Ben Bergeron: The Simple Solve for Team Accountability

A photo of Ben Bergeron and the title "Ben Bergeron on Team Accountability."

Mike Warkentin (00:02):
You are going to need a team to grow your business. So how do you keep team members on track, and how do you tell them their performance isn’t up to standards? Ben Bergeron has the answer in this special episode of “Run a Profitable Gym,” recorded live at the Two-Brain Summit in Chicago on June 9th. Tickets for the 2025 Summit are on sale now. Click the link in the show notes. Now, here’s Ben Bergeron with “The Simple Solve for Team Accountability.”

Ben Bergeron (00:23):
It’s an honor to be here. It’s inspiring to be around so many people who are here to learn, grow, and evolve. It’s a thing that I hold one of the closest to my values and my principles is this continual growth and evolution and always trying to be better. So, the fact that I’m surrounded by a thousand other like-minded people is incredible. So, thank you guys for allowing me to be up here. This is something I don’t take lightly, and I’m excited to share with you guys my journey and the lessons that I’ve pulled out of it because I’ve certainly made more mistakes than most of you have. So, rewind about 20ish years, I’m in my mid-twenties, and I’m living and working in Boston. I am working in the financial district, and I live in Boston’s North End. It’s a great place to live, especially in your twenties.

Ben Bergeron (01:17):
You’re on the waterfront. You’re surrounded by restaurants and bars and parks. I’m only a 10-minute walk from work, which is in State Street Bank. I’m on the 11th floor. I’m working for the Foreign Exchange Trading Division. So, I’m supporting the traders who are moving money around the world, and one Tuesday morning I’m walking to work. It’s a day just like today. It’s sunny, it’s warm, but it’s not hot. It’s amazing. The fact that you can wake up and walk to work is such a privilege in itself, and being in a beautiful city and walking to a job that is kind of what I thought I was going to be doing for a long time. I went to school and did business in school, got out and got a job in finance. And when I got to my desk, this was way back when, and I was sitting at my desk early, I worked foreign exchange trading, so there was no off time.

Ben Bergeron (02:13):
The markets around the world are always going, and I get there about 7:30, and about an hour into work I’m listening to—before Howard Stern was on America’s Got Talent, he had his own show—I’m listening to Howard Stern of all things, which was just so weird, and I hear on “The Howard Stern Show” that the World Trade Center is on fire. And it was weird, but it wasn’t what we now know it to be, and they continued to do the little jokes, but it was tempered, and there was a lot of confusion. They were trying to figure out what it was. Then there was another report that it was because of plane fluid, and they were trying to figure out: Was it a drunk pilot? What was it? Was it one of those little private planes?

Ben Bergeron (02:59):
And then they hear that it was a jumbo jet, and they are able to look out their own—they’re in New York City—look out their own and look at it, and now it’s like, they’re like, “Oh my god, you can see the smoke piling out.” So, I get up and walk to the trading floor where the TVs are, and as I am watching it, we see the second plane hit and the voice across the room said, “We’re under attack.” And somebody else said, “We’re at war.” The next few moments after that, if you guys remember this, if you guys are close to my age, we’re all in the same boat. That day changed everything. It changed the way we view the world, changed the way we thought about good and evil, changed the way we travel. But over the course of the next two hours, two more planes went down, and two buildings collapsed.

Ben Bergeron (03:57):
And by the end of those two hours—that all happened from 8:17 in the morning until about 10:30—I knew that what I was doing was not what I wanted to be doing. Living in Boston, walking to work, even on a beautiful sunny day, to go up to the 11th floor and sit at a desk and push money around on a computer was not the thing that was going to fulfill me. I didn’t know what that thing was going to be, but I knew it was something more than that. And I knew I wanted to have impact in some way on a human level, not with zeroes and ones, not with pushing and trading euros and yen. It had to be something more, it had to have impact, and I was not going to allow myself another moment of that stagnation, another moment of the rat in the wheel, another moment of ants marching.

Ben Bergeron (04:49):
So I didn’t know what I wanted to do, so I took the time to move out to Wyoming and live in the monks of nothingness for a year. I had a lot of different thoughts come through my mind: I should join the military; I should become a firefighter. I was so inspired by the heroic acts of that day, that week and the months that followed. But I actually felt like I could have the strongest impact if I helped people become healthier and happier themselves. I’ve always had this weird inside of me thing that I want to help other people try and find their purpose, their passion, the thing that sets them on fire. So, I was the weird kid that could talk about glycemic load and index way back in the 1990s. So, I eventually decided to become a trainer, and I just worked with people in their homes.

Ben Bergeron (05:41):
I started a business where I moved back to Boston, and I would go from one suburban home to another to another, and business was good. I had a wait list, but it was also very lonely. I was the only person, I was the only person doing my job, and I would basically be with a client in my car to a client in my car with a client until the day ended. So, I wanted some other connection. I wanted coworkers. So, I got a job at a Boston sports club and became a trainer there. Built my business up there to where I had a wait list again, didn’t quite still feel fully fulfilled and knew that there was something more. So, I thought, “I’ll get my CSES and become a strength and conditioning coach.” Started working with high school kids, did that for a couple years, always all the time trying to get more knowledge, more understanding, trying to look for the next greatest, best thing.

Ben Bergeron (06:36):
And I didn’t know what I was searching for until I found CrossFit. I know probably half of us here are CrossFitters, half of us aren’t. This isn’t here to sell you on CrossFit, but when I found that, I found something I didn’t even know I was looking for: the methodology, the community, the programming, Greg Glassman’s amazing ability to distill these really complex theories into really digestible bits. And when I found that, I knew overnight—I can remember where I was. I was living by myself in apartment on the third floor, and I would just search all night long looking for the next thing. So, I was a part of forums and mail lists and all these different communities, and someone was like, “Hey, I found this thing,” so I went there and checked it, and I stayed up the entire night, even though like clients, just digesting and seeing this stuff.

Ben Bergeron (07:31):
The very next morning, I put my clients through the Filthy Fifty workout, just like let’s fucking go. I was doing all of the stuff that they were doing but just on a really bad level. I knew I wanted to like leaderboard and measure. I knew I wanted to do these things, but I would have my clients at the globo gym do 10 minutes on those folding stair things, and I had a clipboard, and I’d be like, “You got X number of stairs. Jim who did it this morning, got this many.” I was doing the thing but never at a level of virtuosity that Glassman was doing. And when I found that, man, it just spoke to my heart. I knew then I had found my thing. I knew then I was going to do the thing I was going to do the rest of my life.

Ben Bergeron (08:15):
Within a year, I got certified. Within a year, I opened up my own gym. Very early on, I was drawn to the competitive aspect of CrossFit because I was coming out of trying to qualify for the IRONMAN World Championships. I had done two IRONMANs, done OK in them, and I thought, “That’s the pinnacle of athletic achievement because it’s three sports. If you can swim, bike and run, there’s nothing more fit that you can do.” But I knew that there was something more because I also wanted to be strong. I also wanted to be explosive. So that’s what drew me to CrossFit, and I saw Jason Khalifa win the Games. I was like, “That’s the thing. That’s the thing I want to be a part of.” I didn’t do another triathlon after that until I was training my team years later, and we did it for training purposes, but I didn’t do another one after that.

Ben Bergeron (09:05):
Instead I threw my hat into the ring of building athletes, coaching athletes, and myself trying to train for that sport. We had a lot of early success. I had the ability—my wife was a top 10 individual athlete. From that, we also did really well on the team side of things. That provided me a lot of opportunities. I believe—I don’t know this but I was one of the first remote coaches, wasn’t even coaches in the space, but Chris Spealler hired me to be his coach. We were both on the Level 1 seminar staff. I became Chris Spealler’s coach and then Becca Voigt’s and got a lot of opportunities to work with these really high-level athletes. All the while, my business is starting to off. I go from 40 or 50 clients to 50 or 60, little while later, six months, we’re at the 150 mark.

Ben Bergeron (09:58):
Within a year or so, we’re about 300; within two years, we’re at 400. As we go through this, and with the competitive drive, with also the focus on community, it was our two biggest things. Let’s compete; let’s build community. The gym has a lot of opportunities, so we hire a bunch of coaches. We hire a bunch of coaches who are phenomenal, amazing human beings. At one time we had six red shirts, six people on the Level 1 seminar staff who were part of our community. These are the best of the best coaches. They’re the coaches who train other coaches. We are hosting Level 1 seminar staffs. I’m doing business seminars. We have teams that are winning the CrossFit Games. I have top 10 athletes, and the gym is exploding like this. There is so much from the outside to look and point at and go, “Wow, that’s awesome.” From the inside, I am dying a slow death.

Ben Bergeron (11:01):
All of that success—and even though I was following my greatest passion, it’s the two big things. I’m doing what I’m set out to do. I’m doing what sets my heart on fire. I love work, hate school. I love to work especially when I enjoy and I feel purpose behind it. So even though I’m doing this thing, I love, that I feel like I was put on earth to do, and even though we are having all this success: million-dollar business, coaches making 100K, we haven’t had a coach leave in four years, we have nine full-time employees. Inside myself—and I wasn’t a good enough leader; I wasn’t vulnerable enough at the time to express this to anyone, including my wife—I’m dying. I don’t know what I’m doing, so I’m doing everything. I have nine people on staff, but no one is doing anything other than coaching a class or two a day.

Ben Bergeron (12:12):
It looks like the business is a well-oiled machine, but it’s not. It’s a facade. So that slow, painful, agonizing quiet secret was kept until about the time, 2015ish, when I started working with Katrín Davíðsdóttir, and we won the CrossFit Games. Between that and then working the next year with Katrin and Matt, and they both won the individual side, I started to really learn and understand more about coaching, about leadership, and what I needed to do to make a change. And I was so enamored with these high-level coaches, and everyone said to a T, “You’re going to go as far as fast as your team.” And I realized I didn’t have a healthy team. I had a team of incredible coaches and incredible athletes, and we had an incredible community. We would do events, and we would have 150 people from the gym at these events, no matter what it was:

Ben Bergeron (13:26):
Let’s go to an apple orchard, let’s go to Boston, let’s go have a Halloween throw down. The community rallied around everything. We got into charities. We built six different homeless shelters, a place basis in homeless shelters in our community. We built two schools in Africa. Right now on the outside of the schools, it says, “CrossFit New England,” on the outside of those schools. Like we were doing amazing stuff. But myself, I was experiencing entrepreneurial regret. I had gotten to this place where I thought we were all supposed to try to get to, and what I realized is it is not about that. We are not supposed to be searching for the million dollars, the 400 members winning the CrossFit Games or any of those things. What we all want—this is what we all want as human beings.

Ben Bergeron (14:29):
I’m going to take a stab at this—and with enough soul searching and pulling back, you might agree, or you might disagree—I believe that what we are all searching for is peace of mind. It’s what we want. It’s why most of us got into this business because it feels good when you do good things for other people. It feels good when you have the freedom to do things your way, be an entrepreneur. It feels good to be in front of a group of 15 people and leading them through a class of rowing burpees and thrusters. It feels good to be excited to go to work every single day. And those feel-good moments are the moments that we have peace of mind. That chattery voice in our head that we all have—we all have it all the time—that just when it gets a little bit quieter, that’s a feeling of love. It’s a feeling of a flow state. It’s a feeling of doing your passion. And although I was doing my passion, that chatter was louder than it ever has been. I’ve since experienced it two more times. One of those times was COVID.

Ben Bergeron (15:41):
But that was when it was the loudest. Before I was doing a thing, I loved going to work, and then I started to dread and regret it. Here I am doing this thing I love the most, and my realization was even though I have this amazing team, these team of my best friends, I’m in their weddings, our coaches are getting married, and they’re the best coaches I could possibly ever have. I was in full-blown entrepreneurial regret. So, 2016 I took all of my coaches during one of our coaches’ meetings and brought them—because again it was a, we had these beautiful days for kind of these pivotal moments—again, it was a beautiful day in New England, and we rarely do this, but we did our coaches meeting. We do a once-a-week coaches meeting; it’s a full staff meeting, and we pulled them outside, and we rarely do this. So, this is now known as “the picnic table talk.” Brought them up to the picnic tables outside, and I started our meeting with something very different than I had done in the past. Usually, we start off with call outs, meaning like let’s share some cool things that we saw from the past week, then we go through the events of the week that are upcoming, we go through some of the numbers.

Ben Bergeron (17:05):
Instead I sat all the coaches down, I looked at all of them in the eye, paused intentionally and said, “I think in a year from now, we’re going to be surprised how few of us at this table are still here. Not your fault. Totally my fault. I haven’t led you guys, I haven’t shared with you guys the vision of what it is we’re trying to create, and I haven’t held anyone accountable for the way that we’re going to get to that vision. This is not your fault, completely on me, but things are going to change, and I understand if it’s not something you want to be a part of because it’s not something you signed up for. So, if you want to leave between now and then, I totally get it.” Between then and a year later, we only had one full-time and one part-time coach still on staff. Everyone else did leave. I fired one of them, so of the nine, six left on their own, I let go of one and two stayed. What I realized was I didn’t want just a 400-member gym. I didn’t want just a million dollars in revenue. I didn’t want to just win the CrossFit Games. I wanted to come to work every single day having peace of mind. And the thing that when I pulled back a few dominoes back, what did I think was the thing that was going to get me there the most? It was having a healthy team.

Ben Bergeron (18:42):
Now health is something that we are very, very comfortable with. We’re very, very knowledgeable about. There are a few different things that go into health, but if you train right, if you eat right and you sleep right, you’re going to be fairly healthy. That’s how simple health is. There’s other things, and we can dial down into the strategies and the tactics for all of them. But that’s the three pillars. That’s the three pillars of personal human health. It’s that simple for team health: It’s your culture, it’s the vision and it’s accountability. That’s what team health comes down to. Now accountability is the one that really puts it all together, but you can’t have accountability without the other two. And I’ve tried it. I did try to do this the other way. During COVID, our business was completely reshaped, and I stepped away from the business, the gym business, completely for a while and put it in the hands of somebody else. When I came back into the business, we just tried to do accountability, and it did not work. When I came back into the business, we had to start from the beginning, and the beginning is your culture. And now if you hear this at this point, you go, “That’s a really big, long story Ben, to get to this eye roll moment of culture. We’re going to talk culture? That’s like so soft, so fuzzy.” It is soft and fuzzy until you put it into action.

Ben Bergeron (20:26):
“Culture will eat strategy for breakfast.” Peter Drucker, father of modern-day management. It’s so true, meaning that great culture will outperform great strategy every single day, and bad culture will override and pull down any good strategy. You won’t be able to execute on it. So, when you think about culture, you start with what is important to you. And what I had done in the past was I wasn’t intentional enough, I wasn’t aware enough of what those things were, so I allowed it to be anything that kind of the momentum took us towards, which was competition and community. And that was one of those things that drove me off the path of what I wanted to do. But we were so intentional about it. We had multiple teams going to regionals every year. I was coaching a half dozen individual Games athletes. We had masters athletes all over the place. We had an incredible community, but it didn’t lead me to where I want to be because culture’s like a garden or a jungle: It’s going to grow, and unless you cultivate it with your actions, it’s going to grow into something that maybe you don’t want.

Ben Bergeron (21:43):
So how do we do that intentionally? It starts with understanding what’s most important to you. You the entrepreneur, you the business owner. So, what is that thing to you? For me, it was the health of a team. For me, and this doesn’t—this is not a talk. I’m not up here to tell you what your values are. I’ve had a couple conversations around outside in the halls, and I keep coming back to that. Your values are your values. For me, those values were: I want to be a part of a high performing team. That’s when I feel my best. So, I need to understand what that looks like. What makes up a great team? Fairly obvious, great team players. What are the characteristics of great team players? To me, humility, hunger and happiness. Those are the three driving factors. Those are people I want to surround myself with. Humility: It’s not about me, it’s not about my wins, it’s about the team. People who think, “If not me, then who?” People who are open-minded and looking for feedback. That’s what humble people do. Hunger: People with work ethic, drive, pursuit of excellence. People who would rather be at work than not. People who don’t need to be micromanaged.

Ben Bergeron (23:06):
Happy: We have bracelets that we all wear—some people in this room have them on now—that say, “Never whine, never complain, never make excuses.”

Ben Bergeron (23:17):
Happy: Don’t complain, don’t gossip, don’t whine. Glass is half full. It’s a beautiful day outside. I don’t want to be surrounded by toxicity or drama or anything else. Do you lift people up, or do you pull them down? Are you a fountain or a drain? Binary: one or the other. So now that we have that framework in place of what it means to be a great team player on a great team, if we do nothing more than put it on posters, put it on coffee mugs and hang a poster in the gym, we have done nothing.

Ben Bergeron (23:53):
In fact, if that’s where you leave it, you’ve done yourself a huge disservice because your actions might be contradictory to that, and there goes your worth; there goes your integrity. The key to culture is to create it, to do it in action all the time. To me, this starts with the hiring process. When I came back in after COVID and my gym had gone, people have been hired for this without me in it—I’m in the process right now of redoing this; I’m essentially redoing the hiring process with people who have been on our team for 18 months. Because if you don’t do it on day one, it’s like an old dog, new tricks. It’s way harder to do it this way, which is basically where you guys are if you’re going to follow through with this.

Ben Bergeron (24:44):
But it’s hard, and it takes incredible intentionality. And what that means is during the hiring process, we essentially try to scare them away with our values. And what ends up happening is people who aren’t humble, hungry and happy will see themselves out of the candidacy process. But people who are go, “Yes, this is the thing I’ve been looking for. This is the thing I want to be a part of.” And the way we do that is one of my roles as the owner during that process is to give what we call a “core values speech.” And I tell them straight up, after all the pleasantries, and we find out about them and what they’ve done in the past and why they want to work here, I let them know what working here is going to look like. I tell them that we are looking for team players, and for us a team player is somebody who’s humble, hungry and happy.

Ben Bergeron (25:45):
What do I mean by humble? Mostly, I mean that you’re looking to grow, growth-minded, open-minded, that you’re looking for feedback, that you don’t have all the answers, and you’re here because you want to learn, grow and evolve every single day. For the first two months, 60 days, for the first two months after every class you coach, I’m going to sit with you for about 20 minutes giving you feedback on things that you could have done better. I’m not going to criticism sandwich it; I’m not going to make it soft. I’m going to give you ways to be better. This is what high performance coaching looks like. If you were to go watch the Yukon basketball, if you were to go watch the—I used to always say the New England Patriots, and I can’t say that anymore—if you were to go watch the Florida Panthers, if you were to watch high-level sports, the coach gives feedback.

Ben Bergeron (26:44):
The coach is there to show the gap between where people are and where he expects them to be. That’s my job as your coach here. If that’s going to be uncomfortable for you, I get it. That’s not for everybody. If you’re here because you want to work at CrossFit New England and maybe you can learn something, that’s not enough. You’ve got to be humble enough to want it all the time and know that it’s not about you looking good; it’s about you wanting to be good. It’s not about your ego or your identity; it’s about the growth, your growth as a coach. And if this isn’t going to be comfortable for you, I get that. I understand it. I totally get it. It’s not for everybody. What we mean by hunger is—again, this is the talk I’m giving somebody during the hiring process—is we’re hiring people that would rather be at work than not.

Ben Bergeron (27:41):
We’re not hiring people who are looking at the clock. No one here says TGIF, thank God it’s Friday. No one’s like, “Oh, just waiting for the weekend.” No one goes, “Oh Monday.” Everyone loves being here. And if we have an event on Saturday, without us even asking, just so you know, all of our staff is going to be here probably till eight or nine or 10 o’clock at night the night before just because they’re here to make sure everything’s right. If you are not here, that’s going to be weird. And I don’t want this to be weird for you, but if you’re a person who you want to work, you love work, this is going to be, this will be phenomenal. In terms of the happy part, if you are a person who sort of like gets off on complaining—I saw this thing with Seinfeld recently on “The Tonight Show,” and he’s like, “I just like to complain.”

Ben Bergeron (28:37):
“If you get my act, my act is just me complaining. That’s it.” I just like—that’s not us at all. Never wine, never complain, never make excuses. If you are that type of person, doesn’t make you a bad person, Jerry Seinfeld’s not a bad person, you’re just going to stick out like a sore thumb. It’s going to be uncomfortable when we are constantly snapping this in front of you to create awareness that you are hurting us with your complaints. This is what it looks like when you start to actualize the values. First step one to actualize your values, to actually create culture, is in the hiring process. Then in the onboarding process, hunger. For us, hunger is you want to learn, grow, you do the work. We have people in the hiring process read three books during the hiring process. Now they’re short, and they’re super fast, but we have them read three books.

Ben Bergeron (29:32):
If they don’t read those three books—we’re here to, this is our method of learning. This is our method of growing. We believe in reading. You can audiobook, that’s fine, but if that’s not something you’re going to be interested in following through with, this probably isn’t going to be the place for you. Can you create the culture? Not with posters, not with stickers, not with saying it, but over and over and over again bring it to life. The way we start every single one of our team meetings, everyone goes around the room and does a core value shout out of something they saw from our staff in the last seven days. There was a representation of humility, hunger or happiness, and we’re trying to bring it what you look for. You see more of: What else can we do to bring this thing to life? The bracelets and everything else.

Ben Bergeron (30:21):
We are constantly reading the new book about this. We just read—there’s a talk, next door I think it was, on “Unreasonable Hospitality.” That’s a book we just read. So, we’re constantly reinforcing this, reinforcing this, reinforcing this. The culture will eat strategy for breakfast. You want to make sure your culture is strong. It’s not just “what grows.” Be intentional with it. The next one out of that when we get culture is your vision. Before we get to accountability, we need vision. It’s got to be a shared vision. And again, I tried to do this the other way as well. It doesn’t work unless you go culture, vision, then accountability. For vision, it’s: What are we trying to create? What is this thing? And the simple part of that is if you have a leadership team and you haven’t done this work, and you guys aren’t dialed in, dialed in on what it is you’re trying to create, it’s essentially you have an eight-man boat, and everyone’s rowing just a quarter of a second off.

Ben Bergeron (31:27):
Everyone’s working their tails off, everyone is a super high performer. But if in that eight-man boat, everyone’s rolling a quarter of a second off, you have no shot. There is no shot. It is more about precision than it’s about strength or speed. You need precision on where you’re going. That comes down to, first, the really detailed: In three years, what’s this business going to look like? Are you going to still have one location, or are you going to have five locations? Is this going to be trying to drive towards 500 members, or are you going to cap it at 150? Are you going to have 10 people on staff or two people on staff? Is this going to be about driving revenue or driving service? None of these are binary. It’s not one or the other and you can’t have others. But what we want to do is create it as simple as a bullet point list of 25 things of: What’s this going to look like?

Ben Bergeron (32:29):
“We’re going to have one location. We’ll be running 12 classes a day. Average class size will be 18 people. We will have nine people on staff. Four of them will be part-timers. We will have a kids’ program, both elementary, middle school and high school. We will have a front desk with smoothies. We will do outsourcing to other partnerships.” If we don’t have this dialed in and shared amongst the entire staff, they don’t know where you’re going. We live with this vision in our heads at all times: in the car, in the shower, when we’re answering emails. We have this thing that we’re trying to build and create. We sort of assume that other people are along for the ride. They are not. We need to get it out of our heads, and this is your job as the entrepreneur, as the leader, as the owner, as the founder.

Ben Bergeron (33:21):
It is your job. You are the visionary. Your job is to share the vision. In fact, it’s your most important job. Culture and vision. This is what the founder does: culture and vision. Culture and vision. In the EOS model, the entrepreneurial operating system, a phenomenal model to help run small businesses, there are actually two people that run the business. There is the visionary, and the visionary’s job is to create the vision and create culture and big partnerships, big problems and nothing else. These are the passionate founders. They’re the people who like to take businesses from zero to one. Underneath the visionary, there’s an integrator, essentially a COO, a person who brings the vision to life.

Ben Bergeron (34:18):
Your job as the entrepreneur is to ensure that there is crystal clarity around that vision. And you work up from: What’s this going to look like in three years? By the way, those aren’t goals. You’re not creating goals because at the end of this year, you’re going to redo it. It’s this constantly moving target that you’re having other people chase towards, and things change. The economy changes, your opportunities change, your business changes. So, we want to constantly be reshaping this and sharing it. From that three-year picture for vision, we also want to understand: Who is our target market? Who are we serving? What is our go-to-market strategy, if you have one, or marketing strategy in general. And then on top of that, you want to have, and this is another eye-roll moment, business jargon, a mission statement, but some powerful thing that’s going to guide the directions of decisions in your business.

Ben Bergeron (35:14):
And every word should matter in it. It should be memorable. Not something that someone has to look up, and it certainly shouldn’t be five or six sentences long. I went to—yeah, I’ll pass on that. I was going to—here’s ours. We are creating a family of humble, hungry, happy people who kick ass into our nineties. Once you understand that, and once you understand what each one of those words means, you know where the business is going. Now, it’s very different than just having that nice kind of snazzy tagline: building a family. Everyone has different definitions of family. What does family mean to us? It’s an acronym: forget about me, I love you. Forget about me, I love you. Now what is love? Love is something different for everybody. Love for us is when you do something for someone else not looking for anything else in return.

Ben Bergeron (36:19):
So what are we trying to create? A group of people who care about each other to the point where they’re looking for ways to do things for other people, not looking for anything in return. That’s what we’re trying to create. That group of people. How do we want those people to act beyond caring in a family? We want them to be humble, hungry and happy. We want them to be humble. We want them to be here to learn. It’s not about me; it’s about the greater thing. We want them to be—no shortcuts. Work for it. Drive, pursuit of excellence. And happy: no complaining, no gossip. We’ve fired clients for gossip. This is when you know how to make decisions. Creating a family of humble, hungry, happy people gives you decision points. We no longer have any competitors in our gym. Zero competitors in our gym because that’s not what we’re trying to do.

Ben Bergeron (37:11):
It makes the decision point easy. When someone comes in and says, “I’d like to—you guys have bumper plates? You know, I don’t really, I’m not into taking classes, but I’d love to work on my Olympic lifting in the back.” We have a huge back room. “Is it OK if I do that?” The answer is really clear. The answer is no because they’re not here to grow with us, learn with us, or be a part of us. They’re not going to be a part of our family. It makes the decision points really, really easy when each one of those words means something. What does kicking ass in your nineties mean? It means that you can kick ass in your nineties. How are we going to get there? By how you eat, sleep, train, think, and connect. We have a prescription for that. Now we know exactly what it is we’re trying to deliver to each one of our members.

Ben Bergeron (37:55):
Now we have a vision, a mission, a marketing strategy, and what is this going to look like in three years. Now that you’ve established your culture, now that you have this vision, now you’re ready to put it into practice. Now you’re ready to put it into place. Now you’re ready to hold people accountable to making that thing go. It’s the hardest one. It’s actually the hardest one of all of them, and it’s the one that I fell prey to missing for a very long time. I was affiliated in 2007. I didn’t have that picnic table talk until 2016—nine years before I felt comfortable going, “This is how we’re going to do things,” because I wanted people to like me, and the people who were working with me were my best friends, and I felt really weird telling my best friends what to do.

Ben Bergeron (38:48):
Said in another way, I was a very poor leader. That’s what that means. If you have a hard time holding people accountable to your standards of excellence and having them understand what those are, you are a bad leader. That was me. That was a hard pill, and it’s something I’m still trying to work on to this day. I’m not done. I’m not there. Everyone’s a work in progress. I have at least a little bit more awareness of what a leader is supposed to do beyond just make it an exciting work environment that people feel well compensated for and no one wants to leave. That was not it at all. When you create accountability, it comes down to really two things. It is ambiguity, or I should say, the reason that accountability doesn’t happen is because of two things: ambiguity and fear of rocking the boat.

Ben Bergeron (39:51):
In terms of ambiguity, the way we get past that is by clarifying exactly what we want and we expect, and we don’t do it—we co-create this with them. If you have someone on your staff, they should know exactly what their 90-day quarterly objectives are. What is the primary thing that they’re responsible for? The singular thing. What is the one thing that they’re primarily responsible for in the next 90 days? Is it instilling a new onboarding process? Is it a new marketing campaign? Is it raising prices? Is it hiring a new staff member? Is it getting a kids program up and going? What are their responsibilities in the next 90 days? From there, together, you build out exactly what those strategies are and the tactics to achieve each one of those strategies. It goes: objectives with a KPI. What is the objective? What is the key performance indicator that we can say a numerical figure that we can say, “Yes, you did this, or no, you did not.”

Ben Bergeron (40:55):
Then from there, what are the strategies, one, two, or three strategies, we’re going to use to achieve that? And then what are the tactics used to achieve each strategy? Every single week we’re going to have a meeting with that person. This is how accountability happens, beyond job descriptions and checklists. What we’re going to do is every single week we’re going to have a meeting with that person and ask them, “Are you on track?” It’s a simple yes or no question. There doesn’t need anything beyond that. “Are you on track to hit your quarterly objective? Yes, or no?” We’re going to do that—there’s 12 weeks in a month—we’re going to do that every single week. We’re going to get either 12 yeses, 12 no’s or something in between. If it’s a yes, cool; if it’s a no, this becomes our top priority for that meeting. What can we do to get you back on track?

Ben Bergeron (41:48):
What are your blockers? What can I do to help you? That’s what the job of a leader and a manager is to do is to find out why somebody is having trouble achieving their objectives and to help them, to unblock things, to give them more resources. That’s what we’re doing. Then from there we go, “Are you on track for your quarterly objective? Yes, or no?” If it is no, we move on. If it’s yes, we pause, “What are you blocked on?” If the answer is no, then it’s, “Great. Let’s review what we together decided you were going to accomplish last week. You had weekly to-dos,” which I’m going to get to. “We had weekly to-dos. You had these four weekly to-dos. Did you accomplish those four weekly to-dos? Yes, or no?” If they say yes, cool. You don’t need 100% percent on this. 80 percent’s good.

Ben Bergeron (42:42):
If it’s 100% percent all the time, you might not be tasking them with enough; they might be overworked. 80% for to-dos are good. Then from there, the remaining part of the discussion of that meeting is “What else is on your mind? What issues are coming up? What opportunities do you see? What are you unclear about? What can I help you with?” And then finally, “What are your top priorities for this next week?” So, a weekly meeting goes really—this is accountability. This solves the ambiguity part of a weekly meeting. It’s as simple as, “Are you on track for your quarterly rock? Yes, or no?” “Let’s go through last week’s to-dos. What’d you do last week? Cool. What’s on your mind? What’s your top priority for next week?” Those then become the next week’s to-dos. Bye-bye, ambiguity. That’s it.

Ben Bergeron (43:37):
Every week you’re tracking. If every week they’re tracking and they are on track for their quarterly rocks, you’re getting big stuff done every 90, every seven days, you’re getting stuff done. Two or three things, to-dos, every seven days. Two or three things done every seven days. Two or three things done stemming up to a big thing every quarter. Now you have a healthy team. This is what health looks like. What we were looking for, remember, was peace of mind. You know what the thing that eats us up, you know the thing that causes drama in your organization? You know the thing that causes toxicity is when you go, “Why the hell isn’t she doing that? Like I talked to them. Why aren’t they doing it?” This is the thing that eats us up. This is the thing that ate me up for nine years.

Ben Bergeron (44:24):
The second part of accountability is the thing I fell into as well, which is you just don’t want to rock the boat, and strangely enough, the closer you are with people, the harder this one becomes. When you are really good friends with the people you work with and someone’s not doing their job, it becomes so much harder to lean into that hard conversation. We can’t fall for that trap. As leaders, as coaches, this is our job. This is what we do every day with our members. Every day with our members, they walk in, we don’t assume that they know the best way to get themselves healthy. They’re coming to you for that purpose, for that reason. It’s our job to show them where they are, where they want to be, highlight the gap and say, “This is what we need to focus on.”

Ben Bergeron (45:21):
That’s the job of a coach. It’s the same thing for us as leaders. It is our job to say, “This was our shared expectation. We created this objective and these strategies together. We built this. We’re not there. You are not fulfilling the expectations that we set together. This is what every high performing organization in the world does. If we want to run a high performing organization, it is our role, it is our responsibility, to show that gap and show when people are not meeting our expectations. When we do anything otherwise, we’re actually being so cruel. That’s the meanest thing that we can do. Remember that clear is kind. You would do it with your kids. If your kids were not acting, were not performing, up to your expectations, whatever that might be, manners, school behavior, you would call it out. You would do it with your dog.

Ben Bergeron (46:35):
If your dog isn’t supposed to be on the couch and they’re on the couch, you call it out. For some reason, we have this inherent fear of entering the danger with our coworkers. We have to be brave enough, we have to be leaders, to step into that danger and call it out. If we are able to do that, we remove the ambiguity. If we have this crystal clarity in terms of what people should be working on every 90 days and every week, and we’re tracking it every seven days, and we’ve built out the vision and the culture of excellence that we all want to lean into, well then, we have the businesses that we all set out to create. Then we have the peace of mind. Then we’re following our passions, and then we’re doing what we truly set out to do. Thank you guys.

Mike Warkentin (47:28):
That was Ben Bergeron on “Run a Profitable Gym.” To join us in Chicago for the 2025 Two-Brain Summit, click the link in the show notes. Tickets are on sale now.

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