Welcome to Two-Brain Radio. Today on the show—
Have you seen the financial reports?
For crying out loud, I’m trying to do a podcast here.
Yeah, but what I need is important too. Can you please get them for me?
Look, you know what? If you run a business with your spouse, or if you’re thinking about it, this is the show for you.
I need you to get those for me right now.
We will be back with that show right after this.
Hi, this is Chris Cooper, and I founded Two-Brain Business to make gyms profitable. Over the last years, as we’ve compiled more and more data, more and more tools, gotten better and better at mentorship, we’ve really made a lot of gyms, hundreds around the world, thousands over the years, profitable, doing better. What hasn’t kept pace is the quality of coaching in a lot of gyms worldwide. There are great programs out there that will introduce you to a method like bootcamp, kettlebells, Olympic lifting, powerlifting, CrossFit, running, whatever that is. And so we can make coaches who know the subject matter, but that doesn’t make them a great coach. To be a great coach, you have to be able to change somebody’s habits. You have to be able to change their behavior and to do that requires deep understanding of their motivations to do that means amazing adherence by the client. And it means amazing retention because as gym owners, we know it’s harder and harder and more expensive than ever to get a new client. Retention is more important than ever. Referrals are more important than ever. Peer to peer marketing, word of mouth is more important than it’s ever been. How do you get those things? Through client results. So I founded Two-Brain Coaching with Josh Martin to get coaches the skills they actually need to make a career in fitness instead of just familiarity with a methodology. Twobraincoaching.com has courses to help you start a career with personal training, to scale up with group training, both in person and online, and to diversify with nutrition, coaching, and mindset coaching. We have the best programs in the industry that will prepare you and your coaches to deliver any method that you love now or you might love 10 years from now. Twobraincoaching is really a project of love for me. And if you visit twobraincoaching.com, you’ll get a ton of free resources, just like we produce every day on twobrainbusiness.com.
Welcome to another edition of Two-Brain Radio. I’m your host, Mike Warkentin. I work with my spouse and maybe you work with yours, or maybe you’re planning to. Either way, you’re going to want to take some advice from certified Two-Brain fitness business mentor, Kenny Markwardt. He runs Sandpoint Strength and Conditioning with his spouse, Jen, and he’s here to help spouses thrive as they work together. So Kenny, welcome to Two-Brain Radio. Are you ready to save marriages today?
Yes, it’s a big ask, but I’m in. It’ll be fun.
You know, you get paid as a mentor, but as a marriage counselor, you might have to up your rate to solve some of the problems that arise. Let’s trade some war stories before we talk solutions. So people know that we share their experiences. Both of us are a couplepreneurs. If you want to call it that. Without tearing open any wounds whatsoever, can you tell me about a specific major issue you had while running a business with your wife?
You know, the last thing my wife said to me this morning was, don’t say anything bad about me. So I said, I’ll change your name. It’s not going to be a big deal. Nobody will know who I’m talking about.
Someone named Jen M.
Somebody I know. Well, I mean, really, I think that this whole year has almost been a bit of a war story. Like it’s been kind of the, you know, running a business with your spouse has so many risks as far as financially and putting a strain on the relationship and just being so closely intertwined, you know, the last year has maximized all of that in a really glaring way, you know, to have one income coming in or the main income that we have coming in to both be tied to that, and not have somebody working in a more stable job to be at home all the time or more so than usual, to be, have your kids at home more so than usual. I mean, that’s been a tough thing in and of itself. So yeah, I’m sure that resonates with you a little bit, huh?
Oh, it sure does. And you I’ll give you a specific story. I’m not just going to hang you out to dry and say, Kenny, tell me about your wife. And I cleared this one with my wife, so we’re OK. But we’ve run a business together in various capacities since 2009. And that was just a basic boot camp kind of thing. And then we got into the CrossFit gym and physical location, all that stuff. And then recently we moved online. She’s taken over more of that end of it, but we work together. We’re at this, you know, we’re basically playing battleship with laptops opposite each other all day, every day. And we had definitely some disagreements about stuff. And the worst part about it is when you have a work disagreement and then you have to like, you close the laptops and it’s time for dinner, you know, when you’re staring across the table and you’re still angry about something, you know, with work.
One of the times we had an argument, it was probably one of the last calls that Chris Cooper did as a mentor himself, before he got all of you guys to take over stuff, or he did it as a personal favor to me, because I work for him and I can’t remember which one it was, but I got him on a call with my wife and my wife and I had a disagreement about a key issue at the gym. And I got Chris, OK. Chris will help us. And I kinda thought that Chris would side with me. But that’s beside the point. I didn’t set her up. But we got on, we discussed the whole thing and Chris listened and then he gave his opinion and his opinion happened to coincide with me. So I’m just rubbing my hands together.
I’m like, yes, the expert believes that I’m right. And my wife got very quiet and she got very cold and I could see that she was just boiling. She was furious. And you know, the best part about it was that she was mad at Chris, which fantastic. And that was partially part of my plan because if this went badly, you know, and Chris understands as we’ve talked about it. I wanted her mad at Chris, not me because I still had to sit there in the same house and she didn’t have to talk to Chris for another month, you know, so it worked out OK. And eventually we came to an agreement, but you know, as soon as that call ended, it was like high tension. I literally like went to the basement and I stayed there for a number of hours until we came up and kind of talked and it was still pretty rough.
And the ultimate lesson here is that a mentor can help you get through these things. And sometimes become a buffer between couples because we don’t always agree on everything. And I really felt bad because ultimately my wife and I want the same thing, we want the business to succeed, but stuff is inevitable. Disagreements are inevitable and you’ve written some really great blogs about this, couplepreneurship, which people should definitely read. We’ll put them in the show notes. But now we’ve traded some war stories, let’s talk about just some of the common challenges, like what comes up besides what I’ve just described when couples work together. So what are some of the common challenges that come up when couples work together?
So one of the bigger ones is the roles and tasks. And just making sure that one person has the passion for the one thing that they’re going to be doing and that these are very clearly defined. So, you know, one of the mistakes that I’ll see is that somebody who wants to just come on board and help out, or that they’re going to, you know, this is their business together. So just make sense for them to work for the business. But either the mistake that I see is that one person doesn’t have that passion or that they don’t really have that clearly defined as far as what they’re going to do. So in our case, we’re super fortunate because I’m very fitness oriented and I’m very operations oriented. And in Jen is very nutrition oriented and she’s very sales and marketing oriented and I happen to not be so good at those things. So we make a very good team and that we counterbalance each other in those things. And as far as what the challenges are, I think it’s just making sure that those things are very clear.
It really mirrors mentorship though, as a whole, like not just with couples, right? Like we talk, one of the steps in Two-Brain mentorship is to write down roles and tasks for every role in your business. And most gym owners don’t do that because at the beginning they’re doing everything. But if you ever want to get rid of a job, you have to put roles and tasks in place so that you can assign it to someone and hold them accountable. And if you don’t, you’re gonna be angry the whole time, but with spouses, I think it’s common to not do that because there’s like, Oh, we’re running a business together. And I’m very much like you, I think, where I need a list, I love working through lists and I like nothing better than ticking off boxes, crossing things off, and then taking the finished list, crumpling it up and burning it because I’m done.
I love that feeling. What I hate is stuff popping up and say, Oh, did you take care of this? And like, it wasn’t on the list. And I get mad about it, you know? So I think what’s really important. And again, this isn’t just because I’m, you know, I’m OCD, but it’s important in a business, no matter who you are, I think to lay out roles and tasks, because if you don’t tell someone is your specific job, it probably won’t get done. Right. If it’s no one’s job and anyone can do it, no one will do it. Right.
Right. It helps to establish that you really, as sterile as it sounds, is you really need to treat each other like employees in that arena, you know, when you put on the hat of a nutrition coach or you put on the hat of operations manager, it helps clarify some of those discussions and arguments, it helps that separation from work and from home. And it helps clarify what the expectations are and whether they’re being known or not. And it sounds kind of sterile. I think we have this fascination or fantasy that we’re going to just run this thing together and it’s going to be this beautiful thing. But at the end of the day, you really are hired by the business to do certain jobs.
Yeah. We’re going to talk about some of the things that people can do to take action. So, but before we get there, I’ll just ask you this. An I’ll lead with my own thing. What are some of the amazing things that happen when couples partner in business and I’ll identify one thing you said is that there is a synergy where she’s good at stuff that you’re not and vice versa. So you’re greater than the sum of your parts. For me, one of the benefits is I get to spend more time with my family. Like my wife is at home, I’m at home. We don’t have kids, we have dogs. And like we, the family spends a ton of time together. That’s a really good thing where sometimes there’s some flexibility where it’s like in the middle of the day, we’re going to go for a walk in the woods and we don’t have to book time off or to wait for the other person to get home. Like, that’s a huge, huge benefit. What are some other stuff that you notice that really makes working together with a partner just a great thing?
I think a lot of it is some of that risk reward, like it is, it’s a giant risk. You’re putting your financial stability and your relationship stability on the line. But when that works out and my wife’s going to giggle at this reference, but there’s a movie that any time it comes on, I’ll watch it. And that movie is Mr and Mrs. Smith. And the reason that I love it is, and if you’re not familiar with it, the premise is basically, two spies end up working together, two attractive, badasses for lack of a better word, that end up taking on the world together and knowing what the other person’s doing. And they’re kind of covering each other and saving each other’s life. And when that synergy is there and you’ve taken that giant risk to take on the world together, I think there’s nothing better. It’s like, so you don’t have children. We do have one, we have one six-year-old, he’s a magnificent kid, and working together to raise him and seeing some of those things transpire and happen after some of the challenges and hardships. It’s just that there’s nothing that can compare to that reward.
And there really is like, you know, family stuff aside, there’s just this building something together is like this amazing thing. Like you talk about, OK, we’ve got this unbelievable business that we both put our blood, sweat and tears into. We risked and we won, that feeling of accomplishment is incredible. And I’ve talked to other, you know, couplepreneurs who have that same feeling. And it really is amazing. But again, it’s not all wine and roses. There are some thorns to speak of, let’s help some people solve some problems. So first off listeners are thinking about starting a business with a spouse, or even bringing a spouse into a business. What are some of the things they can do right at the start to prevent falling into some holes right off the bat.
So first it’s establishing those roles and tasks and passions.
Would you write them down?
Oh, absolutely. That’s exactly what I would do is just look at all of the roles. Just like we ask you to do within Two-Brain, look at all of those roles within your business and put a name next to them. And if you can assign that name to one or the other of you, then that’s perfect and that’s a good place to get started and make sure that they’re passionate about what they’re going to be doing. And it’s not just, Oh, well, like I said before, kind of I’m going to come and help out around the business. This is something that they really want to be doing. It would be ideal.
So roles and tasks, number one, that’s going to solve a lot of problems because it’s not going to be, did you do? It’s going to be check off the list and we’re both done.
Right. Second is make a plan, make a financial plan. So if somebody is working for—it’s essentially the same as we ask you to deal with when you hire out a bigger role within your gym is to start pretending that you are paying that person early. So figure out what that number needs to be for you guys to be successful in your home lives and start paying that into a savings account and start putting that money aside and seeing what that does to your operating expenses. And then after a couple of months, if that hasn’t created your operating expenses, then you can probably move forward that hire and you’ll have that money put aside in savings for if it doesn’t work out right away, it’ll give you some buffer. And the best side of that is probably the upside is that, you know, if you’re just putting that money away, then it’s not accounting for the reward or the revenue generation that that person will be able to provide. So it’s hedging your bets a little bit, but it’s also providing you a cushion for when they do come on board.
Anyone who’s listening who has a partner, married or not, will understand that financial issues are a huge stressor in a relationship. And I don’t know the statistic here, but I know it’s high because I’ve seen some articles about it. Percentages of fights and marriages or partnerships caused by finance quite high. Right? So if you start taking some of these steps right off the bat, because as you said, working with a partner and going all in is risky, and you have to figure that out because if all of a sudden, both of you are tied to the same thing and the ship is sinking, you’re going to fight like cats and dogs for lack of a better term.
Right? Absolutely. I think it’s also really important to create some boundaries about your work-life balance.
Yeah. Because you get obsessive about stuff, right? Like your business can be all-consuming. And if everything that you do with your partner feels like a business interaction, you almost wonder where your husband wife or spouse went. Right. So tell me a little bit more about this one.
Yeah. A hundred percent. I think so the one of the upsides is like, the daydreaming about and conquering the world together. But when there’s no boundaries between that and things are bad, it’s really a pretty, pretty bad situation. You know, if you’ve been stressing about something all day at work and trying to solve problems all day at work, in a normal relationship or non-couple relationship, you get some space from that when you come home. So you get to air those grievances, or those problems through your spouse with a bit of a different perspective, and then you get to kind of vent to them. But if you bring that home and that same person or that person’s been working on that all day with you at work, and I just bring that home to them then there’s no space. And there’s really, I think that that’s really important for sanity and for the success of the relationship is to give some space between work again. So I think a good rule is to just to come home and not talk about work. And that’s a hard one to follow sometimes, but if you come home and just say, look, I don’t want to talk about work anymore. The other person needs to respect that.
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Yeah. I like that one a lot. And you know, my wife and I used to have something called sacred Saturday and what that was was we’d get up. We would do whatever we wanted that day. And we wouldn’t talk about work because we spent the other six days, you know, dialed in deep to work. Unfortunately, COVID kind of put a little bit of a hold on that, but we’re working to get back there, but it’s exactly as you said, where, you know, as an example, I tend to work on Eastern time, where a lot of the Two-Brain crew is on that East coast clock. So I get up early and crush work early. My wife has a lot of central and West coast clients. And so she works at different hours and sometimes that bleed over, you know, at the end of the day I’m done.
She’s not. And then when she’s done, I hit her with a bunch of work stuff and she’s just like, not in the mood for it. And then it creates a sour feeling. Whereas all of a sudden it’s seven o’clock in the evening and you’re kind of having a work fight, you know? So those boundaries, I think, are super important because we’re so passionate about this stuff. And it’s so easy, I think you said this in your blog where it’s like, you might be going for a, you know, a romantic couples walk and all this. And you’re like, I had a great idea for the gym and your partner is just like, shut up, you know, can’t we just listen to the birds for a bit?
Yeah. A hundred percent or I think, we actually are the same in that, you know, I get real excited about things later at night and she tends to work more in the morning. And so, you know, if I’m sitting there in bed, it’s 9:00 PM and she’s winding down getting ready to go to sleep. I get excited about an idea. It’s not very fair for me to say, Hey, what do you think about this as she’s winding down? Because it’s again like trying to put it back in the perspective of that you are both the voice of the business. Imagine doing that to somebody on your staff, if all of a sudden I nudge them at 9:00 PM, Hey, what do you think about this? Like, it’s just not fair. And so to provide some of those or establish some boundaries around that is I think really, really, really important.
So what else, anything else for people that are thinking about starting a business, any other marriage-saving tips?
I think you got to work at the relationship. I think that one gets kicked off of the side so easily. We’re all so goal-oriented and so driven for the future, both financially and for the success of our business that a lot of the times we just assume our relationship’s going to be there and it’s not—I think that we need to treat our relationship like any other one of our passions in life. Like, you know, I’m looking at my bookshelf right now and I’ve got hundreds of books on my interests, you know, whether it’s fitness or nutrition or any of my other hobbies. And, you know, I think most people are the same but they don’t have a ton on relationships. And I think you really need to make that a priority and maintain that because you’re going to be around each other all the time. And you start to make that assumption that your relationship is going to be, you know, just because you’re with each other all the time that it’s going to continue to grow. And that flame will stay hot. And it’s just not the case. And in fact, I think it gets worse, for a lot of the reasons we already talked about.
That’s such great advice, Kenny, honestly, just listening. Like I look at my calendar right now and I’ve got like podcast, edit this, do this, talk about this, business meeting, whatever, but I don’t have on there anywhere in the last ever, you know, make special time to make partner feel good. That’s not on there. And that’s a mistake. And like, I’m going to take your advice tonight. I’m going to pour a glass of wine for the wife and we’re going to build a fire and I’m going to actually put that on my calendar on your advice. But I don’t think people realize that because you’re right. It doesn’t sound like a business activity. Make your partner feel special or create time and space for your relationship to blossom, it feels very airy and mystical, but honestly like it’s going to make you better business partners. Do you think?
100%. Yeah, you’re exactly right though. It’s like, well, why would I set a date night? I’ve been with this person for the last 10 hours at work. Why would I spend more time with them? But again, to create that separation and say, well, like we talked about work or we were in the gym all day today, let’s go and have dinner and let’s not talk about work. Let’s talk about other things. And then again, when people talk about the term date your partner, I think that’s really important to continue to do.
I think that’s just so wise and if people are having stresses in their relationships right now as business partners, just taking an evening off would be so, so great. Just to kind of reconnect as a couple. And you know, Chris has talked about this in terms of mentorship, when someone’s flying solo, sometimes the business owner just needs to stop working and go for a hike or just unplug for a little bit. This is kind of the same thing, except you’re doing it with a partner. We’ve bled over a little bit into like people who have existing partnerships and so forth. So I’ll ask you specifically if someone’s currently in a situation with a partner and it’s just not going well, and you know, the business has maybe bleeding over into the personal life, the relationship becoming strained, what can they do there? Maybe it’s the same things you just talked about, but what can they do to release some of that tension and maybe start moving in a better direction.
So I think it’s setting the boundaries we already talked about, but then I think it’s on top of that, it’s having weekly meetings, both as business partners and as personal partners or for the relationship and setting and maintaining some goals and priorities for both of those and keeping that separation. So what I’ll talk about more now is the personal goals, because we’ve talked a lot about the business stuff, but setting those personal goals, to set the intention that you want to improve or work on your relationship and to continue to move that needle and set travel goals and set exciting things that you want to be doing for your partnership outside of the business. And then if you have that business one as well, then you’ll create that separation there. And you can talk about a lot of the things that we’ve really identified here, and you can separate those two things out.
And that’s really interesting. It’s kind of setting those personal and couple goals is really where you get to see the rewards of your business. And one of the people has popped up regularly on the show in the last weeks, the Two-Brain award winners, Andrew and Mary Boimila from Tradewinds. They won the lifestyle award and they use their business to make their life better. And a lot of us don’t do that or don’t realize that we should because we get so wrapped up in making the business successful. And then when it’s successful, it has to be more successful. And then all of a sudden you realize that 10 years went by and you haven’t had any fun. So I think that’s just such another great piece of advice is to set some goals and say, you know, the business is going to, I want to get to this revenue, this profit margin and so forth, and this length of engagement, but as a couple, I want to take two weeks off without talking about the business and go on a vacation or whatever that might be.
Yeah. That’s our story actually. So two years ago now, actually it must be three years. Time flies during COVID. It sounds weird. We set a goal with our mentor at the time that we wanted to go to Mexico for a month. And so we marched backwards from that goal and we ended up going to Mexico for a month last year. And that was one of those personal goals, we set it out and we built the business around what we wanted to do together as a couple.
When you were on that month excursion, what did it feel like? And did it just supercharge your relationship? Was it like a B12 shot for the Markwardt couple?
Yes, it really was. It was one of those, it was kind of reaping those rewards—when you set that goal and you reap those rewards, it was one of those things where we realized like, OK, well now what do we want to do? And you just understand what’s possible. And you can understand that when you set that goal and you put your minds to it and you work together and you become that Mr. and Mrs. Smith team, then you can continue to march down and you just put another goal out there and you run towards that goal as fast as you can together.
That’s a good one. That’s really good. Do you have another goal set right now?
I’d like to say yes. But so we came back from that trip in March, right into lockdown. Like we couldn’t have timed it any better, but then we came back and jumped right into the lockdown. So we have a lot of short-term goals, but I think that for most gym owners like us, that this year really shook things down a little bit, as far as setting things out, way out the future. We don’t have any big on the calendar at this point.
It’s tough to plan for travel and other things when the world is in chaos and so forth. I’ll ask you this related to what we were just talking about with, you know, people who are in business with partners. Do you have a problem solving strategy? Like when you guys, when a fight happens cause they always do. Inevitably. It’s just something that will happen. There’ll be disagreements. Do you have like a conflict resolution strategy or is it even something that might be written down in your staff playbook or something like that?
We take a lot of space actually. So the temptation is to want to hammer it out right there. And this really encompasses all the things that we talked about because you know, you could work on this night and day all day, every day, but realistically, most of us need to take some space and walk away from it for a little bit to bring some perspective and to remind you of the fact that you guys are working together and that you have to come at it from co-employees together. Does that make sense? As far as, you know, it’d be easy to let all of your conflicts boil up in the moment when this dispute comes up, as far as, you know, your whole life disputes and all the things that that can potentially bleed together. If you take the space and come at it from each of your respective roles, as employees in the business, it really makes it a much healthier thing to do. And then we use our mentor, like we’ll bring our mentor into it as a neutral third party to say, Hey, look, here’s what we’re kind of going through. And we need a third impartial party to take a look at it with us.
That’s a great one. And going back to my original story with Chris, we eventually, after we calmed down and it didn’t actually happen for about a year after that, because we finally, you know, the specific problem resolved itself. We’re like, ah, Chris was right all along. And I’m not saying that I was right. It turned out I was in this particular case, but I’m not gloating about that. But what I’m saying is a mentor did show us a path and it turned out to be the right path. And it was right of us to use that. And you know, what you’re saying is really, it’s interesting because I’m a guy I want to solve everything right now. And I don’t like problems to sit, but sometimes they need to. And what you said there is like, sometimes an argument is like running downhill where it’s like, you take a step and then all of a sudden it gets easier to take more steps and more steps and
You didn’t do the dishes and you didn’t take out the garbage. And like all of a sudden you’re running out of control downhill and everything gets bad. You know? So sometimes taking that step back is really important. I struggle with this because when I see a mess, I want to clean it up in that instant, but letting it sit sometimes, and then coming back to it with a clear head is better because there are times when I’ve been wrong, definitely wrong in business stuff. And I should have just said to my wife, let’s think about this. And then I would have come back and said with a clear head, your idea is clearly good. I’m reacting emotionally. I need to step back from this and so forth. But often I don’t do that. And then it spirals into something we don’t really want to have in our house or our business.
- So we went over things that you can do beforehand, before getting into business with a partner, to just get rid of, prevent some speed bumps and potholes and all those other things that can come up. We also talked about some ways that you can get out of situations and improve your relationship and your business at the same time. What’s something that someone can do right now, this is someone who’s listening. And, you know, let’s say this is a person who is working with a partner, struggling with work-life balance and maybe things aren’t as rosy as they could be. What’s something that that person can do today to start making both the business and the relationship better?
So have your partner listen to this podcast, read the blogs that will be linked in the notes and then sit down and have those meetings. Schedule those meetings, schedule the personal meeting and schedule a business meeting and rehash some of the things that are in here and make sure all of your roles are ironed out and then set some goals together and see how you can hold each other accountable and how you can keep moving forward. That should kind of keep you moving down the line of where you guys want to go.
Yeah. The one that I’m taking from this honestly, is those setting personal goals and setting aside some time to just do something special kind of a date night. So I’m actually going to do that tonight on your advice. So, if my wife is happy as a result of this, I’ll definitely give you a message and let you know that you’ve solved some problems. When is your next date night scheduled? I’m gonna put you on the spot. When is your next date scheduled with Jen?
Tonight. I’m not just making that up.
Listeners, I didn’t set Kenny up. This is actually real.
Yeah, it’s been on the calendar for a week and, I’ll be totally honest with you too. Like, that’s one of the things that I fall into these traps and that’s why I can speak to them so honestly is that, you know, one of the first things to go is our date night. And as soon as we feel like, you know, one or the other will come to the other and say, listen, I feel like we’re not on the same page right now. And we’ll look at our goals list and we’ll realize that our date nights haven’t been happening. And that’s almost always the case. And as many times as we’ve had that happen, we still haven’t learned. And so we get to look at that list, say, OK, well, here’s what we need to do. We schedule a date night. And then, you know, magically, everything seems better.
You’re a certified fitness business mentor, but you might also be a relationship counselor by default. Thank you so much for joining us. You’re on Two-Brain Radio and helping couples out.
That was Kenny Markwardt on Two-Brain Radio. We track everything at Two-Brain, and we just published Chris Cooper’s State of the Industry guide. This 84-page book is packed with data from over 6,000 gym owners. You can use it to make smart decisions, avoid mistakes, generate more revenue, and see where you stack up in the gym world. It’s 100% free and you can get it TwoBrainbusiness.com/research. That link is in the show notes, click it right now. I’m Mike Warkentin and I’ll see you next time on Two-Brain Radio.