Episode 172: Gym-Management Software: Our Unbiased Review

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Greg: 00:00 – Hey everybody, it’s Greg with Two-Brain Media, and on this week’s episode we talked to Jay Williams. Jay Williams is the Director of Products at Two-Brain along with being a mentor. He’s been with Two-Brain since the very beginning. We get into the major software companies that are in the CrossFit-gym industry today and the pros and cons of each. We also talk about the ranking system that Jay developed to give you the very best as a gym owner, and you’d be surprised of who scored the highest. Make sure that you guys subscribe to Two-Brain Radio to hear the very best ideas to move you and your business closer to wealth.

Greg: 00:38 – Two-Brain Radio is brought to you by Two-Brain Business. We’re committed to helping a million entrepreneurs find freedom and wealth. We’ll bring you the very best of the business world each week. To find out how we can help you create your Perfect Day, book a free call with a mentor at

Chris: 00:56 – Everybody hates their insurance company until they need their insurance company. My insurance recommendation is Vaughn Vernon of Affiliate Guard. Before I get into this story, I want to make it clear here that I don’t get any kickback for recommending Vaughn, but I’ve done it so many times. Whenever anybody online asks a question about insurance companies, I always say Affiliate Guard. Here’s why. Years ago when we affiliated with CrossFit, my insurance company dumped me, citing quote unquote “tractor pulls” that we were going to be doing, whatever the hell that is. I’ve never pulled a tractor in my life. I’ve driven lots of tractors and I can tell you, I don’t think I could pull one if I wanted to, but that’s besides the point. At that time, the person who swooped in and saved CrossFit gyms in Canada was Joanne LeGal, and if you’re in Canada, I recommend talking to her—period.

Chris: 01:45 – You don’t have to talk to her first. You don’t have to talk to her last. Just talk to her, period. If you’re in the states though, I recommend Affiliate Guard because the program that I get through Joanne in Canada is really, really awesome and all inclusive. Joanne’s personality, though, is what keeps me with their company. In the states. Affiliate Guard is run by Vaughn Vernon, a massive personality, a CrossFitter, a Jujitsu guy. He drives dirt bikes, he has good-looking kids, all that stuff and his policy is the best. It’s really, really tough to tell when you’re reading your policy if the benefits are the same as someone else’s because they obscure stuff on purpose. It’s just like taxes. However, when I’m looking at my policy, I ask myself, “Will that guy get up in the middle of the night and helped me out?”

Chris: 02:34 – This weekend was a great example of Vaughn’s personality. One of my friends and clients down in Florida had their garage door smashed open by a Mustang that was doing donuts in the parking lot and they texted me at 6:00 a.m. on a Sunday and I wanted to help. So I texted Vaughn, he’s two hours behind me and he responded right away. Your insurance company is not going to do that. As I said at the start of this, everybody hates their insurance company until they need insurance. And when you do need insurance, you want them to answer the damn phone on a Sunday morning and you want to talk to the head man and you just want to know everything’s going to be OK. With Affiliate Guard. It is.

Greg: 03:12 – All right, I’m on another episode of Two-Brain Business with the famous Jay Williams. Jay, how are you?

Jay: 03:18 – I’m great. How are you?

Greg: 03:20 – I’m doing well. So it’s been a little while since we’ve had you on the podcast. I want to say last time, about mid-year around this time last year was the last time you were on here. So anyone that hasn’t heard the other episodes that you’ve been on, can you give a little synopsis of kind of who you are within the Two-Brain Business along with the businesses that you own?

Jay: 03:39 – Yeah, yeah. So I am really Director of New Product Development here at Two-Brain Business. I’ve been involved since the very beginning with Chris. I also do some mentoring. I own a gym here in California where I am now, and another one in London, which is where I started, or my first gym back when Two-Brain was just an idea in Chris’s head, I was one of the first mentors. And so the business has kind of grown and I’ve kind of grown along with it.

Greg: 04:11 – Awesome. And if anyone hasn’t listened to your episodes, we’ll make sure to link those in in the show notes so that people can go back and kind of listen to all the struggles and successes that you’ve had because I mean, it’s not easy owning a business, especially in a different state, but really overseas, and kind of hear about your story and everything. So let’s kind of jump into the episode today. Now, big issue that we’ve seen within the industry of gyms is backend. So like the software of what owners are trying to look for, getting different kind of metrics out of it and that. So you actually started a really cool project a few months back and, it led to basically building a structure to kind of scale where a gym software is and basically the pros and cons and everything. So take us back. What kind of led you up to building the structure that you did and being able to evaluate these businesses the way you did?

Jay: 05:04 – Yeah, so before I owned a gym, I was actually a software developer and then I ended up managing a bunch of software developers. So I have some background in this I wasn’t a great developer or anything, but I at least kind of know what goes into some of it. And so whenever there was a software project or something that involves tech, Chris would always kind of get me involved. So a couple of years ago maybe we sort of put together a overly ambitious project on how to kind of build a basic website platform and like generate reports so that we could see what was going on inside all of the gyms in Two-Brain. And that kind of went sideways. So maybe, I don’t know, 12 months ago or so, Chris basically said, “Look, we need to figure out what is the best software platform that we can work with so that we can get these reports in front of gym owners and get them in front of us. So I need you to go out and evaluate all the software platforms and figure out which one is the best and then, and then we’ll figure out who we’re going to partner with for this year.” So basically, and this is kind of going way back, like when I first started my gym, we tried three or four different software platforms and none of them quite fit the bill exactly, so we ended up kind of putting together a hodgepodge of different things, which is what most gym owners do. And so I, over the years, it’s been 11 years now, I’ve always kind of paid attention to what’s out there to figure out what is the best one. If it’s time to switch, you know, is there a new one that’s coming up that is really good and how we could get the needs met for gyms.

Jay: 06:56 – Oh, just pause for a second here. What we ended up focusing on was the back-end software. So the things that people are using to do billing and booking at their gyms, to generate reports, to charge, you know, people’s credit cards, to put their classes in, that kind of thing. It’s really the backbone of the gyms, and when we look at kind of over the years, what are the things that people care about? What are the things people post about? One of the first things they post about in all of the groups, all the Facebook groups, is which software platform should I use? So that kind of led us down this path of let’s just pick the best one, partner with them and see if we can get the reports that we need out of that one.

Greg: 07:41 – And I know before in the past we have partnered with a software company and we know that they were going to deliver some stuff to us, didn’t really work out the way everyone wanted it to. So you ended that partnership with them, which everything was on good terms. And then it kind of led us into being able to create this scoring system that you’ve created to be really unbiased on everything. Right? There’s not one that we picked and choose and said, “This is the one we’re partnering with,” but more of, “Hey, this is how we’ve graded the top six best softwares that we have found so far.”

Jay: 08:20 – Yeah. So you kind of filled in that part of it. Like basically we have tried to partner with a couple of different software platforms, you know. Everyone kind of reaches out to us because of the size of Two-Brain Business and says, “Hey, we’d like to work with you guys. What do we need to do to work with you?” And we’ve had partnerships in the past that didn’t work. We’ve tried to work with some of the companies to say, “Hey, can you help us build what we need to build?” And we’ve just never had any success. And so when Chris came to me and said, “Hey, go solve this problem,” the original intention was that we would just find one and say which one is the best one to work with so that we can get what we need, right? Thinking that this wasn’t going to be a comparison post, it was more just going to be, go find the partner and then we’ll partner with them. What ended up happening was as I started to go through and evaluate all the different platforms, it was pretty clear that there wasn’t one that was going to fill all the needs. And I went back to Chris and said like, “You know, there’s some great things about each one. There’s some drawbacks from each one. I don’t think it’s time to have an official partner, but here’s all the information that I have about them. You know, let’s put this together into a post that we can share with everyone and tell them like what we think of it.” So that’s kind of what led us to this post. So this post is basically like the best gym-management software platforms and you know our review.

Jay: 09:55 – And so what I did with this is we had a spreadsheet with I think maybe 12 or 15 different gym-management platforms and I spent somewhere between an hour and two hours with each one. Some of them I had used before at my gyms and so we had kind of quite a bit of experience. Some of them I just had to get, I had to take my experience and then I had to get information from other people that were using them. And so I basically said, OK, based on these criteria we’re going to give them all a score and we’re just going to publish that score. So the five things that we cared about were just general functionality. So does it meet the basic needs of a gym? Reporting, so reporting is a really big one. We ask all of our gym owners to keep track of their average revenue per member, their length of engagement, their profit and a few other numbers. And if the reports don’t generate that stuff, then it makes it really hard for them to run their business. So usability, basically it’s like how easy is it for people to navigate around and do what they need to do? Integrations. One of the things we found was that there really, because there’s no perfect gym software, that means that you have to use other systems to do things like emailing clients or texting them or tracking workouts or whatever. And so it’s important for each of the softwares to be able to integrate with some of those systems. And then every software, like I said, has strengths and weaknesses. Some of them have lots of cool bonus stuff. And so we just included a category for bonuses. So each one of those categories, we did it on a scale of one to 10 and I just gave them a rating based on my impressions of those things compared to all of the other ones that we evaluated. So yeah, we’ll pause. Do you have any questions about that?

Greg: 11:57 – No, I mean, that sounds perfect. And to me, I mean I think too many gym owners jump on the phone with a software company and of course they’re telling them how their member app is amazing and how the sign-in app is amazing and all this other stuff. But it doesn’t really, they don’t really go into details of what the gym owner needs. And I know when I first jumped on my first call with a software company, they told me all the amazing things that’s going to help out my members but didn’t really tell me how it’s going to help me know the health of my business in the sense of what is my average revenue per member. How long is a member a member at the gym or length of engagement, what’s our gross revenue? They wouldn’t really tell you that kind of stuff compared to all of these amazing things that it can do. And I feel like those are like what you classified as the bonus stuff when really we need the functionality of it. We need the backend, the reporting, the usability, and then like you said, the integrations. Does it integrate with these other companies like Zapier, SugarWOD, whatever the other ones would be so that it can really flow correctly.

Jay: 12:59 – Yeah. And you know, this is the thing, like if you go to any of the websites for any of the softwares, all of them look amazing. They all look like, wow, this is going to solve all my problems. And when we started, when the word started to get out that we were looking for partners or looking for software, like we were getting contacted by all sorts of different software companies and they all wanted to hop on the phone with us and tell us how amazing they are and how their system is going to help solve all our problems. And we started doing that. I would hop on the calls and they would talk about their software and you know, kind of go down all of that route. Ultimately what it comes down to is if I don’t get my hands on it and actually see what it does and what it doesn’t do, then it’s all just kind of, it’s all pie in the sky, right? It’s like I’ve had enough experience with software in general to know that the promises don’t always match the reality. And I don’t come in expecting that they will, but that’s why I wanted to do this sort of hands-on review. Like, you know, you say that you can do all this stuff. Let me see how it actually works.

Greg: 14:11 – Agreed. I mean, of course they’re selling their product, right? They’re selling their service, so they’re going to try to make it as fancy or how amazing it is. And it’s gonna solve all your problems, but until you get your hands on it and do that, that’s the only real way to dig into it and see what does it really do and what does it not do. So, you had six software companies that you were able to actually go in and dig into this stuff. You had the five different categories to grade this off of, and each one of those, you graded from one to 10, correct? 10 being the best, one being the worst on each scale for each, function, reporting, usability, the integrations, and then the bonuses. Correct?

Jay: 14:52 – Yup. That’s right. So, you know, they all got a score out of 50, and all of them, like I said, they didn’t make the cut to be evaluated if they weren’t good. Like, all of these are ones that some of our clients are using and all of them have some benefits. And in fact, like when I look through this, it’s like, oh, I wish I could take this aspect of this software and combine it with this aspect of this software and then you create this amazing like combination of things. So, yeah, I mean, no matter what the score is, like, each one of these has a reason for people to sign up for it.

Greg: 15:31 – Agreed. And I don’t think we—I mean, as we’ve said before, this is unbiased. There’s not one software company that Two-Brain says “you must use this to get everything that you need for us to help you.” We just say, hey, whatever software you’re going to use, these are the things that you want from it. And these are the things you need from it. So, I think every single one of the softwares that was on this list all had one of our customers if not more of our clients using this, using one of the softwares if not more.

Jay: 16:02 – Yeah. And there’s a bunch of other ones that people use that that we only heard about or found out about after we published the post. So next year’s post is probably gonna have a few more. One of the things—so I can go through each one of these, but I think what’s interesting about this is because I did not come in with an expectation that any one of these is going to quote unquote “win,” one of the things that I looked at that I didn’t talk about on here is the level of support and communication that each one of them provides. And it’s actually why some of the smaller ones made the cut in terms of being evaluated versus a competing softwares, is like, you know, if they’re really good about communicating and they’re really good about saying like, “Hey, we’re going to work with you” and they actually demonstrate that they are willing to work with you, then it kind of gets them a few extra points and it gets them added to this list.

Greg: 16:59 – I would say, probably what, 2020 or later 2019, if we redo this and do a top 10 or even top 15, where all the software companies that are within the gym industry or even the service-based industry, I feel like you’re going to definitely add that to the categories and it will be really interesting to see where everyone kind of falls then with that support added to it. So, we’re not going to go through each one, of course, we’re going to link it in the show notes, the actual article so everyone can actually go through each one and dig into it. But out of the top six we had, we had Pike13, Zen Planner, PushPress, Arbox, Wodify and Mindbody. Now with these, I mean again, people can look in the article, there’s amazing things with some of them that did really great. And then other categories where they fell while other ones did really great in those categories and then fell in the opposite. So it seems like overall everyone did really, really well. There was no one that just was awful all the way around ’cause I feel like that would definitely not be a software that anyone would stick with for long term. And I can’t remember off the top of my head, but I feel like there’s some softwares in the past that are no longer software companies due to that fact. But I want to give—I mean if anyone’s listening and didn’t have time to read the article, kind of want to give the top one that scored the highest out of 50. And kind of the reasons why it did. ‘Cause to me, I will tell you, Jay, when I read this, I was surprised, I did not think that this was the software company that was going to be the highest ranking out of 50. It wasn’t on my radar for it. And then there was another one that was in the top three that wasn’t—I’d never even heard of this company.

Jay: 18:43 – So, OK. So Mindbody got the highest score and it was actually, like you said, it was unexpected. It does a lot of things really well. The main thing that it doesn’t do well is part of why it’s not expected. So the big thing with Mindbody is it kind of does almost everything, right? It’s like you can, you know, there’s appointments, you can charge people, there’s scheduling. I mean, it’s the biggest in the industry by far. And it does a lot. It does all of the things that you might need. The reporting is pretty good and they, you know, there’s ways to generate custom reports. The biggest drawback to Mindbody is that it’s very hard to use. And I think that’s where it stops people because there are so many options that it makes it so that you don’t even know where to start.

Jay: 19:33 – And so they do a lot of training and things like that. And so, like I said, the reason that it has the highest score is there’s lots of integrations, lots of bonuses, you know, lots of reporting, lots of functionality. I actually don’t use the system at my gyms because of the usability. And my comment to them when I talked to them was just like, “You know, look, how do you make this usable? Because so many gyms use it. How do you make it work for these new gyms that are coming on?” And that’s part of where they as a support team try to help bridge the gap. So when you kind of go down the list, you know, like you said, there’s one that you hadn’t even heard of. So the bigger ones really, Mindbody, PushPress and Wodify are kind of the bigger ones—or sorry, Mindbody, Wodify and Zen Planner are kind of the bigger ones. The smaller ones are PushPress and Arbox. And Pike13 kind of falls in between there. Arbox is one that made the list because one of the Two-Brain clients was very adamant that this is just an amazing software and I needed to talk to the founder and you need to check this thing out because it just does everything we want and they make changes all the time and it’s just amazing. And it’s based in Jerusalem and I went and checked it out and first thing I thought was like, ’cause I was looking at a version that was in a different language. The first thing I thought is like, “Oh this is never going to work. It’s a different language. The loading is a little bit slow because the servers are somewhere else, but it looks really nice.” And I talked to the founder and I shared with him our requirements. And backing up, I actually pulled together a list of requirements for all the stuff that we might need in a gym-management software. And I sent it to all the major software providers and said, “Hey, can you provide us with this stuff?” And so I did the same thing with Arbox. The next time I talked to him, he had actually built three or four of the things on my list into the system, demonstrating to me how it worked and it was like—and it looked amazing and it worked well. And I was like, “OK, like this is the kind of responsiveness that we would want with our gym-management software.” And so that’s why it ended up making the list. It’s a small company, they don’t have as many clients as some of the other ones, but the system works well and there’s a lot of things that it does well.

Greg: 22:04 – Yeah, I’d never heard of this company until I saw that post that somebody mentioned it and I knew you were going to dig into it. And that’s an amazing response from the owner to say, “Hey, what do you want us to help you with?” And then you giving them the list of demands and saying, hey, this is kind of what we need. And him already putting it into play. That doesn’t happen. And I think it happens more often with those smaller software companies than such as the bigger ones. But it’s really cool to hear that they’re willing to do whatever is necessary to fulfill a company that knows that hey, we have our entrepreneurs’ best goals and thoughts in mind and we want to make sure that we help them succeed. And it’s really cool to see a software company jump at it and say, hey, we want to to, and help out your clients, whichever way we can.

Greg: 22:52 – Yeah. And, you know, here’s the thing with the smaller ones like Arbox and PushPress, you know, we were rooting for these guys. You know, it’s like, we want small companies to be successful and you know, this is why we shared the requirements with them, like, everyone kind of gets a fair shot at it. But, you know, I was just really impressed by that response time because like I said, as a former software developer who lives very close to Silicon Valley, that’s the kind of thing you expect, like software turnaround is pretty fast. And I was also a project manager that would manage software developers so I can understand BS when I hear it. And when they say, “Oh yeah, I’m 90% done with that thing,” that means that they’ve barely started, you know, and so what I really look for is like, what kind of results can you generate? And that was a big win for them. So, yeah, I actually think, you know, when you look at things like Wodify and PushPress—or sorry, I mean Wodify and Zen Planner, they have a lot of the stuff that gym owners would need as well, and the scores were very close for some of these. You know, each one takes a slightly different approach to how they build the software and in some cases that hurt them in this evaluation because of what we are asking for. But it doesn’t mean that it won’t work for the business owner who fits that mold, right? So I think those are great systems as well.

Greg: 24:29 – Agreed. And I mean, out of the rankings, one through six, Zen Planner got a five and that’s a software company we use for my gym. It works. We’ve looked at switching over to some of these other companies that are higher on the ranking, but it just didn’t fit us as well as Zen Planner is right now. So people don’t need to fear that they have to switch over to Mindbody ’cause they got the best ranking. It was like what you said in the very beginning. It’s an unbiased grade and ranking of what they had to offer, and it doesn’t mean that every single one shouldn’t be tried by the gym or service-based business that is looking for something new. Get your hands on the products and actually really try it before you turn around and just say, O”K I’m gonna pick this one because it’s got the highest ranking.”

Jay: 25:12 – Yeah, I mean, I think if you were starting from scratch, like you were just opening a gym or looking for a new software, this could give you a good guide. If you’re looking to switch, I don’t know that it’s worth switching, because the cost of switching, if you’re an established gym is pretty high. Like you have to get a new system in there, sometimes you have to collect new credit-card numbers. You got to train your clients on the new system. And so if there were one that stood out so much that we said, “Gosh you guys, everyone has to switch to this,” then we would have said that. But that’s not the case. I think you pick the one that kind of fits your business model, fits your personality. If you’re starting from scratch or if you are just having so many frustrations with the one that you’re on that you just have to get off of it, then this is a good guide to use. But I do not recommend anyone switch. There a lot of other ways to get done what you need to get done, and I think all of these companies do a pretty good job with their support. And so if there’s something that you’re trying to do that you can’t figure out, like, email the support team because a lot of times they will be able to solve that for you.

Greg: 26:30 – Agreed. 100%. Now I know if anyone does want to read the article, we are going to post it in the show notes. So please go and read. We’re not going to dig into each one of these like that, but let’s say a software company is listening, Jay, we’ve kind of talked about it, hinted on it before about having kind of that list of requirements that we need for our clients to be successful in the things that we see as mentors to kind of have a standard so that everyone is getting a great service and then also going to be able to get the numbers that they need and be successful. How do they reach out if they want to reach out and actually get that list from you or contact you so that they can get you to evaluate their software?

Jay: 27:08 – Yeah, I think we actually published that after we sent it to everyone, so we can just include in the show notes. So I think it’s actually a blog post on the site. So we’ll just put that in the show notes and it’s basically like, it’s kind of tiered, of like, you know, what is the basic minimum and then what does it take to be Two-Brain compliant, and there’s like—it’s just a bullet-pointed list of here’s all the things that we need. So yeah, let’s just include that in the show notes.

Greg: 27:36 – Awesome. We will get that included in the show notes. Well, Jay, thank you so much for beign able to jump on Two-Brain Radio and going through this with us. I know a lot of people out there—I think the only thing that would supersede this on the affiliate owners page was “should I carry Kill Cliff or FitAID?” So I’m glad that we were able to do this in an unbiased way so that people could actually see the results, and if they’re brand new they can pick what they want and try different things. Or like you said, if you currently are a service-based business or a gym owner, don’t switch to any of the other ones just yet. Because until they actually give everything that is needed, it’s going to be more of a pain. So, this is just for people’s knowledge to realize that, hey, here’s kind of the ranking that we’ve seen in an unbiased way.

Jay: 28:19 – Yeah, it was a lot of fun. And I think we’re gonna end up doing this again next year and I’m hoping we have a few more on the list. And my preference is that we come out with one just clear winner that we can say to everyone like, this is the one you guys need to try this thing. And you know what, if we don’t, the feedback that we’ve gotten from these companies is that they’re all looking to improve and be closer to Two-Brain compliance. So maybe you’ll never have to switch.

Greg: 28:48 – Exactly. I hope for—either one of those sound amazing to me. And, of course the latter, if I didn’t have to switch, that would be best. But, I hope, like you said, next year we come out with one clear winner and say, “Hey, these are the people that everyone should be going to.” So Jay, thank you so much again for jumping on Two-Brain Radio and spending your time with us and talking about this.

Jay: 29:07 – Yep. Awesome. Thank you.

Chris: 29:08 – Hey everyone. Chris Cooper here; I’m really thrilled to see you this year in June in Chicago at the 2019 Two-Brain Summit. Every year we have two separate speaking tracks. There’s one for you, the business owner and there’s one for coaches that will help them make better, longer, more meaningful careers under the umbrella of your business. This year we’ve got some pretty amazing topics like the client success manager, how to change your life, organizational culture or the business owner’s life cycle, how to have breaks, how to have vacations, how to help your marriage survive, owning a business, motivation and leadership, how to convert more clients, how to create a GM position that runs your gym for you and leaves you free to grow your business, how to start a business owners group in your community and more.

Chris: 29:52 – Point here is to do the right thing that will help gym owners create better businesses that will last them for the long term, get them to Tinker Phase, help them be more successful, create meaningful careers with their coaches and give their clients a meaningful path to long-term health. We only do one big seminar every year and that’s the Two-Brain Summit and the reason that we do that is because a big part of the benefit is getting the Two-Brain community together and welcoming strangers into our midst and showing them how amazing gym ownership really can be. We’ll have a link to the Two-Brain Summit, including a full list of all speakers and topics on both the owners and the coaches side in the show notes. I really hope to see you there.

Greg: 30:31 – As always, thank you so much for listening to this podcast. We greatly appreciate you and everyone that has subscribed to us. If you haven’t done that, please make sure you do. Drop a like to the episode. Share with a friend, and if you haven’t already, please write us a review and rate us on how what you think. If you hated it, let us know. If you loved it, even better. See you guys later.

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