Chris Cooper (00:00):
When you’re looking to grow your gym, it’s really easy to find advice. You can find it online, you can find it on podcasts, in books like mine, and generally there are three types of advice that you find. First, there’s bad advice, then there’s useless advice, and then there’s good advice. I’m Chris Cooper. This is “Run a Profitable Gym,” and today I’m gonna tell you how to figure out which advice is good, which is bad, and which is just useless—to waste your time. Obviously, bad advice is something that you want to avoid because that can hurt your business, but useless advice is also something that you want to avoid because you consume it, and it takes up your time—time that could be spent spending working on things that are actually good advice, that will move the needle. And good advice, of course, is what you want because it helps you grow your business with clear, actionable steps.
Chris Cooper (00:53):
Look, there’s a lot of bad advice out there, and it could be something that’s being sold to you, or more often it’s somebody who means well, but their ego won’t let them admit when they’ve made a mistake, and so they’ll recommend the wrong path to you. It could also be that the advice you’re being given worked well for somebody else, but it won’t really work well for you. Useless advice is vague and it’s not actionable or it’s not obvious. Let me give you an example here. This is why it’s not helpful. For example, when I was trying to start a CrossFit gym back in 2007, I already had a good personal-training studio, but I knew my CrossFit gym would run differently than that, so I sought out advice on the CrossFit message boards. Maybe you remember those if you’re kind of an OG. I would read stuff there like, “hey, get your L3 cert and your business will grow” or “just be the best trainer in town and your business will grow.”
Chris Cooper (01:48):
Or “hey, clean your bathrooms and your business will grow” or “just care more than anybody else and your business will grow” or “just have a clean and safe gym and your business will grow.” Now, obviously these are necessary, but they’re insufficient conditions for for success. None of them will actually grow your gym. Okay? This is a good example of useless advice. Duh. You should have a clean and safe gym, but that won’t grow it. Good advice looks like a step-by-step checklist of simple actions that you can take to actually grow your business. It’s supported by proof. You can look at people’s numbers, you can see their data, and you know that it actually works. And if you’ve downloaded any of our free guides from gymownersunited.com, then you know what good advice looks like. The problem is knowing that there’s bad advice, useless advice and good advice out there.
Chris Cooper (02:40):
How do you tell the difference? Well, you tell the difference with numbers. Numbers will prove that something worked or didn’t work. Numbers will tell you if something will work in your case and whether it will work in your situation. Right now, numbers will tell you if something used to work but doesn’t work anymore, and numbers will tell you which thing works best. Numbers let us answer the questions “is this true and is this the most important thing for me right now?” For the last five years, we’ve been putting these numbers together in our “State of the Industry” guide. No one else has been able to do this. Yeah, there are many companies out there who, after seeing our “State of the Industry,” they wanted to do something themselves. The problem is that they don’t understand the difference between giving out a survey and actually collecting meaningful data, and so they’ll publish a guide that has people’s opinions instead of actual proven facts, and that produces interesting but useless data.
Chris Cooper (03:40):
Or sometimes they’ll produce a guide that’s set out to obviously just promote the publisher, or else maybe there’s a strong bias or the sample size is so small that it’s practically irrelevant, and basically the guide just exists to give you information about the publisher, right? We don’t do any of that. When we say that your results are anonymous, we mean it. We don’t connect your answers to your person. Even though this is the largest data set in the fitness industry, we don’t correlate your answer on one question to your answer on another. We do this on purpose because I wanna protect your privacy and your anonymity. I want you to own your information and the broad information dataset that we’re giving you for free. So when we approach our partners like Wodify, PushPress, Kilo, TeamUp, we make that anonymity a condition.
Chris Cooper (04:31):
We don’t sell your email address to them. They don’t sell your email address to us. Some other players out there would agree to partner with us only if we agreed to turn over all of your information so they could market to you, and we turned them down even though we’d love to add another 3,000 gyms to our sample through their booking and billing platform. We turned it down because your privacy is the most important thing to me. We don’t sell your information. That’s my own ax to grind. The relevant question to you is why should you participate in the “State of the Industry”? Why should you do our “State of the Industry” survey even though there are others out there? Why should you do this in addition to theirs or instead of theirs? I know CrossFit HQ is even trying to do one with Zen Planner now, but here’s why I want you to do this one.
Chris Cooper (05:20):
First, you get the data. It costs me about a quarter of a million to put this whole thing together and publish it and mail it out and hire an external analyst. It costs you about six minutes of your time. This is the data set that every gym owner needs to run a business without making random guesses. Look, we all think that we’re just smart enough to eventually figure it out. I certainly did, but the truth is that separately we’re all just a bunch of unconnected islands out there. If we don’t have data, we can’t learn from anybody else’s mistakes, and so we all have to learn from our own mistakes independently, which takes a ton of time and a ton of money and costs the downfall of a lot of gyms because you just can’t figure it out fast enough. So why not just skip over all that crap and find out what other people are doing that actually works instead of what the chest-beating dude says is working on Facebook. Or, conversely, if what that chest-beating dude says is actually true, then we wanna know that, too, without risking your money on it to find out every time. So I make this “State of the Industry” guide available to you for free except for the investment of six or seven minutes every year. The second reason you should do it is we wanna make our free stuff that we give you as good as we possibly can. I’m not just saying that. If you’ve ever downloaded any of our free guides or joined gymownersunited.com, then you know that we’re not just running some kind of marketing funnel here. We’re actually producing meaningful guides, instructions, webinars, seminars and podcasts that will literally help you do things better.
Chris Cooper (06:52):
More than 95% of the stuff that I write and produce we give away for free, and that stuff is accurate. It’s true. The reason that it’s accurate is because other gym owners have taken the time to put in their data and do our “State of the Industry” surveys. I don’t wanna put any guilt on you to do this, but the reality is I really feel like it’s our duty, each of us, every gym owner, to participate in this. If I were listening to this podcast, I would feel that it’s my duty to be part of the conversation, have my data represented, be part of this movement. Now you can just put your numbers in so that the rest of the community grows from that knowledge, and don’t worry about how you’re doing. The people who are doing the best and the people who are doing the worst actually have the most interesting data.
Chris Cooper (07:41):
If you think you’re not doing well, that’s fine. Please participate in this anyway. The third reason that I want you to do it is it’s important to have an independent voice so that we don’t get biased data. Look, if you’re doing somebody’s survey who stands to benefit from your positive responses, then they’re only gonna report the positive stuff. This all started, this whole “State of the Industry” movement, because I approached CrossFit HQ to do it back in 2017. They said ” no.” I got sad, and then I decided I had to do it myself because it’s too important not to do it. But now I’m glad they said no because I want gym owners, whether they’re CrossFit affiliates or not, to know how the brand is actually doing. And the same is true for F45 gyms and Fit Body Boot Camps and Orangetheories and 9rounds and independents.
Chris Cooper (08:28):
And I sometimes say “we work for affiliates not for HQ,” and that’s because we purposely maintain our objective perspective. And, of course, that’s true for the franchises and true for the independents, too. If the best thing that you can do to grow your business is to go get your CrossFit L3 or your advanced black-belt yoga instructor credential, then we will say that because we don’t have a vested interest in that either way. And if it’s not the best thing for your business, then we can say that, too, because we’re independent. We even hire an independent analyst to go through the numbers so I don’t inadvertently place my own biases on what we publish. Finally, I want you to participate in this because the gym and fitness industry is really run by about a half a dozen big chains. These are the franchises with hundreds of locations.
Chris Cooper (09:15):
They have a seat at the table because they can pay the lobbies, and that’s why they got bailout money during COVID lockdowns and the small microgyms mostly didn’t. But what puts us at the table is collective action. Individually, every tiny, little microgym is kind of this silent voice in the wilderness, but collectively we are a massive force for influence and for change, both in our culture, in our countries and our laws, and also in the clients and the populace that we represent. So joining gymownersunited.com is a good place to start. You can join that group. It’s free, and its members are growing faster than the industry average, and that’s pulling the whole industry up. The next step is to participate in collective activities, like the “State of the Union,” so that we have real data to support our case—and it’s already proving to advance the industry.
Chris Cooper (10:11):
We have requests from Fitness Industry Canada and IHRSA to quote this guide, our data. These are the largest fitness lobbies in North America, and our data is better than theirs is. Now, you’re also gonna see some hacks reading our guide on their YouTube channel and just not showing the cover. So they’ll be like this: “Okay, the average online coach makes $181.” You’ll also see some hacks reading our guide on their YouTube channel or their podcast and not showing the cover, right? They want you to think that they came up with it. So they’ll have the guide open like this and they’ll say, “Okay, the average price for nutrition coaching is $145.” And it’s coming straight outta the “State of the Industry,” so you know it’s true, and that’s fine, right? I don’t care who gets the credit.I just want you to get the help.
Chris Cooper (10:57):
This is the “State of the Industry” guide. It’s your industry. This is your guide. I hope you participate in this, and you can click the link below to get started. Invest six or seven minutes and be a part of something. Now I wanna talk about business metrics: why you should track them and why you should always be taking steps to improve them. Every day, I’m in at least 50 chat conversations in Two-Brain Business private groups and in the Gym Owners United free public group. And these conversations start usually with “hey, how’s the gym? How are things going?” And nine times outta 10 the response that I get back is “oh, it’s okay. We’re doing fine.” But is it really okay? If you don’t know how the average gym is doing, then you don’t know if you’re doing okay or even what okay means.
Chris Cooper (11:46):
And if you don’t know how the best gyms are doing, you have nothing to compare your progress against. You need a business scorecard—something more than just your daily bank account balance—to tell you if you’re on pace with everybody else or ahead of the curve or losing ground as an entrepreneur. So every year we publish this “State of the Industry” guide. This is the largest set of numbers in the industry. Nothing else is even close. This will tell you how gyms are doing, and you can compare yourself against the rest. You need to build yourself a scoreboard so that you can track your progress without guessing and wasting time and wasting money by operating in the dark. Two-Brain gyms already have this scoreboard built in as part of our program. So there are really six primary metrics that you need to track every single month that will let you know how you’re doing.
Chris Cooper (12:38):
First is ARM, the average revenue per member, which is what the average client is paying you in the average month. You need to know that. Second is clients, how many clients you have. Third is length of engagement, LEG, how long the average client stays in your gym. Hey, sidebar here. I know some software companies are gonna say “just track churn,” but churn is not an accurate measure of the impact that you’re having on people’s lives. Length of engagement is if somebody stays at your gym for two years, you’ve changed their life. If you’re tracking that your churn is about 3%, you have no idea if your program is actually changing lives out there. Okay, I’ll get off my high horse now. The next metric is EHR, your effective hourly rate, the value of your time. The fifth metric you need to track is ROI, return on investment.
Chris Cooper (13:24):
The value that you’re getting from the stuff that you pay for, like your equipment, your space and the time of your staff. And six, the last metric, is NOB, net owner benefit, what you take home from your gym business. Now, there are others, but the six keys are ARM, client headcount, length of engagement, ROI, effective hourly rate and net owner benefit. Some other metrics you might track are marketing metrics like set rate, show rate and close rate. But starting with these big six will let you see your progress, and you should see your progress. Whether you’re improving or failing, you need to know, and then you can do better. Every month we publish leaderboards in each one of these six categories. We do this to tell you how the best gyms in the world are doing in these six different metrics.
Chris Cooper (14:10):
And then we can take their lessons and share them with you again for free. We put them on the podcast or run webinars or publish articles. We charge nothing for this, even though it makes Two-Brain no money and costs us hundreds of thousands of dollars every year. We run seminars in gymownersunited.com, which is our free group to help gym owners. If you wanna participate in this, just get these numbers and benchmark them yourself, it costs you no money. All you have to do is take about six minutes and click the link below and you can participate in our “State of the Industry.” You can share all your numbers anonymously. You can get the report mailed to you if you want, or you can download it. And then you’ve got a measuring stick. So now you’ve got your scoreboard, how you’re doing, and then you’ve got your measuring stick of how everybody else is doing, and you’ve got all of the steps they’re taking to get to where they are from where you are right now.
Chris Cooper (15:02):
All of us need this. I use it for my gym, but none of us could do this ourselves. None of us could do it alone. Your entries into the “State of the Industry” add value to gym owners around the world. So if you don’t wanna do it for yourself, do it for everybody else. Just click the link below and be part of the greatest movement of gym owners in history. Thanks! This is “Run a Profitable Gym.” I’m Chris Cooper, and I know I’ve spent an entire episode talking about the importance of data in the “State of the Industry” guide. Well, maybe you’d rather be listening to marketing advice, but the reason that we’re able to give valuable marketing advice is because we know what works. And the reason that we know what works is because of data. We have this data because of the “State of the Industry” guide. I hope that you’ll participate. Thanks for your service!