by Ken Andrukow, Two-Brain Mentor
My career as a coach and gym owner started because I was successful at developing long-term relationships. The simple definition of relationship is “the way in which two or more people, groups, countries, etc., talk to, behave toward, and deal with each other.”
I have successfully created several companies over the course of my career, and in each case, relationships were the reason for my success.
In the mid 1990s, I ran a successful private equity fund. I traveled 300 days per year. I managed investments in 100 companies, a staff of 40 and other peoples’ money. None of this would have been possible without being good at developing strong, long-lasting relationships.
When the the time came to divest the fund, I was left with a question: “What do I do next?” I reflected on the question that many of my colleagues asked me: “How do you stay in shape and live a balanced life?”
Over the years they saw me train hard in the gym, eat healthy, and take care of those around me. It clearly left an impression. It also was proof to them that I was able to maintain balance when they could not. I wanted to stay connected to those that I worked with but didn’t want to continue in the finance field. I had already been doing CrossFit for a couple of years and now wanted to help my colleagues find life balance.
I started taking clients as a coach. They were all people with whom I had formed lasting relationships over my previous career. They trusted me because they saw me living the lifestyle they wanted. If I had approached them without knowing them, they likely wouldn’t have signed up. These were guys who were traveling constantly; highly stressed; high-performing; and able to afford the serviceI was proposing. I would design a workout regime and a nutrition plan and have it all scheduled into their day with the help of their executive assistants. When they were traveling, I would hire a coach for them and provide the programming so they would never miss a workout. If they followed the plan they would change their lives.
They had to trust me for this to work. Before I opened my first gym I ran all of this out of my house and corporate gyms. In the first 6 months, I signed up 20 people. The rate for my service was $2000.00 per month.
It has been years since I transitioned from that business model and am now training large groups in a CrossFit class setting, as well as coaching athletes remotely.
I recently reached out to a client who works in a position of influence in a large company. I asked if he would be willing to introduce me to some of the senior executives so that I might see if we could offer help to the employees of the company.
After some discussion, my client walked me into the office of the Chief of Staff. He is responsible for 15,000 employees and all of the company’s facilities. I was asked how I thought I could help him roll out better health and wellness programs to the staff. I replied that I wasn’t sure I could; that I didn’t have enough information about the problem, and he didn’t know enough about me to make an informed decision. He seemed to appreciate my directness and honesty.
I asked him some questions about his lifestyle and how his health was holding up under the stress that he was clearly under. He began to explain that he sits 10-12 hours a day, travels four out of seven days a week, eats whatever is available at the time, and drinks too much alcohol. There was a very familiar story beginning to unfold, a story that I knew I could help him with. We talked more and I suggested that before we went any further on talking about the company that I would like to help him feel better and detailed how I thought we could do that together. We included his executive assistant to schedule health into his day.
The idea of helping him first will build trust into our relationship, and when it comes time for him to revamp the company’s health and wellness programs, we’ll be on top of his mind. In the meantime, he has hired me to take care of his fitness and nutrition. It seems that my former business model is still viable and I have a new high value client.
Many of us go about building relationships the wrong way. We pass out business cards and make sales pitches long before the person on the receiving end is ready to buy anything. Asking someone you’ve just met to buy from you is frustrating, ineffective and impersonal. When asking for a referral, make it personal: “ I know that you have a lot of experience with this topic and I was wondering if you can help me.” People like to be recognized for their excellence in their field.
Relationships are at the heart of every successful business. Building strong relationships is not about building your personal brand or social media networks. The most important thing you can do is spend time building your personal network. Business transactions of any kind are between people and there must always be a starting point of trust. As owners of training facilities we are fortunate to have clients that want to have a relationship with us. They show up in our gyms 3 to 5 times a week and they tell us their story. We may tell people we own gyms, but we are really in the relationship business. It’s our job to connect with our members and they will connect us to those they have relationships with.