Chris Cooper (00:00):
Building a business that revolves around your client is the way to make a great business that benefits the owner. And there are four things that you have to consider when you’re doing that. I’m Chris Cooper. This is “Run a Profitable Gym.” Today, I’m gonna tell you how to build a client-centric business following the “four M’s” model. That is the mission, the model of the business, the method that you choose and the media that you produce. What do the really great gyms have in common? I mean, the gyms that really change their clients’ lives, create wealth for the owner’s family and really impact their towns. What’s their common characteristic? They are built around the needs of the client first. So today I’m gonna talk about building a client-centric business, and that means solving the client’s problems and being paid for it. To build a successful client-centric business, you have to make four decisions.
Chris Cooper (00:52):
The mission, the model, the method and the media. And if you work through these steps with me today, you’ll have more clarity in your business than ever before. Let’s start with the mission. What result do you want your clients to achieve? For me, this was longer lifespan and a longer “healthspan.” I want them to stay healthy and active and fit right up to the day they die, which is hopefully a long ways away. Your mission might be to create access to gym equipment or to guide healthy eating or to introduce people to meditation or something else. But your mission is not the same as your method. Your method evolves over time, whether your method is CrossFit or powerlifting or yoga, and I’m gonna talk about that in a few moments. The next step, though, is to ask how many people do you want to achieve this goal, this mission, over the course of your coaching career. I chose 7,000 people because that’s 10% of my local population.
Chris Cooper (01:53):
And if I can get 10% of the local population to create a lifelong exercise habit and understand healthy eating, then that will create a direct spillover effect to at least 7,000 more people—spouses, friends, and coworkers. And that will trickle down to another 7,000 kids, students, mentees. You might choose a different goal. Remember, though, you have 30 years to reach that goal. So don’t try to reach 7,000 people all at once. The next question you have to ask is how long will it take a person to achieve the result that I’m trying to give them? Now, I know that if I can keep a client at my gym for two years, that’s long enough for them to create an exercise and nutrition habit that they will keep forever. They might not stay at Catalyst forever, but that’s not the mission. Many of our alumni keep training for decades following fitness apps.
Chris Cooper (02:47):
Maybe they do Street Parking or they ride bikes or do other stuff, but they’d never have done any of that if they hadn’t gotten started at Catalyst first. In fact, a lot of them choose to do things with other people from Catalyst that they met there. Now, you might wanna keep a client for five years or just 90 days, but remember, if a client finds their fitness with you, falls in love and then quits the gym but continues to exercise, that’s a win. I know it might feel like a breakup, but you’ve truly changed their lives, and you should celebrate that. One other sign that they’ve changed, that they’ve reached the mission and changed their lives, they will tell you. So they’ll say things like “Catalyst changed my life,” and you know that’s mission accomplished. And we’ve had people meet and get married at Catalyst, people get pregnant and people survive catastrophic emergencies like heart attacks because of Catalyst.
Chris Cooper (03:39):
And I’m sure you’ve had that, too. So, finally, you wanna ask yourself “how many people can I serve at once?” And that depends on your model. Your model is how you deliver your service to accomplish your mission. And I’m gonna dig into that now. So, to recap, great gyms are built around the goals of their clients. And I’m talking about building a client-centric business. This means solving the client’s problems and being paid for it. To build a successful client-mission business, you have to make four decisions. The mission, which we just talked about, the model, which we’re gonna talk about now, the method, which we’ll talk about next, and the media, which we’ll talk about at the end. So now I’m gonna tell you how to build your model to match the mission that you set up a moment ago. So your model has to meet the goals of the client, of course.
Chris Cooper (04:26):
The owner, it has to meet your goals or else your mission will fail. And the staff, if you have high staff churn, your mission will probably fail, too. If your model helps the client but it starves the owner, then the mission won’t survive long enough to be accomplished. And if your model helps your staff meet their training goals but you can’t keep your clients engaged—like your gym just exists to help your coaches train for the CrossFit Games—then it won’t survive long enough to accomplish the mission either. And, of course, if your model pays the owner lots and lots and pays the staff lots but it doesn’t get the client any results, it won’t last either. So you have to tick all of those boxes. We’re not looking for balance, we’re not looking for trade-offs between client and owner and staff. We’re looking to tick all of the boxes. In our “How to Make $100K with 150 Clients” guide, I break down three models that have been proven to help the client, pay the owner and make careers for staff. And you can get that guide by joining the Gym Owners United Group and responding with “100K” to the post that I’ll link below here. The Gym Owners United Group is free. It’s gymownersunited.com. You’ll be guided right there. So now let’s talk about some different models that work. First, 150 clients in a group coaching setting. To make this model work, you have to charge appropriately. You’ll also have to hustle. This is the classic owner-operator model in which a single owner coaches almost all the classes, charges above the average rate—like $205 per month—and works a 14-hour day. It’s doable, but it’s scary and it’s not sustainable for a lot of people. You can get the guide with the full P&L to show you all these numbers at gymownersunited.com.
Chris Cooper (06:11):
The second model has 150 clients, but 10% of those clients are doing a higher value service. So in this model, the owner’s still coaching, but they have some help to cover half of their classes and half their personal-training sessions. Then the owner uses that time that they’ve freed up to do marketing, retention, admin and other tasks. This is kind of the perfect-day scenario for a lot of gym owners who just love to coach, but they wanna make more than a coach does. And you can get the guide again at gymownersunited.com. The third model has 150 clients, with 70% of them doing group classes, 20% doing a secondary service like personal training or semi-private, and the others doing a tertiary service like remote coaching or nutrition. Now in this model, the owner’s still coaching a couple of hours a day, but they have staff to do management and media and admin and cleaning and all the non-coaching roles.
Chris Cooper (07:05):
They also have one full-time coach and at least one half-timer help out. The owner could stop coaching and just do the business stuff instead if they wanted to in this model. And you can get the guide at gyumownersunited.com. I know I keep saying “get the guide,” but the guide is amazing. There are screenshots of actual profit-and-loss statements to prove how this model works, plus step-by-step instructions to setting them up. And of course there are other models. You can build your own if you want, you can download our gym business plan from the link below and start plugging in numbers, or book a call with our team and we’ll walk you through some options. Each of these models can be tailored to you, but the key is that you have to start with a model. If you just go out and wing it, read instructions or take advice from random other gym owners, you’re not gonna ever get anywhere because you don’t have a model to follow.
Chris Cooper (07:57):
Now, you might prefer to train clients in groups. You might prefer to train them one on one, or you might prefer to train them semi-privately. You might prefer to train athletes, or you might prefer to train clients seeking to lose weight, or even clients who are seeking to recover from head trauma. You might love CrossFit or Pilates or kickboxing. The method, we’re gonna talk about that next. But to right now, I wanna help you pick a model that actually works. So let’s face it, the old myth, especially pervasive in the CrossFit sphere, is that more clients equals a better business. That is false. It’s perpetuated because nobody else is standing up and saying “here is a model that is actually supported by data from successful gyms.” And that’s why I’m sharing this series. Don’t believe me? Look for the CrossFit gyms with the largest client headcount in 2012, or even as recently as 2015.
Chris Cooper (08:49):
Where are they? They’re either smaller now or they’re gone because they knew the CrossFit method inside out, but they didn’t understand how to build a real business model. So it doesn’t matter if you’re like Level 12 certified in kickboxing or you’re the best practitioner in the world or you’ve got a double black belt in jiu-jitsu. You can put the best wine in a broken bottle, but you can’t serve it. Okay, so now I wanna talk about the method. So let’s say that you love CrossFit or you love spin class or high-intensity interval training or jiu-jitsu or boot camp. I get it, you wanna share that love with everyone, but, as I just said, if you put the best wine into a broken bottle, you can’t serve it. You’ll just have a mess on your hands. So in this podcast, I’ve been walking you through the setup of a good gym business.
Chris Cooper (09:38):
We know it works because we’ve mentored over 2,000 gyms around the world. We’ve done that one on one. We’ve collected more data than anybody else, and I just told you how to build a business model that will allow you to serve up your passion over and over, changing the lives of thousands of people and giving you a great income. In fact, some of our gym owners in Two-Brain have applied these models so well that they’re now millionaires. They zipped way ahead of me, and that thrills me because when I started as a gym owner, there were no successful gym owners to be found. There were lots of people pretending, as there are now, but there were no proven models supported by data. So now that you’ve defined your mission and hopefully chosen a model that’s gonna work for you, now you can pick your method. This is the easy part.
Chris Cooper (10:24):
It’s probably the reason that you opened your gym in the first place, right? To bring your passion for yoga to the world or your passion for CrossFit or your passion for kickboxing to the world, right? And you wanted to share that huge epiphany with everybody and change their lives, too. The key is to fit that method into your working business model. Your method is what you deliver, and the model is how you deliver that. So this is where a lot of gym owners have gone off track, especially in CrossFit, because a good method is flexible enough to fit into a working business model. So, for example, at Catalyst, many of our clients do CrossFit. Some do it in a group setting, some do it one on one, some do it semi-private or maybe with their spouse. Some do it in their online homework. The method is effective because it produces results for the client, and the model is effective because it keeps clients around long enough to achieve the mission, and it supports the owner and it supports the coaches.
Chris Cooper (11:26):
Where CrossFit affiliates and yoga instructors especially go awry is the mistaken belief that CrossFit equals group training, or yoga is only done in groups, and then they try to make the model fit that mistake. Remember, good gyms are client centric, and that means the client gets results, but they also have some options. If they have a lower budget, they can do group classes. If they have a little bit of time or less time, then they can schedule appointments that fit their schedule better. If they have unique needs, they can do that in a semi-private session. If they wanna work out with their coworkers or their hockey team, they can do that in a small group. So the question you need to ask yourself about your method is how flexible is your method? The methods that last a long time are usually flexible enough to fit into different models. For example, jiu-jitsu can be taught one on one. Pilates can be done in a semi-private session where everybody’s doing different types of Pilates at the same time. Nutrition can be coached in a group. In fact, merely adding this flexibility to their model makes Two-Brain gyms thousands of dollars more every month. They understand the difference between the method and the model, and they’re willing to change to accomplish their mission. But there’s one more element here before we sign off, and that’s the media.
Chris Cooper (12:47):
Back around 2013 or 2014, I was hired by CrossFit Media and flown out to San Diego with a bunch of other people, and Greg Glassman got up in front of us and he said, “We’re not a fitness company. We’re a media company.” He was the founder of the CrossFit movement, the largest fitness movement in the last 30 years. Now, I had been writing for CrossFit Media already for a couple years by that point, but I didn’t really understand that broader context until that moment, and it hit me like a lightning bolt at the time. But it’s even more true today. Every company is a media company. No matter what your mission, no matter what your model, no matter even what method you choose, you have to talk about it or you will be invisible. If you’re a CrossFit affiliate, you can’t rely on HQ to talk about CrossFit for you.
Chris Cooper (13:37):
If you’re an F45 franchise, you can’t rely on Mark Wahlberg to talk about F45 every day for the rest of his life. You can’t rely on anybody else to create the media that will grow your business. You have to promote yourself. And that means you have to publish. At the absolute minimum, you should be able to produce three pieces of good content per week. That means a blog post, a podcast or a YouTube video. Then you should be able to divide those three pieces of content into 10 pieces of social media—clips, stories, reels, posts, tweets, pictures. That is no longer the ideal. That’s now the minimum. So start by recording your mission. I’m gonna share a video below this of what I did for Catalyst last year as we refined our own mission, right? The catalyst mission is to help 7,000 people in Sault Ste. Marie. But now I’m gonna give you 10 other prompts that you can use to create content.
Chris Cooper (14:34):
So here’s what you do. You grab your phone, you hold it up in front of you, you listen to the first prompt, pretend I’m interviewing you, you hit record, okay? Say the answer, hit stop and then upload that to YouTube. Okay? So question Number 1, why do you love your particular method? Number 2, why did you wanna start a gym? Number 3, how are the coaches at your gym different from one another? Number 4, can anybody do these workouts? Number 5, what options do people have for training at your gym? Number 6, what’s the best time of the day to train? Number 7, what should people eat before their training session? Number 8, what should people eat after their training session? Number 9, what’s the best warmup? And number 10, what’s the best exercise for weight loss? Now, you probably heard those questions from me and you said, “Duh, Coop. Everybody knows that.” But you are a fitness professional. Most people are not fitness professionals. And these are the questions that they ask. So if you want a jumpstart on your media, just hold up your phone, turn on the video camera, pretend I’m interviewing you. Record the answer to each question individually and upload them. Then you can split them up and put them into reels or stories. You can tweet a link to the YouTube videos that you just uploaded. You can write a 20-word intro like “what’s the best warmup before my workout?” and you can share the video on Facebook and regular old Instagram, too, right? Do that for one video, wait two days, do the next one. And you’re covered now for over a month. Done. And yeah, you can use AI to do some of this for you. And if after you do the first 10 things you still can’t publish consistently, at least like at a B+ level, then you should try using ChatGPT or something else.
Chris Cooper (16:24):
But jumping straight to AI without a media plan is like hiring a robot to make you breakfast and then not giving it a recipe to follow. We teach gym owners how to produce a full media calendar, give them hundreds of sample blog posts and images to just swipe and use. And then we walk them through ChatGPT, and we give them prompts to copy in our Growth course. So if you’re not in Two-Brain, you can click the link below to talk to my team about it. If you’re in Two-Brain, just go to the Content Vault. All that stuff is there for you. Here’s the bottom line: If you weren’t publishing media three times a week in 2022, then you were being buried by your competition. But if you aren’t publishing media three times a week in 2023, then you’re being buried by an army of competition. It’s no longer a “nice to have.” Every company is now a media company. It’s time to tell your story. I’m Chris Cooper. Thanks for listening to “Run a Profitable Gym.” If you want to talk about this topic or more, go to gymownersunited.com, join that free Facebook group, and we give you tools and tips to help you with this stuff for free.