How to Handle Tough Conversations

How to Handle Tough Conversations

By Per Mattsson, Certified Two-Brain Mentor

In this text I am going to share my best advice when it comes to managing tough conversations.

We call this “low affective”: remaining calm and relaxed in relation to the one you’re talking to. When you are low affective, you pose no threat, and that helps your counterpart relax and speak more openly. It also helps you get to a resolution fast.

Use this strategy when dealing with challenging members, when helping upset staff or even when talking to a skeptical person online.

Below are my top three tactics for leading a tough conversation.

Before the conversation starts, prepare the person by telling him or her what you want to talk about.

When you first sit down, don’t beat around the bush: just tell it like it is. Like this:

“I know that you and I are don’t totally agree on this situation and I can tell that you are quite upset. Could you tell me how you feel about this and what your take on this is?”

Tactic #1: Listen

Give the other person the opportunity to speak her mind.

This gives you lots of valuable information. Instead of making assumptions, you hear things straight from the source.

Now, you may hear things that you don’t agree with at all. You may hear things that are just wrong. And you may hear things you don’t like. But it is very important that you don’t interrupt and start to answer. Interrupting turns the situation into an argument—not what you want. No one is going to “win” an argument.

Keep listening, take notes, and ask open-ended questions to collect more information. When your counterpart is finished, try to sum things up.

“OK, so what you have told me this happened and then you felt that I was doing this and then your reaction was this because you thought that I was…”

Tactic #2: Ask Questions

Check that your understanding of the situation, from her point of view, is correct.

After that, I always start asking questions. Here’s a good one to start with:

“What do you think my feelings or interpretation of this situation could be?”

This question makes the other person think about the situation from your perspective. She might see that she could have done things differently. If you still feel that you haven’t reached through,  keep asking questions. Another one that I like is:

“What could you have done differently in handling this situation?”

Without blaming or attacking anyone, you still open her eyes to the fact that it is her responsibility to handle problems like a mature person.

I am not naïve. I have been in many talks where my counterpart is too emotional to answer objectively. But these conversations take a lot of patience. This method is not the quickest, but it is often the best long-term method.

It is easy to be authoritative and more or less scare your staff into doing what you want, but what kind of atmosphere does that give you in the long run?

Tactic #3: Agree on a Solution for Next Time

There will most likely be more tough situations in your company and in your relationships.

How can both parties handle things better next time? What can be done to prevent situations like this in the future?

Take mutual responsibility for this. If your staff have done something that is clearly not acceptable, you should of course be clear about that. In those cases, say something like:

“I can see how you experienced this situation and why you got upset. What happened, and what you did, is not acceptable, and I am glad we had this talk. I know that there are things I could have done differently as well, and I will be aware of that in the future. What can we both do to avoid situations like this, between us or between anyone else, in the future?”

Then you book a follow-up meeting, ask how your staff feels about your conversation—and that’s about it. Congratulations on leading a very good conversation!

Listen, Ask, Agree

The three tactics, again:

  1. Listen
  2. Ask open-ended questions
  3. Agree on a solution

It takes a lot of practice to ask good questions in a low-affective manner, but doing so is worth it.

I strongly advise you to keep improving your communication skills so you can lead your staff without having to use your “position of power.”

If you need advice in handling situation like this, don’t hesitate to reach out:

Two-Brain Marketing Episode 16: Tyler Lee and Jonathan Gibbons

Two-Brain Marketing Episode 16: Tyler Lee and Jonathan Gibbons

Mateo: 00:00 – Hey, it’s Mateo Lopez of Two-Brain Marketing. On this edition of the Two-Brain Marketing podcast, I’m talking to Jonathan and Tyler of CrossFit Resurrection. You’ll hear about their experience going from coaches to buying out the previous owners of the gym. You’re gonna learn more about their growth in the Two-Brain Incubator and how last month they spent $800 on ads and generated over $5,000 in front-end sales. You’ll also hear their take on what it takes to have and maintain a successful partnership in the gym business. So you don’t want to miss this. Make sure to subscribe to Two-Brain Radio for more marketing tips and secrets each week.

Chris: 00:40 – This episode is brought to you by Healthy Steps Nutrition. I first met Nicole over a year ago when one of my favorite CrossFit affiliates introduced me to her, because Nicole was helping them, Sam Brumenschenkel at CrossFit Port Orange, start a nutrition program in her box. And that conversation turned into something larger. A year later, Nicole has a fantastic bolt-on nutrition program that you can add to your box anywhere in the world. So if you’re thinking, “I need to start presenting better nutrition information to my clients” or “I need a new revenue stream,” or “I want to know more about nutrition, but I don’t know where to get started,” Healthy Steps has that. What they’re going to do is put you or one of your coaches, even better, through a course, get them qualified to start teaching nutrition. Then they’re going to add you to a private Facebook group. They’re going to give you a rollout so that you can do a nutrition challenge at your gym, which more than pays for the cost of enrolling them in the course, and then provide an ongoing mentorship program for your nutrition program so that you can continue to run things for your clients like a nutrition accountability plan every month like we do at Catalyst. Nicole is a fantastic person, and after launching Healthy Steps Nutrition online, she actually opened up her own box. She’s working with some massive clients, including some big, big school boards across the country now and she’s in a great position to actually change people’s lives with nutrition. You can be a conduit for that. Your clients need nutrition advice and counseling. Healthy Steps is the best possible solution to this. It’s bolt-on. You can take a coach who’s passionate about nutrition and give them the help they need to start a program overseen by a registered dietician, Nicole Marchand. Healthy Steps Nutrition is a proud sponsor of Two-Brain and I am so glad to have them. Nicole will be speaking at our Summit in Chicago, June 3rd and fourth this year. You do not want to miss her.

Mateo: 02:35 – 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. Thanks for tuning in. This is your weekly dose of digital marketing magic. Every week we’ll go over marketing campaigns, strategies, useful tips and updates to keep you in the loop on what’s going on, on advertising, on the Internet, and in today’s episode I’m coming to you from Los Angeles. I’m not in my normal office for those of you who are watching this instead of just listening to it. So that’s why I might look a little, might be in the dark slightly, but we have very special guests today. We have Jonathan and Tyler from CrossFit Resurrection. And in this week’s episode, you’re gonna learn about their experience and how over the last month they spent over $800 in paid ads and were able to generate over $5,000 in front-end sales. So we’re gonna learn about that right now. What’s going on guys?

Jonathan: 03:35 – Not much, how are you?

Mateo: 03:37 – Doing great. Doing Great. For those tuned in, maybe don’t know you, tell us a little about who you are, where you’re from and what’s your business.

Jonathan: 03:49 – Yes. So, my name is Jonathan Gibbons. And this is Tyler Lee. We are co-ownersf Cross Resurrection and we’re located in Barrie, Ontario, Canada.

Tyler: 04:01 – I think we’ve been owners for about three years now. We took over from an ownership team that opened it up in 2011. We were both members and kind of approached with the opportunity to take it over. I think it kind of grew to the point where it was no longer a hobby for the current owners and they kind of approached—it wasn’t what they were getting into and they wanted to get out. So we took on the opportunity to purchase it and build it up. That’s where we are now.

Mateo: 04:26 – How’d you guys get into CrossFit?

Jonathan: 04:29 – I came from a hockey background and then when I was done playing hockey, I kind of still had a big competitive drive to be fit and want to be healthy and I had a few years’ lapse where kind of my health went poor I guess is what we say. And so a buddy of mine introduced me to CrossFit and I think like in the first week I was in love with it and the methodology of it and just the intensity of it, it was something that was really geared towards my interests. So it wasn’t hard for me to pick up and fall in love.

Tyler: 05:04 – Yeah. I kind of came from a similar background. I was playing a lot of sports as a kid, had a scholarship to the States for soccer and kind of just found CrossFit as a way to fill the competitive void. I started actually doing it on my own, like just at a regular gym and in my garage at home. And, just found it was just easy to follow structured workouts and compare to people across the board. And that kind of lured me into a CrossFit gym. Just made it a little bit easier to do the Open, actually. So that was, that was the main reason I got into it. And I think that was back in 2014. Just been doing it ever since.

Mateo: 05:37 – Awesome. And how long have you been with Two-Brain?

Jonathan: 05:43 – We’ve been with Two-Brain for eight months now—about eight months now.

Mateo: 05:54 – And what was life like before going the Incubator?

Jonathan: 05:58 – Business life was—I found that like Tyler and I, we’ve both come from backgrounds where we’ve kind of been taught to work really hard and that like, no matter what hard work will always kind of pay off and we’ll get where we need to go. When we took over the business, so we thought like, you know, as long as we worked hard, things are gonna work out in our favor and things were always going to get better. And I think at about like, I don’t know, halfway through year two we kind of realized that like, you’re working really hard. But we were kind of just spinning in circles and like we’d go up in revenue, we’d go down in revenue, we’d go up in revenue and it was like we wanted to figure out, we wanted to know what we were doing was going to be in the right direction. We wanted to figure out how we could always just be going up ideally. And then we kind of looked back at like at our abilities and what we were good at and what we knew and kind of we needed understand what we didn’t know. And that led us to kind of join up with Two-Brain. I attended a seminar I think three years, almost three years ago, with Chris. And I came back kind of really fired up and we made some changes immediately after that seminar from Chris. And that led to actually a really positive experience. And then I think we kind of thought we were good from there, and then we carried on with way we were going and we eventually, back in November it led to us signing up to join the Incubator program. So, I wouldn’t say like business was poor before we got involved. It just really wasn’t going anywhere.

Tyler: 07:41 – I would say like at the point that we took over, it was pretty much in a position, like it only had room for growth. It was a pretty small operation, like home-run operation. There wasn’t a lot of systems in place and by that I don’t even mean like business systems, we didn’t even have a POS system, we had no way of like tracking any like financial income or profit or or expenses. It was literally just like play by the seat of your pants and you just kind of pay the bills as they came in. So, I think we did a good job at organizing it from that end, getting a POS system, starting to have like an accountant track stuff for us. And that seemed to organize things a little bit for us. But at the time, I don’t think we knew really why we were running in circles until we did this. But now looking back, I think it’s safe to say that we just didn’t have any systems in place and we were just relying on ourselves to do everything. And when we were in the gym, we’re putting a lot of time into something. For example, we run a massive competition. It started small and it’s grown into a big competition in December. And when we put a lot of time into it, it creates a lot of revenue and we build it up and we market it just based off our own social media platforms. And we built it out to like 150 people, like what, 60, 70 teams and this competition and we would generate 10 to $15,000 in one month, but then we would just, we would wear ourselves thin and we would just relax for a bit and we would create enough revenue from that to kind of float what we needed and it just wasn’t carrying over. But now looking back, it’s like now we have a lot of systems in place where we don’t have to do a lot of these things. They kind of take care of themselves or we have employees doing it. So it’s kind of streamlined the operation of it and just made it way more sustainable.

Mateo: 09:18 – Why did you decide to go that first seminar with Chris?

Jonathan: 09:20 – So I attended the seminar just basically on chance. Tyler was at the con, I had nothing to do. And Jen and Steph, the owners of CrossFit Industry, they were boasting about Chris so much and they were saying how good he was. So I was like, yeah, sure, I’m going to go. And so it was just by pure chance that I went and it was, Chris is very inspiring and he’s very motivating. And I came back to Ty with like a level of excitement that was—Ty had a hard time understanding until he actually, you know, read some of the material from Chris and got some understanding, but it’s easy to come back from a conversation with Chris and be super motivated and eager to do things. I actually had the opportunity to have like a one-on-one conversation with Chris after the seminar and he helped me make probably one of our toughest decisions, I would say one of our toughest decisions as owners to date.

Tyler: 10:14 – One the best lessons we’ve probably learned.

Jonathan: 10:18 – Best lessons, yeah, for sure. So he helped us make that decision. It was great.

Mateo: 10:21 – You want to tell me what that was?

Jonathan: 10:24 – Yeah, so when we took over the business, we agreed to keep on the previous owners as—

Tyler: 10:32 – Let’s just start by saying when we took it over, what had they’ve been operating for, that would’ve been like their fourth year?

Jonathan: 10:38 – Yeah, fourth or fifth year.

Tyler: 10:40 – So they were operating for five years with zero inflation on pricing. So their prices were set back in 2011 and they hadn’t made a 5-cent increase since that in five years. So we were kind of stuck at that price point, which I think at the time was approximately $50 to $80 a month less than our competitors. So we were getting a lot of the clients that just didn’t want to spend the money at these other facilities and we were starting to increase our volume that way. But then Gibby will tell you what our next step was with Chris and why it was a difficult one.

Jonathan: 11:18 – Oh yeah. OK. So yeah. Well, Chris, initially when I met with them, there was two things that Chris kind of encouraged me to do and go home and take action on, was increasing our prices was the number one and how to do that. And then the other one would have been, we had to fire essentially the previous owners because we agreed to keep them on as coaches. And they had a very negative response to us increasing prices because they set those prices originally, they were kind of going behind our back and creating a very negative environment in our facility.

Tyler: 11:55 – I think they just had way too many personal relationships and it was just getting in the way of business operations even before we took over. I think that was the biggest issue they had.

Jonathan: 12:06 – So we sat down with them and it was a really hard thing to do because we’d known them for so long. So we had to let them go. That was a tough decision, but if I didn’t have that conversation with Chris, I definitely wouldn’t have been able to come back with the understanding and the confidence to make that decision.

Mateo: 12:24 – When people go through the Incubator, a lot of times they’re faced with some of these tougher decisions. What advice do you have to anyone who is thinking about, hey, maybe I need to raise my prices or I need to make some kind of pretty significant change to the business. What’s your advice to someone in how to address the members and deal with that?

Tyler: 12:46 – And I think I learned this from Chris after Gibby had talked to him, it was like definitely calculate it out. Like there’s a lot of math behind doing your metrics and figuring out, first of all, what you’re going to increase to, how you can justify your increase and then you can do the math and the metrics on it and kind of see if how many members you lose make it worth it. Or how many members do you have to lose for you to start losing money. And we kind of found like based off the services that are being provided around us and from competitors or fellow CrossFit gyms if you want to call it. And we kind of found that health median of where we could kind of justify the increase. We could also pad any like loss of clients at the same time and kind of break even. So were running at less volume over but we’re running at way higher value. And I would say if you’re at that point, you’re trying to make that decision, just punch those numbers quickly or contact Two-Brain and get them to calculate it for you and talk you through it and then just make the increase. Don’t try to justify it by grandfathering rates in or making small increases. It’s just kind of just, I think, I don’t even know if they mentioned it, but just rip the Band Aid off, you know, maybe make a big jump and pull the Band Aid off. I was terrified to be honest.

Jonathan: 13:53 – Yeah. I found my biggest advice for people would—most CrossFit gym owners, we come in and we’re that whole left brain right brain thing is like, we often make decisions based on our emotions and how we feel and off our personal relations. And I think, what Tyler’s alluding to is you know, look at the numbers, right? The numbers. It’s OK to look at those numbers and it’s OK to use those numbers. It’s great that we work with our emotions and we work with personal relations, but it’s also just as important to us to work the other side of the brain and crunch those numbers and use those numbers.

Tyler: 14:35 – I feel like you feel like the enemy or you feel like a bad person when you want to make money. And I think we went through that for a few years. We both have jobs outside of the gym and you almost feel guilty and trying to make a profit, you know what I mean? So we spent the first couple of years just like trying to put money back in the gym and not paying ourselves. Cause it was like, well, I don’t want to pay myself as people are gonna think like I’m trying to screw them over or I’m trying to take their money, but it’s like, this is a business, like we should be making money. And I feel like a lot of people are scared to do that. You know what I mean? You don’t want people to think you’re just in it to take their money, but if you’re providing them something, you should be making money off of it, is easiest way for me to put it. And it took me a while to realize that.

Mateo: 15:16 – Yeah, it’s a mind shift for sure. It’s a shift in thinking. I went through the same thing, man. You know, when I was on the employee side too, I was like, oh no, I shouldn’t ask for more money. Like I shouldn’t—I don’t want people to think I’m taking vacations or what not. And I get it, and I think it is because it’s so interpersonal, right? You’re selling yourself, you are selling. It is a relationship in a lot of ways. Right?

Tyler: 15:51 – I think it brings lots of value, then. It’s worth it.

Mateo: 15:55 – 100%. But I think it’s why it’s not instinctual for us to think if you’re coming into this from that kind of a background of helping first and just loving CrossFit. And I think that’s why it’s hard to see that. But yeah, I think, but once you can understand that, and like you said, look at the numbers, it’s critical because if you don’t, if you can’t make a profit, you can’t pay yourself. You can’t grow and you can’t help people. Yeah, totally. Well then we’re talking about numbers and you mentioned earlier your competition and some of the things like that. What is it that you guys sell and how do you sell it?

Jonathan: 16:38 – I would say that we sell solutions to people’s problems or sell solutions to their goals, right? Yeah. And number one, we sell coaching. Like we sell a fix. We don’t kind of beat around the bush. We sell a solution to someone’s problems via coaching. And that could be in a number of different ways, whether it be nutrition, whether it be movement, whether it be group class, lots of different things.

Mateo: 17:06 – And how do you sell it?

Jonathan: 17:08 – We sell face to face, like we sell it through relationships, face-to-face relationships. We get people in the door and we sit down with them and we tell them how we can help them and we make sure that that meeting occurs face to face with people so we can create that relationship.

Mateo: 17:25 – You mentioned getting people in the door. What was your strategy for attracting new members prior to Two-Brain?

Tyler: 17:33 – Just organic growth and word of mouth, I think. We were starting to build up a bit of a social media platform on Instagram just cause there wasn’t one before, but we had no way of tracking leads or drawing leads in or giving them the opportunity to book. It was pretty much just simply putting out an email address and a phone number and hoping for the best.

Jonathan: 17:51 – Word of mouth from our current members, referrals, sometimes. People that were walking in or finding us on the web.

Tyler: 18:00 – We had no digital marketing in place at all.

Mateo: 18:03 – Was it just a time issue or was it just you had no where to start or what?

Tyler: 18:09 – We didn’t know a lot about it at the time. Like neither of us had business backgrounds. I had no experience with doing digital advertising. I think one of the steps we missed here too, before we got into Two-Brain is we actually had a friend of ours who’s in marketing and advertising. He actually came to us and said, hey, like nobody’s running ads in this area. You guys need to be running ads. And we were like, what the hell are ads? Like what are we doing? I don’t even know what you’re talking about right now, like we can’t afford that. You know what I mean? We just didn’t know enough about it to give them an educated answer. And he was like, well I’ll be your guy. Like I’ll get you set up, I’ll get all this stuff in place for your marketing and advertising and stuff. And then the question that he came back with was, if I get you guys a hundred people in the door, how many of them can you sell? And then that was when like, whoa, we to need to sit down and think about this. So he left and Gibby was like, or John was like, we need this. I think we should do Two-Brain. And now going back, looking back through, it’s like we essentially would have been jumping through the Incubator, going right to marketing and we would have had no systems in place to handle the volume of people that he would have generated because the leads would have came, I’ve seen how the marketing works now. He would have got us a hundred people in the door and we probably would have been able to sell zero of them. We wouldn’t have been ready for it. We would have had no processes in place. We wouldn’t have known what to do. So that was kind of where we started with Two-Brain was like right at that moment, I think we signed up for Two-Brain the next day. Thank God.

Mateo: 19:39 – So he said, if I get you a hundred people, a hundred leads, are you going to be able to sell them?

Tyler: 19:46 – He said, “You have process in place to handle that?” And we said—we didn’t even answer him, I don’t think, I think we just said, yeah, give us a couple of days and we’ll think about it.

Jonathan: 19:54 – Yeah, we kind of were overwhelmed, what do we do with a hundred people? Like what do we do with a hundred leads? How do we start? Like, yeah, we might’ve been able to sell a few, but—

Tyler: 20:01 – I’m not here. I can’t do it. Me and John were like, well we’re not here. And we had no coaches that were making sales at that point. They didn’t even know how to input people in a computer at that point. We were doing all that.

Mateo: 20:12 – Right. So this is a problem that a lot of people have even going through the Incubator. It’s like, “Hey, I’m still coaching all the classes. Like I don’t know how I’m gonna take care of this.” So obviously you went through the mentoring process, but how did you guys fix this problem? Because that was really what seems to be the blockage, right? There is a way to get a hundred leads, but there’s a systems error, we won’t be able to sell them. So how did you guys end up fixing that problem?

Tyler: 20:39 – The Incubator.

Jonathan: 20:39 – So the Incubator helps a lot. So working with our mentor, we created a lot of systems on like—and through the marketing, too, like lead nurturing, following up with people. We learned how to do the sales, how to NSI. We implemented NSIs, we implemented a proper on-ramping process, like a structured SOP to on-ramping process, a structured SOP, NSI process. Just recently, well, within the last few months we worked with like standardizing and SOP, how we do our lead nurturing. So having those processes in place and having a systematic approach to how somebody comes through your door right from their opt-in or even if they don’t go through—even from a phone call, having that process that everyone follows the same process, has standardized everything and made it so it’s, you know, there’s no question about, there’s no confusion.

Tyler: 21:38 – No assuming common sense is what Chris says. Write out everything, every little process. Even the benign process that you think anybody would be able to do and figure out, make sure you write it out. So we started writing out literally everything, how to turn the lights on, how to fill a mop bucket, how to turn a computer on, how to trouble shoot stuff. And we, I don’t think we’ve stopped writing SOP since we started the Incubator. We always find something where we’re like let’s write an SOP for it, you know, and it definitely streamlines everything.

Mateo: 22:07 – I think that’s so critical I think. I think that last thing you just said, don’t assume anything. You know, if there’s something that needs to be done to just write it down and write down how to do it. How did you guys get your staff trained up? I guess that was kind of what I was alluding to. Yeah, the Incubator, I mean, everything you guys just said was I think spot on. But how did you—you wrote these SOPs down, how did you get everyone trained up and an board?

Jonathan: 22:31 – We are very, very fortunate that we have two coaches in our gym that basically came to us and were like, well, we want full-time careers. We want to do this full time.

Tyler: 22:43 – This is before we started Two-Brain, too, like this is right when we took over.

Jonathan: 22:46 – Yeah. They said, we want to be full time. So when we started with Two-Brain and we started this Incubator process, we were very fortunate in the fact that we could, Tyler and I could learn a process, SOP it, run it a couple times, not very long, not having run it very long, and then it was very easy to transition onto these two coaches. So Tyler and I never really got tied up doing anything for too long and we were able to kind of like, our mentors will say that we get a task and we whip through it really quickly, we get it done and then we move on and we’re ready for the next thing. So we’re very fortunate. We have two full-time coaches that work very, very hard. And they want this to be their career.

Tyler: 23:33 – At the time, when we were just starting, like going through this process we had the one, we kind of had him in like a general manager/head coach role initially. And then we had a second coach come to us with a more of a full-time attitude and they wanted to get into running a nutrition program. And at that time we were going through the Incubator and we knew we had to open up a few more legs for income streams. So it was a no-brainer to bring her on. She was good friends with our general manager. And she had a good rapport in the CrossFit industry. So we brought her on. And she kinda came on at a good time because we were starting to grow at that time and we had all these other like lags that we needed to fulfill and she fulfilled one of them for us and that allowed our general manager to just focus on the other two. And we could just kind of take it a further step back and just run operationally and grow, and implement things and run this. And we’re lucky that they’re both very driven just like we are, and they kind of understand like, I think initially we were pretty hard people to work for, just cause like, we like things done a certain way, but I feel like they have the same mindset as us. Like they like things done right. They like to follow up on things and they like having systems in place. So it was kind of an easy transition for us. I don’t even know what we would do without them. I don’t know where we would be without them to be honest. I don’t know how we would do it, because apparently this isn’t normal. So to me this is normal. I don’t know how other people do it.

Mateo: 25:09 – I mean that’s true. I think it’s both, right? Like if you’re fortunate enough to find people who are on board and proactive from the get and who are hungry—

Tyler: 25:22 – I think it took a bit to make them aware of the possibilities for sure. But I think going through the Incubator and having people who have done it firsthand and people who have experienced growth and have experienced the opportunity to make money as a personal trainer and a staff member of a gym or in the CrossFit industry, once they kind of heard that and they just got back from the Summit in Chicago and we brought both those coaches with us. I wasn’t there, but John went down with them. I think it kind of opened their eyes and say, hey, like Ty and John aren’t blowing smoke. Like this is real, and we’re starting to see it and now we’ve heard it from many other people, and I think that even motivated them even more. So.

Mateo: 26:03 – Yeah. I think that’s that education piece, right? Yeah. Just showing them what’s possible. I think you’re totally right. I think you’re totally right; that’s a big, it’s a very important piece.

Tyler: 26:14 – That’s the misconception, man. I talk to my family all the time and they’re like, how’s the gym going? I’m like, it’s going great. Like, it’s growing and they’re like, ah, you’re only going to make this. Or like, it’s really just a hobby. I’m usually just like, yeah, whatever. I don’t even want to tell them what the possibilities are cause no one’s gonna believe you, you know what I mean?

Mateo: 26:35 – Yeah. No, I do know what you mean on that one. I can relate to that for sure. So tell me a little bit about then the system that you guys have built out to attract new members and the paid advertising piece. Tell me about, you know, what you guys do there and a little bit about the SOPs that you have for your staff to make sure you guys are taking care of leads and making sales.

Tyler: 27:07 – OK. So, before we even got into marketing, we were at that point where we were developing these SOPs and we were kind of streamlining our intake process. So first of all, we had to put one in place. So we said, OK, well when people come in through the door or people contact us, what’s our process going to be? It needs to be the same every time.

Mateo: 27:24 – No matter the channel that they came in, even before you were doing ads.

Tyler: 27:29 – So that was when we implemented the No-Sweat Intro. We kind of put that name on it. We put the system in place on the computer and in our POS system, we gave them, what is it, two clicks or less, so you can book on every social-media platform. Every platform that we had, they could book with one click or two clicks or less. And it all went to our operating system. We use Zen Planner. And I kind of embedded that in every system that we had working with one of our guys that does all that for us. And we made it very simple. We sat down, we had a meeting, we showed the coaches other than our manager and our other head coach that we were just telling you about, and we said, hey guys, here’s, here’s what we have going on. Here’s the No-Sweat Intro. All you need to be able to do when people come in is click this link. Here’s all the links on Instagram, on Facebook, on our website, and here’s a giant link on all the computers in the gym. If someone walks through the door and asks you a question about the gym and you say, perfect, click the link and I’m going to sign you up for a 15-minute No-Sweat Intro, you can have a discussion with them. No more of this “here’s our prices.” Here’s this. Perfect. Let’s get you signed up for 15-minute No-Sweat Intro. And they were all on board with that and they’ve been doing that ever since, and it’s way easier for them just because of the way we kind of operate things. We don’t have a front admin girl at this point. We’re starting to explore that now with growth. But it was an easy way for them to walk away from class for two minutes and say get them booked in.

Mateo: 28:53 – It’s like if you’re coaching class, you’re working out, it’s fine. Here, go to this link. You tell that person no—if they’re caught up, they’re coaching, whatever. It’s like, great. Take two seconds, point them to this link and you can go back.

Tyler: 29:06 – Essentially everything went to the No-Sweat Intro. We even created an actual paper copy of the information we needed to book a No-Sweat Intro. So if they were really jammed up, they could say, hey, yeah, perfect, here, fill this sheet out, this intake form out, and I’ll be over to talk to you if you have 15 minutes. If not, just leave this on our desk and we’ll get you booked in. Fill this out. So that streamlined everything in that case. And we had already got a lot of opportunities without even marketing yet to at least contact people. So that was our first step in creating leads, like organic leads is at least we can contact these people. We had a huge problem with people coming in and coach saying, “Oh, this person came in.” “Oh, what’s their phone number?” “Oh, I didn’t get a phone number, I just got first name.” We can’t do much with a first name. You know what I mean? It’s kind of hard and we didn’t realize the importance of we need to have ways of contacting these people. So we kind of started with that first. We had the NSIs in place before we started marketing and we kind of started practicing with me and John doing the first couple I believe. And at that same time, we developed the NSI process, we developed our on-ramp process.

Jonathan: 30:13 – Just to add in, we also have a lot of, like when someone signs up, we created basically automated lead nurturing. This is before Facebook marketing, but we had an automatic lead nurturing with follow-up emails and text messages that we put in through our operating system so that when someone did get put into the system or booked for an NSI, there was an automatic chain of emails and text messages that went to that person so that we were constantly keeping in contact with them until the date or the time of their NSI.

Mateo: 30:48 – How long did it take for you guys to build out that lead nurture sequence? The automated one?

Jonathan: 30:54 – A week, wasn’t it?

Tyler: 30:56 – I don’t know how fast people go through the Incubator, but I mean like, there was nights where I was up till like, I would just stay up all night and just get like I would write it out like processes all night long. And then I think sometimes we would come back to our mentor and she would be like, Oh my God, I can’t believe you guys have done all this stuff.

Jonathan: 31:15 – Yeah, I think we did all the emails, like all the follow-up emails and the text messages done in one day. And then I went, I actually went to visit my family up north. And I still, like each morning before my family was up, I finished off like all of our follow-up on-ramp emails. So like we went through it pretty quick.

Tyler: 31:37 – I think we were kind of lucky cause we were doing it together so we would go through all the modules. Sometimes we would sit down and do it together, go through the modules and then we would just say, OK, you get this done, I’ll get this done. So I think at the same time it was—it’s kind of hard to explain but Gibby was getting those done. And I think was rolling out the on-ramp program at that time, like actually building that. So by the time he had all the automations and those systems in place, the on-ramp was built out and all the NSI stuff was implemented. So it kind of just came together as one and then we were ready to present it to our two head coaches.

Mateo: 32:10 – That’s beautiful. Teamwork makes the dream work. I love it. That’s great. But I mean, I guess, I only ask that because, yeah, it took some time. It took some late nights, it was once he did it, you did right. It was done.

Jonathan: 32:24 – So beauty of it, once it’s in place and running, you can kind of stick and move, right? You get one thing done and you make sure it runs and then you move on. And then if you’ve got to come back to later on, but at least it’s been running that time. Right.

Tyler: 32:36 – You kind of run through it yourself too. And then that way you can see if you made any mistakes or if there’s any flaws anywhere, anything you can fix before you pass it onto another team member. But I feel like that’s super important too. It’s probably pretty easy when you get busy to just make a system up and be like, I’m not even gonna run this. I’m just going to give it to my coaches to operate. And then they run into issues and you’re like, well I don’t even know where the issue came from.

Mateo: 32:57 – Right, right. Yeah. You gotta beta test it first or put yourself through it. Yeah.

Tyler: 33:03 – That’s what our mentor told us anyway, like she’s like, you guys have to be going, you guys have to run some NSIs yourself. You have to run some on-ramps yourself before you can pass it on. So that was what we did.

Mateo: 33:13 – All right, so now you guys have some systems, right? So you built out an automated lead nurture sequence. You standardize the process for booking No-Sweat Intros or for people who come in through any kind of pipeline. And the sales process itself is written down, the on-ramp process is written down. Now you guys are ready for some paid traffic. What happened?

Tyler: 33:36 – So that was at that point I think we finished the Incubator. And we were introduced to the marketing mentor and we kind of, he just kinda got us started going through like the Incubator for Facebook marketing. I had actually already like played around with ads with a friend of mine. Cause I was, I realized after that guy had approached me about how about ads I had started looking into it with a friend of mine who does marketing and he’s like, yeah, he kind of walked me through Facebook, showed me how to build out like advertisements, how to put all that stuff in. I didn’t know too much about the details of it, but I knew how to build one. So I had already built a couple ads that we weren’t running. I didn’t turn on, I just built them, I don’t know why this is, I didn’t even know about any Incubator yet. So when I went through the Incubator, we were going through a few of the stages and I’m like holy, like I already know how to do all this stuff. So that kind of saved me a lot of time, like actually had to build up an ad. So I think by the time we got to that point, I had already had the ads built when we met Dan.

Jonathan: 34:32 – We had some stuff. We had no copy.

Tyler: 34:36 – No, no, no, we didn’t have the actual copy yet because those were all in your folders, but I had already had some like stock photos, like photos from our gym and stuff like that. And all I had to do really was just cut and paste it into our ad sets, change the demographic, change our limitations on who we wanted this to approach. I could see how that part of it would be very difficult if you were doing it on the fly, like you would really have to sit down and go through it. So I kinda had like a semi mentor take me through a preview and then I went back through it and kind of learned the details about it. So I was able to focus more on that stuff.

Jonathan: 35:07 – I was the opposite where I had tied to that Facebook, that little prelude Facebook thing before we got into the Facebook Marketing Incubator, I had zero. So when I started talking with Dan, our marketing mentor, that was like learning from scratch for me and Dan makes it, he made it really simple and easy to understand. So I was able, you know, Tyler was already like right on the same page with Dan. Like every click was like, yeah, I know how to do that. We’re good. Yeah. And he moved through really quick. But Dan also made it very understanding for me to go through, so that, I mean, Tyler handles most of the Facebook marketing stuff right now, but I still have a very good understanding of what’s what’s going on when Tyler does stuff, like it’s just that he does a lot of the click and drags and a lot of the typing and stuff like that. But because of Dan and going through that with me, I have a 100% understanding of it.

Tyler: 36:00 – So logistically going through and being able to build it up I had a good understanding of, but I still didn’t understand like the metrics of it. So I think going through the Incubator for Facebook marketing really taught me like what the numbers mean. So like your clicks per link, or sorry, your link clicks or your cost per lead. Those different numbers, like that huge, that huge like page of numbers that you’re like, what are all these numbers? Just like what it’s telling you, how they’re performing, and important stuff for like when to shut down like ad sets or like shut down one ad in a sad or swap the picture out or swap the swap the description or details out. And Dan kind of helped us with that stuff and it’s actually super important for keeping things like learning and keeping things operating at a certain level.

Mateo: 36:52 – So then for your first campaign, you know, how much traffic did you end up generating, how many leads?

Tyler: 36:58 – So we’re still running our first campaign, we started with the eight-week female challenge. Yep. And the one I told you about there, I think we’ve been running it since May 23rd, 24th. So we’re just over a month, a month and four days. And that was our first campaign that we rolled out. So we ran one ad set with three ads, like three copies I think for the first three weeks, two are performing really well. And one was performing a little poorer than the others so we swapped it out and then now they’re all running at the same level. I think we’re still pretty low on that. But anyway, they generated in the first month, I think we generated 110 and now I think in the last four days we’ve generated another like 15. So we were at 125 leads in just over a month.

Mateo: 37:47 – So you did that a hundred—we hit that point. We hit the a hundred lead. That actually happened.

Tyler: 37:51 – Yeah, that actually happened.

Mateo: 37:52 – And so what happened, you know, how did you guys handle that? Or you just handled it, you knew you could handle it.

Tyler: 37:57 – First off, having all those processes in place made it pretty easy. I think at first we were a little like, I think we started getting a little bit overwhelmed with it, but then we kind of, I went back through the Incubator and was like, well how do you handle this? Like if you get too many people. I think the first problem we had, and it was something that we didn’t see coming, was we were trying to tend to these people’s schedules instead of worrying about our schedule. So we were worried about them a little more than ourselves. And I went back through and it said, just give them times to book. Don’t say, when does it work for you, because people will come—like you have nine people that want to come in at one time. So we had that from—because our coaches were saying, well if this time doesn’t work you, I’ll make it work for you; what time? We had people coming at nine o’clock at night, people coming in at seven in the morning and our coaches really couldn’t make it work, but they were making it work, you know what I mean? So we went back to, OK, here’s your three slots, these are the times we have available. And that really kind of streamlined the volume and we were able to handle it a little better. And we tried to book people in very quick so we had to keep them in that three-day window. If it wasn’t that day or or right then it was within the next two days/

Jonathan: 39:01 – We would also do the they, if you’re available to come in right now come in right now.

Tyler: 39:05 – Yeah. And we just told the coaches really cause at that point after we had run it, we did the first, like probably 30 leads, were doing the NSIs and I did the first couple on-ramps and then after that we passed it off, so they had another 95 leads at that point and I think they were getting a little overwhelmed cause they were doing that, they were saying come in now, come in whenever works for you. I’ll book you in. I said put in your availability on your schedule and if those times don’t work for people then we’ll have to find another time that works for them. We’re gonna generate enough leads here that we can make it work. We can’t just put it on their schedule cause it’s not going to work.

Mateo: 39:41 – Yeah. Giving them I’ve got this time available, I got option A and option B. Which would you prefer?

Tyler: 39:47 – I personally think it actually makes it easier for them. I feel like a lot of time when you say, “Hey, what’s best for you?” They either can’t think of a time or are they don’t actually know like what works for them. If you give them a time, they’ll agree to something, you give them a couple options, they’ll make it work. I’m the same way. If I’m given an appointment, like I’ll show up for my appointment.

Mateo: 40:08 – Totally, totally. Awesome, and I know we talked about at the beginning, so a hundred leads, so you guys generated, what over $5,000 in front-end sales from—?

Tyler: 40:18 – I think the actual calculation is like $5,100-something and we spent about 800, we’re just over 800 I want to say 840 or 850 bucks. Not far off from that. Just on the female one and Dan wanted us, Dan is our mentor for marketing, he wanted us to start with the females and practice on working with the women first. He said it’s just a little bit different as far as the sales tactics go. So we started working on that and we did the first few, got our team working on it and they kind of got into the sales thing and they’ve learned a lot from watching you on the Incubator and going through your stuff. So they’re constantly going through it.

Mateo: 40:57 – That’s awesome. But besides this, right, besides this additional growth in revenue from the paid ads, like I know we talked about raising prices and raising the value of your service, obviously you’ve generated enough additional income to hire that other coach. What have you seen is the big change, like, the big difference after going through the Incubator between before and where you guys are now?

Jonathan: 41:20 – I think the biggest change that we’ve seen after going through the Incubator is that through implementing all our SOPs and all these processes, it’s given Tyler and I an opportunity to step back from the hands-on, day-to-day stuff. And it allows us to grow the business, you know, work on new things, work on building out revenue streams. And that’s another big thing is revenue streams. Like we had one single revenue stream before we started with Incubator.

Tyler: 41:49 – We were like, we need 300 CrossFit members or we’re gonna go bankrupt!

Jonathan: 41:50 – Now we have multiple different revenue streams. We have a business that stands on more than one leg. So that’s been, I guess one of the biggest things. But since doing the Incubator, Tyler and I sit back and we can look at either bringing in new revenue streams, implementing new revenue streams or you know, creating new SOPs or really sitting back and evaluating what works and what doesn’t work for us. So I mean, I don’t even think that before the Incubator process, I don’t even think Tyler and I, or I wouldn’t have been able to take that, you know, that four days and go to Chicago and for the Summit and learn everything that I did there. So it’s given us the ability to step back and really grow our business as opposed to just working our business.

Mateo: 42:39 – That’s amazing. And I think that’s great. And I think that’s exactly—that’s the point, right? We want you guys working on the business instead of in the business. 100%. That’s the only way that it can work, I think. And so you guys have come a long way, right? You started as coaches three years ago and took over this business without any kind of background in business. You guys say it yourself. And then you went from charging $50 less, $80 less than market value for your services to being able to turn that around to being able to grow your team, to get systems in place to a point where, hey, if you want to attract 20, 30 new members a month and generate some extra revenue, you guys can do that. Your infrastructure can handle it and you know how to do it. So what do you think has been the key to the success so far for you guys?

Jonathan: 43:42 – What’s the key to our success so far? I would say like teamwork and communication through—

Tyler: 43:49 – Consistency.

Jonathan: 43:49 – And consistency. Working consistently with each other. Good communication between Tyler and I to make sure that we’re both handling the sides of the business that we need to handle. Good, positive communication with our coaches is a key to success. Also, for me specifically, I think the key to my success is understanding what I don’t know and reaching out to people that have done this before. I find I gain a lot of knowledge through just the Two-Brain family. On the Facebook marketing page, on the resources Facebook page. So yeah, going after the resources; understanding like, well, we don’t know how to do this, so let’s talk to someone who has, rather than trying to spin in circles, and try and figure it out on our own. I think that’s been the biggest key to our success is just understanding what we don’t know, and looking at the resources that we have and utilizing them.

Tyler: 44:50 – Yeah. I think just like the willingness to not fail, man. Like I feel like we’d be willing to do anything to just like make it work. If I have to run nine Christmas-Palooza competitions a year, I’ll do it to keep the business afloat. You know what I mean? Like I wasn’t just going to coast into the ground. We would have done anything we had to regardless if we hadn’t gotten into the Two-Brain thing, I think just getting into the Two-Brain thing and doing the Incubator just made that process and learning way more valuable. And instead of spinning our tires for five years and just grinding, we kind of streamlined things in our work, and our efforts were a lot more focused on things that were going to pay off long term and give us the ability to keep growing and keep implementing new things. And I think a lot of people—and I think a lot of people get it done, it just takes them an exponentially longer period of time to get these things in place and it costs you a lot of money to learn where you’re making mistakes. So I think going through the Incubator kind of helped us just that expedite that process and save us a lot of money and time and I’m grateful for it for sure, and I know that it’s made our gym better and I know that it’s made it a way better environment and it’s given the coaching environment and from an employee standpoint way more opportunities, so way more valuable for us on all, on all fronts.

Mateo: 46:11 – That’s awesome guys. And I think that, you know, what you guys were saying, communication, and I think that that’s probably key, especially for partnerships. We’ve been on here for 40 minutes, but I can tell you obviously have a good rapport and a good understanding with one another on kind of who’s doing what. And keeping that line of communication open constantly I think is probably probably a big key there because a lot of partnerships don’t. We may need to do a whole other episode just to talk about how to sustain a good partnership. But yeah, tell me a little about the rules thing.

Jonathan: 46:52 – So this is actually pretty recent—

Tyler: 46:54 – I think it kind of happened organically too. Like we kinda didn’t step on each other’s toes a lot at the start anyway. But we were kind of, he was doing some of the same things I was doing. We were kind of just overlapping and I think we kind of just said, hey, like, well you need to focus on this. I think that was actually before we got into Incubator where we kind of realize, hey look, you gotta focus on this, you focus on that. That’ll just make it a little bit more manageable for us because I feel like we ran into the problem with a partnership, I think the biggest problem that we noticed right off the bat was people come and ask you one thing and then they go and ask the other guy the next thing, and then one guy is saying this, one guy is saying that. And I think we kind of just put a nail in the coffin right away on that. It was like, hey, like we’re, we’re an open line with each other. So if you ask John one thing and ask me you one thing I’m telling you right now, we’ve already communicated and we already know what’s going on so you’re not going to be able to like pull the wool over on our eyes, so to speak, in that situation. So from the start we kind of always had good communication in that respect, but I think that was the hardest obstacle being a partnership at the start was people would try to say one thing to one guy and then you would get information from another source and then it was kind of like, well you have two things being said at the same time and we kind of just put a stop to that right away.

Jonathan: 48:05 – And we just knew what each other were good at. And then I let Tyler be good at what he’s good at and he lets me be good at what I’m at. We do have to cross over sometimes and do things together, and sometimes I gotta help him out and sometimes he’s got to help me out, but we’ve kind of just established what our roles are and what things we take care of. And if it’s something that he purely takes care of on his own, I don’t bother him about it. I don’t get in his way, but I don’t interject. And same thing with me. If it’s something that I take care of on my own, he just lets me handle it and do that. But we are fully aware of what each other are doing.

Mateo: 48:38 – That’s great guys. And so speaking of communication, if people want to talk to you, if they want to find you, they want to just learn more, how can they find you?

Jonathan: 48:51 – Easily, they can fire us an email at They could DM us on our Instagram page. We’re really quick to get back on that. Emails, I think we respond in less than an hour, or even quicker most of the time. But that’s the easiest way to get ahold of us is via email or drop us a line on—

Tyler: 49:14 – We both have access to all that stuff, so we’ll see it.

Jonathan: 49:17 – Or our Facebook page. Facebook page is a good way to get ahold of us too.

Mateo: 49:22 – Awesome guys. We’ll I’m excited for what the rest of 2019 holds for you. I’m excited for the men’s campaign and yeah, I’m just excited for your continued growth.

Jonathan: 49:32 – Thanks man.

Mateo: 49:33 – Thanks for coming on.eal

Tyler: 49:35 – Thanks for having us.

Greg: 49:41 – 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 that 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!

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Solving The Icon Problem

The following is adapted from Founder, Farmer, Tinker, Thief.


When you first start a business, you are the face of your company. But eventually, your business grows and you need to phase yourself out of the starter jobs. The first hurdle in replacing yourself in any role is to solve the icon problem. 

Give Your Clients Appealing Substitutes

As the figurehead for your business, clients expect to see you in every position and view your staff only as substitutes of lesser value. 


For example:


  • Athletes ask which classes you’ll be coaching and book around those times.
  • Clients aren’t willing to do some of their training sessions with another trainer.
  • “When will Chris be back?” is a common question in the gym.
  • Members text you, saying, “It’s not the same when you’re not here.”


These are flattering at first. You feel loved and irreplaceable. But don’t fall into the trap. How will you ever take a week off without your business struggling? How can you ever sell your gym or move on to a higher-value role or make the time to improve your business? If clients are disappointed when you’re not around all the time, you’re an icon. That’s a problem.


“My clients think I’m their personal servant!” Have you heard that one before?


“They think I can just drop everything and listen to their little dramas!” I’ve been there.


“They think I just drink coffee and surf the internet when I’m not coaching!” Been there too.


When I finally realized that a stable income meant working ON my business, not IN it, I struggled to separate myself from the day-to-day stuff. I wrote blog posts and read articles while sitting at the front desk of my gym. Clients felt like I was ignoring them. When I expanded and put in a small office, they’d knock and ask why I was “hiding” in there. I was frustrated because I really liked these people and didn’t want them to think I was avoiding them, but I also needed to get things done, or the gym would fail. It took a long time to realize they were knocking on my door because they didn’t know other coaches could answer their question.


The only replacement for an icon is a team. Establish the expertise and authority of your staff. Refer to yourself as one of “the team.” Attend seminars led by your stylists. Attend your coaches’ classes as an athlete. Take yourself off the pedestal. And when you remove yourself from a role, hand it over completely and let everyone know.


I had a booming personal training business in 2012: thirty clients spent a minimum of one hour each week with me, and that revenue was a significant part of our business. It was a risk to stop taking one-on-one clients, but I knew the only way I could devote the time necessary to create a sustainable business was to cut back. I just didn’t have any other time. 

Treat Your Clients Fairly

It was scary to hand clients off to another trainer, but I started to identify a few who might make the switch. I told them the change was absolutely necessary and that I’d miss training them, and I assured them they would be in good hands. Unfortunately, I forgot one detail:


“Why can you train HER but not ME?”


I couldn’t pick and choose a smaller clientele because someone’s feelings would be hurt. Because of my own “icon problem,” I had to remove myself from personal training. I had to establish the expertise of my other coaches quickly and then stop doing one-on-one training entirely. You can avoid this problem by demonstrating the expertise of your replacements before you step back. If your coaches want a career in fitness, they can have it, and you can help by creating intrapreneurial opportunities and then backing away.


If you plan your transition to another role and execute the switchover elegantly, you’ll free up more of your time, your staff will advance in their careers, and your clients will be happy with your replacements—a win-win situation for everyone involved. 


For more advice on business ownership, you can find Founder, Farmer, Tinker, Thief on Amazon.


When his first business almost went bankrupt in 2008, Chris Cooper sought a mentor and began chronicling his turnaround on a blog called After 400 blog posts, Chris self-published his first book, Two-Brain Business, which has now sold more than 20,000 copies worldwide. Chris now shares his lessons learned from the trenches of mentoring over 2,000 business owners worldwide in Founder, Farmer, Tinker, Thief.


Two-Brain Radio With Sean Woodland, Episode 6: Craig Howard

Two-Brain Radio With Sean Woodland, Episode 6: Craig Howard

Sean: 00:00 – Hi everybody. Welcome to another edition of Two-Brain Radio with Sean Woodland. On today’s episode I sit down with Craig Howard. Two-Brain Radio with Sean Woodland is brought to you by Two-Brain Business. For free business tips and advice, you can sign up for our mailing list at Craig Howard is a two- time CrossFit Games competitor in the masters division and he won the 50-to-54-year-old division in 2013. He is also the owner of Diablo CrossFit in Pleasant Hill, California, an affiliate that is in its 13th year of operation. I talked with Craig about the keys to competing and training as a masters athlete, how he started and then grew Diablo CrossFit and how his gym has managed to send nearly 60 people to the CrossFit Games. Thanks for listening everybody.

Sean: 00:53 – Craig, how are you doing today, man, thanks for being here.

Craig: 00:54 – Good Sean. Thanks for driving up by the way.

Sean: 00:57 – It’s my pleasure. My pleasure. Yeah, it’s always fun dealing with Bay-area traffic, but I got a little bit lucky it wasn’t that bad. First question that I always like to ask people is how did you find CrossFit?

Craig: 01:07 – I found it through a Men’s Journal article that talked about the best online fitness programs and they labeled CrossFit as the hardest online workout that you will ever do, and the workout that they listed was Murph. And at the time I was doing triathlons and push-ups and pull-ups and I said I want to try that. And I went out and literally within two days, I did that workout and I honestly think I gave myself rhabdo.

Sean: 01:35 – Did you go like old-school straight through?

Craig: 01:39 – Yeah, straight through and, you know, I started out 10, my pull-ups was like 10, 10, eight, five, three and then ones, single all the way home. And they were strict, I didn’t know what a kipping pull-up was. I was so fricking sore for so long and I was sold. This is amazing.

Sean: 01:56 – Yeah. That’s the reaction that a lot of people have. Before you got into CrossFit, what did fitness look like for you?

Craig: 02:02 – In my late thirties, early forties, I was doing triathlons and marathons. Ran about six marathons over that period of time. And prior to that, spent a lot of time in Gold’s Gym. So I went from training in Gold’s Gym, doing heavy lifting bodybuilding type stuff to changing and transitioning to the triathlon fad. And I was living in Austin, Texas at the time. But what really drew me to CrossFit was the amount of time that I was spending doing triathlons, training by myself on the long rides, the long swims, the long runs, time away from the family. And what was enticing about CrossFit is the short amount of time that was necessary to get fit. And that was the claim and what they wrote about in the Men’s Journal article as well, or Men’s Fitness article, and that in and of itself was kind of like, OK, there’s no way, something that short, that condensed could make me fit. And I was so wrong.

Sean: 03:01 – Oh yeah. When did you figure out that you were actually really good at it?

Craig: 03:09 – That probably wasn’t until 2009, 2010. So my partner at the time, Jeremy Jones, and I started this in 2005. We just started doing it in a park and people would come and friends would do it with us. And then in—we missed the calling for the 2007 Games, but 2008 is when—we had heard about the 2007 Games, we were like, oh yeah, we’re not going to miss that in 2008. We went down there and I remember going down there and watching people competing and doing it and I realized, oh shoot, I could do a lot of this stuff. And we had some athletes in it from our gym that were in it at the time too.

Sean: 03:52 – You’re one of the few people who’ve actually seen the Games at the Ranch. What was it like being part, or just being there in that atmosphere?

Craig: 03:58 – It was a neat experience. It was a festival-type experience. We went down there, we camped out in the dirt. We had a number of our gym members that went down there and cheered for our members that were down there. And it was more, it was an extension of this community, because everybody there was so nice and so friendly and really very little ego. Awesome experience.

Sean: 04:23 – How did your background with triathlons and marathons and all that, how did that help you as a competitor in the CrossFit world?

Craig: 04:29 – Having that the ability to go long was helpful. In 2013, for example, when I competed as a masters athlete, and I benefited from the change in the age groups by the way, so they added a 50 over age group, a 50 to 55 age group at the time, and I was 50. But the first workout was Nancy, which has 400-meter run, it was long, and I ended up winning that workout, and thank goodness it was the first workout because it gave me the confidence like, oh, hey, shoot, I’m OK at this stuff. But that ability to go long in the longer workouts was super important. And even today, if there’s a swim workout, I’m gonna do all right in a swim workout.

Sean: 05:10 – Absolutely. That triathlon background comes in handy there. You’ve been to the Games twice, 2011 and then you won the 50-to-54-year-old division in 2013. What was it like to be able to achieve that goal?

Craig: 05:25 – For me, it was something really special. Partially because I’m most passionate about CrossFit and love telling the story of that and love getting people involved and to be able to compete and demonstrate that, you know, that a 50-year-old can do this and can achieve their own personal fitness goals through this new sport was awesome to me. It was really neat. It was a big moment for the gym, too, to be able to put my name on the board, bring a gold medal back to Diablo CrossFit. Even if it was in the—Sam Dancer told me, the “crispy” division.

Sean: 06:05 – The crispy division! That’s the first time I’ve heard it described as the crispy division.

Craig: 06:08 – Someone told him, someone said, “Hey Sam, did you know Craig actually won the CrossFit Games?” He goes, “Yeah, yeah. In the crispy division.”

Sean: 06:15 – Oh, man. Come on, Sam, you gotta give a guy credit. What’s your favorite kind of Games memory?

Craig: 06:22 – For me personally? My favorite memory is my last workout at the CrossFit Games. And it was the fans at Diablo cheering me on as we did a an event, a chipper that went around the track. It started with a hundred double-unders and it went to rope climbs and then it went to front squats and we moved around the track.

Sean: 06:49 – I remember that. That was a cool workout.

Craig: 06:50 – Yeah, it was really cool. Get to the farmer carries, and I remember running with the dumbbells, and my partner at the time, Jeremy, my coach, told me, he goes, “When you get to the farmer carries everybody’s gonna walk, they’re going to pick up those dumbbells and they’re going to walk. Run with the dumbbells. It’s time under load and it won’t matter if you’re running or not.” So I picked ’em up and ran and passed five or six guys in that workout, which was crucial, that finish was crucial to me actually getting the victory and the Games. I’ll never forget that moment. And seeing all my buddies who I trained with scream, a lot of them since 2006, 2007, just they’re cheering and screaming and urging me on, it was awesome.

Sean: 07:27 – You found CrossFit as a, you were already a masters athlete, right?

Craig: 07:32 – Yeah, I was 41 when I started, but they didn’t have a 40-plus division at the time.

Sean: 07:37 – Right. So what is the key to training effectively as a masters athlete?

Craig: 07:43 – It’s recovery time, and I think it’s something that I think masters athletes today still struggle with. We get in the gym and we feel good. The working out and doing a metcon, there’s nothing like the feeling you get 30 minutes after a metcon. I tell this to people that are joining here, you drive away in your car, 30 minutes, after the workout you feel really good. Endorphins are going and we get addicted to that. But unfortunately, that can be counterproductive to performance long term because you simply don’t recover. My wife, I’m on her all the time, she wears the WHOOP monitor and she’ll say, “I’m only 30% recovered but I’m still going to work out.” It’s that addiction to fitness. And masters need more time and I found that that taking—I’ll do two on one off, three on one off. Those days off are huge. Cause I’ll come in the next day in and performance is so much better.

Sean: 08:45 – Other than maybe not taking recovery seriously, what do you think are some of the biggest mistakes that masters athletes make in their training?

Craig: 08:51 – I think, and this is something that Alessandra Pichelli’s coach and husband pointed out to me too, is they try to Rx at the younger person’s weights. They can move those loads that are posted in the workout, but they don’t need to move those loads, especially when you get to the, to the competition level in the Open and even in the Games, they’re lighter weights. I get told a lot here by coaches do the lighter weight. Here at Diablo, we post our workouts and then we put a masters 50 weight. So we have a scaling weight built in, and I get told a lot. I know I can do the 135 hang power cleans. I can do the 155 shoulder-to-overheads, but I get told a lot to move at the lighter weights because I need to learn to move faster. And there are a lot of masters who are capable of doing those heavier, more complex gymnastics. But when it comes down to a metcon, you know, in the Open or a metcon even at the Games or even at a local competition, they’re usually lighter weights and they get held back because they aren’t capable of moving faster because they’ve trained with a weight vest on that has slowed them down.

Sean: 10:16 – You were an early adopter of CrossFit back before it really started taking off, you know, 13, 14 years ago. What was it like kind of being part of that early crew and what did people think about what you were doing?

Craig: 10:30 – I would compare it today to going to a hotel gym and doing a CrossFit workout. People stared at you and they ask you a lot of questions about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. And in those days, for me, it was a little bit of a badge of honor. I tell people that are doing CrossFit like, “Oh, you’re doing CrossFit?” and if they hadn’t heard about it I’d tell em what it is and how we do things and that always seemed to impress. So for me it was kind of a cool thing. It was a little bit outside the norm of fitness and it was perceived as being extreme, you know, they train the tip of the spear. Right? And if they could make the athletes at the tip of the sphere fitter then it was good for everybody and we embrace that and like that, and we spent a lot of time trying to overcome that objection that it was dangerous in the early days, and a lot less now, surprisingly, but in the early days it was something that we learned to talk about a lot.

Sean: 11:32 – You helped launch Diablo CrossFit, you mentioned, you guys got a start in 2005, you opened in 2006. What motivated you to say, OK, I’m going to open my own gym?

Craig: 11:41 – It was a desire to have a place to do these things unencumbered. And by that I mean we wanted, I needed a place to do 15-foot rope climbs. I wanted a place to be able to drop bumper plates. I wanted a place where I could row and run. And so, you know, Jeremy, you know, I literally posted on the CrossFit message boards and the post is still there, you know, “Does anybody in Walnut Creek want to get together and open a CrossFit affiliate?” And Jeremy Jones, who was my partner at the time said, yeah, let’s do this. And we did it literally as a place where people could come and train CrossFit together. We had a karma jar that people could put money in to help cover our expenses. And Jeremy and I both had jobs, full-time jobs, and it was kind of a part-time thing. One of our athletes was a DeLaSalle, he had just graduated from DeLaSalle High School here in California, and he was passionate about it as well, and he became essentially our first coach, Josh Jorgensen, great kid, and all he wanted was a membership. So he did classes and then we would come in and we would get together, and weekends were great. We’d come in on a Saturday, and the people that found us were the hardcore CrossFitters, people that followed blogs, and they’d come into our gym and we’d all stand around and go, OK, what’d you do yesterday? What’d you do yesterday? What did you do yesterday? OK, here’s where I got, let’s do this. And we literally wouldn’t warm up very much. We finally found the CrossFit workout. I think we found the CrossFit workout or the CrossFit warm-up, remember the CrossFit warm-up? I forget what that CrossFit warm-up was. There was a standard warm-up, it was like 10 pull-ups, 10 push-ups, you know, three rounds for time, 10 squats, something like that. And we started doing that finally, but now it’s much more complex.

Sean: 13:31 – Back then when you opened your doors, the awareness of CrossFit is not nearly what it was today. How did you sell this to people that you thought might be potential clients?

Craig: 13:40 – We took the approach of not selling. We put a blog up, started posting and we leveraged CrossFit’s notoriety and brand and for people to find us locally. And we were the only one in this area, in East Contra Costa County area. So if anybody found CrossFit, they would come to us. And so we have a population here that allowed them to come to us. On our website, it said, we had this quote, “We’re not motivational coaches for the apathetic. If you don’t come, we don’t care. But if you do, we will.” The idea being that what we wanted was people that literally wanted to learn a new fitness program that could transform their life, and were passionate about wanting to follow through. Cause we didn’t want to have to try to sell people on fitness, instead what we wanted to do is transfer our passion for CrossFit to them. Our enthusiasm for CrossFit. Sales for me has always been kind of a transfer of emotion. I get you excited about something, and it was easy to do with CrossFit. And so we had this methodology that we knew about that was amazing. It was not boring. It changed every day. And it produced results really, really fast. And that was really our pitch.

Sean: 15:16 – At what point did this stop being a place where you guys just came to work out and become a business?

Craig: 15:23 – That’s a good question. So 2009 is when that happened. Actually it was probably late 2008 when my partner Jeremy and I said, man, this is getting overwhelming. We literally, the shed this mechanic shed that we had in Walnut Creek, we were having to do classes half in and half out of the shed and it was cumbersome. And Jeremy Jones said, I think we’ve got enough now. We had software, we used the Mindbody software, and we had enough now where we could pay a full-time coach. He said, I’ll quit my job and I’ll coach the classes and run the business. And I was in the investment banking world. And said that’s great. So literally in 2009 we did that. We moved into this place in Pleasant Hill, it was 4,000 square feet at the time. Now it’s 12,000. And it took off, ad I attribute the taking off to not necessarily—well, yes, dedicating ourselves full time to taking care of customers and then those people telling other people. But the growth of the CrossFit Games at the time, that’s when it was starting to take off, 2010, you know, being on ESPN and people seeing it and going, “Oh, I want to do that” really helped us a great deal.

Sean: 16:37 – What are some things that you think if you could go back that you think you could’ve done better when you first decided, OK, this is going to be a business.

Craig: 16:44 – You’re going to stump me on this one. There’s a number of things that we could have done better, and one of the things that we did in the beginning that I wouldn’t do now is we tried to be all things to all people. In the beginning. If someone said, hey, you know what, I can’t come to 5-a.m. class , can we do 5:30-a.m.class? And so we literally, Jeremy and I would go, “Yeah, what the hell, we’ll just bring another coach in.” So we literally had classes in the morning at 5:00 a.m., 5:30 a.m., 6:00 a.m., 6:30 a.m. We did that in the evening, too. Same thing. Anytime there was someone said, well, you know what, I joined but I really want more of a boot camp-style class. OK, let’s make a fit class. And we would respond to every customer request in that way and that became overwhelming to us. The other thing that we didn’t do is we didn’t, in the early days, we didn’t establish a good set of ground rules for membership pricing.

Sean: 17:52 – I think that’s pretty common, though.

Craig: 17:53 – Yes. We were very flexible with, you know, “You have a student discount?” Sure. We have a student discount. “You have a military discount?” Yeah. We’ve got a military discount. I only want to come three days a week. Yeah, we’ll do three days a week. And we ended up with this just menagerie of memberships. In the early days, too, one of the things we said, and without kind of foresight, we’ll grandfather your rate. So if you pay that rate we’ll keep it that way forever. Well, that just wasn’t feasible financially. We got to a point where we finally had to say, we got to raise rates. And that was a painful period of time.

Sean: 18:29 – Yeah. How did you get through that?

Craig: 18:30 – A really good letter.

Sean: 18:34 – What was in said letter?

Craig: 18:35 – Heartfelt letter explaining the financial challenges of owning a CrossFit gym and the need to remain competitive in this marketplace with respect to our facilities and our equipment and the coaching. In order to have quality coaches, quality equipment, and nice facilities, we have to charge a certain rate in order to make that available.

Sean: 19:09 – You mentioned your coaches. How do you train your trainers to be effective coaches?

Craig: 19:16 – We started out early on as most of our coaches, almost all of our coaches were members first. And we still, when people call us up and say, “Hey, I’d like to work for Diablo,” we say, OK, great. Join us first. Be a part of the community, understand what’s going on here. That is one, so they can see and they learn, you know, somewhat through osmosis the process of how we do things here. We also then require all of our coaches to go through an observant and assist period where they spend 60 to 160 hours depending upon their level of previous experience watching and observing classes. And then also being coached by the coaches that are already out there on the floor. So they act first just observing then assisting actual coaches. And then from there they, we have them take on classes in very small amounts as part-time coaches. That’s really the training process we have. We also have a formal meeting that we do a once about once every two months. We bring the coaches in and we do a continuing education- type program for things that are relevant to our Diablo costumer base.

Sean: 20:23 – What do you think makes a good coach?

Craig: 20:25 – Pat Barber has talked about this in the past. He said emotional IQ. First and foremost is the ability to communicate effectively with every type of customer. You don’t have to be an outstanding athlete. You don’t have to be the best CrossFitter in the world. You don’t even have to have, you know, several certifications. I’ve seen—and you know, Greg Glassman talked about this, you know, I’ve seen people with, you know, Level 3 coaches that make me cringe in front of a group. They’re just not great coaches. That’s not to say—there’s some awesome Level 3 coaches. But it’s that emotional IQ. It’s that ability to communicate effectively and to be able to deliver coaching cues that work for all different types of customers. And those folks, you get to know, and learn who they are through lots of conversations with them, through lots of time on the floor, seeing them interact as members. The most difficult period, and I know a lot of affiliate owners will agree to this one, is when you get a member that you know is not a good people person tell you they’re getting their Level 1 and they would like to start coaching with you. And you literally have to have that conversation, that difficult conversation. I’ve had members leave us, quit, because we had to break the news to them that they couldn’t become a coach here. But that is so important to your community.

Sean: 21:59 – When you get someone, and not just someone who wants to be a coach, but just someone who comes in who might not be a cultural fit. How do you deal with that?

Craig: 22:09 – On the extreme level, we have a no-asshole rule, and if someone’s an asshole, we will ask them to leave the gym. And we’ve had to do that on a couple of occasions, in our long 12 years only, you know, once or twice has that happened. But on a lesser level, there is a time, a point in time where you have to have a conversation with your member that is disruptive to the community. Managing a CrossFit affiliate is not like managing, you know, a chain of fitness businesses or s studios or managing the car-parts shop that’s right next door that kills it next door to us. It’s a community of people that operate together to accomplish one goal, make everybody fit and make it a place where people want to come back to on a daily basis. And if you have that poison in the well, you are that cancer and that cancer, you have to deal with and you have to have that difficult conversation. And that usually filters all the way up to me. And that’s primarily because I’ve been in management and dealt with people and managed people for probably 30, 35 years. And so I know how to have those difficult conversations.

Sean: 23:39 – When an affiliate has been around as long as this affiliate has been,12 years, you just said, you’re clearly doing a lot more right than you are wrong. What do you think some of the things that you do right here are?

Craig: 23:53 – For us it’s we stick to our values, and I remember having conversations with some other long-term affiliate owners about this, is we stay true to our values. Our mission is, and everybody knows this is, is to make people fit beyond expectation. The only way we can make people fit beyond expectation is if they come and they come often. So they got to want to be here. And that really kind of is our operating principle for how we do everything. At Diablo, we make sure that this is a welcoming environment and people want to keep coming back. And we do that through really good programming. And so I’ve got, you know, Coach Jamie Lee, who’s been a Games athlete, not necessarily relevant to programming on a daily basis, but he’s just a damn good coach. He knows—every time you take a class with Jamie, every time he does—and I’m like, God, I gotta remember to do that. He asks everyone, how are you feeling? How are you feeling? Do you have any injuries? What’s going on with you? He connects really well. So he’s the guy that’s writing our programming. So what’s going on in this community is really important to him and how people progress in their fitness and are they avoiding injuries.

Craig: 25:02 – So one is really solid programming that makes people fitter, stay healthy, and then want to come tomorrow because it’s fun. The other part that we do is we we’re accommodating. One of the things I’ve said about Diablo, people go, wow, man, you’ve had lots of Games athletes, you’ve had teams at the Games many times. That’s awesome for us, but we thrive on the success of our daily members. But the reason why that happens is we create an environment where that can happen. I don’t necessarily think—it’s not necessarily our programming that’s made these athletes; half these athletes do their own programming or they may even do Invictus or Ben Bergeron’s programming. That used to bother me in the very beginning and then I realized this, I don’t need it. We don’t need to fulfill ourselves that way. What I want to do is create an environment where they can thrive, where they can come and they want to come here to do that. And that’s kind of an overriding principle with our business as well, is I want them to be able to come here. So that means I’ve got to have classes available to them when they need them. And then I also, one of the things we do here is we make available open gym. I’ve always carved out space in the gym. We’re lucky enough to have enough space that we can offer open gym all day and on the weekends. And then when class isn’t being taught in the main gym, I’ll make sure there’s open gym available there so that people can come here and do what they want to do on their schedule. Life in the Bay Area’s exceptionally busy. So people finding time in their schedules to come work out is really important and it might not be when classes happening. So open gym is an important characteristic as well.

Sean: 26:43 – Why do you think more gyms don’t have that kind of open-gym policy?

Craig: 26:48- Looking back on ourselves in the initial discussions with my management team about that, I think it’s a control thing, that they’re worried that they equipment’s gonna get used the wrong way. Equipment’s not going to be put back or you know, someone might break something or someone might walk off with something, or someone might do programming that’s different than what the class is doing. Those are natural fears. You think it might disrupt and take away from the community that’s out there. We have to spend a little bit extra effort to make sure that the folks that are coming into open gym are integrated within the regular community, and that’s actually easier than we thought it was going to be, they’re invited to all community events. They come for Memorial Day Murph and they do Memorial Day Murph, they come for Barbells for Boobs and they’re doing the workout with everybody else. They’re part of this community and they’re part of our community Facebook group. Including them and making em a part of it is huge. Those fears are unfounded. This gym—here’s the other thing we do, Sean, is we’re open on Saturdays and Sundays. When gyms tell me they’re closed on Sundays, I don’t get that. There’s tons of people that will trade for membership to be here and check people in. And there’s 16-year-old kids that would sit at your front desk and check people in for minimum wage to be open. Even if you don’t generate enough members, even if there’s only three or four members that will actually take it, that will come in and actually do it, saying that you are open on those hours has been a decisive factor for many people that have come in and purchased memberships from us, knowing that they have that availability, not necessarily that they’re going to come, but knowing that availability is, it’s just a significant factor and it’s a really easy thing for affiliates to do.

Sean: 28:49 – You mentioned that the competitors that you’ve had—I think right now, before these Games, it’s like 60. How have you been able to crank out that many high level athletes?

Craig: 29:01 – It’s again, we’ve created an environment where those athletes can thrive. And being early to the game helped us a lot, meaning, we were in and around this since 2008, in and around the competition world. And so it was part of what we did, it was part of our culture here. And you know, it’s kind of the friend of a friend. So when someone’s good and they tell someone else that they think might be good, hey, come train here. And I think that—and then here’s the other thing, is when you see Alessandra Pichelli or at the time Whitney Hughes or one of our other athletes do a workout, you know, there’s a certain amount of, OK, I might be able to do it close to that fast, and you get them training together, and every Saturday we get together, our competition group gets together and call it Rx-plus, and anyone’s invited. Anyone that, you know, wants to come in and jump in can, can jump in and we train together. And that environment itself helps raise the bar, it changes their perspective. They don’t think—what they see as being normal is way above what other people can do with CrossFit. But they perceive it as, “Oh, you know, I can do that too.” And I think that’s helped create that environment.

Sean: 30:23 – I’ve had people tell me that they’ve quit gyms because the gym focused too much on competitors. How do you avoid that here?

Craig: 30:31 – Yeah, and I’ve talked to other affiliate owners about this, too. It’s been an ebb and flow for us with respect to our community and their perception of whether we focus too much on competitors and not on competitors. It is a dynamic that is not for everybody. It’s not for every affiliate. It takes a lot of—there was times when it took a lot of emotional strength to get through those periods of times where the community thought you were spending too much time on competition, you’re too focused on competition. You can’t focus on the regular members. But it’s, again, it’s part of managing the community, and we got through it by including the community in the process. One of the things that we tell people is we’re going to make you fit and make you love CrossFit. And we’re also gonna make you fans of the sport of CrossFit, because this is a really cool sport. The competition side of this is one of my personal choices. It’s not necessarily a profitable part. As a matter of fact, it’s probably one of the more expensive parts of this business. But it’s one of the things that I really love. I just happen to love watching these guys compete. This is the first year we haven’t had a team competing at a Sanctional, which is a little bit of a relief from a time perspective and a financial perspective. But we’re looking forward to next year putting together a team that’s going to go to Sanctionals ’cause I just love—there’s nothing more thrilling than watching those guys compete on the floor. I’m looking forward to seeing our athletes go to the Games this year and competing. It’s exciting for me. I love the sport. I love the idea behind it and I’d like to make our members fans of that.

Craig: 32:12 – And what’s cool is that one of the things we tell them, Sean, and this has helped a lot, that the best way a member can understand who we are and the value of the competitors is when they travel to Ireland and they go to a gym and they’ve got a Diablo shirt on and someone recognizes, “You go to Diablo?” Like, yeah. And that’s a cool thing. And that brand recognition, name recognition—we run a great gym, but it’s not because of that, it’s because of those competitors, and what we’ve done at a competitive level has helped build our brand identity and I’m grateful for that and that helps keep this community together.

Sean: 32:53 – That’s a good segue into what I wanted to ask you next because you’ve been around for a while and you’ve seen a ton of changes in CrossFit and the sport and everything else. What do you think about the current shift towards health and not only just towards health, but really with a focus on sort of the elderly and the decrepit that’s kinda, that’s coming from CrossFit HQ?

Craig: 33:10 – I think it’s a bold initiative on CrossFit’s part and I think, I rarely hesitate to second—judge Greg Glassman cause the guy has an uncanny ability to be right with his stuff. He told us early on, you know, I want one affiliate owner per affiliate because I want someone invested in person. And he was so fricking right with that, because, you know, managing a community is different than running a franchise business. But likewise with this, I think he’s right from a perspective of this is absolutely something that can help that community of people. It will not happen overnight here. It will happen over time. Our community has responded favorably to it. Our general population; the blue liquid bottles aside and the old-style living room aside, what that’s doing for our community has been positive. And I’ve even actually—we got an email last week that said “do you guys have something for a 60-plus person who’s 30 pounds above his BMI and needs to start moving better?” And I’d like to think that that came as a result of this shift that CrossFit has in its marketing. It probably did, it was just an unusual email to come in and it was cool to be able to say, yeah, we do and we can handle that. I think the story will play out in two to three years on this one. It’s going to take two to three years before we start seeing a real impact. I support it. And the reason, here’s the other reason, the people that are coming into CrossFit, that came into CrossFit for the first five years of our existence were people that were extreme athletes that found this stuff through newspaper articles or through online articles, you know, like I did, looking for something that’s more aggressive and more extreme than other fitness programs. And they came into us and they found us and all of those people have now been found or have found CrossFit. Like all of those people out there—the next generation of athletes I think that are coming in are lesser experienced, less fit, don’t move as well, have more injuries, don’t know about fitness. We get more people now that come into our free class that aren’t doing anything. And then that’s always a little bit surprise for me and so I’m ready for this transition because we’re having to spend a lot more time training them. It’s a different coaching approach. And so CrossFit might have nailed this on the head with the kind of the way to train this type of athlete because that’s the type of athlete that we’re seeing now. All of the extreme guys have already found us.

Sean: 36:29 – Yeah. Your gym personally is very active on social media. And next thing I wanted to ask you about was the decision by CrossFit HQ to just purge the vast majority of their social media. What did you think about when you heard they were going to do that?

Craig: 36:44 – For me it was a shock because I enjoy seeing that stuff. And I’m a fan of the sport. So not seeing it on Instagram was a bit of a blow for me personally, but given the level of discussion that takes place on the posts that happen on a daily basis, I understand it. And then given the backstory behind it, especially as it surrounds the ability of Facebook/Instagram to essentially shut your business down on a whim based upon political sentiment or a particular government that doesn’t want your opinion or voice to be heard. That CrossFit essentially demonstrated that they’re going to take this into their own hands and not allow one of those entities to be able to control their voice. And I respect that as a business owner, I respect it—and I think what’s going to happen, you know, maybe not immediately, but personally I think what’s going to happen is that businesses like CrossFit are going to create their own social media outlets, their own forums, the old message boards. We got along just fine with the message boards. Has it affected my business? Not at all. Half my members, most of my members didn’t even notice. The people that noticed are the very vocal minority within the CrossFit world. And that includes the Games fans and Games athletes. Most of my community out here, they know the best names in CrossFit, they know the, you know, the Mat Frasers and the Annie Thorisdottirs and the Tia Toomey and the rest, but beyond that, they don’t know any of them. And that’s just, that’s just the nature of the sport. Obviously I want everybody to know, right. If you’re in one of my classes, by the way, you’re going to hear about it because I love telling the stories, but they weren’t impacted by it. And so if it doesn’t impact them, it doesn’t impact me.

Sean: 39:01 – Yeah. You left your job as an investment banker in 2014 so you could run this place full time. Why did you make that decision? Because that seems like you left a pretty lucrative business.

Craig: 39:12 – I did. This was finally at a point where I could walk away from the grind. And that’s what my job and the investment banking world had become, was you know, it was getting up at 4:00 a.m. n the office by, you know, 5:00 a.m., and then home at you know, four o’clock in the afternoon, five o’clock in the afternoon, and then traveling a lot. And I was passionate about this. We were at the point where the business was capable of paying an income for me and my family to pay our bills. It was just enough. And I had some saved up, that it made good sense. I’ll never retire. You know, I had decided that, you know, probably 20 years ago, I don’t know what I would do with myself. But being a part of this on a daily basis has been amazing. You know, Chris Cooper talks about it in his book is the, you want to develop your business to where it gives you more time. And that’s where this has gotten to. I love spending days here, I love walking around. I love training here. And then I also get to be at home with my daughter to help her with her homeschooling at the same time. And that’s what this business has gotten to. I can’t take random trips to Hawaii. I can’t fly to Europe on a whim. The stuff that I did back in the investment bank days, but that’s not what’s important to me. It’s not my why.

Sean: 40:45 – Final question is that you’ve been in business here almost 13 years. What are the next 13 years look like for you and Diablo CrossFit?

Craig: 40:56 – For us, you know, I set a goal a long time ago, and I hope I haven’t over spoken here, but I set a goal a long time ago of I wanted to make Diablo CrossFit the best CrossFit gym in the world. And it wasn’t the best gym in the world. It was the best CrossFit gym in the world, and for us, that how we got there has kind of changed along the way. At one point we thought we need to open up more Diablo CrossFits and you know, I think at one point we had four and we were helping manage another one, a fifth one down in Pleasanton. And I was spread so thin. I wasn’t engaged with customers. I wasn’t really enjoying it. It was a job. Since then we’ve come back to, I have a location. We recently sold our San Jose location to members down there and they’re passionately pursuing it. We’re here in this central location, and it’s been awesome. This business has thrived since we’ve divested ourselves of those other locations. And now I can focus on this community here and making this an amazing gym an amazing experience. And then what we do here, what I’d like to do is be able to take and share that with other affiliates around the world. We’ve got our programming that we do and we make that available through SugarWOD to other affiliates. We’ve got people signing up. It’s enough of a distraction that doesn’t take away from our primary business. One of the things that affiliate owners will learn, their bread and butter is their primary affiliate. Anything you do that’s outside of that, another affiliate, selling programming, doing corporate wellness. Anything else, all of that starts to take away a little bit from your main bread and butter. ‘Cause I’ve done it all. I’ve done corporate wellness. We’ve done them all. We’ve done all those programs and some of them have been great and very profitable, yet the better you get at those things, the more your primary bread and butter suffers. And that’s the nature of a CrossFit affiliate. We’re back and I’m focused on this, that primary affiliate, and it’s been going great. Our primary bread and butter and I’m enjoying it more. I’m spending more time with my family and I’m spending more time here in the gym training. My fitness is getting better and the only divergences, you know, is what I’m doing here. How can I help other people with what I’m doing here do the same thing at where they are.

Sean: 43:35 – Well Craig, best of luck, man. I really appreciate you having me out here, this is a fantastic facility and I’m 100% sure that you’re going to make this fantastic for the next, you know, 10, 12 years or however many years it takes.

Craig: 43:44 – That’s awesome. I’m looking forward to it.

Sean: 43:46 – Thanks a lot.

Craig: 43:46 – All right, Sean.

Sean: 43:48 – I want to thank Craig Howard one more time for letting me visit his gym and for taking the time to sit down with me and have a great conversation. If you want to follow Craig on Instagram, you can follow him @cshdiablo. And for more information on his affiliate, you can head to Two-Brain Radio with Sean Woodland is brought to you by Two-Brain Business. To learn more about creating your Perfect Day as an entrepreneur, book a free call with a mentor at Thanks again for listening, everybody. I’m Sean Woodland and I’ll see you next time.


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How The Best Advice Gets Better (And Why Bad Advice Sticks Around)

How The Best Advice Gets Better (And Why Bad Advice Sticks Around)

Two-Brain Business is the bestselling fitness business book in history. And some days, I think about pulling it off the shelves.


There are over 120 actionable steps you can take in that book. Dozens of people have told me “it saved my business!”. Thousands have read it, and then booked a free call with a Two-Brain certified mentor. Hundreds have leveled up in our mentorship program called the Incubator.


But there are three things I wish I could update in that book. Because the best advice evolves over time. Here’s how:


Gyms who seek mentorship from Two-Brain business are taught to track the metrics that matter. This helps gym owners see what’s working, and what’s not. Then they can make changes and grow, or double down on the things getting them results. And sometimes, their results are better than mine ever were.




When one gym owner raised her rates without losing a single client, we tested her strategy in a few other gyms. The results–measured by data–were amazing, and so we replaced my strategy with hers. A few months later, when another gym owner made one small change that improved his retention–measured by data–we upgraded again.


In fact, if you went through the Incubator four years ago, and went through it again now, you’d probably see a LOT of difference. That’s because the best advice evolves.


But if you’re not tracking success, it can’t evolve. Because without data, everything is a guess.


It’s pretty hard for a new idea to make the cut into the Two-Brain Incubator now. That’s because the actions we take in the Incubator are time-tested and proven. But we’re always looking at the outliers. For example, one gym owner just finished the Incubator with an ARM of $495 (that’s an average client revenue of $495 per month). Another gym owner just sold $50,000 in personal training in one month. Are these sustainable? Are they good ideas? We’ll soon find out, because we’ll be testing and tracking. And if they turn out to be better than what we currently teach, then we’ll share them with every gym owner in the Two-Brain family.


The filter here is data. Great ideas must prove themselves. But when they do, we upgrade what we teach. Seth Godin calls it the Ratchet Effect. And data is the fulcrum that only lets the ratchet move forward.


Without this solid foundation of numbers, gym owners are building on shifting sand.


But bad ideas stick around because they’re attached to sticky stories.


“My gym has 250 members” is a sticky story because it sounds like success. But many gyms–even some with 500 members–aren’t profitable enough to pay their owners.


“Just care about people and you’ll grow” is a sticky story because it lets gym owners off the hook for doing the hard stuff they don’t like (sales, bookkeeping and tough conversations.) But being a good coach doesn’t make you a good–or a bad–business owner. They’re different.


“That’s not how we did it in 2005” is still accepted as a good reason to do something, because nostalgia is the stickiest story of all.


“A lie gets halfway around the world before truth puts on its boots.” Winston Churchill is credited with that heuristic, but it’s been around since at least 1787. We want to believe Churchill said it, because we love Churchill quotes. And it’s okay to believe sticky stories–at least until people are counting on you to be right. When being right affects other people’s money, you should stick with data instead of myths.