Breaking the 150-Client Barrier

Breaking the 150-Client Barrier

The Class Ceiling Effect


“Every time our membership reaches 150 people, we drop back to 130!”

“We hover between 110 and 125 members. We never drop lower, but we never seem to reach higher, either.”

“We’ve been at the same membership for 2.5 years even though we get new people almost every month!”

There’s a simple reason you reach a maximum member limit and can’t break through.

It’s not them: It’s you.

Here’s the real problem, how you’ve created it and how to finally smash through that Class Ceiling Effect.


The “Icon” Problem


Each of us can maintain around 150 interpersonal relationships. After 150, we start forgetting their kids’ names and their Fran scores. We simply can’t spread our personal care any further. This is called Dunbar’s number. Into that 150 people, we have to cram our families, friends, staff and clients.

Every client is a relationship that must be managed. If that relationship is a personal one with you, then you’ll never get above 150.

But if every client has a relationship with your brand—independent of the client’s relationship with you—then you can grow to far larger than 150 clients.

A relationship with your brand means your clients don’t care who owns your gym. They don’t get upset if one of your coaches leaves because they know they can depend on the same excellent service from any coach at your gym. And they don’t measure the value of your gym by how much time they get to spend with the owner.


You’ve Made This Bed


If you’re the only person who talks to your clients between classes …

If you’re the one who explains every rate change or starts every conversation in your Facebook group …

If your name is on every greeting card and your face is on every video and your caption is on every social post and your byline is on every blog post …

… you’ve gotten yourself into this.

Here’s how to get yourself out:


Create Redundancy


Your clients should receive the same excellent care even when you’re not there, right? If they don’t, you simply don’t have a business.

That means you have to create systems to replace you and then teach those systems to other people.

For example, every coach should deliver to the same level of excellence. Every coach should be replaceable with another of your coaches. And you should have a relationship “safety net”: a CSM who maintains every client’s relationship with your brand.

(Need a full job description for the Client Success Manager role? Click here.)

Many military leaders say, “Two is one and one is none.” They’re talking about redundancy: always having a backup for the stuff that really matters. Your clients’ relationship with your brand matters more than anything else. Are you really going to put that fragile little bird into the hands of your least-likable coach?


Shift Coaches on Purpose


If a client can’t work out with another coach, then how can that coach ever take a vacation?

If you make the largest mistake of all—referring to a client’s personal trainer as his or her “coach for life”)—how will you ever keep that client when the coach leaves or retires?

It’s in everyone’s best interests to occasionally have clients work with other coaches. I don’t mean a full schedule shuffle every six months. I mean this:

Personal-training clients should do at least two sessions with a different coach each quarter.

“Hey, Maria, I’m out of town next week! But I have a treat for you: I’ve asked Paul to meet with you at your regular time and coach you through your workouts. I’ve shared your future programming with him, and I know you’re going to love hearing someone else’s voice in your ear for a change! But I’ll be back the following week and I’ll stay in close contact with Paul while I’m away.”

Groups should be exposed to other coaches at least every few weeks.

“Class, I am super excited for this: Coach Paul will be here tomorrow! Paul is an expert in weightlifting, so I’ve asked him to spend some extra time working through your second pulls and finishing positions. You’re going to love him, and I’m going to be jealous that I’m not here! Have fun!”

And even nutrition clients should be exposed to other nutrition coaches.

“Aarav, I have something special for you. I’ve asked Coach Jennifer to meet with you during our scheduled appointment time next week. Jennifer is a real specialist in nutritional diversity; I’ve asked her to help you expand your diet while sticking to your goals. I want to make sure this plan is something you can stick to for life, and that means never getting bored with your food—or with me! Haha. I’ll meet you again in the following session!”

The key in shifting coaches is to tell the client how it will benefit him or her.

“I’m going to be away on vacation, here’s a replacement” doesn’t tell the client anything.

“Here’s a free special bonus just for you!” does.


Push the Spotlight Away


This is one of my wife’s favorite stories about our gym.

After a full week away talking to other gym owners, I returned to my beloved Noon Group on a Monday. I burst in at the last minute to find the group already in a big circle doing some calisthenics. I hopped into the closest spot and got warm. Robin was across the circle from me.

When the coach said, “Everyone come over here and get a stretching band,” the woman on my left turned to me and said, “Hi, you must be new here. I’m Sarah. Welcome!”

Robin laughed. I was struck dumb—but then I was thrilled because Sarah was having a great time at my box even though she had no idea who I was.

If Sarah had joined my box between 2008 and 2013, she would have seen me every single day, probably teaching her class or leading her 1:1 sessions. I’d made myself redundant. The great clients were finding my box, fitting into my box and loving my box without me.

And that’s when we broke through the barrier.

When the spotlight was no longer on “Chris Cooper, fitness coach,” people started to love the other coaches at Catalyst. People started to brag about Catalyst the gym, not Chris the trainer. They started to bring their friends to CrossFit Catalyst instead of 1:1 sessions with Chris or Mike.

The more I bragged about Coach Mel or Coach Charity, the more clients came to train with them. We all benefitted: the gym, the coaches and the clients. Because let’s face it: I’m not the best coach for everyone, and I never will be.

There are around 150 people who want to train with ONLY me. There are around 1,500 people who like me but just want to see me around. And there are over 15,000 people in my little city who want to get fit, have never heard of me and don’t give a damn about me personally.

But they can still come to my gym.

There’s room because I’ve removed the ceiling.

Need more advice on common problems? Click here to book a free call with a certified Two-Brain Business mentor.

The Island of Misfit Toys

The Island of Misfit Toys

How (and Why) to Say No to Great Ideas

You can’t do everything. But you have ideas.

In the Founder Phase of entrepreneurship, you’re busy. You’re delivering your service. In the tiny cracks of daylight between coaching clients, eating and sleeping, you might eke out some time to work on new ideas. These could be:

  • Making a new schedule.
  • Adding a nutrition service.
  • Selling more PT.
  • Designing new T-shirts.
  • Reorganizing your schedule.
  • Thinking about adding a kids program.

Which ones should you pursue with the very limited time you have?

In the Farmer Phase, your staff brings you ideas. Some of them are really good; and you want your staff to feel important and empowered. You have more time, but the way you invest your time is even more important because the outcome affects the whole team.

Which ideas will leverage that time best?

In the Tinker Phase, your potential partners pitch you ideas. Now you have to decide between great ideas and amazing ideas. The best choices are less obvious. Most of them will make you money, but all of them will take your attention.

Which will you invest your focus into?

In the Thief Phase, you’ll have to consider the needs of your community. But no matter how large your platform, you’ll never be able to fill all the gaps.

How do you decide what kind of contribution to make? How will you invest your legacy?


Focus and Focus Some More


I get pitched great ideas every week. And I have some good ideas myself (if you don’t believe me, look at my list of 70+ domains that I’ve registered on GoDaddy). But I can’t do them all. As my mentor, Dan Martell, once told me:

“People do this stuff because they don’t trust that their primary thing is going to be awesome. They lack trust in their own ability to execute on Plan A.”

In other words, we sabotage ourselves because we don’t really think our first idea is going to work. Instead, we all need to focus on one idea at a time.

But how do you stay focused? How do you overcome FOMO on a new idea? How do you stay the course when new ideas are super exciting?


Send Your Toys to the Island


In our businesses, we put our great ideas on a list. We call that list, “The Island of Misfit Toys” (the term comes from my favorite Christmas cartoon).

When an idea goes on that list, it means “I like this. I want to do this. But not right now.

In his amazing book “Anything You Want,” Derek Sivers makes the clear point: You can do anything, but you can’t do everything. At least not right now.

Sivers’ point isn’t that you need to make a long list of “someday” projects. His point is that making a list will:

  • Get the idea logjam out of your head to make room for even more ideas (which you’ll add to the list, too).
  • Remove the distraction of fear (you’re probably scared you’ll forget your great idea unless you act on it now).
  • Allow the truly best ideas to shine through by attrition.

I’ve forgotten most of my great ideas. Sometimes I comb through my past lists (and my domain registry) and think, “What the hell was that?” And that’s OK, because it means my attention has been captured by even larger ideas and opportunities.

You don’t have to run at full speed all the time. Waiting for the right idea—at the right time—usually means you won’t miss it when it comes.

Which stage of entrepreneurship are you in? Take our 20-question quiz to find out and get the exact steps you need to take your business to the next level.

The Release Valve

The Release Valve

You’re under a lot of pressure.

Sometimes that’s good. Maybe, like me, you’re at your best when your back’s to the wall.

But you’re also a fitness professional. So you know what happens to an organism under stress. Hans Selye said it first:

“An organism under stress is in decline. Remove the stress, and the organism super-compensates. But maintain the stress and the organism continues to decline until it dies.”


Relieve Stress—Your Way


Every entrepreneur needs a release valve.

Some drink. Some cheat on a spouse. Some have other bad habits.

And some exercise.

Maybe, as a gym owner, exercise is your release valve. But more and more gym owners admit that working out in their gyms adds to their stress instead of relieves it.

I want to tell you: It’s OK to work out somewhere else.

You can go to another gym. Your members won’t quit.

You can go ride a bike. Your members won’t quit your gym to ride bikes.

You can work out in your garage. Your members won’t immediately quit your gym to build garage gyms of their own.

Last May, I walked into my gym for the noon group. I love the people in my noon group but had been forcing myself to attend for a few months.

On my way into the gym, I saw a coach’s lunch garbage spread all over the front desk. I was pissed; and then the class started two minutes late, with 10 people waiting around while one person tied their shoes.

When the workout started, I felt unmotivated. I was distracted by the work sitting in my office next door. I didn’t like the workout, and I was bored by the warmup. I started to ask myself why I was even there. That night, I dug out my bike. And I haven’t worked out in my gym since.

But membership keeps growing. None of my members said, “Screw it! I’m gonna go ride bikes with Chris!”


Self-Improvement Produces Business Improvements


If you’ve been a gym owner for a while, your gym might not be your release valve anymore. And that’s OK: It exists to be their release valve. You need a different one. As our resident psychotherapist says:

“Therapists need therapy more than anyone else because they’re carrying everyone’s shit around!”

Did my members ask where I was? Absolutely.

Did I plan to return after a short break? Definitely. But I haven’t yet.

Do I hate CrossFit? No way. I love it. I just love cycling more right now. It’s a tremendous gift to be able to choose between two things that I love.

To be a better coach, better boss and better human, you need to release the pressure. Some of that pressure comes from self-doubt; some comes from lack of clarity; some comes from guilt.

Go exercise somewhere else. You have permission. Come back happier.

Do all the right things for all the right people.

Including yourself.

Need more advice on common problems? Click here to book a free call with a certified Two-Brain Business mentor.


The Panic Vaccine

The Panic Vaccine

It’s the 28th of the month.

You don’t have enough for the rent.

You just remembered your insurance is due. And this is a three-pay month … .

Anxiety is your cardio now.

You live in constant fear of “what’s going to happen next?” because you’re stuck in a meteor shower, and you know that any little hit could be your last. You’re overwhelmed, overworked, and just kinda over it.

That’s panic.

And data is the vaccine.


What Data Does


Data tells you, “Here’s how other gym owners got through this same situation.”

Data tells you, “Next month will be better.”

Data tells you, “Here’s how to stop this from ever happening again.”

Data is the laser beam that blasts the falling rocks out of the sky before they get close to you.

Data is clarity. Data is a look into the future. Data is absolutely critical to the success of your business.

So why isn’t there any data in the fitness business?

Because, until now, no one would collect it, analyze it and report on it.


Data and Duty


Big chain gyms collect tons of data about their customers’ spending habits. They know when they’re busy. They create budgets around peak seasons. They know when to boost their ad spend, when to hire and when a client is about to leave.

But they don’t share.

Franchisors collect data on their franchisees but don’t give that data back for analysis because it’s their intellectual property. Gathering data is very hard and very expensive, and they want to keep it in the mothership.

And licensors, like CrossFit, don’t collect data at all because they charge too little to pay for that level of business support.

When I visited CrossFit HQ last year, I asked the question over breakfast:

“What if you tracked data for all of your gyms and just released it for anyone to analyze?”

The response: “Good idea. But we’re not going to do it.”

I quickly realized that our company, Two-Brain Business, was in a unique position: We were already the largest mentorship practice in the world, and gym owners trusted us. We had the resources and the ability.

That made it our duty to collect data, analyze it professionally and report back to the community who shared it with us.


The Two-Brain Dashboard


We unveiled the new Two-Brain Dashboard to those in our Incubator and Growth Stages last week. It’s simple and clean but very powerful—all of the individual gym’s information stays private, but we can analyze metadata trends that will benefit the whole industry.

Most importantly, the dashboard makes it really easy for a gym owner to enter data, track it long term and see trends in his or her own gym.

But this is just the start!

The Dashboard will also clearly show gym owners their next step in the path to wealth. Using data and experience collected from over 10,000 one-on-one mentorship calls, our mentor team has mapped several paths to Tinker Phase. Those will show up on the Dashboard soon.

No one else has done it. No one else will. But when you care this much, it’s your duty to give as much help as you can.

Take your hand off the panic button.

Write down your numbers.

Write down your feelings (they’re important, too).

Next time you’re panicked, look back.

Then look ahead. Build your path with stones instead of shifting sand.

And call if you need help.

Need more advice on common problems? Click here to book a free call with a certified Two-Brain Business mentor.

Impostor Syndrome

Impostor Syndrome

Who am I to lead them?

As a business grows, it adds staff. Ironically, this can leave the Founder feeling even more isolated.

By the time she reaches Tinker Phase, an entrepreneur can feel very alone even with a big team supporting her.

Promoted beyond the point of her own expertise, the Tinker tries to wrap her head around larger challenges than she’s ever faced. Each decision takes on great importance because it affects a larger team. And she’s dealing with sums of money she’s never seen let alone controlled.

It’s very common for a Tinker to feel as if she’s woken up in someone else’s job.

“How did I get here?” she asks. “Why me? I’m no more qualified than they are.”

That’s the impostor syndrome.

(Not sure if you’re a Founder, Farmer, Tinker or Thief? Take the test here.)


Beating Impostor Syndrome


Nearly every Tinker I’ve ever mentored has reported having impostor syndrome—even the alpha folks who own gyms.

At some point, even the most self-confident owner has wondered, “How did this all fall into my hands?”

Here’s how to beat it.


1. Realize You Don’t Have to Be Perfect

You only have to be slightly ahead of those you lead—and not always on a technical level. Your job as Founder is to be well rounded. But good hiring means that you replace yourself with “pointy” people: those folks with a deep (but narrow) field of expertise. They’re specialists. You’re a generalist. If you know more than your tech-support team, they need more instruction. Your job isn’t to be the best shoemaker anymore. It’s to motivate and calm the team, tell them inspirational stories, and provide a vision for the future.


2. Fake It Till You Make It

One of the benefits of joining higher-level mentoring groups is that you have to do the stuff they do. When everyone else in the room is a millionaire, you spend the weekend doing millionaire stuff—you dress better, eat better, have higher-level conversations about money. By the end of the weekend, you think like a millionaire. Our Tinker program has group meetups for this exact reason: It’s millionaire immersion.


3. Ask Everyone in Your Mastermind Group if He or She Has Ever Suffered From Impostor Syndrome

I can guarantee over 80 percent of them did.


Off the Map—and Where You Belong


Our school system teaches us that there’s always an answer (and only one answer).

But in business, there’s rarely only one answer, and no one will give you a big checkmark when you need it.

That means we feel like we’re “wrong” when we don’t know the answer or what to do to get that answer.

But that’s leadership: By definition, you’re working in unmapped territory. By definition, there is no right answer.

And by definition, you’ll feel like you don’t belong.

But you do.


Need more advice on common problems? Click here to book a free call with a certified Two-Brain Business mentor.

Mentors and Consultants

Mentors and Consultants

Consultants solve problems in a vacuum.

Mentors see the whole picture.

I’ve hired consultants before. Whenever I have a small problem that exists in a vacuum, I’ll call in a consultant to help me with a quick fix. Consultants are good at coming up with ideas; some consultants do team exercises. Those are fun.

But I call myself a mentor—and not a consultant—for a reason.


Saved by a Mentor


If you know my story, then you know that a mentor saved my business. A consultant wouldn’t have.

See, I thought I needed marketing help. But Denis, my first mentor, knew that I actually needed to build the systems that would build the team that would sell my service before I even thought about marketing. That’s what a mentor does.

A consultant would have said: “Spend your last $500 on newspaper ads.” And I’d have been out of business back in 2009 if I had.

I’ve had three mentors since: Dan Martell, Marcy Swenson, and now Todd Herman.

None of these people gave me silver bullets. But they all gave me clarity: Instead of piling new ideas on top of my overwhelm, they stripped everything away to find the one thing that would really move my business forward. And I’ve scaled 28 times since Two-Brain’s first year, largely due to the mentorship I receive.

Consultants should cost up to $5,000, and your relationship with them will typically last a day or two. But I pay over $80,000 per year for mentorship, and our conversations last for years.


The Best Path


We are a mentorship practice for one reason: we care enough to give gym owners the best. And mentorship is the best: All the seminars, videos and masterminds are helpful, but only when built into a bigger plan.

Our Incubator program is a 12-week sprint through the systems that will build and grow your business.

Our Growth program is a multi-year program to lead you to wealth.

Our Tinker program is for building your personal, long-term wealth platform.

All of them are built on 1:1 mentorship.

Some have courses, some have trips, some have prizes.

But everything we do revolves around real mentorship. Because everyone needs a coach.

Here’s how to choose a mentor for yourself.

Here’s how our mentors are trained and certified at Two-Brain Business.

Here’s the path our mentors take before they become a Mentor Candidate.

And here’s the path I’ve seen many gym owners take toward mentorship since 2007.

Click here to book a free call with a certified Two-Brain Business mentor.