Creating a Culture of Care at Your Gym

Molly Kieland and title text.

Tiffy (00:01):

It’s Two-Brain Radio. And today we’re talking about gym culture with Molly Kieland of Fuelhouse Gym. Molly is an expert recently won Gym of the Year Right Brain for creating an amazing atmosphere at Fuelhouse. But first, here’s Two-Brain founder, Chris Cooper, with a word about this special honor.

Chris (00:19):

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. We’re called Two-Brain Business because there are two sides to a gym business. There’s audience, and then there’s operations. The two sides have to work together just like the hemispheres of your brain and the right side of your business is your culture, your creativity, your care, your empathy, the bond between your clients and between you and your staff.

Chris (01:23):

I love giving out this award because I am not the best at culture or team building or managing other people. I’m more of a left-brain kind of guy. So I am absolutely in awe of people who can naturally make people feel at home and welcome and part of the tribe that make people say, people like me do things like this and stick around for a very long term. The winner of this award is not just determined by all the feels. The winner of this award has to prove that they’ve built an amazing culture of empathy and care and progress in their gym. And they prove that with their retention numbers, they prove that with their adherence numbers, they prove that with client testimonials and client stories all the time and client interaction, we make a science out of care because we want to know who’s best at it. And this year’s winner is one of the best gyms I’ve ever seen. I’m so proud to present the right brain of the year award for culture.

Tiffy (02:22):

Molly, thanks for joining me today.

Molly (02:24):

So much for having me.

Tiffy (02:25):


Molly (02:25):

I don’t know about expert. Very kind.

Tiffy (02:32):

Every gym was thrown for a big loop when COVID hit and Fuelhouse is no exception. Can you take me back to what you were going through when lockdown closed your gym?

Molly (02:44):

You bet. It was around May 15th, well, May 15th to be exact that we decided to shut down the gym, which was the day before our state mandated a full shelter and stay. So, yeah, I’ll never forget waking up that morning and just kind of having this gut feeling in me and looking at my husband and we both at the same time, we’re like, do you think that we should be doing this? Should we be shutting down? And so we made a very quick decision with the team and notified everyone and then just got the communication out to our entire membership that this is what was going to happen.

Molly (03:22):

And then we had an emergency team meeting that Sunday and started our virtual solutions that next day.

Tiffy (03:30):

So it was like a two day pivot, basically.

Molly (03:33):

Less than 24 hours. It was nuts. Like everyone. Right. And the week before, I mean, I was anticipating this was going to happen. And I think that whole week it’s like something was dying, like something close to me. I could just feel this just heaviness over me. I’ll never forget. I was just a ball of tears. I was just an emotional wreck. I couldn’t get my, can I swear on this podcast? OK. I could not get my shit together. I mean, I could, but it was really tough. I had not had a reaction like that to something in a very, very long time. And it was just me letting fear take over. And then actually there was like some kind of Chris posted something.

Molly (04:19):

And it just shifted something in me. I’m like, I can’t let this take me down. This can’t take me down. So the team, I mean, it really comes down to them. I notified them and we all pulled together.

Tiffy (04:31):

So was it a big learning curve to kind of move all of your systems online and that delivery mode?

Molly (04:38):

100%. I hate the word pivot I never want to hear that word again. Heck yeah. I mean, the last thing we want to do is do anything virtually, I mean, that’s why we’re in this business, right. To have that human connection. So having to take everything immediately and then put it through a screen is like a slow death. So, you know, we are really grateful that we had already started to build some online services. And so we had just started looking into like, what would online, remote coaching look like for Fuelhouse coaches?

Molly (05:22):

And so we had just signed up with True Coach the month before, but it was nothing that we hadn’t planned to even launch that soon, but COVID kicked us in the dinger and forced us to do it.

Tiffy (05:34):

Yeah. So what were some of the things you did to keep people together and keep up that sense of community?

Molly (05:44):

The first thing is we’ve always, I think been really good at communication with our people. Maybe we over-communicate, that’s a good thing. So that was the first was coming together as team. We met in person. And at that point, everyone was thinking COVID was only going to last two weeks. So we’re like on this whole, like, Oh two week plan, we’ll be fine. See you guys in two weeks. So, after meeting with the team and coming up with our game plan, we just sent a big communication to the membership, just in advance, thanking them for their patience, their flexibility, their understanding, and, you know, apologizing in advance for all the glitches that will probably come up.

Molly (06:28):

But, we know our people so well, we knew that they would just, they would shift with us. So I think the big thing for us was just the communication from the forefront. And then my understanding in speaking with several of my buddies who own gyms is a big difference for us was we went right into coaching all of our regular classes. So we held multiple classes a day and in the middle of this shitstorm, we were also moving into our new location. So I had construction started at our new spot and we were planning to be moving outside of our old location in a month. So on top of all of this, there was this other thing that I had to manage. So when the gym empty out that next day we showed up and we just turned our yoga room into like our virtual classroom.

Molly (07:21):

And we decided that for every class that we were going to lead, one coach was going to be the main coach and the other coach was going to be the actual participant. We didn’t realize at the time, but with all the feedback that we’ve received, the members love having the two coaches through the screen, to feel, to watch the one coach go through, you know, the torture that they had to go through. They just felt that there was just that connection. So I think that was a huge win for us, not even knowing that that was going to be a great solution. Some other things that kept us connected to our people was we started, we loaned out all of our equipment, so we made sure that they definitely had the options to train with something.

Molly (08:13):

We shifted all of our programming to be bodyweight, home-based, knowing that people live in small spaces or, you know, not even knowing, but we planned everything for that they were living in a small space. So we revamped all of our programming. And we right away launched our online remote coaching for motivated members who really wanted a more customized approach and who had perhaps maybe a better built out home gym. So that whole online service that we had kind of just talked about, like started to, was the thing that we launched right away because of COVID. And that was quite a blessing.

Tiffy (08:50):

In terms of like engagement and retention were you able to keep that, were you able to sustain that over the course of the pandemic?

Molly (08:59):

You know, the retention of the zoom class participation was so high for a very long time and we actually still have incredible participation in our more of our evening classes.

Molly (09:14):

Those have been the ones that have been the most popular, actually our 9:00 AM class and our evening classes are the most popular and we’ll have on average for us, we’ll have, I would say 10 people, you know, zoom in through. So I think that’s pretty good. Since March, we’ve lost about 60 members to cancellations and that was a mixture of them losing their jobs, unfortunately, moving and, or just the virtual world, just not, you know, jiving with them or their personality. And then most of them are saying that they’ll come back when there’s a vaccine. And then in addition to the 60 that have canceled, we have also 35 people who are on hold and those 35, many of them are zoom participants. And then a huge part of our membership has just stuck with us, paid their regular dues because they want to support us and continue to show up through zoom.

Molly (10:17):

So yeah, we have a founding member group and one of them thought up what a great idea it would be to post a sponsorship for those that have lost their jobs. So we did put a sponsorship fund together to support the ones that did lose their jobs that still wanted to support the gym. So it was just incredible. We raised $6,000 just from our members alone. Yeah. To support them, which was really cool. And throughout like, you know, through between March and when we reopened in June, we brought other really cool things, I think into the mix too, a lot like some other gyms, we brought external professionals into the mix. We held really specialized clinics on mental health. So we had a mental health counselor come in and address, you know, all the stuff that’s come up since COVID.

Molly (11:13):

And why human connection is so important now more than ever, especially for those that are so isolated and don’t have a partner to live with, or a friend or a roommate. And then we brought in just some other fun people that are specialized in, you know, organization. So the gal she’s like the Marie Kondo of Seattle, we held a clinic for her to come on board and just say, well, now’s a perfect time to declutter your home since you’re living in it so much more. So that was really a cool clinic too.

Tiffy (11:47):

So you’re taking a sort of a holistic approach to your clients and taking care of them in more ways than just their physical fitness.

Tiffy (11:57):

We definitely touched on that even more than ever. And a lot of that too, is inspired by Chris and Two-Brain Business in regards to the coaching around the SEM model, the sleep, eat mindset, movement of philosophy. And now that is a part of our language in every discussion that we have. We now talk more so openly in our no sweat intros and our athlete check-ins on those four pillars, which again, just bridges that gap, even more.

Chris (12:31):

We know that getting clients results isn’t enough to make a great business or a great career, but it is the foundation. If you’re not getting your clients results, none of the other stuff matters. Your marketing plan, your operations plan, your retention plan, your systems, how much you care about the clients. You need to get them results. What does it take to get a client results? Long-term behavior change, short-term habit change. It means learning skills like motivational interviewing, peer-to-peer programming. It means focusing on things like adherence and retention instead of novelty. And I built with my partner, Josh Martin, to teach coaches how to do this. More than ever before it is critical to get results for your clients. You need to charge a premium fee. You need to provide high value to warrant that fee. And what is most valuable to the client? What do they care about the most? The results on the goal that they choose. has programs set up to help your clients achieve those goals. We will train you and your coaches to deliver personal training, group training, online training, nutrition coaching, and coming soon, mindset coaching, in a way that’s simple for you to adopt, it’s legal everywhere. And it’s super effective. These courses were built by experts with years of experience getting clients results. is a labor of love for me, and I know you’re going to love it too.

Tiffy (13:59):

For you personally was it hard to sustain that sort of momentum and motivation when you’re delivering or how did you sort of deal?

Molly (14:07):

Yeah, that’s a great question. I mean, I hit a fricking wall multiple times. You know, God bless the support of an incredible husband and family and team. The team, it makes me emotional to think about like how we came together even more. We’re pretty tight already, but this really proved to me that I had gotten the best team I’ve ever had at Fuelhouse. And we started to recognize when one of us was kind of going down that downward spiral, you know, how to pick them up or step in for them so they could recover. For me personally, I definitely have hit some really, really low points for me. I went 100% survival mode of the business and, you know, everything was affected, right?

Molly (14:57):

Like all owners of small businesses, my sleep, my nutrition definitely, you know, was not on par for quite a few months. And I let that go for a while. And then finally around July, I just, you know, realized like I can’t function any longer like this. And I was ready to definitely take charge of me and the four pillars for myself right here. I am talking to our humans about balancing your life and I’m so not doing what I’m preaching.

Tiffy (15:29):

I think a lot of entrepreneurs tend to forget what the foundation level is all about and why that needs to be maintained. Otherwise the whole thing just crashes.

Molly (15:44):

Totally. Yeah. I mean, and you know, my focus there’s many blessings, you know, with this pandemic, which is really a weird thing to say, because nobody wants to live through a pandemic.

Molly (15:59):

Right. And witness such tragic loss, but I’m choosing to also take a moment and many moments with my team. And we see so many opportunities of gratitude, like I’ve been able to step back and focus a lot more on my leadership and the systems in our business that have not been completed or kind of broken. So it’s given me a chance to reinvent systems, you know, and processes that I hadn’t focused on before. And also become a better leader than I’ve ever had before and realize like my true mission is to, you know, I need to be strong and balanced for my team and my marriage and myself.

Tiffy (16:44):

So are you in the new space now, like reopened with a brand new?

Molly (16:51):

We are, yeah, we actually, this was nuts. Like, you know, we shut down the old location March 15th, went virtual, then construction got shut down.

Molly (17:04):

So everything went on pause. The other blessing around that was because of shelter and stay, it slowed down everything for us, but I had such an aggressive construction schedule that there’s no way we were going to meet it. But then this gave us all the time in the world just slowly move over. We didn’t have to hire movers. We ended up doing a lot of the construction on our own and the demo. So we ended up saving probably more money and having more time to make better decisions. So we got in there in June and we slowly reopened. We started reopening with just personal training only, just to make sure we knew how to work in our new home. And then once we felt really comfortable before we opened up to the entire membership, we held some beta, I’d say beta testing classes with our founding members, which was really helpful to get a good idea of what our check-in process needed to look like around the COVID protocol that we have and then how the flow needed to work with the spacing and capacity limits.

Tiffy (18:13):

So how many members do you currently have?

Molly (18:17):

We have 279 paying members. And for us, that includes our group fitness members, our virtual members, our personal training clients and our online, remote coaching clients and nutrition clients.

Tiffy (18:36):

What percentage is like virtual and what percentage are you delivering person?

Molly (18:40):

Yeah, so percentages, I should probably know that answer. My mentor would be very upset with me right now.

Molly (18:50):

Yeah. Another blasting has been, you know, we took such, our personal training side of the business was pulling in, I’d say maybe five to 6,000 a month. So not a lot. And that was because the business model that I originally set up was so class-based and it was that way because it was just me for so long. And then as I started to acquire a team, it was hard to fit in personal training just for spacial reasons. But I knew that that was a business model that I did not want to continue forward with that in the new world, in our new gym, it was going to be more so PT first than it would just be, let’s get everybody into group classes. I’m so glad I had this time to figure that out before we got into the new space.

Molly (19:42):

So knowing that, you know, our old PT revenue was around five to six a month. It’s been incredible on how it’s grown since we’ve reopened and the blessing around that is because, you know, people want to get back, but they may not feel very comfortable being in that group setting. And we’re capping our classes at like 10 to 12 right now. But that’s still for them. It’s just this weird feeling. But if they have the option to do this one-on-one training and put the real, you know, their group class membership on hold, we’ve let them do that. So our PT revenue is now averaging about 17,000 a month. And that has saved our asses from what we’ve lost in those cancellations, because those 60 cancellations were group class memberships. So I’m grateful for, that was always, my goal as I started to grow team was to, you know, obviously, um, build career coaches so they could, you know, rely on this as a good living and the way we were going, it wasn’t happening, but now it’s sort of a refining fire to make it.

Molly (21:04):

Yeah. Yeah. And now our language again is so different. The no sweat intro process is so different and we’re really confident behind the processes that we’ve put in place since June 22nd.

Tiffy (21:17):

That’s awesome. What are you most looking forward to in the future for Fuelhouse?

Molly (21:21):

Using the pull-up rig and sharing equipment and giving high fives, hugging the shit out of our people. In real life. I mean, that’s like, yeah. I think, just taking a video the other day of our current situation on our floor, I’m so blessed that we can even just be back together in the same space. That human connection is so important right now, more than ever. And I tell everyone that their focus right now should be strengthening their mind and not necessarily worrying so much about their, you know, one rep max, because truly if we can be back together, I think that’s just, you know, it explains itself the value in that. As far as the future of Fuelhouse, you know, we have, I’m working constantly on becoming more efficient as a leader. Like right now I’m reading Clockwork by Mike Michalowicz. I’m gonna read pumpkin plan again. I’m going to read profit first for micro gyms again and start to really work more on becoming efficient for me to continue to find my own balance and then to just build up my team.

Tiffy (22:40):

That’s awesome. I appreciate you chatting with me today, Molly.

Molly (22:46):

Yeah, this has been great.

Andrew (22:46):

That was Tiffany Thompson on Two-Brain Radio. If you currently work with Two-Brain, ask yourself, what would it take to win this award next year, then take action. And if you don’t work with us yet, be sure to join the Facebook group, Gym Owners United, where you’ll find advice from Two-Brain founder, Chris Cooper. Every day, he’ll tell you how to improve your business for free. Thanks for listening to Two-Brain Radio, subscribe for new episodes every Monday and Thursday.


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