You’ve got so much to do in your gym. So how do you find the time to work on your business instead of in it? In this episode of Two-Brain Radio, Chris Cooper explains how to claw back a few hours and make important changes to your business.
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Hey guys, it’s Chris. And today we’re gonna talk about the actual process that I took to move my gym from what it was, a crazy, crazy job, to what it is now, which is a great business.
And, I think I’m gonna start with the story because a lot of you can really resonate with this. So sure. Around 2008, I had two gyms. One was a personal training studio, which was doing OK, but it was, you know, trading a lot of time for money. And the other was a CrossFit gym, which was doing really poorly and sucking all the money that I made from the first location, basically. So I was getting to the gym around 5:30 in the morning. I would tidy up a little bit, take the first client at six and then between 6:00 AM and 9:00 PM, I would go back and forth between the two gyms. I would, you know, try to do as much as I could, but like most of the time was just training clients. Sometimes I’d have 12 or 13 sessions a day between appointments and classes.
And then at 9:00 PM, I’d try to mop as fast as I could and then like head for home. And I would always think or tell myself anyway, that if I just keep working hard and doing a good job with these clients, that they’re gonna refer their friends and that’s how I’m gonna grow. And three and a half years in, I realized that wasn’t going to happen. That people weren’t referring at a fast enough rate to get me outta the problems that I had. I found a mentor and a mentor said, Chris, you need to do this. And I immediately said, I don’t have time. The first thing my mentor wanted me to do is to get the business outta my head and create a playbook by writing a standard operating procedure for every single thing that I did. And I said, I don’t have time to do this.
And he said, it’s the only way you’re going level up. So what I did was I started getting up at 4:00 AM and I would go into the gym. I’d be there by five. And then I had almost a full hour to work on the things that would actually grow my business. The first thing that would grow my business was an SOP for cleaning and then an SOP for running a group class. And then I hired somebody to take my 6:00 AM class, not so that I could sleep, but so that I could work more on the business. So now I could work from five until seven. And then a couple years later, I ascended to the next phase of gym ownership, which is what we call farmer phase. The gym was going well. It was very busy. It was still taking all of my time from 5:00 AM until nine at night.
But I wasn’t running all the classes anymore. It was actually making money and I thought, OK, you know, this is it. Like, I can do this. I can work a 15 hour day for the rest of my life, if that’s what it takes to make this kind of income. And then a new thing came along called Ignite. And one of my business partners said, I think you’ve got a real opportunity to help my son who has autism. And so we started working with his son and it was super interesting and we were learning a ton about how to help this guy. And so I went back to blocking off an hour in the morning to learn everything that I could, and then start building this business called ignite. And for the next couple years, all I read about and wrote about and talked about was learning how the brain functions and improves that functionality with exercise.
And we started this separate ignite company. And to do that, I knew that I needed more than like an hour in the morning. So I set up two windows of time during the day, one called the focus window and one called the ship window. And the focus window was for learning, the ship window was for doing. And so two hours every day I would work on this next thing. OK. As I got clearer on how I could help people with autism or traumatic brain injury, I expanded those two windows to write the book and build the site and like launch the course. And we even became CrossFit Brain for a little while, but we eventually dropped that and went back to being Ignite Gym. So ignite was kind of my first step into the next phase of entrepreneurship, which we call tinker phase.
And of course around that same time, another tinker project popped up for me. I was writing and blogging about all these businesses ideas that I was learning, all the tactics that I was employing. And I got approached by 321 Go Project to help some business owners. And that took more time. So I had to prioritize what I was doing, running this gym full time, with a passion project ignite, and also this new thing that I loved, which was mentoring gym owners. So I learned to prioritize based on effective hourly rate. And I quickly realized that the best use of my time was working with other business owners. And so I hired a manager for the gym and spent more time working in like my primary skillset. And by the way, back then what I was earning as a business coach was barely worth more than I could make as a personal trainer.
I was just mostly doing it because I loved it. So eventually though I learned that I could make more by focusing on my tinker level projects and I paid a GM to run the gym and that’s what I still do. So here’s how to do it yourself. How to ascend from where you are right now to the higher levels from founder phase through farmer phase and into tinker phase. First off you need to make one hour a day or one day per week to just work on your business. This could be the 5:00 AM thing like I did, or you could buy yourself that time by paying somebody to take one of your classes, one of your appointments, go and lock yourself in an office and just do the thing that’s going to grow your business. OK. So I chose an hour a day. Some people choose a day a week like Google uses Fridays or some businesses that will actually dedicate a very small percentage of their workforce and budget to it like Lockheed Martin does with their skunkworks projects.
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So what do you do with that hour? If you’re in the founder phase and you’re working and doing everything yourself, first use that hour to write your mission, then use that hour to systemize your ops. And again, this could take like weeks, then use that hour to build a retention plan.
Then use that hour to upgrade your sales skills. Then use that hour to start your marketing, and then use that hour to learn how to run ads. Now, of course, that system, which is kinda like a hierarchy, you should write your mission before you start running ads, for example. That’s what we teach in our ramp up program because that’s what sets you up for long term success. OK. Now, if you’re in the farmer phase, you’re managing a gym. You’re still not making what you want or the gym is doing OK. You’ve got some staff, you wanna become a better leader, or you wanna work on the next gym, or you’ve got an idea for a different project. How do you create the time and space and capital to do that? Well, the first thing that you do is you create two, one hour windows of time, OK?
Focus in the ship. And the first thing that you do is you write down your vision, you get it outta your head. Even if you gotta go for long walks and like, listen to the vivid vision audio book, whatever you gotta do, you know, get it outta your head. This isn’t a one hour job. Then, you work on hiring a GM. So you develop the role, you get the job description, you do interviews and all that stuff. And then you work on mentoring your team to replace you. And this is where a lot of people actually skip a step and fall backward later. So you’re trying to buy time here. nd then when you get into the tinker phase, you’re not immediately like across the finish line, you don’t have suddenly unlimited time and wealth and resources. You’ve maybe got like one day a week where you can work on something else.
And that’s really what tinker phase is, is you start off by just having enough time and mental bandwidth and maybe resources to start building the next thing. And the next thing might just be like second location. It could be like investment. It could be writing your book, whatever. You’re expanding. And you’re getting yourself closer to point where you’re gonna have a real impact in your community. The thing is like, you can’t worry about getting it all perfect. The first day, when you think like, OK, I’ve blocked off this hour, I’m sitting here at the desk, I’ve got the time, but I don’t know exactly what to do right now. That’s when you need to get a mentor because the mentor will tell you exactly what to do with that time. The very first exercise we have anybody do in our ramp up program now is like clear off one hour a day.
Either buy it or create it by sleeping less, you know, not my preference, but the reality for a lot of us, including me. Because you need to have that time available where you can focus and think on growing your business. OK. So why does this work? There are two principles at play here. The first is Parkinson’s law: Work expands to fill the time that you have. You’ll never just like have more time. The gym will always expand to fill whatever time you wanna give it, right? So you have to make more time by carving it outta your schedule, having a door that closes in your house, or like in your gym where you can sit there and quiet and focus and do the work. The second principle is, Pareto, the Pareto principle says that 20% of the work you do creates 80% of the results.
And the cool thing about having like one hour is that you’re gonna think, what can I do in this one hour to actually move my business forward? And that’s what you’re gonna focus on. So if you’ve only got an hour, you’re not gonna spend that hour scrolling on Instagram and looking for like ideas to copy, right? You’re going to actually write your playbook because you don’t have time to do everything. The priorities become more obvious when you add a time constraint. The bottom line though, is you need to work on your business. If you want it to grow. If you just work in your business, it won’t grow. You need to be intentional with your time and prioritize these blocks to give yourself time to do the tasks necessary for growth. In the show notes, I’ve given you two free resources. The first will help you get from founder to farmer phase.
And that’s called the 10-hour CEO. It’s a 10 week plan with like a hierarchy, do this thing the first week, do this thing the second week. The other other one that I’m giving you here is really to help you get from farmer phase toward tinker phase, and like to create some time to work on some other projects. OK. And this is called how to optimize your day. And it just tells you like how to set up focus and ship windows. And if you use these two things, you’ll ascend through your business, the key is like creating the time and space to work on the business and also knowing what to do first and then next, and then third, so that you actually make some progress. But if you’re intentional about it, I have no doubt that you can do it, ’cause I certainly did. And if I can do it, anybody can. Good luck.
Two-Brain Radio airs twice a week and features all the info you need to run a successful fitness business. Subscribe so you don’t miss a show. Now here’s Coop one more time.
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.