Hardcore is Expensive.

A woman raises a dumbbell overhead in front of a pirate flag, with the words "bleed or leave" superimposed in red.

In 2008, I thought hand rips were cool.

I flew a Pirate Flag in the corner of our gym. I had a black website with black-and-white pictures. I printed T-shirts with Mark Twight quotes.

I was counter-culture and proud of it.

I held serious training “meetings” with our top athletes to talk about competitions. I cranked up the Metallica and let the “serious” clients train anytime they wanted.

Other CrossFit gym owners told me I was awesome.

They were wrong.


“This Gym Isn’t for You”


My early “counterculture” attitude nearly cost me everything. Yes, I attracted a few hardcore early adopters. I thought their discounted rates would still make me money. But I was consistently sending a very expensive message to the people I should have tried to attract:

  • “This isn’t for you.”
  • “If you don’t think bloody palms are cool…then this isn’t for you.”
  • “If you care about clean floors and air conditioning…then this isn’t for you.”
  • “If you’re sensitive about our music or our appearance…then this isn’t for you.”
  • “If you don’t want to drive to a remote location in the Industrial Park…then this isn’t for you.”


And on and on. I sent so many “not for you” messages that I eventually excluded everyone.

You’re a firefighter who loves P90X? Pfffft. This isn’t for you.

You don’t want to deadlift? Don’t have tattoos? Don’t like swearing? This isn’t for you. Stay home, or go elsewhere to exercise.

Many, many clients called to inquire. Many others showed up for on-ramp, and we filtered them out with FMS screening. Very few left because our prices were expensive; most left because of our attitude, and our egos and our signaling.

We turned away dozens of people because we were counterculture; hardcore; competitive; too different from their reality.

Hardcore is expensive. 


What Signals Are You Sending?


Every signal you give that says “this isn’t for you” costs you clients. And it usually costs you the BEST clients: those willing to pay for your excellent coaching and guidance.

Let’s think about the signals you’re sending. What do those signals mean to your primary audience: high-earners with stable careers, probably mid-thirties, with kids?

Your service might not be for everyone. But you’d better make sure there are enough people around who like your attitude and want to pay for it.

Because you can’t afford the alternative: to be so cool that it hurts.

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