Episode 153 – The Tinker Phase of Entrepreneurship, with Jeff Smith

Episode 153 – The Tinker Phase of Entrepreneurship, with Jeff Smith

Jeff Smith is the owner of Cannon CrossFit, a real estate investor, and leader of the TwoBrain Tinker program.
In this episode, Jeff talks about his story, what it means to be a mentor, and what it means to help those in the Tinker Phase.

Contact Jeff:Jeff.smith@twobrainbusiness.com
2:39 – Introduction with Jeff Smith
11:30 – Joining Two Brain as a mentor
13:09 – Joining the military, the motivation behind the decision
15:31 – Jeff’s other business, real estate.
17:14 – The importance of being a lifelong learner
21:27 – The benefits of splitting up your day with a workout
22:39 – How has a real estate investing led to becoming a better mentor
26:12 – The importance of learning while mentoring someone else 
​29:53 – How to contact Jeff

“For this reason, they must believe in the cause for which they are fighting. They must believe in the plan they are asked to execute, and most important, they must believe in and trust the leader they are asked to follow.”

—Jocko Willink, Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy Seals Lead and Win

Founder, Farmer, Tinker, Thief

In the Great Information Age, we all have access to more knowledge than we can absorb, let alone act upon. And action is the only thing that matters. So what knowledge should entrepreneurs have? What action should they take? When?

The modern problem for business owners isn’t lack of knowledge: it’s too much knowledge. It’s paralysis by analysis. It’s overwhelm.

Entrepreneurs pass through four distinct phases as they first grow their business, and then their leadership. These phases are Founder, Farmer, Tinker and Thief.

In the Founder Phase, the entrepreneur leaps off the cliff with his big idea. His goal is simple: to survive.

His big idea might leverage a better life, but his labor is the fulcrum. And that’s understood by the Founder, who embraces the romantic ideal of the entrepreneur: poring over the books at midnight, a trace smear of flour on his tired face, pondering the next step up the ladder to success. Hashtag #hustle, hashtag #grind.

The Founder Phase takes a heavy toll — physically exhausting, financially terrifying, and the largest strain on every personal relationship the Founder has. My job as mentor is to get the Founder out of the Founder Phase as quickly as possible. Many never survive this phase.

The Farmer Phase starts when the entrepreneur begins the shift from self-employed to business owner. He’s hired his first employee, even if it’s a low-level role. He’s begun paying himself a little. But he’s probably still the face of the company. He’s probably still baking the donuts at 4am, then answering emails and making sales calls “when he can”. He’s still working in the business instead of working on the business. He’s busy being busy.

In the Farmer Phase, the entrepreneur is susceptible to the Martyrdom. “No one can do it like I can!” he thinks, whether about sweeping the floors or mixing the secret recipe. And he’s right: no one else would do it that cheaply, that tired, or at the expense of their kids’ baseball games. No one else would work for a boss so demanding, so cheap, so ruthless — but in buying himself a job, the Farmer is beholden to his own self-worth.

My role as mentor to the Farmer is to replace him in low-value roles, and fill his time with high-value roles. It’s to systemize his batter-mixing, replace him at the front counter, and teach him to grow his reach. Eventually, it’s to get him home by dinnertime.

The Farmer Phase is where 90% of entrepreneurs spend the entirety of their careers. They call themselves “owner-operators”, and most will never even retire from their business, let alone become wealthy.

But some do. These are the Tinkers.

A Tinker has built a business that runs itself. Now she’s trying to build another; or to duplicate her first success; or to take her first idea to a new market; or to start over with a new idea. If she’s not given new challenges, the Tinker will probably stick her hands in the machine, constantly “tweaking” her original business until it’s broken.

My role as mentor to Tinkers is to help them identify the Next Big Project, and then keep them focused on it. I’ve never met a Tinker who didn’t have at least three Big Projects in mind. Free from their original business — and still making passive income from it — the Tinker’s greatest risk is killing the golden goose.

The Tinker’s attention must shift from developing their first business to developing themselves as a leader. That means a plan for physical activity, mental acuity, and mental training. It means peer support: “It’s lonely at the top” describes the Tinker to a capital T. It means mentorship from someone who has successfully navigated the “valley of death” created by hiring a management layer for the first time.

If they can, the Tinker becomes a Thief.

A Thief moves resources from an area of high concentration to an area of low concentration. Think Robin Hood, not The Hamburglar. With new resources, the Thief seeks to build a legacy business, providing multi-generational wealth or service to his community.

Many Thieves turn to mentorship. Others create bursaries or endowments, or found charities. Some continue to build, forging partnerships and taking their expertise to new markets.

My role as mentor to the Thief is — well, I don’t mentor Thieves. They mentor me. They inspire me, educate me, and ask me: “Who did you serve this week?”

The path from Founder to Thief is the path to self-actualization. The Founder builds a Foundation of service; the Farmer cultivates success; the Tinker builds on his invention. The Thief spreads the wealth.

Success isn’t guaranteed in any Phase. But it can be strongly aided through mentorship, and that’s why I’ve chosen to mentor other entrepreneurs.

Which phase are you in? Take my test: www.twobrainbusiness.com/test

Contact Jeff:

2:39 – Introduction with Jeff Smith
11:30 – Joining Two Brain as a mentor
13:09 – Joining the military, the motivation behind the decision
15:31 – Jeff’s other business, real estate.
17:14 – The importance of being a lifelong learner
21:27 – The benefits of splitting up your day with a workout
22:39 – How has a real estate investing led to becoming a better mentor
26:12 – The importance of learning while mentoring someone else 
29:53 – How to contact Jeff


Episode 151: Two-Brain Business for Clinics

Episode 151: Two-Brain Business for Clinics

Episode 151 – Two Brain For Clinics

This week we have a special episode introducing a new service being offered by Two-Brain Business called TwoBrain For Clinics. Dr. Brian Strump, a practicing chiropractor joins us to discuss exactly what is Two Brain For Clinics and how this new service can be leveraged along with a CrossFit gym or simply on its own to help chiropractors push their practice to the next level.


Brian is the owner of Live Active Charlotte, home of both CrossFit Steele Creek and Premier Health and Rehab Solutions. Brian’s passion for health and fitness led him to Chiropractic School and later to become a certified CrossFit coach. Since diving into the world of CrossFit, Brian has combined these two services together and is doing better than ever. Join us as we discuss these two businesses and much more!


Don’t Forget! Find out what stage of entrepreneurship you are in by taking the exclusive Two Brain test here: https://twobrain.com/test/or schedule your free mentoring call by clicking here!



Contact Brian:




1:42 – Introduction to Two-Brain for Clinics

3:18 – What are the differences and similarities between a gym and a clinic?

5:40 – The unique problems faced by practicing chiropractors

9:05 – What is Two-Brain For Clinics

13:21 – Marketing for chiropractor clinics

14:20 – How it can be helpful for a chiropractor clinic to partner with a local gym

19:05 – Ways that a chiropractor can level up their business

22:10 – How to contact Brian

Episode 150: The Wodify Affiliate Survey

Episode 150: The Wodify Affiliate Survey

Episode 150 – The Wodify Affiliate Trend Report

A few months ago, Wodify released the results of its “CrossFit Industry Report” survey. The numbers caused a stir.

There are plenty of these surveys out there. Most are subjective: they ask gym owners what they think, or to self-report numbers. But this one is different: it’s an objective look at data pulled directly from 4500 users’ dashboards. And some of that data is downright scary.

Wodify has build their new Business Metrics Dashboard using TwoBrain metrics: ARM, LEG, and LTV. They’re not an official TwoBrain partner, but TwoBrain gyms using Wodify do report a much easier time getting the metrics that matter every month.

So when the report showed an average LEG of 18 months, we were thrilled. Most of our data points to a lower number (around 13.4 months). While our data overlaps Wodify’s, neither encompasses the entire affiliate spectrum. That data doesn’t exist. The truth is probably a little higher than 13.4 months. While there are hundreds of very successful gyms in TwoBrain, gyms who start with us are often looking for help because they’re in trouble. That means clients aren’t sticking around long enough–a lower LEG score–and we work to fix that right away. So Wodify’s LEG report was interesting. But it’s ARM report was shocking.

According to the report, the Average Revenue per Member per Month is $84 at the gyms in the Wodify survey. That’s extremely low. Most TwoBrain gyms are nearer the $200 mark, with some over $250. A gym with $84 would have to recruit and keep THREE TIMES as many clients as a gym with an ARM of $250…and do it with the same number of coaches. Obviously, that’s a recipe for disaster.

So I indulged my curiosity and asked Olivia DiGiorgio about them. Olivia got her start by studying mathematics in college and began a career as a data scientist in the healthcare industry.  After falling in love with CrossFit, Olivia has since shifted to a more action-oriented application of mathematics and is using these skills at Wodify to help CrossFit gym owners better their business, customers, and athletes.  

Don’t Forget! Find out what stage of entrepreneurship you are in by taking the exclusive Two Brain test here: https://twobrainbusiness.com/test or schedule your free mentoring call by clicking here!






How Shortcuts Can Hurt You

When can a shortcut help us, and when can it hurt us? Here’s a four-question test.

We all need marketing now. For the first time, gym owners have access to marketing that works–at least, in the short-term. That’s a huge problem solved. But the next problem to solve is, “How do I pick the marketing that will benefit my business in the long-term? How do I know the difference between a strategy and a shortcut?”

Because we all know that some shortcuts can actually hurt us. We’re fitness coaches, after all, and we spend part of every day telling our clients to stay away from 800-calorie diets and Slim-Quick shakes and pyramid schemes for supplements.

At TwoBrain, we want you to attract clients one at a time; form a personal coaching relationship with them; and keep them for a decade. We use Affinity Marketing, content marketing and high-level Facebook marketing to do that (and it’s all in the Incubator). The other option is to run challenges of 30-40 people at a time through your gym using cut-and-paste Facebook ads. The first is powerful; the latter is a powerful shortcut.

I try not to quote Seth Godin more than once per year, but his podcast today featured a great framework for determining which shortcuts can help and which can hurt. When he’s presented with (or finds) a new strategy for growth, Godin asks these four questions:

  1. Is it repeatable? Can I keep doing this for a long time, or is it a crash diet?
  2. Is it non-harmful? What are the downstream effects on our culture?
  3. Is it additive? Will it improve over time?
  4. Can it survive the crowd? Does it have to be a secret?


Let’s hold group challenge marketing up to Godin’s four questions:

  1. Is it repeatable? Yes…for a few rounds, anyway. But anyone who’s run a large group six-week challenge will tell you that it’s pretty exhausting. Imagine running the CrossFit Open every six weeks, and trying to bring the energy every time while explaining the air squat to a few dozen beginners.
    Big group challenges are fun the first time (I enjoyed the first New-You Challenge we ran at Catalyst two years ago.) But the challenge class times inconvenienced my best members. My coaches got worn out. And the new group took a lot of energy to manage…and then left.
  2. Is it non-harmful? At first, running a big group challenge seems like a positive: new potential members, and a little revenue spike. But more and more gyms are telling us they’re losing their BEST members when they run big group challenges. Their seed clients get less attention; they’re inconvenienced; and they’re often paying more for less service than the new kids get. In addition, if you’re offering bait-and-switch challenges, you’re poisoning your well of potential future clients.
  3. Is it additive (will it improve over time)? Unfortunately, lead quality tends to go down over time, and ad costs go up. When you run challenges over and over–especially the same group challenge–its value decreases every time you run it.
  4. Can it survive the crowd? When multiple gyms run the same ad campaigns in the same city, the problem compounds: ad costs go up quickly, and lead quality decreases, because the best applicants have already done the program. They’re looking for the next thing.


Now, let’s ask the same four questions about marketing to one person at a time, which is what we teach. For background:

Affinity marketing is in-person relationship marketing, referrals and “help first” conversations.

Content marketing is building a foundation of trust and slowly nurturing each potential client toward registration.

And the Facebook Marketing taught in the Incubator is personal “journeys”–sometimes we even call them challenges, but they’re not group challenges. For example, a person might see the ad, do a No-Sweat Intro, and have a six-week challenge designed for them; but their challenge is different from the next person’s, and leads to a long-term relationship with the gym.

Holding this type of marketing up to Godin’s four filters:

  1. Is it repeatable? Yes, you can have conversations forever. You can run ads forever with a lower ad spend, because your’e not counting on one big “splash” of revenue every 2-3 months. And since you’re just adding jet fuel to your normal process, you’re not going to put your staff through the meat grinder; you’re just speeding up your regular process.
  2. Is it non-harmful? Yes, because every new client goes through your typical intake process, and gets introduced to other members when they’re ready. That means you can still keep your primary focus on existing clients instead of ignoring them. And you can get new clients without tricking them.
  3. Is it additive? Yes. As you get better at conversations, you’ll convince more people to join your gym. You’ll also become better at conversions as you do more in a 1:1 setting. And since you’re not running the same ads as every other gym in town, you’ll get better at judging what works, and spend money on only those.
  4. Can it survive the crowd? Yes. We have several cities in which TwoBrain gyms are operating in cooperation instead of competition. They’re meeting different people, running different ads, and still becoming very successful.


There are shortcuts to profitability. Marketing can be one. But big-group challenge marketing is potentially harmful to the long-term success of your business.



Episode 149: Lessons Learned, with Vaughn Vernon

Episode 149: Lessons Learned, with Vaughn Vernon

Episode 149 – Vaughn Vernon – Lessons Learned

Today we are joined by Vaughn Vernon, owner of Affiliate Guard. Affiliate Guard is an industry-specific company that provides insurance coverage for affiliates. Founded by Vaughn in 1999, Affiliate Guard insures 2,500 gyms across the world today. Join us as we talk about Vaughn’s growth as a business and as an entrepreneur.

This episode is NOT about insurance. But Affiliate Guard is an official TwoBrain partner, which means they uphold the TwoBrain standard of excellence and care.

Don’t Forget! Find out what stage of entrepreneurship you are in by taking the exclusive Two Brain test here: https://twobrain.com/test/or schedule your free mentoring call by clicking here!






0:25 – Introduction to Vaughn Vernon

1:55 – Vaughn’s experience growing a major insurance company 

6:11 – Growing a business within a niche

8:29 – What is the structure of Affiliate Guard? What can we learn about the structure of other businesses from AG?

9:40 – Keeping communication open while running a family business

10:52 – Realizing that you cannot be everything to everybody

12:48 – Determining the seed clients necessary to start an insurance company

15:27 – How complacency can cause problems in your business

16:05 – What does a typical day look like for Vaughn?

18:15 – Insight into the Affiliate Guard hiring process

23:57 – Two Brain Stories with Matt Koym



Are You Ready to Be A Tinker?

Are You Ready to Be A Tinker?

In the Tinker Phase, the entrepreneur’s focus shifts from building their first business to building themselves.


At this level, the Founder of one company diversifies his portfolio to include cash-flow assets, second locations, and maybe new businesses. This requires a larger team, a management layer, and growth as a leader.

Tinkers work through the “valley of death”, when the entrepreneur has to make larger investments to grow. This could mean hiring ahead of cash flow, or buying a building, or scaling up equipment; and usually occurs between $1M and $3M in revenue. This is a stressful period, and Tinkers need both 1:1 mentorship and peer support.

Are you in the Tinker Phase? Take the test here.


Our Tinker program will launch in January 2019. In its first year, we expect that many members won’t actually be in Tinker phase yet. But they’ll be close: after reading this list, they’ll identify one or two key elements to overcome before 2020. And in 2020, everyone in the group will officially be in the Tinker Phase.

Here’s the basic list, from “Founder | Farmer | Tinker | Thief”:

Are You Ready To Be A Tinker?

Have you hired an “administrator” to oversee the Client Journey?

Have you begun managing staff instead of performing front-line duties?

Have you done an Energy Audit?

Have you launched at least one opportunity for intrapreneurship?

Have you hired at least one replacement for yourself in your primary service?

Have you done the “apples” and “weed” client exercise?

Have you fired one “weed” client?

Have you started hosting regular staff meetings?

Have you begun to extend your marketing to people you don’t yet know?

Have you started a retention strategy and taught it to your staff?

Have you budgeted for a staff development program?

Have you begun evaluating your staff quarterly?

Have you reached 33% gross profit margin?

Have you started tracking your enhanced metrics: leads, conversion rate, and revenue streams?

Have you started doing any paid lead generation?

Have you started attending a coached fitness program?


We measure success with different KPIs, like Effective Hourly Rate and Genius Time. But those are for entrepreneurs who are already Tinkers. If you’re just at the edge, the above are your priorities. If you can answer “YES!” to more than half of the above questions, you might be ready for the Tinker group!