At TwoBrain, we teach that successful entrepreneurship creates freedom. Freedom means the ability to choose: will I coach classes today, or not? Will I sleep in, or get up early? Will I mop the floors, or will someone else do it?
But successful entrepreneurship also means freedom for the people you care about most.
I opened a gym because I had to. I wasn’t under the impression that it would be easy, and I didn’t even have the CrossFit brand to lean on.
In 2005, I was a personal trainer at a small facility. I worked with 6-12 clients every day, one on one. I was paid around $20 per hour. Go ahead and do the math.
My wife, Robin, had a great job. She loved her company and she was paid around 3x what I was. She liked her coworkers and she liked driving new cars around every day.
Then we had Avery. And built a new house out in the country. Life went from great too amazing. And then, when Avery turned one, it got really tough.
In Canada, new moms take a full year off work. And after a year, Robin went back to work. She struggled. I struggled too: I cried when I dropped Avery off at daycare, because she was a shy baby. One month after her return to work, Robin said: “I just want to be home with her.” And I realized that I wanted the same thing.
The problem was money: I didn’t make enough. After one 13-hour day without a break from coaching, I added up my share of the revenue and realized it wasn’t enough. I had no choice but to start my own business.
Keeping one partner home is expensive, but it also meant I could work 80 hours outside the home while she worked in our home. We both understood what was necessary. And we stuck to that schedule for YEARS.
Entrepreneurship isn’t easy. But it allowed both of us to get what we really wanted in life.
Smart entrepreneurs ask themselves, “What kind of lifestyle do I want?” and then build their business around the goal. They work backward from their “Perfect Day” instead of simply jumping out of the airplane and trying to build wings on the way down.
One of the greatest things a client has ever told me was this (from Sherman Merricks):
“My income goal is that my wife can walk into any store she wants, and buy anything she wants without looking at the price tag.”
Of course, he could have been talking about his kids, or his parents, or his coaches. But Sherman wants what I want: for my entrepreneurial labors to create financial freedom for the people I care most about. I want to have choices; and I want them to have choices, too.
Entrepreneurial success means that my loved ones have flexible lifestyles. Entrepreneurial failure means forcing my loved ones into the trap of martyrdom with me. There are more lives than yours on the line. Whose needs are you considering first?
The Intramural Open is the best thing many gyms do all year. (Don’t have your 2019 Guide? Click here to get it.)
That doesn’t mean it’s easy.
The CrossFit Open is 5 weeks of extra classes, extra organization, extra stress. Clients are in an anxious state; coaches are overworked; and you’re adding more of everything to your plate.
As a gym owner, I love and loathe the Open at the same time. I’ll do anything to help my clients feel amazing. And if I can find a way that makes it easier on my staff, I’ll do it. So here are my tips, and over a dozen tips from the TwoBrain family:
- Get more judges than you think you’ll need.
Offer to pay for the judges’ course AND give a pound of coffee to any member willing to take it.
If you can fit 1-2 more athletes into each heat during your Open tests, everyone will get home faster.
- Run Friday classes as “Open Workouts”. Even those who aren’t registered still do the workouts with those who are. Avoid the chaos of a separate programming stream. If an athlete needs to test outside of a normal class time, they can buy a 1:1 session to do so.
- Post heat signups in advance. First come, first served. We use a whiteboard: we count up the judges in attendance, and open that many spots per heat. When the athletes walk in, they put their name in the earliest heat available. We allow 3 minutes’ break between heats, and we stick to the schedule. Any professional event will do the same. Delays and disorganization don’t help anyone.
- Don’t allow free “do-overs”. I don’t think anyone should do an Open workout twice unless they’re trying to qualify for the next level, but that’s just me. We allow anyone who wants to “re-test” to do so…if they buy a punch card for extra classes. It’s not about the extra $15. When we allowed athletes to try each workout twice, a growing number would sandbag the event Friday (“I’ll just do a light run-through”) and then come back and hit it hard on Sunday. But of course, they still need a judge for their run-through “just in case”, and heats get flooded, and everyone waits longer for their turn. If there’s a small cost to do the workout twice, most won’t. And they shouldn’t.
- Stagger heat times on the longer events. If another 40-minute AMRAP shows up, tell athletes to be ready to go when the previous athlete finishes. Give judges stopwatches instead of relying on one clock. No one wants to sit around and watch one athlete struggle through 50 double-unders all alone for 20 minutes (including the athlete.) Keep the floor full.
Here are some of the best tips from the TwoBrain family:
“Overplan. Despite the fact that it’s just a workout, everyone’s stress levels increase, and people behave in ways that are out of character. Expect odd behavior, and manage it with patience and solid preparation.” – Mike Warkentin
“Ensure you have a plan for the early morning classes. It’s not fair to ask a coach who went to bed at 10 the night before and who has to be up at 3 am to coach, to create the plan every Friday morning.” – Nick Habich
“We did a video series for each week leading up to the Open. When you make the videos, don’t say the year or any dates. Make it generic so you can reuse the videos year to year. We’re actually using the same videos and we just replicated the mailchimp campaign and changed the year in the subject line.” – Bronson Dant (Here’s a sample.)
“We run our open on Saturdays. Makes it easier to plan. Let’s us run heats, coordinate judges and so forth. Thursday is our big potluck day and where we have one person from each team go. Then Friday is a normal day/recovery for most to prepare for Saturday.” – Carlin Vandendriessche
“After workout announcement , make a logistics plan that you share with your entire staff that includes:
– map and layout of your gym for workout (have it set up before your main Open event time, and mark everything – lane numbers, etc)
– heat times set with transition times built in
– have specific scaled/masters/male/female slots for heats (sometimes we are limited by equipment, and this can prevent it in advance)
– specific roles for coaches (we do head coach leading class, head judge, and photo/media)” – Leslie Macedo
“Lots of prep work helped make the Judges self sufficient!” – Denise Miccoli Trent
“Plan to run 2 more heats than you would normally think.” – Brian Zimmerman
“Print the standards/set up logistics for the morning classes. Assign athletes to judge right after their heat, team captains for motivation and to manage athletes score submissions” – Erin Alphonso
“Your staff are your messengers. If they fully understand what’s going on , makes easier for members to follow” – Anastasia Bennett
“Assign 2 team captains per team. 1 a fun member and 1 a coach. Put all planning for events on a team and rotate.
– mark all lanes, setup equipment ahead of time, and have people signed up as athlete for 1 heat and the judge for the next.
– mix your social events. 5 Fridays in a row is tough on everyone.” – Mike Lejeune
” We assign one lead coach to manage one of the Friday nights. Then they are off for the rest of the weeks. We also assign a coach to help people warm up and one more to be the heat stager/coordinator for the night. Runs like clockwork.” – Andrea Savard
“We run it on Sunday as a separate event.
1. Run a Thursday night announcement throw down. This seems counterintuitive, but it forces you to think through the logistics and standards early!
2. Assign the person responsible for set up, but ask for elves to help set up.
3. Set up Rx and scaled lanes
4. Think through how many will be Rx and scaled, as well as 55+, so that you can create a good ratio of each lane…see #3
5. Assign a heat master who assigns heats and judges. Esp since most of my judges are also competitors.
6. A separate place to warm up if you are going to be running multiple heats. At least plan some space for this.
7. Plan for spectators…even folks that have already finished need to be told where to go and where not to go.” – Ric Thompson
“Print an Open ‘cheat sheet’ each week – the workouts and quick notes on standards” – Phoebee Frost
“Emotions run high. Empower Captains to listen to concerns. Then when deemed worthy bring them to your Intramural Open staff or you. Whatever is appropriate.” – Ashley Bridges
“Hire someone else to look after it…. :)” – Kaleda Connell
“Set up the judges station:
One clip board full of blank judges sheets
One clip board for completed judges sheets
One clip board per station
Plus lots and lots of pens!” – Karli Kaea-Norman
My last tip: take ten seconds, every day, to look around and realize: “I did this.” You’re the reason they’re smiling, jumping for joy, congratulating friends. YOU, Coach.
Like CrossFit, no one said hosting the Intramural Open would be easy. But I promise: it’s worth it. Learn from our extra effort and mistakes: after 8 years of hosting an Intramural event, plan yourself a week off after the Open, buy your coaches’ lots of extra lunches and coffee, and hold every hug for one extra second!
(Two extra seconds is creepy, but still acceptable.)
Occam’s razor is a philosophical principle that means, “If there are two explanations for something, the simpler one is probably correct.”
My first staff handbook was 18 pages. I was proud of it. It solved most of the problems in my business; bought me the time to fix the next problems; and improved our clients’ experience at Catalyst.
Over time, the staff handbook grew: first to over 40 pages, then to almost 150. We had the entire MindBody Staff Guide in there. My idea was: “Answer every possible question in one document.” And there’s nothing wrong with that idea–until there is.
One day, a coach asked how to enter a new client in our billing software.
I said (triumphantly!!!): “It’s all in the staff playbook! Just follow the steps!”
She said, “I looked in there, and couldn’t find it.”
I said, “Did you try the search feature?”
She said, “How do I do that?”
So we spent the next half hour searching through the staff handbook. It would have been faster to just do it for her. And the next time there was a problem, that’s what I did. The staff handbook got shoved away, and we rarely used it. Staff reverted to asking me for help on every little detail–even though 90% of them were in the book!
Even worse, as our software usage grew from a spreadsheet to MindBody, then SocialWOD, then MailChimp, and on toward infinity, the book got thicker. That means it got harder to use. And on down the spiral we went…
The age-old rule of writing is “write drunk, edit sober.” That means it’s important to get everything out without interruption or roadblock. But then it’s equally important to cut out duplication and extra language. Perhaps it’s MORE important.
When I was hired by CrossFit Media to write monthly pieces for the Journal, Lisbeth Darsh gave me a book. It was called “On Writing Well” by William Zinsser. The book had nothing to do with writing and everything to do with editing. “Cut,” said Zinsser, “and then cut some more.”
In your business, this means:
Reduce your message to the least words possible to get your point across. When you’re not used to explaining things, you try to cover every base at once. Of course, But don’t bury people: keep all of the steps, but ask “How can I say this with fewer words?”
Try to say only one thing at a time. When you’re trying to explain a policy or process to your staff, resist the urge to show them how everything works together. You’ll just bury them. Don’t write an SOP that tries to solve two problems; write two SOPs.
Don’t use two systems when one will do. A new system doesn’t double the explanation necessary; it quadruples it. For example, if you use Google Drive for your client folders and DropBox for your staff media, you’ll actually need 4x the time and effort to train your staff. If you host your videos on Wistia, and then copy them to YouTube and IGTV, staff will have to be trained on each of the 3 platforms AND the transition process between them.
It’s tempting to use Asana, Slack, Zapier, MailChimp, ClickFunnels, and ten more pieces of software. They’re all awesome. But every new piece you add should replace one (or two) old pieces. Keep it simple.
Make updates. Your staff playbook is a living document. You’re going to change your software; change your systems; and change your staff. Revisit the playbook quarterly. Cut any information that no longer applies; update any instructions that need to be updated; and add checklists on any new procedures.
Finally: don’t leave any gaps. Despite all of my imploring to “cut, cut, cut”, you’re really better to include too much information than too little. Include every step on a checklist; don’t let a staff person guess what to do next. There’s no such thing as common sense. Don’t assume anyone knows what to do. The greatest gift you can give to your staff is clarity of purpose AND process.
I recently went back and rewrote “Two-Brain Business.” In fact, I compressed that book and “Two-Brain Business 2.0” into one, and I added articles from TwoBrain 2018 too. The final result was a shorter book than any of the above (around 150 pages instead of 250). But it’s FAR better, because it’s clearer.
When we redid our Incubator over the summer, we had a ton of new information and data to present. But the modules and instructions and videos that we provide for homework help are actually shorter. And they’re better–you can see it in the ROI our clients get.
More isn’t better. Better is better. And clearer is always better. Be clear.