7 Signs You’re a Mature Entrepreneur (and 5 Signs You Aren’t)

Chris Cooper

Mike (00:01):

Where are you at as an entrepreneur? Two-Brain founder Chris Cooper checks in with seven signs that you’re mature and five signs that you still have some developing to do.

Chris (00:09):

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Chris (00:55):

Hey everybody, it’s Chris Cooper here and today I’m talking about entrepreneurial maturity. And this is top of mind for me right now, because two weeks ago we certified four brand new millionaires, like real millionaires at Two-Brain, right? Not, oh, I did $80,000 one month and I’m going that’s going to continue forever. My gym is projected to make a million dollars. Therefore I’m a millionaire. No, these are people with real net worth. Real gym owners with net worth of a million dollars or more. And we certified four of them in one day. On that same day, we got a bad review from somebody. It’s one of only two negative reviews we got in the entire last year, but somebody reported that they hadn’t had a great experience in our ramp-up program. Now the old Chris would have fixated on that one bad review, even with the new millionaires and the hundreds of positive reviews that we get every year.

Chris (01:51):

Even with all of the thank you for everything messages I get in my inbox and chat every single week, that one negative thing would have stuck in my brain. And I know this happens in your gym too. And in the past, that would have been all I could think about, but this time I thought, Hey, if these four people can use our systems and take their gym from struggling to being literally worth a million dollars or more personally, then the system works just fine. And that’s when I realized, holy crap, I’m not ruminating on this problem. Something’s working here. I’m maturing as an entrepreneur, and I’ve been working on this a lot with my coach from Level Up Coaching as well as the usual quarter million or so that I spend every single year on mentorship. And when I went back into our group at Two-Brain and I looked at our tinker group and I looked at our growth group and the discussions that are being had around there, even though some of these gyms just went right back into lockdown.

Chris (02:47):

Again, I’m realizing like, wow, we are producing some really mature entrepreneurs. And so if you’re listening to this and you’re already in Two-Brain, I hope that you’re nodding along and smiling and recognizing this maturation in yourself. And if you’re not in Two-Brain, I hope that you recognize some points here that you’re doing right. And you recognize your own path to maturity as an entrepreneur. I’m also going to give you some signs that maybe you’re not as mature as you could be yet. And keep in mind that entrepreneurial maturity is a spectrum. It’s a process. There are some things that I’m going to list today that I don’t do yet, but hopefully I’ll do better as I become a more mature entrepreneur. And hopefully there’s some things too, that you can say, you know what? This won’t bother me as much, or I can start looking at this differently.

Chris (03:37):

So here’s some signs that you are becoming mature as an entrepreneur. Number one, you take a long-term perspective and this is one of those things that you can only get with time. It’s not something that you can read about, but here’s a great proverb to illustrate. And this is from my book, “Founder, Farmer, Tinker, Thief.” Once upon a time, there was an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day, his horse runs away. And when they heard the news, his neighbors came to visit. Such bad luck. They said, sympathetically, you must be so sad. We’ll see, the farmer replied the next morning. The horse returned bringing with it two other wild horses, how wonderful the neighbors said, not only did your horse return, but you received two more. What great fortune you have. We’ll see, said the farmer. The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, got thrown off and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy for his misfortune. Now your son can’t help you with your farming. They said, what terrible luck you have. We’ll see said the old farmer, the following week, military officials came to the village to conscript young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed them by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out such great news. You must be so happy. The man smiled to himself and said, once again, we’ll see. The lesson here is to stop reacting to things you can’t control. I know that’s easier said than done. And again, this is a lesson that really comes with time, but is a sign that you’re becoming more mature as an entrepreneur when you start to think this too shall pass, or you start to think about like, Hey, I went through worse stuff than this, or Hey, I had a smaller example of this happen to me before.

Chris (05:30):

And that really prepared me for when this greater crisis is happening. Now, for example, I was able to draw on a bad experience that I had when my gym was shut down for COVID in 2020. When I built my gym out after I bought our building in 2016 or 2017, we failed to get permission to occupy the space from the city and it drove me bananas. It was purely a bureaucratic problem, not like a construction problem. And we couldn’t open for the first week that we were in this building. And so we had to run all of our classes outdoors at a neighborhood park, and I had great pictures. We had great memories. We had taken all these pictures of the crew together, outdoors, and we kind of came through this whole process as a group and everybody reminisces about it now.

Chris (06:17):

And so when my gym was shut down, I sort of had an indication that like, I could do this, even if we’re only going to be shut down for three weeks or as it turned out 12 months out of 14. These small little setbacks that you have can actually prepare you for bigger challenges in the future. So the second sign that you’re becoming more mature as an entrepreneur is related to the first, and this is perspective, and this is something that Two-Brain mentor Oskar Johed from Sweden said to me this morning, and that is, you never know what worse luck your bad luck will save you from. So you might have a little setback today, but that little setback is actually saving you from something else. So, you know, a couple of weeks ago, my gym got locked out or the double vaccination mandate came through in Ontario.

Chris (07:06):

And so the rule was that like your clients had to be double vaccinated to attend. It was black and white. There was no margin for error. And I thought, man, that’s such bad luck. Some of my clients are not going to like this, you know, it could affect some of my staff. And then I saw the way that the mandates were delivered in other provinces. And it was the same thing, except gym owners were given the choice whether to open and impose the mandate themselves or not. And I quickly realized like, wow, those people are actually in a worse spot than I am, because if I agree with the mandate, OK. But if I don’t agree with it, at least I can blame the government. Those poor gym owners and other provinces are stuck in the middle and they really can’t win either way.

Chris (07:52):

So, you know, that perspective actually helps. And I think that’s something that you only gain in time. Like, yeah, something kind of bad happened to me, but it might be saving me from something even worse, you know? And here’s some great examples. Like this is very true with staff too. So let’s say that a staff person does something really dumb and you know, like they swear at a client and the client quits, you know, that sucks. And you wind up like removing the staff person. That’s like the third strike or, you know, whatever they gave you a reason to remove them. And that saves you from something bigger later on. Like maybe they go work for another gym and they do something even worse. Well, sometimes you have to realize like a small mistake now could be saving you from something worse later.

Chris (08:40):

So another sign, the third sign that you’re becoming more mature as an entrepreneur is that you understand that there’s a balance between business concepts. So the concepts that I’ll use are the concept of abundance and the concept of protecting yourself, intellectual property. There’s a balance that you have to maintain there. And, you know, we publish every single day for free. There’s podcasts. There’s blog posts. You’re probably consuming Two-Brain stuff on one or more channels. Thank you for that. And people ask me all the time, like, how can you give all this stuff away for free? And I said, because knowledge doesn’t make the difference. Knowledge builds trust. It demonstrates to you that we do know what we’re doing. And hopefully my knowledge is enough to help you make enough money to pay for mentorship, which will make the real difference. On the other hand, we don’t let people copy and paste our materials.

Chris (09:30):

We don’t let people take our videos, replicate them, and then sell a competing service. There are people who say that a mindset of abundance means that you give everything away for free. And it would be easy for me to just say like about those people have never built anything were stealing or whatever, but the reality is you have to balance giving things away with protecting the things that matter most to your audience. So entrepreneurial maturity is realizing that there are no extremes, that there are balances. There are dichotomies like this all over your business that always have to be managed instead of solved. The fourth thing is that you know you’re maturing as an entrepreneur when you understand that retention is more important than sales, that eventually in a local marketplace, you will run out of good will. You will run out of audience.

Chris (10:21):

You will run out of high value clients. So let’s say that, you know, you’re running a special discount offer and you’re getting people in really quickly, but you’re not running a great service. You’re not retaining them. They’re not converting to long-term care in your gym. And I made this mistake early on. I had this very low entry point and people would come in, they would sign up, they would do this like two day kind of intro to CrossFit on ramp. They would be absolutely demolished. Cause we would do like five workouts in two days they would go home and they would never come back. And 10 years later, I guess that was 13 years ago now, they still say I did CrossFit. And it wasn’t for me. Good entrepreneurs understand that you might have 70,000. You might have 10 million people in your city, but not all of those people are going to want your service.

Chris (11:13):

The people who want your service are a subset of that total and you can work your way through them pretty quickly and even more effective or more impactful is that a lot of those people know each other. So there’s like one degree of separation between your best clients now and your future best clients. And if you do a bad job early on with people who are great clients, your future great clients are going to find out about it. Conversely, if you do an amazing job with your best clients right now, your future best clients are going to find out about that too. So it’s really more important that you’re great at retention than you are at getting people in the door, turning through them fast and basically burning through your audience. The fifth sign that you’re becoming more mature as an entrepreneur is that you’re flexible with your service, but you’re committed to your audience.

Chris (12:02):

This was a blessing that COVID lockdowns actually gave a lot of entrepreneurs in the fitness industry was that their audience is loyal and they trust them and they trust their authority and their influence more than they care about the actual service being provided. So for example, while a lot of gym owners in 2019 would have said, I have the best equipment. I have the best location. I have the best gym setup. I have the biggest brightest cleanest, all that went away and the best gym owners it turned out to be the people who had the closest connection with their audience, not the equipment, not the program, even, it was the people who could connect with their audience best. So the method became flexible, went online. A lot of gyms introduced like accountability or yoga or whatever. And that didn’t matter. The service was flexible, but you are entirely committed, focused and rigid about protecting your audience.

Chris (13:00):

The sixth sign that you’re becoming more mature as an entrepreneur is that you understand that you can learn from your competition. And I would just kind of stay away from other business consultants in the space when Two-Brain Business was a lot smaller and their business was around the same size. I would just ignore them. Like I wouldn’t want to go anywhere near them. And you know, most of the time it was because they were so different from me that I was like, oh, I don’t want to pay attention to that person. But the reality is that you can probably learn something from them, even if it’s just, I don’t want to be like that. You know, I’ve been in mastermind groups where that was the number one lesson that I took away was I don’t want to behave like some of these other people in the group.

Chris (13:41):

And then I learned to refocus myself on groups or mentors who were more like the person that I wanted to be. So you have to learn that you can learn from your competition. You can also learn from bad influences and you can learn from good influences too.

Chris (13:57):

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Chris (14:22):

Another sign that you’re becoming more mature as an entrepreneur. And this is number seven, I think. You have the discipline to finish one thing before starting another.

Chris (14:31):

And I’m getting better at this personally, but I’m still not immune to these amazing distractions. So this is actually really more common in people who are at the tinker phase of entrepreneurship, because when you’re still in the founder phase, I mean, you got your head down, you’re working, you’re grinding. Your sole focus is like, get through today and make a dollar. And then you get into the farmer phase and you’re busy. Like you’re focused on, you’re trying to grow your gym. You’re trying to manage people. You’re trying to bring new people in. You’re trying to retain them. You’re trying to build systems so that you’re not just scrambling with that for your whole life, but like you’re focused. When you get to tinker phase, suddenly you’ve got free time. You’ve got an enlarged amygdala. That’s constantly looking for threats, stimulus, right? And, you’ve got some money.

Chris (15:21):

So you’re attracted to all these ideas. Oh, I should put money in index funds. Oh, I should buy an Airbnb. Oh, I should be buying crypto, should be starting another business. Oh, I should be writing a book. And when you first hit tinker phase, you’re like, I want to do all that by Christmas. And so you just try to do way too much. What you have to do is redevelop your discipline to finish one thing before you start the next. And that’s why we tell entrepreneurs in the tinker phase and in our tinker program work in a 90 day sprint, You can do everything, but you can’t do it all at once. So here’s some signs that you still have a way to go. You know, and we all do. I’m not pointing fingers just at you. I’m looking at myself in the mirror here too.

Chris (16:05):

The first sign is that you pay too much attention to what others are doing. You’re so fixated on them that like it comes through in the content that you publish, it comes through in your message to your staff. You’re talking about them all the time instead of talking about your own vision in your own future. The second sign that you still have a ways to go is you’re trying to impress the wrong people. So you’re making Facebook posts, but they’re targeted at other gym owners or, you know, you’re so distracted by what another gym owner said in a Facebook group that you’re not paying attention to the client that’s standing right in front of you or, you know, you’re so like worried about what other people are doing in your town that you’re not focused on like doing the best thing for your client.

Chris (16:50):

Here’s a great example. When I first opened my gym, I said to my partners, like I’m going to take every client from that gym down the street, I’m going to shut them down. I’m going to put them out of business. All their clients are going to come here. That was the wrong approach to take. But every morning at 4:30 AM, I would be on the second story of our gym, looking out the window, like pressing my cheek against the glass, kind of looking down the street to make sure that I was open first. Well, guess what? That didn’t matter. But I was so focused on them. I could have been focused on making a better client experience. You know, instead of looking out the window, I could have been cleaning showers or something. The third way that you know that you still have a long ways to go, as do I, is you still chase novelty.

Chris (17:32):

So you see a new idea somewhere and you totally like forget the current plan that you’re on. And you chase that new idea. You know, Clubhouse, I think was a great example of this. Back in January, February. Gym owners had a marketing plan. They were doing affinity marketing in their reviews. They were getting referrals. They were upgrading their offer. They were selling specialty programs. They were setting up a Facebook funnel and suddenly Clubhouse. And now they’re like two and a half hours a day listening to this thing instead of growing their business. And, so you really need to like, not be distracted by novelty. Believe me, that’s a very tough one. The fourth sign that you still have a ways to go is you make your business a political platform. Now I don’t want to make this podcast my political platform. So I’m not going to go too deep into this, but you need to understand that if you want to change people’s lives, the best thing that you can do is give them a space that is free from politics and all the noise that they’re hearing from the media around them.

Chris (18:32):

The other thing that you need to do is stay open for 30 years, right? Like, yes, you can wave a political flag one time and you can, you know, totally stand up and shut out your beliefs on Facebook, knowing that you’ll lose half your clients, you know, good for you. I guess if that’s what you want to do, but you gotta know, like you’re harming your ability long term to serve people. Probably. I don’t want to get any deeper than that, but I will say this, I am politically active. None of my clients know how politically active I am or who I support or how I’m doing it. And that’s OK because you know that’s not what I’m trying to do here. Finally. The fifth sign that you still have a ways to go in your entrepreneurial maturity is you’re still suspicious of success.

Chris (19:19):

So you see somebody who’s more successful than you, and maybe it’s your jealousy, but instead of just a healthy skepticism, you’re pessimistic about their success. You know, they must have stolen something from somebody else. They must have cheated somebody. They must have lied to become successful. And this sucks because the common public sees entrepreneurs this way. If the entrepreneur is successful, they did it on somebody else’s back. Right. Unfortunately that’s like just a product of our education system, but even entrepreneurs aren’t immune, we see somebody like Grant Cardone and we’re like, wow, I don’t want to be a billionaire because being a billionaire means I have to be like that or somebody else. Right? Like, you know, Gary Vaynerchuk, I respect the guy. I’m not his biggest fan. I don’t want to be like Gary V, guess what? He doesn’t care.

Chris (20:09):

Right. But if that’s the only way to become a billionaire, I don’t want to do that. So while it’s good to like maintain a healthy skepticism about people who tell you how successful they are. Definitely. You also want to make sure that it’s not just like jealousy and that your own suspicion of them is not stopping you from being successful. There’s always a way to do this, right? There’s always a way to become successful by practicing help first, by being like a servant leader by being quiet instead of outspoken, by building your business, instead of tearing somebody else’s down, by being tactful and polite, instead of being a firebrand, by going with the culture, instead of being counter-culture, all those things are OK, you can still be successful. It’s hard to see it when you’re not a mature entrepreneur yet. So while I do advocate like some skepticism, you know, you should always question authority.

Chris (21:11):

You should always question success. You should do that from a position of what can I learn from this instead of how can I tear this person down? Or why can I disqualify this person’s success? And that’s a great sign that you’re maturing as an entrepreneur, no matter what happens in your life, you can learn from it. And that’s a sign of maturity too. The great thing is that real maturity only comes from making mistakes and spending time. That’s something that I know we’re all doing. And so, as we mature, we’re all gonna be more successful.

Mike (21:42):

That was Chris Cooper on Two-Brain Radio. Remember to subscribe for more shows. And now here’s a final message.

Chris (21:49):

Thanks for listening to Two-Brain Radio. If you aren’t in the Gym Owners United group on Facebook, this is my personal invitation to join. It’s the only public Facebook group that I participate in. And I’m there all the time with tips, tactics, and free resources. I’d love to network with you and help you grow your business. Join Gym Owners United on Facebook.


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