Overwhelmed? Here’s What to Do Today to Grow Your Gym

Chris Cooper and title text

Andrew (00:01):

It’s a fireside chat on Two-Brain Radio with Chris Cooper. Today’s topic: clarity. Now here’s Coop.

Chris (00:08):

Cooper here with a word about Arbox. This business management platform is designed to take you from a fitness expert to a successful gym owner. Arbox offers a full suite of tools, including a dashboard and report with the top metrics that we prioritize at Two-Brain Business. With a glance, you can see length of engagement, average monthly revenue, new versus lost members and more. Arbox will also help you drive engagement with a members app that allows clients to interact with their friends. So here’s the special deal for Two-Brain Radio listeners. Save up to 50% for the first year using Arbox. Visit to register to a free 10 day trial and schedule a demo with one of Arbox’s experts.

Chris (00:49):

Hello, my friends it’s Coop here. It is a cold day in northern Ontario, and I’m sitting in front of a crackling fire again, sp you might hear that in the background.

Chris (01:02):

You might also hear the wind whistling around my home garage gym a little bit. And even though it’s cold outside, it’s a nice clear day. And that’s what we’re here to talk about today is clarity. Are you feeling overwhelmed right now? Maybe like I was, you’re busy all day. And then at the end of the day, you can’t really think back and point to one specific thing that actually moved your business forward. Maybe you’re trying to get organized or you’re getting up earlier to fit everything into your day or maybe, and I was horrible at this, you are delegating a task and then you were micromanaging the person doing it. And then you just wound up getting exasperated and pulling the task back onto your plate again. Well, the problem isn’t your daily habits. It’s not your morning routines. It’s not a lack of discipline and it’s not ADHD.

Chris (01:50):

The problem is a lack of focus and that is not your fault. So today I want to tell you how to get clarity and improve your business every single day. Now, when I went through this problem, it was between 2008 and about 2010. I had already owned a gym for five years and I was working crazy hard. I would get to the gym before 5:00 AM every day, which meant that I had to leave my house before 4:30 AM. I would leave the gym at the end of the day at 9:00 PM. I would be busy the entire day and on my drive home, I would think, what did I do to ensure that I won’t have to do this again tomorrow? And most of the time, the answer was nothing. I thought that the challenge was just priorities or time management, or I had to really buckle down and make the most of my time or worse.

Chris (02:40):

I had to get up earlier and get myself more time. But the challenge was actually deeper than that. And that’s what I’m going to talk about today. Over the last decade, we’ve evolved our guidance to gym owners. So the process is really this: to identify what you need to do today, what you need to be focused on to move your business forward and make it better tomorrow. We approach the stress like this: mission, then strategy then tactics. So the first thing we want to start with always is your mission. What do you want for yourself? And what kind of impact do you want to make? Now, depending on your answer, we can set up our strategies. We can make decisions on pricing and staffing and the structure of your business. Like, are you going to use group classes? Are you going to use personal training?

Chris (03:32):

Will you have nutrition coaching? These are the what and who pieces of the puzzle. And this is the strategy layer. Now some of the strategies might require changing what you’re currently doing. And that’s tough when you’re doing this from scratch. It’s a lot simpler to set your strategy and just go. But when you’ve already made some of these decisions and you have to change your mind, that’s what mentorship is for, to guide you through that change. So after we’ve got your mission and your strategy, we can decide on tactics. This is the how part of your business: which method will you choose for exercise early on? I chose CrossFit, but there are a lot of other options out there too. What type of nutrition coaching will you choose? I remember when everybody wanted to use zone and then paleo and then macros, and then if it fits your macros or something like that, and now we coach habits and that’s been the most effective for us.

Chris (04:28):

Other tactics are like, what will your schedule be? How will you approach introduction with new clients? Will you have an on-ramp, how will you do marketing? It’s not as simple as just adopting somebody else’s daily habits, but true change, if you want to have a different business tomorrow than you do today, always requires getting down into the roots. So the first thing you should do here is you should take the founder, farmer, tinker thief test to figure it out your priorities right now. Go to And that will tell you which steps you can skip and what you should be focused on to make your business incrementally better day by day. But I want to give you a couple of strategies. And I have a couple of examples here, both from my gym, Catalyst, and from Two-Brain Business, two of the companies that I own. At Catalyst, my gym, my mission is to guide 7,000 local people to fitness.

Chris (05:24):

Why 7,000? Because that’s 10% of the population of my city. To have an impact on my city’s health, I need to work with 10% of them. Each of those 10% will change the environment, change the lives and the influence of at least four people around them. They all have their sphere of influence and in our city, there’s a lot of one degree of separation. If I don’t know you, I know somebody who does. And so 7,000 people changed by my gym will have a long-term multi-generational impact on the health of Sioux St. Marie. Now, I really want to guide these people. I don’t just want to give them information. I don’t just want to sell them access to a gym where they can bumble around and try and figure it out and ultimately fail, like what happens at most global gyms. So I’m going to have a coaching business.

Chris (06:17):

I also need to make a hundred thousand dollars per year at this. So that’s my mission. 7,000 local people over the lifespan of my gym. Not all at once, of course. We’re going to coach them and I’m going to make a hundred thousand dollars per year at this. So that’s my mission. My strategy is that I know that we can help 150 people at a time in a meaningful way. Whenever we go over 150, our business model has to change to accommodate these other people. And that means we put too many people into groups. It means that we don’t follow up often enough with people. We’re just kind of overwhelmed. We’re overcrowded. We have to think about more equipment, that kind of thing. So our retention drops every time we go over 150. Because you can’t change somebody’s life in a meaningful way

Chris (07:03):

in six weeks, we want to keep people for at least 14 months. We focus on 150 people at a time. You can hear more about that in a previous podcast when I gave out some numbers around the 150 model and shared average revenue per member, what that should be and average length of engagement, what that should be too, but I want to keep this high level for this podcast.

Chris (07:24):

We’ll get back to the show right after this. Two-Brain Radio is brought to you by Forever Fierce. Reach out to them to sell more apparel or retail items. Matt Albrizio and his team will save you time with templates. They’ll provide ideas and tell you what’s selling best. And they’ll supply marketing material and preorder sheets. If you want to get serious about apparel and retail, visit

Chris (07:44):

So to make 100,000 per year with 150 clients at a time, my average revenue per member or ARM has to be $205 or above.

Chris (07:58):

Now you should work through this with your mentor to determine the correct ARM for your expenses. But 205 is really the mean for the gyms in our giant state of the industry report. So you should aim for that if you don’t know your actual target, if you want to see the data behind that number, you can go to Research. You can download the state of the industry report. It’s the largest data collection and analysis ever done in the micro gym industry. So my strategy at Catalyst will include nutrition coaching, accountability coaching, and in-person exercise coaching. That’s my strategy. My tactics are these. We’re going to offer accountability packages using online tools. We’re going to sell exercise coaching one-on-one. And one on group. Our groups will not exceed 13 people because we know that’s where retention drops, on the 13th person.

Chris (08:50):

We will sell nutrition coaching based on habits, because we already know that works best for conversion and retention for us. We will use referrals and affinity marketing to attract new clients. We will use long on-ramps, we’ll use goal review sessions. We will use events and we’ll use novel programming and a client success manager staff person to keep people for 14 months, because that is part of our strategy. We will choose our method based on the client. So while we use CrossFit in a lot of our classes, we don’t use it in all of our classes. And we’ve been known to prescribe walking programs to people before too. Now my gym is already doing most of these things. Catalyst sometimes turns into a Petri dish for Two-Brain Business, but we have a mentor to help us navigate the changes where we’re not meeting these targets yet, because change is hard when you’re on the inside of the change.

Chris (09:46):

You really need an objective eye to say, I’ve done this. Let me walk with you. So how do I spend my time? Pivoting to these tactics if I’m not there already, and then getting reps of these tactics where I am there already. I act on these tactics every single day. This is what Jim Collins calls pushing the flywheel in “Good to Great.” Now I have a general manager at Catalyst whose job is to execute on these tactics with consistency and excellence. I still make a hundred thousand per year, but I’m paid as the owner and the landlord instead of as the operator now. And that’s a different story that we can talk about another time. Let’s turn to another example. At Two-Brain Business, our mission is to make a million fitness entrepreneurs successful. We choose a million because that’s the minimum number required to impact the world’s fitness.

Chris (10:36):

If each fitness entrepreneur can impact 7,000 people over the course of their career, then 7,000 times a million gets us pretty close to the world’s population in impact. To do this, the entrepreneur must have a sustainable business that stays alive for 30 years. So our strategy Two-Brain Business is that we will help micro gyms get open, already profitable, and help existing gyms pivot to profitability fast enough to save them. Then we’ll help them replicate their success by building new models or opening new locations. Soon, we’ll help new entrepreneurs into the fitness business successfully. But our next focus is really to help newer trainers stay in the game. Without going off on too much of a tangent here, there are more than 25,000 trainers leaving the fitness industry every single year. Not because they’ve lost their passion or their drive. Not because they don’t know enough about the air squat or the femur, but because they can’t get and keep clients long enough to be successful.

Chris (11:40):

And then they can’t scale. We want to help them with that. For tactics, we use one-on-one mentorship because it’s the most effective way to affect change. We use the Two-Brain Growth ToolKit to deliver our proven strategies. We use the Two-Brain dashboard to give us data on what the best gyms are doing. And we use partnerships to help us serve the broader micro gym community that lies just beyond our immediate reach. We market ourselves by creating free tools and resources that gyms can use to make some money to start their mentorship. So what do I do all day? I act on those tactics. I coach people in our groups. I create tools and resources to help gym owners. I analyze data and I update our Growth ToolKit at the end of every day. If I can say that I’ve done one of those things, then I know that I’ve moved my business forward.

Chris (12:32):

If I can say that I’ve done three of those things, then I know that I’ve taken a good size step forward. And if I’ve acted on all five of those tactics, we have leaped forward. And this is why Two-Brain Business is the fastest growing mentorship platform in the world in the fitness industry, because we are taking these giant strides forward every single day. It’s not just me, of course, it’s my team acting on these tactics too. But what about Facebook and Twitter and Clubhouse? And what about all these other ideas I keep reading about? And what are these ads that I’m seeing? And what about, you know, this person will guarantee me 50 new leads by noon. Well, all those things can come later after you’ve done the tactical things that’ll actually move your business forward. Because I know exactly what I have to do to turn the big wheel forward

Chris (13:24):

every single day, I do those things first. And the rest of the stuff might help. Some of it might even be a lot of fun, but if I don’t do the tactics that I’ve set out first, then the business won’t grow. Even the things that I love, coaching clients, one-on-one myself, scrolling through Instagram, getting ideas from podcasts. These come after the executions of the tactics that I’ve just laid out. Now, I couldn’t have broken this down to a fine point without a mentor. You need an objective eye to see what you’re doing with your time. Otherwise you’re not achieving your mission. You’re just staying really busy. You never going to run out of good ideas. I still haven’t 20 years in. I still have way more ideas than we can ever act on and trying to act on everything means that I accomplish nothing. Having this kind of clarity, knowing the five things that I need to do every single day to keep my business moving forward, first helped me turn my gym around. Then it helped me launch three more companies, and then it helped me build a massive multi-national mentorship platform to help everybody else that’s listening to this podcast. It’s not a matter of being the first one to figure out how to use clubhouse. It’s not a matter of figuring out how to run the most Facebook ads. It’s really a matter of focus. I hope this helps you out.

Andrew (14:43):

For more from Chris Cooper, joined the Gym Owners United group on Facebook. Chris regularly posts articles, instructional videos and advice in there, and it’s the only public group he’s in. That’s Gym Owners United on Facebook.


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One more thing!

Did you know gym owners can earn $100,000 a year with no more than 150 clients? We wrote a guide showing you exactly how.