Entrepreneurial Distraction: Why Gym Owners Don’t Make $100,000

A busy gym owner sits at her laptop and struggles to focus due to many distractions.

It’s easier to start something new than to grow what you have.

Why don’t most gym owners make $100,000 per year?

Why do almost none make $1 million in their careers?

Why are they burned out, overwhelmed and ready to quit way too early?


The inability to focus on what’s most important right now, do the work required, and put off all of their other ideas and opportunities until the time is right.

This is my Achilles’ heel. Every month, someone approaches me with a new business idea or opportunity for investment. Even in my earliest days, I had lots of great ideas—and I acted on every one of them.

For example: “My gym needs more members. But I also have a great idea for this new concussion protocol!”

So I’d go and build a concussion testing program. It would take two months. Then I’d have no idea what to do with it, and my gym would still need more members.

My career is a long road of companies that I’ve started, then killed (and occasionally sold). But every single one of these diversions, even the successful ones, slowed the growth of my gym.

Focus and Growth

You can only grow one company at a time.

You can own more than one, but you can only be CEO to one at a time. CEO is your job; if you’re not doing CEO work, your company won’t grow. And distraction kills CEOs.

Why can’t most software companies grow beyond a million dollars in gross revenue? Because they don’t know how. So instead they think “I need to build a new product” when the same time investment in their core product would triple their business.

Why do gym owners start or buy a second gym before their first gym is paying them $100,000 per year? Because they don’t know how to reach $100,000 per year, so they go start another company that might make $35,000 per year instead.

We choose novelty over routine, even when routine is effective. We chase the “easy-hard work” of starting over instead of the “hard-hard work” of staying focused and growing our core thing.

In “Founder, Farmer, Tinker, Thief,” I tried to break the entrepreneurial journey down into four phases so readers would know what to focus on depending on where they were when they read it. Here’s a summary:

Founder Phase—Focus on getting to breakeven, paying all your bills with 50 clients or so and then earning $1,000 per month.

Farmer Phase—Hire for low-cost roles first, follow Profit First, increase average revenue per member and focus on earning $100,000 for yourself with 150 clients.

Tinker Phase—Reinvest or scale your business up, make your staff permanent full time and expand your empire.

Thief Phase—Make lots of money and give it away.

The Simple Six

The cover of Chris Cooper's book "The Simple Six."

A lot of people told me they love “Founder, Farmer, Tinker, Thief.” Thank you.

I just published “The Simple Six” to be even more granular. Daily distraction is a huge problem. Most gym owners can’t grow their gym because they’re responding, reacting and putting out fires from 6 a.m. until 9 p.m. every single day. They’re grinding but not growing.

“The Simple Six” starts with the premise: Every day, do one thing to grow your business before you do anything else.

So what, exactly, should you do?

That’s what the Simple Six helps you decide.

Look, you’re smart enough. I know you can work hard enough. The problem isn’t which book to read next—it’s focus.

I use mentors to get me focused. You can, too. Book a call with my team here.


One more thing!

Did you know gym owners can earn $100,000 a year with no more than 150 clients? We wrote a guide showing you exactly how.