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Virtuosity: How to Grow Your Gym by Mastering the Basics

A photo of Chris Cooper with the words "grow your gym by mastering the basics."

Chris Cooper (00:02):
When I was turning my gym around, my motto was less, better. I simplified our staff playbooks. I redid our contracts. I brought our gym membership options from 70 down to three. I focused on the key staff and made them full-time and worked on improving their basic skills. Now outside the business world, this concept is called virtuosity, which is sticking to the basics, doing them over and over, getting better and better at them, and avoiding distraction—maintaining focus on what matters most. In other words, doing the common uncommonly well. I’m Chris Cooper. This is “Run a Profitable Gym,” and today I’m talking about virtuosity in business. It’s the theme of our Summit this year in June, and we’re bringing some pro speakers to help you master the basics, stay focused and grow your gym without distractions. One of the hardest skills for entrepreneurs to practice is virtuosity.

Chris Cooper (00:57):
Virtuosity simply means mastery of the fundamentals instead of trying every new idea that comes along and sucking at it. High-level performers in golf, for example, work on their basic swing for years while novices buy new clubs. This is true in most sports, including cycling, where you know I’m the most guilty in the world. But Greg Glassman, the founder of CrossFit, uses the gymnastics definition of virtuosity, which is performing the common uncommonly well. In business, this means that a gym owner should work to master their skill in selling their program before attempting to flood their gym with marketing. But the siren song of leads, leads, leads is strong enough to distract a lot of gym owners, and so they sign up with a marketing agency, they get 30 people in the door, but they don’t sign them up, or they don’t retain them, and they wind up back where they started again three months later.

Chris Cooper (01:50):
Likewise, a gym owner should develop their staff to make them all 8 out of 10 coaches instead of employing a few 3s and one 9. This requires evaluation and feedback, which are uncomfortable processes that many gym owners forget or ignore. Entrepreneurs in any service business, but especially the fitness industry, should develop the skill of asking for referrals, nurturing leads, and creating content before thinking about TikTok or the next podcast or the next book, but most of us lack the discipline to master the basics because the lure of novelty is so strong. This is why you see gym owners saying, “I’m gonna read 50 books this year” because they’re attracted to novelty instead of sticking to the five or six things that are more important. One of the challenges of mastering the basics is that it gets boring. Who wants to do another sales role-play session when they could shoot an Instagram reel or listen to a different podcast?

Chris Cooper (02:43):
It’s tempting to be the first one to try or talk about a new idea, a new book, be an early adopter or tell your friends how to do the new thing, but this is the curse of the novice. In a letter to coaches around the world, Glassman wrote, “There’s a compelling tendency among novices developing any skill or art, whether learning to play the violin, write poetry or compete in gymnastics, to quickly move past the fundamentals and onto more elaborate, more sophisticated movements skills or techniques. This compulsion is the novice’s curse, the rush to originality and risk.” Greg goes on to describe that the novice’s curse usually manifests as excessive adornment, silly creativity, weak fundamentals, and ultimately a marked lack of virtuosity and delayed mastery. This is equally true in business. Focusing on building a Facebook ads campaign before you have a consistent sales process means a lot of wasted time on cold leads, poor conversion and burnout. Worse, it’s hard to learn to be a better salesperson if the pitch is different every time because the entrepreneur can’t see what’s working with clarity.

Chris Cooper (03:50):

Mastering the essentials: What are some of the basics that every entrepreneur, especially gym owners, should know? How to read a P&L. If you don’t know what that is, it’s a profit and loss statement. You should start there. Getting client referrals; having three or four marketing funnels and tracking their metrics every month; consistent delivery of their service by staff; selling their product; staff evaluations; and content creation. Most entrepreneurs can grow their business faster by improving those seven things than by adding any new strategy or tactic. For example, every entrepreneur should know how to read a profit and loss statement, a P&L. Even basic familiarity with that basic financial document will help the gym owner understand how their business is doing and make decisions that actually matter instead of just having wild guesses all the time. But the pursuit of mastery means asking questions of your bookkeeper, thinking about how you classify your expenses, identifying new opportunities for growth, and putting in lots of reps at reading a P&L. That would grow your business faster than searching for new trends on social media.

Chris Cooper (04:58):
The P&L should create focus for a business owner, which is the first step to growth. And as another example, a business owner who can improve their close rate by 10% will grow their business faster than an owner who doubles their ad spend. Ads take time to ramp up, time to optimize and require constant monitoring. When they begin to slow down, they have to be retooled, and the process begins all over again. Sales, however, is different. Performing better with every lead will multiply the value of all future advertising, but most entrepreneurs skip from platform to platform, or they make little investments in each, or they go to round tables to talk about giving people free trials and free weeks and then move on to the basics because those things just don’t work unless you’ve got a consultative sales process. The basics never go away.

Chris Cooper (05:46):
You know this; you coach fitness. Mastering the basics is more important than learning something new, but the pull of novelty is strong for your clients in your gym, but also for you, the business owner. Of course, we can’t ignore the fun new stuff, but novelty must always come second after the pursuit of virtuosity in the fundamentals. In summary, the aim is to master the basics yourself and systemize them for your staff. Then you optimize those things over time in yourself and in your staff. There’s no surprise that the basics that I just mentioned are part of what we teach in the first few stages of mentorship because I need you to understand what the basics are, learn to use the basics, and then optimize the basics if you’re going to have a gym that’s successful over the long term. In fact, more than ever before, gyms who are finished with Two-Brain, they’ve been with us for a couple years, maybe even five years with a mentor.

Chris Cooper (06:46):
Eventually they become our alumni, and I need them to be successful long term. Whether or not they change their marketing strategy down the road, that’s fine. Things are going to change over the next 30 years, but if you understand how to read a P&L, if you have a consultative sales process, if you know how to build a marketing funnel and measure its efficacy, if you’ve got consistent delivery of your product, if you’re evaluating your staff, and the other basics that I mentioned, you will always be able to grow no matter what new thing comes your way or what changes in your business. I’m Chris Cooper. This is “Run a Profitable Gym,” and I really want to see you at our Summit in June in Chicago this year. If you go to twobrainsummit.com, you can get your tickets now before the prices go up. This year, we expect a thousand gym owners and their coaches to be there. Rogue is going to be there, Mayhem is going to be there, Jason Khalipa is going to be there, and a bunch of speakers that we haven’t even announced yet. The goal of this Summit is not to just flood you with information, it’s to connect you with the people who are going to help you grow and take action during the course of the weekend to actually get your gym growing. Hope to see you there.

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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.