I wasted $170,000 on bad hires in two years.
My mistakes were many: I hired good people, but didn’t define their roles well. Or I hired good coaches who weren’t great employees. Or I failed to ask new coaches “Are you sure you want to do this?”
Most of the failures were my fault. These are avoidable problems, that I now solve with a series of four questions.
But the biggest mistake I made with staff was the Mirror mistake. And almost every single Founder makes the same one.
The Mirror mistake is this: we try to hire staff who are the same as us.
We try to find carbon copies of ourselves. Here’s why this is a huge mistake:
- That person doesn’t exist. At best, we find people who are almost as good as we are, and then spend the next few years looking over their shoulder to correct their mistakes.
- We treat our own staff as our future competition: we’re wary of teaching them everything. We don’t shine the spotlight on them. We try to outwork, outcoach or outshine them because we’re scared they’ll eventually leave.
- We hire for the work we understand, instead of the work we don’t. Gym owners hire other coaches. Salon owners hire hairdressers. Accountants hire accountants. But we should really be hiring for lower-value roles first, and other roles second, and replace ourselves as the primary provider third.
- Here’s an example: a gym owner hires a new coach. This buys her time to do “the other stuff”–doing the books, setting up marketing, and selling memberships. But no one’s ever taught her how to do any of that stuff. Her background is coaching, so she spends time training the new coach; watching the new coach; and judging the new coach instead of doing her real work.
- A gym owner in the Founder Phase should hire a cleaner; someone to do administrative work; and then learn how to do marketing and sales. Then she can hire another coach to work with her new clients. But this isn’t what usually happens. In most cases, the gym owner duplicates herself in the coaching role, and ends up with two salaries and no sales.
- We think others know what we know. They don’t. There’s no such thing as “common sense”. If you don’t tell them exactly what to do, they have no chance of success.
- We don’t put our clients’ wants first. If you’re more of a technician than a cheerleader, you’ll probably hire another technician. But is that what your clients really want at 6am? Not in my experience. Our lack of diversity fails to attract (or keep) new clients. Before I understood what my best clients actually wanted, I tried to find other technicians like me. But when a trainee coach had to take a 6am class because of a scheduling emergency, my clients absolutely loved her energy and enthusiasm. And when I did the “Apples” exercise with my best clients, I finally realized that most of them valued enthusiasm over textbook knowledge.
The best person to hire is usually complementary to you: they have an opposite skillset, or a different personality. If you’re more left-brained (tactical, analytical, and logical) hiring a right-brained person (empathetic, creative and caring) is a very powerful move. If you’re a great coach in the Founder Phase, hire someone to replace you in low-value roles so you can coach more. If you’re looking to move into Farmer Phase, hire someone to coach so you can grow the business…but only after the low-value roles are filled by someone else. And in Tinker, use tools like Kolbe to match the perfect person to the perfect role.
We guide you through the hiring process in the Incubator.
Yesterday’s workout was very challenging for me, because it was easy.
My new cycling coach instructed me to ride for an hour with a heart rate between 137 and 158–what endurance athletes call “Zone 2”.
My resting heart rate is around 62. But I LOVE CYCLING. When I hear my feet snap into the pedals of my Scott Gravel, my heart rate jumps by 10 beats per minute. And most of my workouts are hard, so the little dose of anxiety bumps my heart up another gear. I was coming off some huge personal bests, and was eager to see even more progress. And I had just watched Julian Alaphilippe win a Tour stage on a solo breakout. I wanted to go fast and hard. But I listened to my coach.
For the next hour, I coasted a lot. I slowed my climbs to try and keep my heart rate low. I listened to Bon Jovi (no joke) instead of my usual playlist. It was extremely challenging to slow down. But I did it, because I already knew the value of going slow. I learned it from my first business mentor.
In 2009, I was broke and exhausted. My ego was gone. That made me an empty shell: I was finally ready to receive help. When I made my first appointment with Denis (my first real mentor), I expected him to give me a silver bullet marketing strategy. After all, I thought I knew my problem: I needed more clients.
Instead, Denis taught me to break down the Roles and Tasks in my business. It was an extremely slow process. It was especially painful because I didn’t understand the value: I didn’t have any money to pay others to fill these roles. But I sat at my coffee table and wrote all weekend anyway, because I knew that really was my last shot.
Two weeks later, he told me to write out my Mission and Vision for the business. Again, I struggled to see how this would solve my financial problems. But I wrote them down, and then started writing about my process on DontBuyAds.com. If you’ve followed that blog, read my books, or received my emails at any point over the last ten years, you know that these “easy” exercises are the foundation of everything I’ve built. They were my fulcrum for leveraging change, and then growth. The principles on which I’ve built Two-Brain Business (a multi-million-dollar worldwide corporation with trademarks and patents and extremely powerful leaders) are the same ones I had to learn to save Catalyst (my first gym, which is still very profitable without my presence.)
The discipline to go slow is the hardest of all.
As CrossFitters and fitness enthusiasts, we’re taught that intensity>everything else. But every professional athlete knows that’s not true: that the body adapts and down-shifts its output over time. Max effort workouts become “sorta hard” efforts. We self-regulate with overtraining, injury, and plateaus. But amateur athletes try to go hard every single day, because they’re drawn by the novelty of short-term results. Pros know better.
Entrepreneurs (and I’m the worst here) try to approach every idea with maximal intensity. We over-market, over-hype, over-hire and overspend. Eventually, our efforts to learn more; hire and train staff; build staff; and improve retention become “sorta good” work.
Writing roles and tasks, staff contracts, and mission statements aren’t sexy. Facebook ads are sexy. But if you haven’t built the foundation–if you haven’t done the slow work–your business will self-regulate. You’ll burn out; you’ll have high turnover; your staff will leave to open competing businesses; and you’ll hit a revenue ceiling.
The Discipline to do the slow work is the hardest of all. I couldn’t do it until I was desperate: my business was injured. I was thinking about quitting. Luckily, I found a coach when I was desperate enough to listen. Now, I hope, I’m smart enough to do the same on my bike. Because soon it will be time to go FAST, and I want to be ready.
By Per Mattsson, Certified Two-Brain Mentor
In this text I am going to share my best advice when it comes to managing tough conversations.
We call this “low affective”: remaining calm and relaxed in relation to the one you’re talking to. When you are low affective, you pose no threat, and that helps your counterpart relax and speak more openly. It also helps you get to a resolution fast.
Use this strategy when dealing with challenging members, when helping upset staff or even when talking to a skeptical person online.
Below are my top three tactics for leading a tough conversation.
Before the conversation starts, prepare the person by telling him or her what you want to talk about.
When you first sit down, don’t beat around the bush: just tell it like it is. Like this:
“I know that you and I are don’t totally agree on this situation and I can tell that you are quite upset. Could you tell me how you feel about this and what your take on this is?”
Tactic #1: Listen
Give the other person the opportunity to speak her mind.
This gives you lots of valuable information. Instead of making assumptions, you hear things straight from the source.
Now, you may hear things that you don’t agree with at all. You may hear things that are just wrong. And you may hear things you don’t like. But it is very important that you don’t interrupt and start to answer. Interrupting turns the situation into an argument—not what you want. No one is going to “win” an argument.
Keep listening, take notes, and ask open-ended questions to collect more information. When your counterpart is finished, try to sum things up.
“OK, so what you have told me this happened and then you felt that I was doing this and then your reaction was this because you thought that I was…”
Tactic #2: Ask Questions
Check that your understanding of the situation, from her point of view, is correct.
After that, I always start asking questions. Here’s a good one to start with:
“What do you think my feelings or interpretation of this situation could be?”
This question makes the other person think about the situation from your perspective. She might see that she could have done things differently. If you still feel that you haven’t reached through, keep asking questions. Another one that I like is:
“What could you have done differently in handling this situation?”
Without blaming or attacking anyone, you still open her eyes to the fact that it is her responsibility to handle problems like a mature person.
I am not naïve. I have been in many talks where my counterpart is too emotional to answer objectively. But these conversations take a lot of patience. This method is not the quickest, but it is often the best long-term method.
It is easy to be authoritative and more or less scare your staff into doing what you want, but what kind of atmosphere does that give you in the long run?
Tactic #3: Agree on a Solution for Next Time
There will most likely be more tough situations in your company and in your relationships.
How can both parties handle things better next time? What can be done to prevent situations like this in the future?
Take mutual responsibility for this. If your staff have done something that is clearly not acceptable, you should of course be clear about that. In those cases, say something like:
“I can see how you experienced this situation and why you got upset. What happened, and what you did, is not acceptable, and I am glad we had this talk. I know that there are things I could have done differently as well, and I will be aware of that in the future. What can we both do to avoid situations like this, between us or between anyone else, in the future?”
Then you book a follow-up meeting, ask how your staff feels about your conversation—and that’s about it. Congratulations on leading a very good conversation!
Listen, Ask, Agree
The three tactics, again:
- Ask open-ended questions
- Agree on a solution
It takes a lot of practice to ask good questions in a low-affective manner, but doing so is worth it.
I strongly advise you to keep improving your communication skills so you can lead your staff without having to use your “position of power.”
If you need advice in handling situation like this, don’t hesitate to reach out: Per@twobrainbusiness.com
Two-Brain Business is the bestselling fitness business book in history. And some days, I think about pulling it off the shelves.
There are over 120 actionable steps you can take in that book. Dozens of people have told me “it saved my business!”. Thousands have read it, and then booked a free call with a Two-Brain certified mentor. Hundreds have leveled up in our mentorship program called the Incubator.
But there are three things I wish I could update in that book. Because the best advice evolves over time. Here’s how:
Gyms who seek mentorship from Two-Brain business are taught to track the metrics that matter. This helps gym owners see what’s working, and what’s not. Then they can make changes and grow, or double down on the things getting them results. And sometimes, their results are better than mine ever were.
When one gym owner raised her rates without losing a single client, we tested her strategy in a few other gyms. The results–measured by data–were amazing, and so we replaced my strategy with hers. A few months later, when another gym owner made one small change that improved his retention–measured by data–we upgraded again.
In fact, if you went through the Incubator four years ago, and went through it again now, you’d probably see a LOT of difference. That’s because the best advice evolves.
But if you’re not tracking success, it can’t evolve. Because without data, everything is a guess.
It’s pretty hard for a new idea to make the cut into the Two-Brain Incubator now. That’s because the actions we take in the Incubator are time-tested and proven. But we’re always looking at the outliers. For example, one gym owner just finished the Incubator with an ARM of $495 (that’s an average client revenue of $495 per month). Another gym owner just sold $50,000 in personal training in one month. Are these sustainable? Are they good ideas? We’ll soon find out, because we’ll be testing and tracking. And if they turn out to be better than what we currently teach, then we’ll share them with every gym owner in the Two-Brain family.
The filter here is data. Great ideas must prove themselves. But when they do, we upgrade what we teach. Seth Godin calls it the Ratchet Effect. And data is the fulcrum that only lets the ratchet move forward.
Without this solid foundation of numbers, gym owners are building on shifting sand.
But bad ideas stick around because they’re attached to sticky stories.
“My gym has 250 members” is a sticky story because it sounds like success. But many gyms–even some with 500 members–aren’t profitable enough to pay their owners.
“Just care about people and you’ll grow” is a sticky story because it lets gym owners off the hook for doing the hard stuff they don’t like (sales, bookkeeping and tough conversations.) But being a good coach doesn’t make you a good–or a bad–business owner. They’re different.
“That’s not how we did it in 2005” is still accepted as a good reason to do something, because nostalgia is the stickiest story of all.
“A lie gets halfway around the world before truth puts on its boots.” Winston Churchill is credited with that heuristic, but it’s been around since at least 1787. We want to believe Churchill said it, because we love Churchill quotes. And it’s okay to believe sticky stories–at least until people are counting on you to be right. When being right affects other people’s money, you should stick with data instead of myths.
Your ads probably aren’t the problem.
If you have new leads clicking through your ads and taking the next step, then your ads are working just fine.
When we see reports like this from a client, we know there’s a clog in the funnel:
Ad spend: $100
NSI booked: 12
NSI show rate: 0
This means 12 people saw your ad, and liked it enough to quit social media. They went to your appointment calendar and made a commitment. None of them made that commitment lightly. None of them decided to waste your time. In fact, at that moment, they were firmly committed to showing up and hearing about your business.
Then something stopped them.
Maybe they went to your website and saw something completely different from your ad.
Maybe they looked at you on Facebook and saw the ripped-hands pictures.
Maybe they saw your rates without context.
Maybe they saw pictures of your gym and thought, “Uh…nah.”
Or maybe they booked the appointment, showed up–and something told them “this is NOT what I expected.”
Their mental model didn’t match what they saw. This is called cognitive dissonance.
They went from a professional ad to a dingy dungeon of a gym.
They read your promise of a caring culture and saw your sweaty shirt hanging in your office.
They expected one thing, and saw something completely different. In other words, you failed to live up to your promise before they even did their first squat.
The reason we track metrics in our Two-Brain Marketing mentorship program is because we want to find the clogs in your funnel. In our above example:
Ad spend: $100
NSI booked: 12
NSI show rate: 0
…there’s obviously a problem occurring between the time a potential client books their No-Sweat Intro and the time they show up for their appointment. Calling and texting them might improve this “show rate” a lot, but still–something is discouraging them. They’re not suddenly changing their mind. They’re not out to waste your time. So what’s stopping them?
- Find inconsistencies. What do you show in your ad that’s different from what a client might see on Social Media, or on your website? What might they be hearing from their friends about you that doesn’t match your ads?
- Find holes. When a lead books an NSI, they’re in a state of peak curiosity. So they go searching for more information about you. If they don’t find blog posts, videos, or other good content, they’re going to doubt you. Gyms with a deep blog or broad YouTube channel typically have higher “show rates” than gyms who don’t publish regularly.
- Find time. If they don’t show for their appointment, it just means they’re not ready to be a client…yet. Nail down your nurture process. One sequence of automated emails is enough for many people, but I’ve had clients who sat on my email list for years before taking action.
Here’s another example of a constipated funnel:
Ad spend: $100
NSI booked: 12
NSI show rate: 9
Close rate: 1
This funnel actually has a good ROI (4.5:1), but there’s still a huge problem: 8 out of 9 people who drove to the gym, got out of their car, and sat down at the desk didn’t sign up!
If you’ve never used digital ads before, you’re probably used to EVERY new lead signing up. This is because every person who books an NSI went out of their way to find you and research you. They’ve already sold themselves before they sit in your chair. They’re really your client to LOSE. So you’ve never had to learn how to sell before, and when new clients show up from Facebook ads, you don’t know what to do.
This is the most common problem we see with many clients now. Gym owners who use Two-Brain Marketing don’t have lead problems anymore. But they often need to learn sales strategies, or just get more reps.
- The greatest service you can do for a person who’s nervous is to get them signed up. That means practicing your No-Sweat Intro process with your staff, or your mentor. We often use the Two-Brain Scenario Deck to practice.
- You need a clear offer with NO discounts, presented in a professional way. That means building a sales binder (we show you how to do it in the Incubator.)
- You need reps. To become fluent at anything–Italian, squats or sales–you need a lot of practice. Don’t worry if you’re not amazing at closing NSIs at first. You’ll get better.
- You *might* need an alter ego. In his new book, “The Alter Ego Effect“, Todd Herman tells the story of selling Personal Training at New York Sports Club. He sucked at it. Then Chris Rock (a member at NYSC) told him about the ‘alter ego effect’. Herman started wearing glasses to his sales conversations. He immediately became the glasses-wearing alter-ego who was great at sales, and changed his income dramatically.
Finally–and most importantly–you must develop solid operations before you start marketing.
The biggest mistake gym owners make is to think that this is the right formula for growth: More Clients –> More Money –> Hire staff.
Before you do ANY marketing, you should have your operations dialed in, or the flood of new clients will just run in the front door and out the back door, carrying your current clients along with the tide.
Then you should have your staff well-trained on your operations, including service delivery (coaching) AND sales.
Then you need a solid retention plan to keep members around after their intake period.
Then you need an intake period that leads to long-term client success (like the Prescriptive Model.)
Then you need to practice sales in person with your staff.
Then you need to work through Affinity Marketing strategies to get as many reps in as possible with a warm audience.
Then–and only then–should you start ramping up your funnel.
This is the exact sequence we mentor gym owners through, step by step, in the Incubator. It takes around 12 weeks to build everything, but you’ll be running ads and closing sales by the end.
Here are some tips to remember when you’re starting out with digital advertising, and you’re frustrated because leads aren’t showing up or signing up:
First, remember: they just aren’t interested YET. It takes a few exhibits to sway a jury. Your ad was “Exhibit A”. What comes next?
Second: these are colder leads. The walk-ins and client referrals you’re used to getting are very warm leads. In fact, those folks were yours to lose. They were already sold, unless you told them something that turned them away. If your close rate on NSIs that came from referrals is less than 100%, then you’re the problem. But that’s the simplest problem to solve.
Third, you have to look like their expectations. Professional ads lead people to believe they’re dealing with a professional. A clean office, expensive testing equipment, and polo shirt frames their expectation of price.
A well-groomed professional who says “This costs $1000” is a professional at the top of their trade.
A sweaty, swearing, backward-hat wearing dude who says “Give me $1000” is a mugger.
Who would your mom choose?
What would stop HER progress through your sales funnel?
You’re good at tracking numbers.
As a fitness coach, you probably measure your clients’ body fat. You probably measure their progress on workouts and their max front squat. And then you take those numbers and plan the next steps. Right?
The best coaches take control of the client’s journey to fitness. But not all coaches do.
In business, you have to measure your profit, your revenue, and your expenses. But that’s where most gym owners stop. They can report their numbers to their mentor every month; they know where to find ARM and LEG in their management software. They know how to check their bank account. Some even know how to find leaks in their marketing funnel!
But they don’t DO anything with the numbers. Instead of using their numbers to control their business, they let their business happen to them.
We recommend Profit First for gym owners, because it helps them take control of their money.
Instead of waiting to see what they have left at the end of the month, they write themselves a couple of checks at the start. Then they cash them. And then they work hard to make sure the money’s in the bank! It works.
We teach the 4/9ths model to most gym owners for the same reason.
Instead of making wild guesses about what coaches should be paid, or trying to figure out a percentage, we tie payroll to revenue. Coaches can do 1:1 training; make more for group classes; do semiprivate training; coach nutrition; offer specialty programs–but the gym owner never has to worry about starvation. And neither does the coach.
We teach the Prescriptive Model to every gym owner.
Instead of hoping their “community” or “WOD scores” will keep clients around, gym owners meet with their members quarterly to measure progress; then they decide what’s next or each client. Members aren’t left to guess about their progress, or wonder if another gym would be better, or just wander into classes aimlessly.
We teach Intrapreneurialism to every coach.
Instead of waiting for staff to “do the right thing”, or guess what’s in the owner’s head, an owner can help her coaches build a career on her foundation. No more wondering if they’ll leave to start their own gym. No more asking for favors (“Will you take out the garbage when you leave?”) no more hoping they’ll live up to their salary, no more trading for classes coached. Owners do Career Roadmap meetings with their staff; plot out their opportunities to earn; and give staff as much (or as little!) coaching as they want.
We teach Affinity Marketing to everyone.
Instead of praying for clients to refer their friends, gym owners can make the referral process an active one. They use the Affinity Marketing strategy to meet the best clients and offer the best service.
We teach Digital Marketing to everyone.
Instead of waiting for people to search “Gym near me”, stressing about the messages potential clients are hearing about CrossFit, or hoping the Games shows up on ESPN this year, gym owners can take control of their media. Lead generation isn’t a problem anymore–unless you’re just waiting for them to find you.
If you build it, they will come.
If you take CONTROL, they will come. And they will stay.
I remember running out of money before I ran out of month. I remember being terrified to check my bank balance. I remember praying for sales so my rent would clear.
Then I took control: I decided how much to spend on staff; how much to spend on marketing; how much to spend on equipment. That’s when I became an owner instead of a passenger. That’s when I stopped yelling “Jesus, take the wheel!!!!” and slid into the drivers’ seat.
Need help making that shift? Book a free call with our mentoring team here.