If you want to keep the throne, you have to control the media.
When the Bolsheviks seized control of Russia in 1917, one of Lenin’s first moves was to lock down the press.
Lenin was a media machine. He knew the power of the written word to mobilize a nation. Leaning on lessons as old as Julius Caesar, the Soviet government issued the “Decree on Press” within their first few months of rule. They banned publications that criticized Communism. But they also started newspapers and print shops to support and praise their ideas.
Every dictator knows that control of the media is necessary for the success of their regime.
But media control isn’t only the rule of dictators.
When JFK took control of the White House, one of his first quotes was “When we got into office, the thing that surprised me most was to find that things were just as bad as we’d been saying they were.” Kennedy used different tools–charm, exaggeration and good looks–but knew the value of control all the same. His media savvy won him the Presidential office. And his successor–Richard Nixon–was taken down by a media he couldn’t control.
What does this have to do with your business? Everything. Elected politicians might be the tail that wags the dog, but entrepreneurs have even more to gain by controlling the media around their business. They also have more to lose by failing to control their image and message.
Consider what happens when an airline reduces seat size. They don’t send out an apology. They don’t put a notice on their website. They “spin” the message into a positive: “Announcing more flights from San Francisco to New York!” They’re adding seats, not planes; and they’re adding seats by reducing legroom. But their message is a net positive.
Does that feel slimy? Or like you’ve been tricked? Don’t worry: we can do this in a positive way.
For example, if an owner has a poorly attended class at 9am, it doesn’t make sense to run the class at a loss. Her 6am classes are full; her 7am class is consistent; her 8am class is overflowing; but her 9am class is dead. But it also doesn’t make sense to issue a public apology and tarnish the image of the brand when only one or two people are affected.
Instead of “I’m sorry, we’re cancelling this class time” the owner can instead ask herself, “How can this benefit the clients?” Then, she might realize that canceling the 9:00am class will create the option of an 8:30 class, which will be attended by some people in the overflowing 8am class. It will make the groups more fun, create more pay per hour for her coaches, and give her an extra half hour to work on growing her business.
Her message should be: “We’re thrilled to announce our Spring 2019 Schedule! This quarter, we’re offering morning classes at 6:30, 7:30 and 8:30–more convenience, an extra half-hour of sleep for the Dawn Patrol, and an extra half hour to get to work with our new 8:30 group!” Her new schedule has fewer classes, which is great. But most importantly, there’s a real benefit to her clients. The gym owner really CAN help her clients with the change. The 6am group really WILL get an extra half hour of sleep–or she can offer a 5:30 group. The 9am hangers-on will only show up 30 minutes earlier. And if they can’t make that time, personal training is available for 1:1 or small groups!
As an entrepreneur, you’re going to have to make hard decisions. Some–like a coach leaving, or a rate increase–are the right decisions, but still require the right message to clients. Here are some quick rules of good media:
- Get in front of the problem. Never react. Don’t wait for clients to ask you, “Why did Coach Billy quit?” Instead, tell them before they ask. Write a blog post called “Billy’s retiring!”
- Control access to your media. When a staff person is fired, cut their media access just before their exit interview.
- Be consistent in your language. Speak like an authority (and don’t write like a sixth-grader).
- Constantly remind your audience of the great things you’re doing for them. People forget about the actual value they’re receiving. Politicians have learned the hard way: the electorate has a short memory. This is why they cut programs as soon as they’re elected instead of waiting; they know we’ll forget before the next election. It’s also why smart politicians list their achievements at the end of every single press release.
- Publish a lot. None of your messages will strike home for everyone, and some will miss the target completely. But if you asked me, “What’s the worst blog post Seth Godin ever wrote?” I wouldn’t be able to tell you. If you asked for the best, I’d give you a list of ten. Bury the bad stuff.
- Repeat yourself. No one reads, watches or listens to everything you publish. Few people will dive into your back library. You’ll get tired of your message long before your audience will.
A business isn’t a democracy. It might not be a dictatorship, but your position as CEO wasn’t won by a ballot either. It was won by risk and leadership. When the tough decisions have to be made, you’re going to make them alone.
But perception is everything, in governance and business, and controlling the media means controlling your empire.
by Anastasia Bennett, TwoBrain Mentor
Why are some members of your team more engaged than others? This is such a good question to discuss and it comes up very often on my mentoring calls.
In fact, this is the main reason I got a mentor for my own business. I thought the problems in my business were because of my team. But I was wrong: the problem was not my team, but my leadership.
Everything a leader does has a huge impact on the team performance and their engagement.
“Implementing Extreme Ownership requires checking your ego and operating with a high degree of humility. Admitting mistakes, taking ownership, and developing a plan to overcome challenges are integral to any successful team.”
― Jocko Willink, Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win
As a business owner, you are the leader and you are in charge of everything. It is your job to take responsibility for your own actions and to lead by example. If your team is disengaged, or they use an “I have another full time job” excuse, it’s on you. You have not done what it takes to get your team motivated.
What does engaged mean?
Engaged = motivated
Being fully engaged in your workplace means they are professionally happy; they have a defined role that outlines what their responsibilities and expectations are; they actively contribute to the team; and they are continuously working on their self development.
Why is it so important for us to have engaged staff?
- Customer satisfaction
As a manager/owner you have a huge influence on your team and how they are performing.
How do you keep your team motivated?
- Have defined roles, clear expectations and pathways to show them opportunities for personal growth;
- Show them that you care:
- Share your WHY with them, your vision and your values. Alignment is important here. If they understand and align with your vision you will have a better chance of succeeding. Commit to your staff and try to build relationships. What do you know about their family, dog or home? Small things make a huge impact.
- Help them with their personal growth:
- If you want to have engaged staff, loyalty is the key. And loyalty isn’t a one-way street. They need to see that you are invested in their development. You can always start with coach development sessions. Pay them for the attendance and spoil them with coffee.
- Listen to their needs and feedback. Implement some of their suggestions
- If you’re not sure where to start, get feedback on your own leadership. Ask your admin person to do a survey. This can be painful, so be prepared. I did it a couple of years ago and while it was hard was to read their responses, it gave great insight on what I needed to work on. As a leader you should always be working on your own self development and the ways to improve how you operate. After all, you can’t expect your team to do it if you’re not setting the example. Look for you team’s strengths and weaknesses, then bring in outside experts to help you all improve. Let them see you working on yourself. Look for improvement and don’t settle on the average. You need to set your standards high for yourself and your team. This is why it is so important to do staff evaluations and give them constructive feedback. Then develop a performance plan so everyone is accountable and working towards being their best.
- Concentrate on their strengths
- Do you even know what their strengths are? There are so many great online tests that they could take or get a professional to come in and help you to identify strengths and weaknesses. It is not only super beneficial for your business but also fun and enlightening for everyone in the team.
- Help them with their wellbeing – work-life balance
- Go back to their perfect day and see how you can help them to get there.
Remember, you can’t force people to do anything. Force creates resistance. If you want your team to be more engaged, turn up to the meetings and participate in community events: you have to lead them. Lead them by example and be a positive influence in their lives.
The biggest part of leadership is TRUST. We build trust by trusting others. Trust your team, let them make mistakes and create a plan for their development.
Without a team, you don’t have a business, you have a job!
As usual I have an action plan for you. Just like you do your annual planning, marketing planning and sales planning, I want you to have a team development plan.
Create a 12-month calendar and plan out:
- 1x Team building activity (something fun)
- 1x Team development block
- 1 x Cooked breakfast at your place
- 1 x Dinner out (maybe a Christmas party)
Share your plan with me and let me know how you do. Start leading your team and soon your team will be fully engaged and ready to follow.
“Part of this balanced breakfast!”
What memory does that stir up?
For me, it’s something from 35 years ago: little Chris in his Transformer pajamas, eating his Frosted Flakes and watching The Smurfs.
In those days, as now, sugary cereals marketed to kids when they were at their most vulnerable. And they got their ads past the censors by using confusing language. They couldn’t say “healthy” or even “good” breakfast, so they used another term: balanced. And, over time, we all started to believe that “balanced” meant “good”.
Balance doesn’t mean equality; it doesn’t mean tolerance. It sometimes means “as much evil as good” or “just enough of X to justify all that harmful Y.” It’s worth noting that healthy food producers don’t have to talk about “balance”, because they can legitimately say “good”.
Our duty as coaches is to help our clients reach health and fitness–not to help them reach “balance”.
My role as mentor to fitness business owners is to help them achieve wealth. That means, instead of presenting all possible opinions, I serve as a filter. I fight infobesity (thanks Brendon). I don’t want to overwhelm or paralyze; I want to activate.
There are a lot of fake gurus and consultants out there who would love to sell you something. But a sales platform requires some authority, and authority requires a platform. Credible platforms take a long time to build (it’s taken me over ten years.) So they get themselves booked on podcasts or published on websites as a shortcut. Listeners tune in to hear a balanced perspective. And their misinformation blunts our collective progress.
Let me give you a more specific example: the best way to sell supplements is to show them beside steroids.
You might not have fallen for this, but I have: as a new trainer in the late 90s, I saw ads for spray-on Testosterone boosters. The ads always trumpeted them as “The Next Best Thing To Steroids!” And there was always a picture of the supplement bottle beside a bottle of mystery pills. The label said “andro-” something, and the article mentioned Mark McGwire, and the PayPal link was just so easy to click…
So you assumed: this stuff is SO CLOSE to steroids that the bottles are practically touching! Because that’s how your brain works.
In reality, the “next best thing” to steroids doesn’t exist. The “next best thing” is not really effective at all.
But I bought the spray-T, followed the instructions, got heckled by my roommate, and smelled like ammonia for a few weeks. I fell for it.
Because when a publisher puts two things on the same stage, they appear to be almost the same. Our consumer brains can’t differentiate. And that’s a huge problem.
Most of the media around gym ownership tries to portray a “balanced perspective”. So they’ll ask one gym owner: “How much revenue did you collect last year?” And he’ll say, “One. MILLION. Dollars!” And the interviewer will say, “Wow!”
Then they’ll ask another, “How much revenue did you collect last year?” And he’ll say, “ONE million dollars.” And the interviewer will say, “Wow! Two experts! Their opinions are equally valid.”
But they’re not.
If the first gym owner had three locations, twenty-seven part-time coaches, 30% monthly turnover, two ex-wives and a 5% profit margin, is that really the same as the gym owner who nets $300,000 on ONE location and two hundred clients? Not even close. This will sound funny, but the million isn’t the hard part: the profit margin is the hard part. But if you aren’t told the difference, then the spray-on andro looks a lot like the steroid bottle.
Now, we all accept that everyone’s equal on Facebook. We all put our best foot forward, and when we look at the long line of shoes, it’s hard to tell who the experts actually are.
But in larger media – like the CrossFit Journal, podcasts and various magazines – we trust there’s some kind of filtering process going on. And there’s not: the spotlight shines equally on anyone who will step onstage. There’s no fact-checking or proof. And even worse, opposing points of view are sometimes promoted in the name of a “balanced perspective”.
Publishers need to fill up their platforms. If they stop producing, listeners and viewers will go elsewhere. Trust me on this: it’s hard to publish a podcast every week. Many podcasts PAY recruiters to find them guests. And when you’ve paid $350 to get someone on your show…how critically will you assess her claims?
I don’t blame podcast hosts for wanting to have interesting shows. But we, as listeners, must learn to critically evaluate their messages.
We don’t need all possible opinions. We don’t need to hear every perspective. What we NEED is facts.
Facts require filters and proof.
When we launched the TwoBrain podcast, I invited guests who had relevant messages for gym owners. I didn’t invite guests just for the sake of having guests. And it’s still our rule: “Is this person’s opinion borne out in practice, or are they just machine-gunning guesses?” Because I think it’s my duty as publisher to give you ONLY what works.
This means we turn down popular guests all the time. It means we’re invited to appear on fewer podcasts, because we won’t agree to a reciprocal hosting agreement. It’s not the fast way to build a platform of trust. But it’s our responsibility, as leaders in the movement, to actually ask: “Does that really work?” Because our mission isn’t to make the most money or get the most “likes”. It’s to make gym owners wealthy.
Magazines have to fill pages between ads. Blogs have to sell supplements. Podcasts need a good lineup of entertaining guests. That means selling “balance”.
Now, what’s CrossFit HQ’s responsibility here? As the licensing brand for our businesses, should they be sharing advice? Should they be sharing more, or less? Should they be filtering, or providing a balanced perspective? Whose responsibility is it?
I have my own opinion, but I also have an obvious bias. I’d love to hear your opinion!
Last week, I told you why I started a gym: to create freedom for my family.
Today, I’d like to introduce you to my larger family.
Years ago, a physiotherapist told me, “If you care about your health, then you have to care about the health of the people around you. And if you care about their health, then you have to care about the city.”
I started the gym to take care of my family, and help my wife achieve her goal at the same time. But I started TwoBrain to help my larger family: other first-time entrepreneurs who had opened a gym. I knew what they were going through, and the camaraderie of the early days of CrossFit affiliation encouraged me to share all the mistakes I’d made.
You’ve probably heard the story ad nauseam: I hit bottom, found a mentor. Posted the mentor’s lessons on a blog called DontBuyAds.com every day for four years. Answered a call to mentor a couple of gym owners through a website company. Published three books about gym ownership, added a few dozen videos and articles to the CrossFit Journal, and continued to publish love letters to gym owners every day.
But the story I haven’t told is why I founded TwoBrainBusiness.com; why we keep producing free stuff every single day; and why I’m more committed than ever before.
In early 2015, while still mentoring gyms through a website company, I built a 14-hour online course around the conversations I’d been having. While every gym is different, certain work has to precede other work, and I recorded videos, wrote lessons and built templates around these foundations. I was the guy on the videos and the guy behind the lessons. I thought we could help more gym owners by selling the video course for less. And with a waiting list, selling a course as an alternative to 1:1 mentorship seemed like a great way to leverage my time.
It didn’t work.
If my goal was simply to make more money in less time, I’d say the course was a success. But my goal is to help gym owners, and an online course without 1:1 mentorship simply isn’t effective. MENTORSHIP IS THE ONLY THING THAT WORKS. It’s not the cheapest service to provide; it’s not the most scalable option to offer. If your goal is to scale without big costs or have a massive profit margin, you can get away with selling an online course. But if your goal is to make a meaningful difference in the lives of entrepreneurs and their families, you have to provide 1:1 mentorship.
My goals didn’t align with the website company’s goals anymore. And so, on February 13, 2016, TwoBrainBusiness.com opened its doors to gym owners.
Now there are over 500 in the TwoBrain Family. Every single one has a personal mentor. Every single one gets at least a full hour of 1:1 time every single month (and that’s an hour every WEEK in the Incubation phase.) Every mentor has a small caseload. Because that’s what works!
Like you, I took this leap into entrepreneurship. Like you, I made an emotional leap: I believed in the mission of getting people healthier, because I cared about them. I embraced CrossFit as the most effective tool available. But, like you, I quickly realized that a fitness tool isn’t a business plan. A business plan is a business plan, and a mentor makes it work.
We now have nearly 30 mentors at TwoBrain: all successful entrepreneurs who have been through our model, reached the Tinker Phase, and are dedicated to pulling others up behind them. This huge staff means a LOT of big ideas and new solutions to problems; these aren’t call-center employees trying to troubleshoot your website. These are high-earning, successful entrepreneurs who have been there. As my own mentors tell me all the time: it’s not the fastest way to build a business, or the cheapest. But it’s the ONLY THING THAT WORKS.
I care about the health of CrossFit. I care about the health of the fitness movement. That means I have to care about the health of those pushing the movement forward: the gym owners. You serve them; we serve you. Every hero needs a guide.
That’s why, most days, I wake up with a chip on my shoulder: because we have a long way to go, and gym owners deserve better.
Think about this: you’ve put your entire life on the sidelines to help others get healthy. You’ve asked your family to carry on without you at breakfast and bedtime; taken a vow of entrepreneurial poverty (hopefully short-term); skipped your own workouts; eaten your stress; missed your sleep; skipped meals; drank too much coffee…
…all in the name of providing excellent service. The least we can do is fill the gap between that service and your reward. No one else is willing to do it this way–the only way that works. But I am. That’s why I founded TwoBrain.