How to Build and Test Gym Systems So You Can Finally Take a Vacation

How to Build and Test Gym Systems So You Can Finally Take a Vacation

Chris Cooper (00:00):
The real reason our 2023 Summit for Two-Brain was such an enormous success with over 700 gym owners and coaches in attendance was because I got food poisoning. I’m Chris Cooper, and this is “Run a Profitable Gym,” and today I’m gonna tell you how to test your systems without eating the pink chicken. Years ago, 2019, we were hosting our biggest summit event to date. We had rented the Crowne Plaza just outside O’Hare Airport for the first time. And I was spending for the first time over a hundred thousand dollars to put the event on. And as our team was getting ready to board the flight to go to Chicago a few days early, I woke up sick as a dog. I won’t go into details. You know what food poisoning is like, but you cannot get up off your bed. And so I canceled my flight.

Chris Cooper (00:46):
My team went on without me. They were there for about two days. And when I finally recovered enough strength to board an airplane and fly to Chicago, the summit had already begun. And so I arrived as check-ins were going on, and there was this big carnival atmosphere, and the room was all set up and people were super excited, shaking hands, you know, high-fiving each other. And I looked around and I said, “This isn’t just as good as it would’ve been if I was here. This is better.” The reason it happened that way is because we had systemized setup for the summit in 2019 before we even got there. And so when my staff arrived, they knew exactly what to do, what went where, how to set up, what the timeline and the schedule were to be, who the other speakers were to be. They had a backup in place for my speaking spot.

Chris Cooper (01:36):
And let’s face it, a lot of the mentors were chipping in, greeting people, shaking hands, hugging. I didn’t even need to be there. In fact, one of the funniest things that happened that weekend was such great proof that my systems were working. I was walking through the lobby and there were about 300 Two-Brain gym owners registered for the summit that year. And somebody was just signing in and getting their room and stuff, and they saw me coming outta the elevator and they went, “Oh my goodness!” And they put their hands up like they’re gonna run towards me and hug me, right? And they’re running, running, and I’m like, “Hey!” And they ran right past me and they’re like, “Oh my God. It’s Ashley Haun, and I can’t believe it.” And they were hugging Ashley, one of their mentors, right at that moment.

Chris Cooper (02:19):
I knew that the power of Two-Brain was far greater than anything that I had planned, that the power of the mentorship team was far greater than I could be as a mentor, and that the power of systems were what was growing Two-Brain to be greater than it ever could. A lot of people after the summit in 2023 came up and said like, “I am really impressed at how you just step back and let your team run everything.” And my answer is always “they’re better than me.” So if you wanna build a gym business, you have to start with systems. And I talked about that on the podcast earlier this week. First, you systemize everything, then you optimize everything. Now, you don’t always have to be the one to optimize everything. If you have a scientific mind like I do, it really helps because you can control variables.

Chris Cooper (03:03):
You can test one little thing at a time. But the reality is that if your staff are really good and they’re really fluent in your systems, they can make tiny tweaks that build on your systems over and over. And this is what’s happened in Two-Brain year after year. When I started mentoring gyms in 2012, I was just teaching like what I had done to fix my gym. And so it was all based on n-equals-one experience, right? And it was me—the number of people in my sample size. Then after I was mentoring maybe 20, 30 gyms, I started tracking their metrics and seeing what was working for everybody. Instead of taking this approach that every single gym needs a completely revamped system, I learned that there are common principles that will grow every gym, and each one has to be tailored a little bit.

Chris Cooper (03:51):
And that’s where the one-on-one mentorship comes in. And so over time, we started producing gyms that actually did better than my gym. And then those gym owners became mentors to other people, and they taught my systems with their optimizations to the next generation. And those mentors did even better. And so now that we’re on the fifth or sixth generation of mentors at Two-Brain, the gyms that are being run by the mentors and the clients are far exceeding anything that I’d ever even hoped for for my own gym in my wildest dreams. That is the key to the optimization cycle that I’m gonna share with you today. So how do you do that in your own gym? How do you set up the gym to be more successful than you could make it? How do you produce coaches who are better than you? How do you promote produce sales staff who are better than you, marketing staff who are better than you, cleaners who are way better than you?

Chris Cooper (04:45):
The key is starting from systems. You need to establish your baseline. So here’s the first exercise I want you to do tonight. You are going to clean your gym top to bottom. You’re going to get it exactly the way that you want it. You’re going to take a picture so that you don’t have to explain what “clean” looks like. Sometimes there’s a generational or a language gap there, where our definition of “clean”is not their definition of clean. I wanna take a picture. Then I want you to write down step by step exactly what you did. And I want you to be very specific, okay? You’re gonna be more specific than you think you have to be, as if you’re writing “Cleaning My Gym for Dummies.” You’re going to go step by step. You’re not insulting anybody’s intelligence, right? If they think, “Duh, Chris, that’s common sense, that’s fine.”

Chris Cooper (05:31):
But you’re better to have your cleaner think that than to miss a step. So, for example, when I wrote my first cleaning SOP, I wrote down all the steps in order. I was very, very specific, but I forgot to write”put the soap in the mop bucket.” And so the first two nights that our cleaner was at our gym, he mopped the floor with hot water and no soap because I forgot that step. Okay? It seems like common sense, but you have to write this down. So you write down your cleaning SOP. Then what you’re going to do–and you’ve got your picture of done—you’re gonna hire a cleaner, you’re gonna pay somebody else to do the cleaning, and then you’re going to just let them clean for a week. If you don’t see any obvious problems, you’re going to do a review with the cleaner at the end of the week.

Chris Cooper (06:16):
This is where the optimization process begins. So you’ve systemized it by writing the SOP. Now we optimize it by walking through the gym with the cleaner. And you go through the checklist. “Hey, How’s this going? How’s it going? How’s it going now?” Because the cleaner is probably already better than you at cleaning or becoming better than you at cleaning, you ask them “is there a way we could make this process better?” Now you’ve got context that they don’t, especially after a week. So they might suggest something like “yeah, we should buy a floor scrubber,” right? And you know you’re not gonna go do that, but if there’s anything else that you can do, then you can use that to optimize the process. So they might say something like, “I could be filling the mop bucket while I am dusting the front desk.”

Chris Cooper (06:59):
And you say, “That’s great. Let’s move those around in our SOP. And then you let them go for a longer term. So they might go three months next time. And by a year, after you’ve done a few reviews and you’ve optimized your process, you’re basically letting them run with it. And when they come back to you and say “we really need a floor scrubber,” now you’re gonna be open to it because they are the expert, right? They should be better than you at cleaning, and they’re going to be telling you what to do. Alright? I’m gonna give you another example. Now, let’s say that you’re running a group-coaching class and you start off by saying “here’s exactly how I want this run.” You write an SOP: “Class starts precisely on time. First we have a general warmup lasting four minutes, then we have a specific warmup lasting five minutes, then we move into the strength portion. We spend six minutes on developing the skill and—”et cetera, right? You break it down. You also write in key things. Like “every client gets one minute of one-on-one attention minimum per class,” et cetera. And you write all that down, and you give it to the coach when you’re training your coaches. So they’ve gone off and they’ve gotten their fitness certification in CrossFit, yoga, Pilates, bootcamp, kettlebells, weightlifting, whatever it is. But now you’re giving them the SOP on how to actually run a class at your gym. Then before they’re allowed to just run a class, you actually shadow them. And this is the optimization process. So you start off with “can they follow the system?” If they can, wonderful. At least you know that they’re being consistent.

Chris Cooper (08:27):
And your clients can expect a B+ level of service all the time. Then after they’ve run it for a while, you look for little places where they introduce their own flare. Like, “Heythey high-five everybody on the way into class. Hey, they start the class with a joke every day. Hey, they like to make the warmup extra fun.” Or whatever that is. And when you find something that’s really working, you make that standard operating procedure for everybody. So, for example, let’s say that you have a coach who likes to start every class with a joke. My gym doesn’t do this right now, but what we find over time is that people get really engaged, people show up on time, people give that coach way better reviews, the adherence level in that class is higher. You know, there’s different metrics we can look at.

Chris Cooper (09:13):
And so we say, “This is really working. Let’s apply this to all of our classes.” And so now you start every class with a joke. The key here, though, is that you had to start with a basic system. Then you let the coach add things to the system to optimize it, and then you made that part of the basic system again. And this is how we continually ratchet up our level of excellence at our gym or with anything else. So there’s a few ways that we test these systems, and this is part of the optimization process. The first thing, of course, is to get them out of your head, okay? Don’t worry about making them perfect. Just get everything operating at a B+ level and you’ll continually make it better over time. The second thing that we do is we teach your staff to operate at system level.

Chris Cooper (09:54):
Okay? So they, they have to be able to deliver on that SOP 10 times outta 10. If they can’t, then you’ve got the wrong staff person. It doesn’t mean the SOP is wrong. Next, after the person has demonstrated that they can deliver a 10 outta 10 to the level of your standard operating procedure, they can deliver on the system 10 times outta 10, that is when you ask them for feedback on how the system might be improved. This is really mentorship. You might add one thing, you might test one thing, and then you see if it’s better. And if it’s better, then you measure that outcome and you upgrade the system. Over time, the system becomes better than what you could have done yourself, and you elevate the delivery of your team again and again and again through iteration. And it all comes back to this process of systemize, optimize and then audit.

Chris Cooper (10:43):
You know, you gotta check to make sure it is actually working better. Now, if you’re not using any metrics in your business, it’s gonna be really hard to tell if something’s working better. And you know, if you’re not measuring like adherence rates in class, for example, you might have to go off, feel—like “does this feel better?” And that introduces all kinds of bias. So use metrics to measure and audit as often as you possibly can. Now, this sounds like a lot, right? But remember, your job is not to be a fitness coach after you open a gym. Your job is to be the owner of a gym. And so having systems and metrics and units of measurement are what helps you make a better gym over time because that’s your job as the CEO. There is another way to test, and we do this at the end of our RampUp Program.

Chris Cooper (11:25):
And this is kind of like a do-or-die, jump-outta-the-airplane test, right? What you’re going to do at the end of our RampUp Program is you’re gonna take three days away from your gym without contact. So you’re gonna put all your systems in place, you’re gonna teach your systems to your staff, and then you’re gonna walk away, and you’re not gonna have your phone and you’re not gonna check your email. They’re gonna have your phone number in case of emergencies, but they’re not gonna text you. They’re not gonna DM you on Slack. You’re just gonna walk away. Three days later, you’re going to come back and you’re gonna do an after-action review. What that means is that you’re going to go through all the processes and all the metrics from while you were away: how many leads came in, how many of those set up an appointment, how many of those showed up for an appointment?

Chris Cooper (12:09):
How many of those appointments were actually sold? How many people canceled their membership? How many goal reviews happened without you? How many social-media posts happened without you? Did the ad still run? All of those measurable things. You wanna find places where your system’s cracked. And if they did crack, that’s good because now you know what you can improve. So, for example, if people came in and they were like, “Tell us about your gym,” and nobody knew how to book a No Sweat Intro for them, well then now you fix that and you add that to your SOPs and you teach it to your staff. If people came in and did an NSI, but they didn’t sign up, then you have a problem with your sales process. You’ve identified it, and now you can train your staff better on NSIs over time. This can come to to be a blessing to you.

Chris Cooper (12:58):
I know for me, like when my gym was struggling, I never wanted to take time away from the gym because God, what if somebody comes in to sign up and my staff doesn’t know how to process their credit card? But what you have to understand is you’re playing a long game here. You’re playing a 30-year game, maybe even an infinite game if you wanna keep your gym forever. And that means that these constant cycles of iterate, evaluate and upgrade are what’s gonna constantly make your gym better over time. Your gym is never going to be perfect to the point where you can walk away and it’s even better without you. What actually has to happen is that over time you have to systemize and then optimize so that it does get better on its own. So coming back from the 2023 summit this year, it was an amazing success.

Chris Cooper (13:44):
I did almost nothing. I gave a 20-minute speech. I couldn’t even earn myself a spot on stage. But I shook hands and I met people, and over and over they said, “How’d you do this? How is it that this movement has its own momentum now that you’re just stepping outta the way and letting it grow and letting the mentors emerge and letting the people help each other?” And part of that is this systemize, optimize and then audit strategy. So the last step is an after-action review. And after we came back from summit this year, I sat with my team, our events coordinator, our client success team, everybody who was involved in putting the event on, and I asked each one of them, “What could we improve? What broke? What do we have to optimize?”

Chris Cooper (14:31):
And that list had 83 items on it. And now these are not things that you probably would’ve noticed, right? Like the music was too loud during the meet and greet on Friday night. But these are things that we can do to improve next time. And so we went through this list. Outta the 83 ideas, we adopted probably 26 of ’em for next year. And next year will be even better. And it’s better than I would’ve done on my own because the team started with a system: Here’s the the minimum standard we wanna deliver at. Then they became the experts and began optimizing, and now they’re delivering at a level way beyond me. I couldn’t even dream of doing this, but you can set this up in your gym. You can set this up in any business. You start with systemize, then you go to optimize, and then you go to audit, and then you systemize the upgrades, et cetera.

Chris Cooper (15:16):
All of our curriculum at Two-Brain goes through this every single year. We upgrade our content based on metrics. What is the average ROI that people are getting? What can we help ’em do more of? What can we help ’em do less of, to do more of the stuff that’s working? What can we help ’em do faster? We do this in our Growth Stage every year. What is getting people to a $100,000 net owner benefit? And how can we get them there faster? What do we not need anymore? What do we need to add? We do this in our Tinker Stage. What is actually getting gym owners to a million dollars in net worth? How can we get them there faster? What can they avoid? What can we double down on? And it’s this process that makes us better and better all the time, creates its own momentum, and makes Two-Brain way more than I ever dreamed it could have been and way better than I am myself. I hope this helps. I’m Chris Cooper. This is “Run a Profitable Gym.” Remember, don’t just abdicate, delegate, and then audit and keep growing your gym forever. If you want more discussion on this, go to Happy to answer any questions there. And there’s such a supportive group of over 7,000 gym owners worldwide. We just want you to win. See you there!

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