Gym Owner Jocko Willink: Make Connections NOW

A shot as retired Navy SEAL Jocko Willink deadlifts about 400 lb.

I learned something from Jocko Willink this week:

Gym owners need to focus on connecting with people right now.

Willink, the owner of Victory MMA and Fitness, a retired Navy SEAL, and the author of “Extreme Ownership” and “The Dichotomy of Leadership,” will be speaking at the Two-Brain Summit on June 19 and 20. I had a chance to see a short preview of his talk, and he said gym owners have a real opportunity to grow because people are focused on health after the pandemic.

The rest of Willink’s talk is incredible—but I won’t give it away.

I’ll just say I’m a media guy and business owner, and Jocko’s observation immediately helped me refocus in both areas.

A head shot of writer Mike Warkentin and the column name "Pressing It Out."


Government Aid: Too Little, Too Late?

Over the last 15 months, gym owners have spent a lot of time trying to talk to the government—either on their own or through larger entities such as CrossFit LLC, IHRSA and so on.

That’s all good, and the collective work recently resulted in the tabling of the GYMS Act in the U.S. on May 13. Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-Illinois) and Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) introduced the proposed legislation in the U.S. Senate.

Short summary: If passed, the act would supply up to $30 billion in grants to help the fitness industry recover from the pandemic lockdowns. An eligible business could receive a maximum of $25 million.

Take action: The Community Gyms Coalition has a page that will help
Americans ask their elected officials to support the act.

I hope the GYMS Act passes, but I’m not hopeful based on the fact that the Health and Fitness Recovery Act of 2020 didn’t pass.

And I don’t know how much money would actually get past the big chains to reach microgym owners if the GYMS Act did pass. Community Gyms Coalition reported that almost two-thirds of the 315 local, independent gym owners surveyed said they are not benefitting from existing federal COVID-relief programs.

Gym owners in other nations aren’t doing much better—such as in Canada, where gyms still aren’t allowed to operate in many places, and relief programs just don’t do enough to balance out months of forced facility closure.

Don’t get me wrong: Fitness groups should definitely talk to politicians even though governments have clearly prioritized just about every industry over the fitness business.

But gym owners need to focus on talking to people. They need to work to save themselves in case help never comes.

Jocko Willink reminded me of that.


One Member at a Time


Governments might listen to gym owners and fitness groups—after they listen to energy producers; builders and manufacturers; airline CEOs; hoteliers; owners of casinos, entertainment venues and professional sports teams; retailers; restaurateurs; and providers of one-on-one services, such as hairstylists and estheticians.

That’s a long list, and most fitness entrepreneurs don’t have a war chest that will allow them to be patient.

But people will listen to gym owners much sooner—because most of the world just had an all-timer of a health scare.

Retired Navy SEAL Jocko Willink speaks onstage at a live event.


Jocko Knows Best

Willink is right: Health is top of mind right now, and gym owners can capitalize on that. Some are already doing it, and I’ve been utterly thrilled to talk to them on Two-Brain Radio. (Here’s another success story.)

I’m not ignorant enough to think everyone in the world is going to race to the gym to lose weight and create a buffer of fitness that might help them get through an illness. Many people will never work out. Not ever. But that’s always been the case.

What’s new is that a huge number of people are concerned about their health right now—and gym owners can help them preserve it. All owners have to do is connect with these now-receptive people and show them the path.

The other edge of that sword? If more people join gyms and experience their value, more voters will scream when the government treats gyms unfairly. And even if a government chooses to prioritize retailers over gym owners, it still tends to notice when a lot of voters are angry.

But that’s beside the main point.

People are listening right now, and a lot of them have money to spend. Gym owners need to talk to them.

It just might be the best time in history to find the members you need to make the living you want. And our data says you can make $100,000 a year with just 150 members (we’ll tell you how to do it in our guide here).

If you’re a gym owner and you’re railing against the government right now, I won’t tell you to stop—especially if you’re still in lockdown.

But I’d encourage you to make time to talk to your audience and tell them how you can improve their health. Do that at least once a day.

If you do, I think you’ll have all the members you need very soon.

To hear what else gym owner Jocko Willink has to say about the industry,
register for the Two-Brain Summit on June 19 and 20.

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