State of the Industry, 2017 (And What I Learned in 2016)

My friends, I think we’ve begun to turn the tide.
2016 opened as a year of uncertainty for many microgym owners. Some doubted our brand; others doubted their ability to survive. We heard pleas, blame and–frankly–desperation.
But in hindsight, most of this self-doubt and questioning of authority was just part of the maturation process. To put it another way, 2016 was the year many gyms grew up: from breakeven hobbies to profitable businesses with a real future.
The most common theme we published in 2016 was this: if you want to help more people in the long-term, fix your business right now. I know other groups followed the TwoBrain lead. And now, happily, we’re entering 2017 with a new sound ringing in our ears:
We’ve all been successful at fitness for years. CrossFit has been a turning point in the fitness of many people, and it’s been the catalyst for launching thousands of small businesses worldwide.
But a fitness model isn’t a business model. As 2017 dawns, so does the realization that the affiliate world needs models of success, and clear steps t get tohere. Sustainable business doesn’t come from great programming. It doesn’t come from data. Good business comes from good business coaching.
Why do I think we’re turning the tide? Here are few reasons:
1. If I said the word “profit” in public two years ago, I’d have been skewered. “I’m not in it for the money” was the rally cry of the affiliate owner. It was once mine. No longer. Now we don’t confuse “profit” with “greed”. We know WHY we need money. Right? For stuff like this:
2. No one falls for the “projected revenue” story anymore. And no one takes gross revenue at face value. We’ve all figured out that spending is easy. People ask about net, or profit, more often than ever before.
3. We’re buying houses and cars and having families. We’re securing our nests. We’re preparing a home in ownership.
4. More callers now ask me, “How do I raise my rates?” than “How do I get more members?”
5. I see more posts about education than ever before. Gym owners talk about podcasts, books and courses. They talk about mentors. We’re learning.
I spend most of my time surrounded by gym owners in the TwoBrain group, so my sense of reality might be skewed by their success. But I still do one free call every single day (and Danielle sometimes does three in a day.) I’ve been doing this for years. There’s no sales pitch, just a discussion (frankly, we turn away more people than we accept now.) I ask questions, take notes, and then try to give as much help as I can in thirty minutes.
No one else in the entire industry spends this much time with people who will never pay them a cent. Except maybe box owners. I know why you do it; that’s why I do it, too.
Are we there yet?
A few months ago, I was recording a podcast in Denver. I was talking about “the tip of the spear” and how, in most movements, it takes about 4% of the total population to influence everyone else. Kevin Kelly calls this “the tip of the spear”. You could also think about this top 4% as the engine of a 25-car train, or the top 4% of the CrossFit competitors: they show us what’s possible. They lift the ceiling. They provide a model for success for the rest of us.
The TwoBrain family has grown from 0 to 260 gym owners in 2016. These gym owners are flooding media with positive messages. They’re keeping members a LOT longer. They’re buying houses and starting second businesses. They’re mentoring other business owners in their towns. Some are writing books. They’re all working less and profiting more – every single one. These are the models we need in the microgym world.
What are they doing differently?
1. They’re following a clear, proven path to business success instead of trying to “figure it out” as they go.
2. They’re focusing on 150 great members and escaping the volume trap.
3. They’re being held accountable by a mentor.
4. They’re taking action on what they learn in podcasts, books and videos (they’re not passive consumers of knowledge).
5. They’re sharing, openly and honestly, in a protected environment of the top box owners in the world.
4% of 13,000 CrossFit gyms is right around 500. In 2017, our mentorship practice will focus on the 500 gyms who will lead the rest. This is how we’ll turn the tide.
What have I learned in 2016?
SO much.
First is focus: that when a goal is important enough, you don’t get sidetracked by the little stuff. I’ve had cancelled flights, corrupted hard drives, floods in my gym and nasty letters from lawyers this year. But The Movement was too important; I wasn’t distracted by any of them. In airports; in rubber boots; in hotel rooms at midnight, I worked. Because the work is important. Saving gyms means saving lives.
Second is leadership: I started 2016 looking for someone to push me forward instead of backward. First, I brainstormed a list of the best LEADERS in the gym community. They all eagerly agreed to work with me at TwoBrainBusiness. Second, I sought mentorship from someone outside the gym world for a big-picture perspective. I found a remarkable business mentor for myself. He, in turn, has mentors. No one succeeds alone.
Third is happiness in others: what makes ME happy isn’t what makes everyone happy. As I refine this concept for gym owners (you can see the video in the CrossFit Journal here) I continue to study human behavior and joy (my favorite topics!)
Fourth is gratitude: I’ve cultivated the Stoic mindset for years. I wrote “Help First” almost two years ago on the very couch I’m now sinking into (postural correction break!) I get a lot of joy from giving to others. But as a staff person reminded me on Tuesday: “Chris, you need to learn how to RECEIVE.” Sometimes the greatest thing you can do for a person is to take their advice.
What will I do differently in 2017?
1. Upgrade the mentoring experience. I can’t upgrade the interactions between mentor and gym owner, because those are impeccable. But I can upgrade the flow of information, the feedback loops, and help people visualize their goals better. That’s already happening.
2. Increase access to knowledge. The new TwoBrain TV project will kick off next week. It’s just for TwoBrain clients: they’ll be able to sit in the interviewer chair with me, and ask questions of my guests. But everyone will benefit: even if you’re not in the TwoBrain family, you’ll still hear these interviews and discussions on TwoBrain Radio (our podcast.)
2btv-jpg3. Elevate the level of discussion. “Talk to the smart kids. They’ll tell everyone else” is a mantra given to me by Greg years ago. The private Facebook group for TwoBrain family members is clear proof this concept works: we’re talking about profit percentages, not floor sweepers. In 2017, we’ll host monthly Book Reviews for group members, where we talk about the big concepts learned outside the gym industry.
4. Increase #action. As Jim Rohn says, knowledge without action makes you educated. Knowledge with action makes you a success. Accountability partners, completion updates, and new feedback tools will give TwoBrain gyms the motivation to do the hard stuff.
The evolution of the gym industry has begun. Becoming the largest mentorship practice in the fitness industry has given us the mantle of responsibility. We don’t take it lightly or without gratitude.
Whether an Incubator client, Growth Phase entrepreneur, or simply someone who pays attention to our free daily content, thanks. Growth and action in 2017!


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.