Two-Brain Radio: “Profit First for Microgyms” With John Briggs

Two-Brain Radio: “Profit First for Microgyms” With John Briggs


Andrew 00:02 – Welcome to Two-Brain Radio. In this episode, Chris Cooper talks with John Briggs of Incite Tax. Accounting can be tedious, but John is far from it. He’s an engaging numbers expert who sometimes wears an “IRS Sucks” T-shirt. In January 2020, John will be launching his book “Profit First for Microgyms,” a niche adaptation of “Profit First” by Mike Michalowicz. Listen as Coop and Briggs banter about the book and discuss how gym owners can get their finances in order and thrive. If you know a business owner who keeps his receipts in a shoebox and goes nuts at tax time, please share this episode. And now, Chris Cooper with John Briggs.

Chris 00:39 – John Briggs. Man, welcome back to the podcast, brother.

John 00:41 – Thanks, Chris. I really appreciate you having me.

Chris 00:44 – Yeah, it’s always a great time. And, you know, there aren’t many people I would say are the most fun accountants in the universe. There could be only one I’m sure, right? But I always say that about you.

John 00:55 – I appreciate that. I’m gonna try to hold that title for the rest of my life.

Chris 01:02 – Well, I mean, let’s face it, like this T-shirt that you’re wearing right now just took us on a 20-minute tangent before we started recording. So why don’t you start by describing your T-shirts?

John 01:09  – So my shirt says, “feed your profit” and it’s an homage to Mike Michalowicz and it has a picture of a pig on it. But if you look really closely, the outline of the pig is actually words, which it talks about, like some of the principles of Profit First, like smaller plates. But it also gets into our philosophy like the government sucks. It’s spending your money. Focusing on size doesn’t matter. Profitability is more important, things like that.

Chris 01:37 – That’s great, man. And we’re gonna get into that today. But, you know, it’s worth coming to the Two-Brain summit just to see what Briggs wears. Because his T-shirts every year are epic and you could sell them, buddy. Like screw the IRS. You know, it’s great. All right, let’s start at a high level. You mentioned like Mike Michalowicz. Mike is gonna be speaking at our Tinker meet-up in September. Mike has written several books they were gonna talk about, I think the most popular one, “Profit First.” So tell us, just you know, what’s the overarching strategy or philosophy of profit first?

John 02:08 – Yeah. And this is great. I’m gonna start with we’ve talked to some people and they the first time they hear the book “Profit First,” they’re like oh, my gosh, shame on you. Which is kind of a problem that’s been in the industry with the fitness industry in general, which is shame on you if you actually make money. That’s the first thing I think they go to is oh, you’re greedy. You should focus on your members first and things like that. That’s not what profit first means. It’s more of a cash-flow management system with the philosophy that if you focus on money that’s left over and try and have as much of that is possible. And so what I mean by money left over is we look at income coming in, and then we look at the cash flow that goes out. Well, if you want to be in business, literally, you have to have money left over after the cash flow leaves. It’s not gonna work, because if you don’t have money left over you’re funding it with a second job or you’re borrowing money. And that can only last so long, or your friends and family are funding it because they love you. And that’s also only gonna last so long.

John 03:26 – So it’s really just an overall philosophy that if you focus on making sure you have money left over, you can continue to focus on serving your members. A lot of people may not be aware they’re aware of this, but I know they are. If they think about the times I look at their financial statements or a tax return, both are in the exact same order. You start with the income at the top, you have the expenses that are subtracted from it, and what’s left over is that income and what we’re gonna call that for the sake of profit first, that’s profit. That’s what we’re looking at. The problem is from a human behavior standpoint, that equation doesn’t help us with the way we’ve been wired from the creation of time. And so Mike Michalowicz said, you know what, what if I just flip the equation so mathematically I’m not changing it, but instead I’m gonna take my income, and the first thing I’m going to subtract out is profit. And really, when he says profit, it’s a sexy way to say cash for the benefit of the owner, because at the end of the day, you are the most important person in your business. And if you’re not taken care of, you’re gonna burn out, and then you’re gonna have less of a desire to keep the doors open, which means less people are gonna have health because they need you. Anyway. So he just says, let’s just take out a predetermined amount first and force the way we’re wired to take hold, which is we will use the resources we have available to us, and all we’re doing is we’re arbitrarily giving us a lower amount that we’re forcing ourselves to use. And guess what? There are so many stories and examples across the world and in industries that show that we will survive. We will find a creative way to survive with the resources we’ve been given. And so instead of just income coming in, I’m gonna spend and spend and spend and hope and pray something’s left over, we’re saying, let’s actually determine how much we want left over first, then we’ll use the rest. That’s kind of the overarching foundation.

Chris 05:33 – And that’s really you know, there’s a term for that called Parkinson’s Law. But when I was giving a seminar last week, a guy said, Chris, how do I get my gym profitable? And I said, you’ve got to start with the mindset of profit first. And what I wish I had said, though, I wish I had given him the example of the tube of toothpaste. Why don’t you share that with the audience, John?

John 05:56 – Yeah, this is funny. Mike didn’t include this example in his original book, and I had started using it, and we had talked about it, and then he included it in his second book. So in my book, I give credit to him for the tube of toothpaste scenario. But I think I actually came up with it first. Human behaviorally, think about how you use your toothpaste. If it’s a brand new tube you’re looking—you have your toothpaste and your tube and your brush, man, you’re not paying attention to how much toothpaste you’re using. And you just pile that thing on. Oh, I got too much water on it and now it slipped off, no big deal. I have a whole tube here, let me just squeeze more on. But then all of a sudden, you get to the bottom and we get super fancy with the way that we’re taking toothpaste out of this tube. And now all of sudden if that paste falls to the sink, you’re thinking, when was the last time I cleaned my sink? Is that still clean? Yeah, that’s probably clean. Ten-second rule. It’ll be good.

Chris 07:05 – Use it.

John 07:07 – People are like doing the roll-up method. They use rubber bands. I found a product on Amazon that’s called like easy tube squeezer thing. It’s an actual product people buy to help do that. Some people cut off—I mean, it’s just like the amount of creativity people put into making sure they use every last ounce. And that behavior actually does translate to this method because we’re saying, look, we’re asking you to take the money that you want first, and not just what you want, but what your gym could afford or should afford. And let’s use the rest, we’re giving a false amount that’s left in the tube so that you can be creative and use the rest to run the business instead of just kind of adding fat to your expenses.

Chris 07:50 – All right, you’re a gym owner, and I know this was my own bad habit at the end of the month, if there’s $1000 left and I had to choose between paying the rent or paying myself, I would always pay the rent. And so, you know, I would never scramble hard to pay myself. But if it was the rent that was due and I didn’t have the money, I would get super creative, right? I’d be like pinching that tube, I’d be rubbing that tube on my desk, you know, as a gym owner, you know, for some reason we work really hard when we’re in debt to other people. But we don’t take our debt to ourselves maybe as seriously.

John 08:27 – Yeah, and I am glad you brought up that example because I think about owners and potentially they’re imagining that scenario where they’re at the end of the month, and they’re having to decide between a critical expense like rent or paying themselves. And maybe they’re telling themselves, well, that’s why this method isn’t gonna work for me. But the truth is, it will work, because if you would have taken that $1000 the beginning of the month, you have to have confidence in yourself that you wouldn’t have put yourself in the position to have to decide between those two things by the end. You would have found a way to pay your rent if you decided to pay yourself $1000 at the beginning.

Chris 09:07 – You know, it’s funny. I’ve heard of this strategy with saving for retirement or like tithing to your church. Just take 10% off your paycheck and you won’t even notice it’s gone. That’s been words of wisdom for 70 years, but we never do that with our business and just pay ourselves the revenue in advance, right? So John, like what made you want to take this big concept of profit first and write your own book that’s specific to the microgym niche?

John 09:38 – So we deal with hundreds of—deal is not the right way to say it. We have the pleasure and privilege of working with hundreds of gym owners. Yeah, there’s a reason we focused on gym owners because they actually are so much more enjoyable than other professionals. And having done hundreds of assessments where we’re trying to help these gym owners determine how healthy their gym is, what they should be putting in, like how much they could pay themselves, every single time we had to tweak the profit first model, and then going to places like the Two-Brain summit and other industry events as we’re talking to people like, oh, profit first. Yeah, I heard about it, but nah. I’m like, you heard about it. The response should be I heard about it and hallelujah. You know, instead of getting these people who were like, no, it’s not gonna work for me. So I started asking questions like, why isn’t it gonna work for you? Well, the book doesn’t—like things were different for us in the microgym industry, and so I felt like—and I get it because you know, their ninja skills are not in taking the profit first system and seeing how it can apply to them. They need to be told how to do it. And I wanted to get that message out to the industry because I actually think of industries that exist in the world, being a microgym owner is one of the most nobleist, and the benefit that comes from the services you offer as a gym owner are so much more profound than I think sometimes we give ourselves credit for. Just the idea of increasing somebody’s health and what that does to their life. And then now their having more health in their life and then people around them become healthier, like just the whole world could be healthier if microgym owners could stay in business. So, I felt like I wanted to make sure they had a message and to know exactly how the system works with them so that they might not feel discouraged when they read a generic book and they can see how it directly applies to them.

Chris 11:51 – That makes a lot of sense, you know. And even with the generic book, you know, we referred it to a few people about two, two and a half years ago, and in the first month, two of the gym owners that we gave the book to bought a house. And it’s not because they were suddenly making twice as much money. It’s just they had this mindset change. So, John, like, what are some of the things that you have taken from the original message but then tailored down to our specific niche?

John 12:17 – There’s a few. The first one I’ll start with is if you’re familiar with the book, Mike analyzed thousands of companies, and that’s how he came up with his table. But the companies he analyzed were multiple industries. So what we did for the book is we actually looked at financially fit gyms and just gyms and created a new table. So instead of like, whatever he had five columns of revenue sizes. We only have three because we want people to run profit first per location, not on their overall. We have a client in New York. They have, I think, at this point, five locations. We want them to look at profit first on an individual basis and not just hey, we’re doing more than a $1,000,000 because we have five locations. Yeah, but you have three locations that are great. You have two that, you know, kind of need your attention and profit first helps you see that. So anyway, so we have three columns. We also adjusted the percentages to make sense for the microgym industry. And with that, we added two new categories. So Mike has what he calls like the foundational five accounts. We have what we’re calling the essential seven. And so we’ve added—so the five accounts, let me just go and then I’ll add the two. You have the income account. We have owners’ pay, we have tax, we have profit. And we have operating expense or OPEX, as we call it. With an acronym thing. We’ve added team member expense and equipment. So those are the separate buckets that we’ve identified. Make the most sense for microgym owners, and the table reflects percentages for those seven accounts as opposed to the five. So those are kind of the main differences, but let me go into the team member bucket.

Chris 14:23 – Yeah, please do. Yeah.

John 14:24 – The reason we wanted to add that—talk about customizing profit first before this book came out. Every client who came in, we were trying to figure out well, how do you pay your coaches? and not the W2 vs. 1099 thing, because that does come into play. But do you pay him a percentage, do you pay him a flat fee, is it salary? And we realized there’s like seven or eight different compensation models out there. And every single time we have to figure out, how does this relate to Mike Michalowicz’s definition of real revenue? Because in his book, you have total income, you subtract out materials and subs, which for a microgym means cost of the things that you sell in the gym and the cost of your coaches if they’re not employees, and every time it’s like OK, how do we do this for, you know, Bob CrossFit owner and Susie Q. over here. Then, as I’m literally typing up the chapter in the book, I’m four pages in trying to explain all the different exceptions we found and come up with and I’m like, this isn’t good. Like I’m confused, even re-reading what I just wrote. And I don’t want the possibility that a gym owner is gonna be confused by this concept. So I said, you know what? Whenever possible, simplify, right. So I said you know, we’re just gonna literally take the whole coaches’ calculation out of this amount to get to real revenue and we’re gonna give them their own bucket. Now, whether they’re W2 or they’re 1099, you pay percentage or combination of which, you have one bucket and that’s your coach expense and financially fit gyms range 25 to 44% of your revenue goes to team member expense. If you’re above 44% you need to get it below that. If you’re in the 25 to 44% range, you’re good there. But this way, you won’t have to worry about, however you decide to pay your coaches on your end, the model will work now because you just know the percentage you need to stay within.

Chris 16:39 – Wow, so you said 44% which is a very, very close to 4/9ths.

John – That’s crazy, right?

Chris 16:47 – It’s like I’ve heard that somewhere before. Anyway. And actually, you know, we get portrayed sometimes by people seeking the spotlight as like the villain for giving less than half to the coaches. Usually, this happens with people who don’t understand, you know, other business expenses, but 4/9ths is actually the high end because you have to include, like, taxes and stuff in there, right?

John 17:11 – Yeah, taxes and wear and tear and risk, there’s a lot of stuff that people kind of—it’s funny, too, like some of these gyms I looked at, the financially fit gyms to analyze, they don’t use a 4/9ths model. Their coaches seem happy, and they retain their coaches just fine. And guess what? Their overall percentage was around 25%. But no one’s going to them and saying, hey, your compensation model’s greedy. You know, it’s like, look, as long as they’re under the certain amount and your coaches are happy and you feel like it’s fair and it is market rate, like use whatever method you want, but 4/9ths works, stop bashing it.

Chris 17:53 – That’s great, John. Thank you. So you know one of the huge epiphanies that you gave me back in June at the summit, and you know what? We always have these amazing conversations at the summit. You know, you said, Chris, I’m gonna tell you how “Profit First” gets married to “Founder, Farmer, Tinker, Thief” and has a baby. And I said, what the hell you talking about? And then you just kind of blew me away. So, you know, I know you shared this in our private group before, John, but maybe you could just kind of outline how that works through the stages of entrepreneurship.

John 18:24 – Yeah. So this is why profit first, I think, is the most amazing cash-flow management system out there. Because it is totally tweakable and adjustable to where you’re at as a gym owner. And you had been kind enough to share your book with me before it was published so that I could read through that. And as I’m reading through the way you organized these different stages, first of all, I thought, this is so perfect. Like you are finally giving vocabulary to gym owners of where they’re at. And so now they can communicate with each other so much more effectively. I think for me personally, it’s my favorite book of yours, for sure. And so you lay it out like, well, here’s a Founder, in Founder stage, here are the roles that you play and here’s what you need to do. I’m like, yes, exactly. If you’re in Founder stage, you can’t be thinking about like, where am I going to go on vacation? You need to be thinking about how do I get to Farmer stage? That’s the next move, which means you’re coaching a lot of classes and you’re probably not paying for a lot of other stuff. You’re wearing all the hats, and so profit first then plugs into a Founder and we say, well, if you’re coaching classes then that percentage needs to be higher than the just the format that we normally have for profit first. You’re going to be putting less money into equipment because if you’re the Founder stage, you probably just started, and hopefully your equipment is gonna last at least a year. You’re also not gonna have a lot of profitability, so your tax is going to be less than another gym. So we looked at all the factors you laid out and said here are the percentages that we’re recommending if you’re in Founder stage. And then we moved to Farmer stage and said, well, now your roles are different, now you are bringing on people and starting to replace yourself and leveraging your money. Well, guess what? Your percentages need to be different. And we just did that with every single stage and even like your Thief stage where basically the gym owner can be completely removed. But, yeah, the percentages need to be different because now you’re not really working in the business. Your compensation needs to be coming from the profit account and not the owners’ pay account. And so we just provided different percentages for people and the different strategies so that they know exactly how this cash-flow management system can adjust for them as their business grows and as they grow.

Chris 20:50 – You know what’s amazing John, is when I finally realized that I was in Tinker phase, I went to hire a local CFO and they were teaching me something else. “Simple Numbers” by Greg Crabtree, and they were they were talking about labor efficiency ratio, you know. So here’s the bucket or here’s the salary cap, all the funds you have available to pay your staff. And I said, OK, all right. What’s this number? It’s 44%. Like profit first. You know, being introduced to profit first when I was still in Farmer phase had totally set me up for everything I needed in Tinker phase. It was incredible. You know? It’s like I finally made it to the major leagues and, oh, they put the ball on a tee here for me, OK. It’s not actually different, so that’s amazing. I mean, you know, I just want to reiterate, guys, like, if you’re trying to get profitable in your gym, you’re trying to make more income, the very first thing that you have to do is change your mindset about how you pay yourself. My favorite thing about Mike Michalowicz is he takes these abstract concepts and he makes them directive. “Profit First” is like pay yourself exactly this much on the fifth and the 20th. Put them in an envelope, take them to a different bank, you know, sign the checks in advance, like it’s step by step. You know, “Pumpkin Plan.” Find your five best clients like this. Ask them these questions, take them to coffee. You know, and now what we’ve done is like, you’ve really exponentially amplified the value of that message by tailoring it to us. So thanks for doing that hard work, John.

John – You’re welcome.

Chris 22:35 – Tell me about that process, though. I mean, as a writer, I’m crazy interested in, like, how hard is it to take somebody else’s concept and tailor it to a niche as hard as fitness?

John 22:47 – Yeah, man, I can tell you. I don’t know even after the book is published if I’ll consider myself an author. I’d want to be better at it. But it is a grind. You know this as well as anybody with the books you write. There are two types of books in the world. There is the one that people convince you that you can write in a weekend, and it’s really just oh, because I know books give me credibility. And I’m gonna be an author, now I can say I’m an author, but we’ve all read those books and it’s crap. It’s like, well, this 150-page book could be three pages or it could’ve just been a blog post.

Chris – It’s a good tweet.

John 23:24 – And then there’s the other type of book where you write it. You have a message you want to give to the world, and you feel like it will bring value to those who read it. It’s a totally different focus. And obviously that’s the approach I took with this book. And so as I was writing it, I mean, we’re in November here of 2019. I basically signed the agreement with Mike November of 2018. So it’s been a year process for me of writing this book and putting my heart and soul into it. And yeah, I can tell you that one of the challenges was like I love Mike and I love the original system because it works for me and my firm, it’s changed my life. But how do I tell him this doesn’t work for me? So we’ve had a few conversations over the years. One of the big ones was the remove temptation account. I actually polled the Two-Brain group because of all fitness owners in the world, your group has been the one that’s helped me pioneer profit first in the industry.

Chris – Thanks, man.

John 24:32 – Yeah, And so we have all these gym owners who are familiar with it and are actually using it. And I asked everybody, hey, tell me about the remove temptation account. How did you do it? What do you like about it? What don’t you like about it? It’s like there’s 500 or 600, I mean, there’s a good sample size of gym owners. Two of them said I use the remove temptation account, and one of those two said I do it because the book told me to do it, but I don’t see the benefit of it. And then everyone else was like, no, I don’t do it, this is how we do it. So I called up Mike and I’m like, hey, here’s where I’m coming against. I can’t put a chapter in here where I’m saying this is required, because I have 500 gyms that are successfully using it, and they’re saying they don’t need it. Yeah, but part of it has to do with the discipline that comes with fitness in general that a lot of the world doesn’t have. And I just think gym owners overall, even though, you know, they need to find profitability, but in many aspects of their life, they’re much more disciplined than other people. So that was one of the things where I’m like, I don’t want to offend him, but how do I—so we went back and forth. The tax account was another one, I’m like man I don’t want to offend him but 15% is way too high, that’s psychotic if you have. If you literally need 15% of your revenue to pay taxes, I sure hope your income, your taxable income is more than a $1,000,000. Because if it’s not, you’re overpaying. Those were the only clients I have that actually have to save 15%. Now, I know it’s a little bit different because of the stupid—the way your business tax works in Canada.

Chris 26:19 – You can call it stupid, absolutely.

John 26:21 – OK. But for the U.S., 15% for the average gym owner is just way too much. So it was super fun though to go back and forth and then just OK, I know this isn’t working. And luckily for me, we had experience working with gym owners for the last, you know, six or so years. So I at least knew where the problems were and what we needed to change. But my biggest concern the whole time was how do I get the message to the gym owners without offending Mike? But Mike is the most gracious individual. And he was all for it what I’m like, yeah, it’s not gonna work, he’s like, that’s not a problem. Then don’t have the remove temptation account. So in the book, I talk about how it would work, but I think I call it recommended, not required is the subtitle for that section, and he’s, like, totally great with that. OK, cool. Thanks.

Chris 27:19 – You know, the thing that I’ve noticed about these great systems, John is like number one. They’re usually set up to improve scalability. But the opposite is also true that you can focus down really, really hard, like into a specific use case, like, you know, the gym industry as opposed to all service industries, and it still works. You know, you’re gonna change 20% but, like, the 80% is still completely valid. I think that’s a mark of genius. And I think that what you’re doing with this system is you’re making it really, really clear, simple to follow, easy to relate to for me, a microgym owner. And I really, you know, thank you for doing that hard work, man.

John – Yeah, thanks.

Chris 28:03 – So, you and I, I said already, you know, at our summits, we have these great talks. And so today we started recording a podcast and it actually took us 20 minutes to get up to the welcome to the podcast, John, because we got all these little rabbit holes. But one of the things we were talking about was taxation and letting the government choose where your money goes. One of the one of the misconceptions that you guys have with profit first is people associate profit with greed. One of the misconceptions that I have with “Founder, Farmer, Tinker, Thief” is they think that the Thief must be, you know, stealing from other people. What we’re really doing is like Robin Hood; redistributing wealth on our own terms. So, John, what I’d love to hear from you is kind of your philosophy, as you explained it to me an hour ago about, like, why don’t we want the government to decide where our money goes and like what it supports?

John 28:58 – Oh, why, why wouldn’t we? Well, I mean, the first thing that comes to mind. Almost every single politician runs some sort of campaign where they’re touting a tax benefit that they’re going to give to people. And I think what the world needs to realize is you have to see through that marketing pitch. They’re really trying to buy votes with tax benefits. And so, in the U.S.—do they call him entitlement programs in Canada as well?

Chris 29:38 – I’m gonna start calling them that. Yeah, Usually it’s a slightly more derogatory term.

John 29:43 – OK. In the US, we call them entitlement programs, which, if you look at the word entitlement, there’s not a lot of positive emotion to come around that word or good behaviors that come around that word. And so we have a whole gigantic percentage of people who are entitled and just feel like, well, this is something I deserve, or not even deserve, that I’m entitled to receive this benefit. And most of that comes from tax. We, 5 or six years ago, we have these videos on our website. We did a study. There was a senator and I can’t remember his name. I wish I did. So I don’t want to take credit for this, but this senator did it. Every year he came out with a report of, like, basically money you have no idea was getting spent by the government on whatever.

Chris – Oh, no.

John 30:42 – And so we did. We took his report, and we created just this video with graphics like, did you know the government spent X amount of, like a ridiculous amount of money studying seahorses in the ocean to see if they could change the currents? Did you know that they spent millions of dollars trying to create a real-life Iron Man suit? You know, did you know they spent $30 million a year just storing paper? Like all these different reports. So think about that. That’s taxpayer money. Like the way you translate that to you as a gym owner is you say, the food that I put on the table, the house that I can afford, my members pay for that. Everything is paid for by my members. The space of the facility, the quality equipment and everything in my life, the quality of my life the members pay for. Well, guess what? We’re the members of our country, right? And we pay for everything that the government’s doing; everything. We’re funding everything through our tax dollars. And so I think about things like that. And I’m like, I don’t really want my money to go towards studying seahorses. One of them, like they paid some guy to watch grass grow. I don’t know what the study was, but that’s what he did. He just watched the grass grow. It was gonna grow that fast. I don’t want my money to go for that because I feel like I could probably leave a better legacy in life, especially think about our noble purpose as gym owners. I can improve the health of the people in my circle. And if the more resources I have to do that, the more cash available for me to spend doing that, the better benefit to the world and to my economy. And so because of that, really I want you to pay the least amount of taxes possible. I don’t care what country you’re in. Pay the least amount of tax as possible because you will always spend your money better and do more good in the world than the government can ever do with your money.

Chris 32:57 – OK, that’s amazing. That’s even better than what I hope for, John. So we’re actually gonna wrap up on that note. But I want you to tell people like where and when they can get your book. And, yeah, let’s start with that.

John 33:10 – Cool. The book will be published January 7th. It is available for preorder right now. You can Google “Profit First for Microgyms” or you can go to Amazon and type in “Profit First for Microgyms.” We also have a website Check us out there on, obviously, the closer we get, if you’re a gym owner, I hope I found all the avenues to find you and you’ll be bombarded with messages that you should buy the book.

Chris  33:42 – We’re gonna preorder 20 copies if we haven’t already off the check and give them out to people in the Growth stage Two-Brain. But if you don’t get one of these free 20 copies, then you should be ordering yourself. We’ll have a link in the show notes here. John. Thanks a lot, man. I mean, I know there are so many topics that we could go on to, like subcontractors versus W2 and the changing laws there. But I really appreciate you doing this hard work to make the lives of gym owners easier.

John 34:09 – Yeah. Thank you. I appreciate; it’s my pleasure to serve.

Andrew 34:14 – Thank you for listening to this special edition of Two-Brain Radio. Don’t forget to subscribe, leave us a rating or write a review. We’d love to hear your thoughts. And if you’re inspired to take action today but need some guidance, head over to book a free call with a mentor.



Chris Cooper delivers the best of the business world on Two-Brain Radio every Thursday.

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Two-Brain Radio: James Hobart—Programming, Coaching and Competing

Two-Brain Radio: James Hobart—Programming, Coaching and Competing

Sean: 00:00 – Hi everybody, welcome to another edition of Two-Brain Radio with Sean Woodland. On today’s episode, I talk with eight-time CrossFit Games competitor James Hobart. But first, If you know me, you know I like hockey, wrestling, pro football, dogs and fitness, and I also like podcasts every week. I am fired up to bring you the very best of the fitness world on Two-Brain Radio. I’m always digging for the best stories from the most interesting people in the industry. We are also cranking out other great shows that can help you run a successful business. Every Monday, the clever guys from Two-Brain Marketing are showcasing success and serving the secret sauce that gets leads into gyms. And every Thursday we’ve got the best of the business world, people who will educate you and inspire you. So if you haven’t, please subscribe to Two-Brain Radio. Leave us a rating or a review. I would certainly appreciate it.

Sean: 01:03 – James Hobart has been a longtime fixture in the CrossFit community. He has competed at the CrossFit Games five times on a team and three times as an individual. He has won the Affiliate Cup three times with two different teams and he is also a co-owner of CrossFit ONE Nation – Boston. Hobart has been on the Seminar Staff for a decade and now he runs his own programming service for gyms and athletes called the HAM program. We talk about his early days in the sport and on the Seminar Staff, what makes a gym’s programming good and how his mother once beat him in a workout. Thanks for listening everybody. James, thanks so much for joining me. How are you doing man?

James: 01:46 – Really good to be here, Sean. Doing well. Nice to see you.

Sean: 01:50 – Nice to see you as well. It’s been a while.

James: 01:51 – Feeling good.

Sean: 01:51 – How did you find CrossFit?

James: 01:56 – Probably in the most unexciting way possible, but I feel like it was the old-school way. So at the time I found CrossFit I was training with a friend of mine, Mike Bissaillon, who now owns CrossFit Great Barrington, and that’s where my mom trains back home in Western Mass. So there’s the full-circle story. But, Mike and I were training together and at that time we were really into the whole kettlebell scene. If you guys remember Pavle, he had a couple of books like “Power to the People” and this one, “The Naked Warrior.” And then through getting more involved in like looking into the kettlebell stuff, you didn’t actually train naked in “The Naked Warrior,” it was just a lot of body-weight training. But kind of through there and then we stumbled on, actually Mark Twight’s website, Gym Jones. And then through that we found our way to CrossFit and found our way to And this was probably around 2006, 2007. And then from there we went to our Level 1 together, Mike Bissaillon and I, I think that was April of 2008, I want to say. And then the rest is history.

Sean: 03:04 – Why do you think it connected with you?

James: 03:08 – You know, it’s funny that you ask me this question, Sean, because I was talking to somebody yesterday about how much I used to never like being in the gym. And I love being outside. I played multiple sports in high school. I was always pretty active, but to like put me in to put me inside of a gym and like have that confining piece there I just wasn’t a fan of.

James: 03:27 – So I think the biggest thing that connected with me is I played a lot of sports, but I was pretty bad at all of them. When I got to college, I played a little bit of intramural soccer, but what I really missed was being super competitive in a collaborative way, being competitive in an individual way. And what I liked most about CrossFit was the fact that, you know, you could compare yourself to yourself or others. And I liked the competitive training part of it.

Sean: 03:53 – How did that lead you to the L1 Seminar Staff?

James: 03:57 – Yeah. So like I said, I think it was 2008, I’d have to fake-news check me on that, but I think it was April-ish of 2008 that I decided to go to my Level 1 and my friend Mike Bissaillon, we drove from Massachusetts through Canada out to Ann Arbor, Michigan because at that time, you know, there just weren’t as many Level 1s as there are now.

James: 04:22 – And I had zero expectation. I never wanted to train people. I had no desire to like, you know, there wasn’t really, I mean they had the CrossFit Games. I remember the 2007 flyer, that was a PDF that was posted on So they had had the 2007, not 2008 yet Games. But I had no desire to be involved in any of that. I was just kind of interested in it. And then I went to my Level 1 and I really, really loved that. And more so what I loved was just the environment that the coaches created. I decided to kind of throw my hat in the ring and just go home and try coaching. And at my Level 1, I met a couple people. I met Adrian Bozman, who now does a lot for CrossFit Seminar Staff.

James: 05:10 – He’s been the head judge of the Games, just been around forever in the community. And then I also met Jon Gilson, who at that time was working at CrossFit Boston. And so I had told Jon at that seminar who—I said, hey, I’m moving to Boston to go to school. And then I said, can I get a job at CrossFit Boston? I hope I phrased it better than that, but I probably didn’t. And he said, well, you know, I can’t offer you a job, but if you want to come down and learn something, cool, do it. And so I went to Boston, started going to CrossFit Boston, at that time which was owned by Neil Thompson, who had been in the community for a very long time, but also at that gym, so Jon Gilson was there, Eva Claire Synkowski was there. So both who had spent a lot of time on Seminar Staff and were very senior trainers.

James: 05:56 – And so I learned a lot from both of them. And really, I mean there were some courses coming through CrossFit Boston, Level 1s and Level 2s and I would be able to watch those courses or attend as like a test dummy, if needed. And so from there that got me introduced to a lot of trainers on staff and eventually, you know, I tried out for staff and went through the internship and earned a position on staff in October of 2010.

Sean: 06:29 – So you’ve been there nearly 10 years. How has the L1 seminar and really all the seminars, how have they evolved over time?

James: 06:39 – That’s a really cool question. They’ve evolved a lot, especially the Level 1 and the level—I mean all of them have, and the Level 2, the ones I see the most, Level 1, Level 2. So the Level 1 has evolved, I believe—I wasn’t really around then, but in 2005 when Level 1s first started, they started off as three-day seminars. And you know, if you do some digging, the interesting story behind seminars is that I don’t think Coach Glassman really had a vision for, you know, starting a Level 1 seminar curriculum. I mean he had been penning a lot of really thoughtful and interesting articles for the CrossFit Journal that they were developing. But anyway, I believe the first Level 1s were three days long and it was really just a trial by fire style course where you’d roll in and, you know, if you were left standing at the end of it, you got a high five and a chest bump and cool, you’re a Level 1 trainer. And you know, now fast forward to you know, 2019 and we have, it’s a two-day course. It’s jam packed with info. It’s very well balanced between movement and lecture discussion. Participants get a chance to coach each other, they get some insight into how a class is run, how to write class plans. And then now there’s a test. And even the test I think has been around for just about as long as I have now. So, I joke a lot of times at seminars, you know, especially cause we have revalidation, we have people who come back through, veterans of the community. And I always say like, look guys, it’s still heels down, knees out. Like we haven’t found a better way. You know, it’s not like touch your knees together and round your back. Like we haven’t changed that.

James: 08:15 – But there’s a lot of refinement. There’s a lot more polish. When I went to my Level 1 in 2008, they just gave you a tome, which was essentially every Journal article that had been written, and you know, it was 500 pages long and if you decided to print it out, you probably had to check your baggage when you went to the seminar. Cause it was just enormous. And now it is just this really, you know, you can go online and get it, but it’s this really beautiful document which parses down, you know, the most essential important information and then references the original documents. So, I mean, that’s changed massively for anyone who remembers going to a Level 1 and experiencing that. So I would say it’s much more polished. And it’s continually refined by, you know, the attention to detail from the Seminar Staff, department, our heads, as well as the participants. You know, people involved in the community, coaches, affiliate owners, providing a lot of constructive feedback. So it’s changed a lot.

Sean: 09:16 – I know that when you’re on the staff for a while, you experience a lot of different things and a lot of different cities, a lot of different people. What’s your craziest story from your time being on the Seminar Staff?

James: 09:28 – Man, I don’t know if I could share my craziest story. Here’s one really—not really, kind of interesting story. But I did a seminar in, where was I? It was somewhere in the States. And I met a young man and just nice guy, you know, saw him. There we go. And two day into the seminar, see you later. And I was flying to Okinawa. So I was going over to Japan for a seminar, and seminar starts and there is this young man again, back. And we’re thousands of miles away from each other. And so I kind of pause when he’s coming to the check-in and I freeze and I point at him and I don’t remember his name and I wish I did, but I go, I looked at him, I said, what are you doing here?

James: 10:11 – And I was like, you’ve already passed the course. You took the course in the US and here you are a week later in Japan. And it was his twin brother. And he said that, and I was like blown away by this, you know, like what are the chances, one I have, you know, that course over there, and then two that you have a twin brother and it’s you and you’re here now in Japan. So, I think what has always been really interesting to me on Seminar Staff is just the, you realize it’s kind of small world but maybe, you know, even smaller community and as many people as are involved now, you know, over a hundred thousand trainers have gone through the Level 1 course, as many people as are involved, it’s still a pretty tight-knit group, which I find really amazing. I think that was an interesting safe-for-work story.

Sean: 10:58 – I know there are quite a few not-safe-for-work ones out there as well.

James: 11:01 – Yeah. Yeah. Just crazy stuff happens when you travel. And, you know, some of my friends, I get pretty lucky, I think. I have some friends on Seminar Staff where it’s like, and I always get jealous, the crazy stuff always happens to them. You know, just being on planes and having other passengers on planes, like lose their minds or just some crazy thing happening. And, you know, I think I’ve been, I guess for better or worse, I’ve been pretty lucky with not having too much of that kind of stuff happening.

Sean: 11:27 – What led you to become a competitor?

James: 11:30 – What led me to become a competitor; right place, right time. I really think, I mean, I love being competitive, but I think if I rewound the clock and if I had never like tried to go compete at the CrossFit Games and just kept doing CrossFit, I still would’ve been very happy and satisfied because I love competing whenever I get the chance. But, I would say so what led a friend of mine, Patrick Cummings, who was a young budding content creator at the time, we kind of met each other and you know, he’s worked for various companies and personalities in CrossFit. But, Patrick said to me, hey, I think you should do this competition. I think you’ll do pretty well. And that’s kind of what got the ball rolling. It was a competition out at CrossFit New England. It was just like a local get-together, throw down.

James: 12:20 – And I did, I did all right, like I finished, you know, top five at some little local competition, but there were some other really fit people there. And then, you know, cause I was like Pat, I don’t really know man. Like, you know, I vividly remember when I still couldn’t back squat, you know, 225 pounds. And this was early in me coming into CrossFit, cause I had never weight trained. And I did gymnastics stuff pretty well, but that’s just cause I was a little skinny string bean, you know, like gymnastics is easy when you’re 160 pounds. So I went out there and I did that. And then, you know, Patrick kind of encouraged me and some other people encouraged me to go try, that was when they did Sectionals, not Sanctionals, Sectionals. And that was out in Albany in 2009, and I won, against some big jacked studs, which was really fun.

James: 13:11 – But, and then I rolled out to the 2009 Games. And the first two events were the two things that I trained and still to this day, I clearly am not a good learner. You know, I haven’t learned my lesson on this, still train the least, it was a 7k trail run, which I think I got pretty close to dead last. This is 2009 and then there was a heavy deadlift and I got cut, I got cut in the first cut after those two events and spent the rest of the weekend just enjoying the event. It was held at the CrossFit Games ranch, the Castro ranch at the time. And I got to meet a lot of people who would eventually, you know, make their way into CrossFit and make bigger name for themselves where they’re competing or training side or at the HQ side.

James: 13:54 – So crossed paths a lot of people, which was very fun. But, since I sucked so much in 2009, I became kind of hell bent on whether or not I ever did do well on competing, I at least had wanted to go out and just put forward a better effort and say to myself, well, at least the reason I got cut wasn’t because I didn’t try hard or train a certain thing. It was just cause I wasn’t as good as everybody else. So, that’s what kind of got the ball rolling and then, you know, anybody who’s been to the Games or competed in a sport like that, I think once you kind of get the bug of competing at that level, or you know, you get a little taste of success, you get really addicted to it. At least that’s what happened to me. And I also had a lot of fun doing it. So my foray into competing started with me being a really bad competitor.

Sean: 14:41 – You’ve been on a couple of really good teams, CrossFit New England, Mayhem. Obviously fitness plays a huge role in success. What makes a team really successful?

James: 14:54 – I love this question and I love talking about this because I felt like physically in all of those teams, the people I trained with were really fit and you know, I felt fit physically when I competed on those teams. But when I would be out there competing with them, when I would be training with them and I would kind of look at us and then compare us to other teams, I would know just there was something different. And my favorite example of this, if I could digress a little bit, but my favorite example, this was in 2015 there was an event where, in teams of three, I think it was either it was male, male, and then female, and then female, female, male, you had to work your way across the field. And there were a bunch of tire flips and jumping over a tire. And then there were these two different rope climbs and one was on a normally sized rope and another one was on one like this big fat pirate ship rope. And I was with Matt Hewitt and Lauren here, and we got to the rope climb and we knew the rope climb was going to be hard for us and hard for Lauren to get up the second rope. And I’m looking around. And so I think she had got her first rope climb on the skinnier rope and then she had to get the fat rope climb. And I’m looking around and I’m watching other teams left to right just having meltdowns, and anyone who’s judged at the CrossFit Games just has the best impressions. I know you’ve watched thousands of hours of competition, so it’s like, you know, it’s like one guy, you know, he’s just screaming, he’s like, I’m calm, just be calm. Sally, you need to chill out. You know?

James: 16:29 – And there’s just like, there’s that going on left to right, like people just yelling at each other cause they can’t flip the tire or so and so’s failing the rope and it’s chaos. And in my head I’m kinda like, well, we got here, we did well, you know, maybe this is where we fall behind because we didn’t know if Lauren was gonna be able to climb the rope. And I look over and Matt Hewitt is massaging Lauren’s forearms. And meanwhile around me, these other teams are like, you know, one step away from probably fighting each other to death. And so Matt has just decided to run a day spa in the middle of the CrossFit Games. And in my mind I’m like, well shit, if this doesn’t work then nothing will work, but this is the thing that has to work. And it was kind of at that moment that I realized, you know, we really do things differently.

James: 17:09 – And the lesson I took from that moment, in the chaos around me was that our team had a really, however you cultivate it, especially at Mayhem, I think the team of people and the culture that seems to continue to be there, and this is one of the reasons I think they continue to win. There are other reasons, but the team had a very awesome understanding of like when it hit the fan cause eventually it will hit the fan, what can we do? What’s the thing we can do immediately to take the next step forward? And everyone on the team had that mindset, but they also had the mindset of, well, if I need to step up to do that, I will. And if I need to step back to do that, I will. And, you know, they have such awesome poise and I think that’s one thing they do and really great teams do than everybody else.

James: 17:55 – And when I was out at the Games watching this year and there was that toe-to-bar, synchro toe-to-bar event, and I believe the teams had to push the Big Bob again, which for anyone who’s never done it, is the most diabolical piece of equipment on planet Earth. But, you know, I just saw Mayhem get out there and as usual, they got off to their kind of slow, methodical start and everybody was way ahead of them, but they just look so smooth, you know? And in my head I was like, well they’re going to win, this was Event 1, I’m like, they’re going to win the CrossFit Games again, cause they just have this really wonderful, you know, well if stuff goes wrong, cause it will go wrong, we’ll figure it out together attitude. And I really don’t think a lot of other teams out there try and cultivate or train that attitude or know how to train that attitude. So that would be one of the biggest things I think is the difference.

Sean: 18:38 – What was it like training on a regular basis with the Mayhem crew?

James: 18:44 – Oh, I mean, it was a full-time job. I mean, training with those guys. It was really interesting and I think we got smarter as we got a little older. Cause you know, I had the lucky opportunity for a lot of reasons. You know, it was a lucky opportunity to train with Rich in 2014, his final individual year. And at that time, I think the two of us had this mentality of like, you know what, we’re just going to train until we don’t have any more energy. It was this idea of like, we’re gonna make it, you know, if we get to the Games, neither of us, I think wanted to walk away or have a failure and be able to say, well, I could have done more.

James: 19:26 – We could have done things more intelligently, but it was like, you know, there were days where like, hey, do you have some energy left? Yeah, let’s go do something. Regardless of what time of day or night it was. And I think the attitude was like, we’re just going to work out till one of us dies or we make the Games, or win. And we slowly got smarter with that. But, yeah, I think a lot of it comes down to just treating it like a job and not just the physical training, like go in there and do the reps. But if there’s an area you’re not good at your job, you’re gonna work that area and we’re gonna check in on it together and we’re gonna make sure that, you know, you get some body work done to recover efficiently.

James: 20:07 – And even if we weren’t all always doing the same thing, we tried to spend enough time with each other so we knew each other in and out really well. Oh, you know, this person, when they get to 50 pull-ups, they break down. So that’s when I need to step in or this person can close hard on a row or he’s our best runner. So, it felt like a full-time job, but it was also a lot of fun. You know, it’s just having that environment of shared suffering, especially with people who are lighthearted and have a sense of humor is really special. I think anyone who’s trained on a successful team knows exactly what I’m talking about. So those are just, you know, those were some insights, but man, to say it was a lot of work is an understatement.

Sean: 20:48 – What are the moments that stand out to you the most when you think back on your time competing at the CrossFit Games?

James: 20:57 – Moments that stand out to me most time competing. There’s, I mean there are a couple of little glimpses of moments. I think one of the biggest ones was in 2015, and it was right before the final event, because we were still out on the floor and that’s when David announced, I think we had to do some like Worm clean and jerks or something like that, or team Worm cleans and, and the points were really close between us and CrossFit Milford and, you know, Rich kind of, right before, it was like 10 seconds before we’re about to start, you know, Rich kind of taps me on the shoulder and he says something to the extent of like look at the scoreboard. And I look up and he kind of whispers in my ear, we can win. And I was like, that was this moment of like, oh shit. Like we’re gonna win the CrossFit Games as a team right now. That was one moment that was just so cool cause it was that, you know, you always see those moments, like you hear about them, but to like be in one is really exciting. And it was also kind of fun cause—maybe the rest of the team knew. But I don’t know if they did know and I don’t know if he told anybody else. So it was just cool to just kind of like, have all the people around us, the stadium full, all the other teams, to kind of have this like, hey, you know, like we’re going to squeeze this thing out and no one else knows about it and it’s going to be really cool. That was one of my favorite moments. One of my other favorite moments was in 2016, they had the teams do this Murph version.

James: 22:24 – We had to carry each other on a litter and it had a lot of Worm in it. And we as usual started off middle to back of the pack in the workout. And we finished far ahead of the other teams and we came running back into the stadium, the soccer stadium out in the StubHub Center. And it was just us by a long shot. And just to kind of—it was first event of the Games. It was nighttime, you know, and it’s like, I think I still get goose bumps now and we came running in as a team of six and everybody was cheering and it was just looking around and it was just us. And it’s a really special thing to be a recipient of like that kind of positive energy. And just know it’s just you. And, to share that with five other people is amazing.

James: 23:07 – I always think that those moments of like excitement or even sometimes moments of excitement are always, I think always bigger when you get to share them like that, you know, it’s like, it’s amplified. So I don’t know. Those were a couple of big team moments that stuck out to me that were really powerful.

Sean: 23:23 – Why did you know it was time to step away?

James: 23:26 – Man, you know, why did I know it was time to step away? So I don’t know if I knew, but I think it was really tough and there are still times this day where I’m like, man, it would’ve been fun to squeak out another victory, but there were just other things I had wanted to kind of do in life and I think, you know, whether it was work-related, you know, personally, and I wasn’t sure that I could do all of those and still compete at that level.

James: 24:01 – And I think my method of doing it was like, all right, well, I’m going to tone the competing way down and pour some other energy into these other areas. And, I feel like that was the right choice for me. You know, I look back at it and, you know, I’ve had a couple of really successful years. You know, I bought an affiliate, which I love and I still always traveled on Seminar Staff, but you know, I bought into some other businesses and I’ve been able to do some projects with other people and share my competitive experience in a different way with others, which I really appreciate. I mean, I’ve been able to be much more attentive in my relationship with my now wife. I hope I’ve been more available for my friends, but I don’t know, I’m still working on that.

James: 24:46 – But, I think that was my attitude toward it. And that was definitely, you know, you see some competitors post about it. I mean, there’s definitely some ups and downs to that because you define yourself in a very specific way for a long time. And there’s anyone—you know, it’s just like a job. You commit a lot of hours a day to do it. So sometimes it’s like hard to find yourself again amongst that and be like, well, you know, competing was just part of James Hobart. It wasn’t who he was. So it kinda took a while to get used to that.

Sean: 25:19 – We’ll be back with more from James Hobart after this.

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Sean: 26:20 – Where did the idea for the HAM Plan come from?

James: 26:29 – Yeah, so the HAM Plan is now mine, well, Spencer’s, Austin, Spencer’s and mine, programming platform, online programming platform for individuals and affiliates, and Spencer and Austin started it a handful of years ago together and I think HAM stood for Hendel and Malleolo, Spencer might have some other definitions for that acronym, but they had wanted to try and share with people originally just a certain, I think culture and attitude toward training but also their experience. I mean both of those guys similarly really, really, really accomplished individual competitors with nice long careers in competing in CrossFit. So they also wanted to share this notion of like, you know, people who had different weaknesses and strengths could still train together and benefit from that. So a lot of the programming originally started on sharing like there’d be a main workout and then there would be Spencer’s twist on it because Spencer had weaknesses and strengths that Austin didn’t have.

James: 27:24 – And then Austin would have a twist on it cause he had weaknesses and strengths that Spencer didn’t have. So that’s kind of how they started. And Austin had asked me a couple of years ago to work with them and I was very reluctant, for no other reason than probably I’m just stubborn. But it just seemed like the right time in the last year or two. And so I came on with them and we’ve had a lot of fun trying to grow it and we’ve learned a lot about working with each other and trying to grow a small business. And it’s been really exciting.

Sean: 27:55 – When you look at a gym’s programming, what stands out to you and makes you think, you know what, that gym is doing things the right way?

James: 28:07 – That’s actually a really good question. You know, and it’s something I should do more. When I look at a gym’s programming, probably don’t assume too much. You know, for me it’s more of a, cause I’m a strong believer that like when applied appropriately, even the most haphazard programming could be really effective. But I think I see a gym’s programming, and I need to look at it like a week of it, and I see it’s well varied and it’s not too stuffed. You know, I think, you know, some gyms might not necessarily a trap but fall into the habit of programming lots and lots and lots of volume in a class, and not to think that they’re not doing it right, I just think it’s way harder to do things right and by right, what do I mean?

James: 28:56 – I mean provide an immersive class experience where every single ability level learns something for that day. They stay safe, they get fitter and they have fun. I think it’s harder to do the more stuff you plug in. So I think when I look at gyms, I’m kind of looking for this less is more, keep it simple, stupid, approach. But I think you got to take the class. You know, I think it’s hard to—it’s not a mistake, but it’s rough to judge a gym just on its programming. And when I roll into a class and you know, when I can step back and see like, oh, the newbie athlete coming in who’s only been here for three months and the advanced athlete who’s been here for three-plus years, both are learning something. Both are being challenged in the right way and both are having fun, you know, then I see, I’m like, wow, this place is doing it.

Sean: 29:45 – Other than trying to put too much stuff into a class, what are some of the mistakes that you see most often when affiliates try to program?

James: 29:56 – I think they focus on certain elements too much for a short period of time. So whether it’s like a strength bias, you know, I think that could be an issue. I think—here’s the thing, I don’t think enough affiliates program their warm-ups. And there’s a balance. You know, I don’t think you should be doing something completely different every day that’s like dialed in to the T. But I also don’t think that if you’re just rolling in and you’re like, well, let’s just row for five, go on a 400-meter run, come back and we’ll do some sit-ups and some arm circles and we’ll be ready to go. You know? I really like when I see affiliates who have thoughtful warm-ups, you know, they have a warm-up, again, that kind of speaks to all levels of athletes, keeps them engaged, teaches them something new. It’s relevant to the workout. I think that’s something everyone could do a little bit more of. And the reason I say it is because I see it often where if you have a warm-up that’s too complicated, too much on the coach’s schedule, I think it can be boring for the advanced athlete. And I think it can be intimidating, not intimidating, but it can be overwhelming for the novice athlete. And when you can balance those two things, you know, you can balance a warm-up where my athletes get to move a little bit on their own time, but they’re also going to move some on my time, I think you can create something really special and meaningful that speaks to multiple skill levels of athletes coming in the gym.

Sean: 31:26 – How does somebody become a good programmer?

James: 31:30 – How does somebody come to become a good programmer? First I would talk to whoever is currently programming for your gym. Second, I would start writing programming and doing it yourself. And then if you get the opportunity, I would start writing programming for the class and taking the class and doing it for the course of like a week to two weeks. And the reason I say that is because we all might have some really thoughtful variants written out and we all have may have fitted to the confines of the hour class. But you know, you don’t always see the details of it and maybe you do your week and despite as varied as it was, you find out everybody’s shoulders are smashed to bits or man, my feet or whatever, whatever the specific detail is. So I think doing those three things can be really helpful for a lot of programmers out there. You know, having walked the walk slightly and consistently cause you learn what stings, what doesn’t sting, and in being in the class environment you can kind of look around and be like, wow, I thought this was fitness gold and it was a 30-minute AMRAP and I think we should scale it to a 10-minute AMRAP right now. So you learn a lot by actually by actually doing it, which I think is really cool.

James: 32:43 – How did you get your mother into CrossFit?

James: 32:45 – Yeah, my mom getting into CrossFit. Right. So she’s going to turn 60 in February. Been doing CrossFit for six years now. Osmosis? So I had been doing it for a while and my mom had always been involved in like, she always liked to walk in the mornings and she started to get into yoga around the same time when I got into CrossFit. So you know, she was definitely interested in taking care of her body through physical activity. But there was just weird stuff that happened, Sean. So like I rolled home once and I think that an AbMat was in the house from our garage gym outside where I grew up and I kind of asked, what’s the AbMat doing in here?

James: 33:22 – And she said, well, I like to use it to practice headstands for yoga. And I was like, well, whatever. And then I came home and there was a 45-pound plate in the house and I said, what is, you know, I was like really blown away. Like what could she possibly—one, just one plate. She said, I like to just pick it up and carry it, from, you know, kitchen to the living room and try and make me stronger, she said. All right, roger that. Then I came home and there was a barbell in the house. And I was like, all right, the jig is up. And I said, why is the barbell in the house? And she said, well, I like to practice my deadlifts with it. And at this point I was like, in my head, I was like excited, cause you want people you care about to take care of themselves, you know, I believe in CrossFit and in physical fitness.

James: 34:02 – And so at that point I got kind of excited. So I was coaching on Seminar Staff at the time. And I was coaching a seminar on Thanksgiving. I decided to work that weekend. So it was kind of coming up on the anniversary of that. And I told my mom, I said, hey, look, I want you to see what I do and I want you to take a Level 1 and I’ll get you signed up and we’ll take care of it. And she said, fine, sounds good. Which I was surprised that, but she kinda said, I don’t want to look like an idiot. And she said I want to be more familiar with it. So she said I want to take a on-ramp program, a one-month on-ramp at the local gym, which was my friend Mike Bissaillon’s gym who I went to my Level 1 with.

James: 34:44 – And so I said, that’s fine. I’ll pay for your one month free trial. So quick, fast forward to the end of this story, at the end of her month free trial before she came down to her Level 1, she called me up and she said, hey, I finished my one month free trial. I said, really, cool. And she said, I bought a membership and then that was it. So it was a slow, progressive approach. I wouldn’t say I really got her to do it, you know, I was just kinda there as a sounding board and encouraged what she told me she did. And since then, you know, I couldn’t be happier that she stumbled into CrossFit community. And I think it has had a huge impact on her life. So it was a very slow approach, which I recommend, you know, for everybody who kind of wants to get their parents into the gym like that.

Sean: 35:29 – Yeah. Actually, I wanted to ask you that question is that with the focus on health and getting people who usually don’t go into a gym into a gym, how do people—I mean, my mom would rather hit herself in the head with a hammer than get into a gym. What advice you have to people to get their loved ones moving?

James: 35:46 – Yeah, I think this is really good. I think it’s just trying to find what the lowest barrier of entry is and, you know, instead of telling them what you should do, hey, what is the least you would do? You know? And then from there it’s just slowly baiting them. Well, I would walk 30 minutes in the morning. Beautiful. Would you try and pick up that PVC pipe? Yeah, sure. Would you show me? Sure. Let me show you. I think as a coach it’s accepting how big the spectrum of intensity is. You know, and for you and I and whoever who have spent years and years watching the Games, you know, that is so at one end of what intensity is.

James: 36:31 – But when we say that CrossFit is infinitely scalable, we really mean it. And for someone who may have never worked out before, maybe they’re 60, 70 years old, a PVC pipe could be intensity for them. But it’s still, you know, if it exceeds the capacity of their daily lifestyle ever so slightly, it’s going to make them fitter, and that’s all it takes. So instead of telling them what to do, I would ask them, you know, what would they be willing to do? What is, you know, what is the least you would want to try? Yeah. And I think that can be really helpful. Cause the proof is in the pudding. I think once people start moving even a little bit, they feel a little bit better. So that’s kinda how I’ve always approached it. And just to remind coaches to like peel back, keep peeling back layers of intensity until they find the one that matches up with that individual they want to get in the gym cause it’s physical and psychological. Right. If I mentally don’t want to go fast, lift heavy, you know, I don’t have to, and to some extent you might not have to see results from the program, which I think is really, really, really cool.

Sean: 37:30 – You actually got to coach your mother a little bit. What was that like?

James: 37:33 – Terrible. Push your knees up. My knees are out. I brought you into this world, I’ll take you out of it kind of thing. No, it was good. You know, I’ve coached my mom a little bit here and there. She listens well to me, looks to me for advice. What I found more amazing was in the 2014 Regionals leading up to that season Games, she would send me these, she would coach me, she’d send me these emails. Like now I know your strength is not very good. So this first event you’re really gonna have to prep for and practice and try very hard on, cause it’s a one-rep-max hang snatch. And she would send me emails like that and they were actually pretty pointed and spot on, but they were always very like very like, derivative in the sense that like, oh, it’s a lift, so you’re going to have to be strong. Thanks mom for, you know, like that constant reminder like, well you failed that test so you’re gonna have to pass the next one. But no, coaching her is always fun. It was really fun, this is probably one of my non-Games related favorite memories, is when she beat me in Isabel. And obviously, you know, she scaled it, and I’m competitive and I’ll tell you this, if I work out next to you and you scale a workout, you can be damn sure I still want to just crush you. So I hadn’t been—we’ll use this as an excuse. I hadn’t been training, this was after I kind of stepped away from competing at the Games and I hadn’t been training consistently and we went home and she wanted to do Isabel. We did Isabel and she beat me and I was so pissed. And then like I came back to Boston and I went on a tear of training cause I was like, never again, you know, but whatever. I guess that’s a good sign that happened.

Sean: 39:23 – What is on the horizon for you now in the CrossFit realm?

James: 39:25 – In the CrossFit realm. To continue to really grow and nurture my affiliate. So, two years ago, myself and Austin and another partner of ours, JC, we purchased CrossFit Boston and we brought it into our CrossFit ONE Nation family. So we have three locations, Boston being one of them. And that was one of the last things, like I hadn’t had the benefit and the fortune of doing inside of the community.

James: 39:57 – And I’ve absolutely loved being a part of an affiliate like that and helping run affiliate and develop coaches and just watching the members grow and just have fun and be awesome. So that’s going to be one of my huge focuses for a long time. I just absolutely love coaching and on top of that, so the HAM Plan that I do with Austin and Spencer, you know, our programming platform. Last year we programmed for the Asia CrossFit Championship sanctional, this year we program for Asia again and we’re programming for the SouthFit CrossFit challenge down in Argentina, which we’re heading to next week. I can’t even believe it’s already here. So to continue to just grow HAM Plan and nurture our affiliate community, we write programming class plans for a lot of affiliate gyms as well as competitors.

James: 40:41 – So that’s been a big focus of ours over the year, last year and a half. And just to kind of keep putting energy into that. From there, I probably should have said this, but ,my now wife at the time, I don’t know if we were engaged yet, but now wife, Cassandra, she competed with Reebok CrossFit One at the CrossFit Games a couple of years ago. And that was definitely one of my favorite memories and I totally learned when people say they get stressed out watching their loved ones compete and why it’s, you know, I think I ripped all of my hair out of my head that weekend, but watching her compete was amazing. So we kind of, I’ve always wanted to compete with her on a team, so we’re kind of trying to play around with the idea of maybe doing a sanctional. I’ve been trying to train a little harder and shake some of the rust off, but we would really like to do that together. I guess that’s a little bit more personal and not super big picture, but we’re psyched to try and do it. So working on that, yeah, and I guess, I guess that’s it right now.

Sean: 41:38 – Final question. You’ve been around this sport and this training methodology, you know, for more than 10 years. What are the most important lessons that you have learned from all these experiences?

James: 41:51 – Man, you’re gonna hit this on me as the last question, moments to prepare. Most important lessons. I think from a learning perspective, it’s the idea that continually assess what you do well, what you know, with what you don’t know. I think that’s really important and I think that would go for anyone who’s trying to improve at any task or endeavor or skill set regardless of the subject matter. I think that’s a really important lesson. And you know, I’ve been very, very fortunate and blessed to be around mentors and teachers and just talented people like yourself who regardless of subject matter of skill, who always had this learner’s mindset. And that’s not to say that they don’t recognize what they do well, but they do that, but they also learn, where can I grow? What could I do differently to be better?

James: 42:43 – And that’s a hard lesson to learn. It’s easy to take for granted the things you do well, but I think if you can continually do that day in and day out and practice that it really helps long term. I think the other thing that I’ve learned from a training perspective as an athlete is very similar to that, but consistency is very important. You know, it’s funny, there are certainly some things I am no longer as fit as I used to be in, but simply because I’ve done a million reps of them, there are some things that I will always be better at than I was, you know, it’s just like I have some built-in capacity, some kind of lessons learned, reps accumulated where it’s like that fitness continues to grow and just because of consistency it’s quite strong and that’s, you don’t learn that lesson, I think, until you get there.

James: 43:32 – But, from a training perspective, it’s just, you know, being consistent is so important and being healthy enough to be consistent is really important. And I think the last thing I would learn, you know, that I’ve learned, especially in the CrossFit community, and I imagine we are a little bit fortunate by the nature of this community, there are a lot of you know, good minded, well-mannered, genuine, outgoing people in it and it makes it lot easier. But spend time talking to other people asking that second question. And what I mean by that is just that next question beyond, hi, I’m James. Nice to meet you. How you doing? I’ve met so many incredible people in this community and I’d be one, you know, scintilla of the person I am, you know, now, if it wasn’t for meeting all of these people. So I think that’s, you know, a really big one too is, you know, take time to get to know the people around you in the communities that you like and care about, whatever they may be. I cannot say that enough. I’ve met the coolest people and I wouldn’t be anywhere without the training partners, coaches, mentors, colleagues, teachers, friends that I would be, you know, where I am right now. So that’s probably a huge one.

Sean: 44:48 – James, I really appreciate you taking the time to do this, man. That was a fantastic conversation. Best of luck with everything and I hope to see you competing at a sanctioned event here soon.

James: 44:57 – Sean, thank you so much. And it’s great to see you again, so I hope I get to talk to you soon.

Sean: 44:59 – Likewise, my friend. Thanks a lot.

Sean: 45:02 – Big thanks to James Hobart for taking the time out of his day to speak with me. I loved that conversation. You can follow him on Instagram. He is @JamesHobart. Chris Cooper is not the fittest person who ever walked the Earth. He has never recorded a world-record snatch. His Fran time is—it’s just OK. But Chris does hold a gym record. He’s written the best-selling fitness business books of all time. Based on his experience as a gym owner and thousands of free calls with other fitness entrepreneurs, Chris put together four books that can help you make money and live the life you want. This isn’t smoke-blowing without substance. These books have helped thousands, and they can help you. Head over to Amazon and check them out. You’re looking for “Two-Brain Business,” “Two-Brain business 2.0,” “Help First” and “Founder, Farmer, Tinker, Thief.” These are best-selling books based on hard data and experience, and they can help you find success. Thanks for listening, everybody. We’ll see you next time.


On Wednesdays, Sean Woodland tells the best stories in the CrossFit community on Two-Brain Radio With Sean Woodland.

Two-Brain Radio presents marketing tips and success stories every Monday, and Chris Cooper delivers the best of the business world every Thursday.

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Best Lessons of 2019: The Alter Ego Effect

Best Lessons of 2019: The Alter Ego Effect

What do you avoid?

What makes you procrastinate?

What scares you?

Those are the things that are probably holding you back in life. As motivated as you might be, it takes a huge amount of energy to pick up the phone and call a potential client. It takes massive will to give a coach her first evaluation or to ask a client to upgrade his membership.

But there’s a real shortcut. And it works.

Todd Herman has a really interesting story: He was selling personal training at a big gym in New York City (and mostly failing). Then Chris Rock told him about “the alter ego effect”: the strategy many top athletes and stars use to get ready for their big game or performance. For example, Beyoncé becomes “Sasha Fierce” when she takes the stage, and even Bo Jackson put on his “alter ego”—Jason from “Friday the 13th”—every time he took the field.

Todd got some fake glasses and transformed into “sales Todd”—and he became the club’s best-selling trainer of all time.

But his real passion was working on the mental game with athletes and entrepreneurs. Todd is my personal mentor, and his help has been invaluable. I actually met him at lunch while in the Dan Martell program but didn’t begin to research his work until I read “The Alter Ego Effect.” I recommended that book to our Tinker Mastermind group months ago.

Here’s the trick: Go get yourself a pair of glasses without a prescription. The next time you’re about to do something you dislike (like calling a lead or closing a sale), put on the glasses and adopt an alter ego. Become “Sales Chris” or whoever your alter ego might be. It takes practice for some, but for others the change is immediate. Seriously, it works!

I spent a day in New York City with Todd in October and changed the entire organizational structure of Two-Brain while I was there. I took my daughter to see him speak at Archangel (where he beat out Seth Godin and everyone else to be voted best presenter). And in January, he’s going to run a workshop for our Tinker Mastermind program. 

Todd’s site:

Here’s Todd on “How to Get out of Your Own Way”:

(Can’t see the video? Click here.)

Todd is the first speaker for our Tinker Mastermind for higher-level entrepreneurs in January. Get more info here!

Two-Brain Radio: How to Turn Prospective Clients Into Paying Clients

Two-Brain Radio: How to Turn Prospective Clients Into Paying Clients

Mateo: 00:02 – Hey, it’s Mateo of Two-Brain Marketing. On this edition of—

Mike: 00:04 – Hey Mateo, excuse me, I just have a couple of questions about Facebook advertising. My leads aren’t converting. Can you give me some help here?

Mateo: 00:12 – Mike? Mike, is that you?

Mike: 00:14 – Yeah, yeah, my ads. I’m having some ad problems. You got time for me, or what?

Mateo: 00:18 – Well, I’m kind of doing my weekly podcast right now.

Mike: 00:22 – How about this? How about this time we make you the show and I’ll be the host.

Mateo: 00:27 – OK, I guess. Does Chris know about this?

Mike: 00:29 – I loosely briefed him. I’m not going to say he knows knows, but like he’s OK with it; let’s just say he’s good with it.

Mateo: 00:40 – Well, I guess it’s better to ask for forgiveness than for permission, so yeah, let’s do it.

Mike: 00:44 – Yeah, he’s Canadian. He’s just going to let it roll anyway, so we’re good.

Mike: 00:51 – This week on Two-Brain Radio, it’s a not-hostile takeover of the marketing podcast. I’m Mike Warkentin of Two-Brain Media. I’m turning the tables on host Mateo Lopez. He’s our regular and he’s the guest this week. Now we’re going to talk about one of the most valuable things you can buy: contact info for prospective clients. I’ll be back with Mateo Lopez right after this.

Announcer: 01:11 – Two-Brain Radio is brought to you by Two-Brain Business. We make gyms profitable. We’re going to bring you the very best tips, tactics interviews in the business world each week. To find out how we can help you create your Perfect Day, book a free call with a mentor at

Announcer: 01:27 – We would like to thank another one of our amazing sponsors, UpLaunch. Over the amount of time that you’ve had your business, how many people have come through your doors and never signed up for a membership? When I first opened, I remember getting everybody’s name and emails because that’s what I was told was the best way to start the conversation with potential new members. The big problem was I never knew what to say. Over many years, I spent countless hours developing plenty of emails to send to these new members or people that are thinking about signing up for a membership. This took a lot of time, probably way too long, and could have been spent on more productive things. If you’re in the same situation I was, don’t waste any more time and book a free session with UpLaunch. UpLaunch has over a hundred prebuilt emails to convert new leads into members. And when your members decide to take a break, they have a whole campaign to get them back through the doors. You have the ability to text message members from the app, and with integrations like Google calendar, Facebook and over a hundred more via Zapier, UpLaunch has you covered. UpLaunch was created by gym owners for gym owners. Head over to today to get the conversation started with your future and past clients.

Mike: 02:40 – OK, we are back. This is Two-Brain Radio. I’m Mike Warkentin. I’m here with marketing expert Mateo Lopez. Mateo, I have a personal question for you right now. Would you give me your cell phone number right now on the air? So anyone listening can text you at any time they want with a marketing question. Can I have your cell phone number?

Mateo: 02:56 – Well, Mike, I think you have it. You want me to read it out loud?

Mike: 02:59 – Tell me one more time just so our listeners maybe know where you’re at.

Mateo: 03:06 – I don’t think I want to do that.

Mike: 03:10 – Why is that?

Mateo: 03:13 – Well, now that you ask, I’m worried that our audience of just rockstar gym owners, they’re so good at following up with people that they’re just going to call me nonstop and try and sell me on a membership. That’s what I’m worried about.

Mike: 03:29 – That’s going to happen. You know that if you gave out your cell phone number, I bet by the end of this call you would have probably six texts from gym owners who are like, “Mateo, I heard about your goals of getting a little fitter in 2020. I’ve got this awesome six-week program. Did you want to come in and meet with a coach? Talk about your goals?”

Mateo: 03:44 – Yeah. They’re either going to do that or be like, hey, can you fix my ads?

Mike: 03:48 – That’s the other thing. But that’s why you’re on the show. And that’s why we’re taking over this week is cause I want to ask you some questions. You’re the expert. You’re often now hosting people and talking about their success. I want to talk about this stuff. I wanna get some knowledge out of you to help our listeners. So this time we are going over the power of contact info. When we’re doing marketing, you know, essentially we’re using Facebook and places like that. We’re trying to collect contact info and then use that to get clients and ultimately make money. So I want to talk to you about that. Get your thoughts and then we’re gonna give people some things to do so that they can try and do more and better at their business. So talk to me digital advertising, the stuff that you guys specialize in, especially on Facebook, obviously. What do you do and what do you want from a client? Like what’s a win with your ads?

Mateo: 04:33 – Well, a win is, yeah, getting people to opt in. With our ads, we’re trying to get exactly what you said, we’re trying to get contact info, we’re trying to get people to get people to see our ad, think the thing looks kinda cool, spark some interest and then get them to opt in, give us their name, email and phone number. That’s the goal with pretty much every one of our campaigns.

Mike: 04:57 – It’s kind of like dating, you know. I haven’t done that for a while, but it’s like—

Mateo: 05:04 – I haven’t either. I haven’t even in probably close to nine years. So, yeah. What do you mean by that, Mike?

Mike: 05:10 – Well I just mean, see I’m in the same stage where I haven’t had to try and get someone’s phone number for about 10 years cause I’m married. But I remember back in the day, right, that was the game. And you’re trying to find a phone number or email if you know, whatever, Snapchat, whatever communication you’re using, we’re trying to find a way to connect, right? You’re connecting and ultimately in the world of dating you’re trying to make a sale, you’re either trying to like, you know, get a date and get some more time with this person, talk to this person because you obviously find them attractive, blah, blah, blah. So in the digital marketing world, we’re kind of doing the same thing where we’re trying to use something, and you know, back in the gym days it was like, you know, the bicep curls and the grunting and all the other stuff to try and attract someone. Maybe you get a phone number or whatever. We’re trying to do that digitally now and we’re trying to acquire contact info. So when you say, for people who don’t really know, when you say opt in, what does that mean?

Mateo: 06:02 – Yeah. It means that someone’s exactly what you’re saying, you know, opting in for more info, really. Inquiring for more information about whatever the thing is that they saw in the ad, whether it’s, you know, a free trial or whether it’s a program, whether it’s an intro, you know, body-comp session, whatever it is. Yeah, you’re trying to get people to inquire, opt in for more info and learn more.

Mike: 06:27 – So we’ll skip over the creative right now because that’s a whole different thing that we’re going to talk about and you can do so many awesome things with creative to get people to click those buttons. But let’s say as I do, I use your system and I’ve got this lead sheet set up and I see this thing pop people in. So they’re coming through my Facebook ad and they’re clicking learn more and they’re going through my landing page and they’re putting their info in it. I see, you know, Jane Doe, whatever, got the 555 phone number, email at Now what? I’ve got this thing, and I know the price, we talked about this in the first episode of the series. I know what it costs me to get that person’s information. What am I doing with it now?

Mateo: 07:04 – Well, hopefully you’re calling them right away, Mike,

Mike: 07:07 – Like, I’m canceling this podcast interview to like pick up the phone here and do the thing that the—

Mateo: 07:12 – If you got a ping right now, you should hang up with me and go call that person. Yeah.

Mike: 07:17 – That’s how important this info is, right. When this happens. Like we want speed, but it’s so critically important that you have this info to use it now.

Mateo: 07:26 – Yeah. And especially right at that moment, because you know, there are so many reasons why, but I mean the most, the easiest and simplest and fastest one is like if they opted in, they’re probably by a computer, or they did it on their phone, which means, you know they’re by their phone right now, right at that moment. So that’s the best chance you’re gonna have at connecting with them and saying, hey, I saw that you inquired, what’s up? What had you interested in CrossFit whatever. They’ll be like, I literally just typed this, why did you call me? Yeah. I don’t know. I’m just like, I got nothing going on. Was just sitting here and then you came through and yeah, don’t worry about that, how I responded so fast. What has you interested?

Mike: 08:12 – That’s funny, Mateo. That’s like when you’re texting someone they’re not answering and then you see them posting on Facebook. I know that person’s on his phone.

Mateo: 08:19 – Exactly. You know they’re on their phone. But yeah, I mean that’s the goal. I mean, unless you don’t want to talk to prospects and leads and make money, and if you don’t want to do those things, then yeah, you can just collect the info and sit on it for years and that’s an also an option.

Mike: 08:39 – And waste your ad spend completely.

Mateo: 08:40 – Exactly.

Mike: 08:40 – So let’s talk about this, because there are people that are like, they’re skeptical about marketing. I was definitely one of them because it’s like, it’s not my thing. I hate calling people. I hate reaching out. I don’t like it. But talk to me about when someone opts into an ad, gives you their info, what are they saying to you?

Mateo: 09:01 – Well, I also want to say it doesn’t have to be from paid traffic. If someone opts in, just landed on your website organically, you know, same thing, the chances are they’re by their phone or their computer right then is like very high. So you should hit them up right away regardless of whether you’re spending money to acquire people or not.

Mike: 09:18 – That’s a fair point.

Mateo: 09:19 – And if they are opting in, they’re basically saying, they’re raising their hand and saying, I volunteer as tribute. You know, I see what you’re saying. So let’s say the ad says, you know, 21-day metabolic makeover, get fit and ready for the beach in 21 days. Whatever.

Mike: 09:41 – I’d like to sign up now.

Mateo: 09:42 – Yeah. If someone opts into that, they’re saying, oh, I want to get fit in 21 days and be ready for the beach. Can you please help me do that? That’s what they’re saying when they opt in, when they’re inquiring. So, if that’s what they’re saying, then it behooves you to call them right away and help them do that.

Mike: 10:06 – Quick question. You know, just asking for a friend, is that a real program that someone could sign up for if someone were interested?

Mateo: 10:11 – Could be.

Mike: 10:14 – We’ll talk offline. You might be able to help me out with a few things, but we’ll chat more about that later. But the point is that people are saying, you know, when someone opts into this thing, what they’re asking for is they’re asking for your help, your expertise, your knowledge, all the things that you can do to solve their problems, correct?

Mateo: 10:31 – They’re literally saying, take me to the next step.

Mike: 10:33 – Yeah. So a business owner shouldn’t see this as an annoyance to call this person. It’s basically fulfilling your end of the deal, am I right?

Mateo: 10:41 – Yeah. So I’ll get on the phone with gym owners and they’ll be like, I don’t want to call this person at nine o’clock at night.

Mateo: 10:48 – I was like, they opted in at nine? They are not at work, they are not doing anything. They are watching Netflix and they are chilling. And they saw your ad and they were probably like, oh, you know what, I should probably not be watching Netflix right now. I should probably be sleeping and like getting healthier. So you need to call them right at that moment. And people may think it’s like akin to cold calling, and it is a little bit, but you know, it’s better than cold calling cause they volunteered.

Mike: 11:17 – They asked for it.

Mateo: 11:17 – They’ve literally asked for it. So, you know, they’re asking for help.

Mike: 11:29 – So what’s been your response? So you’ve done these calls, correct? Like you at gyms. What’s the response? Like, talk me through, let’s say like you get the message and you right away within, I don’t know, 20, 30 seconds of this opt-in, you hit that person. What are you saying right away? And what’s the response? What do these people say?

Mateo: 11:53 – Ah, well, you’re saying, hey, it’s Mateo from, from CrossFit Rittenhouse. I saw that you just opted in for—or not opted in. Saw you’re interested in our program. Can you tell me a little bit about your goals and what had you interested? And right there, let’s just get started. You just ask them right away.

Mike: 12:14 – And so what do they say? Are they shocked that it’s you right away? Real person?

Mateo: 12:17 – Yeah. I mean, yes, 100%. Sometimes they don’t pick up, so I double dial and yeah, if you can get them in that like 30 seconds response or less than that, they’ll be kind of like, oh my God, that’s so wild. Like you’re sending a message that like you have a professionalized business. You know, you’re not messing around and you know, you’re already right away sending that message to them that, yeah, we’re going to take care of you. This is how we treat our clients. Like we treat them like, you know, we help them right away, essentially.

Mike: 13:00 – Are people shocked that it’s a real person?

Mateo: 13:04 – Are they shocked it’s a real person.

Mike: 13:09 – Or someone who actually knows what he or she is talking about as opposed to like, you know, the scripted stuff from, you know, call center kind of stuff?

Mateo: 13:15 – Yeah. I mean, I think that’s the other thing too, right? You’re already starting to build rapport. So if you can get them with—if you can call them right away and kind of make light of, or make a joke about like, oh yeah, how quickly you responded, right there you’re starting to win them over to your side. You’re starting to build some rapport, build some trust. So yeah, and I think people like that they’re not talking to a bot also. Which is nice, too.

Mike: 13:43 – Does anyone, when you give them these calls, is anyone just like irritated?

Mateo: 13:46 – Oh yeah, a hundred percent.

Mike: 13:48 – So what’s the psychology of that? They’ve opted in and they want, you know, they’re asking for something and then you call and they’re like, why are you calling? Like, what’s the psychology there?

Mateo: 13:57 – That I don’t know. But I just know it—I mean, when you’re dealing with the volume of inquiries that you’re getting, yeah. You’re going to get some people who were just scrolling by and clicked it cause they just wanted to click it and you call them. They’re like, why don’t—I’ve gotten some where it’s like they opted in, I call five seconds later. Like, hey, I saw you’re interested. Oh, I changed my mind. It’s like you literally just opted in. You literally just did it. And so yeah, you might get some people who are just like freaked out that you’re so into finding out a little bit more about them. But the conversion rate by operating in this way, it’s so outweighs the cost of just like having to deal with some annoying people once in a while.

Mike: 14:52 – Yeah. So you get one hostile guy, but you might get like three or four sign-ups and make your gym, you know, $1,500 in front-end revenue.

Mateo: 15:00 – A hundred percent. I mean you might be dealing with more. More hostility than positivity for sure. You know, the example I like to give, and I’ve given it on here, but I’ll give it one more time for you Mike. You know, let’s say you put $1,000 into online ads. Say you get a hundred leads, right? Let’s say out of a hundred, you’re only going to sell 20 of them. And let’s say your front-end package is $500. So what is that? That’s $10,000. So you spent 1,000 to generate 10k; I would probably do that forever. But 20 people said yes. Eighty people had to say no to you at some point. So you’re going to deal with a lot more—like it’s going to feel in that scenario, like not so great cause you’re dealing with 80% of the people turning you down, not picking up the phone, coming in for a consult, not buying or just you know, being that you know, hostile person on the other end of the phone. So you’re going to have those 80 no’s, but again, like we just did the math, the benefit, the ROI. It makes all that, I think, well worth it.

Sean: 16:26 – “How to Add 10,000 of Revenue”? “How to Sell Your Gym”? “What to Do After the Open”—holy $hit, Cooper’s written a ton of help guides.

Mike: 16:34 – C’mon Sean. Just read the ad.

Sean: 16:37 – Did you know he gives this stuff away? Like for free?

Mike: 16:40 – Yup. That’s his thing.

Sean: 16:42 – I’d buy this stuff.

Mike: 16:43 – You don’t have to.

Sean: 16:45 – But I would. What kind of business expert gives everything away?

Mike: 16:49 – Chris gives it away so owners can fix their gyms and earn enough to pay for mentoring.

Sean: 16:53 – Oh, that’s actually pretty clever. Should we do the ad?

Mike: 16:58 – Never mind. Just tell them where to get the Free Help Kit.

Sean: 17:00 – Get your Free Help Kit at Click the link in the show notes

Mike: 17:09 – Now do the thing from the competition. Come on Sean.

Sean: 17:13 – Are you not entertained?

Mike: 17:14 – And we’re done here.

Mike: 17:16 – It’s kind of like baseball, right? It’s an old analogy that if you fail seven out of 10 times in baseball, you’re an all-star, you know, and you’re a millionaire. That’s exactly what it is. Like the reward is huge. So I mean that’s something maybe like to go over for some of our people that are listening is that, you know, you can’t expect—not every person is going to convert and that doesn’t make you a bad salesperson, doesn’t make you a bad marketer. It’s just the fact that like, and I’ve seen this because I handle the leads when they come into my gym and you see some real squirrelly stuff, right? Like you see people that are just like you don’t even know how they figured out how this internet thing works. Like how did you log on, you know, because they don’t understand like what they signed up for. They think it’s something it’s not, they don’t know that they actually gave you their email address and phone number and they’re mad that they give you contact info, but they did, two or three times, you can see on the sheet sometimes. It’s totally confusing. And yet from that pile, because I’ve had days where it’s like, man, striking out, striking out, striking out and then all of a sudden you find this person and this person is like, doesn’t care what the price is. Just says, this looks awesome. I’m overweight. I need to make a change. My doctor said that I need to lose some weight. I’m looking at this diet and nutrition program, I want to come in and talk to a coach tomorrow and I am just so excited. And that person—

Mateo: 18:26 – And they buy your premium package, right? They’re not buying the group. They buy your personal training and nutrition one. And they’re going to stay a while and then they bring their partner or their spouse later. And so it all, it all just compounds.

Mike: 18:40 – Yeah, and we’re gonna get further down the line in this series we’re gonna talk a little more targeting and how you can maybe work some angles to try and find more of those people earlier rather than finding some of the really strange people in the gen pop, I guess we’ll call it, for lack of a better term, but that dealing with that rejection for some of the people that are listening is like, you’re not going to hit a home run every single time. Right. You’re going to get—what’s a good percentage, let’s say you get a hundred contacts, leads, the click through opt-in in in your marketing, what’s a good percentage for people to book a No-Sweat Intro? What’s good of that hundred?

Mateo: 19:12 – Booking? I mean, you want to have—the golden standard is like, and it’s tough to do this for sure. My gyms can’t even do it this way, the percentages are a little skewed, but 70/70/70 is kind of like the gold standard, right? So 70% of people who opt in book. 70% of those people who book actually show up and then 70% of those people who show up actually buy. So by the end of it though, if you had a hundred people, 30% I guess are actually buying, right? So that’s why it’s like stellar if you have that. Most of my gyms are around the 20%. So you know.

Mike: 19:56 – The 20/20/20?

Mateo: 19:56 – No, no, no, no, no. At the bottom end. So 20 out of a hundred. Right. And you know, and then that 70/70/70, right. But you can have like 60, 80, you know, 70. You can kind of move stuff around, right? Or whatever it is. Like if you have a higher—and you can diagnose, right? Let’s say you have a really high booking rate, but a low show rate, then you know, OK, I gotta work on the show or vice versa, your show and your sales rate are both really good, but your booking rate’s bad. All right, so you got to call people faster or more often or whatever. Right? But yeah, anything above, if you get a hundred leads and you’re closing 18 to 20% of them, you’re in a really awesome spot.

Mike: 20:41 – Yeah. And like we talked about on the first episode of the series, you guys can go back in the archives and listen to it, if you’re tracking the ROI, you then know from those, you know, 20 people that you close, you know what your front-end revenue is. So you balance that against your ad spend. I spent a thousand, I made 10,000, whatever it is. And then also your length of engagement because you’re using Two-Brain Business principles, pardon me. So you know that your average person is going to stay around for X months. So that’s the revenue downstream that you’re trying. All of a sudden this thousand-dollar ad spend looks kind of minuscule, doesn’t it?

Mateo: 21:11 – Yeah. I mean, and this is something we talked about in the summit. Like let’s say you spent a thousand and you only made a thousand on the front end, right? Let’s say you broke even. Or by the time you pay out some of your coaches, maybe you’re losing a little bit of money. If you spent a thousand, you sold a thousand. Let’s say you sold two people on a $500 package, right? So you made a thousand bucks. Again, like what you said, if they stay for 10 months, you know, then you’re still making money.

Mike: 21:44 – Now, I heard from you guys, there’s a company that kind of does this sort of with a little bit of success. I think it was called Netflix or something, right? Like what is their cost of acquisition? Right? What is that?

Mateo: 21:52 – Yeah. I mean, so, I think they’re spending about, I think their client acquisition cost is about 400 something dollars, $490. I don’t remember exactly what it was.

Mike: 22:05 – But it’s a lot.

Mateo: 22:06 – It’s like in the 400 range. Yeah. I think it’s like 450 they spend to acquire a customer. So that means they’re not breaking even on that person until you know, if your Netflix subscription is , you know, I don’t know what it is, 10, $11, whatever it is. They’re not making their money back until after that first year. Or first two years, I should say. Sorry. If their client acquisition costs is, you know, 400 bucks.

Mike: 22:33 – So you can’t make that spend with confidence if you don’t know your length of engagement, right?

Mateo: 22:38 – Well, but they know, right? If they stay for three years, all right, well I’m making money. And they’re happy to do that all day long. You know, so those are called loss leaders and it’s a little bit scary to do that in a gym. And you know, for your business, it may not work out for you to do that. Loss leader is, you know, when you’re happy or when you have a product and you’re happy to lose money on that product in the front end of the sale because you know you’re gonna make it up on the back end. So another example is Amazon. You know, they take a loss on Kindles, they take a big loss on Kindles. They don’t make money from them, but they know that if you buy one, they’re going to make up that money on the, you know, books, the Kindle subscription, right. Or the audiobook subscription or the, you know, the movies that you’re going to buy for your Kindle to watch on your Kindle. They’re confident and they know they’re going to make all those sales later on down the line. So they’re making their money there, not on the actual Kindle.

Mike: 23:39 – You just have to have the cashflow to cover that while you’re waiting. Right?

Mateo: 23:42 – Correct. Which is why loss leaders might not work for every gym or every business. But there is a way to make that happen.

Mike: 23:53 – When I use your system, I’m looking at it and it’s telling me the max, you know, I’m using your spreadsheet and I’m putting the numbers and it’s telling me the max costs that I can spend and I’m not even close to it. So when I look at my ads and I’m like, Oh, OK, I’m getting these for eight bucks and I can spend 50 bucks. I’m like, we’re all good here. I’m going to keep going with this.

Mateo: 24:07 – Exactly.

Mike: 24:07 – Yeah. So going back to contact info again, we’ve got people out there that are listening, we’re buying conversations or the opportunity to have conversations. Let’s give people a couple of tips here and things that they can do. They get contact info, and I’m just going to summarize what you said, the first thing you need to do is they need to call right away. Correct?

Mateo: 24:26 – Correct.

Mike: 24:26 – Like, is that the most important thing? Like beyond anything else? Like, literally like get off your bike, stop on the side of the road and start dialing?

Mateo: 24:36 – Speed is, yeah, super important. The other piece there is persistency.

Mike: 24:45 – How many times? How long will you go?

Mateo: 24:48 – Is persistency a word? Persistence. Persistence is number two. So speed’s number one. And then, you have to call him right away. And then persistence is the second piece, right? You can’t just give up on the first call.

Mike: 25:05 – So when do you give up?

Mateo: 25:07 – Never.

Mike: 25:09 – Never. You’re like Sherman Merricks and you’re banging on doors?

Mateo: 25:12 – Never give up.

Mike: 25:13 – You heard it.

Mateo: 25:15 – Yeah. I mean, I think we like to teach the gym owners nine contact attempts. There’s some studies out there where the probability that you connect with a person, it jumps up each time you call and by that ninth call it jumps up to 90%, right where you’re at like a 40% chance of connecting on the first call.

Mike: 25:42 – 40. Wow.

Mateo: 25:43 – Yeah. So, you know, less than a 50/50 shot on that first call that you’re going to make contact. But on the ninth one, the chances are pretty high.

Mike: 25:52 – So let me ask you this, and you can ballpark this, but of the gym owners that you work with or that you know your marketing mentors work with, how many do you think, what percentage are actually calling nine times with a lead?

Mateo: 26:04 – Oh, those are sirens.

Mike: 26:09 – That’s because you gave away the secret sauce. People are coming.

Mateo: 26:13 – The percentage is I would say not high.

Mike: 26:19 – OK. So like what, 20, 20, 25 30?

Mateo: 26:22 – I’m putting you on the spot. But I’m just curious.

Mateo: 26:24 – Yeah, I mean, no, and not every, it’s not high. And the reason why it’s not high is because it’s tough and a lot of us are, you know, still doing it on our own. Right. We still got classes to teach. We still got memberships to sell. We still got Zen Planner things to solve. So, you know, it’s tough to get to that 9-call mark.

Mike: 26:52 – Oh, so let me think about this. So let’s phrase it a different way. So we have listeners that are out there and they’re like, man, my marketing is kind of blah, or my business is kind of blah, or whatever I’m thinking about marketing. So even if the people that you’re currently—of the people that you’re currently working with, if someone just decided that I’m going to start calling all leads nine times every single time starting today, what do you think would happen to that business?

Mateo: 27:16 – You’d make some sales.

Mike: 27:18 – Yeah. You’re certain of that?

Mateo: 27:19 – You’d make some sales.

Mike: 27:19 – Yeah, no brainer, right?

Mateo: 27:23 – Yeah. You’d be making some sales, that’s what I would say.

Mike: 27:24 – If someone’s listening right now, really like you’ve got your lead sheet going and I’m guilty of this. I’ll tell you right now, I’ve got people on my lead sheet, if I would just start calling these people nine times, I’m gonna make some sales. I’ll ask you a question in addition to that, how would you space out those nine calls? Are we talking like nine calls a week, nine calls a day, a year? What do you think?

Mateo: 27:48 – We like to do three times for three days. That’s what we like to do. And then on that third day, push them into the long-term nurture.

Mike: 28:04 – Like mailing list stuff.

Mateo: 28:07 – Yeah. Everyone does it differently, you know? But it’s yeah, you put them on if you have a long drip campaign, if you have a newsletter list, you push them over there. And then, you know, at the end of the month or at the end of every quarter, you can go check that out and give another shot. Dead lead lists, you know, come up with some kind of an offer. Like, hey, saw you were interested a couple months ago, got this new program, want to reach out again, yada, yada, yada.

Mike: 28:35 – So we’re going to get into that even more. We’re going to talk about the speed, I think this is going to come up a bunch of times in this series because people just, I know, I know gym owners are busy. I’m busy, but if you can, you know, if you start thinking about this and Two-Brain principles and figuring out where you want to invest your business to move the needle and you’re directly able to track your sales, maybe it’s worth hiring someone to be able to respond immediately. Am I right?

Mateo: 28:57 – Yes.

Mike: 28:57 – Yeah. And in Two-Brain principles, we teach you how to do that, right? To look at your business and say, OK, I’ve got these jobs I can offload. I can pay this guy $12 an hour to respond any time someone calls immediately. Right. You can find some ways to do that.

Mateo: 29:14 – Yeah. I was on the phone with James Mawson. He was on the podcast a couple of weeks ago and he made an interesting point. There is an argument to be made where that’s actually the highest value role. Depending on where you’re at in your business. So it might be, you know, it may be more valuable for you to actually get on the phone and start selling and getting people to come in. Maybe that will be a better use of your time than coaching class.

Mike: 29:39 – That’s so mind blowing. Back to 2009 CrossFit or whatever, wherever people are at, some of the old school people. That is mind blowing to me because for me, all I saw when I started the gym was I just need to coach and I need to be an awesome coach and teach a squat. I need to do this. But in reality I probably needed to start figuring out some marketing. If I had done that in 2010 I’d probably be light years ahead. Retired like our mentor, Kaleda Connell, whereas me and Cooper were banging our heads against the wall for 10 years trying to figure it out.

Mateo: 30:06 – Yeah, I mean you do have to make sure that your service is awesome, right? So yes, to say that like, the most important job for me was to be coaching. I mean, your service needs to be stellar because if it’s stellar, then people stay longer. And if people can stay longer or will stay longer, you can spend more on your ads. Right. So it all kind of feeds back into each other. But yeah, I mean I guess the, the plan for 2009, you should have been clone yourself. Find someone to coach in your image, and to preach your coaching gospel and then yeah, you can go and call leads and sell them.

Mike: 30:42 – And how many times are you going to call those leads?

Mateo: 30:45 – I think nine times, Mike.

Mike: 30:46 – Nine times. Mateo, before we go here, are you sure you don’t want to hand out your cell phone number?

Mateo: 30:53 – I am quite sure.

Mike: 30:54 – OK. We’ll try later on the series, guys. I’ll see if I can get Mateo’s number so you can call him. This has been a takeover of the Two-Brain marketing podcast. This is Two-Brain Radio. I’m Mike Warkentin, I’ve been here spending time with Mateo Lopez of Two-Brain Marketing. Guys, we’ve got more of this coming. We’ve also got Chris Cooper on our other shows and Sean Woodland talking to the CrossFit community. Please subscribe to this podcast. Leave us a review, leave us a comment. We’d love to hear from you and stay tuned. There is more great stuff coming. Thanks, this is Two-Brain Radio.

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State of the Fitness Industry: Rebirth

State of the Fitness Industry: Rebirth

In this series, I’ve been writing about the state of the fitness Industry.

I started by recapping 2019.

Then I talked about your gym as it is now.

Next, I talked about turning threats into opportunities with new tools.

In the previous post, I shared a Two-Brain Radio podcast with economist Allison Schrager. We talked about what will happen if you don’t change.

Now let’s talk about what your gym should look like in a year.

Consider this my “what I’d do if I were starting today” guide. (You can read my actual “How to Start a Gym” guide here.)

Or if you want all our free tools, which cost me $433,000 to put together, you can get them for free here:

Free Tools


Start With the Prescriptive Model

You must focus on selling coaching, not access.

Every client should have an individual prescription.

That prescription should include:

  • The best nutrition plan for him or her.
  • The best exercise plan for him or her.
  • Anything else that will improve his or her health.

For some clients, the “best exercise plan” includes group fitness with broad, general and inclusive programming. For other clients, that’s the worst exercise plan. It’s up to you to determine the answer, coach. Then review the client’s progress every quarter, and plot a new course when necessary.


Build Diverse (and Scalable) Revenue Streams


Don’t sell people stuff they don’t want.

If you have a nutrition program and an exercise program, charge separately for them.

If you have a kids program, don’t roll it in under one monthly rate because not all of your clients have kids. Same goes for “barbell club,” your bootcamp program and personal training.

As your practice grows, lean toward more scalable services. Nutrition coaching doesn’t take much room, and no one measures its delivery by time spent (as they do with one-hour classes or 30-minute PT sessions). Also look at technology as a way to scale, as I wrote about in the “Tools” post this week.


Educate Your Audience


Publish content every single day. In the Founder Phase, write about yourself and your journey and your “why.” In the Farmer Phase, write about your clients and their journeys and their “whys.” In the Tinker Phase, write about your mission and your team and its “why.”

You’re better to block off one hour per day for producing content than to spend one more hour training clients. It’s that important.

Choose a primary publication platform: video, blog or podcast. Then choose two distribution streams: Facebook, Instagram or your email list. Build your funnel from there.

Don’t mistake posting on social media for publishing anything. That’s just graffiti.


Founder, Farmer, Tinker, Thief


Every quarter, take the FFTT Test to figure out where you are on your journey. Then do the work required to move to the next phase of entrepreneurship.

Keep your eyes on the end goal (Functional Retirement first, a wealth platform next).

Have an objective party review your progress and determine your next steps (we call this mentorship. You can’t do this yourself).

Count your Bright Spots.

Just keep going.

Save some lives.

There are thousands of ways to open a gym business. There are only a few ways to keep a gym business going. Jumping off a cliff and trying to “build your wings on the way down” is reckless. Build the gym you want to own on your terms with our help.

If you’re not doing these things now, that’s OK—most aren’t.

But you have to pivot or you’ll be left behind.

Book a call with our team here:

Book A Free Call


Other Articles in This Series

State of the Fitness Industry, 2019
State of the Fitness Industry: Your Brand
State of the Fitness Industry: New Tools
State of the Fitness Industry: The Disappearing Middle

State of the Fitness Industry: The Disappearing Middle

State of the Fitness Industry: The Disappearing Middle

Think about the gym industry as a spectrum of coaching.

On the left side, we have gyms selling access. No coaching, just a monthly membership.

On the right side, we have coaches selling only coaching: no access without appointment, everything done one-on-one. In some cases, there’s no equipment at all; clients have to join a gym to do their homework.

In the middle, we have group fitness classes.

That’s where things get murky.

Big globo-gyms offer group fitness classes for free with membership or for a tiny rate. These classes are usually minimalist in terms of equipment—like spin bikes or yoga mats or “pump” classes with PVC weights or Zumba. Coaches are mostly following preset choreography (playlists and moves).

Slightly to the right are the group-class-coaching gyms, like Orangetheory or Barry’s Bootcamp. Coaches still follow preset choreography, but the equipment is more varied and the atmosphere is more exclusive. They can be more intense because the clients accept that intensity coming in.

This is where most owner-operator HIIT gyms sit. Unfortunately, it’s also the same chair that Orangetheory and F45 and the others want to occupy. When the music stops, I think it will be the single-gym owner who’s lost his or her seat.

A portrait head shot of blond author Allison Schrager against a cream background.

Allison Schrager, author of “An Economist Walks Into a Brothel” (Courtesy of Allison Schrager)

This is “the middle” of the industry: Gym owners charging more for group fitness classes and slowly being pushed out because they can’t move to the right (toward individualization).

On Two-Brain Radio, I talked with Allison Schrager, an economist and author of “An Economist Walks Into a Brothel.” Allison has a personal trainer she’s never met. She details her experience, then we zoom out to talk about the meta view of the entire industry and the very real threat to the microgyms in “the middle.”

Click here to listen to the interview and share it with a friend.

In the next article in this series, I’ll tell you how Two-Brain gyms are shifting toward the right edge of the spectrum to separate themselves from downward price pressure, low quality control and high competition.


Other Articles in This Series

State of the Fitness Industry: 2019
State of the Fitness Industry: Your Brand
State of the Fitness Industry: New Tools
State of the Fitness Industry: Rebirth