Systems Aren’t Sexy—But You Absolutely Need Them to Succeed

Picture of Chris Cooper with title text.

Andrew (00:02):

Systems are boring. Systems are tedious. And systems aren’t as sexy as working on your sales funnel, but they’re one of the most important aspects of your business. Go ahead, click out of this podcast and scroll through Instagram for marketing ideas. Or, listen, act and make your business run like a well-oiled machine.

Chris (00:22):

Chris Cooper here, have you got a website designer, a marketer, a landing page software, a calendar, a CRM, and a form builder, communication platform and connecting software? You can get rid of all of it by switching to Gym Lead Machine. I use this platform along with 60% of the Two-Brain mentorship team. The average gym owner saves over 300 bucks a month with Gym Lead Machine and they’ll waive the thousand dollars set-up fee for Two-Brain Radio listeners. Switching is easy and you can go live in a week, visit to watch a demo and book a sales call. If you’ve been reading my blog, tracking along, listening to the podcast, watching our YouTube channel, since all the way back in 2009, you’ll know that I talk about systems a lot. This is the part that most people get hung up on.

Chris (01:11):

Systems are boring. They’re tedious to put into place. They always seem to need some kind of improvement. And frankly, it’s not clear how systems are going to get you more members today. I’m going to talk about why systems are important, why you need to audit and improve them every single year and why they’re going to help you get more members. When I found my first mentor, I was in rough shape. I was practically bankrupt. I couldn’t write myself a check to pay for groceries this week. And I kind of locked into this mentorship program locally. It was a complete fluke. I couldn’t afford the $500 that they wanted to charge me for the first meeting, but I showed up anyway and I thought, OK, maybe this guy is going to give me a secret marketing silver bullet that I can take home. Use really, really fast and make my 500 bucks back so that his check won’t bounce.

Chris (01:59):

That was my hope. We didn’t do that. Instead. We talked about systems, and at the time, if you had told me that I’d be paying this guy $500 to build gym systems, I would have said no way, I don’t need that. I would have been wrong. Here’s why they’re important. Your gym has to operate on a series of systems. It can’t just operate based on your task list today, or the priorities that are in your head. The problem is that our brains get full of ideas and tasks. We get pulled off task all the time. I don’t know how many entrepreneurs have said to me, Oh, I’m ADD, you’re not really ADD. What you are, is distracted. And that means that the most important things do not take priority over all of the other things. How many times have you left your home in the morning and said, today, I need to do this.

Chris (02:53):

And by the time you got to work, that urgent task was like fifth on your list because you thought of four other things on your way into the gym. It happens to me every single day. The thing is that if you don’t have systems for the most important things in your gym, they will always get buried. They’ll always come fifth behind check Instagram, check, email, process payments, check Facebook, make an Instagram post. The systems that actually run your gym are the things that make it deliver consistently. So in many cases, I talk about systems for opening the gym, cleaning the gym, closing the gym systems for coaching a class, starting on time systems for programming, but you also need systems for sales, marketing, and retention. And if you don’t have those systems, then all those tasks rely on you doing them. And if they depend on you doing them, they will not get done because they will never be the most urgent things.

Chris (03:54):

So for example, when you make a system for sales, it means that you don’t have to be the person who does all the sales. You don’t have to be the person who texts a client within 30 minutes. Somebody else can do that. It means you don’t have to be the person who writes all of the emails in your nurture sequence. Somebody else can do that. It means that you don’t have to be the one telling people your prices, or like convincing them to sign up. Somebody else can do that. And if somebody else can do it, then the whole thing doesn’t pivot on you. And that means when sales are not your priority, they are still the gym’s priority. Systems make the most important things the top priorities in your gym, you also need a marketing system. Many gym owners are confused about marketing. They don’t know where to start.

Chris (04:43):

They don’t know what to do. So instead of doing things consistently that are important, they get attracted to big new ideas or the flashy, sexy stuff like advertising. Well, advertising can be part of your marketing plan. That’s cool, but it shouldn’t be your entire marketing plan because advertising is always a rollercoaster. A new advertising method like Facebook ads will come out and you’ll see a sharp spike in lead generation. Awesome. But over time, lead cost goes up and audience affinity goes down. So you’re paying more for worse leads. OK. Over time that advertising system becomes not worth it anymore. What’s the next advertising system. OK. You know, that’s going to be a tik tok. OK. We’re going to put time and money into tik tok, and boom leads go up again, different demographic. And then lead cost goes up. Audience affinity goes down and it becomes not worth it.

Chris (05:37):

And then we’re back to billboards, billboards, mail outs, hand delivered postcards. The problem with following advertising without having a marketing system is that you’re always going up and down and up and down, riding this roller coaster until you’re exhausted and burned out. That’s what systems save you from. Making sure that things just happen at your gym, with, or without your attention with or without your presence are what systems are all about. I can talk about systems for advertising and marketing. I can talk about systems for cleaning because the same thing is true. To give you maybe a clear example, let’s talk about having a cleaning system. If you write down exactly how the gym should be cleaned every day, here are the steps. Here’s where the soap is. Here’s the type of mop that we use. Here’s how long it should take. Here’s a picture of what a clean gym looks like.

Chris (06:32):

Here’s what to do. If we’re down to our last two rolls of toilet paper, if you write all of that down and assign responsibility to staff or hire somebody to do just that job, it will get done. That means you won’t have to focus your time or your attention on doing those things because you know they’ll be done consistently. Well every time, however, if you don’t have that, here’s, what’s going to happen.

Chris (06:55):

Chris Cooper here to talk about Incite Tax. The people at Incite Tax know you’re working long hours to improve health for the world, but it can still be hard to turn a profit. You just can’t focus on your mission without money in your account. So Incite founder John Briggs wrote “Profit First for Mirogyms” and created a system that increases your cashflow so you can be home for dinner with a thriving fitness business. Bookkeeping, profit first, cash flow consulting, taxes, whatever your financial needs, Incite can help. Join their free five-day challenge at profitfirstformicrogyms/five days to get a snapshot of the financial health of your gym. That’s profitfirstformicrogyms/five days.

Chris (07:36):

Number one, the cleaning will fall to you. You’ll be doing the cleaning someday. You’ll realize like, Oh, I got a birthday party tonight. I can’t stay around late and do the cleaning or I hate cleaning. I’m bad at it. I’m going to tell the coach who coaches the 8 PM class to stick around and do the cleaning. Well, they might attack that work wholeheartedly the first night, but eventually they’re not going to do as well as you would. And you’ll say, ah, why doesn’t he empty the garbages? Isn’t that common sense? And eventually you’ll wind up doing the cleaning again because it’s not important to correct somebody. It’s more important to tell them exactly how you want it done in the first place. OK. So that’s the cleaning example. Let’s talk about the sales example. If you’re tracking your sales metrics, which you should be, and we have a Two-Brain dashboard just for that, and we teach it in our mentorship program, you might notice that you convert about 80% of the people who book a no sweat intro with you, but your coaches convert only 50 percent.

Chris (08:36):

And so you think, Hmm, is it a matter of inspiration? Like I need to pay them a commission on their sales. They’re just not as excited or is it a matter of knowledge like, Oh geez, they don’t know all of our programs or do I not have a system for selling? Have I not told them how to sell, what to say? Where to sit? How do you use the pricing? Maybe you don’t even have a pricing binder. And so they’re not really sure. When I audited my sales system at Catalyst, one of the things that I found out was my coaches didn’t really know what the options were for people. And so they were just trying to sell everybody on group fitness classes. They didn’t talk about on-ramp or personal training or nutrition, and they didn’t measure goals appropriately. And so I had to create a system that eventually became the prescriptive model that we now share with thousands of gyms around the world.

Chris (09:24):

This is what systems mean. Systems mean consistency. You can test your systems every year and you should, you should take a couple of vacations, but the real test of systems is could your gym survive without you? Now, I used to think in the early days of my gym, man, if I slipped and fell and broke my leg on this icy sidewalk, the gym would be out of business because the gym needs me there to pay the bills. And you know, that didn’t really scare me because I’m not scared of icy sidewalks. Even though I fell on my butt a couple of times walking at 4:00 AM from my truck into the gym, I wasn’t really worried about it, but where the test of systems came due was the birth of my first child. So Avery was born at about 5:00 AM. And by noon that day I was in the gym coaching clients.

Chris (10:15):

I should not have been. I should have been in the hospital with my wife. Now I went back that night and I visited my kid, but I wasn’t doing my clients a favor by working that hard and training them seven hours after my daughter was born. I wasn’t doing my wife a favor by going and making that 120 bucks or whatever it was. I wasn’t doing my daughter a favor and I wasn’t helping myself. What I should have had was a system for me to hand clients off to another trainer at a moment’s notice. That would’ve meant that I could have taken vacations. It would have meant that I could have stayed at the hospital with my brand new baby. It would have meant that if I got hurt or injured, that would have been OK. There’s another example here. When we first opened our gym, we were desperate for new clients.

Chris (10:59):

This was 2006. We’d already been open for a year and we were moving to a more expensive location. And so one of the things that we did was this trade show at a local arena. And the trade show was around the top layer of this arena. You had to go up about 40 stairs to get there. And this was again, 2006, televisions weighed about 50 pounds. I had this huge screen TV. I carried it all the way up the stairs, right after doing a deadlift max and I tore something. And I had to go to work every single day, the next week with this weight belt cranked to its maximum tightness under my shirt. And clients would say like, are you wearing a weight belt? Like, what are you doing? And I could barely bend over to pick anything up. So this is where a system would have made me feel like, OK, I can take a few days off.

Chris (11:48):

I can go to the chiropractor. The gym will still make money without me. Your business really is the sum of its systems. The business is not you, it’s not your personality. It’s not how hard you can grind. Ultimately, you have to replace yourself by getting stuff out of your head and onto paper so that it can run without you. If you’re not doing that, then you’re running more risk every single day, the risk multiplies that something is going to happen that’s going to shut your business down. The reason that we take the time to build systems, to make your business run on its own run, autonomously is not just so that you can, you know, take time off and go relax on the beach. That’s nice. The reason is survival. I want your business to be able to survive in the event of something drastic happening.

Chris (12:40):

I want to make sure that your business processes, your sales and your marketing, continue. Even when you’re distracted or you’re dealing with some other stuff. I want to make sure that your clients receive your maximum best care on your worst day. And I want to make sure that they receive it from everybody on your staff, that you give them the best possible experience by writing it down, getting it out of your head. Now you can read books like the E-Myth or Good to Great to try and get a sense of how to build systems and which systems you need. That’s what I did. Or you can get a mentor and spend, you know, weeks writing down a staff playbook, or you can sign up for our mentorship program and get our templates, which have been refined year over year for 10 years. You can download our playbook.

Chris (13:28):

You can make it your own, it’s white label and have everything that you need and be done with it in about a day or so. So a day to turn your business into a replicable model is kind of a miracle. And that all happens really early in the ramp up process. The reason that we talk about systems and policies and procedures before we talk about marketing is because you have to have good systems and good processes to keep your clients. And you have to be able to keep your clients longer before you can sell anybody, anything, and you have to be able to sell things well before you market anything or you’re just wasting time and money. You’ll be on this roller coaster effect systems really are the foundation of everything. They’re the least sexy part of your house. Just like the basement is the least sexy part of your house, but they’re critically important.

Andrew (14:18):

That was Chris Cooper. And this is Two-Brain Radio. It’s time to take action. You don’t have to document every single thing in your business in the next 24 hours, don’t get overwhelmed. Start by picking one simple process and documenting it, or review and improve one existing system in some way. Repeat the process regularly. And you’ll notice your business is running far better. Thanks for listening. Please subscribe to Two-Brain Radio for more episodes.


Thanks for listening!

Thanks for listening! Run a Profitable Gym airs twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays. Be sure to subscribe for tips, tactics and insight from Chris Coooper, as well as interviews with the world’s top gym owners.

To share your thoughts:

To help out the show:

  • Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help, and we read each one.
  • Subscribe on iTunes.

One more thing!

Did you know gym owners can earn $100,000 a year with no more than 150 clients? We wrote a guide showing you exactly how.