The Beauty of the Bottom

The Beauty of the Bottom

My friend, I know the bottom all too well.

I remember staring down the barrel of a new year and wondering, “Is this it?”

December is always a low month in the fitness industry. But I used to wonder, “Will January be better enough?”

I remember Christmases where I mentally calculated the cost of every gift and thought about how many weeks it would take to pay off my Visa bill. I stressed so much that Christmas wasn’t a happy time for me. I thought hard about getting a “real job,” making the same money, leaving it all on my desk when I left for the night and getting a week off every year. I fantasized about a day where I wouldn’t have to open the gym in the dark and miss my kids while they were on holidays.

If you’re there, look around: You’ll see my initials carved in the bedrock. But you won’t see me. I’m long gone.


When You Don’t Have a Choice


I hit bottom in late 2008. I had missed two consecutive paychecks. The rent was due, and I didn’t have the money to cover it. My kids were growing up and I was never home to see them. And that’s when the Fourth Fear of Entrepreneurship hit me: that things were never going to change. That I wasn’t going to just “figure it out” one day. That being smart and being hardworking weren’t enough.

That realization saved my business—and probably my life.

Here’s what most people don’t realize about hitting rock bottom: It’s pretty liberating.

Many gym owners face tough choices in our Incubator program. If they don’t absolutely have to raise their rates, they won’t want to. They’ll have so much mental wiggle room that they’ll bruise themselves up, bouncing between “should I or shouldn’t I?” But when you need the money to pay rent, there’s no choice necessary. You just do it.

The most fatiguing thing about being in charge isn’t the long hours: It’s the burden of choice. Microgym owners start with a blank slate: Everything we do requires choice. Rates, equipment purchases, staff pay—these are huge decisions. But even the little ones are draining, and they can all add up to cause exhaustion. That’s exactly why Steve Jobs wore the same turtleneck every day and why most of the leaders in our space stick to the same breakfast routine: They eliminate the burden of choice.

Dan Ariely wrote about decision fatigue in “Understanding Ego Depletion,” but here’s the summary: Too much choice is a bad thing. When you reach your business’s low point, a lot of those decisions are made for you.

Raise rates or close down.

Fire the coach or starve.

Downsize or stop saving lives.

Admit some mistakes or let them become fatal.


Nowhere to Go but Up


When I found my first mentor, I thought I was looking for more choice: new marketing ideas or some other magic bullets. What I really needed was for him to say, “Do this one thing today. Then I’ll give you Step 2 tomorrow.”

Action was easy because I didn’t have a choice. Some of the greatest Two-Brain love stories of all time come from gym owners who have really hit bottom and are staring at a “last chance.” I remember Jennifer, a gym owner out west, saying, “I got through the hard parts because there really wasn’t an option. If this didn’t work, I would have to close. So I just did exactly what you told me to do.”

Other stories have started with the decision to close. I remember an owner named Jess telling me, “We’re too tired. We’ve been trying for too long. We just want to maximize the sale value of this thing.” So she went through the Incubator with her husband, made the business turnkey, and, hey—it wasn’t so bad anymore.

“You saved our business, and probably our marriage” she wrote me last month.

In both cases, success didn’t come from a new idea: Success came from the removal of choice.

The opportunity to “make it up as I go” carries the shadow of guilt: “If this doesn’t work, there’s no one else to blame.” That’s why, in the Incubator, we keep it black and white: Do this, then this. Make sure the foundation is solid, and then tweak things later—if you want to. Most people don’t. They don’t look back anymore. They just keep moving forward.

The beauty of the bottom is that there’s only one direction left.

I hope you aren’t there, but if you are, look up.

I built the Two-Brain Roadmap to keep you moving forward.


Other Media in This Series

The Four Fears of Entrepreneurship
Stoic Philosophy for Entrepreneurs

ALERT: What to Do About Coronavirus

ALERT: What to Do About Coronavirus

You might not be worried about coronavirus (COVID-19), but your clients are.

Whether you believe that it’s just another flu or even that the tail is wagging the dog—it doesn’t matter. Two-Brain gyms in Italy have already been forced by the government to shut down for at least a month. Stock markets are plunging. Your audience is worried.

And when people are worried, they stay home. You need to get in front of this.


What You Need to Know about COVID-19


From our friends at AGuard:

1. It is not an insurable risk. Most admitted insurance companies exclude communicable diseases on the general liability.

2. Business income is a property coverage and is only triggered by a property loss caused by something such as fire, etc. Therefore, it does not cover lost income as a result of this outbreak.

3. At this time, the risk is low. However, there is a strong likelihood that it will impact gym owners and members at some point in the near future.


What You Need to Do About Coronavirus


1. Demonstrate that you’re taking precautions. Stock up on hand sanitizer with alcohol content greater than 60 percent. Make a big deal about using it on every piece of equipment after every class, and make sure people see you doing it.

2. Tell members to stay home if they are not feeling well or if someone at home is not well.

3. Send out an email to your members list. Download a sample from AGuard here (change the  “Florida Department of Health” link to the appropriate one from your state or jurisdiction):

COVID-19 info 2.27.2020

4. Put posters up around your gym. Again, the demonstration that you’re taking action is what’s really important to member retention. Here are two examples:



5. Coach people in their homes. I spent a summer doing “house calls” to personal training clients. While I don’t recommend visiting clients’ homes, you can allow them to remain under your coaching umbrella without coming to the gym.

Publishing a daily “at-home” option for your group classes is a good idea. We’ve already seen it working in many Two-Brain gyms. It’s not a solution that will last forever; but COVID-19 won’t, either.

The key to the at-home option for your group training clients is to ramp up the social engagement. Have clients share pictures of their workout, pre- and post. Share a ton of stuff in your Facebook group. Create discussion.

Get 31 Free At-Home Workouts (and some other resources) from the Two-Brain Coaching site here.

6. Take advantage of the opportunity to think outside the box.

– This could be a good time to do your goal reviews online. Set up a link for a 15-minute session with you over Skype or Zoom.

– Why not test out some No-Sweat Intro meetings over video, too? You never know—this could actually lower the barrier to entry for new clients. Some Two-Brain gyms are testing conversion rates between in-person meetings and video meetings already; this is your excuse to do the same.

– You can also ramp up your online training practice. If you’ve ever wanted to try online coaching or online nutrition coaching, this is an amazing time to test it. Listen to our podcast on the topic here. If you’re in the Two-Brain Family, visit the Roadmap for step-by-step instructions (Revenue Diversity, Milestone 10).

– Produce content to educate your clients. Establish your knowledge and expertise by teaching about COVID-19 or just about exercise and how to maintain a healthy immune system.

– Take the opportunity to start working with a mentor 1:1. The magic of mentorship is that every step you take with a mentor belongs to you, even after the chaos subsides.


Build Trust During Trials and Tribulations


In the middle of adversity, there’s always a way to move forward. Even when people are afraid.

Here’s the surprising truth about fear: It opens you up to new possibilities. When you’re in a crisis, you think about things you wouldn’t consider before. Use that fear to build a bigger business instead of just waiting and hoping.

This blog has always really been about human behavior. Perception is reality. If one client is worried, he or she could kick off a real outbreak of membership cancellations in your gym. You need to get ahead of this.

Fortunately, the coronavirus is an opportunity to demonstrate your leadership and care. If you show them they can trust you in a crisis, they’ll trust you even more when it’s over.

The Four Fears of Entrepreneurship

The Four Fears of Entrepreneurship

Why do entrepreneurs do crazy things?

Why do they cut their own throats with discounts? Why do they stop themselves from hiring help? Why do they badmouth the other gyms in town?

On the surface, there are many reasons. Underneath, there’s one: fear.

I know because I’ve been afraid.

While living in fear, I did all that stuff. I slammed the competition. I cut my membership rates for anyone and everyone. I even undermined my own staff. And all because of fear.

After working 1:1 with thousands of entrepreneurs around the world, our team of certified mentors has identified four key fears that kill entrepreneurs. On the surface, Founders are among the bravest people in our culture. These are the courageous entrepreneurs who start businesses and wear every hat while trying to make them successful. Under the surface, many are terrified. And that fear makes them act against their own values—and often their own long-term self-interest.

This week, I’m going to tell you:

  • About the “four fears” of entrepreneurship and how to defeat them forever.
  • Why it’s sometimes necessary to hit rock bottom before you can turn your business around.
  • How to use Stoic philosophy to its maximum power to help your business.

In Part 4 of this series, Rebecca Boskovic of The Fittest Me will join us on Two-Brain Radio to talk about how she’s overcome fear to make incredibly big moves in her business and her life.


The Four Fears of Entrepreneurship (and Their Antidotes)


1. The Fear of Making a Fatal Choice

When you’re just starting out, or when you’re struggling, you know this: You’re only one bad decision away from losing it all.

Many people think that “the risk” of business ownership begins and ends with opening a business. But that’s not correct: Entrepreneurship means that every minute, every decision, every action is a risk forever. And any one bad decision could end us.

So we get stuck. We do nothing.

We suffer paralysis by analysis.

We avoid firing the bad staff member. We put off raising our rates until things are perfect. We don’t run an ad until we have the perfect copy. We don’t sign the lease until we’ve seen every possible location. And we never, ever quit the day job.

One of my mentors, Marcy Swenson, once told me this: “Chris, sometimes you’re being tactful. But sometimes you’re just hiding.” She was right. Here’s how you avoid the fear of making the wrong decision.

A. Mitigate the downside. Listen to “What to Do When It All Goes Wrong.”

B. Decide what you’ll learn before you guess what you’ll earn. For me, knowing that I’m going to learn a valuable lesson, win or lose, really helps me accept that I could make the wrong choice. So I decide on the lesson before I take action.

C. Create systems that will run the business without you. Because the biggest risk of all is that you’ll be hit by a bus.

D. Hire a mentor. They have been where you are. They are now living the life you want. They can save you over a lot of time, expense and heartache. They can guide you through the hard parts and help you avoid others. They can cut years off your quest to become wealthy.


2. The Fear That It Will all Be Your Fault

I remember one rough patch when I thought, “I’m going to make this gym a co-operative! Every member will get a share, there will be a board of directors, and they’ll hire me to be CEO. I’ll have my pay locked in and won’t be the only one with an ass on the line!”

Some gyms even take the step of calling themselves a “collective.” The gym owner tells herself that she wants to build a social community with decentralized leadership or some other lie. Really, she just doesn’t want to be responsible for screwing it up.

Humans are interesting. In most cases, we’re more worried about being blamed than about actually being at fault. Here’s how to overcome the fear that it will all be your fault:

A. Accept that you’re going to make mistakes.

B. Know that you’re going to correct them.

C. Have a long-term plan that will actually benefit from mistakes.

Just like you can’t really enjoy a car until it has its first scratch, your business can’t get stronger until you find out where the cracks are. Commit to growing as a leader and you’ll build a durable, “anti-fragile” business.


3. The Fear of Losing Control

All entrepreneurs sometimes have this thought. “I wish someone else would just fix this for me!”

So they take partners. Or they hire ad agencies. Or they give every staff person a small percentage and say, “You’re in charge of marketing now!”

(Yes, that’s two marketing examples. Because building an audience is usually the hardest part of a successful gym, it’s the part we’re most likely to try and outsource.)

But eventually, all gym owners realize their mistakes. Suddenly, they realize they’ve lost control and want to get it back by any means possible.

Or maybe, in some cases (like mine!) they’re so afraid of losing control that they never share any clients or any decision-making roles or any leadership opportunities.

I totally did that with my gym. I wouldn’t tell the other trainers how I was finding clients or any of the other “business” stuff. I was terrified that the other trainers would go start their own gyms, start training clients on the side or start, you know, taking control.

But I overcame the fear of losing control. You can, too. Here’s how to do it:

A. Document your operations. Get them out of your head.

B. Let your staff run your operations. Test them. Then evaluate the results.

C. Upgrade your operations. Test them again.

D. Repeat until you’re totally comfortable allowing other people to deliver your service. Then turn to sales and marketing. Document those procedures and start over.


4. The Fear That It’s Never Going to Change

This is the fear that actually saved my gym.

This was the fear that trumped all the others.

In 2008, I was actually still suffering from the other three fears. I was paralyzed into inactivity. I was hoarding control. I was terrified that my gym would fail and everyone would know it was my fault.

In 2008, I hit rock bottom. I’ll share the full story in the next part of this series. But in short:

I missed two paychecks in a row. The rent was due. My kids were growing up, and I was never at home. And it was never going to change.

In the next post, I’ll tell you how I overcame this fear, what I did about it and how I saved my gym.


The Shortcut out of Fear


Look, I know I said getting a mentor is part of the solution for each of these four fears.

That’s because winning at business means more than “finding the answer.” It means finding the right answer fast, recovering from bad decisions even faster and doing the hard stuff when it has to be done. In short, it means that knowing what to do is half of the solution. The other half is the hard part. And that’s the part a mentor helps with.


Other Media in This Series

The Beauty of the Bottom
Stoic Philosophy for Entrepreneurs

Upgrading Your Team

Upgrading Your Team

The people who got you here might not be the people who get you there.

You can do six things to grow your gym business. Upgrading your team is one of them. On the Two-Brain Roadmap®, we dedicate four entire rows to defining roles and tasks; creating agreements; and hiring, training, paying, promoting and releasing staff.



As entrepreneurs, we spend a lot of time training ourselves to be better leader—thinking about our wins and losses and learning from them. But we don’t spend much time teaching our staff to be leaders. So when it’s time to grow, we promote someone into a management role, and we’re surprised that the person doesn’t know how to lead people.

Or maybe we’re surprised he or she doesn’t take initiative like we do, look for problems to solve before they occur or possess the knowledge needed to succeed in the new role. In businesses everywhere, we promote people to the level of incompetence and then fire them.

In a gym, this could look like:

– A friendly athlete is hired as a part-time coach.

– The person quits another job to go all in on coaching.

– You promote the person to general manager. But he or she isn’t really interested in enforcing your late-billing rules or restocking your inventory. The new GM isn’t great at selling memberships.

– You have two choices: Fire or look over the person’s shoulder and do the job for him or her.

This week, I’m going to tell you:

– How to ascend your staff using the Career Roadmap tool.

– How to train your staff for new roles.

– How to find new staff for higher-level roles.

– How to part ways with staff who won’t be part of your next chapter.

Let’s face it: The CEO job is one that you probably weren’t prepared to take when you opened a gym. You’ve had to learn an entirely new skill set. No matter what new roles your staff members fill, they’ll have to learn how to do them, too.


Other Media in This Series

How to Hire Coaches (Without Hurting Yourself)
How to Ascend Your Staff

The Real Barrier to Entry

The Real Barrier to Entry

“Hi, tell me about your gym!” she said. She had just walked in off the street—but our street didn’t have foot traffic. She’d driven across town, found us despite the poor signage and boldly walked up to the front desk.

I was desperate for new clients. But still, I had no idea what to say.

“Well, we’re a CrossFit gym,” I started. “Have you heard of CrossFit?”

“Just heard of it. How does it work?” she asked.

I went into the description of “constantly varied functional movement” and so on.

She looked at her watch. I was losing her.

“Sorry,” I said. “I’m the world’s worst salesman.”

“Well, sell me.” She replied. “I don’t have much time.”

I told her about classes and gave her the rates. Miraculously, she signed up. I was surprised: My usual “sales pitch” took almost an hour and didn’t always result in a new membership. My “short form” bullets of price and schedule were actually successful.

It was my first inkling that maybe my normal “sales pitch” wasn’t the best.


The Hard Truth About the Gym Business


Looking back over the years and data now, I can see that my fear of “sales” might have been the biggest barrier to entry to my gym. I thought I had to convince skeptics with facts and data. What I really had to do was say, “Here’s how I can solve your problem for you.”

When you’re trying to convince someone to do something, you’re selling.

Selling gets a bad reputation because it’s a tool often used for evil. When we think of a “salesperson,” we sometimes think of someone dishonest: a man or woman who wants to trick us. We think of a one-sided deal: a lemon that’s going to break down as soon as we leave the parking lot. We think of a character we don’t want to play: the poorly dressed shyster who’s going to leave town as soon as we write the check.

But if you’re trying to convince someone to join your church, you’re selling belief.

If you’re trying to convince someone to stop doing drugs, you’re selling sobriety.

If you’re trying to change someone’s life through diet and exercise, you have to sell fitness.

The uncomfortable truth in business is this:

If you can’t sell them, you can’t save them.

All that money spent on Facebook advertising? It’s a total waste if you can’t convince them to sign up. Only Zuckerberg benefits.

All that time spent researching advertising, listening to podcasts and even going to gymnastics clinics? A waste of time if you can’t get someone to pay you for your service. Sorry.

All the technical expertise in the world won’t help your business if they won’t pay you for it.

Maybe you should get good at this part.

Maybe you should spend one-tenth as much time learning how to convince people as you do learning how to teach the clean.

Maybe you should get more reps in growing your business and fewer reps in the butterfly pull-up (or arguing about the butterfly pull-up in Facebook groups).

Maybe you should spend twice as much time selling as you do advertising (or, as we teach, 20 times).

Maybe you didn’t think about this when you opened a gym. It’s time to think about it now. Because the stuff that makes you a good coach doesn’t really make you a good business owner. If you’re not training your sales process, the biggest barrier to entry in your gym is you.

We teach the sales process step by step in the Incubator. Then, in Growth Phase, you can have our sales specialist, Jeff Burlingame, train you and your staff to be even better.


Other Media in This Series

The Dark Side of Your Business
The Secret Sales Script
Sales Secrets: Handling Objections, Building Value and Role Playing With Joe Marcoux

The Secret Sales Script

The Secret Sales Script

The potential client is sitting in front of you.

You’ve done some uncomfortable work to get the person here. You’ve asked a client how you can help his or her friends. Or you’ve been sending texts and emails and double dialing to urge a person to show up for an appointment. Or maybe you’ve spent $100 on Facebook ads just to get a good lead. Whatever the situation, there’s a lot on the line.

Now what do you say?

That depends on the client. As you’re about to read, no secret sales script, no memorized lines and no “gotcha!” close will solve all your problems.

There is a proven process—we teach it in the Incubator—and great ways to overcome objections to price and schedule. Those are also in the Incubator. But the real truth we teach—the best way to sell anything—is this:

– Make someone comfortable.

– Ask what the person wants to achieve. Get a clear picture of his or her vision of success.

– Using your expertise, show a clear path to success.

– If you can, give the person the first step right away.

– State the price.

– Ask how the person would like to pay.

We teach this in a “tree” format: If the person gives X objection, ask Y question next, etc. But the core of a good sales process is care: If you care about the person, you’ll be curious enough to ask the next question.

The process should feel normal, not rehearsed. So the real secret isn’t a script: It’s reps.


The Real Game Breaker


In fall 2019, we tracked sales conversions in Two-Brain gyms. A few dozen did a “specialist” call with one of our mentors to focus solely on sales. And while every call showed a good return for a month, conversions actually dipped back to baseline after two or three months.

But why? The gym owners had the knowledge forever; they didn’t magically forget the questions to ask or how often to follow up with their leads.

I was happy to see the short-term improvements in conversions, but I wasn’t satisfied. So I started digging deeper. What I found was that it’s not really the script that matters in the long term. It’s not the knowledge of how to overcome objections. It’s the reps.

When we assigned Two-Brain gym owners more reps at selling, their conversion numbers came up—and stayed up. If they stopped practicing, their conversion numbers dipped again.

Like a tennis backhand, if you don’t practice your sales process, you get rusty.

To be effective at sales, you have to be comfortable selling.


Practice—Then Practice Some More


In 2008, when every client who came in the door at Catalyst represented money I desperately needed, I had a pretty poor close rate—maybe 70 percent. Keep in mind that these folks were sold on my service until I talked to them. Facepalm.

By 2018, I was so comfortable with selling that many new clients would say something like this while handing me a credit card: “Thank you! I was worried this was going to be a sales pitch!” The sales process felt completely natural to me by then because I’d done it 1,000 times.

The fastest way to increase your conversion rate is to practice doing conversions. That means getting your reps in.

We now prescribe practice reps to gym owners in our Incubator and Growth programs. We make it fun—we have a scenario card deck so people can “play” at sales. Here are five sample scenarios from our deck of over 50.

We also make gym owners practice sales before we teach them how to run ads because we don’t want them to waste money. On the Two-Brain Roadmap, we guide gym owners through everything in the correct order. For example, they have to reach Level 7 in Sales before they start Level 1 in Paid Lead Generation. That means reps.

Just like there’s no secret program or diet, there’s no secret sales script. Just reps.


Other Media in This Series

The Dark Side of Your Business
The Real Barrier to Entry
Sales Secrets: Handling Objections, Building Value and Role Playing With Joe Marcoux