What can a mythical Athenian king teach you about running a profitable gym business? Chris Cooper is on Two-Brain Radio to tell you.
Hey guys, it’s Chris and my bestselling book, “Founder, Farmer, Tinker, Thief,” was a really popular one, but it wasn’t perfect. And this year when I was going through some parts of it, I decided to rewrite it, to edit it down, to provide more clarity, to update a few of the stories and also to give you very specific goals in each phase. One of the stories that really stuck out to me as I was going through it was the story of Theseus’ boat. One of the biggest hurdles that we face when we’re in the farmer phase is we have to hand off some of our roles and tasks to other people. And we wanna make sure that they do it the same way that we do it, or else we’ll be constantly frustrated or micromanaging them or worse, jumping back in to do the job ourself.
There are steps to this process and I go through them all in “Founder, Farmer, Tinker, Thief,” including getting the business out of your head and onto paper, systemizing your processes, making rules and publishing them for your clients. But what ties all of this together is more than just your playbook. It’s also your story. This is the story of Theseus’ boat. After conquering Crete, Theseus and the young warriors of Athens journeyed home on a boat with 30 oars. Upon arrival, the boat was lifted up as a display of their triumph and shown in Athens for hundreds of years. But a wooden boat will naturally rot over time. And over the years, each board of Theseus’ ship was taken out and replaced as necessary until eventually none of the original boards remained, but the boat was still on display. The philosopher Plutarch asked is that still Theseus’ boat?
And this is a question that applies to your business as much as it does to old artifacts. How does your business survive change and how much change can it withstand before you no longer recognize it as your own? As you move to higher value roles in your gym, you’ll have to replace yourself in each area of your business. So first maybe you’ll stop doing the mopping, and then you might cut back on coaching or posting to social media and your clients will eventually take notice. I remember one of my favorite members Cath asking me, why do you run and hide in your office all day instead of standing on the floor and chatting with people like you used to? Well, the answer of course, was that my business wasn’t growing while I was standing around for 12 hours talking to people, but I couldn’t share that with Cath or any of my clients because they wouldn’t understand it. From their perspective,
Everything was great. But from my perspective, I was dead broke. I was exhausted and I was barely containing my constant frustration and secretly ready to fold the gym. People notice when you replace the planks in your business. Does that mean that you should let the boat rot to preserve its authenticity? Of course not. So here’s another more recent example of the Theseus’ boat question. A young boy inherits his grandfather’s axe. He’s inspired to become a lumberjack like his grandfather. So he starts chopping down a tree. Halfway through the tree, the handle of the axe breaks. So the boy replaces the handle and starts chopping again. But the axe head soon becomes dull. So the boy sharpens the head and he notices there’s not a lot of edge left. So he buys a new axe head, pops it on the handle and finishes cutting down the tree.
His father congratulates him for cutting down the tree with his grandfather’s axe, but did he? To the boy and his father, he did cut down the tree with his grandfather’s axe, even though both parts of the axe, the handle and the head, were brand new. In a literal sense. It wasn’t his grandfather’s axe at all. Grandfather had never touched that handle or sharpened that blade. But in a subjective sense, it was his grandfather’s axe the boy used because the story made it so. Your business isn’t your logo. Your business is the feeling people get in your gym and the story that they tell about it. When clients are welcomed to class, are they greeted warmly by every coach as you would do? If a client’s bill isn’t paid on time, are they treated kindly, as you would treat them? The story ties the boat together, and the boat is simply the symbol for the story. Your policies, your pictures, and your posts are all part of your story.
And it’s up to you to make sure that it’s being told the right way. And that means educating the other storytellers in your gym. If your staff doesn’t know how to tell your story, then they’ll tell their story. Maybe they’ll use the F bomb in class. Maybe they’ll play gangster rap during a family friendly class time. Maybe they’ll post pictures of torn hands because that’s what they used to love about 10 years ago. So you need to give them a system. Here’s how you greet people. Here’s how you start the class. Here’s how you lead the warm-up, or your story will become their story. John C. Maxwell wrote that you can’t reach the next level until you’ve completely replaced yourself at this level. And he was talking about replacing planks in boats. For your legend to endure beyond its necessary parts, though, like the Theseus’ ship and the grandfather’s axe, you have to make sure that the story that ties everything together is consistent, and doing that will let you level up from farmer to the next phase of entrepreneurship.
Two-Brain Radio has all the info you need to run a successful fitness business. Subscribe so you get all the goodies. Now here’s Coop one more time.
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.