Clarity for Gym Owners: 6 Things to Do Right Now

Chris Cooper and title text.

Chris (00:02):

You’re working way too much for way too little.

Andrew (00:04):

This is Two-Brain Radio. Here’s your host, Chris Cooper.

Chris (00:08):

Chris Cooper here to talk about Level Method. When it comes to owning a gym, it can be really tough to show your members their progress and keep them engaged long term. Level Method provides experienced gym owners with a visual step-by-step fitness progression system that’s fun, engaging and easy to use. With Level Method, your clients can reach their fitness goals faster and safer than ever before and become raving fans of your gym. It’s a total game changer that creates powerful moments that you’ll never forget. I use it at Catalyst, it improved my conversion and my retention. Go to to find out more.

Chris (00:42):

My name is Chris Cooper. Ask me how I know this is true: You are working from 5:00 AM till about nine at night. The money that you take home is still too little, especially for the work that you’re putting out. I know this because I’ve been a gym owner for well over 20 years, and I’ve been a mentor to gym owners for about eight years now. We’ve worked with thousands of gyms around the world, and this is what it all boils down to. You’re working way too hard for what you’re getting back in return. Now I’m not talking about the amazing feeling that you’re getting from changing people’s lives and bringing them to health and fitness.

Chris (01:17):

I’m not talking about the impact that you’re having on the world. Those are amazing things. I’m talking about the grocery bill, I’m talking about not fighting with your spouse because you’re not making enough money. I’m talking about feeling kind of deflated, or even at odds with your business. Like you have to go to war every morning because you’re not getting out the same amount that you’re putting in. That’s what I’m talking about here. Now here’s the solution, because I want to give you some clarity. There’s lots of books in the fitness business now. I’ve written about five of them. And there’s a lot of information out there for free. Even on our site,, you can get free tools. And even in our program, sometimes there’s so much information available that you can actually get overwhelmed. And I’ll talk about how you solve that in a moment

Chris (02:07):

If you’re listening and you’re within the Two-Brain family already. Our problem is not access to information. It’s not the acquisition of education. Our problem is clarity. It’s focus. You’re probably doing way too many things. Instead of doing the six things that you need to do to have a successful business, most business owners in the fitness industry or not spend way too much time doing stuff that has no impact on them and way too little time doing the six core things that they need to do to grow their business. So today I’m going to break down your business into its six parts. We call those the six areas of excellence. And I’m going to tell you the number one strategy that we use to grow your business at each of those parts. In many of these cases, I’m going to give you a free resource that you can just copy and download from our site for free and just use it.

Chris (03:00):

If you’re in the Two-Brain family already, I’m going to tell you how to get more from your mentorship by seeking clarity instead of acquiring knowledge. All right, so here we are the six areas of your business. And if you’ve already purchased my book, “Gym Owners Handbook,” you know what these are. There are six things that you can do to grow your business. You can keep the clients that you have longer. You can sell more to the clients that you currently have by practicing help first. You can get more clients through your doors. On the operation side, you can make more money for the time that you’re working by improving your operations, making them streamlined, replacing yourself by teaching the vision to the rest of your team and getting everybody pulling the sleigh in the same direction. And then by upgrading your team by constantly improving the people that you have working for you.

Chris (03:53):

So the six areas of excellence again, are keep your clients longer, sell more to the clients that you have, get more clients to sign up, improve your operations, teach your vision and upgrade your team. These are the six areas of excellence, and I break them all down in “Gym Owners Handbook.” But today I want to tell you one strategy for each of these six areas. And if you just keep doing these strategies, instead of chasing new ideas all the time, you will be successful. Here it is. This might be the shortest podcast I’ve ever done. First. How do you keep your clients longer? The number one thing that you can do is to have a clear onboarding process that’s done one-on-one. Way back years ago, 2008, I think we found the on-ramp process from Nikki Vialetti and she does not get enough credit for setting this thing up, but she had this 21 day on ramp process and she was delivering it sometimes in group, I think sometimes in one-on-one and it helped people get up to speed on CrossFit faster.

Chris (04:59):

But what we found over time was that our one-on-one personal training clients actually stuck around way longer. And in the cases where they did integrate into a group training, they actually did way better in those groups, not just performance wise, but also longevity wise. They had fewer injuries. They were willing to pay more for the groups. They sought more help. They progressed way faster. And so when we started tracking data in my gym, the first thing that we noticed was that people who had a one-on-one on-ramp process integrated into the groups better and stuck around far longer, like four times longer than people who just came in, did a free trial, signed up for a group and then, you know, kind of did group workouts with us. When we took that finding to other gyms, first dozens of other gyms then hundreds and now thousands.

Chris (05:49):

What we found is that clients who have a one-on-one on-ramp process stick around about 3.2 times as long as clients who don’t. This is critical. There are a thousands ways used to do on-ramp. You should do it one on one. You can make on-ramp be too short. You know, three half-hour sessions. We’re going to teach you the hinge, the press, and the squat. You could also make it too long. If I have to take six months to get up to speed to your product, then maybe I’m not going to wait that long. So the number one thing that you can do to keep clients longer is a one-on-one on-ramp. Set that up now if you don’t have it. If you do have it, you can dig deeper and set up a client journey map. OK? But today we’re just talking about the things that will actually improve your business.

Chris (06:38):

Then the thing that you can do to make your business grow is to sell this on-ramp over and over and over, do not be distracted by 30 different options. Do not be distracted by what gifts should I send? When should I send a handwritten card? Just execute on this. Don’t worry about, should I do a workout? Should I do a trial workout? Should I have a test out? No, just focus on setting up your on-ramp and delivering that consistently with excellence. The number two thing that you have to focus on is sell more to your current clients. That means you have to set up a prescriptive model. This is important for retention, but it’s also where the gyms that are most successful set up their clients for long-term client value. This is the thing that’s pulling gyms’ average revenue per member up, and it’s not a sales process.

Chris (07:33):

It’s a coaching process. A prescriptive model starts with a consultation. You can charge for the consultation or do it for free. We do it for free and we call it a no sweat intro. During that consultation, you’re going to have a motivational interviewing process where you ask the person to get really deep into the reasons they want to get coached by you. Then you’re going to prescribe them some combination of nutrition and exercise. You might choose a nutrition plan like the zone. You might choose habits-based nutrition coaching, which is what we recommend. You might choose an exercise plan like CrossFit. You might choose a different method like Pilates or barre or best case you might combine everything. The key though is that after about three months, you’re meeting with that client again, you’re measuring the process and you’re changing the prescription because everybody makes gains in the first three months, no matter what you do. It doesn’t matter if you’re doing CrossFit or bodybuilding or sprinting, whatever.

Chris (08:32):

Everybody will make some progress. And everybody’s progress will taper off after three months. And so you have to change the prescription depending on how they’re doing. That’s the key and setting these goal reviews, which is the revisiting of the prescription really sets you up for long-term client success, which sets you up for long-term client retention, which sets you up for very long-term client value. And that is how you sell more, is through goal reviews and a prescriptive model. The third thing is to get more leads. This is where most people get lost because when we sign up for this job, we sign up because of the delivery side, we want to coach. We don’t sign up because we want to market or sell or build an audience. And so we get paralyzed. And at the same time, there’s more information on this area of our business than any other, because this is attractive and sexy and novel.

Chris (09:26):

And it fires off those little synopsis in our brain that say, Oh, I got to do that. And it triggers things like FOMO. I gotta be on Clubhouse because I think everybody is. And I can’t neglect my Twitter account. The key though is to identify what’s working really well for you and execute on that consistently. The foundation of your marketing plan is referrals. Every new client that comes in your door should generate at least one or two more clients, if you’re doing a good job, but they won’t automatically do that because your clients are not salespeople. And so you have to set up a referral process. This process has to be consistent, which means it has to feel natural and good to you. Nobody likes feeling like a salesman. Nobody likes asking for referrals. And so we dodge the problem by putting the onus on our clients.

Chris (10:20):

Well, they should be referring to me because I helped them lose weight, but they don’t. Well, they should be referring to me because I offered them 50 bucks off next month. But they don’t. Who wants to sell out their best friend for 50 bucks? The way that you get client referrals in a consistent way is affinity marketing. And you can download our free affinity marketing cheat sheet from our website. I’ll post the link in the show notes. Basically, the way it works is this. You pick out your top five clients. You say, I want to help these people more than I’m currently helping them. I get to see them for four hours a week. And every other hour of their day, they are surrounded by people who are not building them up and who might be pulling them backward into negative health and fitness habits.

Chris (11:08):

How do I change this person’s life by changing their environment when they’re outside of the gym? Step one, change their life when they’re inside the gym. Step two, change the environment that surrounds them when they’re not. And how do I do that? By changing the lives of the people in those environments, by changing the lives and habits of the people they live with, the people they work with and the people that they hang around with on the weekend, because if you’ve got a client who’s training hard three days a week, but on the weekend, they’re in the pizza tasting subcommittee of the lion’s club. And they go drinking at their bowling league twice a week, too. You’re not going to make meaningful progress. And so you don’t need to change their friends. Maybe you don’t need to change the bowling habit maybe, but maybe by changing any little part of that, the training that you provide for that client will be multiplied exponentially in final results.

Chris (12:07):

So affinity marketing says, sit down with the client, but before you do think about who they live with, work with, and play with and offer to help those people. And that’s how referral marketing can be done in a way that doesn’t feel sleazy, in a way that follows the philosophy of help first. So the third thing that you need to be doing consistently with excellence is affinity marketing.

Chris (12:32):

It’s Chris Cooper here. Your gym’s programming won’t attract new clients, but it can help you keep your clients longer. Good programming includes benchmarks, novelty, skills, progressions, leaderboards, you know all that stuff. But great programming contains something more: a link between each client’s fitness goals and the workout of the day. Your coaches need to tell your clients more than what they’re doing every day. They need to explain why they’re doing it. Gym’s whose coaches could explain the why connection had a 25% better retention rate during lockdowns. Imagine how that translates into better retention when things are back to normal. Now, I want to solve this problem for gym owners. Programming is the service you deliver to your clients. So I partnered with Brooks DiFiore, who had one of the highest adherence rates in the world for his group classes at his gym to build We built this for Two-Brain gyms and we give them free access in our mentorship program. But I’m now making this available to the public. Programming proven to improve retention and cashflow in your gym. Visit Two-Brain to get it.

Chris (13:42):

So of the three areas of excellence that we’ve covered so far, you need to have an on-ramp plan. You need to set up a prescriptive model and you need to practice affinity marketing. Affinity marketing the first couple of times you try it makes you feel uncomfortable. It feels like you’re asking somebody out for a first date.

Chris (13:59):

Granted, you need to have courage until you’ve done it a few times and gotten some reps and then you’ll have confidence instead. Confidence will replace that courage. But this is one thing where you can’t just learn about it. And that’s enough. You have to actually do it. You have to get reps and reps and reps. And when you do, you won’t need to do anything else probably. Now we teach Facebook advertising. We teach Instagram tactics. We even teach Clubhouse tactics. Even though I took a shot at Clubhouse earlier. And these all layer on top of affinity marketing, if you want them to. But just like you need to have solid nutrition to build your exercise on, you need to have a solid referral strategy to build your advertising and your other marketing on. OK. The fourth area of excellence is to improve your operations. The number one thing you can do here is build a staff playbook. Tell people what you want them to do in advance.

Chris (14:54):

Instead of just thinking, they’re going to figure it out or correcting them when they screw up. If all you’re doing is saying, well, you did that wrong, or here’s how you can improve next time. Then you’re not giving people an opportunity to ever do it, right? Because nobody can read your mind. The very first thing that my very first mentor had me do is to write a staff playbook. It ruined my weekend. I’ve been building on it for 15 years now. And that’s why we give like a really clear template to people because I don’t want you wasting a week on this, but I want you to have it. If you don’t tell people what to do, they have to guess. And every time they have to guess, there’s a very good chance they’re going to guess wrong, which creates all kinds of friction.

Chris (15:37):

It costs you clients. It costs you staff. It costs you money and it costs you time to fix it, which means you just can’t scale. The fifth area of operations is to teach the vision. You have to know what you’re trying to achieve locally. And you have to teach that to your staff. And you have to teach that to your clients. This is the sixth area of excellence and the one that few people take seriously. But if you look at like the most successful gyms in Two-Brain, the people who are in our tinker level program, they have dialed this vision in. This creates alignment. It reduces resistance and friction because everybody’s working toward the same goal. For example, my vision is to have 7,000 people meaningfully change their health and fitness and Sault St. Marie at my gym Catalyst. My strategy is to work with 150 high-value clients at a time providing nutrition and exercise coaching.

Chris (16:39):

My tactics were CrossFit for a while. That’s how I was running my groups. I have personal training, customized programs. I have online coaching for people who can’t make it to the gym. We have pivoted from coaching macros to coaching habits now for our nutrition program. Those are my tactics. That’s what I use as a coach. And my coaching has evolved over the last 25 years. It’s evolved many, many, many times, and it will evolve again, but those are my tactics. That’s not my product. My vision is not sell CrossFit to 5,000 people in Sault St. Marie, it’s to meaningfully change the health and fitness of 7,000 people over the next 30 years that my gym is around. And by the way, I just realized, as I’ve said this, that my gym has been around for 16 years now. So we’re halfway there. The sixth area of excellence, I’m sorry. I need to go back here. The way that you set up that vision is by following a process that we call the vivid vision. This comes to us from Cameron Herold, who spoke at last year’s summit. He’s got a great book called “The Vivid Vision.” You can follow that exercise. We also help you do it step by step in our mentorship programs. The sixth area of is to upgrade your team. Now, this is often mistaken as get team more certs. If they get their L 2 or their black belt, or like their alpha dog yoga certificate,

Chris (18:01):

then that’s upgrading my team, but that’s not actually the case. Most people are good already at the technical components, they’ve taken their L1. They’ve taken their Pilates reformer certification. They’ve taken their precision nutrition and that’s awesome. That’s their toolkit. That is not enough to make them a great coach. To be a great coach, they need to learn empathy. They need to learn how to make a long-term plan for a client and deliver on that plan with consistency with that client over time, they need to know how to coach people one-on-one even in a group setting, they need to know how to deliver nutrition coaching based on habits instead of counting macros, they need to consider what’s legal to do. And also like what’s effective for this client right now, but most importantly of all, they need to know what does this client need right now? You need to provide them that training if you want to have a solid business. All right. So tools. I’ll recap. The six areas of excellence, keep your clients longer. Sell more to your current clients, get more clients, improve your operations, teach your vision, upgrade your team. Top strategies in each for keeping your clients longer is an on-ramp. Map your client journey. We do that with you in the mentorship program, but whatever you do, start an on-ramp process one on one right now. Sell more to your current clients, set up a prescriptive model. We teach you that step-by-step in our program. Get more clients, start with referral marketing, layer media on top of that, layer social media on top of that, layer advertising at the peak. Those are your priorities. I don’t have to do advertising at Catalyst because I’m very, very good at the foundational level of referral marketing. Improve operations, build a staff playbook, do it.

Chris (19:51):

Teach the vision, write your vivid vision and teach it to your staff at regular staff meetings, and then upgrade your team. Evaluate your coaches, do a career Growth ToolKit with them frequently, and then teach them what they need to do to make money. The simpler you keep things, the more results you’ll get. Now, obviously these are just the tip of the iceberg, or are they? These are actually the foundation for everything else. If I said to you, all you need to do to get fit is to learn how to squat, hinge and press, that would tell you what you need to be doing consistently, but it would not give you the exact details. The problem is there are so many options for the details that we get overwhelmed and do nothing. And the people who aren’t starting at your gym are the same way.

Chris (20:41):

But today we’re talking about you. We have over 430 masterclasses in Two-Brain Business. That’s way too many. Most of our clients will never tap more than about a quarter of those. The key though is knowing which one you need to do right now. The key is not knowledge. The key is clarity, and that’s why we’re a mentorship program. If you’re anything like me, or if your Facebook feed looks anything like mine, you’re now seeing a ton of business coaches in the fitness space. There are what I would call like coaching mills set up now where you pay $10,000 to this guru and they will like train you to sell a fitness business course to fitness business owners. Right? And this is true in every niche. It’s not just fitness, but these are the ones that I see. These are people who generally sell the course before they even build it.

Chris (21:38):

They’ll sell you on like join our paid Facebook group first. And then like, here’s the course. And then we’re going to, you know, offer you support through this Facebook group. And that’s cool. And sometimes they help. My problem is that they don’t provide any kind of clarity. In fact, what they’re doing is they’re selling knowledge. And as I’ve said before, knowledge is not your problem, the knowledge is out there. The key is doing the reps. It’s getting clarity on what are the things that I need to be doing today and what are the things that I need to keep doing over and over and over to the exclusion of all these other options. And that’s really what mentorship is all about. When I talk to my mentor, he is used to talking to other gurus in other spaces. God, I think I just called myself a guru there.

Chris (22:26):

I hate that. And what he’s used to seeing is one person selling a course with very, very low overhead and just trading in knowledge, making a quick million and then getting the hell out. He’s used to seeing people who have about a three-year arc. That’s not what we do. Instead, what we do is provide a very personalized one-on-one mentorship program. Our mentors are not your virtual assistants. They are not your administrators. These are people who have actually been where you are and have been successful by putting our strategies into play. And so while our courses are there and they’re beautiful, and they’ll tell you exactly what you need to do, it’s really the mentors job to decide here’s what you need to know right now, and then guide you through it. Here’s what it all boils down to. It’s not just the knowledge. Knowing how Facebook ads work doesn’t make you any money.

Chris (23:26):

Knowing that affinity marketing exists. It’s simple. It’s a thing. That doesn’t make you any money. Doing the reps makes you money. What’s stopping you from doing the reps? It’s the acquisition of knowledge. It’s like, Oh, I’m going to tune into this podcast, go on Clubhouse at this time, read this article, watch this video. And while you do need to acquire knowledge, you need a lot less than you think, but you need to execute a lot more than you are. I hope this helps. “Gym Owners Handbook” tries to make this a lot clearer, but there’s really no substitute for mentorship. As my friend John Franklin said to me a couple of years ago, the top strategy that mentors can provide is do this thing that we know works until it works. Simple yet profound. Execution of the basics with excellence will always get you farther than trying to do everything or even too many things.

Andrew (24:24):

For more from Chris Cooper, join the Gym Owners United group on Facebook. Chris regularly post articles, instructional videos, and advice in there. It’s the only public group he’s in. That’s Gym Owners United on Facebook. Join today.


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