Grow Your Gym by Thinking Outside the Box

Chris Cooper

Mike: (00:02)


Chris: (00:10)

Hey, everybody it’s Coop. And today I’m gonna talk about thinking outside your box, where should you go for information to help you grow with your business? When should you stick with what you know, and when should you expand your boundaries? So today I’m gonna give you some things to consider that you won’t hear from CrossFit home office or your fitness franchisor or your yoga master. Because if you want to grow a business, then you need to gain an objective viewpoint. You need to see it as an outsider sees it. Now for CrossFit affiliates. You know this story, Greg Glassman built a fitness model by thinking outside what was known in quotation marks in fitness in the late nineties. At that time, when people pictured fitness, they thought about bodybuilders. So the common model was to copy what the bodybuilders were doing. I remember people carrying copies of flex magazine to the gym, and that was only two decades ago.

Chris: (01:05)

Instead Greg started from scratch and he asked what is real fitness. And then starting from that blank slate and his new definition, he asked what will improve this definition of fitness. He created a model of mixed model interval training that he defined as constantly varied functional movement performed at high intensity. And then he demonstrated that constantly varied meant more than doing 12 reps versus eight reps. It meant kettlebells and Olympic lifting and powerlifting and sprinting and rowing and gymnastics. And for a little while it meant parkour and virtual snow shoveling, and other modalities that he later cut in the name of function or intensity. The key here is that Greg didn’t stick to one narrow silo of fitness dogma at the time. He went outside the box to determine the answer from square one. And this was his genius. He was a fitness outsider, and he saw fitness through the eyes of an outsider. But this podcast is about business.

Chris: (02:09)

So three weeks ago, I was on a call to explore partnership with the new affiliate team at CrossFit home office. And we were talking about the APN and the affiliate team said we were the only mentorship practice that was currently being considered. And though I knew the answer to the question in advance, I asked anyway, why Two-Brain? Now to an insider at Two-Brain, the reasons are obvious. We make decisions based on data. We publish our results. We’ve worked with over 2000 gyms. We’re producing actual millionaires. We can prove it. And we, nobody else has that proof, but I wanted to hear home office’s perspective. So I was a bit surprised when Austin Malleolo said you came up from CrossFit. You’re one of us. Because I don’t really feel like I belong in the club to be honest, I’ve never been one of the bros.

Chris: (03:00)

Even when I worked for CrossFit, I’ve always been an outsider. When I started my CrossFit box, I didn’t have any margin for error. So I went through every journal article that mentioned business. I think I read every message on the CrossFit message boards and the prevailing wisdom was run big groups, do a free trial, just be a great coach. And they’ll refer their friends. And I listened because here were box owners who said they were doing well. Here were all of my OG CrossFit heroes, but after two years of trying to run group times and no OnRamp and discounts for every person under the sun, my business was failing. And I thought it was me, honestly, looking back at my mindset in 2008 might remind you of a cult follower, right? I think I’m the problem. The reason that I’m failing is because I’m not devout enough.

Chris: (03:51)

I need to republish more stuff from CrossFit journal. I need to go deeper. I need to work longer. I need to love this more. I need to criticize every other fitness modality in the world. I need to be more hardcore. You know it right? It’s all my fault. I do not receive the blessings because I am not devout enough. And then I read something from Nikki Valeti about this 21 day OnRamp. Now this OnRamp was not part of the CrossFit canon. Here was someone doing something that wasn’t in the journal yet. And it worked. What? But this wasn’t what CrossFit LA was doing. This wasn’t what people were saying on the CrossFit message boards. This was something Nikki made up on her own and published. And it worked. And soon after that, I found my first mentor. He assigned me reading material that I didn’t understand at first, books like the E Myth and Good to Great.

Chris: (04:47)

I asked, how does this apply to fitness? This doesn’t make me a better coach. And he said, your method doesn’t matter. The stuff that you teach people isn’t the same as your business model. I started applying these crazy important lessons in my gym. I translated them onto a blog and then into books, my gym became successful and I started teaching these principles to others. Many of the most devout said, Chris, those are bullshit. Follow the teachings of the leader. And you will be lifted into heaven. Was I successful because of CrossFit, independent from CrossFit or despite CrossFit, you be the judge. My point of this story is that you need to look outside your business to find the things that will grow your business, merely being better and better and better at delivering your method or your religion won’t grow your business or your church.

Chris: (05:37)

Now, there are really six strategies that you can use to grow your business. And today I’m gonna give you a book from outside the box, outside the perspective of fitness, even, that will help you with each of those six strategies. The first one is called “Profit First.” Now the beauty of this book is that you don’t have to read Mike Michalowicz’s original profit first, and then translate that into the fitness business because John Briggs has already done that for you. And what John did was he took profit first and he wrote his own book with the help of Michalowicz called profit first for micro gyms. So if you’re looking to grow your from an objective perspective, I strongly suggest that you start by reading profit first for micro gyms, by John Briggs. The second book that will help you is called the E Myth.

Chris: (06:29)

And this is written by Michael Gerber. And this will help you turn your business into a system. You can deliver world to class coaching, but if not every coach delivers world-class coaching, then it almost doesn’t matter how good the best coach or how good you are at coaching because your business will fall to the level of its systems. It will not rise to the level of one coach’s excellence. So the E Myth revisited really save my gym in the first place. Even when I thought I needed marketing, or I just needed more clients, what I actually needed was for the gym to run consistently well, even when I wasn’t there. The third book I’d like you to read is called good to great by Jim Collins. Now, Collins is an interesting guy. He’s a researcher on business practices mostly, but what he does really well is he translates the data into usable stories, anecdotes, fables, and so you can learn what actually kills businesses from reading this book.

Chris: (07:30)

And here’s a hint. It’s not usually lack of marketing. The next book I’d like you to read is called rich dad, poor dad by Robert Kiosaki. And by the way, if you’ve seen these books pop up on other people’s lists, don’t be surprised. There’s a reason that these books have stood the test of time. More books get published today than ever before. Right? There’s been more stuff published in the last five years than in all of human history combined, but these books still stand out as the ones that I keep 20 copies of in my office and hand out to people when they’re starting a business. The reason rich dad, poor dad is so impactful is that it gets you thinking outside your box. You start thinking like an investor and you start looking at problems differently. You start looking at revenue and you start looking at cashflow, and then you start looking at generating just a little bit more than what you need and investing it.

Chris: (08:29)

But you also learn to ask a couple of really important questions. And one of those is how can I do it? You learn to start looking at the goal that you wanna achieve, and then working back from that goal, breaking that goal into tiny steps along the way. And that was really the step. The question that I learned to ask that’s helped us now produce millionaires at Two-Brain. And even though every gym owner doesn’t necessarily wanna be a millionaire, we can get them to whatever goal they want by starting with, how can they do it? The next book that I want you to read is called never lose a customer again by Joey Coleman. This is one of those books that you read it once. And you’re like, yeah, that’s pretty interesting. And then a few months later you say, Hey, I read something about this.

Chris: (09:13)

I wanna read it again. And the interesting thing about this book is it’s not just theoretical. Most business books spend way too long talking about theory and not enough time on the practical aspects, like do exactly this. But if you go through the book and go to Joey Coleman’s website, you’ll find one of the most important tools that you can build in any service business. And that is a customer journey map. So you want to think about every single thing that happens to a client from the very start to the very end of their time with you over the years, you know, you’re gonna add steps. You’re gonna take away steps. There is no more important tool except for maybe the prescriptive model for keeping clients engaged long term, than mapping out that journey. And Joey Coleman’s book does that. So to improve retention, it’s hard to find a book that’s more important than this one.

Chris: (10:05)

The next book I wanna recommend is a classic. It’s called how to win friends and influence people by Dale Carnegie. Now, it’s really important that when you’re making changes in your gym or when you’re trying to sell, or when you’re trying to market, or you’re trying to gain referrals, or even just build trust with people that you understand how to talk to people. This book literally changed my life. I order copies by the dozen. I hand them out to every kid I know that’s graduating high school to every new entrepreneur. It’s sounds like a basic, but I reread it every year. And it’s called how to win friends and influence people by Dale Carnegie. Now the last book that I want you to read this, isn’t like a book that I’ve published like gym owner’s handbook or Start a Gym, or even Two-Brain Business.

Chris: (10:51)

The last book that I want you to read, you can get it for free. And it’s called the state of the industry. And we publish this every year based on data. The reason that I publish this is this is the book that I needed back in 2005, when I started a gym, back in 2008, when my gym was almost bankrupt. I needed a proven source of truth. I needed to see like, yes, this is working and it’s been tested. And here’s how well it’s working compared to that other thing, because even in 2008, when I was in trouble, even before you had all the Facebook gurus giving advice, the gym owners who are now like selling business coaching or whatever, there were still, people who were sharing good advice from failing gyms or sharing good ideas that hadn’t actually worked, or that couldn’t work for anybody else.

Chris: (11:46)

Right? And I’ll get into this on other podcast episodes, but really the micro gym community needs this source of data to help them make decisions. And when CrossFit HQ originally said, no, we’re not gonna do that. I said, well, it has to be done. I guess I’m the next best person to do it. And so we did it starting in 2018. We started collecting this data. Now we publish it every year for free. The current edition has data from over 14,000 gyms worldwide. And when you’re making decisions on anything, you should start with like, what are the proven facts that will help me? So the key here is that if you’re looking for help in growing your gym, you can always do better by starting outside and say like, what does the science its support? What does the body of knowledge include? And then how can I apply that to my gym?

Chris: (12:39)

Instead of saying, what do all the other yoga gyms in my town do? What do all the other CrossFit gyms charge for their group classes in town? You should start with these books and a body of objective knowledge. And of course, you know, we publish every single day for free. We publish about 12 pieces of content a week, including this podcast, including the blog, including our YouTube channel. And you can start there if you want to hear knowledge that comes from data. But if you don’t want to hear it from me, go right to the source. And these books will be listed on our show notes today. Good luck with your gym.

Mike: (13:17)

This is Two-Brain Radio, please remember to like and subscribe for more episodes. Now here’s Chris one more time.

Chris: (13:23)

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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