What do the most profitable microgyms in the world have in common?
Why do some gym owners become two to 10 times more successful than average?
We’ve spent the last few years studying profitable gyms—finding their commonalities and then working backward to build a Roadmap to help our clients get to success.
In this series, I’m going to tell you exactly what the top gyms in the world are doing—things you might not be doing. Stuff like this:
– Why gym owners who offer fewer services earn more.
– Which metrics the leading gyms actually track and why they matter.
– How the top gym owners can spend 99 percent of their time working on their businesses instead of in their businesses.
– Why the most successful gyms can charge 20-30 percent more than their competition.
– How the best gyms are marketing their services.
This will not be:
– A “secret” marketing campaign.
– “Easy money.”
– Bait and switch.
To benefit from this series, you must be willing to:
– Think long term.
– Help First.
– Do the work necessary to build an enduring gym.
If you are willing to do that, you’re going to get amazing results from this series. Here’s how I’ll deliver these hard-won lessons to you over the next posts:
In Part 2, I’ll tell you how to focus your time and energy on the things that matter. Then I’ll tell you the numbers you need to focus on to be successful.
In Part 3, I’ll tell you how to delegate so you can work on your business, instead of in it. I’ll also tell you how to charge what you’re worth (most people don’t believe it when they hear it … until I prove it).
In Part 4, I’ll use Two-Brain Radio to introduce you to Peter Brasovan and Jared Byczko, who will share a ton of insight on running their million-dollars-plus gym. It’s amazing.
Finally, I’ll host a free webinar on the topic, in which I’ll answer your questions and share the remainder of the Six Habits. Last time I did this, we hit our 500-registrant cap, and I answered over 100 questions from the audience (we were on there for over two hours, and I legitimately got choked up while answering a great question from Ric Thompson).
Facebook groups are a powerful tool for client engagement between classes. Unlike Slack or any other group chat service, your clients are already on the platform.
But most Facebook groups suffer from low engagement, lack of quality discussion, criticism, arguments or all of the above. Some groups attract a wide variety of opinions without any kind of filter to discern fact from—well, crazy. Sometimes clients try to sell their Amway products to each other. Done wrong, Facebook groups are just a huge distraction for you—and for your clients.
Here’s how we’ve built the best Facebook group in the world, why we don’t let everyone in (even our own clients until they’re ready!) and how we keep the content valuable.
The Two-Brain Business Facebook Group: The Most Valuable Group in the World
The Two-Brain Facebook Group contains just over 500 members and over 50 posts every single day. Many contain sample materials that gym owners generously share with others (blog posts to copy, social posts to swipe and—most valuable of all—honest experience). When gym owners reach the Farmer Phase of entrepreneurship, this group provides most of the peer support they need to be successful. It’s a retention tool and adds a ton of value to gym owners: You could literally make more than $500 every month just by copying the stuff others share!
Here’s how we keep it valuable. You can copy these lessons to build a Facebook group that delights your clients.
First, We Keep Our Group Private
We don’t allow people who aren’t in the Two-Brain family inside because we want to maintain the huge wall of trust that surrounds our tribe. Many of the problems that plague other Facebook groups come from a lack of transparency: People are scared to tell the truth about themselves so they either over-hype themselves or stay silent.
In our group, all know they can’t hide the truth about their businesses because their mentors know their numbers. In other groups, it’s incredible to see gym owners posing as “experts” while their gyms are practically bankrupt.
We don’t even allow members of the Two-Brain family into our private Facebook group until they’ve reached the Growth Stage of mentorship. This is because entrepreneurs in the Incubator need focus more than they need peer support. Our Incubator program is done 1:1 with a mentor: We actively eliminate noise, great but distracting ideas and time on social media for Incubator clients to help them focus.
In your gym, this means you should remove people from your Facebook group when they cancel their memberships. It means you should make a big deal about inviting new people (and welcome them one by one when they join). And you should actively remove people who aren’t a good fit. Your Facebook group should be a bonus to your clients, not a right.
Second, We Lay out Expectations Clearly in Advance
Here’s the top post in our group:
This is a group for high-level business discussion. It’s private for TwoBrainBusiness mentoring clients.
Questions are encouraged. Ideas are prized. Dogma is forbidden.
Dead horses have their own thread. If you’d like to ask about booking/billing software, search for the “master thread” on software.
Please keep the discussion focused. Memes and jokes are the backbone of Facebook but don’t fit in this group. Likewise, criticism of non-Two-Brain practices is discouraged.
There are no “experts,” no icons here; everyone is asked to be open to mentorship and play the role of mentor to others. If you’re not familiar with the concept of Beginner’s Mind, read this before posting: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shoshin.
Third, We Actively Uphold Our Rules
It’s extremely rare, but we remove people from the Facebook group immediately if they don’t follow the rules. The Facebook group is only a complement to our mentorship practice, and our duty to the group’s members is paramount. So if one member is negatively affecting the experience of another, we remove the problem person immediately. No warnings necessary and no doubt about the action.
Fourth, We Remove Distracting Conflicts Before They Arise
In some cases, an entrepreneur in one city will have a conflict with another. That’s none of our business, and we believe every entrepreneur should have a chance to succeed. But members of our Facebook group can request that another entrepreneur from their city be excluded. The second owner can complete our Incubator program and even join the Growth Phase; they just can’t join the Facebook group.
The funny thing is that this happens far less than you’d expect. Most gym owners realize that it’s in their best interest to have nearby gyms operating at the same standard they are, so they actively recruit their neighbors to join. Out of over 500 members in the Two-Brain group, we’ve only received four requests to block another gym owner—and three of these were for the same person!
Fifth, We Lead by Example
Mentors think before they post. Mentors don’t have spelling mistakes or grammatical errors in their posts. No one posts memes, rants or other time-wasters, because group leaders don’t bury good content under that stuff.
We don’t allow criticism of anyone, even the people who attack our strategies. Because that doesn’t help the people in our group.
We encourage thoughtfulness and positive internal dialogue. For example, every Friday, dozens of Two-Brain entrepreneurs post their Bright Spots to help them practice gratitude.
In your gym, that means you need to be actively engaged to spur conversation. Start with something like Bright Spots Fridays—it’s been copied by many gyms, and it helps with their retention in a measurable way.
It means that the group’s tenor and engagement are a reflection of your tenor and engagement. Use it to build people up or don’t do it at all.
Sixth, Gift People With Fame
Give them a podium early and often.
Every new person in the Two-Brain Facebook group gets a specific introduction: Here is this amazing gym owner; here’s what the owner accomplished in Incubator; here’s what he or she will add to the group. Then several dozen others respond with a warm welcome. It’s a great opportunity to show new people a red-carpet greeting.
You can do the same thing. Introduce a new person with a great memory from your on-ramp program, a good picture and some personal detail that you remember about him or her. Put the client on a podium. Brag about him or her every chance you get, like this:
“Hey all, Harvey brought up a great question this morning in our group … .”
“Guys, I just have to take a minute to brag about Helen. Last night, she … .”
“Just in case any of you missed it, Alena got her first double-under on Saturday!”
Look for opportunities to make your clients feel famous.
When you start a private Facebook group, you’re going to have to be the catalyst: Spur it into action. Share openly. Start conversations. Make it what you want it to be. Don’t wait.
You’ve probably heard this phrase: “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
Those people can pull you forward or pull you backward. And you can do the same for them.
“No man steps in the same river twice.” —Heraclitus
Like it or not, every interaction you have with the world—and the people in it—changes them. And it also changes you. So lead your people in the direction you want to travel yourself.
The people I spend most time with are in the Two-Brain family. I prefer to be around people who will change me in a positive way. That’s why our Facebook group is private. That’s why you have to complete the Incubator and start Growth Stage before joining: I want you to master the basics, then add complexity.
“If you know how to build an audience, you’ll never go hungry.” —Todd Herman
There are really two parts to a gym business: operations and audience building.
The “operations” side is your service (CrossFit, personal training, nutrition coaching, bootcamp, whatever). It’s also how you deliver your service (your systems, your pricing, your location and setup). If we were selling a product, this side of the business would be the actual product.
The other side of the business is building an audience for your service. Building an audience is different from “lead generation”—though lead generation is part of it. Building an audience means attracting attention but also establishing long-term trust. It means leadership. It means keeping people attached and engaged. And it means willfully excluding people from the audience when necessary. That last one might make you a bit uncomfortable—but I’ll explain more later in this series.
Picture your business as a big wheel you keep pushing forward down the road. There are really six things you can do to turn that wheel, or six “handles” you can grab onto and push:
If you look at those handles, you’ll see that half of your time as a gym owner should be spent on delivery and improvement of your service, and the other half should be spent building an audience.
It’s not a coincidence that our Incubator program is set up to do exactly that.
The brain is often described as two parts: the left hemisphere (responsible for analysis, sorting and math) and the right hemisphere (responsible for creativity, communications and relationships). That’s why we’re called Two-Brain Business.
Marketing is fun to talk about. Sales is fun—well, it’s fun to get paid. But those are merely chapters in a long story. In this series, I’ll tell you how to build an audience (including how I did it for my gyms and how I did it for Two-Brain).
In Part 2, I’ll talk about how to build an Audience of One and then how to duplicate that ideal client over and over.
In Part 3, I’ll tell you the story of how I built an audience for Catalyst (my gym) step by step. I didn’t use a single paid ad from Facebook or the Yellow Pages or newspapers.
For Part 4, Per Mattsson will be on Two-Brain Radio to tell us the story of how he built an audience of 280 for an event in Stockholm, Sweden, and how their trust got him out of a jam.
After that, I’m going to do something different: host a live webinar on How to Build an Audience. You can watch for a few minutes and then ask questions. Go ahead: I’m an open book. After 10.5 years of publishing every day, I have no secrets left—but you might have missed some of them along the way if you haven’t read every post.
As always, you can email me if you have questions or if you think I left something out!
You can’t improve a person’s health until you change his or her behavior. This includes your clients, your coaches and yourself.
The process I’m about to teach you is the result of all the current research on behavioral change. It’s the sum of two decades’ worth of study in changing behavior and making people healthy. It’s so important that I co-founded Two-Brain Coaching to help coaches learn the things that really change lives.
Everyone teaches cues and corrections; no one teaches how to change behavior—until now. It’s a fundamental part of our courses at Two-Brain Coaching.
8 Steps to Behavior Change
As I’ve said earlier in this series, behavioral change has to come before motivation, before adoption of a new fitness program and before adherence. Retention—keeping a client long term—is the result of mastering behavioral change. It’s a lagging metric, not a leading metric.
Here’s how to do it, step by step:
1. Start with a clear picture of success. No one joins a gym for the sake of joining. Ask every client—in a sit-down, 1:1 conversation—what his or her goals are.
2. After you get a clear goal, ask “Why?” until you get to the root motivation. You need to know what the elephant likes to eat, so to speak. In this analogy, the elephant is the client’s emotional mind, and the rider atop the elephant is the client’s rational mind.
3. Show the client your plan to get him or her to the goal. We call this the “prescriptive model.” If you read the previous post in this series, you can call it “informing the rider” atop the elephant.
4. Provide a 20 percent bonus. Show the client what he or she is already doing right. It’s easier to modify an existing behavior than to start a new one. I wrote about “head starts” in “Two-Brain Business” and “Help First.” It’s important to show people they’re already a little bit successful.
5. Find Bright Spots. Motivation requires success, not the other way around. Highlight wins early. Celebrate them. Make this a priority for your coaches.
6. Put clients on podiums. A podium is a victory over a previous best. It’s also a chance to step up and move to a higher degree of challenge. And it’s the best marketing you can do. Make your clients famous. Tell their stories.
7. Ask for the next goal. This is the step most coaches miss.
The fitness industry is changing. Selling the same thing to everyone means selling a commodity. But no one can compete with personalized delivery. Even if your gym sells only group programming, your program must be delivered in an individual way.
Gym owners in our Incubator program build out their Client Journey step by step. They plan every interaction with their clients in advance. They keep clients longer. They don’t sell memberships; they sell change. And they can make this righteous claim because they understand behavior.
In the next installment in this series, I’ll talk with Ty Krueger of Behavior Change Collective and Packerland CrossFit on Two-Brain Radio. He’ll give you some real-world examples of behavior change in action.
Being happy doesn’t mean you’re in a state of euphoria all the time.
Being happy also doesn’t mean you’re in a constant state of untouchable calm all the time.
According to researchers, you need both: a long-term sense of fulfillment, with short-term peaks of pleasure to spice it up.
In other words, a noble purpose in life—and a few parties.
A Noble Purpose: The Foundation for Happiness
Many people will say they “had a bad day at work” but also “love their job.”
If your vocation serves a noble purpose, some short-term setbacks or stress won’t derail your happiness for long.
For example, when I’m working with gym owners who are going through a hard time, I tend to carry a lot of their burdens personally. I lose sleep when they’re going through a rate increase. I comb their social media nonstop when they fire a coach. I wouldn’t describe these days as “happy” ones, because I care a lot about my clients.
But I also benefit from having a strong sense of purpose: I know, from vast experience, that they’re doing the right thing in the long term. And if I can get them through hard action, they’ll eventually become far happier. Their families will benefit. Their staffs will benefit. And their clients will benefit most of all. That’s why being a mentor makes me happy.
How do you know if your job or vocation fulfills a noble purpose? When you’d do it for free. I would do this job for free—hell, I have. You probably would do your job for free, too.
When owning a gym was my only job, I daydreamed many times: “If someone would just come along and pay me a salary, they could have the gym and I’d be happy.” I just wanted enough to survive and keep going. The job made me happy. Unfortunately, the necessities of ownership soon began to outweigh the happiness I received from coaching. Until I fixed the business, coaching made me unhappy.
The Pleasure Party: Still Necessary
Was Mother Theresa happy? I’m not sure. I never saw a picture of her smiling.
I’m sure she was satisfied, maybe content. She had a noble cause to serve: helping the poorest of the poor in India’s slums. She was good at it. Her work made a difference that she could see every day.
But was she happy?
Think of your happiness like a big, colorful circus tent. The fabric of your happiness is your noble purpose or just cause. But the poles propping it up are those short bursts of joy called pleasure.
A cancer researcher might have a great sense of purpose, but if she spends every weekend alone, she might still be unhappy. In fact, some of the smartest people in our culture are unhappy because their intellect is confined to math or science.
How to Become Happy: Taking Action
Naval Ravikant asked, “If you’re so smart, why aren’t you happy?” And that’s what started this journey.
Obviously, happiness doesn’t just happen. You have to create it. So I went looking for directives.
Naval led me to Daniel Kahneman and Paul Dolan first.
Paul Dolan wrote “Happiness by Design: Change What You Do, Not How You Think.” His greatest insight was that the pursuit of happiness can be measured along two parallel lines and achieved both actively and passively.
For example, active pleasure might mean sex. But you can’t have sex all the time. Passive pleasure might mean being carefree and lying on a beach. But you can’t do that all the time, either; if poverty doesn’t get you, diabetes will.
Filling in the gaps between bouts of pleasure is your overall sense of purpose. Active purpose might mean making a short-term sacrifice for long-term gain, like shopping for groceries. That’s not a pleasant chore, but it does help you gain a sense of purpose. Passive purpose might mean having a noble goal in life. That noble goal—or a vision of service—is often enough to carry you through severe unpleasantness. I’ll write about that in the next article in this series.
So if you’re a gym owner, try to find something fun in every class you teach. Tell a joke in every appointment. But don’t lose sight of your mission, either: Take time to write down your mission and how life will look when it’s fulfilled (we call this your “vision”). The clearer your mission, the happier you’ll be.
The next step is to make other people happy. You’ll become happier as a result. So help your clients find pleasure (tell a joke or hand out smiles and hugs). But also take care to remind them of their purpose. Remind them, every day, why they’re in your gym. It’s not just a good sales practice, not just a good retention tool; it will make you happy, too.
Finally, give yourself permission to experience pleasure. Eat the damn cake at the Christmas party. You don’t have to be an example of willpower or stoicism or discipline all the time.
I’m sharing this series over the holidays for this reason: because I spent too many holiday parties trying to “set an example” for others by eating only vegetables and turkey, working out at 5 a.m. on Christmas morning before my kids woke up, and just generally being hardcore.
What I was really doing was separating myself from everyone around me. I was separating myself from the experience (and happiness) that they were having. No, eating sugar won’t make you happy—we all know it. But self-sacrifice without a noble purpose won’t, either.
Consider the holidays your three-day happiness kickstart. Your mission: to be as happy as possible over the next 72 hours.
These things we do—business, fitness, family, work—where are we headed?
I think the purpose of our existence is to find happiness. Call it self-actualization or nirvana or heaven, but we’re all shooting for a better mental state than we’re currently in.
In this series, I’m going to tell you how to get there. And here’s the great news: It’s actually easier for an entrepreneur to become happy than for almost anyone else.
Why Do I Care About This?
Why, for once, am I not writing about retention rates and operational excellence in gyms?
Because my mission is to make 1 million fitness entrepreneurs wealthy.
And as I defined it here, wealth is the freedom of finances and time. And how that time is spent is critical to wealth. My mission is not to build 1 million misers.
I work with gym owners who feel happy when they’re coaching. So they build gyms that allow them to coach more often.
I also work with gym owners to would rather just take a month off. So they build gyms that run themselves and hire coaches.
I have a gym that doesn’t require my presence at all. It pays me. That creates time freedom for me to write you these letters. That makes me happy.
Here’s the thing: If gym owners are happy, they’ll stay in the gym business. And for every year they stay around, they save another 20 souls—and they help the larger community, too.
Happiness is backward compatible. You will attract happy people to your gym. But far more often, you will make people happy—if you’re happy yourself.
Fitness is a prerequisite for happiness. You and I have that covered. But the trail doesn’t end there.
The Prerequisites for Happiness
Maslow’s hierarchy is a useful model for the pursuit of happiness. Abraham Maslow wrote “Toward a Psychology of Being” to describe his model. Here it is in graphical format:
Maslow believed that it’s really hard to be spontaneous when you’re starving to death. Likewise, that it’s hard to have high self-esteem when you’re homeless.
Our top lesson from Maslow isn’t that happiness is a checklist, however. In modern society, we take most of the bottom two layers for granted (for the first time in history). Our real lesson is that Maslow is backward compatible: if you have Esteem, you’ll probably find Love/Belonging. If you have Love/Belonging, you will probably find Safety. And if you have Safety, you can probably solve the problem of Physiological lack.
Modern society actually creates a new type of physiological problem: excess. But we, the fitness coaches of the world, can help people by leading from the top of the pyramid down. We can help boost self-esteem. We can help foster friendships (and even family and sexual intimacy—who hasn’t had a gym wedding?). Those things can create Safety. And when people have the safety of resources and body, they can improve their sex lives, their sleep, their homeostasis and even their excretion.
All we have to do is lead them back.
But to do that, we have to be happy ourselves.
This week, I’m going to talk about being happy as an entrepreneur. More often than ever before, I see entrepreneurs “coming out” about depression and anxiety. Chefs, dentists, liquor store owners—they all talk about it now. But no one talks about how to stop being depressed, so I will.
Happiness is far more than the absence of depression. Happiness doesn’t mean unending bliss—I’ll tell you exactly what happiness is in the next post, and I’ll tell you how to achieve it. But first: You have to stop being unhappy.
How to Stop Being Unhappy
I said earlier that Maslow’s hierarchy is backward compatible. That means you can actually teach yourself to be happy by doing the things happy people do.
B.F. Skinner famously published studies showing that activating the smile muscles actually makes you happier. Go ahead and try it: Put a pencil between your teeth for a minute (not sticking straight out; bite it side to side). You’ll feel happier.
Now, visualize a very happy person in your mind. The person is standing up with perfect posture, maybe whistling a tune while walking down a sunny street. Well, all those things really are what happy people do. But no one suddenly “gets happy” and decides to take a stroll. Instead, the walking outside while whistling and standing up straight—those are the things that make you happy. Happiness is backward compatible.
Dan Pink’s book “Drive” set out another prerequisite of happiness: self-monitoring. Paraphrasing Pink, most people don’t pay attention to the thoughts in their heads. They actually program themselves to be unhappy all day.
Take Pink’s exercise: Start counting your happy, positive thoughts and your depressing, negative ones. Don’t just count the times you abuse or praise yourself: Count the number of times you run someone else down or criticize him or her. Those thoughts are making you stressed and unhappy. Happiness is backward compatible.
Finally, you must stop comparing yourself to others. If you figure out how to do it, tell me.
How to Climb the Pyramid as an Entrepreneur
1. Satisfy your physiological needs. Take care of yourself first. I know I shouldn’t have to tell you this, but prioritize your sleep, nutrition and workouts. Jump into classes at your gym or just go for a walk. Many gym owners lose their fitness when they open their business. It’s OK to lose your peak form, but don’t stop moving. Ride your bike or go for a walk. Get off the ‘Gram and go outside.
2. Achieve security of employment and resources. Pay yourself first. Read “Profit First for Microgyms” by John Briggs when it’s released in early January 2020.
3. Prioritize the most important people. Your business exists to serve you. Don’t allow it to run your life for long.
4. Achieve self-esteem. Practice Bright Spots on Fridays. Surround yourself with positive entrepreneurs instead of sad ones.
5. Achieve balance.
How do you do this stuff? You build a business that supports you instead of requiring you to support it.
You create balance in your Personal Flywheel. Watch the video below:
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