How to Find—and Patch—the Holes in Your Gym Business

Jason Cohen and title text

Mike (00:02):

Gym owner Jason Cohen took a hard look at five critical aspects of his business. He’ll share what he discovered and how he improved his gym right after this.

Chris (00:09):

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. Go to to find out more. I use this product in my gym, it helped with my conversion from my on-ramp program into ongoing group coaching, and it’s also boosted my retention over time.

Mike (00:47):

It’s Two-Brain Radio. I’m Mike Warkentin with Jason Cohen of Locomotion Fitness in South Carolina. Jay audited five key parts of his business, the client journey, operations facility, marketing and advertising and sales. He’s here to tell you what he learned and he’s going to inspire you to audit your own operations. Jason, welcome to the show. I think the gains train is probably always on time at your gym. Am I correct?

Jason (01:11):

Yeah, absolutely. Mike, I really appreciate you having me, man.

Mike (01:14):

Yeah. You can’t name a gym Locomotion Fitness without the gains train. I think that’s fair.

Jason (01:18):

Yeah, we’ve got a train track that runs literally next to the gym. I mean, to the point that I could throw a medicine ball and hit the train on the other side of the door.

Mike (01:33):

You ever done it?

Jason (01:34):

Between that and yeah, people crushing, crushing their goals it was a no-brainer.

Mike (01:40):

Well, I love that you’re documenting your journey as a gym owner on YouTube and you guys, if you’re listening out there and you have not subscribed to our channel, go do that while you’re listening, Jay’s cranking out tons of stuff. We’re going to dig into a couple of videos or five videos in particular that were really, really great and gave some great insight. So you dug into five key aspects of your business and you put yourself under the microscope. What inspired you to do these five audits?

Jason (02:08):

Well, you know, there’s a few pieces to this puzzle and the first one is it just sort of makes sense when you look at it, right? These five things that we’re going to talk through are really the bones to the business. They provide the structure and without the structure, there’s no foundation for us to build on. So we can’t start thinking about how we’re going to grow and cool stuff that we’re going to do, because we’re constantly putting out these fires from these five key areas that we need to figure out so that we can stop putting so much bandwidth into solving the same things over and over and over again.

Mike (02:45):

So this is like hitting your, you know, dialing in your air squat before you do the front squat, the overhead squat and the snatch, right? You’re hitting your basic stuff so that you can actually go further without messing everything up.

Jason (02:56):

Exactly. It’s like, you know, our clients, everybody wants to learn the sexy muscle up and nobody wants to get the prerequisite pull-up and dip strength to get there. And this is the same deal.

Mike (03:06):

Yeah. And everyone in the gym ownership world wants to do pay-per-click marketing and hire and generate new programs. But if you don’t have systems and procedures, staff playbooks, all the boring quote unquote stuff that needs to be there in the first place, you’re probably just going to be untangling messes for your entire career as a gym owner.

Jason (03:22):

Exactly. Yeah. Great that you can get 30 or 50 new people in the door, but then what happens?

Mike (03:27):

Like what’s your retention like?

Jason (03:29):

Exactly. And how are your current clients going to respond and feel about, you know, all your coaches’ attention, going to these new people. And I mean that we just, you really need to be crystal clear on what you are trying to do and how you’re going to do it before you’re just deciding on a whim. OK. I need more money. Let’s go.

Mike (03:50):

So you’ve identified five areas that you call the bones, the structure of your business. Before we get into exactly what you found, tell me this, like looking at yourself and auditing stuff and, you know, asking members questions and really evaluating can be very unsettling. So how did you prepare yourself to look at all the warts and then deal with any issues?

Jason (04:09):

I mean, I think the biggest thing is that I am a person that pursues growth in every area of my life be that personal or business. And the only way to grow is to really take a hard look at what you’ve got going on now. Right. If we don’t dig in and try and identify problems and then create, come up with creative solutions to fix them, we’re just going to run into—our head is just going to run into a wall over and over and over again. And just simply pretending that they don’t exist is really just how things fester and end up getting worse and worse and worse until we get to a place where it just explodes. And then we’ve got a giant bonfire to put out.

Mike (04:51):

Yeah. So you’d rather find the rotting floorboard. If we go back to the construction analogies, than just pretend it’s not there and then fall through.

Jason (04:59):

Yeah, exactly. That’s the name of the game. We gotta take a second to slow down and observe what’s happening around the gym and pay attention to what the members are saying and think about ways that you can improve things and systems and the client experience. And a lot of that is really figuring out, like, what is the right question to ask? I think that’s one of the hardest parts is solutions are easy to come up with, but if you’re solving the wrong problem, then that’s not helping anybody. So it really takes some time to figure out what is the root cause to this thing. Cause most of the time, just again, if we want to take it back to people’s movements, what looks like the issue is usually not the issue. Right. It’s much deeper than that.

Mike (05:44):

Yeah. So we’re essentially checking ourselves before we wreck ourselves. So to say. So let’s talk about what you found in each area. We’re looking specifically for kind of the revelations that, you know, caused you to take action and make positive changes, because like you said, it’s not enough just to, you know, take a look and then not do anything. You actually have to take some action to fix stuff or it’s, you just know that there’s a problem. You’re not doing anything about it. So let’s start with client journey. What did you find in there? Like what was the big, you know, earth-shattering thing that you found?

Jason (06:12):

So there was a few of them. The biggest one was just taking the time to really identify those key drop-off points and Coop talks about these, you know, or has a few times in the past where there are certain times at your gym where your clients are at higher risk for leaving. And I think everyone’s gym is a little bit different on what that timeline is and the reason that it’s happening. But I think everyone has these points. And so when you look at the data and you look at your length of engagement with your clients and you start to figure out, Hey, at the seven month mark people are leaving and I’m not sure what the cause of that is. Let me dig into that. Now, if we can save even 50%, even 25% of those people that are leaving, and then they stay until the rest of our LEG, which is about 18 months, I’m getting another 11 months of revenue from them. So that’s another, you know, $2,200. It was a big deal to identify where those points were and then more importantly, figure out what we needed to do to make sure that they didn’t continue to happen.

Mike (07:27):

So if you’re out there listening and you think I don’t have these common points, I encourage you to take a look because you do, and you will find them, whether it’s like, you know, three months, six months, nine months, whatever it might be, you could hit the same numbers as everyone else. Or you might have something a little bit different depending on your systems. But one of the things that Chris talked about is like the plateau, you know, you think about, Oh, I have the new gains, everything’s great. Every workout I’m hitting a PR. And then all of a sudden they kind of stop coming as fast and people tend to drop off, that’s one point, but there are also others, you know, three months or like whatever your membership term is. I’m sure there are some people that have drop-offs if their term is six months and struggle to re-up people. Right? So there’s all these different things. I would encourage you to look at your business and do the analysis. Jay, when you looked at your numbers, where were those drop-off points and what did you do to fix them?

Jason (08:15):

Yeah, there were two biggies. The first one was roughly the two month mark for us. So everything we do is month to month, we don’t do any contracts with anyone. And what we were identifying was for the people that were never bought in to begin with.

Mike (08:31):

The tourists, right?

Jason (08:32):

Yeah. They just never got engaged in the community. They never bought in. And so of course, if they’re not using the service, they’re going to stop. So we got much better. And one of the other things that we noticed here, where there were some tasks that we wrote into SOPs that weren’t getting executed on, and those tasks would have, I think, saved a lot of those people. And so in this case, it was a system that we already had that fell by the wayside that we needed to reimplement, which is really just our client success manager, doing a better job of, you know, if they’re not in the gym in seven days, giving them a phone call and saying, Hey, where are you, Ben?

Jason (09:12):

We really care about you and want to see you. That’s the big one that wasn’t happening for us, where those absentee calls were not happening. And so we corrected that and that made a really big difference. And then we also added in one extra touchpoint there. So at the one month mark, we, well actually when somebody first signs up, we send them a bag of coffee with a sticker on it. It’s got a cute little saying on it. And then at the 30 day, mark, what we decided to do is send a sticker. That’s like a Facebook heart that, that just says we’re getting pretty serious. Do you want to be in a relationship with us? Right. And ask them to post a picture on Facebook. And that has helped too. I think.

Mike (09:52):

So you did these videos and these audits a couple of months ago, have you seen improvements or is it too early to tell right now?

Jason (09:58):

I honestly haven’t parsed the data quite yet, but from a gut feeling, I definitely think it’s improved. Yeah.

Mike (10:04):

And I know that you’re not just saying that, you are a guy who will parse the data at some point and we’ll figure that out. But I know that it takes for retention and, you know, length of engagement, things like that to show up, you need a bit, a couple of months to kind of get that data under your belt. So cut you a pass there. Cause I know you will dig into those numbers.

Jason (10:21):

I have a plan. I gave myself a three month mark there to reevaluate all of this stuff.

Mike (10:27):

You know, so you really, in the client journey, you really highlighted something that leads into our next audit, which is operations, right. You found in your client journey that there was an operational thing that wasn’t happening, that was messing up your client journey. What else in operations, like, there’s so many things that go into running a gym. What else did you find that you could improve upon?

Jason (10:45):

Yeah. And this, we have had a ton of SOPs in place for as long as I can remember, because I started with Two-Brain in 2016 back before I was even open. And so I was drilled from the very beginning of like staff playbook, write everything down, make sure that everyone knows very clearly what they need to be doing. I did a good job with that part. What I did a bad job with was organizing all of that stuff. So it gets very, very difficult in our drive, which is, you know, I’ve got a big gym, lots of staff, lots of members, there’s a ton of stuff in that drive. And it was just really hard for people to find anything that they needed and people just weren’t aware of a lot of stuff even existing or what they should be doing. And so that was really the biggest piece was OK, we need to come up with a much better way to organize this stuff so that people have access to it.

Mike (11:47):

  1. So that’s interesting that actually, you know, it kind of mirrors what Chris Cooper, Two-Brain founder, is doing right now, where he’s looking at, you know, Two-Brain has so much research and content that you can overwhelm someone if you just give them all of it. Right now, what we’re doing is we’re looking at our curriculum and Chris is stripping back all the stuff that’s not essential. And all the stuff is maybe older. It has been updated and just dialing things in. So now people can have these like short, tactical, actionable guides that will help them make changes immediately. So you must’ve done something very similar in your staff playbook and operations manuals to make that happen for your staff.

Jason (12:18):

Yeah, exactly. And we actually, so I am part of Two-Brain’s tinker mastermind. And one of the other gym owners in there shared, what he did was create a Google site that was powered by his, you know, his Google admin stuff. That is a website, right? So it’s just a backend website that the staff now has access to. And now not every single SOP is on there, just the common ones that we’re going to use on a regular basis. It’s all hyperlinked in different pages. So we have like marketing page and operations page, a page for photos, everything, we require monthly coaches content. So there’s a monthly coaches content section with the SOPs and where to submit it, like it is super clean and way easier to navigate. And I am telling you, this will be one of the biggest changes for my business in a while.

Mike (13:14):

You know, and it’s interesting because you sometimes think that you’ve done something and it’s done and you don’t have to deal with it anymore. But really the audit process is key because nothing ever stands still in business. And that’s true for gyms. It’s also true for our mentorship company. And a lot of people don’t know that Chris is constantly auditing and upgrading and you won’t notice unless you hit the same modules over and over again, which almost no one does because you’re moving on and so forth. But Chris is always auditing the content and making it better. And you know, every month, eight months or so, I kind of wait for a message from Chris to pop up on Slack where he says, I need to write a new book. The other one’s out of date, it’s time for a new one. And it’s crazy that he can do that. But honestly, that same principle needs to trickle down to a gym where you think, OK, my staff procedures are done. They’re not done, because everything changes and you have to keep auditing and looking at them because things will change and you’ll find holes like you did. Then you’ll find places where you can upgrade, which you obviously did as well. And now one of them was finding clarity in your manual. Has your staff been able to take clear action now that you’ve done that cleanup?

Jason (14:11):

Much more clear action. Everyone has come up to me countless times to say, thank you for making their lives so much easier. And one of the other things that I identified in the operations audit was like a lack of consistency, right? Like some people were delivering this service. Some people were writing content this way. And since we’ve slipped over and gone to this new method, it’s firing on all cylinders, things are being delivered how we want it to be delivered. The client experience is consistent and enjoyable for the coaches and the members.

Mike (14:46):

So I’m guessing when your staff couldn’t find things and was doing things inconsistently, it probably a lot of extra work for you. Would it be safe to say that the time you invested in this audit is now being paid back because your staff is working more efficiently?

Jason (14:59):

I mean, 10 X, 10 X on me, honestly, a lot of it way worth it, way worth it. And not just for me. I’ve got an ops manager as well, and he was constantly being bogged down by the same questions over and over and over again, and not able to work on higher level stuff with me, what I want him doing, helping me set the direction and grow the gym. And instead he’s having to put out fires every day. And by doing this, it freed him up, probably this is a conservative estimate, five hours, maybe even closer to 10 hours in a week. And that’s not an exaggeration.

Mike (15:33):

That’s what you’re saving now?

Jason (15:36):


Mike (15:36):

That is like 25% or more, you know, that’s a huge number. So guys, if you’re listening and you’ve got a pebble in your shoe, stop walking, take the five minutes to stop walking, take the boot off, get the pebble out, tie it back up and you’ll walk further and faster if you do. And Jay’s got the proof there. So do that operations audit.Llet’s move on facility. I know that you’ve done a ton of interesting stuff at your gym lately. I’m very curious to hear what your facility audit revealed.

Jason (16:01):

Before we move on, one more thing for operations. Cause it was a big important one that we learned. And what we figured out was by observing all of the coaches, there were certain things that different coaches were doing that people absolutely love. So why not take those things and write them into the SOPs so that all of the coaches are delivering things that way. So really we stole great ideas from the top coaches and SOP’d them down to the rest of the team so that everyone was getting that same awesome thing, whatever it may be. For example, Two-Brain programming puts out what they call SEM time. At the end of class, it stands for sleep, eat, move manage. One of our coaches was doing just an incredible job of getting buy-in for that time. And people really taking valuable lessons outside of the gym, which is really in our gym our vision is to help people in their lives outside of the gym. And so I knew that I wanted to take that and implement it across the board. So stealing those nuggets was another really powerful thing for the operations audit.

Mike (17:07):

And that’s, you know, really what Two-Brain is based on where we talk to guys and girls like you, and we find out what the best gym owners doing, and we verify it with data and then we take those ideas and teach them everyone else. And so you’re doing that on a micro level where you’re taking your staff, finding out who’s succeeding, finding the best aspects of everyone’s performance and then just make it standard for everyone. So it’s the exact same thing.

Jason (17:28):


Mike (17:30):

I love it. I love it. And really that maximizes the strengths of your team and makes your entire group of coaches and staff members better. So now hit me with the facility stuff. This’ll be an interesting one.

Jason (17:40):

Yes. So this list is quite large. We moved from a 2,600 square foot facility to a roughly thousand square foot facility in September. So if anybody has ever made a giant move like that, there is always just an endless list of things, punch list items, things that need to be done.

Mike (18:02):

There’s no government red tape, nothing to worry about there.

Jason (18:04):

Yeah. Yeah, no, it’s super simple. They make it very clear and easy to do. So a few really big problems that I identified. Number one, I built this gym and it was my dream. And in that dream, I did not consider a storage solution. So, we really had to come up with a cleaner way to get the stuff that we don’t use on a regular basis tucked away so that when we are doing our marketing and we’re driving a ton of people into the gym, the last thing I want them to see is a cluttered space that looks disorganized.

Mike (18:40):

I bet it was prowlers and sleds. Right?

Jason (18:42):

Always. Those things get tangled up and there’s just no way to make them look pretty ever. I’m convinced of it.

Mike (18:49):

Common everywhere.

Jason (18:52):

Another big piece was just sort of looking around and making sure that we had a welcoming sort of entry area. It took us quite a while to identify the setup that we wanted to have different areas for different things in the gym. Like we knew we wanted an area for people to be able to hang out, cause I feel that that’s going to help with retention, but I also needed some private sales areas. And so we needed to take a look at those and make sure that, you know, what can we do so that we can have both of those spaces. One of the things that Two-Brain talks about is sort of not wasting space in the gym, right? There are certain things that seem like it would be a good idea and would be cool to do, but aren’t really contributing to the bottom line. And so I knew that I wanted a chill out area, but I also knew that that doesn’t necessarily directly contribute. So what I wound up doing is I’ve got a really cool sort of seating area. And then I put like giant 10 foot curtains and it blocks off like a 10 by 20 foot area that we keep open most of the time and members will just hang out in there, but then we can go ahead and close those down. And we’ve got a private consultative space at the same time. So it’s sort of like a mix and match area, which has worked out really, really well.

Mike (20:11):

I love that you considered this because you’re trying to maximize the revenue for every square foot that you’ve got, which a lot of gym owners don’t think about. And the other thing is it’s interesting. Our marketing guy was watching one of your videos and he’s like, is Cohen in front of a green screen? What is that? I’m like, dude, that’s his actual gym. So he was looking at your curtains and your whole setup and thought it was actually a stock image. So you’ve done a nice job of creating some atmosphere there.

Jason (20:34):

Yeah. It’s beautiful. I mean, when people walk in, they are typically pretty blown away. It is one of the nicer facilities that I have walked in. And that again was by design. Like I really wanted to sort of take people’s breath away when they walk in and give them this positive energy the moment they walk in the door, because that makes everything else so much easier from that point on. And I think, you know, I think we nailed it. We did a good job.

Mike (21:02):

And that relates back to the client journey. Right? You want people from minute one in your facility to feel it, right. And you’ve done that.

Jason (21:08):

Absolutely. Another really big, and this one’s painful, cause I had a grand, a grand vision for it and it just hasn’t panned out.

Jason (21:17):

So we have in my gym, I’ve got our main gym floor, which is about 5,000 square feet. And then I’ve got what I lovingly refer to the fancy fitness room, which is hardwood floor, mirrors, heating and air conditioning. And it’s a yoga studio and a spin studio. And that has done really well. Our model sort of integrates those as, you know, just sort of things that I can use to get very prescriptive with our members. So if somebody’s got, is training for a marathon, we can use cycle to do some cross training. Or if we’ve got members who are really struggling with the Oly lifts and it’s clearly because of their mobility, I can send them to yoga. So that side has gone great. However, the opposite side of my office is a room that we call the recovery room.

Jason (22:02):

And that room is some zero G chairs, a bunch of massage guns, a infrared sauna, and an ice machine for ice bath stuff. And that room, I was planning on doing like a monthly membership add on, and just the ability to book the sauna by appointment. And very quickly it became clear that with COVID this was just not going to be something that was gonna take off.

Mike (22:30):

So that’s a sign of the times.

Jason (22:32):

Exactly. So we pushed it to the back burner, but I’m actually very grateful because I think even in that very low capacity of people using the sauna, especially I realized how much staff and time it requires. And I really don’t think it’s something that I want in my business to begin with. So what the audit opened my eyes to is, Hey dude, you get to have a sauna at your house and we get to use that room for storage, a third of it. And then the other two thirds of it, I’m talking to a local cash based physical therapist. Who’s going to just sublease that space. I get some steady cashflow out of it. I don’t have to worry about staffing or cleaning or any of that stuff. And I and our clients get an add for having an awesome PT in house. It really is going to be a win for everyone. And I don’t think I would have made that move without sort of digging into what was going on.

Chris (23:29):

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.

Mike (24:36):

Yeah. You ever heard the phrase from writing called kill your darlings. Have you heard that one?

Jason (24:40):


Mike (24:40):

That’s exactly what you did there, where, you know, you looked at your whole baby, your grand vision, and said, I love this but it’s not pulling its weight. And then you took the move to rip it out, rejig things and make it better. So congratulations to you for killing a darling and refocusing.

Jason (24:55):

Yeah. Thanks. It definitely was a tough one to swallow.

Mike (24:59):

But you got a sauna.

Jason (25:01):

Exactly. It made it a little bit easier.

Mike (25:03):

So it’s not a total loss. What else in the facility?

Jason (25:06):

Another big one for us was our exterior. So this building was just a big metal building, nothing inside, but the outside the landscaping was not awesome. So the building’s probably 130 feet long, I think, or maybe 140 feet long.

Jason (25:24):

And the length side, the long side that 140 foot side on the back end, was just chewed up the bottom of it, where the foundation was. There was, it just looked terrible. It did not look good. So what we wound up doing is putting a beautiful, like brick planter that comes off of the back of the building that covers all of the cement, the gross stuff that was sticking out and covers all the way up to the nice new paint that we put on the building. We put some pine straw on it so that we can, you know, we’re about to lay a bunch of plants in there. And now that side looks brand new and absolutely incredible. So that was one big area outside. Another big spot. We have a big field on the sort of corner, far side of the gym.

Jason (26:07):

And we use that field a lot. And the transition between the roll-up door there to the outside was really not great. I mean, it was a step down. It was an old, like, it almost looked like tile from like the 1980s. I don’t know how it got out there, honestly. And it was at like a weird angle. Anyway, long story short, we ripped all of that stuff out and poured a brand new concrete pad out there. Which we’re in Charleston, South Carolina, the weather is beautiful a lot of the time. So now I’ve also added some good extra square footage, where we can do some personal training or whatever, while we have some other stuff going on.

Mike (26:45):

  1. And then the last thing you just got to do is get the train to come by and park with the good graffiti, you know, the really artistic stuff besides.

Jason (26:51):

Exactly. We actually get a pretty good art show each time they roll by.

Mike (26:56):

Some of the graffiti artists on trains are amazing. I’m sure you get to see the world’s train art.

Jason (27:03):

Yeah. Yeah. Quick fun story. I actually, got connected, so my hairdresser of all people connected me to, he’s really big in the art world and he knows sort of this underground group of train taggers. So when I was at the original facility, I actually hired these guys to come and tag my roll up doors. So actual train tagging guys that came in and tagged up my building.

Mike (27:29):

I’m going to guess that was a cash transaction.

Jason (27:30):

It sure was.

Mike (27:33):

Anything else on the facility before we move on?

Jason (27:37):

No sir. That’s it there. I mean, the facility is a constant battle, you know, it’s like anything, it’s like your house, you know, if you don’t steadily stay on top of it, it’s going to go to garbage. So just make sure that we were already had a consistent cleaning schedule in place and equipment maintenance schedule in place. So if you don’t have those things, make sure that that stuff happens so that when people come to your gym, they’re not looking around and wondering where all the money they’re paying you is going.

Mike (28:04):

With facilities it’s either getting worse or getting better. It’s never staying the same. And so if you’re not improving it, it’s getting worse. Talk to me about marketing and advertising. This is an interesting one. What did you find?

Jason (28:16):

Yes. This is the one that everyone wants to jump to. And most of the time, it’s not the one to start at, but the biggest thing that I found is inconsistency in my marketing spend and not enough big picture planning when it comes to our marketing plan. So like I would have months that I would spend 150, $250. And I would have months that I would spend 1500 to $2,000. And there was no real rhyme or reason to what month was what, and there was no, like I would come up with an idea for a campaign and promote it. And yeah, it was sorta tied to the targets that we had set for the business, but it wasn’t like I had planned this, you know, this was going to be happening at this time. It’s just sort of, we looked around and this is what we needed. So it was really just there wasn’t enough structure and planning for how I like to operate.

Mike (29:10):

  1. So that’s interesting. So you dug in your market—and marketing doesn’t always mean advertising, marketing can be, you know, not paid advertising, it can be marketing inside your facility, but you found that in your paid campaigns, there wasn’t enough consistency in terms of, was it just the monetary spend or was it the, you know, the audience that you targeted as well?

Jason (29:28):

Yeah, all of the above. I mean, it was really, the spend was the biggest piece and, you know, there needs to be some adjustment there. Like if you’re going through, at least in my business I’ve noticed that there’s times that it’s time to stretch and grow. And then there’s times like, Hey, we need to pump the brakes a little bit, get everything back together, get this massive group of new people to buy in and feel good. And then we can start to expand again. So there’s going to be some ups and downs in what we’re doing with paid advertising. But I don’t think it should have been, you know, a thousand dollars plus a month swing. And it also, like you said, marketing is much bigger than just paid advertising. And so it needs to also tie into the non-paid elements. Like what are we focusing on there? And there was zero connection between what I was doing paid and what I was doing unpaid.

Mike (30:22):

  1. And you guys, if you’re listening out there, affinity marketing is, it will cost you nothing but your time and you can get huge results because it’s basically a way to replicate your best clients, go and go to the free tools section at the top nav bar, get the affinity marketing guide, that will help you out big time, guaranteed. You will find new clients without spending a dollar on ads. And of course you can spend on ads, but we will also teach you how to do that because there are ways to blow a lot of money, not get any clients. And really the question Jay, you pointed this out is what happens if your ad works? You know, are you prepared to deal with all these new people? Are you going to retain them or are they going to fall off because you weren’t, you know, you didn’t have the systems in place to deal with it. The question really is before you advertise, what do I do if I get new clients? And that goes back again, client journey, right?

Jason (31:08):

Exactly. That’s it. And systems and operations and all the things that we’ve talked about thus far.

Mike (31:15):

It’s almost like you had a plan here.

Jason (31:17):

Weird, right? And it’s also the reason that it’s sort of gone in this order, like we need to start with the things that are going to keep people once you get them there. Otherwise you’re just spending money to waste it right out the backside. And that’s my next big sort of aha moment was I was just wasting a ton of money, trying different things like, Hey, I wonder if this will work or look at this new shiny thing and really my time and definitely my money but also my time would have been much better spent on affinity marketing and training our staff on how to have affinity marketing conversations. And this is really a theme of my whole business was we were just sort of scrambled. We needed to get really, really focused, and the audit helped make that clear in marketing and advertising and just about everywhere else.

Mike (32:07):

Yeah. Retention is more important than marketing and sales every time because it costs less to retain a member than to get a new one. So don’t skip that step. Don’t skip retention. Don’t skip getting your current clients to help you find clients like them for free, then do marketing and advertising, but not, you know, don’t mess up the order. Do you have anything you learned, any thing else you learned in this section? Or do move on to the final one.

Jason (32:29):

I’ve got one more, and this one is really big internally and externally and it’s we were not being clear enough with our message to our avatar clients. We were still trying to be a little bit of a jack of all trades or you know, we’re for everyone type place and that just doesn’t work. Or at least it didn’t work for me. And so when we got—

Mike (32:54):

That’s a hard one. Casting a wide net sounds like a good plan.

Jason (32:59):

Right? Exactly. I can talk to everyone and everyone will love me, but that’s just, you need to talk to, you need to identify who is the person that you love to serve and use the words that they use and solve the problems that they have. And like I said, that goes for our current members of our gym, you know, what can we do to better serve the people that we have and how do we talk to them about that more importantly, right? How can we frame it in a way that resonates with them? And then also externally, we need to make sure that everything goes out the door is on brand for us and is in line with our vision, which is a very particular person and a very particular outcome. And if we get wishy-washy, people aren’t going to know that, and then they aren’t going to take the action that we want.

Mike (33:50):

It is such a tough one to get your head around. And I struggle with it daily because it just seems like such a great idea to talk to everyone. But ultimately if you try to help everyone, you can’t help anyone. And it’s a hard lesson to learn, but if you focus that message, and again, the classic example is this like, are you trying to sell muscle-ups and snatches to retirees who just want to be fit and don’t care about any of that? So many of us have tried to do that, right? And we’re trying to ram—we think muscle-ups and snatches are great. So we try and sell them to our audience, our audience doesn’t care. And it’s sometimes the hard lesson you’ve got to kill another darling because I’ve heard some gym owners talk about this. And the darling that they’re killing honestly, is CrossFit group classes, sometimes.

Jason (34:31):

100%. We are biasing our gym to personal training and nutrition coaching. When I originally, even when I had the vision for the gym, which is, you know, just, I guess a year and a half ago, we really started to get serious on the move and get things cranking. Even then I was still of the mindset that we’ve got a big gym floor. So I was thinking we would run either one group class of 20 people with two coaches on the floor, or we’ve got bootcamp and CrossFit at our facility. So I would do two 10 person classes each with their own coach. Cause we’ve got separate sound systems and can sort of separate in the middle. But even since then, and really tinker is what showed me the light here. We do this segment called how I built this on Wednesdays, which we just sit down with a super successful gym owner or somebody who owns a brand and get to learn what they do to get there. And I identified time and time and time again, that the PT revenue was a way more substantial piece of the puzzle than it was for me. So what I decided is, OK, we’re pivoting, we’re going to shrink our group membership. We’re going to cap group class at 10 people. And then I’m going to have the other half of the gym to do personal training at peak times. And I really think that that is going to be the key to the kingdom.

Mike (35:52):

And that’s not to say that CrossFit group classes are bad. It’s just to say that you need to know what your market wants, and then you need to deliver that. So if your market wants CrossFit group classes, make yourself excellent, deliver them to the nines. But if your clients actually want personal training, high touch stuff in a one-on-one setting, serve up that. And maybe you’re using group CrossFit principles in there too, but maybe not. You have to deliver what the client wants. So again, back to client journey, avatar, who are you serving, and that will inform your marketing and your sales. Now that’s the last one. Sales, what is it? What did you find in this audit?

Jason (36:26):

Biggest thing, lead nurture holes in the sales process, by far. And that was 150% on my shoulders. I’ll take ownership where it needs to be. And we’ll talk about why that is here in a second, but there just wasn’t enough lead nurture going on. Once someone booked an appointment or once they didn’t book an appointment, but they gave, they opted in, we got some information. And we have systems. We use a CRM that is dripping text messages and emails to them. So yes, that was going on, but there needs to be a real person reaching out to these people. The conversion rate is so much higher that way. And I was the only person in the sales role and I had a lot of stuff going on. And so I defaulted to let the system do it for far too long, knowing that it was a hole and just not taking the time to find somebody to fill it.

Mike (37:20):

I’m going to guess though, that now that you’ve done some of these audits, you said you were saving five or 10 hours a week. You can probably put that into sales now. Right?

Jason (37:25):

I sure could, but even better, I finally just hired a person to lead our sales team. So that was the next thing is that there, as I was looking at this, I realized there were zero redundancies in place. If I’m on vacation, if I’m sick, if I’m busy, the gym is not growing, period. That is a problem. It could operate, it would do great, but it wouldn’t get any new people. So it became very clear to me with my goals and my priorities that, Hey, we’ve got to figure this out and what do we want that to look like? And so I hired somebody that was the head of PT sales from a Globo gym world who’s also an amazing person, totally on brand in our values and is just absolutely, she’s better than I am by far. And it is going to be another, just massive change, I think, between the website and this, I mean, that’s worth the price of admission times a million.

Mike (38:25):

Yeah. And the thing about lead nurture is that it’s not hard, right? It’s not hard to do exactly the best practices that will get you new clients and better leads. It just takes time and some systems, and exactly like you said, like automated platforms will do it, but, you know, Mateo Lopez, our expert over at Gym Lead Machine, has been very clear that like don’t—and Chris has said this too, don’t let systems and automations do the work that a real person needs to work. And that means like picking up the phone, the most powerful thing. And Mateo has said this on the show over and over again, the most powerful thing you can ever do is call a lead six times. And if you do that, you’re going to make more money. Like there’s no like mystery to it. You will make more money if you pick up the phone. Text message, video text, way more powerful than email. Email is like your backup default system that can run. And I’ve actually written a lot of automations for people in Two-Brain, there are tons of automations you can steal and implement, but don’t skip the step of calling the leads back. Have you had more time to do that or at least get your sales manager to do that now?

Jason (39:26):

Absolutely. Yeah, we are cranking away on lead nurture and we are busy now. I mean, it has made a noticeable difference. To be fair in, I think some of this where we are is people’s confidence with what’s been going on in the past year and a half. And so I think there’s a lot of pent up demand that has been sort of hanging out that is being unleashed right now. So I think that’s part of it, but then also the other part of it, absolutely. We are capitalizing at a better person, even though our leads are up, we’re also getting a better percentage of people booking and showing for their appointments.

Mike (40:05):

  1. So this audit is making you money. Is there anything else that you’ve learned when you looked at your sales process?

Jason (40:11):

Yeah, I mean, the last thing is that we talked about it a second ago. People want a human to human connection and sales is all about learning how to create that connection. And so I took a hard look at my, I hesitate to use the word sales script because I am definitely, I move with the flow of the conversation. But I realized that I need to be able to dig in a little bit deeper and I would be scared to like freak people out and talk about the real reasons that they’re here and why they are feeling how they’re feeling to get them into—it’s a big step for people, right? Most people, at least at my gym, our avatar is zero to two years in their training history. So these are people that are not gym goers. They feel very uncomfortable walking through the door and it became clear to me that I needed to really dig in on my ability to connect with people and to get behind the first reason that they’re telling me and then make them feel comfortable and confident.

Jason (41:22):

And the more that I improve my communication and my ability to be a good salesperson, right. And not in a slimy car salesman way, right. I don’t feel like I’m pushy on people or I’m giving them something they don’t need. It’s about believing in my service and knowing that if I can show this person how I can help them and how I can change their lives and they buy in, I can really do those things for them. And so this is really just some self work on the back end of continuing to improve your communication and your sales mastery.

Mike (42:00):

You know that your avatar client is not there to quote unquote work out. That person is not coming to just like, I want to try Fran and see what it feels like. And I’m hardcore or whatever. That’s not your avatar. You need to use like, and it’s called motivational interviewing to find out the real why, and that why might be something like I want to, I have a high school reunion coming up and I don’t want people to think I’m, you know, out of shape and embarrassing and so forth or whatever it is, you find those reasons and you dig in. And once you do as a good gym owner, you can prescribe a prescription to them that will help solve their problems. And the sale kind of tends to make itself at that point, because you’re providing exactly what that person needs. So in that sales process, you know, you said you like to kind of go off the cuff, but you’ve still got a system in there where you’re finding out what this person actually needs, then making your prescription. Is that right?

Jason (42:48):

That’s the name of the game. And it really is. At our gym, it is ultra prescriptive. We used to have like a set foundations course. Now that is no longer, we still have it. But it really isn’t getting used. Like this person comes in and they tell me that they’re trying to lose weight and get stronger. OK, cool. I want you to start with, and I’ll dig in on their training history and where they’re at, their head is at. Like, how stressed out are they, what are they doing for sleep? How is their nutrition? Like, I look at all of these factors and then based on all that stuff, I tell them training frequency, Hey, everyone is still starting with personal training with us, at least five sessions, but usually it’s at least a month of personal training before they’re rolling into group classes.

Jason (43:38):

So, Hey, this person, we’re going to start with some personal training where we’re going to focus on getting stronger and teaching you how to move well. And I want you to work with our registered dietician who is really going to help you on the body composition side of things, you know, and the next person that comes in, maybe all they care about is flexibility. And it’s straight to yoga classes, but even on that front, we’ll have them do a couple of private sessions with one of our yoga instructors so that they know how to hit the poses the right way.

Mike (44:06):

Sounds like a high value, very effective service. That’s a win for you, the business owner, your coaches who are making money and your clients who are getting results, because they’re investing in high value services that are very effective. So it’s a complete win across the board, correct?

Jason (44:21):

Yeah. And people are honestly blown away when they come in. They just are like, I have never seen something that is like this. I’ve never like that’s as thought out, like, because I explain to them in the sales process, I explained to them how we do athlete check-ins and how we’re constantly communicating with them off of the gym floor. And I talk about the SEM time and how mindset is a huge piece of what we do at our gym. We’ve got meditation classes and we do breath work and like really preaching whole person health and giving them the whole vision and the whole picture and helping them to really buy in. And then when they do that and they see where they fit into that picture, it really is—I don’t even have to ask for the sale most of them.

Mike (45:07):

So that does, I mean, that doesn’t even sound like a gym to me anymore in the traditional sense. That sounds like a coaching service, you know, and it’s life coaching, essentially, which is what we’re seeing the field of fitness moving toward is more holistic life coaching. And we know that sleep, eat, move, manage, the whole deal, as opposed to just here’s your towel. There are the machines go, right? It’s a complete change. So as we wrap this up, you’ve given a ton of super interesting stuff here for people on the client journey, operations facility, marketing, and advertising and sales. So how valuable did you find this exercise? And maybe it’s a monetary value, but maybe it’s just, you know, something more theoretical, but how valuable is this exercise and why would you strongly recommend gym owners do it starting today?

Jason (45:49):

Yes, as I said, I set a three month time horizon on this. So I don’t have hard numbers for you in dollars or in hours.

Mike (45:57):

Totally fair.

Jason (45:58):

But I can just feel the difference at the gym. And we’ve grown our—we had our strongest month ever last month, which, you know, we’ve been out of the audit for probably a month and a half now, strongest month ever last month. We are at our highest membership number ever. We had our highest profit ever. So I can’t with 100% certainty say that these things are tied together because I haven’t looked at the data, but I can certainly tell you that it helps.

Mike (46:29):

And this is during a pandemic. And you know, I’m going to throw a number value at you too, where you said that you found through this, five to 10 hours a week, which is huge. And in that tinker level group, which we’re talking about, which is a mastermind upper level group for our really great gym owners, and you can look all of this stuff up on our tinker page on Two-Brain, in that group. We want people to get to $500 an hour in value for their time. So if you’re saving five or 10 hours and your let’s say your hourly value is creeping up in that $500 range, you can do some math and figure out that this was very effective, even before you’ve done the financials and everything else.

Jason (47:07):

And that was just five to 10 hours on the operations. Nevermind all of this other stuff. And yeah, and again, it didn’t just save my time. My payroll is also going to be affected here because other people are able to stop looking for what they need and actually do the work.

Mike (47:23):

So would it be, you know, I’ll put you on the spot here, but would it be wrong to suggest that if a gym owner does these five audits, they will make money, do you think that’s true?

Jason (47:32):

I think that is true. I think that with everything that we do as entrepreneurs, there are sort of three big things that we need to do on a regular basis. Number one is set goals and visualize our success, right? Like we need to know the direction that we’re headed and what we want it to look like. Number two is to make sure that we are, I call them spot drills, doing some stuff along the way to stay on track, to stay focused, to make sure we’re moving in the right direction. And the third piece is the debrief, right? I was in the Marine Corps. Always, always, post-mission you look back at what is happening and recapping, debriefing, whatever you want to call it, analyzing how things are going, which is what we did here with this five-part audit is the biggest piece of the puzzle, in my opinion. Everyone talks about goal setting. There’s not nearly enough people talking about reflection and looking back at how things went so that you can iterate and make things as good as they can be.

Mike (48:35):

I love it. The overarching message here, dig into your stuff and take some action to fix it. Jay, thank you so much for being here today and giving us your insight. I really appreciate it.

Jason (48:45):

Absolutely Mike, it was awesome. Thanks a ton for having me.

Mike (48:47):

Jason Cohen was my guest today on Two-Brain Radio. I’m your host, Mike Warkentin. If you have not done so, join the Gym Owners United group on Facebook. Chris regularly posts 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. Thanks for listening to Two-Brain Radio and I’ll see you next time.


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