More than 15 years ago, I was invited to stop by a local sports performance facility to check out what they were doing. My parents had gone there for my brothers, and upon learning what the oldest son was studying in college (exercise science), the coaches at Velocity Sports Performance thought I may have interest in seeing what it is they were up to.
To say that invitation changed my life would be a tremendous understatement. Just recently I reconnected with two of the original guys from that very group. I had written a blog post where I thanked them all for taking me under their wing and giving me a rock solid foundation from which I would go on to build a career and open a business in the same industry. Unbeknownst to me, this was my first exposure to being mentored.
I’ve always been an athletic guy. I grew up playing team sports, mainly baseball and basketball, but then found real passion with speed skating. The uniqueness and individuality of this sport would pay huge dividends down the road as it forced my coaching mentors to think outside their box in order to teach me unorthodox training methodologies as compared to more traditional sports.
The next several years were a whirlwind of expanding the depth and breadth of my experience: D1 strength and conditioning while attending the University of Florida, elite amateur and professional athlete performance training at the International Performance Institute, and finally I became the Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coordinator for the New York Yankees. I was 22.
All of that coaching experience, yet I had not one clue about business. Thankfully, my time with the Yankees soured my desire to work with pro athletes (there is only so much they let you do with $150 million ball players…) as I turned down an offer to be their Minor League Strength and Conditioning Coordinator and instead took an entry level position at Ferguson Waterworks, the company my dad had worked for for over 25 years. It was a natural fit – I knew the business, knew the people, and climbed to the position of Operations Manager pretty quick. The only problem was that I HATED nearly every second of what I was doing. During my time there, I still coached on the side and devoured every piece of knowledge I could about strength and conditioning.
It was about 2007 when I came across CrossFit. Without going too far down the rabbit hole, I knew that I had found what I wanted to do – open my own gym, and help people get more enjoyment out of their lives. Recognizing that I didn’t know much about opening or running a gym, I inevitably came across ‘dontbuyads’ and all of Jon Gilson’s videos and cash flow calculators. I made spreadsheets comparing the cost of equipment I’d need to get from either Rogue, Again Faster, or Garage Gym…the only three players back then. I downloaded and memorized every journal article and video that had ever been created. I came up with what I considered a business plan and told my wife Mandy that I wanted to leave my nice, cushy, well paying corporate job to open a gym.
She didn’t take me seriously until she saw all the work I had done. I ran the numbers, knew my breakeven point – how many members I’d need, what equipment would cost, how much savings we’d need to liquidate, etc. She was shocked, but then she didn’t really expect much else; I’m known to over-research everything. That goes up 10-fold when its a big life-altering decision. Sitting on a beach in early 2011, we made the plan that I would wait until I hit the 5-year mark at Ferguson that November and then make the leap.
Then God threw us a curveball a couple months later. While it was the most perfect curveball ever, it was a curve none the less – we were pregnant! Quick math showed that Mandy would be 7 months pregnant when I made the leap. We prayed about it and decided to continue and move forward. There was NO option other than success.
I did all the legwork, I knew how to coach, the gym was outfitted, everything was ready. Except for one minor thing – apparently people have to know you are opening up in a new area and offering a brand new service that nobody in a 10-mile radius had ever heard of. After our Grand Opening, if you can really call it that, I literally sat in my front office chair the next Monday morning waiting for people to show up for my first 7am class. What a fool I was.
All the coaching, all the operations managing, all the research didn’t prepare me for how to actually open, market, and run my gym. Thankfully word spread quick and after 4 months, we broke even. Our savings was gone, but I was “living the dream.” Fast forward through these early years; we grew immensely and had to make a move to a larger facility. Deep down, while I knew we were doing well financially, I knew that I was only setting myself up for continuing to work “in” the business, rather than “on” it – actually growing it into the vision I’d had since we first opened.
I followed and still read every word that Chris Cooper wrote and decided to reach out in April of 2015. I simply can’t say enough about what following him, and the rest of the two brain group, has done not just for my business, but most importantly my life. Here’s why: I am a dreamer. A very big dreamer. I don’t wish to just add more members or earn a certain amount of money. Yes, those are great, tangible things that will happen as I march forward to my vision. I don’t want to settle for good enough or profitable. I don’t want to settle at all. When Chris and I had our first conversation, I told him my dreams and he was the first person besides Mandy to instill immediate confidence in me that I could, and would, achieve them. We began to create a plan that very day and I’ve never looked back.
I’ve been super fortunate in my coaching career. My earliest mentor went on to become the President of EXOS API, arguably the world’s leader in innovative performance training and athletic development. When we spoke on the phone in early 2017, he thanked me for helping him get where he is. Yes, he thanked me. I was blown away – in my mind, I owe everything to him for giving me my start in the industry over 15 years ago.
Nearly every day since I first made the decision to leave my corporate job as an operations manager, I think back to those early days at Velocity. While the depth and breadth of my experience is vast, its the initial teachings that continue to come full circle for me – from the way I write a program, to the way I coach or interact with a client, to the way I operate my business and conduct myself to consistently represent my brand through who I am and what I believe in.
That’s why I want to be a mentor – to pay forward what I have learned over all these years, from education, to coaching, to business, the successes and failures – I hope that my experience and help can instill confidence in others that their dreams are attainable.
For me, mentoring isn’t about the money. Though thats great.
It’s not about creating new programs or systems. Those are a must.
It’s not about finding new revenue streams, or staff training, or marketing, or any of that. Real businesses have all of that.
Mentoring is about one thing: believing in others dreams for themselves and helping them create a path towards achieving them. All that other stuff is simply the means to the end – your perfect day.