Many service professionals build a “book of business”. Financial planners, investment salesmen and insurance agents use the term often. These are all licensees: they pay a small fee or percentage to use a larger brand (like an insurance agency or real estate business) but mostly operate autonomously. They might get some small benefit from the brand for lead generation or a discount on signage; they might share office space or administrative staff. They’re not entrepreneurs, but they’re mostly responsible for finding their own clients. And they also keep their clients for a very long time, even if they leave their agency to work somewhere else.
For a client list to have value, the agent must be reasonably sure they’ll keep the client for decades. For example, when a financial planner retires, they can sell their “book of business” to another, because most people stay with their financial planners for life. They’re transferring value to another agent because their clients are locked in.
This is not true in the fitness industry.
When you enter the Farmer Phase of entrepreneurship, other fitness coaches build careers on your gym platform. Your role is to find them clients; provide booking, billing and scheduling resources; cover their insurance; pay for the lighting; give them access to equipment; keep your space safe…and a dozen other responsibilities.
Their role is to train the client on the stable platform you’ve built for them.
They do NOT own the client. Whether as employees or contractors, fitness coaches are not building a “book of business”, because the client shouldn’t leave the gym to follow a coach elsewhere.
The coaches and personal trainers at a gym are there to serve the gym’s clients.
What’s the difference between an intrapreneurial coach and a gym owner? The whole world.
An intrapreneurial coach maximizes the opportunities created by the gym owner. A gym owner creates enough opportunities for their coaches to build a meaningful career.
But a gym owner can’t create a stable home for their coaches if each coach “owns” their client.
I’ve seen this case play out over and over:
Gym owner offers a coach a part-time job.
Coach is thrilled, and gets even more passionate as time goes on.
Coach wants to make fitness her full-time career. But how?
Gym owner tells the coach: “find some personal training clients”.
Coach finds one or two, but it’s not enough.
Coach thinks, “The only way I can make this my career is to open my own gym.”
Coach leaves. If the coach has built a personal “book of business”, her clients leave with her.
Gym owner says “Never again!”
Gym owner goes back to the floor full-time.
How do I know? Because I was that coach!
Your clients must associate their training relationship with your brand; not with one specific coach.
Even if they primarily train with one coach, they should sometimes train with another. And receive nutrition advice from another, and also interact with your Customer Service Manager often. Forge their relationship with your brand to be a stronger one than their relationship with your coach.
I’ve also been on the other side of this, and lost long-term clients when a long-term trainer left.
I’ve lost sleep over those clients. I had to resist the strong impulse to bad-mouth the coach they were following. But in the end, I knew it was my fault. They had built a stronger bond with that coach than with my brand. I could have avoided the problem, but didn’t.
Now Catalyst has one dedicated staff person responsible for client relationships (in my books, this person is called “The Joy Girl”, the name a previous person gave themselves. Our new expert prefers Customer Success Manager.)
He follows our the Client Journey Map we built in the Incubator. He represents the brand. He keeps improving our LEG. He knows that every client is “our client”, and “our chance” to make a difference.
The “book of business” term is used to place a value on a client caseload. Investment portfolio managers and lawyers sell their “book of business” when they retire. But in the fitness industry, the term creates confusion and stress. Every client should have a relationship with the gym, not with a single coach. None of us is as good as all of us.
Further reading: https://twobrainbusiness.com/channel-conflict/
By Josh Martin, Two-Brain Mentor and TwoBrainCoaching Lead
Just a week ago, I was speaking to a gym owner about leadership and it reminded me of my light problem.
We are finally settling into our new house. Boxes are unpacked and the walls are adorned with things that make it feel like home.
You want to know what we don’t have figured out yet? The dang light switches. I had no clue that a house could have so many. In one hallway alone, that is short enough for me to stretch my arms across, there are three switches to turn the one hallway light on and off. Crazy, right? But at least thats an on/off thing. In other areas, we have dimmer switches. Hopefully by the time we have people over for Thanksgiving in 8 months we’ll have all the lights figured out! But back to the gym owner:
This particular gentleman was being really hard on himself. He had purchased an existing gym and was working hard to ‘right the ship’ but was having trouble with people doing the things the way he was asking they be done. I applauded him for holding himself accountable, but also had to explain the difference between being a leader and being an owner.
Opening a business, or even buying an existing one, does not make you a leader. An owner, yes. But not necessarily a leader.
Ownership is a like a light switch – it’s either on or off. Either you own the business or you don’t. Either the buck stops with you or it doesn’t.
Leadership is different. Leadership is like a dimmer switch. When you begin your journey as a leader, it’s almost as if someone has the dimmer switch turned all the way down – there is barely any visible light whatsoever. You’ll have moments where you shine brightly; these are the days where it’s fun to lead. But like with anything, you’ll have your ups and downs. You’re gonna make bad decisions and your light will go down a bit. But that’s ok. It’s a part of the process to being better. Adversity is a good thing. It’s what helps strengthen the light so that it doesn’t fade too much or too fast.
A leader is someone who can shine a light as they move forward and turns back to see others following, willingly.
Entire books have been written about leadership qualities and how to cultivate them, so I won’t beat a dead horse. (Although I do have to give a plug for one of my recent favorites: “Leadership Promises for Every Day, A Daily Devotional by John Maxwell”) I just want to remind you leaders out there – give yourselves some grace. If you want to be better, great! You’re going to have to put in the work. Just be patient.
Turn up the dial on that dimmer switch little by little over time. One day you’re gonna look back and see a brightly lit path that you’ve left for others to follow.
Your culture is the sum of your 1:1 relationships.
Your gym culture is the sum of your 1:1 relationships with your clients.
Your staff culture is the sum of your 1:1 relationships with your staff.
Your “culture” is not how often your clients visit a bar together. It’s not how long they stick around after a workout, or even what they’ll wear to get bonus points in the Open. Your culture is relationships, and every relationship is 1:1.
You measure your culture by the LEG (Length of Engagement) of your clients. Great culture keeps clients longer.
In the Founder Phase, your culture is the sum of your relationships between yourself and your clients. You’re delivering your service yourself; if you build trust and empathy with your clients, you have a good culture.
A good relationship is a balance between friendship and objectivity. Your clients are not your friends, but your relationship must be friendly. You must stay professionally distant enough to charge money for your service; you must stay close enough to demonstrate your care. It’s not easy.
In the Farmer Phase, your culture is determined by your clients’ relationships with your team, and your team’s relationships with you.
Your team must understand your vision (we call this “The Owner’s Intent”.) They must also know that you care about their career and have a plan in place for them (we use the Career Roadmap exercise in TwoBrain.) They must see the horizon and know they can achieve their career goals on your platform.
Then your team must deliver 1:1 relationships with your clients the same way you would. This is the most challenging part of being a Farmer: handing over the responsibility for client relationships. Every staff person will have different personalities, strengths, and weaknesses. For example, one might be incredible at creating workouts for clients; but might not have a strong sense of empathy. Or one might be creative but not quite organized enough. For this reason, we always build a safety net into the Farmer Phase: we add a Client Success Manager role for 2-4 hours per week.
In the Tinker Phase, your clients’ relationship should be with your brand. This means they have to align with your company’s values and vision. Now you have six relationships to manage:
Your client’s relationship with your staff
Your client’s relationship with your brand
Your staff’s relationship with their manager
Your staff’s relationship with your brand
Your relationship with your direct reports
Your relationship with your brand.
In the Tinker Phase, we tell entrepreneurs to build a managerial layer (usually a COO or General Manager; a CFO; and a CSO, or Sales Lead.) These should be the owner’s three direct reports. In turn, they translate the owner’s intent, vision and mission with staff. Good Tinkers should be removed from daily operations, but still available to staff who have unique situations. For example, the CEO shouldn’t be the one with the key to the supplies cabinet, but should still be available to listen to a staff member with concerns about their career.
The Tinker must clearly define their brand’s values. She must answer questions like:
“How does our service fulfill our goal?”
“What will we NOT do?”
“Who is our perfect client?”
“What is the perfect delivery of our service?”
“How far will we go to solve a customer’s complaint?”
She must also define the language and behavior used by the brand. For example, the Tinker must have:
A Quality Control or Evaluation process
A Style Guide for brand media
It seems like the Tinker is too far removed from client interactions to influence company culture. But that’s not true: the Tinker’s role is to define and teach the company culture to their key staff, who reinforce the culture by tracking client and staff relationships.
At this level, companies must track LEG as a measure of their client-facing culture; and they must track length of employment as a measure of corporate culture. Many businesses make wild guesses about “employee culture”, adding pinball machines and free breakfast cereal. But they fail to measure the effect of their action on employee retention. That means they’re not taking their culture seriously; they’re just trying to be as cool as Google.
Like everything else in your business, culture is measurable. That means, no matter how poor your current culture, you can improve it. The key is to focus on one relationship at a time and measure your progress.
Maybe monthly pub crawls DO build a better culture in your business. It’s possible! But unless you’re tracking LEG, you’ll never know what’s actually helping your business.
If you go read the CrossFit.com message boards all the way back to 2001, you’ll find questions about marketing.
The very first affiliates struggled with marketing. Affiliates in 2014–during the highest-growth period of CrossFit affiliates worldwide–still struggled with marketing. And in 2018, affiliates were still struggling with marketing.
So when some gym owners started to find success with various Facebook marketing strategies, I was thrilled. FINALLY, we could talk about actually running a business! FINALLY, more affiliate owners could afford the service that would really make a difference: mentorship!
And it happened: on more and more “Free Help” calls with affiliate owners, I heard: “I ran this six-week challenge and now I can afford mentorship!”
It appeared that the marketing problem was solved–at least, temporarily. No Facebook strategy lasts more than a few months, but I hoped that gym owners were being given some breathing room to work on the stuff that works forever.
But then I started hearing about the “bait and switch” advertising (I refuse to call it “marketing”.)
You know how it works already: “FREE challenge! Sign up here!” Then the potential new client is told the challenge is actually $499…but they’ll get their money back IF they leave a good review…and check off a bunch of other boxes.
I heard stories about coaches leaving, because they no longer trusted the box owners (“If they’re lying to clients, they’re probably lying to me, too.”)
I heard stories about great, long-term clients being “washed out” of the gym by the tidal waves of short-term, in-and-out groups of 30 or more.
I heard stories of burnout by owners. Stories of clients who thought they had “done CrossFit…and now I’m looking for the next thing” because they thought CrossFit was an 8-week mass challenge.
Stories of marketing companies charging tens of thousands of dollars for this stuff!
But what really broke my optimism was this: “People have commitment problems. They never stick around after 8 weeks!”
That’s not a commitment problem. That’s a leadership problem.
What kind of leader promises something to get you in the door, and then tells you the truth later? Not one that I’d follow.
What kind of relationship starts with a lie?
Since starting TwoBrain, I’ve wrestled with the question “What do gym owners actually NEED?” many times. It’s my mission to make gym owners wealthy–because I am one. I’ve asked the question about data sources; about booking and billing software; about handbooks and templates and courses and seminars and mentorship.
But what gym owners actually NEED is the ability to change lives. That means leadership. It means business strategies that stand on their own: logical, replicable, and honorable.
What gym owners don’t need is tricks. That’s what made the industry so corrupt BEFORE CrossFit!
So when two members of the TwoBrain family–John Franklin and Mateo Lopez–told me about their success with Facebook marketing, I was eager to hear their story. I love these guys. I trust them. They’re great leaders. They do things the right way.
They showed me their strategy. They’d taken years (and over $80,000 of investment) to learn how to market their four gyms well. I loved their method, but I don’t sell ideas; so we tested it. First in mentors’ gyms, then in a dozen TwoBrain gyms, then in a hundred. Their Facebook marketing strategy proved SO successful that we built it into the Incubator permanently. Every gym owner who works with TwoBrain receives mentorship in Facebook Marketing now.
Our strategy isn’t a swipe file or one specific campaign. It’s not an over-promise-and-pray plan. It’s mentorship.
What works in my market might not work in yours. Hell, I wouldn’t WANT another gym running the same ads in my city anyway. But John and Mateo have built a mentorship program for marketing on the TwoBrain platform that makes me proud. It’s one-on-one help (not big group calls); a help desk; tons of samples; coaching on ad spend and mentorship on testing. And it’s a fraction of the cost of these challenge-brokers, because I think that’s the right thing to do.
We also make gyms fix up their operations, retention strategy, coaching development plans, and pricing before teaching them marketing…because that’s ALSO the right thing to do.
I want to make gym owners wealthy. That means the ability to stay in the game for 30 years; to build long-term relationships of trust; to lead. Does your marketing make you proud…or does it make you a fraud?
Have you ever tried to sue someone for their gym fees?
I haven’t. And I don’t want to. So I don’t have contracts.
“Never make a rule you won’t enforce” is something my first mentor taught me. But he didn’t tell me the harder lesson: that you have to enforce the rules that you make. And you have to enforce them the same way every single time, or they won’t work.
When we sold Open Gym memberships at Catalyst, we had a full page of rules:
Clear out before group starts
Don’t come near the floor while there’s a group going on, even to warm up
Put your stuff away
I don’t have to spell it out for you. You know what’s on that list.
The problem was that no one really followed the list. So for awhile, members using Open Gym would show up while class was on, and discreetly their warmups in the corner. Sometimes they’d walk through class to get a foam roller. Eventually, their warmups involved a barbell. And then they began to involve the AirDynes…and then a coach snapped on them, and everyone felt awkward and bad, and I had to placate people who were in the wrong.
They weren’t bad people, and it wasn’t their fault. It was my fault for not showing them where the lines are.
When the rules are gray, there aren’t any rules.
If you give people five extra minutes of personal coaching after class for free, you’ll never sell personal training as a service.
If one coach starts class late, your clients won’t show up on time.
If “Open gym” runs during class time, your students will have a lesser experience.
If you aren’t saying “no”–and saying it clearly every time–you’re really saying “yes.”
Consistency is greater than everything else. Even when it’s painful.
The irony is that upholding your rules consistently and clearly is only painful once. In the long run, it’s far LESS painful.
I once had a client decide to row a half-marathon during Open Gym. Great guy, he’d been around for over two years, and he was choosing a tough option.
But five minutes before class was set to start, he still had nearly 5k to row. There was no way he was going to finish.
The coach told him to make sure he finished rowing before class started. Period. He said, “I’m over 15k in! I can’t stop.”
The coach said, “You will stop. That’s the rule.”
He stopped. He got off the rower, picked up his bag, and left the gym. He never came back. In the moment, it sucked.
But we’ve never had the problem since. That was six years ago. One hard conversation saved us from dozens of hard conversations, awkwardness and apologies down the road.
When the rules are complicated, they won’t be followed.
Imagine you’re a new client, and you you’re not really sure what the rules are. You see others showing up early and warming up while another class is running, so you do it too. Then a coach barks at you. You’re in a new place with strangers, and you were just embarrassed in front of them. Why would you ever come back?
Clear rules and consistent delivery teach your clients how to fit in. They save you from frustration and burnout, and save your clients from confusion and awkwardness.
If your rules aren’t being followed now, it’s probably because you haven’t enforced them before. Or because they’re just not clear. Or because people don’t know them.
Good pet owners, good parents, and good parents do it the same way every time.
by Anastasia Bennett, TwoBrain Mentor
Why are some members of your team more engaged than others? This is such a good question to discuss and it comes up very often on my mentoring calls.
In fact, this is the main reason I got a mentor for my own business. I thought the problems in my business were because of my team. But I was wrong: the problem was not my team, but my leadership.
Everything a leader does has a huge impact on the team performance and their engagement.
“Implementing Extreme Ownership requires checking your ego and operating with a high degree of humility. Admitting mistakes, taking ownership, and developing a plan to overcome challenges are integral to any successful team.”
― Jocko Willink, Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win
As a business owner, you are the leader and you are in charge of everything. It is your job to take responsibility for your own actions and to lead by example. If your team is disengaged, or they use an “I have another full time job” excuse, it’s on you. You have not done what it takes to get your team motivated.
What does engaged mean?
Engaged = motivated
Being fully engaged in your workplace means they are professionally happy; they have a defined role that outlines what their responsibilities and expectations are; they actively contribute to the team; and they are continuously working on their self development.
Why is it so important for us to have engaged staff?
- Customer satisfaction
As a manager/owner you have a huge influence on your team and how they are performing.
How do you keep your team motivated?
- Have defined roles, clear expectations and pathways to show them opportunities for personal growth;
- Show them that you care:
- Share your WHY with them, your vision and your values. Alignment is important here. If they understand and align with your vision you will have a better chance of succeeding. Commit to your staff and try to build relationships. What do you know about their family, dog or home? Small things make a huge impact.
- Help them with their personal growth:
- If you want to have engaged staff, loyalty is the key. And loyalty isn’t a one-way street. They need to see that you are invested in their development. You can always start with coach development sessions. Pay them for the attendance and spoil them with coffee.
- Listen to their needs and feedback. Implement some of their suggestions
- If you’re not sure where to start, get feedback on your own leadership. Ask your admin person to do a survey. This can be painful, so be prepared. I did it a couple of years ago and while it was hard was to read their responses, it gave great insight on what I needed to work on. As a leader you should always be working on your own self development and the ways to improve how you operate. After all, you can’t expect your team to do it if you’re not setting the example. Look for you team’s strengths and weaknesses, then bring in outside experts to help you all improve. Let them see you working on yourself. Look for improvement and don’t settle on the average. You need to set your standards high for yourself and your team. This is why it is so important to do staff evaluations and give them constructive feedback. Then develop a performance plan so everyone is accountable and working towards being their best.
- Concentrate on their strengths
- Do you even know what their strengths are? There are so many great online tests that they could take or get a professional to come in and help you to identify strengths and weaknesses. It is not only super beneficial for your business but also fun and enlightening for everyone in the team.
- Help them with their wellbeing – work-life balance
- Go back to their perfect day and see how you can help them to get there.
Remember, you can’t force people to do anything. Force creates resistance. If you want your team to be more engaged, turn up to the meetings and participate in community events: you have to lead them. Lead them by example and be a positive influence in their lives.
The biggest part of leadership is TRUST. We build trust by trusting others. Trust your team, let them make mistakes and create a plan for their development.
Without a team, you don’t have a business, you have a job!
As usual I have an action plan for you. Just like you do your annual planning, marketing planning and sales planning, I want you to have a team development plan.
Create a 12-month calendar and plan out:
- 1x Team building activity (something fun)
- 1x Team development block
- 1 x Cooked breakfast at your place
- 1 x Dinner out (maybe a Christmas party)
Share your plan with me and let me know how you do. Start leading your team and soon your team will be fully engaged and ready to follow.