Entrepreneurs can’t avoid risk, but they must mitigate it.
When you leave your job to open a business, you take a big risk. Maybe you do some research, or maybe you just go with your gut.
Every decision you make after that first one compounds your risk.
When you make decisions without data or perspective, your business becomes shakier and shakier.
And without a solid foundation, you won’t survive many bad guesses.
Removing the Guesswork
Mentors provide perspective. Mentors provide experience. And with the new Two-Brain Dashboard, you can actually test out your decisions before you make them!
You don’t have to guess anymore.
For example, if you’re getting new clients but still feel overworked, you might decide it’s time to hire a general manager. But this is your first salaried hire—can you afford it? Will you exceed your salary cap?
Here’s the exercise that will help you mitigate the risk:
If you’re in the Two-Brain Family, open your Two-Brain Dashboard.
First, add the cost of the new staff person into a future month. In this example, I added $2,000 to September 2019’s Staff Pay because the only change will be a new hire for $2,000.
Next, add the revenues created by the new role. Be conservative, but remember this: Every staff person should create at least 2.5 times the revenue required to pay him or her. This rule even applies to the cleaner, because you’ll be working on sales and marketing while the cleaner mops.
In this example, the new staff person will launch a Two-Brain Kids program, with expected revenues conservatively estimated at $600 per month.
Add your other expenses as if they’ll be the same because we’re only measuring one variable (the new hire):
Obviously, our Operating Profit is down by $1,400, and our Staff Percentage is out of whack, which brings our Profit Percentage down. But this sample company is still in the black, so it should take the next step: a test.
“Pay” that difference into an account for three months. What happens when that money is removed from your system?
Can you afford the hire?
This new hire should allow you to grow the business—if you know where to spend your time. Right? Plan that with your mentor.
But if the expense hurts more than you thought, or if you’re not sure how to spend the time you save, go back to the drawing board.
Can you split up the role any differently?
Can you hire a part-time person for now?
Can you figure out other work for the person to do to generate revenues?
There are never situations where you have to make a decision in less than three months. If a huge opportunity shows up and requires a decision tomorrow, then the decision is made: “Can’t do it right now.”
The bigger your business, the more rides on every decision you make. That means you need better tools than a clean napkin and a pen or a pros and cons list.
You need to know.
And using the Two-Brain Dashboard makes the choice crystal clear.
Need more advice on common problems? Click here to book a free call with a certified Two-Brain Business mentor.
“It’s not you; it’s me.”
Cancellations in your gym are hard to take. When you build a career around caring for 150 clients, you form tight emotional bonds. As Greg Glassman wrote in 2006:
“You’ll find me at my clients’ parties, weddings and family gatherings. Indeed, I am a personal friend to nearly every one of my clients.”
As much as we try to stay objective, it still hurts when a client says goodbye.
Here’s how to respond to that “Dear John” letter saying “I want to cancel my membership.”
1. Express Your Concern With Specific Details
“Oh Sally, I’m sorry to hear that—especially right after your recent weight loss! We’re just getting momentum!”
And leave it at that. Don’t include a “but I understand” or easy way out of the conversation.
2. Remind Them What They’re Losing
The fear of losing something you have is far greater than the promise of getting something good. That’s why you see all those “don’t miss out!” deals on Facebook: You don’t want to have things taken away from you.
When you cancel your membership, you’ll lose access to our:
– 1:1 coaches
– Nutrition accountability program
– Goal-setting meetings
– Workout-tracking app
– Private members’ Facebook group
And so on. Fill out your own list, starting with the most valuable part of your service.
Surprisingly, I’ve had clients say, “Oh, I’ll be back in a month and don’t want to lose my data on SugarWOD. Just keep the membership going.”
There’s far more value to your program than the classes you teach. Sometimes it’s easy to forget how much.
So remind them.
3. Make It Easy for Them to Come Back
Asking the question “when do you think you’ll be back?” can help the client create a clear picture in his or her mind.
If you can book a goal-setting appointment with the person in the future, that’s a huge win.
For example: “OK, Robin! I know you love spending time at your cottage in the summer! I want to make sure you don’t lose too much of your hard-earned fitness while you’re away. What will you do for exercise while you’re away? Can we schedule an appointment for September 7 to restart your fitness progress?”
Even if you can’t, make sure the client knows he or she will be welcomed back. Fear of an awkward “what are YOU doing here?” actually stops many people from trying new things.
4. Keep the Conversation Alive
We want a record of a client’s cancellation. We want to remind him or her of our cancellation policies. But more than anything else, we want the client back!
In the Incubator and Growth programs, we teach gym owners how to build a cancellation page.
Clients fill out the form on our site to cancel.
The form reminds the client of our policies. Then it adds him or to our email “recapture” list: a slow drip series of emails designed to bring the client back.
(Two-Brain Clients get the form design and email sequence in Growth Stage.)
Every quarter, we’ll also send the client something personal, like a text or video. We follow a 10-word email format (and also provide it to our clients in Growth Stage).
Exit interviews would be great: You’d learn how to improve your service and possibly talk a client into staying. But very few clients will do an exit interview. Honestly: If your hairdresser asked you to make a trip across town to have a heavy talk about your feelings, would you do it?
And while we want to keep every client forever, it’s likely that a departing member will only remember the last interaction with you. If it was awkward or painful, he or she won’t be back.
Most importantly, try to remember: The client probably isn’t gone forever. Just gone for now.
Treat your separation as temporary and you’ll sleep easier.
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If you’re an entrepreneur, your media is your resume.
Most people apply for a job once; force a smile through their interview; and then let their guard down again. But the second you open a business, you become a public figure. The media you produce–especially your social media–becomes a magnifying glass into your beliefs, personality and character. What you post can help you grow your business. But it can hurt you even more.
Most entrepreneurs don’t gain clients on social media; they LOSE clients on social media.
And here’s the worst part: you can’t just hide. You have to post something. But what? And when? Here’s how to do it; why; when; AND what to stop doing if you care about your brand.
What To Post On Social Media
Members of the Two-Brain Family receive their Social Media Playbook in the Incubator. Or, more accurately, they receive two: one for gym owners in the Founder Phase, and one for gym owners in the Farmer Phase.(Don’t know which phase of entrepreneurship you’re in? Take the test here.)
The playbooks are pretty long, but here are a couple of highlights:
- If you’re in the Founder Phase, tell your story. Your goal is awareness: if you’re the first in a market, simply saying “I’m here, and I care” is enough to get started. Write blog posts and link to them on Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram. That’s where your clients are. Maybe you like SnapChat or another platform; but data shows your ideal clients for a gym are on Facebook. So post there.
- If you’re in the Farmer Phase, tell your clients’ stories. Make them famous. Write about them. Post their pictures and videos. Shine your spotlight on them.
- No matter what, always lead back to your website or straight to an action (like Book a Free Call or Book a Free Consultation). Very, very few people sign up for a paid service straight from social media; and only a tiny fraction of a percent sign up for an in-person service without seeing it in person first. Don’t just post pictures.
When To Post on Social Media
Timing doesn’t matter, really. But consistency does. Whether you’re in the Founder or Farmer Phase, you need to post every single day.
You’ll get tired of yourself before your audience will.
- Start with consistency. Don’t try to launch a YouTube channel, blog and podcast all at the same time. All of those articles you’ve read about shooting a video, extracting the audio for a podcast, transcribing that audio for blog posts, and cutting up the blog posts into Social posts? That sounds great, but you’re probably not going to do it. That’s a full-time job. Publish on one channel every day for 30 days, then think about expanding.
- You don’t need a platform like Hootsuite unless you can consistently post good content–not just social media pics–every single day.
- Timing doesn’t really matter, but if you know when your potential clients are most likely to be online, post then. But this is about 1% as important as posting consistently.
Should You Boost Posts?
Marketing on social media isn’t art; it’s math. It doesn’t matter how well-produced your videos are, or how creative your photos look. If people don’t click your link, it’s not a good link. Let your audience tell you what they like.
When you post a link to a blog post or video on Social Media, and it gets a lot of interaction–not ‘likes’, but shares and comments–then consider boosting it. But ONLY if you’ve already built an audience for targeting (or retargeting). That first audience might just be your Friends list if you’re in Founder phase (because they’re your first clients), but over time, your marketing power really rests on your retargeting audiences. For more, read “How Many Likes Do You Need?” here.
How To Blow Your Thumbs Off: What NOT To Post
Unfortunately, some phony experts now tell people to use the “Tantrum” strategy: It goes like this:
Find the leader in your niche
Attack one small part of their platform relentlessly
Build a free Facebook group for retargeting
Sell your “program” (even if you haven’t actually built anything yet–just take the $$$)
…in other words, throw a tantrum until some grownups buy you some candy. The strategy is very similar to the old “How To Make a Million Dollars Selling Books” scam, in which the buyer pays $100 for a book, and is then told to republish the same book and charge $100 to the next buyer. But the internet makes old scams look new, and because I care about gym owners, I want to warn you:
Attacking people on social media is a horrible idea that will ruin your business.
Your job is to make people feel good–and, if possible, famous.
As everyone becomes more skeptical of what they see online, people are quick to read provocative headlines…but also quick to identify and discard phony “gurus”. And once they’re gone, they’re not coming back.
If you post “Vote G.I. Jane For President!” you’ll immediately tell half of your audience that “I’m not like you”. You’ll cut your potential clients list in half. And then, when you share your views on gun control, you’ll isolate 50% of the remaining list. And you won’t gain back those you’ve already lost: social media has a one-strike rule.
Just like a resume.
As soon as you open a business, you begin applying for a job with every person you meet. It’s a never-ending interview. Will you start a conversation, or throw a tantrum?
Most CrossFit Gyms (and other microgyms) have encountered the Six-Week Challenge: a short-term introduction to high-intensity exercise for new clients. Some love it; some hate it. But like CrossFit itself, there are dozens of variations of the Six Week Challenge available. And they all have one thing in common: they’re mostly set up as a marketing strategy. Because, as a marketing strategy, six-week challenges work.
But most gyms fail to retain the clients when the six week challenge ends. And since The New-You Challenge popularized the idea years ago, others have added their own twists–sometimes with long-term negative results. Bait-and-switch promises; rapid turnover; and outright lying to potential clients has tarnished the strategy’s image among gym owners. But potential clients are still attracted to the idea of a Six-Week Challenge.
At Two-Brain, we teach gym owners how to use Facebook marketing effectively. But we don’t teach slimy gimmicks. We want clients to find what they seek; and we don’t want gym owners to sacrifice their values. It’s possible, and we have the data to prove it. Here’s how to separate the baby from the bathwater with Six-Week Challenges:
- Make them personalized. Each client’s six-week challenge should be different, because they’re all starting from a different spot. That means Amy’s six-week challenge and Marcy’s six-week challenge will include a different mix of nutrition coaching, personal training and group training. But both will be effective if they’re tailored to the client.
- Start with a consultation. Instead of selling a group-entry option, have every new client book an appointment to talk with a coach. Then make them a prescription according to THEIR goals, instead of trying to sell a general group workout plan.
- Make them premium. Personalized service is the path to being commoditized brands like Orange Theory. But it also takes more of the coach’s time. Make sure your gym has the pricing and service structure to sell premium services (usually $500-800 for the first six weeks.) If you don’t know how or what to sell for $500, sign up for the Incubator here. We’ll teach you. (It’s not a sales trick: you actually have to build and sell amazing services).
- Follow the Prescriptive Model: measure what the client cares about (tip: it’s not the Functional Movement Screen.) Measure again after the six-week challenge ends. Prescribe a new six-week challenge, or enrollment into your regular program: whatever is best for the client.
The industry “experts” who criticize Six-Week Challenges usually don’t know how to separate the marketing from the negative stuff. That means they usually don’t understand Facebook marketing at all. We take a “two-brained” approach to every strategy:
First, we want to know what works. And Facebook marketing definitely works.
Second, we want to find ways to deliver what works in a professional way. Six-week challenges, done individually, provide excellent solutions for your clients.
Introducing 30 people into a high-intensity group exercise class at a time? That doesn’t work. You’ll lose your current clients along with the new ones. Bait-and-switch, “$0 challenges”? Same. Your reputation will suffer. But an effective marketing strategy doesn’t have to be slimy. Keep the marketing, AND the clients, by doing it the right way. We teach you step-by-step in the Incubator.
Yesterday, I wrote that “Your Clients Are Not Your Friends.” It’s a lesson that many of us have had to learn slowly, painfully, and repeatedly.
Many veteran gym owners weighed in with their own stories. But some also shared the other side of the coin:
“You still have to be friendly to everyone.”
Your gym attracts people by promising to solve their fitness problem. It keeps people through operational excellence (your systems) and strong relationships (the 1:1 coaching relationship, and the relationship with your other members.) Some call the latter their “community”.
All of those relationships flow from your example.
If you greet everyone with a smile, they’ll turn around and greet the next person with a smile.
If you hover behind a desk with your hood pulled up, and point people at the whiteboard to warm up on their own; or show up late, looking tired; or punish people who are two minutes late for class–well, they’ll just go and have a better experience somewhere else. Giving a client the best hour of their day means pulling them out of their funk, breaking through their boredom and cheering them up.
No one quits a gym because their coach doesn’t know enough. But plenty of people switch gyms because their coach is tired, or cranky, or not engaged. Hell, I don’t want to spend time around negative people either.
If you’re tired in the mornings, do the right thing for your clients: bring a bubbly part timer who will shout “GOOD MORNING!!” from the rooftops at 6am. If your days are long, replace yourself in the evenings. Find a part-time coach who’s not tired; not stressed; not distracted. (Read: The Case for Part-Time Coaches here).
Many Microgyms don’t survive. When they fail, it’s never because the owner lacked education. It’s almost never because the owner didn’t care enough. But it’s often because the owner didn’t smile, hug, or high-five. Trust me: I’m a natural introvert. Friendliness is the skill you need to develop most.
What kills gyms in their first year? A lack of clients. That’s why we build marketing mentorship into our Incubator now.
What kills gyms in their seventh year? The owner. The owner is burned out. The owner is exhausted. The owner is stressed. The owner is unhappy, and it shows. They can’t force the smile anymore. And there’s no “backstage” area in their gym; nowhere to hide their mood. If they’re still overworked and underpaid after five years of gym ownership, the owner is going to have a tougher time making a comeback. Usually, they’ve had hundreds of people walk through their doors by that point–more than enough–but haven’t kept those people. So they look for some marketing magic tricks, pump more strangers through, fail to bond with them, and just get more tired and stressed.
The difference is in your smile.
If you can’t smile at people, replace yourself. Put someone else in front of them. Work on attracting more people into their sticky web of joy. Or take a nap. Put your best face forward!
“I’ll let people try my service for free, and then make it up on the back end.”
“I’ll pay my staff a salary and then pay myself when we’re profitable.”
“I’ll take some money out of the business when we reach 100 members.”
Entrepreneurs open a gym for all the right reasons: they want to help people. They want to share the gift of fitness. And they want to tear up the old myths about health and food. They’re passionate. And they’re usually generous to the point of hurting themselves.
They tell themselves that “leaders eat last” and that they’re “playing the long game”. They keep kicking their success down the road. And most never, ever catch up. I was that way too.
Here are some of the methods we teach to help owners get profitable NOW:
- Profit First. Listen to the episode with Mike Michalowicz here. Paying yourself first means you’ll pay yourself, period. My favorite “profit first” analogy is the toothpaste tube. When the tube is new, you’re pretty loose with the paste. If you spill some, it’s no big deal. If you use more than you need, no problem. But at the end of the tube, you’re squeezing every last drop out. You’re rolling it up; folding it; pressing it against the sink. That’s how money works, too. If the rent is due, you’ll hustle to pay it. But if it’s your own pay on the line, you won’t. Pay yourself first, and you’ll always have the money.
- The 4/9 model. Every staff person should generate 2.25x their pay. Instead of shouldering all the risk with a salary they might not even want, give your staff opportunity. Work always expands to fill the time you give it. The old industrial model of a 40-hour-week for a fixed check is demotivating; gets far less work accomplished; and caps your staff’s potential. It also puts your cash flow at risk. In short, it puts the owner LAST. In an owner-operator business, that can be deadly. Pay your staff 4/9 on group classes, PT and specialty programs. Show them the opportunity to make more money. Slowly move other roles onto their plate, and pay them separately for those roles.
- Collect up front, but pay your staff on delivery. Some owners sell personal training packages, and then immediately pay their trainers their share before service has been rendered. This is very demotivating, because the money will be spent long before the sessions run out. What happens when the trainer wants to take a vacation? They keep the money and the owner provides the service for free. What happens when the trainer does a bad job? The owner is forced to keep them around…at least until all of the sessions are fulfilled. What happens when the trainer leaves, or just stops showing up? It’s always the owner who gets caught. Collect from your clients in advance, but never pay ahead of delivery by your staff.
- Build an annual plan. If you’ve been tracking your metrics, you’ll know where the peaks and valleys are in your business. Bridge those valleys with specialty programs, events, or other cash spikes. Use our free tool here.
- Don’t be scared to carry a balance. Many gym owners think it’s wise to bring every credit card to zero every month; to buy things only with cash; to impoverish their business instead of carrying a loan balance. It’s not wise; it’s a starvation diet. Years ago, when my bank account hit rock-bottom, I was making maximal payments on my loans and paying off my credit card balance every month. Finally, when I couldn’t starve my family any more, I reached a point where I didn’t have enough money to cover payroll. I called the bank and asked them to refinance my little $15,000 loan.
The loan officer said, “Yeah, sure. You’ve never done this before? Everyone does this!”
I spread my loan balance out over 5 years, cut my payments in half, and breathed easier. Of course, I paid off the balance before it was due. But giving myself that little breathing room helped me sleep at night, be less distracted with my clients, and keep my staff paid on time. I needed that short-term win to get me through the bigger battles ahead. Read more about Good Debt and Bad Debt here.
- Finally, remember that your business exists to serve your family first; your clients second; and your staff third. Read “How Much Suffering Is Enough?” here. You didn’t open a business to be a fundraiser for the government or Rogue or CrossFit HQ. You did not open a business to take a vow of poverty. You opened a business to eat. People who don’t own successful gyms often don’t understand this: your martyrdom doesn’t make your clients fitter. Your starvation doesn’t keep them around longer. You’re not helping anyone by working a 15-hour day, and you’re definitely hurting your family. Keep that perspective at all times.
Someday your ship will come in, right? You’ll just keep doing the things and doing the things and showing up, and somehow things will get better.
Nothing changes until you change. You tell it to your clients, and it applies to you too.
Click here to get a free hour of mentorship from our team. No sales pitch, ever.