Simplicity Scales: The Next Level of Gym Business Isn’t More Complex


Andrew (00:00):

Welcome to Two-Brain Radio. Today, Chris Cooper is here to tell you how to scale your business up once you’ve got it running like a top. The key: it’s not more complexity, it’s simplicity. Coop explains right after this.

Chris (00:13):

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Chris (00:29):

Hey everybody, it’s Chris Cooper. And today we’re going to be talking about scaling. So more and more now we’re hearing from gyms who are really benefiting from the surge. They’re getting these new clients in, they’re seeing some success and you know, maybe they’ve been building to this for 10 years. Maybe they’ve seen some quick success in one year, and they’re reaching what we call the tinker phase of entrepreneurship. In the tinker phase, you’ve proven that your business idea works. You built a business that can more or less run itself, that can pay you as much as you need, or maybe a little bit more, like a hundred thousand a year. And now you’re saying, what’s next? You’ve achieved some freedom of time and money. Congratulations, less than 10% of entrepreneurs ever make it to this stage.

Chris (01:20):

And for most of us, we’ve determined that our next step is we want to duplicate what we’ve already done. We want to build a second gym, a third gym. How do we do that? Well today, I’m going to tell you the answer. Our tinker program is set up to address questions like this, to help you identify what the next stage of your entrepreneurial journey looks like, to help you build a platform of wealth for you and your family, to help you build a legacy in your local community. And to help you scale. A lot of the people in our tinker program are looking at multiple locations and they’re asking questions just like this. And so I thought it would be helpful to share this with everyone listening to Two-Brain Radio. The key concept today is that simplicity scales. If you listen to the owners of great franchises, the founders, one thing will strike you.

Chris (02:07):

OK? They’re probably not smarter than you are. They probably didn’t have a super, super original idea that nobody else thought of. But what they did was took something complex and made it simple. And the simpler you can make your idea, the easier it will scale. Let’s say that you own a CrossFit gym, and you want to open 10 CrossFit gyms. You can do that. Now the new CrossFit home office is totally down with that. OK. Let’s talk about how you spread your idea. Describing CrossFit is tough, right? So if I locked you in an elevator with somebody and I said, OK, between the first floor and the fourth floor, you’re going to pitch your service to them and get them to sign up. That’s tough. OK. What’s CrossFit. It’s a constantly varied functional movement performed at high intensity. Well, what the hell do those words mean?

Chris (03:00):

And so you’re trying to say, oh, it’s like fun exercise. And it’s a different workout every day. And it’s really hard, but it feels like a game. And like people get great results. OK? Well, that’s not enough to make the person able to picture themselves doing CrossFit. It takes a lot of research before somebody decides I want to do that. Think about when you found CrossFit, you either found it one of two ways, your friend drug you into class, you had no idea what to expect, but you went along and because you trusted your friend, or you saw an ad, you did some research. You thought about it for like three months before you finally said, OK, this is for me, maybe you saw the Games, maybe saw something on Reebok or ESPN, but you watched for a long time, it took a lot of convincing.

Chris (03:46):

You had to familiarize yourself with the model before you could understand it, before you could sign up. That is not the case with franchises like SoulCycle. That is not the case for franchises like Orangetheory or Jazzercise. And the reason those companies can scale and the individual locations can scale is because it’s very easy for a potential new client to place themselves in the picture of doing that thing. Because that thing is simple to understand. Describe Orangetheory for me. If you’re listening to this podcast, you could probably describe Orangetheory in a sentence, even though you don’t own an Orangetheory franchise, you show up to a gym, you put on a heart rate, monitor you exercise, and you watch your heart rate on the big scoreboard. That’s Orangetheory, soul cycle. You show up to ride a bike. You have motivating instructors, you’re in a darkened room and you leave feeling amazing.

Chris (04:42):

OK? I can picture myself doing that. Jazzercise is exercise using dance moves with an instructor, OK? Piece of cake. I can get that. Peloton. You are attending a spin class from the comfort of your own home. I can get that. I can put myself in the picture. Now say CrossFit to somebody who’s never been to a CrossFit class, or even somebody who’s been to a CrossFit class for five years and ask them to describe it. It’s chaotic. And if you ask five people to describe it, it’s going to be like the analogy of five blind men describing an elephant. Each of them are going to describe the elephant differently, depending on what they can smell and taste and touch, which part of the elephant they’re standing nearest. Right? And that’s because an elephant is big and complex and hard to understand.

Chris (05:30):

And so is most studio fitness businesses. If you say, oh, you should do personal training. I can picture myself doing personal training. It’s one-on-one. We have an appointment. You see your coach. They tell you exactly what to do, and you leave. Easy to describ. CrossFit class is a lot tougher, right? Simplicity scales. So we’re going to start this conversation with the question that I get asked a lot by people in the tinker phase is can I scale CrossFit? Can I scale this brand of yoga? Can I scale, you know, my bootcamp, or do I need to start my own brand? And the answer is this. If you could describe your service more simply by using a brand like CrossFit, then use a brand like CrossFit and have 10 CrossFit gyms and scale that way. If you can describe your brand more simply by using something else, then do that.

Chris (06:25):

So for example, I was just talking to a gym owner entering the tinker phase himself. And he said, you know, we have CrossFit at my gym. We also have like a high ticket transformation program. And then we have like this separate nutrition thing that we do. And we also have a kids program and that’s too complex. He needs to rebrand and rename what he’s doing under his own model. And that model has to be simple for his clients to understand. So when you want to grow beyond about two gyms, you probably need your own brand. You probably need to define what that brand means. And you probably have to boil it down to its simplest explanation. This will help your future clients, but it will also help your staff. Now let’s talk about behind the curtain, what you have to do to scale.

Chris (07:14):

Once again, simplicity scales, the easier it is for your staff to understand your systems th,e more your staff will adhere to those systems. The easier it is for your staff to understand your vision, the more they will walk toward that vision. So the first thing that you have to do is systemize your operations. You have to write everything down. You have to get that out of your head. You cannot scale beyond 50 to a hundred members if you don’t have a written playbook for your gym, because every time you add a new staff member, you’re going to get friction. You won’t be operating from the same playbook. You’ll do things differently. You’ll disagree. And that’s why most of these big chains don’t hire fitness experts to be their coaches. What they do instead is they hire amazing, happy people. They train them not to understand the mechanics of cycling

Chris (08:08):

better, not to understand how to fix the bike, not to understand here’s how you explain like the metabolic, you know, effect of this workout. They train them to remember people’s names. They train them to remember that John went to the Bahamas last week. They train them to remember birthdays. They train them to remember, Hey client, you had such an amazing ride last week. It was so awesome. They train them to make people laugh. And that’s how they scale.

Chris (08:36):

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Chris (08:59):

When you are an expert coach, you’re a technician and you hire another expert coach who’s another technician, you’re going to have trouble scaling because your way is not their way. And I’m not saying you can’t do it. I’m just going to say it’s going to be a little bit tougher. It doesn’t mean you have to hire low paid staff. It just means that you have to get your operations and your playbook out of your head onto paper so that everyone can follow it. It also means that you need to make decisions once. And that’s it. If every decision has to get remade every time, if you’re the only one who can answer a question about, Hey, this guy wants a refund.

Chris (09:48):

Hey, you know, the coach hasn’t shown up for 6:00 AM. What do we do? You can’t scale. Everything’s in your head. You need to write them down. And so after you scale your operations, then you go to systemizing your sales. So you need to have about three sales options, three packages that you sell. And that’s it. You can also do this in groups of three. So if you’re using a prescriptive model, you can say to somebody, OK, do you prefer to work out one-on-one, in a small group or at home? And that’s a choice of three. And then if they choose one of those three, then you can offer three options that go along with that. But you can only present three options at a time. That’s how you systemize your sales. You need to train your staff on how to sell and you need to measure how well they’re doing it.

Chris (10:34):

You can’t just say, oh, everybody here’s a salesperson. Anybody that walks in off the street can be sold by any staff. You know, that’s not true. You need people coming in to actually make the decision to trust you and to commit to changing their lifestyle for you to be able to save them. And so that’s sales, it’s coaching people to make the right decision to trust you and follow your guidance. Everybody in your organization needs to be trained in it, which means it has to be a system that they can follow. Instead of just like, Hey, try your best. And we’ll see who can sign people up best. OK? So first you systemize your ops. Then you systemize your sales. Then you have to systemize your marketing. And what I mean by systemizing your marketing is you need to have a marketing plan.

Chris (11:19):

So first, every client should be making referrals. You need to have a referral strategy. You need to set this in place and build your calendar around it. You need to get your coaches ready to get referrals, record them and follow up on them. OK? Then you need to be able, you need to have an affinity marketing plan so that you can reach out to coworkers, friends, et cetera in your area, and you need to be doing this on a regular basis. Then you need to have an advertising plan. So it’s, you know, we’re going to spend this much on Facebook ads. We’re going to track these metrics. We’re going to spend this much Instagram or Tik Tok or whatever. We’re going to track these metrics. We’re going to use Sell By Chat or an email list. We’re going to automate this and we’re going to track these metrics.

Chris (12:03):

Instead, what most people do is they say, oh, I just saw an ad on Facebook for this company that’s going to do Facebook ads. I guess I’ll try that. Try that for three months. Maybe you see some success then. Oh, I saw an ad for another company. That’s going to do an Instagram 30 day challenge. I’m going to try that. OK. So you’re jumping back and forth and you’re never getting any momentum with your marketing because you don’t have a system. You just have a bunch of random piece together ideas that don’t form a picture. So your marketing plan doesn’t have to be complex. It should be simple. It should be easy to follow, easy to understand, easily tracked. So you know when it’s effective, but you have to have a system. So when you’re going to scale, ease, simplicity, you need to systemize your operations so that all the decisions are made in advance, you need to systemize your sales process.

Chris (12:51):

And then you need to systemize your marketing. And the final thing that you need to do is you need to scale your staff. So how do you scale your staff? It’s not by getting people certified to be like a level 12 black belt. It’s not qualifying people to be the best athletes in your box. It’s knowing the attributes of staff that your clients actually care about. So I mentioned that when soul cycle hire their staff, they did not go after the premium spin studio instructors in New York city. They went after the happiest people with the biggest personality, and they train those people, not on the biomechanics of cycling, not on the metabolic effects of high intensity interval training on a bike. They train them to remember people’s names. That’s what scales. That’s what’s important. The method that you use is less important than the people who are delivering that method.

Chris (13:42):

CrossFit works, bootcamp works. Pilates works, bar works, spin classes work, all of them work, but none of them work if they’re delivered by a coach who lacks empathy or who can’t connect with people or who can’t explain, here’s why we’re doing this right now. A PhD in whatever functional fitness, you know, you’re a doctor of CrossFit will not help you grow your gym. This is the curse of the technician. We believe the more that we know about the method or the model, the more people will flock to us. The more people will recognize and pay for our expertise. It is not true. It’s the connectors who are successful. If you look at people who have scaled their fitness business in the past, you kind of do this forehead smack, right? It’s like Richard Simmons. It’s Suzanne Somers. It’s Kathy Ireland. It’s the people who own soul cycle.

Chris (14:36):

These were not biomechanics experts. These were not business experts. OK? But they were connectors. If you look at the people who own orange theory franchises, these are not fitness coaches. These are not personal trainers by and large. These are people who are just good connectors. They understand the value of a franchise. They know the value of a brand. And the average orange theory opens up and has 400 members within their first year, while the CrossFit gym down the road struggles to get a quarter of that. And it’s not that one instructor knows more than the other. That is not the problem. The problem is simplicity. And if you’re a technician, like I am, you enjoy biomechanics. You’ll get down on the ground. And you’ll draw a graph about like, ATP and the aerobic metabolism of fat that doesn’t convince anybody, because nobody can repeat that. ll you’re doing there is like, it’s like mental masturbation.

Chris (15:36):

You’re showing people look how smart I am. Instead of look how fun this is. Look at the results that you’re getting. Look at this person that you’re becoming. Simplicity scales. I want you to take that away. Most of the mentorship that we do for people who are looking to scale from one gym to three gyms is not up and out. It’s not adding complexity, adding more services. Most of the mentorship that we do is digging down, auditing what they’re doing, finding the core, defining the vision, making it simple, and then duplicating that simple nugget over and over and over again. This is the secret to great franchising. It’s the secret to building a bigger platform. It’s a secret to scaling and the secret to legacy: simplicity.

Andrew (16:27):

Thanks for listening Two-Brain Radio. Please subscribe for two great episodes every week. And for more industry insight and tactics from Chris Cooper, join the Gym Owners United group on Facebook. Chris is constantly posting articles, instructional videos, and advice in there. And these resources will literally help you make more money. That’s Gym Owners United on Facebook join today.


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