It’s Two-Brain Radio. Chris Cooper is here today to answer a question many entrepreneurs ask at some point: Should I start another business? The short answer? Maybe. And it depends on what that second business is. Chris has all the details after this message.
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Hey guys, it’s Chris Cooper here, and I’m currently in the process of rewriting my bestselling book, “Founder Farmer, Tinker, Thief.” If you haven’t read it, my thesis in the book is that there are four stages to the entrepreneurial journey. They’re called founder stage, farmer stage, tinker stage, and thief stage. And knowing what phase you’re in will tell you exactly what you need to do right now. What numbers you need to hit, who you need to hire when it’s time to expand, et cetera.
Entrepreneurship is complicated by nature, but there are general rules that will make anyone successful at it. The key though is avoiding overwhelm, and it really helps to know what to do when. Now I want to make the book clearer and easier to follow. So I’m rewriting it to make it clearer. And one of the key areas of confusion in the book is when to start another business and what that business should be. In the tinker phase of entrepreneurship, especially, it’s really tempting to ask, Hey, what’s next? And then start a completely different company. What I meant in the book was that your first business is really the cornerstone to a larger platform that you can build. And you should expand that platform so that you can create real impact. What do I mean by expanding your platform? Well, you need things that pay you that fortify your foundation, that give you resilience.
So you should pull money out of your first business and reinvest it in other things, I invest in index funds and I buy buildings and I have a few other companies and I’ll get to that. Together, these things form my platform. So most gym owners though, should not be starting brand new businesses though, when they reach this phase where the first gym is successful, they should either scale their gym up or they should duplicate their gym because this is a business that they know and understand. Some of their staff will overlap. They’ll save that way. They’ve made mistakes in the past that they’ve learned from they can, they have playbooks that will let them duplicate or even franchise really fast. They can open a duplicate gym location and get it profitable in a couple of months, if not on opening day, they spent years learning how to do this really well.
And now they do it really well. That’s awesome. The alternative though is to say, well, I’ve got a gym now I need a t-shirt company or a pizza shop, right? The alternative is really to enter a business that you know nothing about. And it’s tough because you probably won’t be bringing any new idea into the market. You’re going to be entering like a red ocean with lots of well-established competition. And you’re going to start out at the bottom of the learning curve all over again. In some cases, these new businesses have a smaller profit margin than the gym does. So the owner might be losing money for a few years while they figure it out. Another thing that happens is they hit a target in their first gym and they can’t grow it anymore. So they think, well, time to open another gym, but really they haven’t made their first gym as successful as it can be yet.
They’re just not sure how to make it more successful. So they take their first gym to 300 K a year in revenue, and then they go start another gym. But that team will also only get to 300 K because the owner doesn’t know how to grow a business beyond 300 K. I’ve seen this a ton with gyms. I’ve got this gym and it pays me $30,000. So to make a hundred thousand dollars a year, all I got to do is own three gyms. But when your first gym is actually successful, maybe think about duplicating that instead of starting your pizza shop, right? And when your first gym is only paying you a little bit, maybe think about getting that gym to paying you a hundred thousand dollars before you think about opening another gym. I know it’s tempting. I know right now it’s kind of a buyer’s market for gyms because unfortunately so many are going out of business.
And I know you might have altruistic goals to leap in and save that gym and like I’ll buy all of your old mistakes and I’ll take on all the burdens of your bad memberships and I’ll carry you out of the surf and into the sand and I’ll save everybody. I know that that’s tempting, but really you should focus on what you’re already good at: This thing that’s taken you five years to learn and to master. And you’ve really got down now and just double down on doing that more. OK. Now there is a middle ground and this is actually what I do. So when I identify something that my audience, which is gym owners like you, really needs, I try to buy it for them. So my first instinct is like, oh, that marketing is working. Instagram reels. Yes. I can see a track record of success here.
There’s data that proves it’s consistent. It’s not going away really, really soon. I’m going to hire somebody who knows how to do this. I’m going to pay them to build a course for Two-Brain clients. And I’m going to add that to my library of courses so that if this is the best move for a gym owner this month, there they go. Everything that they need is right there. When I can’t do that, when the expertise doesn’t exist or, you know, the message that I’m trying to get across, isn’t already out there, then I will go start a brand new business, or I’ll set up a service to provide it. And sometimes these other businesses make money, but that’s not my primary concern. My goal is to set up more gym owners for success. So I start these businesses to add value to the gym owners in Two-Brain instead of withdrawing value from them.
So I’ll give you two examples. I built Two-Brain Coaching because when we started mentoring gyms, there was this imbalance between good coaching and really, really poor business systems. So a lot of the gyms that we would work with, you know, their coaching and their method and their delivery was about a seven out of 10, which isn’t perfect, but their business operations were maybe a two or a three out of 10. And so the way to grow that gym, the best at the time was just focused on business operations. Bring those things up to an A level, and don’t worry about your coaching. It’s good enough for now. The problem is, as we got gyms up to an eight or a nine out of 10, they began hitting a different ceiling. And the ceiling was really the quality of their staff, the volunteer coaches who trade their membership for one or two nights a week of coaching.
They’re OK if you’re not making any money, but eventually you need to professionalize your gym. And the people who got you here are not the same ones maybe who are going to get you there. So I built Two-Brain Coaching to teach coaches the skills that they need to retain clients at a high level, to coach high-value clients who are paying a high price for your service. And that program has been really successful. We’ve been able to do other things with it, which has been really cool. We’ve been able to create an actual insurable certification for nutrition, which nobody else has been able to do. We’ve been able to teach coaches how to build content that establishes their authority and get their own one-on-one clients. We’ve been able to get coaches certified to coach one-on-one really, really fast without waiting for like a weekend certification that costs a thousand bucks.
And we’ve also evolved to provide mentorship to coaches so that they keep getting better. Instead of just taking more courses. When it comes to coaching, it’s not really that we need to learn more. It’s just that we need to be reminded of what to do when. It’s not how you scale, it’s not how you do squat therapy. It’s how you relate to the client. And there are no programs out there that were teaching that. And that’s why I really started Two-Brain Coaching.
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I also started Two-Brain Programming because, you know, years ago, a lot of gym owners were spending a ton of time programming. And so they would take like five hours on Sunday when they should be with their family doing stuff. And they would write the gym’s programming for the week. And there was really no like long-term plan. There was no testing. There was no feedback from the clients. They were just trying to be as creative as possible. And they’d be surfing Facebook pages and websites and stealing this and that and tailoring it. And so at the time, there was a massive opportunity for somebody to come in and say, I’ll do your programming for you.
I’ll save you this much time. And it’s going to take a lot of work off your plate. And you can either focus on your family on Sundays, or you can focus on other stuff that will grow your business during the week. And so Box Programming was born. Jason Brown did an amazing job and is still doing a great job at Box Programming. And then eventually other people started to jump on the bandwagon and they started to sell their programming and programming kind of became commoditized. And the price of programming got driven down and down and down. Meanwhile though it lost focus. So good gym programming should be delivered one-on-one, be tailored to the person depending on their goals in each class. Like the coach has to understand how to explain here’s how this workout today is going to help you reach your goals, because if I’m a client and I’m 30 pounds overweight and you pull up a workout called Diane, I’m looking around the class and there’s one big, huge ripped dude.
There’s three women who look like marathoners. They’re really, really skinny. There’s two people like me who are kind of like overweight and there’s one older woman in the class. I’m looking around at this workout. And I’m thinking like, how is this going to help us all get to our goals? So it’s really up to the coach to say, Hey, if you’re looking for weight loss, here’s how this program will help. The client doesn’t know that. And so your programming has to lend itself to this tailoring effect where you briefly explain the value of the workout today to each client in their context. And there was no programming like that out there, no programming that was tailored to avatars. Most of the programming out there was either tailored toward competition or tailored toward novelty. We’re doing this different because it’s the sake of different, or it might’ve just been tailored toward intensity.
Let’s find the spiciest workouts we can find and sell them to people. And, yeah, that’s what we’re selling. So I had to build Two-Brain Programming. I also wanted gym owners to be able to save this kind of time so that they could reinvest their time in sales and marketing and other things that would grow their business, starting new programs, raising their rates, starting an on-ramp, whatever. And so I talked to the gym in the world that had the best retention during COVID and this gym was amazing at explaining to its avatars, here’s how this is going to help you today. Right? No coincidence. And I said, what would it cost me to have you build up a programming stream for Two-Brain gyms that I could just give it to them for free? And they said, well, here’s what it’s going to cost.
And we’re talking thousands of dollars a month, but this is great value if you’re in growth phase of Two-Brain, right? Your programming is taken care of for you. You don’t have to spend time doing this. And so you can spend time on other stuff. Now there are tiers to that system because it’s great if the system pays for itself. And so some people upgrade and they buy a higher level of Two-Brain programming because they want it already entered in Wodify for them or whatever. My point is that when I’m building a new company, I’m only starting the new company if I can’t find a good enough service that already exists, is going to deliver to my audience, my clients, at the same level that I’m delivering my primary program. So what does that mean for you? It means that if you own a gym and you don’t want to start another gym, well, starting a massage therapy business or a nutrition business, that’s OK if that’s what your audience needs.
Absolutely. But starting a pizza business right next door, that probably won’t align because you’re not using your current audience. Right. You’re not leveraging any industry knowledge. You’re not leveraging an existing brand. You’re not leveraging personal experience. You just like pizza. And so it’s maybe not a great idea. So if you’re at a phase where your gym is doing really well, and you’re starting to think like, what’s next for me? Just ask number one, have I maxed out this first business? Or am I just not sure how to grow it further? Number two, can I duplicate what I have here over and over and over? And you know, if you’re in Two-Brain, that should be fairly simple to do. There’s a lot of gyms in our tinker program who are doing exactly that, and it’s really successful. And it’s awesome. Number three, what else does my audience need?
How can I serve my current best clients more? That’s the approach that I take. It’s not for everybody, but what I’d encourage you to avoid is just building other businesses because you have an interest, maybe you like yoga and you also like bare-knuckle boxing. You’re not going to start the bare-knuckle boxing club with an existing audience or previous knowledge or expertise. It’s just your hobby. So keep your hobby your hobby, keep your business your business, expand your business and enjoy your hobby. Hope that helps. And by the way, I’ve screwed up in other books, too. I’ll give you a funny example. So in “Two-Brain Business,” the original one, I wrote this brief chapter about expanding your revenue streams, diversifying. And I was talking about like how I had one gym doing just personal training and one gym doing just group training.
And neither gym did really well until I merged them back into one location and then both things blew up. And so I really think like, especially post COVID, this lesson is rings true. You have to have diversified revenue streams. And I wrote that book back in 2012. So there’s a lot of things that I would change. But one of the mistakes that I made in the original “Two-Brain Business” was I made this list of like, here are 30 other revenue streams that I have tried at Catalyst. And I had some great stuff in there, like the ignite program. I also had some wacky stuff that we did once and then never did again, like, campfire guitar was a great example of that. And what I meant was be creative. Think outside the box, but pick one of these or two of these and start offering it as an optional add on.
So weightlifting was big. A lot of places tried yoga. But the message that some readers took away was you need to have 30 services at your gym, and that’s not the case. So if I could rewrite “Two-Brain Business,” I would definitely alter the text around that. Now talking to my publisher, I said, can I rewrite some of “Founder Farmer, Tinker, Thief?” They said, yes. Do you want to be more specific or do you want to be less specific? Because right now you’re kind of in the middle. And I said, I don’t know. And they said, Chris, be less specific. Teach general principles that will apply to everybody and then write another book that’s way more tactical and specific. And so I wrote “Gym Owners Handbook” last year because I wanted to be very tactical and very specific for gym owners in the farmer phase, especially. In the next book that I’ll be working on is a book for founders in the gym business.
And my goal here is to help trainers and coaches who want to start their own business be able to do that. Here’s the step-by-step playbook that I wished somebody had given me when I was starting a gym back in 2005. But if you’re at this phase where you’re not sure what to do with your time or what the next business should be, you’re thinking about opening another gym, this will also be a great book for you because you can learn how to start better the next time. Or maybe you’re saying I’m going to partner with one of my coaches and give them an ownership stake. And here’s the book that you can give them to be the CEO of your second location. So thanks for listening. And I hope this helps.
That was Chris Cooper on Two-Brain Radio. Don’t forget to subscribe for more episodes. And now here’s a special message.
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.