Episode 171: Free Trials (and Tribulations) with Kyle Racki

Episode 171: Free Trials (and Tribulations) with Kyle Racki

Greg: 00:01 Hey everyone. It’s Greg Strauch with Two-Brain Media. On this week’s episode we talked to Kyle Racki, CEO and founder of Proposify. We talk about Kyle’s new book, “Free Trials (and Tribulations),” along with learning more about Kyle’s life experiences that have led him to become a business leader. Subscribed to Two-Brain Radio to hear the very best ideas, tips and topics to move you and your business closer to wealth.

Greg: 00:26 Two-Brain Radio is brought to you by Two-Brain Business. We make gyms profitable. We’re going to bring you the very best tips, tactics interviews in the business world each week. To find out how we can help you create your Perfect Day book, a free call with a mentor at twobrainbusiness.com. We’d like to thank another one of our amazing partners, Level Method. As a CrossFit gym owner, I know retention is key to keeping my business going for years to come. Retention is not easy though. People want to see success and if you don’t show them early they’ll find a place that does. This is where Level Method comes in. With Level Method, you are now able to guide your members through an amazing structure; it’ll give them a path to success. Once you have success, you instantly have motivation for them to continue, which will now be delivered to your members. Start systemizing the creation of powerful moments for your members today. Go to levelmethod.com to book a free call.

Chris: 01:20 Hello Racki, welcome to Two-Brain Radio.

Kyle: 01:22 Hey, thanks for having me Chris.

Chris: 01:23 Yeah man, it’s a real pleasure. And you know, I got to meet you in person long before this book came out. You even mentioned back then that the book was coming, so I was anticipating it. It was even better than I’d hoped. So today we’re going to be talking about Kyle’s book, “Free Trials (and Tribulations).” I’ve got my well-thumbed and often-folded copy right here, but Kyle, you know, the listeners would love to hear your story first. So go ahead and I’ll let you tell it.

Kyle: 01:47 Sure. It goes back a while. So just kind of give them the broad overview, I guess. I run a company today called Proposify, which is a SAS business that helps thousands of teams write proposals, write, send and track. So the kind of the whole end-to-end process of that. We’re about 70 people, we’re based out of Halifax, Nova Scotia, and we’ve been on this ride now for five years. But prior to that I used to run a web design agency called Headspace—not the meditation app, which people often get confused by; just a really good name. Did that for about five years. That was the first business that I had started, did that when I was 24 and actually met my business partner Kevin, who’s 20 years my senior and we’re still together today running Proposify. So that’s kind of a brief work history, where I was a graphic designer by trade; went to college for that.

Chris: 02:32 OK. So we’re going to get to the “how to build a business while getting punched in the mouth” part later. But in the book you say you’re not a born hustler, so why did you want to start a business in the first place?

Kyle: 02:45 Yeah. You know, the idea of sales always really scared me, which is kind of a little bit ironic. Running a SAS business that helps sales teams with sales and doing a lot of speaking about sales. You know, I was never kind of the scrappy hustler in the sense of like the ones slamming cold calls and going and knocking on doors. I was always a little bit more shy than that, you know, but I wasn’t the kid—like if you ever hear Gary Vee talking about this stuff, he’s like, “When I was six, I was, you know, stealing the neighbors’ flowers and selling it back to them and getting other kids in the neighborhood to sell lemonade for me.” And that was sort of the Gary Vee thing. That was never me. I was kind of like the quiet artsy kid drawing.

Kyle: 03:26 So the idea to become an entrepreneur, which just happened kind of organically in my twenties when I was a graphic designer at an agency, and I have to thank the bad bosses that I had. There were these guys running these agencies really uninspiring. We had no idea what was going on with what were y’all trying to do? Maybe that was the millennial in me, but it sort of just inspired me like “I can do this.” They’re just going and finding somebody who has a web contract or whatever and I’m the one doing the work. Let’s just cut out the middle man and I’ll go out and find the web contract and do it right. So that was kind of where it started. Just the freelance lifestyle, living life on my own terms, being able to work from home, choose my contracts. That was really what appealed to me, and in order to get that I had to get out and kind of hit the pavement and find clients.

Chris: 04:15 What was that first transition like for you when you were working for an agency and then you decided, “I’m going to go out on my own and have my own agency”?

Kyle: 04:23 It was terrifying. Now it started as freelance so it was a little easier. It wasn’t like I was going and renting office space and hiring people, but yeah, it was always really scary. I found that because I wasn’t as—I didn’t think I was a good salesman, but I knew that I was good at what I did. I knew that that clients were happy with my work and I knew that I was professional in the way that I dealt with them. So because of that, it was actually, all I needed to get was a couple of contracts, make those client’ really happy and then they would refer other people to me, and eventually it was kind of the reputation in my local area that was sustaining me. I kind of went out the first month and just, you know, went to conferences and handed out business cards, got a couple of jobs and then from then on as a freelancer I didn’t actually have to do any more sales. They just kind of came to me that way. So I was like, “Well, that’s a lot easier.” It’s a lot easier to do that than to try to have to sell something.

Chris: 05:19 It’s interesting that you bring that up and listeners are going to hear later on why I think that you got a lot of sales training from a very early age, but so how did the process go then from owning Headspace to another business and now into Proposify?

Kyle: 05:35 Yeah, the agency was a massive lesson over the course of five years, many lessons, really, of what not to do, how not to run a business. And I learned the hard way, you know, a lot of different things from how to manage a team and inspire them and motivate them and how to go sell larger contracts and everything about owning and operating a business, I think that I failed miserably at it, but I’m also grateful to have had those lessons because they helped me succeed with Proposify. The transition between the two was really ugly and really messy. Essentially what happened was we started getting into building SAS products internally in the agency, mainly because we hated running an agency. We hated trying to sell one-off services. And Kevin, my business partner actually came from a product background. He had actually sold coffee back in the 90s through e-commerce. He had Manatee coffee in Florida, which he ran.

Kyle: 06:35 And yeah, we started getting into the product stuff mainly as a way to sort of build some kind of recurring revenue. But we always had, you know, these different harebrained ideas for different products. We never really took the lead start-up approach and went out and validated them properly. So we just kind of spun up different products, realized there wasn’t a market and moved on to the next. And then I remembered about this whole idea that I had back in maybe 2006 for proposal software. When I was working at agencies and then going out on my own, we always had to write proposals and I thought, “Well, this is a huge headache. Wouldn’t it be easier if there was kind of like a basecamp-type system to manage all your proposals. Just sort of sat on that idea for years. And then fast forward to 2011, 2012 we’re like, what product should we do next? Well let’s dust off this little idea and give it a try. Ended up gettin it into some people’s hands even in a very early stage. And even though our product sucked, the feedback I got, a problem was, “Oh my God, I hate writing proposals. I have to do it every day or every month. It’s the worst part of my job. If you can build anything that will make that easier, we’ll pay you money.” So that was sort of like the first indication that we were on the right track and kind of moving towards something. Getting it launched and then selling off the agency and going full time into it was a long and arduous process. But we finally got there.

Chris: 07:58 I think a lot of entrepreneurs maybe have that blank-slate fantasy of “if I could start all over with a brand-new company knowing what I did now, here’s what I would do.” But the reality is like it’s very hard to kind of shut one company down and ramp up another. So how did you work through that process of focusing on Proposify and you know, taking your foot off first base like you had with Headspace?

Kyle: 08:23 Yeah, you know, I think there’s always a bit of a leap of faith with any businesses endeavor, right? You try to get enough validation to go, okay, well there’s a market, we’ve got some good customer feedback. Like, it all makes sense. But at some point there is a bit of that like jump off the cliff and hope you land on your feet. So I think we were there with Proposify, we were never really sure it was going to take off. There was even periods where I really didn’t think there was any market there, there wasn’t even really competitors at the time. So kind of that was a bit of a scary thought. I’m like, “Wow, nobody else doing this or maybe only one other company is doing this. How big is the problem?” We were incredibly fortunate with our timing because the whole proposal software industry really took off in the last couple of years and there’s a lot of competitors now, but it was far from a sure bet. I think actually what really helped us, in a sick sense, was the fact that our agency business wasn’t doing well. So it was kind of like, well we can stay stuck in this, you know, shitty business that we’re losing money all the time and completely stressed or we can try something new. Maybe we’ll be in the same spot, but at least it’s different. At least we can kind of start fresh and not have all the baggage from that other business.

Kyle: 09:38 So I think, you know, the process of getting it sold, and when I say “sold” it’s with double quotes, right? We basically got rid of it. We got it into somebody else’s hands. We didn’t make a cent off of it, if anything we lost money in the transaction. But it was really just the act of like, okay, we need to file that away, start a new chapter and move forward. And luckily after six months of doing it full time, we started to see significant traction.

Chris: 10:04 One thing that impressed me from the start about you, Kyle, is your ability to shoulder risk and just appear completely unfazed. And we met either in Toronto or San Francisco with the Martel Group and I think at that time, Proposify wasn’t even profitable yet, but you were just completely calm about it. Where does that come from?

Kyle: 10:29 Well, I think when we talked, when we met, not profitable, it was really because we raised money. So we did have cash in the bank, but you know, were currently running at a loss, which all all start-ups who raise capital do that, they spend ahead of revenue. But yeah, risk tolerance, I think there is a certain amount of risk tolerance that I have or just maybe an ability to stay calm in stressful situations. I don’t really know where that comes from. I mean it certainly as a child I had to, in a lot of ways, hold in my feelings. I had to kind of internalize that stress and just sort of push through it so it could have come from that. You know, I wasn’t really allowed outbursts as a child, you know what I mean? Whenever I saw TV show where a kid was like, “I hate you dad!” I was like, “Oh my God, I would’ve got like, my head knocked off if I tried that.” So it could come from that. Just sort of like just being able to bear down when hard times come.

Chris: 11:29 Let’s get into that now, Kyle. So tell me about your childhood and how that has prepared you for entrepreneurship because you know, part of what makes “Free Trials (and Tribulations)” so interesting is your entire story, starting from when you were a little kid and leading up to age 30.

Kyle: 11:47 Yeah, so I was raised by my parents as Jehovah’s Witnesses. They converted back in the 70s when they were still young adults themselves in their twenties and so, you know, to me it seemed mostly normal growing up that way. I mea it’s hard to be a Witness kid because there’s a lot of stuff you can’t do. Celebrating birthdays, you know, hanging out with kids at school, like after school, going to their house, participate in sports. It’s a very, very strict upbringing for the most part. But you’re also kind of taught that you’re—it’s of weird, but like your group is the only safe one. Everybody around you, they’re all worldly people and Armageddon is going to come any minute and destroy them all. So you have to try to save as many as you can. So that’s kind of a weird way to grow up. I refer to it as a doomsday cult, which some people think is a bit hyperbole, but I think it’s close to the truth.

Chris: 12:51 Okay. So what that led to though, and you know, this is actually a recurring theme in the book is like not just here’s this, this hard thing that I went through, but also like, here’s how it’s helped me down the road. And I was surprised when you said that you weren’t naturally an outgoing kid because in the book you’re telling stories about, as a kid, knocking on doors to talk about religion. How did that go?

Kyle: 13:13 Well, you know, this is the thing, when you’re raised as a Jehovah’s witness, knocking on doors, preaching is expected, right? You don’t have a choice. So you either have to just figure out how to do it—and I mean this is the thing a lot of people don’t realize, but all Witnesses, when your door is knocked on on Saturday morning, the person on the other end probably doesn’t want to be there any more than you don’t want to have them there. They all think that they’re there, you know, with zeal and vigor or trying to save your soul, and that is a very small amount. The majority are like, “This is what I have to do.” They count their hours and have to submit them at the end of the month. It’s like a sales quota. So you’re praying that the other person doesn’t answer and we can just mark them as not at home and move on to the next one. But then if they do show up at the door, you’re like, “Oh crap, now I have to say something.” And so then you have to go back to your training and use your rehearsed presentation and you know, overcoming objections. And there’s a lot of like kind of overall sales training that you go through as Jehovah’s Witness to be able to create rapport with the other person, try to listen and understand their needs. All sounds a lot like sales training.

Chris: 14:24 So before I get to the sales training and how it’s benefited you, how often were those sales pitches on the porch successful?

Kyle: 14:31 Oh, very, very rarely. Generally the way it goes as a Jehovah’s Witness, when you do the door-to-door, you know, probably 70% of people won’t answer the door or they’re not home. Then of the few that you get probably, you know, 90% will say “not interested,” close the door. A couple will yell at you and then like out of the rest of them, they’ll usually take magazines. That’s kind of like the thing that people do because they think that’s what gets rid of you is they go, “Ok, yep, sure. I’ll take your Watch Tower and read it. Thank you.” But what they don’t realize is you’re inviting them back. As soon as you do that, you’re now a lead. You know, they don’t call them leads, but they’re basically “Oh, I placed some magazines. I’m going to write their name and their house number and now I’m going to come back in a week and try to give them the next set of magazines and then try to develop that into a Bible study, and after a Bible study, I’ll start bringing them to meetings.” It’s a very, very long sales cycle, a very long road to conversion. But actually, at least when I was a kid in the 90s and the Internet wasn’t as prevalent with information, that is how we Witnesses were created other than just being bred and raised in the religion.

Chris: 15:41 OK. So you’ve done an amazing job already of, you know, sharing how that process is a lot like lead generation and cultivation and nurture. So how has that prepared you for what you do today?

Kyle: 15:54 Well, even though overall my experience in that religion and the process of leaving it was an incredibly negative experience, although generally shaped who I am, so can’t discount that. I think that the greatest thing about it was when I was a kid—and unfortunately they don’t have this anymore from what I learned from those inside—is they used to have weekly public speaking training where you would get a talk slip maybe every month. That will be your talk you have to work on you, you do the research, you practice it, and then you go up, you deliver it to the congregation. Usually five minutes and then as you kind of get more experienced, you’d give longer talks and then literally like an adult or an elder or somebody on stage would grade you afterwards in front of the audience. They’d be like, “Well Kyle, that was a really good job on the talk. Noticed that you didn’t pause quite enough. You were kind of rushing a little bit.” They would actually critique your performance onstage in front of everybody. So there was a lot of like lessons I guess on being humble. Like, that was the one of the main things as a Jehovah’s Witness is you have to be humble, you have to basically take it. You have to take any and all kinds of abuse. Now realizing later on why they encourage these traits is you’re much more obedient and willing to follow the rules and not question authority, but I digress a little bit. The public speaking training was very effective and it helped me even today to be able to give presentations, and I think it’s a shame that kids are growing up Jehovah’s Witnesses now don’t have that.

Chris: 17:28 Exactly. Yeah. You know, that’s one thing that’s really missing from our schools, at least in Canada, that you’ll find when your kids are a bit older is there’s no public speaking training at all. And so I think that the best is probably somewhere in the middle. But did those skills directly help you when it came time to raise money for Proposify? What was that process like?

Kyle: 17:48 Yeah, I mean, I think when it came time to raise money, it was probably more so just being in business for quite a few years that helped that. To be perfectly honest, think my business partner is the generally the leading force behind raises, so I can’t take credit. You know, it’s very similar to our relationship at Headspace. When it came to sales, Kevin was much more the opener and I was the closer. Kevin was great at building and nurturing the relationship until it got to a point where, pkay now you have to present the plan or present the contract and then get it signed. And it worked very, very similar to our fundraising efforts where Kevin would develop all the relationships with VCs and different investors and show them our numbers and our pitch decks. But then actually, you know, hopping on a plane and going and pitching it would be us together. We would do that. So the presentation skills for sure probably helped. Although, we haven’t been super successful with raising money as much as others have, so I don’t know how great I am to be able to offer advice there.

Chris: 18:52 That’s okay. I mean, you know, what I guess I was getting to is that your first rounds came from somebody that you’d made a connection with another way. Right? Well maybe just tell us that story to start.

Kyle: 19:03 Oh, that was raising the first round for Proposify? Yeah, I mean when we were running Headspace, there’s a VC group in the city that I’m in, in Halifax, called Innovacorp, and we had actually pitched them on raising a seed round back when we were running Headspace, and they turned us down. Now, a year passed and we had come out with our MVP. He got some traction, he got some feedback, not a lot, but you know, I think we were at maybe 10 customers or something like that, paying 20 bucks a month. So very, very small amount of traction. But we had done it, we’d put something out there. And then we were getting towards the tail end of getting out of the agency business. I signed up one month to a pitch competition at the local kind of start-up group called Volta just to kind of pitch, more or less get out and practice, you know, and at that pitch competition, ended up winning the competition and that same guy from Innovacorp saw what we were doing and was like, “Oh wow, you know, you guys have come a long way and we should definitely talk.” So that was sort of the beginning of just getting in the door with them and then ultimately they said yes when we pitched the board on what we were doing.

Chris: 20:17 You know, there’s really, I think, two valuable lessons there. And the first is that just because someone says no once doesn’t mean it’s a no forever. But you know, the point that I was trying to reach here I guess would be, it never hurts to go out and make more connections. How has that helped you, you know, grow Proposify?

Kyle: 20:33 It’s funny because a lot of our members of our leadership, two in particular that come to mind, Ricky, our head of product and Jen of communications, you know, I have known them for 10 years. We actually met before I even started Headspace at the agency. And so, I mean it’s been a long, long relationship but now they’re members of leadership at Proposify. So I found that as you kind of go about your being in business or being employed somewhere, if that’s where you’re at, is and look at everybody as a potential lifelong connection, you know, people that you really click with and people that work well together. You know, you could be working at their company or they could be working at your company in 20 years. You have no idea. So the more of those relationships you foster and create and also prune, you know, the people that aren’t adding value or you don’t click with or you know, just basically being able to—I don’t actually believe that you have to be friends with everybody and you have to, you know, not burn a bridge; I think sometimes it’s great to burn a bridge, you know, just know who you work well with and enjoy their company and don’t spend time with people who are kind of energy drains on you.

Chris: 21:48 Can you give us an example of somebody that you’ve pruned? Maybe a client, maybe a staff person?

Kyle: 21:54 Yeah, I mean both of those, you know—hard to give out examples with staff. But I mean that happens. You always have the best of intentions when you hire somebody and over the course of time you sort of figure out they’re either not a cultural fit or they just don’t have the skills that you thought that they had and you’ve got to let them go. And that’s always hard. Sometimes you part on good terms and other times, you know, we had an employee who, the relationship was somewhat acrimonious as she left and ended up filing complaints and kind of going the legal route to try to get back at us. So that was unfortunate. But I mean that stuff happens. We always encourage our staff, like if you’ve got a customer who’s just unreasonable, rude, hangs up on you, swears at you, you know, just doesn’t want to—like a relationship in business, it has to be an equal exchange of value. So if you’re providing a service, you’re offering them value but they don’t want to pay you or they don’t want to live up to their end, then it’s not meaningful transaction. So that’s sort of the barometer for just fire them, you know? And you’d be amazed how many times an employee will think that the customer’s always right and you always have to say yes, and the ultimate goal is to keep the client. So when I would say, well, just fire them, just get rid of them. They’re always like, “Really? You can do that?” It’s important.

Chris: 23:19 It is. And you know, you’re a really great connector. So I’m going to bet that, you know, maybe you’ve had a friend who worked for you or a friend who was an early client and then you realize that, you know, while they were maybe a great friend, they were not a good fit for your business. How do you recommend people fire those clients?

Kyle: 23:38 Yeah, when they’re friends. You know, I’ve always been of the mind that you can certainly be going into business with friends and I’ve had pretty good success with it, but the person on the other end cannot look at it as, what’s the word? You know when you just hire your friends and family because they’re friends and family.

Chris: 23:59 Oh, nepotism.

Kyle: 24:00 Nepotism, yeah, like they have to know that okay, we might be friends and we might be able to go play, like Ricky and I play racquetball after work sometimes. You know, we’re very close friends. We were best men at each other’s weddings last year, but there’s still, we have to separate the business side of it. So when he comes to work, he comes at it with all of his energy, wants to be critiqued. You know, like, it’s actually a boss-employee relationship. He’s able to do that. He’s able to separate them. But I think when you hire your friends, you have to be sure that they’re not just looking at you to get them a free pass because we’re buddies.

Chris: 24:36 So how do you—what’s the first conversation when they’re hired, then? I mean, I’ve really struggled with this, so I hope you don’t mind me following this question a little bit more.

Kyle: 24:45 Yeah, the questions you ask. I mean, I think generally for people that I’m friends with, it sort of doesn’t need to be said, although maybe it does. That, you know, we’re entering into a contract here. Like, you know, you have to look at it with the same expectations that you would go into business with anybody, which is you have to live up to your end and I have to live up to my end, you know? And that means that sometimes you’re going to fight, which I actually think it’s great if you’re friends and you can have a good work fight. That’s how you get the best results, you know, you argue you and then oftentimes because they’re your friends, they’re more willing to challenge you, which is a great thing. Sometimes if it’s somebody who it’s like, they just met you, they’re a brand new employee, it takes them a lot of time to feel comfortable with challenging the boss because they’re used to environments where challenging equals getting fired.

Chris: 25:33 Right. That has come up recently, too. But you know, one of the most interesting parts of the book for me was you’re mostly writing about SAS business and software and stuff. But you have some really great advice for service-based businesses, too. And that’s who mostly listens to this podcast. Owners of gyms and hair salons and attorneys. And one of the things that you said in the book was that a service business can be lucrative for the founder if you go narrow and deep. What does that mean?

Kyle: 26:00 Yeah, I mean, you know, before you hit record, we were talking about websites, and I think this is a good lesson for all these different types of businesses, gyms and hair salons, you know, in the web-design business, it’s gotten very, very hard over the last decade because it becomes more and more of a commoditized service. So anybody can go and sign up to Wix or Squarespace or any of these do-it-yourself website builders, use a WordPress theme and it’s generally fairly fast and easy to get a really good-looking website up and running. So the mistake that I made with Headspace was we didn’t see ahead, and we didn’t focus on where the market was going. We kind of buried our head in the sand and just said, nope. It’s just the same thing Blockbuster would’ve done with Netflix, right? Like they bury their head in the sand, “no, people are always going to come to the store and want to rent their DVDs and pay their late fees” and they just refused to accept, you know, the reality of where things were going. And we kind of did the same thing on a smaller scale. You know, you’re going to be able to get a mom and pop to pay you 10k for a website. There are certainly people who will pay 10k and 100k and a million dollars for a website, but they’re probably not a mom and pop. So we didn’t see that coming. Now the way that agencies, the really good ones are able to do it now is they go super narrow and deep.

Kyle: 27:13 So, I use the example in the book of a local agency who kind of was our contemporaries at the time and they’re still running a 100-plus person agency, very successful and profitable. And what they did was they just said we only do travel and tourism websites, we help big brands, big travel brands, increase their bookings online and, and all their marketing, all their sales efforts, a hundred percent focused on big cruise lines and all these types of tourism and travel companies. If you’re the best in the world at something, then people will seek you from outside. They’ll want to work with the best. I like to use the example if you’re need a photographer, if you run an agency and you get the Corvette account and you’re going to do all the advertising for Corvette or for Jaguar or something like that, and you have to hire a photographer to do that, are you going to hire the photographer who does weddings and portraits and food shots? Or are you going to hire the photographer that does luxury cars? That’s all they do. They’re the best at it. Of course, you hire the specialist. For gyms and a hair salon, even though I don’t know a lot about those specific businesses, the same thing can happen on a local level because that’s usually, I think, where those types of businesses are competing, is for local business. Is they can be the best at X niche. Like you, you know a lot about the CrossFit business, right? So that’s, I guess what I mean by going narrow and deep.

Chris: 28:36 So I think a lot of people understand that concept logically. I think what maybe ties them up is this notion that it’s a zero-sum niche that for me to get a new client, I have to take a client away from you, but one of the first things that you said on this podcast was there are other proposal softwares out there now and that’s growing for everybody. So is it a case of just broader awareness that proposal software exists is benefiting everyone or is it something else?

Kyle: 29:05 No, I think that’s a great point. You know, even though there is more competition, you know, obviously that puts pressure on us to be even more focused and even more specific in our messaging because we’re not the proposal software for everyone. For people who, for instance, care a lot about the design of their documents and want total control over the customization of the documents, we can totally compete in that space. Not every piece of proposal software is like that. Some of them, you know, you just upload your word docs and you don’t care if they look good and it’s just all about the automation. For others it’s the simplicity, it’s like super easy to just type in the box, no training required. We can’t compete in that space.

Kyle: 29:43 So just kind of knowing where you fit in that space. But yeah, overall, proposal software, knowledge of it has grown in recent years. I think it’s the same thing with any business. My wife is a subscriber to five different gyms in our hometown. You know, those gyms might look at each other like they’re competition, but maybe you know, for certain customers and they’re just, “Oh, well if I want to do CrossFit on this day, then I’ll be a member of this gym. But you know, when I want to do hot yoga or pilates, I go to this gym.” I don’t know if that person makes sense. I obviously don’t know what I’m talking about.

Chris: 30:15 No, that makes perfect sense. And that’s something that I actually talked about in my first book back in 2012 was that that was where the market was going to go to, that I thought CrossFit was going to be one of five or six choices that made up your entire exercise portrait. So how did you determine where you fit in that niche though, Kyle?

Kyle: 30:35 I think a lot of it is know where you’re strong at already. I think it takes a certain amount of self-awareness both as a person and as a company to go like, what are we already really good at? What are our best clients? Who are our best clients rather. Because if we want to be more specific and have more of a focus as a company, we have to know, who are we all ready making happy? If we’re trying to go after, you know, huge enterprise clients but our best clients that are super profitable are you know, in this 200-employee range. Well, you know, why are we going over here when we’re already serving this group very, very well. And also, maybe because I have a design background, I always wanted a proposal software that was very customizable and you can just brand it to look exactly like your InDesign file. That was important to me and I assumed it would be for other people. Not every customer cares about that. The ones that do would use our software, not someone else’s. So I think it’s just a lot of self-reflection and going, where are we already strong? Let’s double down on that rather than trying to go over here and do something we’re clearly not cut out for.

Chris: 31:43 And how often do you talk to these, you know, these best clients? You know, maybe you’re familiar with Mike Michalowicz’s Pumpkin Plan. So his idea is that you identify your top three to five best clients first by the revenue that they drive and second by how you feel when you’re serving them. You know, do they fill you with energy? And, so you know, if you know who your best clients are and you’re very focused on serving them better, how often are you asking them about how you can improve your service or what you should be working on next?

Kyle: 32:13 Yeah, you know, I used to do it a lot more. I used to have conversations with virtually every single customer who signed up. Of course, companies scale and now we’re at about 8,000 customers. That becomes a lot harder to do. But you know, customer development is a big core part of who we are. So everyone from just having conversations with customers and just reading the conversations they’re having and seeing what customers are saying, listening in on phone calls that salespeople are making, there’s a lot of ways at scale I think to collectively cull information and just know as a group, okay we know we’re doing really well with these franchise groups for instance, but maybe not with companies that need CPQ or all their salespeople are in the field with iPads for instance. We know that if that’s their current reality, they’re probably not going to be super happy with our service. Now maybe that’s an area we can get better. But just kind of knowing where you play by talking to your customers or rather your employees who can talk to your customers.

Kyle: 33:20 Okay man. I think that’s great advice. So last question. What’s your actual role at Proposify now? How do you spend your day?

Kyle: 33:28 You know, I struggled with this I think a couple of years ago and that was what impelled me to reach out to Dan Martell and get his coaching because I didn’t know what I did anymore. I was used to being in the trenches, you know, designing and having customer support conversations and really like doing the work, and transitioning out of that and trying to build a company was a whole area I’d never really known what to do. So I’ve gotten a lot of help from that group that we were a part of, that I’m still a part of. And so, you know, I think the advice that Dan Martell gives us about, like setting the vision and building the team and keeping money in the bank are the three primary roles of a CEO. I try to stay focused on that stuff, and I think that I’m in a really good position where Kevin as a cofounder is really good at the money part. So that’s an area that I’m kind of week in, is like the operational, working with the accountants, kind of knowing where we’re at financially. He owns that. So it really gives me a lot of freedom to focus on vision and team building, which was the stuff that I actually really enjoy, is sitting with the product team or sitting with the head of customer success and just talking about like where are we going? Where’s the product going? Where are the opportunities, where should we be doubling down on? And then running the weekly sync meetings. Yeah, I mean that’s kind of what I do every day.

Chris: 34:49 It’s really cool, man. Well Kyle, you know, my favorite thing about “Free Trials (and Tribulations)” is that, even though there are a lot of hardships that you’ve gone through, it’s really, really obvious how surviving those things has separated you as an amazing entrepreneur and benefited you later in life. So thanks for giving me an hour and thanks for this book.

Kyle: 35:07 Oh, thank you Chris. A lot of fun.

Chris: 35:10 Hey everyone. Chris Cooper here; I’m really thrilled to see you this year in June in Chicago at the 2019 Two-Brain Summit. Every year we have two separate speaking tracks. There’s one for you, the business owner and there’s one for coaches that will help them make better, longer, more meaningful careers under the umbrella of your business. This year we’ve got some pretty amazing topics like the client success manager, how to change your life, organizational culture or the business owner’s life cycle, how to have breaks, how to have vacations, how to help your marriage survive, owning a business, motivation and leadership, how to convert more clients, how to create a GM position that runs your gym for you and leaves you free to grow your business, how to start a business owners group in your community and more.

Chris: 36:02 Point here is to do the right thing that will help gym owners create better businesses that will last them for the long term, get them to Tinker Phase, help them be more successful, create meaningful careers with their coaches and give their clients a meaningful path to long-term health. We only do one big seminar every year and that’s the Two-Brain Summit and the reason that we do that is because a big part of the benefit is getting the Two-Brain community together and welcoming strangers into our midst and showing them how amazing gym ownership really can be. We’ll have a link to the Two-Brain Summit, including a full list of all speakers and topics on both the owners and the coaches side in the show notes. I really hope to see you there.

Greg: 36:38 As always, thank you so much for listening to this podcast. We greatly appreciate you and everyone that has subscribed to us. If you haven’t done that, please make sure you do. Drop a like to the episode. Share with a friend, and if you haven’t already, please write us a review and rate us on how what you think. If you hated it, let us know. If you loved it, even better. See you guys later.

 

Greg Strauch will be here every Thursday with the Two-Brain Radio Podcast.

Two-Brain Marketing episodes come out Mondays, and host Mateo Lopez focuses on sales and digital marketing. 

On Wednesdays, Sean Woodland tells the best stories in the CrossFit community on Two-Brain Radio With Sean Woodland.

Thanks for Listening!

To share your thoughts:

To help out the show:

  • Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one.
  • Subscribe on iTunes.
Two-Brain Radio With Sean Woodland, Episode 3: Margaux Alvarez

Two-Brain Radio With Sean Woodland, Episode 3: Margaux Alvarez

Sean: 00:04 Hi everybody and welcome to another edition of Two-Brain Radio with Sean Woodland. On today’s episode, I am joined by six-time CrossFit Games athlete Margaux Alvarez. Two-Brain Radio with Sean Woodland is brought to you by Two-Brain Business. Learn how to generate profit and take your business to the next level: check out “Founder, Farmer, Tinker, Thief” by Chris Cooper, available now on Amazon. Margaux Alvarez has been to the CrossFit Games six straight times, her best finish was ninth in 2015; it was the same year that she won the Pedal to the Metal 1 event, the event with the pegboard being introduced for the first time. She is also the owner of the wine company, The Vine Yard. She joined me on the phone to talk about her recent appearance at the Rogue Invitational, her decision to step away from individual competition and how her athletic career has helped her become a successful business owner. Thanks for listening everyone. Margaux, thanks for being here. How you doing?

Margaux: 01:03 I’m doing great. How ’bout yourself?

Sean: 01:04 I’m doing well. Really appreciate you taking the time here. Just wanted to talk to you about the past weekend really fast and we got to see you compete at the Rogue Invitational. Final event, you did really well. You got an awesome send-off from the crowd and I’m just curious, what was that moment like for you?

Margaux: 01:19 Yeah, it was an amazing experience to be able to have the crowd out there cheering and celebrating, obviously not only that workout but just the past years in the sport. It was just really euphoric and I’m very grateful for that moment and I hold it really special to my heart. Being able to see video of it and like see pictures. It brings a big smile to my face and I’m just really grateful for the community that have been a part of my journey since the beginning.

Sean: 01:43 And it was fantastic. I had goose bumps when I was watching; you gave a great interview with Ro. And it was just a really emotional moment, and a really cool moment. But how did you come to the decision that, “You know what, I’m done now with my competitive career? It’s time to move on.”

Margaux: 02:01 Yeah, I mean looking back on the past eight years, there’s a point where I think, you know, you kind of see where you’re at in the sport and you know, if you’re evolving forward and growing forward and obviously every year it gets harder and harder, and there’s other talented individuals coming up. And I think that’s the point where I was trying to spend the same amount of time in the gym while also trying to build the wine company and my wine business and get it off the ground running and give both projects my attention; it was becoming harder and harder, and honestly, I was able to make it happen the past few years, but it was getting to the point where you know, what I want to do with the business, I want that to grow more with the wine and be able to get into distribution. It’s like I was coming to the realization that I need to spend more time there and that training individually just wasn’t in the books anymore. It wasn’t getting to the point where I could physically be able to do both. Like you can do it and I’ve been able to do it, but obviously one thing might suffer, the amount time in the gym might have to be compromised a little bit ’cause I need to spend more time in the business. So it was kind of getting the point where it’s like, “All right, I need to figure out what I want to focus on,” and I’ve had a great run in the sport competing the past eight years and I think it was my time to say, “All right, let’s maybe close this door for individual competing and let me spend that additional time that was in the gym maybe towards building the business and growing the company.” And that was kind of leading up to this this past year, like these last few months, four, five months. And realizing that the Rogue Invitational would have been my last individual competition was something that became a little more set in stone as it got closer and closer to me.

Sean: 03:35 OK. Let’s go back now. How did you first find CrossFit?

Margaux: 03:39 Well, it’s a long time ago. I had heard about it through some friends and they’re like, “Oh, you should try, you know, this CrossFit.” I was like, “Nah, I’m doing my running, I’m doing obstacle courses.” Some friends had kind of told me about it and I had heard about it through mutual friends and it was kind of like the little trickling in the background was like, “Oh, you know, you should check it out.” And months went by and I never did. And then I finally, to a friend, decided, I was like, “All right, I’ll go drop in in the class and check it out.” And I remember it being snatches and burpees and I’d never done a snatch, I didn’t know what a snatch was, I had never really used a barbell, so it was like completely foreign and unique. But I fell in love with it and I think that component of pushing myself against myself was really unique and different that I hadn’t had. And the community for sure was something I never had in the gym before. So it was something that stuck in my head, burned in my head and I was like, “I want to do this more.” And that was back in 2011, so eight years ago; over eight years ago.

Sean: 04:36 What was it then that motivated you to become a competitor?

Margaux: 04:41 I think the first inkling I thought of it was at the SoCal Regionals in 2011. I remember seeing Katie Hogan and Becca Voigt lining up for the thruster ladder. I was like, “Man, this is so rad; this is really cool and I want to be able to do that.” I would love to be able to push myself and see if I can be on that floor competing like these women. And that was the first little bit of competition that I saw that I wanted to try. And then two months later, or a month and a half later, being at the Games, when I volunteered that year and seeing the athletes of the Games, I was like, “Man, that’s amazing. I want to be able to see if I can do that too.” And I was a very naive Kool-Aid drinking girl at that point where it’s like, “I’m going to go to the Games,” and people were like, “You’re crazy.” But in my mind I was like, “Hey man, I don’t know what’s possible or how I need to get there, what I need to do to get there.” So I was just like, “I’m going to try whatever I need to do.” So that was the first kind of start of me wanting to compete.

Sean: 05:36 When was sort of the rude awakening where you kind of figured that, “Oh, OK, this one-class-a-day thing just ain’t gonna cut it and I really have to up my training to the next level”?

Margaux: 05:48 I think right after the Games there was a shift. In the month prior, in July, I declined—the job that I was at was moving and I declined to move. I said, you know, “I won’t take the position, I’ll take a severance package” and you know, I’ll focus on coaching, because I had just received my Level 1 the month before that in June. I was like, you know, I’ll coach and I’ll do whatever I need to take to be able to have time in the gym and train. And so I think that was kind of a pivot point where I was like, all right, I need to train more, more than just a class a day. And that was five months in, six months into CrossFit. And again, it’s funny because now I look back at my younger self and it’s like, man, I was definitely naive, I was like yeah, I want to do it six months in.

Margaux: 06:32 Now, it’s like you have people that have been doing CrossFit for six months, I recommend like, “Hey, get a good year of experience under your belt.” Not saying that anyone can’t do it underneath that. But you just, when you’re in it, I don’t think you know, you don’t understand that that ignorance can be bliss in a way. And so I would say there was kind of a six-month time period where I was like, “I need to do more.” And so I started training more. I would do, you know, the class or I would do a session in the morning lifting and then two metcons and just trying to do more to learn and understand what I need to do to get at that competitive level.

Sean: 07:02 Do you remember the moment where you said, “You know what, I really can do this” and you knew that you could be a Games athlete?

Margaux: 07:09 It’s interesting, because I think back like at 2011 Games and just thinking like, “I can do that.” Like, I don’t know what it takes to get there, but I can do it. Just in my mind I had that belief and again, that ignorance thing that I can get there. And then, I mean, that was 2011 and I think the point where—it was 2013, leading up to 2013, I had been with Alex about a year and he had coached me, and he helped me. We’d been together for about a year at that time. And I think there was a point where it’s like, I believed and I visualized myself being on that podium, that it’s like, not that I expected to be on there, but I was like, I see myself on a podium, I can do it. And at the same time, on the other side of the coin, it was like, I don’t know what’s going to happen, I don’t know the guaranteed results, I’m competing in a field that’s so deep, people have been competing for years. It’s like, what’s the realistic numbers or percentage of me actually getting on that podium, and if you look at who I was as a competitor back then, it was like, ah, there’s no way you’re going to make it. But in my mind it was like, “Oh yeah, I can do this.” And then when it happened and I qualified and they called my name, I was like, “Holy crap.” At first it was kind of unreal, but I think I was at that point where it’s like, “I made it, I did it.” And obviously it was a lot of hard work that went into it. But it’s like I think that belief and that faith and that visualization and that ability to just say, “Hey, this is what I want.” That was like the moment where I was like, “Man, I did it, and I can be competitor because I now am a competitor at that level of being able to call myself a CrossFit Games athlete.

Sean: 08:43 So you competed at the Games six times. And when I think about the moments I remember from your competitive career, I think of the Pedal to the Metal event where you got the farthest of anybody in that one. And then I think about last year in the row marathon. What is your most memorable moment at the Games?

Margaux: 09:00 I think those two for sure are up there. I think the row for sure. Just because having the workout go exactly, I mean pretty much close to exactly how I wanted it and having it all fall through was amazing. I think another amazing experience was in 2013 that, I think it was the 2007 workout. Where it was the 1-k row and 25 pull-ups and 7 shoulder-to-overheads. I think at the moment, kind of having things come together with like my butterfly pull-ups and being in the stadium with the lights and the crowd cheering and yelling and just getting to cross that finish line and look up and just see everyone so supportive. It’s like that’s the community that you see in the gym on a daily Workout of the Day that you go to a gym in a box and people cheering you on whether you’re first, last, in the middle, doesn’t matter. But kind of seeing that and seeing that parallel between, even though it’s this huge stadium and it’s a different context than what you might see in the gym on a daily workout. But it was like that parallel of like now we’re all here supporting one another, like that was amazing and epic and it gives me kind of goose bumps like talking about it right now. But I think those would be the top three moments that I’ve had.

Sean: 10:05 When that row marathon was announced; I remember thinking, “Oh, Margaux will do well at this” because we’ve always talked about, at least, the Update Show crew, we would always talk about how mentally tough you were. What are your memories from going through that workout? Because that just seemed like it was awful.

Margaux: 10:21 Yeah. The biggest memories I think of were like, focus on my pace, focus on my breathing. Just trying to think of everything and anything that brought a smile to my face or that would maybe distract me. At the same time, it’s like I knew I had a plan for like the first 1 k and the second 1 k and then the remaining meters, I think the one thing that stuck in my mind, the biggest was like, just think of it in a positive manner. Meaning as I was rowing, instead of like, “Oh man, I’m only halfway,” or “Oh, I have 20,000 meters.” It’s like, “Cool. I have 8,000 meters down” or “Oh, I’m already past the halfway mark” or like, “Oh man, like I only have 10,000 meters left to row.” Like any positive connotation was something that was huge in my mind. And then the other thing I remember, I had friends that were directly in front of me, Jen and Amanda, and every once in a while they’d yell my name when it was like kind of quiet ’cause I mean you’re sitting in the stands for like three, four hours. And so I think it was them and then having friends, and then having my family off to the left and having them, you know, looking up at them and seeing them smile and you know, something that was really memorable if I look back at it, and obviously being able to finish that row and get off and just be like, “Hell yeah, that was awesome.”

Sean: 11:36 Yeah. I don’t know why, but that was such a cool event. I know it was just a bunch of people sitting on rowers, but it was just, I was really shocked at how many people were in the crowd watching just a bunch of people on rowers. And that’s when I said to myself, “I was like, these fans will watch the best athletes in the world basically do everything, you know, or do anything.” Y

Margaux: 11:54 And it’s funny because I remember in 2013 when the half-marathon row was released, people were like, “Man, no one’s going to watch people row for half marathon.” But it’s like, people literally watch like little rowboats on their computer and on the screen, and go on for like an hour and a half, but it’s like, that’s where it’s like, as much as it might seem mundane, at the same time, it’s kind of unique. So it’s like, “Man, like, what’s going to happen? Who’s gonna get it?”

Sean: 12:18 What about your career do you think you’re the most proud of?

Margaux: 12:23 Oh man, that’s a great question. I think the biggest thing is, obviously, like, looking back to the past eight years, staying true to myself and just being able to be part of the community from Day 1. I think that’s something that I’ve loved, I mean as much accomplishment I’ve gotten at the highest level within CrossFit, that’s been great and I think that’s the moment that people might see the most because that’s what’s highlighted with the TV’s or the cameras, or you know, the sharing on social media. People see that, but it’s like, the community being able to go into a gym and meet the people that are coming in every single day that are making time out of their day to work on their health and fitness and being able to share that moment together at the gym. I think that’s something that I have the most memories of and that’s where I spent most of my time, you spend most of your time training, more so than you are on the competition floor. And I think I’m most proud of being able to just share that experience with the community and share that with people along my journey while them working on their own journey as well.

Sean: 13:23 Some people may not know that you are quite an accomplished golfer. Where are you at right now with your golf game and what you’re planning to do with that moving forward?

Margaux: 13:38 I would say the focus going forward is to focus on World Long Drive specifically. I grew up playing golf for about 10 years, played in junior high, high school. I was an all-state level golfer in high school. Then continued in college, just would play for fun and on the side with friends. And now that my CrossFit career is coming to a close as an individual, I’m now shifting my focus more to the long drive. And I think there’s a lot of potential there, not only for myself but people that are also interested in possibly getting into golf. And I’m excited to explore that because one, it’s something I’ve enjoyed, I love it, I love being outdoors, nature is something that I’ve always kind of connected with. And so being able to spend more time with that and being able to see the athlete that I’ve become over the past eight years, I can now use my strength and speed and technique and everything that I’ve learned through weightlifting, I can actually apply that, obviously, to golf. And there is a lot of technical things with golf in terms of the swing and the shaft and the club that you’re using, but I’m really excited to spend more time with that and be able to share my knowledge and experience with the community and the people that are following my journey.

Sean: 14:42 What’s your longest drive right now?

Margaux: 14:45 Longest drive right now is 329. The goal is to get to 350 and 375 and eventually 400. So yeah, I’m excited for that.

Sean: 14:55 That’s awesome. What is it about the sport of golf that appealed to you from such a young age?

Margaux: 15:04 You might be on a team of four other players and yourself, so you’re a team of five, but I think it ultimately comes down to you versus yourself. It’s a very big mental game. Like you have 18 holes if you’re playing on the course or you have, for long drive you have eight shots, you can’t let one shot get to your head and mess with your mindset because you have so many more holes or so many more shots to go. So I think that’s something that’s really intrigued me is that you have to have patience, a lot of patience with golf, but I think a lot of people would agree with that.

Sean: 15:34 Oh, no doubt. That’s why I was never good at it.

Margaux: 15:38 That’s the biggest component; that mental aspect is really intriguing to me.

Sean: 15:43 And it seems like that we always talk about your mental game in CrossFit. How did golf help you develop that when you transitioned over to being a CrossFit competitor?

Margaux: 15:56 I think it definitely helped refine that mental aspect. Picking up a sport that requires a lot of patience and a lot of—you have to keep that cool mindset and not let the frustration or let emotions get to you. I think learning that as a young age helped mold me as an individual. Having that mental fortitude and again, you’re walking the course for four or five hours and you have to stay calm. You can’t let emotion get to you, you have to almost compartmentalize; if you’re getting upset or angry you have to be able to like maybe recognize that and push that to the side. And I know that something that people practice in yoga was like you might have thoughts, you need to push them to the side. So I think developing that at a younger age helped me transfer that as I got older, into my mid-twenties, late twenties, when I started CrossFit.

Sean: 16:44 Would you ever want to get your tour card?

Margaux: 16:47 I don’t know. We’ll see, that’s maybe to be determined. I’m going to focus on the World Long Drive first, and then if there’s an opportunity that presents itself to do, like a qualification for the tour, then that might be something that I entertain later down the road.

Sean: 17:01 OK. Let’s talk about the business that you have going. You have a wine business and I know nothing about wine business, so just give me the elevator pitch. What does your business do?

Margaux: 17:15 We take, obviously, wine that we’ve created, that we’ve developed from Paso Robles where we do all the wine making and we’ve packaged it in a way where we’re presenting not only a product to our customers and our consumers, but also a lifestyle and a message that you work hard and you can wind down at the end of the day. We all are on our own journeys. We all bust our ass, whether it’s in the gym or in your career or your schooling or your profession, whatever it might be. At the end of the day, we should be able to celebrate the successes and celebrate the struggles that we go through and that, you know, it doesn’t always have to be wine you come down and relax with, it could be bon-bons on your couch, it could be hanging out with your kids. But the goal and the message that we’re sharing with people is that, you know, you work hard, like, celebrate the successes at the end of the day because life is short and you want to be able to enjoy the process and you’re spending so much more time in the grind towards your goals more so than actually achieving that goal. And so we want to be able to promote that message like, “Hey, you know, enjoy the moment that you have now. Tomorrow, next year might not be guaranteed, so just be present as much as you can.”

Sean: 18:21 How did you get into the wine business?

Margaux: 18:24 So we’ve done home production wine for the past like five, six years and we wanted to be able to share that message and share our passions with wine. If you look at the parallel of wine, how to make wine, you know, it takes a long time. You need the wine to sit in barrels and be aged for 12 to 18 months or longer. You can’t just make wine and drink it the next month, you know? And so the process that we did for the past five years, learning how to make it and share it with ourselves and our family was really unique and exciting. We loved it and we thought, “Hey, let’s share this with people and let’s actually create a wine company and be able to share our products.” And obviously it was a lot harder than we anticipated; in our minds we were like, “Oh, this shouldn’t be that hard or challenging.” We were way wrong in that aspect. We’ve learned a lot of legalities and issues with having to deal with alcohol specifically and it’s been obviously a huge climb up mountain but it’s been rewarding at the same time. ‘Cause I think if you look at the parallel between CrossFit and a business is in the CrossFit realm, if you go train, right, you want to go learn how to snatch or do a pull-up, it’s like, you have to put in the work, you have to be patient. You’ll eventually get to the goals. You won’t snatch 200 pounds right away or you won’t be able to do 30 pull-ups unbroken, it takes time. And so I think the biggest thing that we’ve learned with this business is obviously having to be patient, but constantly working and evaluating our work to find out what’s the best way to market, what’s the best way to get into distribution? How can we connect with others and tell our story. And so obviously getting into it because I have a passion for wine has been great, but also knowing how to adapt and learn from what works and what doesn’t work has allowed us to keep pushing. And its hard, I mean, it’ll be two years this July with the business and it seems like it’s been way longer, but it’s like obviously the work that you put into it can draw things out. But it’s been amazing to immerse myself within the community and I’m constantly learning obviously as a business owner of what works, what doesn’t work. But putting myself in an environment where I can challenge myself and allow ourselves to grow, it’s a constant battle, but it’s a good battle.

Sean: 20:37 What is your specific role?

Margaux: 20:38 I would say all of the above. It’s funny, Alex and I were just talking about it yesterday. It’s like we are the sales team, we are the representatives of the company. We are, I mean, everything from the beginning. We do all the orders. We do all the fulfilling, we do all the sales events, in-person events, marketing events. I guess we’re everything. We’re from the A through Z position. I mean, I like it cause I like having that hands-on, I like being part of the process. It just comes down to time management and being able to do it all. If we’re trying to travel for events, in being one location and it’s hard to be in another location to promote it at another location or restaurant. And so I love being part of every process and every role, but it can be challenging at times and we have limited time in a day.

Sean: 21:25 When you decided to get this thing off the ground, what were some of the biggest challenges you faced right off the bat and how did you overcome those?

Margaux: 21:33 The biggest challenges were getting licensing, being able to get that approval because obviously nothing would happen without the licensing. It was something that we had to struggle with. We had to kind of break it down into processes. So Alex and I sat down with like, what’s the first step focusing on the harvest? And the second step was applying for the licensing and we had had to wait for about five, six months for that. Once we got the licensing, then it was the infrastructure of getting the wine bottled, getting the wine shipped out, and then being able to get that process set up. So it’s like anyone that orders online, okay, what’s the process? They place the order, then we need to fulfill it. Making sure all that happened, kind of one step at a time was great cause trying to do it all at once, it just wasn’t realistic. We didn’t have the manpower or woman power to do it all at once. So we set up a process of like what’s the steps you want to do and what order do we want to do it? And that allowed us to overcome it, and that took about, in the first year it took a whole year to be able to get all that. Licensing took about six months, so we had to be really patient with that, but we couldn’t have done anything without that license. So that was the hardest. I would say that was one of the biggest, hardest steps of being patient with that and kind of hoping and praying that we got it. Knowing that we did everything in our power to get it. And then you know, you go from there.

Sean: 22:46 What is the biggest misconception that people have about wine and winemaking in general?

Margaux: 22:53 I think, I think a lot of people, at least that we’ve learned recently is that when you go to drink wine, it’s like “Well I don’t know anything about wine.” You need to know the exact wine and you need to know the grapes and the soil; you need to know everything about it to enjoy it. And I think there’s a big misconception with like, you know, you enjoy what you like, think breaking that barrier, thinking that it’s something that is exclusive. Like you can’t be a part of it and you can’t have it unless you know everything about it. And I think breaking that barrier down and talking to people about it and making it maybe a little more relatable, it’s like, “Hey, what kind of wine do you like?” It doesn’t have to be like, “Oh well I like these type of grapes.” It’s like, it could be red or white.

Margaux: 23:26 It’s like, “Oh, I like white wine” or “I like dry wine,” “I like fruitier wines” or sweeter wines. And so I think being able to break that barrier down and explain to people, it’s like, hey, what it comes down to is what you like, what you enjoy. And I think a lot of people think like winemaking can be really hard. And there’s a lot of like chemistry to it for sure. And once you learn how to make the wine and the process behind it, it’s not that challenging. The hardest part in the harvest, I think barrier that people don’t realize is actually wine selling, like being able to sell your product, because you’re out there with 10,000 other brands or 10,000 other labels. Like how does yours stand out from everyone else? What distinguishes yours? Why should someone buy your product or your wine or someone else? So I think that’s the hardest part now is being able to see, you know, how do you sell the wine? How do you package it so someone purchases your wine over someone else’s or they come buy my wine over someone else’s?

Sean: 24:26 Yeah, I wanted to ask you about that, what you just mentioned. Living here in California, I mean there’s just so many winemakers and so many wineries. So how do you set yourself apart in that world?

Margaux: 24:32 The biggest thing that we’ve established here in Vegas was creating those relationships with people. It’s like, hey, we’re not just selling our products, like here’s our wine, good luck. Sell it. We want to create relationships with people. We want to create not only that one-sided, “Oh, here’s my product that I’m giving you, that you’re going to be putting in your restaurant, you’re gonna be selling on the shelf.” We want to be able to create those relationships and a story with people so people can connect to it. I think that we’re in a time now where people want to feel like they’re a part of something. They want to feel like they’re cultivating or like giving back, or they’re going to be a part of something as it goes along, and that’s something that we’ve established right from the beginning. It’s like, “Hey, I want to share my journey with people because I want us to go through this together.”

Margaux: 25:14 We may not go through every step together, but it’s like, we want to share this part together. I want to celebrate my successes with other people’s successes. I want to share my struggles so people can understand that they’re not the only ones going through that. And so for us it’s been really important to communicate our message and our brand and our story of, “Hey, we’re all in this journey together.” We all might be on different paths in terms of where we started and where we’re going, but we’re all in this process together. It’s like let’s celebrate together, let’s be a part of it together. And one of our wine labels is called The Goat: Greatest of All Time. And I think it’s relatable obviously to maybe the younger generation, but I think it’s really, I think it’s a place where people can connect in terms of, hey, you’re the greatest of all time in whatever your field is, or whatever your passion is. And I think people kind of relate to sports because that’s where they hear greatest of all time. And it could be relatable with sports, but also to be relatable to your job and your career. Like you’re the greatest broadcaster or you’re the greatest mom or whatever you’re going for. That’s something that we want to share with others. And so that was a perfect label and wine to be able to showcase that as our kind of our carrier pigeon, if you think of it.

Sean: 26:19 How do you determine what flavors you want to take to market?

Margaux: 26:24 Obviously spend a lot of time tasting the juice, making sure it’s something that’s enjoyable. We want to be able to create a good product and a good wine, but also want to package it into something unique and different so it stands out, right? You look at a wine label, you look at a wine bottle, you know, you might see something that kind of grabs your eye, that catches your attention. And so for us it’s like we’re tasting the wine, we’re blending the wines, we’re spending time mixing those percentages. Like, do want 50% petite sirah and 50% petite bordeaux or who want to do 80/20? And so people might think like, “Oh, that sounds like a terrible, hard, job” and obviously they’re joking; like wine and research development is so hard. But a lot of it comes down to, you know, having the wines blend together and how they’ve aged, and how they’re going to work together in the bottle and then what we want to showcase to people. So it’s a lot of time, but it’s worth it, it’s enjoyable, because it’s like there’s so much history that goes into it, both in terms of what we want to mix and then we get to present that people, we get to tell them about the journey and share that with them and people’s faces kind of light up, like hearing about the story, like how they decided which wines ro go together. So I think that’s really cool.

Sean: 27:32 What would you say your specialties are right now? As far as flavor goes?

Margaux: 27:42 I would say I would say petite sirah, like blend—I’d say blends in general, like red blends in general would be our specialty. A majority of our wines are red blends. I think one that I love and a lot of people have given us really good feedback is the petite sirah blend. So we have The Goat, which is petite sirah, sirah grenache en snap, and then we have Moderation, which is a petite sirah and grenache blend as well. And I would say those would be our specialties.

Sean: 28:08 What are the biggest challenges that you face as a business owner?

Margaux: 28:12 I would say the biggest challenges would be, one, being able to stand out in a very saturated industry, being able to make ourselves well known since we’re a smaller company. Another big hurdle is financial, being able to make sure that we’re growing, being able to continuously find resources so that we can grow and build so we can put more money into marketing or advertising so we can travel for events. I would say those would be the two biggest kind of obstacles or constant challenges that we face as a small business.

Sean: 28:45 It really sounds like, as I’m listening to you talk that you are set up really well to be successful in this line of business, given your golfing experience, having to be patient with that, given your CrossFit experience, given that you said you had to be okay with micro-progressions; how did your athletic career prepare you to be a business owner?

Margaux: 29:08 That is a great question. I think all that patience and that time leading up to it, like from Day 1 to where I’m at now, like you think of my athletic career within CrossFit, it took eight years from Day 1 to Day now. Also, the process of golf, I mean I was golfing for 10 years, but it’s being patient through that entire process. I think like the entire experience within my sports have transferred over with like small business. It takes time. You can’t just expect to, you know, grow from day one to day 30 or six months down the road, a year down the road. I think being patient in that process, I think you look at like the process of winemaking, right? It is a very long process. It starts with a harvest, right? You’re harvesting the grapes, then it goes to maceration, where you’re crushing the grapes, you’re letting the grapes sit in the skin and you have fermentation. Fermentation can take a week, multiple weeks. Then from there you need to let the wine age and how does the wine age, I mean it could be anywhere from 12 months to 18 months for the aging just in the barrel. Then you have the bottling and then after the bottling, the wines sit in the bottles for another year or so depending on the wine. So I think that process that I’ve gone through in fitness and seeing the process in winemaking has allowed me to be in a position where now it’s like all right, this is a small business. I kind of have to think the same thing. I need to go through the first step, is like building my brand, building the company, bringing awareness to my name and my company. And then after so many months and years, I’m now having the final product, the final wine ready to present. It’s now like I have this company that I’m able to share with the world, not just a small niche market. And it’s been incredible cause obviously being able to start that with CrossFit is a very small community, but it will grow and we have aspirations of growing to be able to have that network within the entire world, and be able to share that with everyone again. It just takes time and patience.

Sean: 31:08 Right. So along those lines, what is your kind of long-term plan? What do the next five years look like for your business do you think?

Margaux: 31:14 We’d like to get into distribution. So we’re in distribution in Vegas right now. The goal is to get into distribution in other states. We would like national distribution meaning in every state possible. And that will take some time. We’d like to be able to do more in-person events. We’d like to be able to have our product on shelves, not only in restaurants but also liquor stores. We’d like to be able to get to the point where we can bring in athletes of all backgrounds and showcase and teach them, bring educational pieces about the wine-making process, about small business, about mentorship, about empowering people to go after their goals. And that’s something we’d like to be able to grow in the next three to five years. I mean obviously the sooner the better. But again, it’s a process and we gotta be patient with that.

Sean: 32:00 Everyone has things that they would do differently when they start their business. When you look back on the beginning of it, what are some of the things that you wish you could go back and maybe do over again?

Margaux: 32:11 Oh man, that’s tough. I would say, if I had to go back and tell myself from the beginning, it’s like, obviously have patience and know that it’s gonna be harder than anticipated. It’s tough because I think back to like when I first started CrossFit, I had that very innocence-is-bliss, kind of like “Oh, everything is gonna work out, it’s gonna be great, I’m gonna make it,” and I think looking back now, it’s like I would tell myself, hey, like what would I do differently? It’s like, be a little more patient or maybe prepare or plan to know that, you know, financial resources—knowing that that’s going to be a little more of a challenge and maybe planning for that a little bit more in advance. I think that’d be one thing that I would definitely be able to share with myself and change differently so it would allow us for more growth. It’s tough cause like we’re at where we’re at because of the decisions we make. And sometimes that’s a good thing. Sometimes it’s, you know, it’s not a good thing because you learn from it. But I think those would be the main, those two things would be the main thing that I would kind of tell myself at the beginning of this process.

Sean: 33:13 What have you learned about yourself in general going through this whole thing?

Margaux: 33:21 I’ve learned that I’m one tough cookie.

Sean: 33:24 I think we already knew that.

Margaux: 33:29 It’s funny, I was just talking this morning to Alex. It’s like, I feel like no matter what work that needs to be done, we would do it. We would get it done that like whatever the hard task that is in front of us, we would get it done. And I think I’ve learned that like I’m very resilient. I have very thick skin. I’m able to compartmentalize a lot of things, whether that be emotions, frustration or happiness or whatever it might be. Something that Alex and I talked a lot in my fitness career and it within CrossFit and like competitive athlete career is that, you know, you’ve got to be accountable to your goal. You’ve got to review what you’re doing, you’ve gotta be able to have a plan and be able to execute that. You have to be able to enjoy yourself and be patient. And so I’ve learned a lot about applying that not only in the gym but now applying it to business and applying it to running a small business and, you know, making sure that I’m accountable to what I’m doing each day. And I think just, you know, keep striving forward. It’s like, I know I’ll continue to take that next step as much as it might be hard or you know, that foundation that I’m gonna step on might not be there but I know that I’m going to put in the work to create that foundation for that step and create that foundation for the next process with the business.

Sean: 34:38 I mean, I see pictures of you on social media out there with the wheelbarrows, you know, and getting your hands dirty and doing what looks like back-breaking labor out in hot temperatures and sweating. It’s like, it’s not glamorous, but what is the best part about this whole endeavor for you?

Margaux: 34:54 I think being able to look back at the end of the day, and reflect on where we started to where we’re at now. It’s a perfect example of saying, you know, we’re in the field, we’re harvesting, we’re out there for 10,1 2 hours harvesting grapes, slow, monotonous work. But like looking back and reflecting back on that, it’s like, man, like we started with nothing. We had no infrastructure set up. We had no labels. We had no bottles, we had nothing set up, we were nonexistent. And then now almost two years later, it’s like we created something that we created. It’s like our baby in a way. It’s like we created a business, we created these labels, these wines, we’ve got into distribution, and it might seem small compared to other companies and other brands, but it’s like man, we actually have formulated something to actually have it come to fruition. It’s like, I think it’s something that reminds me, it’s like, hey man, give yourself a pat on the back.

Margaux: 35:45 Cause I think that’s really hard to do. I feel like who I am as an individual. it’s like I’m constantly pushing to the next best thing. And I think people can relate out there that are going for goals. Like you’re constantly “What’s next?” Like business goal or you know, fitness goal or kids goal or family goal; whatever it is you’re constantly pushing. It’s like if you never take a moment to step back, and again it might seem cliche or ironic, you know, stop and smell the roses, but as much as it is cliche, it’s so true, and that’s something that we try to continue to preach and push, it’s like, take a moment to step back and relax and enjoy the journey, enjoy the process because you’re constantly working to the next thing. It’s like you might look back in you know, 40 years and you’re like, “Holy crap, I didn’t even stop and enjoy what I was doing.” You know? I think it’s something to remember to celebrate those struggles, ’cause those struggles are, going to be allowing you to also celebrate the successes.

Sean: 36:33 That’s really good advice, I think to anybody in any walk of life. What does your sort of CrossFit future look like now?

Margaux: 36:44 So CrossFit future, as an individual competitor, I’ve closed that door. There’s a possibility that I will do team if there’s an opportunity to be on the team with another girl and two other guys and I will definitely take that opportunity. I’m also going to obviously, like I said, you know, focus on the Long Drive. There’s a lot of opportunity there that I’m looking forward to pursuing and being able to share my passion for fitness and passion for wine within that golf community. And then obviously continue to grow the business, have more of our name here as a staple in Vegas to kind of be able to say, hey, I’m a local winemaker here in Vegas, but let’s promote that brand and support the community here. I think a lot of people within the Vegas community are very supportive, and you see that a lot with CrossFit, right, the CrossFit community’s very supportive. And so I think there’s a lot of good future things to come with that. I will be at the Granite Games competing as a team. So I’ll give you that little—

Sean: 37:46 Can you spill the beans on who’s on your team?

Margaux: 37:50 Can I spill the beans? Yeah, probably. It’ll be with the team with CrossFit Invictus.

Sean: 37:58 Oh, OK. You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting an Invictus team, it seems like. So I’m sure that’s going to be, it’ll be a good group. From a selfish standpoint, I’m glad I get to see you continue to compete.

Margaux: 38:12 Yeah, I’m excited. Again, as an individual, I’ve loved it, enjoyed it, but I think it’s time to close that door with the individual and again, team is something I’ve done in the past with the Invitational and Team Series and so that was something I really enjoyed and so I was like you know, that’s still an option, to be able to do that in a little bit, about two weeks.

Sean: 38:33 Last question. When people look back and remember you as an individual competitor, what do you want them to remember?

Margaux: 38:42 That’s a great question. In terms of like, you think of like a word that describes me or just a presence?

Sean: 38:50 Yeah, just the words that come to their mind. Like when I think back, I think, “Mentally tough.”

Margaux: 38:56 Mentally tough; I would say, perseverance and determination, that no matter what’s ahead of me, that people—that’s what they think of. I think community representative for sure. I wouldn’t be here without the community. I wouldn’t be here without their support. And I think something that, another word that I would hope come to mind, that would be entropy, like you think controlled chaos. Like you look at CrossFit and a workout can be so crazy. Whatever we got to do, like I think of this workout from the past week, and the first workout with a rucksack, you have to climb a rope and then you’re running. Then you’re throwing sandbags and as much as crazy and chaotic on the outside, you need to stay calm and mentally sound on the inside. So I would hope that’s what people resonate or think of.

Sean: 39:45 And if people want to learn more about your wine business, where can they go?

Margaux: 39:49 They so they can go to thevineyard.space; that’s our website that we have all the information with the wine and then they can check out my Instagram, @321gaux and @thegoatwine on Instagram as well.

Sean: 40:02 Great. Margaux, thank you so much for doing this. I really appreciate you taking the time. It’s been a pleasure watching you compete for the last six years and I wish you nothing but the best moving forward and I’m glad that you’re going to maybe pursue the team angle. It’s going to be great.

Margaux: 40:16 Thank you so much. I appreciate it, Sean.

Sean: 40:18 Best of luck, Margaux. Thanks.

Sean: 40:20 Big thanks to Margaux Alvarez for taking the time to talk with me. If you want to check out her wine business, you can go to thevineyard.space. You can also follow Margaux on Instagram at @321gaux, “gaux” being spelled ” g a u x,” Two-Brain Radio with Sean Woodland is brought to you by Two-Brain Business; for free advice and tips from the bestselling author, Chris Cooper, visit https://twobrainbusiness.com/blog/. Thank you so much for listening everybody, and we’ll see you next time.

 

This is our NEW podcast. Two-Brain Marketing, where we’ll focus on sales and digital marketing, runs every Monday. Your host is Mateo Lopez!

Greg Strauch will be back on Thursday with the Two-Brain Radio Podcast.

Thanks for Listening!

To share your thoughts:

 

To help out the show:

  • Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one.
  • Subscribe on iTunes.

Two-Brain Marketing Episode 12: Rob Olson

Two-Brain Marketing Episode 12: Rob Olson

Mateo: 00:03 Hey, it’s Mateo Lopez of Two-Brain Marketing, and on this edition of the Two-Brain Marketing podcast I’m talking to Rob from CrossFit Simsbury. You’re going to hear about their specialty programs and how he and his wife, Denise, were able to completely sell out their Diapers and Dumbbells program for new moms. You’re also gonna learn about how they were able to take $300 in advertising spend and turn it into $4,000 in new-member revenue. Make sure to subscribe to Two-Brain Radio for more marketing tips and secrets each week.

Greg: 00:29 Two-Brain Radio is brought to you by Two-Brain Business. We make gyms `profitable. We’re going to bring you the very best tips, tactics, interviews in the business world each week to find out how we can help you create your Perfect Day, book a free call with a mentor at twobrainbusiness.com.

Chris: 00:47 I linked up with Matt several months ago at Forever Fierce, and he had some fantastic ideas and so he and I have put together a couple of packages that we think are really gonna help CrossFit affiliates everywhere. Two-Brain mentoring clients use Matt almost exclusively. He’s got fantastic designs and he takes all the work out of it. All that time that you spend searching the internet and Pinterest and junk like that for great CrossFit T-shirts, you don’t have to do that anymore. Matt has designs for you. You can put your logo on one of his templates, which are fantastic, and your clients will never know the difference. It saves you so much time that you could be using on other things like real marketing. He’ll also go so far as to remind you when it’s time to reorder. He’ll give you suggested order sizes, he’ll help you set up preorders so you’re not even fronting the cash for the inventory. It’s all amazing stuff built to help affiliates and that’s why I love this guy and this company, foreverfierce.com. They do all the Catalyst shirts, all the Two-Brain shirts, all the Ignite gym shirts. They do everything for every business that I own.

Mateo: 01:49 Hello, welcome to the Two-Brain Marketing podcast. I’m your host, Mateo Lopez. I’m one of the digital-marketing mentors at Two-Brain Business, and thank you again for tuning in. This is your weekly dose of digital marketing magic. Every week we go over marketing campaign strategies, useful tips, updates, and listen to cool stories about people who are doing it in the real world, you know? And today we have a special guest Rob from CrossFit Simsbury. Like a fruit, but I think it’s spelled with a “U”. It’s a little tricky. And today we’re gonna earn a little bit more about Rob, and I’m really excited to hear about his Diapers and Dumbbells program. He’s been able to sell it out pretty much every cycle. The first time, he ran some paid ads, he spent only 200 or 300 bucks, was able to sell out the program. So we’re gonna learn more about that and how he was able to do that. I want to know what happened, so I’m excited. So thanks for, thanks for joining us today, Rob. So tell us a little bit about who you are, where you’re from, and a little bit about your business.

Rob: 02:55 Well, my name is Rob Olson. I own CrossFit Simsbury, we’re about half an hour north of Hartford. I’ve owned it for about six years now. Before this I was in the Navy and when I got out I decided to open a CrossFit, no background in business, marketing, even fitness per se. Kind of learned it all on the go.

Mateo: 03:13 Did you learn about it from being in the Navy?

Rob: 03:16 Yeah, we had did CrossFit in the Navy; actually had Dave Castro as one of my instructors.

Mateo: 03:21 Oh, really?

Rob: 03:22 So that’s where I originally learned about CrossFit.

Mateo: 03:25 Was he just like visiting a camp or what, how did that happen?

Rob: 03:28 Yeah, he was one of my instructors at the time. So when he was doing his instructor duty, I was one of the students.

Mateo: 03:33 Oh, right. I forgot, he’s a SEAL, right? Something like that. I forgot about that. OK. Cool.

Rob: 03:36 Yep. So we’ve been open about six years now and I started with Two-Brain back in November with Greg. And since then it’s been night and day difference. I mean, I can’t say enough good things about Two-Brain and Two-Brain Marketing; it’s really revolutionized the business.

Mateo: 03:52 Awesome, man. So you say you’ve been open for six years, I guess, when you got out of the Navy, what made you decide to open the business? That’s a pretty big jump, you know?

Rob: 04:01 So my main thought was what can I do every day that I would enjoy? That was my main qualifying criteria. And then I was trying to think, you know, what small business could I open that would allow me to do that. And I had heard about CrossFit and I’d heard how it only had a small affiliation fee and it was a relatively easy step into entrepreneurial-ism and so I kind of made the jump when I got out.

Mateo: 04:23 Awesome. So I mean, six years, that’s a long time. Like kudos to that. Just being able to have survived. What was it like in those early days?

Rob: 04:34 Oh my God. I remember back, you know, having one person at the 6:00 a.m. and me being the only coach and basically just hoping that people would drive by and see us and sign up, and thinking back to those early days, I was giving away every discount, every free month, everything that I could to try to get people in.

Mateo: 04:52 Wow. And were you doing it solo for the whole time or what was the—

Rob: 04:58 Yeah, so I’ve been solo. I had coaches that started with me on Day 1 and I had to teach them how to be a coach and teach them about CrossFit, the whole bit. So I’ve been the only, I guess, owner personality per se, but I have had coaches that have helped me along the way.

Mateo: 05:12 Awesome. So tell me a little bit about business pre-Two-Brain. I know you’d been running it solo, small classes, giving away discounts. What else was life like, you know, running the show by yourself?

Rob: 05:26 In one sense it was very enjoyable being an entrepreneur, but in the other sense it was very frustrating because I was still doing the majority of coaching. I did some cleaning, I would do, you know, the finances, everything that everybody talks about. I was wearing all the hats, and so there was definitely some burnout. Definitely some frustration and now I’ve just got more clarity.

Mateo: 05:44 Awesome. Well you were able to survive. I mean, I’m assuming you make enough to pay your bills, correct?

Rob: 05:50 Yeah. So looking back to the early days, there were some—I want to say twice I had to borrow money from my grandmother because the oil bills were higher than I expected. The the town I’m in has very little industrial space. And so the spot I’m in, it’s actually almost a 10,000-square-foot building, which I’ve been in since Day 1. And so that’s obviously way too big for a first-year affiliate, but we’ve made it work. The biggest thing has been that heating bill, to get over, but now that we’re kind of established and I’ve got a rhythm to the whole thing, and I do profit first now, which has been huge as well, but now we’re kind of grooving, and everything’s working out pretty good.

Mateo: 06:27 OK. So what was the first kind of changes you saw once you started going through the Incubator? You know, it sounds like you were wearing all the hats; what was the first action you took working with Greg that kind of enabled you to start to say, “Oh, wait a second. I can reverse this burnout effect if I just do x, y, and Z.”

Rob: 06:46 Creating the roles and tasks. And that was a bitch. I did not enjoy doing that. I”t was a lot of work. But now just even six months later, it’s so easy hiring someone and being like, “All right, you’re going to be a cleaner. Here’s exactly what you’re responsible for.” You just hand it to them and they’re like, “All right, got it, done.” And everything’s so much easier.

Mateo: 07:06 Yeah. Roles and tasks is huge. How many people do you have on staff now?

Rob: 07:10 Well, let’s see: It’s myself. My wife does the nutrition with HSN and she does Dumbbells and Diapers and the kids and teens program. We have two other coaches and we’re bringing on one more coach who’s gonna take over the teens program and do the 4/9ths bit next month, actually,

Mateo: 07:27 Did you have to work with your coaches at all? Be like, “Hey, you know, we’re going to maybe have some staff evals now,” “Hey, actually, you know, we’re going to have to write out what some of these responsibilities are,” like, what was that process like when you were starting to go through roles and tasks and trying to get your team on board?

Rob: 07:44 So that’s a good question. And 90% of the staff has been on board the whole time; the evaluations, the roles and tasks. And we did actually have one coach quit. And I would say one of the bigger reasons was he was one of the original coaches, so he was here Day 1. And I would say that was back when everything was more club atmosphere and we were more buddies and he probably just didn’t like the direction that we’re going of being more professional.

Mateo: 08:09 Yeah. Like, the early days it’s like, hey, you know, you can hang out on the couches and just do whatever. And then—

Rob: 08:15 Exactly. We had a lot of that.

Mateo: 08:16 Yeah. And it’s definitely hard; it’s a culture shift, you know, and it’s tough. And especially when the whole gym feels like everyone’s a family, it’s nice in that respect, you know, you want that community. But at the same time, you know, it’s hard to, to run a business, make the hard calls if everyone’s feeling that kind of sense of entitlement or that sense of, not entitlement, but you know, informal kind of relationship, you know?

Rob: 08:41 Absolutely. I remember, I think it was just a year ago and coaches were still allowed to work out during open gym. But people will come in and then—the coach would have his shirt off and it’ll be like the most intimidating environment to come into ever. So it’s like we were killing ourselves. And I was trying to be too friendly with the coaches.

Mateo: 09:03 Yeah, that’s a great example of what I think I was trying to say, not successfully, but yeah, just small things like that. And you know, when you have prospects walk in and, or even your current clients, if they’re walking in for a service that they’re paying for, you know, at least in my gym, they pay for open gym, you know, you want a coach to be delivering that part of the service, hopefully clothed, you know. So great, awesome. So, OK, so roles and tasks, that seemed to be really big for you, it seemed to give you the headspace and the ability to delegate. What else? What was the next kind of thing that you saw or that you were able to implement and see a positive difference working with Greg?

Rob: 09:41 I’d say the next biggest thing was more of a fundamental shift on my end of that old cliche of working on the business instead of in the business. So one big thing is when you join Two-Brain you get the CEO mug, and every morning when I have my coffee out of that mug, it reminds me that I am the CEO and my job is to run the business. And so I think it’s such a great part of Two-Brain, this simple reminder of being the CEO is what drives the business.

Mateo: 10:09 Yeah. And I think I couldn’t have said it better. That’s awesome. And I think the other really important part is your job is to put the right people in the right seats. That’s your job. And if you’re doing everything, you know, you may not be in the right seat yourself. You know, you’re not if you’re doing all the tasks and all the classes, and so your job is to get people in the right places. And I think it sounds like you were able to do that, which is amazing. And so, all right, so you’ve been working with Two-Brain, you’ve able to level up a little bit and delegate and really see some growth. In your own words, what is it that you sell and how do you sell it?

Rob: 10:47 I’d say we sell fitness and happiness. You know, obviously, people come to us looking to improve their health and wellness. What they don’t expect though, is to find so much happiness from the community within. And I think that’s really what keeps them around.

Mateo: 11:01 And how do you sell it?

Rob: 11:02 So, and that’s another big mindset shift that I’ve had recently, is I followed the help-first mantra. And once I adopted that, I kinda got over the fact that I’m selling something and that I’m actually helping people because I have to remember that they’re coming to us for help. And so what I’m selling now, a 100-day transformation, you know, for $500 a month, a year ago, it would’ve been no way. But now I’m thinking this person’s coming to me for help. I’m providing a service, I’m helping them if they want to choose to do business with us; that’s the value of the service.

Mateo: 11:35 Yeah. I mean, that’s exactly right. When you put it that way, yeah, it’s as simple as that. And I think that’s so true. Well, so speaking about some of your services, talk to me about the other stuff that you guys have that you offer.

Rob: 11:52 So, we do CrossFit we do personal training we do nutrition with HSN. We do kids and teens and one of the big new self-sustaining programs is Dumbbells and Diapers.

Mateo: 12:01 I want to talk about that. With these programs though, how do you structure it? How do you, how did you get them off the ground first of all, and then how do you pay your staff? You said it’s self-sustaining, so how do you pay your staff to deliver that service?

Rob: 12:14 So that’s a good question. So, Dumbbells and Diapers, we’ve actually been doing for about a year now and it’s gone through some phases, I’ll say, we started off with it being just a monthly membership and we found that the mothers did not prioritize it when it was just kind of an open membership, so to say. So we started off pretty strong with about 10 or 12 people in a class and then after maybe six months we got to a pretty dark spot where it was only like two moms in a class, one mom in a class. And we started having conversations about, you know, is this worth continuing? You know, your time is better spent doing something else. And we started getting to the holidays of this past year and we were like, “All right, let’s take kind of a hiatus during the holidays.” You know, moms aren’t going to really come in much around Christmas and New Year’s. And then that’s when I was going for Two-Brain. And so I learned the Two-Brain Marketing and I was talking to Blake and I was like, or he was talking about promoting CrossFit and doing CrossFit ads. I was like, “Actually I’d like to try and get this program really off its feet again.” And so we specialized all our ads towards Dumbbells and Diapers.

Mateo: 13:14 Yeah, I want to talk about that some more, but before we do, so how’d you first get off the ground? Like how did you first get those 10 moms and why did you want to start it?

Rob: 13:23 So my wife was, she was a pediatric nurse. We had our first child, he’s 15 months now. So she had gone through the whole having a baby and then trying to get back into fitness, feeling the struggles and we were talking about it. And like this is a great service to offer people because nobody offers it around us. It’s just nobody wants to touch it. And I was like, you have great experience, we have the means to offer it. I was like, let’s do it. So she started researching programs, you know, finding out some, I don’t want to say they’re certifications, but she did some homework on how to really bring the women back into fitness and improve their pelvic floor and their core strength and all that stuff. And so she felt comfortable running the classes. And I want to say when we first started, I honestly just, I probably did do paid advertising, but I did it blindly, I’ll say. In that I kind of just threw money at Facebook. Maybe it was boosting ads, maybe I did an ad, but back then I didn’t have landing pages. I didn’t have any kind of lead management. And so thankfully word got out ’cause moms did come, but there wasn’t anything organized.

Mateo: 14:25 And what is this? Is it for people who just recently had a baby or who is this for?

Rob: 14:30 Yeah. So we like to say it’s for new moms and that’s kind of a broad term and we kind of want it that way in that most of the moms who join have had a baby within the last two or three months, but we do have some moms who are coming to us like nine months out, a year out. And that’s totally fine. Most moms bring the baby to class with them, and it kind of gives them another bonding experience, and most moms don’t want to be separated from their baby at that young age. So it kind of encourages them to do fitness with their baby. And so most of the moms, you know, they’d run their kid to class and they’re in a Pack ‘n Play or in a stroller or something like that. And there’s definitely some crying babies in class, which makes a unique environment, but with all the new moms out there and with my wife Denise running it, it really is a good program and they all enjoy it.

Mateo: 15:15 Awesome. So, so Denise runs this, babies running around, they’re crying, moms are working out. That’s amazing. And so let’s say if you want to have, I mean Denise is running this for you, but let’s say you were going to have another coach do it or add another class. How would you structure that? How are you, how are you compensating that coach?

Rob: 15:33 All right, so right now, Denise, she’s my wife, so obviously all the revenue just comes to us, but if I were to have a coach take over, I would do the 4/9ths program. Denise, actually, she runs the kids and the teens, and we’re bringing on a new coach and we’re going to do the 4/9ths program with the kids and the teens program.

Mateo: 15:50 The 4/9ths model with the other coaches, as they’re coming on.

Rob: 15:53 Correct.

Mateo: 15:54 Gotcha. Cool. Amazing. So then let’s talk about working with Blake. You know, how did you guys revitalize this program and get new bodies in the door?

Rob: 16:02 So Blake helped me set up my Facebook advertisements, kind of went through and he was looking at some of my pictures and then we tried using some stock photos and we talked about how to target in the local area. And honestly I think it’s still pretty amazing about how Facebook does it and how you can dial in down to the zip code. And I can target literally moms who’ve had a baby within the last two years. Pretty amazing. So obviously the ad gets out in front of these people, they still have to click it. But Blake helped me dial it in for the wording and everything and it’s been very successful.

Mateo: 16:32 So what happens: A new mom sees this ad, they click on, they inquire, that their email, their number comes to you. What happens?

Rob: 16:40 So what we actually do is kind of different from our regular CrossFit in that we do not do a No-Sweat Intro with Dumbbells and Diapers.

Mateo: 16:47 Interesting. Tell me about that.

Rob: 16:48 So, I was talking about that with Denise, and moms with young babies do not want to make an extra stop if they don’t have to. If they’re out doing errands, an extra stop, you know, that can make or break the whole thing. So we didn’t want them to have to do that. So when they go to our landing page, they fill out our UpLaunch lead form and when they go to the thank-you page, they do have the option just to sign up right then and there. So capitalizing on just the spur of the moment, yeah, I want to get back into fitness, here’s the sign-up link. If they don’t sign up right then and there, then they go on our UpLaunch campaign of where we do have a Dumbbells and Diapers specific journey.

Mateo: 17:27 Yeah. You have a specific nurture sequence for that.

Rob: 17:29 Yup. And then Denise will obviously reach out for the one-on-one touch. We do find that the women either sign up right away or like one day before the program starts.

Mateo: 17:38 Yeah, I know, for sure. For sure.

Rob: 17:41 It’s very quiet, and then like right before it starts—

Mateo: 17:43 The day before they’ll get three more sign-ups. That’s that scarcity and urgency mindset for sure. Amazing, man. OK, so first time around like that first, I guess, was January the first month you guys started running ads?

Rob: 17:58 Yeah, so in January started running ads and then the first session after the paid ads were out, I think we had 12 moms in.

Mateo: 18:05 Awesome. How much revenue were you guys generating?

Rob: 18:07 Oh, well we’re charging 250 for a six-week session. And so with 12, moms, that’s probably just over 3,000.

Mateo: 18:14 And how much did you spend on ads that month?

Rob: 18:16 Gosh, I’m going to say 250 bucks.

Mateo: 18:19 Wow, that’s awesome. And what you were telling me before we hopped on, you were saying that this most recent cycle, you’ve just been able to retain a good chunk of people, right?

Rob: 18:30 Yeah, so it was pretty incredible. The session that we have right now, I want to say eight out of the 14 moms are repeat customers. So they’ve stayed on for another six-week session.

Mateo: 18:41 Wow. So that’s even higher return on that initial 300 bucks on ads.

Rob: 18:47 Not only that, but some have also opted to come into the regular CrossFit classes. So we’re getting full-time members out of it.

Mateo: 18:53 There you go. There you go. So why do you think they’ve stayed on? Like what is the process after they finish, after they’re close to the end of that six-week Dumbbells and Diapers cycle, you know, what’s Denise doing, what kind of outreach or goal-setting is happening that you think is contributing to the high retention rate?

Rob: 19:12 So I think part of it is just the culture that she has developed within the program. She has a Dumbbells and Diapers-specific Facebook group where all the moms are chatting and they’re talking and they’re having fun and they’re posting memes and everything. And so I think that it just stays current in their newsfeed. And so they’re like oh, the next session is coming up, and as long as the moms aren’t back at work, because we do find that a lot of them do go back to work, but the ones that stay home. They’re staying on with the fitness.

Mateo: 19:39 Amazing. Wow, that’s awesome. Yeah, no, I think that’s great that you’re kind of continuing the conversation going, giving the opportunity for mom memes is always great. Yeah. So that’s awesome. That’s great, man. And so, so I guess, what do you think has been the key to your success so far? You know, it really sounds like you’ve been able to make some meaningful changes in your business and your staff and you’ve been able to really grow with some of these additional revenue streams. What do you think has been the key to this—you called it a revolution, in your business?

Rob: 20:10 Yeah, revolution or revival. I guess there would be two big things and it would be having the right person in the right place. So I think Denise is, you know, a perfect fit for this program. She’s a fit mom, she has a health background. She’s really a role model for these other moms and she’s really driving the happiness and the success in that program. So I think just having the right person there is huge. I think if you had, you know, I don’t think a guy would be able to run that program; it has to be a female. And I think ideally it should be someone that’s had a baby so they can relate. So the amount of, you know, potential coaches that you could have run the program is fairly small. So I think just having her in there and then obviously having the marketing to bring the new moms in and make them aware of the program is phenomenal. I’ve found it interesting. Even though I target our zip code, just by people liking and sharing the post, we have moms coming from 30, even 45 minutes away.

Mateo: 21:09 Yeah. So some people are sharing it and spreading the word organically a little bit.

Rob: 21:13 There’s a lot of organic because people find it, I guess, not fascinating, but like really cool that there’s a program for new moms and their babies.

Mateo: 21:21 Yeah. It sounds like you’ve really been able to dial in the market and the message and just being able to provide the service. It seems like there was a gap, you know, and I think especially just having a place just to be able to bring the new baby, I think that in and of itself is probably huge for a lot of new moms.

Rob: 21:41 I agree. It was really was a perfect fit because one of the original things was, I was trying to think of how we can fill the gym during its empty time. So you know, the 10:30-a.m., there’s nothing going on. And so I was like, “Why don’t we try to get the new moms,” and then, and you know, the program took off and now it’s a perfect fit.

Mateo: 21:58 Something that we do—like something we do teach is to have additional revenue streams and different sources of income for your business so that you’re not solely relying on the group CrossFit classes or your group fitness classes, right? Offer additional one-on-ones, offer nutrition. But I also think some people—I don’t want people to hear this and be like, “Oh, I’ve got to start that right now. That’s going to cure my gym,” you know? What would you say to someone who’s thinking about adding an additional specialty course or a class for new mothers or parents? When does that person know they’re ready and when should you like pump the brakes and focus on dialing in, you know, your service or your staff, you know, what would you say to that person?

Rob: 22:41 Oh, that’s a good question. I would say one of the things that spurred us to start the program was, it wasn’t just my wife that had had a baby, but there were a couple of other members who had had kids recently. So we knew that we could get at least, you know, three or four moms into the program. So it wasn’t like we were just jumping in the deep end. We knew we had a couple moms that would come in.

Mateo: 23:00 You had a little bit of demand already starting. You had a captive audience already.

Rob: 23:05 Yep. Yeah, that was definitely one thing that encouraged us to, uh, to jump in, was the couple of moms that we already had.

Mateo: 23:11 Awesome. Awesome, man. Well, I think that’s all we got for today. I mean, if people want to talk more about you and learn more about this program, how you were able to get it off the ground or some of the other ones, like, we didn’t have a chance to talk about your teens program, but you know, if people were curious about adding these additional services because they have a lot of families in their area, where can they find you?

Rob: 23:32 So I think the best spot to start is our website, it’s cfsimsbury.com, and we have a whole landing page dedicated towards Dumbbells and Diapers and you know, thanks to the Facebook marketing with Blake, we have a great intro video with Denise on there and our son, Fitzgerald, and all the information about the program. We do six-week sessions. We run it Tuesday and Thursday at 10:30 in the morning. And we do have a Saturday class, which has been very popular. We find that Saturdays the moms come without the babies because they’re with the dads. So it’s kind of like a freedom class. They’re kind of, you know, having more fun with it and we do allow drop-ins the Saturday class only. And we charge 20 or 25 bucks for that and that provides a nice, you know, revenue stream there as well because a lot of the moms who go back to work can’t come Tuesday, Thursday. So they come Saturday without the kid, they pay the 20, 25 bucks, and I just bumped the revenue up right there.

Mateo: 24:25 Awesome man. Well thanks for hopping on today, and I’m excited to see what the rest of the year holds for you and how this program develops.

Rob: 24:33 Thanks Mateo, I appreciate all your guidance, and Blake as well. It’s been a great journey so far and I’m not even a year into it. So I’m really looking forward to it.

Mateo: 24:39 Awesome.

Chris: 24:40 Hey everyone. Chris Cooper here; I’m really thrilled to see you this year in June in Chicago at the 2019 Two-Brain Summit. Every year we have two separate speaking tracks. There’s one for you, the business owner, and there’s one for coaches that will help them make better, longer, more meaningful careers under the umbrella of your business. This year we’ve got some pretty amazing topics like the client success manager, how to change your life, organizational culture or the business owner’s life cycle, how to have breaks, how to have vacations, how to help your marriage survive, owning a business, motivation and leadership, how to convert more clients, how to create a GM position that runs your gym for you and leaves you free to grow your business, how to start a business owners group in your community and more.

Chris: 25:31 Point here is to do the right thing that will help gym owners create better businesses that will last them for the long term, get them to Tinker Phase, help them be more successful, create meaningful careers with their coaches and give their clients a meaningful path to long-term health. We only do one big seminar every year and that’s the Two-Brain Summit and the reason that we do that is because a big part of the benefit is getting the Two-Brain community together and welcoming strangers into our midst and showing them how amazing gym ownership really can be. We’ll have a link to the Two-Brain Summit, including a full list of all speakers and topics on both the owners and the coaches side in the show notes. I really hope to see you there.

Greg: 26:09 As always, thank you so much for listening to this podcast. We greatly appreciate you and everyone that has subscribed to us. If you haven’t done that, please make sure you do. Drop a like to the episode. Share with a friend, and if you haven’t already, please write us a review and rate us on how what you think. If you hated it, let us know. If you loved it, even better. See you guys later.

This is our NEW podcast, Two-Brain Marketing, where we’ll focus on sales and digital marketing. Your host is Mateo Lopez!

Greg Strauch will be back on Thursday with the Two-Brain Radio Podcast.

Thanks for listening!

To share your thoughts:

 

To help out the show:

  • Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one.
  • Subscribe on iTunes.