision-making?

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, a parable is a brief story used to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson. My favorite is The Go-Giver. I’ve read it three times in the past 24 months. Every time I open this book I stumble upon a new nugget of useful perspective that I can apply immediately in the way I operate Cressey Sports Performance.

This weekend I took it for another spin, and found myself sliding a highlighter across the following suggestion:

Make your win about the other person. Go after what he wants. Forget win-win.
— Bob Burg

Our landlord at CSP understands how and when to apply this mentality in order to win. Back in the summer of 2010 we approached him about the idea of taking over about 1,000 square feet of vacant office space just next door to our unit. Creating a doorway that would allow access to both spaces was quick and painless. The problem, however, was twofold.

First, we were only about half way through an existing lease, and would need to tear up our existing agreement and renegotiate the terms moving forward. No problem, he said.

The second issue was more of a potential sticking point. Our old office space would need to be demolished, and we weren’t excited about the prospect of paying for all of the demo and cleanup since we felt that we would eventually vacate a space that was improved by our suggested modifications.

We cautiously approached the negotiation table, not looking forward to battling over who owes what.

I’ll take care of it, he said. My treat. How quickly do you want it done?

We hadn’t even had the opportunity to haggle, and he had already relented. You’d think that he just buried the cost in the terms of our renegotiated deal, but we actually ended up paying the exact same monthly figure moving forward under the terms of our renegotiated agreement. We’d added square footage, had some structural modifications made free of charge, and simply extended our existing agreement by an additional two years.


Why did we get so lucky?

A few years later, over a cup of coffee, he mentioned why he was so flexible at that moment in time. He explained that when he finds a tenant who pays rent on time and creates minimal headaches, he always applies a long-term vision to the relationship. He knew that he was going to attempt to slide us into the 15,000+ square foot space down the hall long before we hit the end of our recently renegotiated deal. Winning an argument over a project that would cost him a couple thousand dollars at that moment in 2010 wasn’t going to help him in any way when it came time to propose that we take the risk of expanding.

Our landlord made the strategic decision to put our needs ahead of his own on that day. Our business was allowed to grow thanks to manageable overhead figures because he chose to forget about the win-win. He’s since collected well over a half-million dollars worth of rent from us, and we’re still around to talk about it. 

I wonder if he ever read The Go-Giver?

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