CEO Secrets: How to Ascend Staff and Reclaim Your Time

CEO Secrets: How to Ascend Staff and Reclaim Your Time

Chris Cooper (00:00):
In the Growth Phase of gym ownership, you need two funnels. One for marketing, getting new clients, and one for hiring, getting new staff. You also need two retention plans. You need a client journey for your clients and a Career Roadmap for your staff. I’m Chris Cooper. This is “Run a Profitable Gym,” and today I’m talking about how to ascend your staff.

Chris Cooper (00:25):
I’m gonna talk about this in three parts today. Number 1, who should you hire first? Who are the first roles that you need to get out of your brain and off your plate? Second, how to create a Career Roadmap for your staff—specifically the coaches and trainers at your gym. How to make a career plan with them so that you can keep them around long term and keep them moving up. And Number 3, I’m gonna share a full staff ascension plan from Certified Two-Brain Business mentor Joleen Bingham. Now this is going to be a slightly longer episode, and you might want to take some notes, but I also have the whole podcast broken down into three blog posts for easier digestion on Just click on “blog.” By the way, if you click on “blog” on, you can hit that search bar. And there are thousands of articles to give you step-by-step guidance in any topic in gym ownership. So let’s start with who should you hire first? Now I wanna talk about the “buyback principle.” So this is a book recently written and published by my friend and former mentor Dan Martell. And in the book, Dan goes through this step by step, but the basic premise is that you hire people to buy yourself time. And as your time becomes more expensive, your hires become more valuable. Dan taught us this lesson in the book “Buy Back Your Time,” and he also taught it at our recent first summit for gym owners. Now, a lot of gym owners come into Two-Brain and they talk to our mentors on the call and they say, “I just don’t have time to grow my gym.” I actually learned how to buy back my time at the hands of my first mentor back in 2008.

Chris Cooper (02:04):
I was sitting in this stuffy room in this university library where we were meeting, and my mentor, Denis, had been telling me to start meeting with every single client that I had one on one. And I said, “Well, I just don’t have time to do that.” And he said, “Hire some help.” And I almost laughed because I definitely didn’t have any money to hire help. So he said, “Where would you replace yourself for the least amount of money?” And he told me to hire a cleaner. And this was a big epiphany to me because I thought that replacing myself in my business meant hiring a coach, and that would’ve been time consuming and expensive. And I admit that my ego thought, “Well, there’s no other coach in town that can replace me.” So I hired a cleaner on his guidance, and I hired them for three nights every week.

Chris Cooper (02:49):
His name was Sean, the first cleaner. And while Sean was mopping, I would work on growing my business. So first I sent an email to my mailing list, and on the first night I made $300 in new personal-training sales, which was enough to cover Sean’s wages for the whole month. And on the second night, I set up a youth hockey training program. Now that didn’t see an immediate return, but I was still ahead. And on the third night I emailed some former clients, and I got one back. So that was more ROI. But more importantly, it finally made me understand the concept of buying back my time. So that realization led me to ask “where else can I buy back some time and reinvest it into things that grow my business?” That was the start of things for me. And over the years, while working with thousands of other gym owners around the world, I found a dozen ways to buy back time to grow a fitness business.

Chris Cooper (03:40):
But here are a select few hires that really make a difference if you don’t have a lot of money. So first, hire a cleaner, and they follow your cleaning checklist. Second, you can hire an administrator, who follows your booking and billing schedule. Third, you can hire a social media poster, who follows your editorial calendar. Fourth, you can hire a programmer for really cheap. Now those are usually outsourced. Fifth, you can hire a client success manager, who follows your client journey plan, does your goal reviews, and they might do some of your lead nurture for you. Fifth, you can hire a personal trainer or nutrition coach, who follows your Career Roadmap, which I will talk about more in a moment. Then you can hire a head coach, who follows your staff-development plan. And then eventually you can hire a general manager, who follows your sales and retention plan.

Chris Cooper (04:27):
Now I’ve listed those in ascending order of value. The first ones that I mentioned are the least-expensive investments that you can make when you’re buying back your time. And below this video or this podcast, I’m gonna share a link to a done-for-you hiring plan with detailed job descriptions if you want to download that for free. All the roles on the list above that I just mentioned can be outsourced or insourced. That means that you can hire an external company for some of them and pay team members to do others. Or you can hire internally for all of them. The people who fill the roles do some tasks that might be boring and repetitive to you but are still important when running a great gym—like cleaning or admin or booking or billing or social media. And you don’t have to hire all of those roles at once.

Chris Cooper (05:14):
We teach gym owners a really simple but very effective process that helps them identify the exact order of offloading, which we call “climbing the value ladder.” And so in a moment I’ll tell you how to insource those tasks at Career Roadmap meetings. And then I’m gonna share from Two-Brain mentor Joleen Bingham how to ascend your staff on that value ladder. So here to sum up the “Buy Back Your Time” principle are four simple steps to help you use that plan for the first time. Number 1: Clean your gym yourself, record every tiny step, and that becomes your hiring SOP—standard operating procedure. Second, hire a cleaner and hand them that SOP to follow. Third, use the cleaner’s first shift to generate the revenue that pays the cleaner. So maybe send an email about some open personal-training slots or contact former clients about starting up, or set up a bring-a buddy-night as part of your marketing plan, or make a simple blog post about something that you sell.

Chris Cooper (06:15):
Fourth, use the cleaner’s second shift to write the SOP for the next role that you’re going to offload. Now, over time, you’ll develop a list of SOPs for everything in your gym. Eventually you’ll put those together to create a staff playbook. And that act alone will professionalize your gym, making it possible for you to replace yourself and still deliver service with excellence. How do you create better careers for your staff? By creating a better career for yourself, the owner, and by letting them take more valuable roles in your hierarchy as you move up. When the owner ascends the value ladder, staff members fill the vacated places on that same value ladder. Buying back your time buys them opportunities. Now I’m gonna tell you how to turn those opportunities into careers by grouping them together. So if you really wanna create careers for your staff members, you start off by creating a better career for yourself, the owner, and then you let team members take more valuable roles in your hierarchy as you ascend.

Chris Cooper (07:14):
Because when owners ascend, staff members fill the places they vacate, and you buy back your time, but you also buy opportunities for your team members. So here is the path to a career. Before we get into this, just hit pause here. I don’t want you to assume that every great coach is a full-time coach. A great coach can work part time, and I’ve got a good link below here called “The Case for Part-Time Coaches.” The reality is that there are some people who have other careers, but they’re so passionate that they just want to coach for you one or two hours a day, and that’s fine. But here are the steps to building the careers that your team members want. So Step 1 is at a quarterly Career Roadmap meeting ask your coach, “What do you want now? What do you want in life?” And then ask them to tell you about their Perfect Day.

Chris Cooper (08:03):

Then ask how much income they need to make to support that Perfect Day or how your gym can otherwise support that Perfect Day. If they have a job somewhere else, then set up a shorter-term goal. Ask where they’d like to be in six months. Step 2: Determine how much the coach needs to earn to reach those goals. So you can use tools like the Happiness Index or the coach’s personal budget and just calculate a goal number. Okay, they might throw out a random number, that’s fine. You can use that as your goal. Step 3: Do the value-ladder exercise and determine where you’re trying to buy back your time. So if you’re trying to hire a cleaner to buy back your time—you’re just starting at this—offer that cleaning role to a coach. And we call that “insourcing.” If they don’t wanna be the cleaner, that’s OK.

Chris Cooper (08:49):
But many great coaches have swung mop while they’re building up their client load. I certainly did. You probably have a few classes that you can add to their schedule, too. As you climb that value ladder, every little bit helps while they’re trying to set up their basic income. Step 4: Create opportunities for that coach to do personal training or run specialty programs or provide nutrition coaching. It’s all laid out in our “Intrapreneurialism 101” guide, which you can download from the link below this. Now here’s what the plan might look like, and I’m gonna share a picture here if you’re watching on YouTube. This breakdown was created using a Career Roadmap tool from our mentorship program. Step 5 is determine the starting position. What will the coach need to learn in order to capitalize on this plan? Will they need to earn a credential before they start a kids program, for example?

Chris Cooper (09:37):
And then Step 6 is to measure their progress. So you need to perform regular evaluations as part of your Career Roadmap meetings. Mentor the coaches to grow their income on your platform by helping them get better and better at what it is they’re selling through entrepreneurship. So remember, your coaches earn more money by earning the gym more money. Every staff person you hire is an investment, not an expense. You make a return on that investment through buying back your time or having the coaches generate revenue for the gym. So every coach that you hire has to do one of two things: generate the revenue that pays them times 2.5 X or creates time for you to generate at least 2.5 times the revenue required to pay them. Last note here: Hire for the role. Don’t just hire to give your buddy a job or pay them.

Chris Cooper (10:24):
Put people in a new role only if they’re a good fit. If you promote somebody who’s really not qualified or not competent, you’re gonna lose a staff person and usually a friend, too. The best way to ascend your staff is to ascend yourself as owner and place the right people in the roles as you vacate them, and as your time becomes more valuable, then so does theirs. Now I’d like to share a full staff ascension plan overview from Joleen Bingham. Joleen is a Certified Two-Brain Business Mentor, and she presented this topic in great depth at our 2023 Two-Brain Summit. It’s also the skeleton of our new staff ascension course in the Growth program. Joleen starts by asking “have you ever wondered what sets the most successful gym owners apart from the rest?” The answer is that top gym owners create a precise plan to hire, develop and retain excellent team members.

Chris Cooper (11:15):
So as a gym owner, have you ever felt frustrated by the lack of good candidates or found it difficult to retain good staff or struggled to communicate your vision and get team members to implement it or train staff only to have them leave for better opportunities like starting their own gym? Now, to solve your problems and to get to the next level, you need a system. And Joleen calls this a “staff ascension model.” So according to Joleen, your model should contain standard operating procedures for the following periods. The first period is hiring. You need to identify individuals who possess the necessary qualifications for the job, have a genuine passion for fitness and wellness, and share values similar to those of your gym. They might come from within, they might not. The second stage is onboarding. You must train and get new staff up to speed.

Chris Cooper (12:05):
Staff should be taught your SOPs, learn the expectations that you have for the role, and start to learn more about the gym’s culture and values. The next phase is development. And this is a crucial period for nurturing, improving skills and setting the stage for long-term progression in your business. Career Roadmaps right here will help you identify areas where development is needed and plan for it. And as staff members take on more responsibilities, retention can be improved by recognizing their hard work in ways that make them feel truly appreciated. Joleen recommends “The Five Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace” as a great read. The next stage in your staff ascension plan is growth. And this is when it’s time to focus on their leadership abilities, their careers and contributions to the business. This is a period in which many gym owners struggle to help their staff continue to grow.

Chris Cooper (12:57):
And it’s often when team members leave for better opportunities. So they become good at their craft, and they think, “I can’t make any more money unless I go open my gym,” even though they know nothing about the business. This was certainly me. And then the fifth stage is exit. This is when staff leave for any number of reasons, including firing. And in the exit stage, you’ll work to ensure a smooth departure from the business, continued momentum for the rest of your team, and maintained or even improved service for clients. So now let’s talk about how do you get that model in place—and you’re gonna need SOPs on all those. That’s what Joleen is here to help you with in the mentorship program. That’s what the new course being built is gonna help clients in Two-Brain with. But here’s how Joleen put the staff ascension model in place at her gyms.

Chris Cooper (13:44):
First, she listed each stage and what you want to happen in it. I just kinda shared that with you. Second, she wrote the names of the SOPs and tools needed in each stage. Third, she picked one stage and started writing the SOPs that she didn’t have—like how to hire. And then you finish that stage before you move on to the next. Fourth, you put everything from all those stages together into one big document. And fifth, most important, you start taking action and implementing the model. By investing in your team’s growth and providing clear pathways for advancement, you can create a strong culture that ensures team members buy in, understand and implement the vision of your business, know how to grow the business, how to generate revenue, and stay in your business for years to come. Painting the end goal for them, showing them the ascension model, is critical for keeping them around so they can see the future.

Chris Cooper (14:35):
When staff run out of future with your business, they try to invent a new future somewhere else. Now this was a huge topic today, and if you wanna read it all broken down step by step, you can do that on the Two-Brain Business blog. If you want help implementing this in your business, you can book a call with my team. That’s what we’re here for as mentors. And if you just wanna discuss this, stop in our free Facebook group. Go to That’s it. We’ll let you into the group. You’re gonna love it in there. Thanks for making a difference out there.

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