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Millionaire Gym Owner: Why Should Fitness Entrepreneurs Be Wealthy?

Millionaire Gym Owner: Why Should Fitness Entrepreneurs Be Wealthy?

Chris Cooper (00:00):
Should gym owners be millionaires—and why? I’m Chris Cooper. This is “Run a Profitable Gym,” and today I’m gonna talk about a new book that I’m gonna have out in around the fourth quarter of 2023. It’s called “Millionaire Gym Owner.” And when I was writing it, going through some of the process, my editor, Robert, sent me a list of questions and I said, “Man, these would be awesome questions to just answer in advance.” And so I’m gonna ask the questions and share the answers with you today because I think this is really important framing for gym owners. But if you wanna talk about this more, just head to gymownersunited.com. Ask questions about the episode there. Tell me your opinion: Should gym owners be millionaires? So here we go with Robert’s questions. His first question is “how realistic is this? Can a gym owner actually become a millionaire?”

Chris Cooper (00:45):
And the answer is “yes.” Now, when I was starting out years ago, I was looking for examples of people who had actually done well in fitness. They had made enough money that at age 55 or 60, they could actually just retire and buy a little condo in Florida and just be done—the way my parents who are teachers are done. And probably the way that your parents are done. They worked a career, but then at a certain point they had enough money to not work anymore. And when I looked around the industry, I couldn’t find anybody like that. And so I started asking myself “where can I find answers on how to retire from this, let alone have enough money to pay for my kids to go to college and for my wife and I to buy, you know, a little cottage somewhere, or an RV or whatever we want, and just kind of survive without working 80 hours a week for the rest of my life?”

Chris Cooper (01:36):
And so I had to look outside fitness to find models, but I eventually did. And now we teach those models inside Two-Brain, and we have 28 certified millionaires. Now, this is all because we looked at how it could be done, and then I did it, and then I started teaching it to our mentors, who taught it to their clients. And now the clients are actually becoming millionaires. This doesn’t mean that they’re these greedy Mr. Peanut characters. It just means that they can afford to have this career lasting 30 years in fitness. They don’t have to quit and go get a job selling real estate somewhere because there is a happy ending waiting for them. They can make this an actual career. And until the point where we said “you can make enough money to actually retire,” I don’t think that was possible.

Chris Cooper (02:22):
And so the turn that we were seeing in the fitness industry was really all because of that. There was no way to actually stay in it long enough to retire. A million bucks isn’t enough to retire. Let’s face it, by the time you and I retire, it’s gonna take $4 or $5 million. But once you know how to make that first million, those things just compound, and the lessons repeat themselves. And you can make yourself wealthy enough to provide for your family, to retire, to sail off into the sunset and create a meaningful lasting legacy in your community. His next question was “why should I think about being a millionaire gym owner? If I’m a gym owner, why should I be thinking about that—especially if I’m worried about how to pay the rent?” And the reality is that you have to have an eye on the goal because that will help you make decisions in the present.

Chris Cooper (03:08):
Okay, so I know retirement’s a long way off. I know you love your job, right? Every single day, every single moment, absolutely. But eventually you’re gonna be tired, and you’re gonna wanna break. And so you need to be thinking about this right now. I know for some people it’s a boring subject to think about saving for retirement, but the reality is the way that you get to retirement is different from the way that our parents did. You are not going to be handed a gold watch at age 60 and say “bon voyage.” You are not going to win the lottery. You are gonna have to create that path on your own as an entrepreneur. And that’s what makes it exciting and interesting: There are multiple ways to do it, but you have to start now. And so a lot of that means you have to be either reinvesting or building your business big enough that you can sell it or something else.

Chris Cooper (03:54):
So if you take the reinvestment path—and, by the way, that’s what the book is about, like the different paths to get there step by step–if you take the investment path, that means that your business has to be profitable enough now to pay you a little bit more than what you need to live a happy life, so you’ve got some money to reinvest, and you’ve got some time to learn about reinvestments. And then from there where you go—like Airbnbs or the stock market or a crypto or whatever—that’s up to you. And we’ll map that out in the book, too. But that’s how thinking about the future forces you to make decisions in the present. If you’re not thinking about the future and “hey, how am I gonna retire someday?” it can be very easy to defer decisions and actions in the present.

Chris Cooper (04:35):
If you don’t need to be profitable in your gym right now because you’re not thinking about retirement later, it’s easy to defer that rate increase, or it’s easy to hold off on firing that bad staff person that’s costing you business. It’s easy to put off mentorship, or it’s easy to just say “we’re doing okay” when you’re just barely breaking even. Because I’ll tell you something: What planning for retirement reminds you of most is that time is not on your side. Time is not a resource that you can buy. It’s not something that you can get back later if you run out now. You have to be investing your time more than anything else, especially at this stage before you have money to invest. You have to invest your time wisely. And thinking about making a million dollars or retirement forces you to think about how you’re investing your time and forces you to use it better.

Chris Cooper (05:28):
Robert’s third question was “what does becoming a millionaire gym owner really mean?” A lot of us who are not strong in financial education, and this was certainly me, would think being a millionaire means that you make a million dollars every year, but that’s not actually the case. Being a millionaire means that you have a million dollars in net worth that is paying you something every year. So let’s take the easiest example. Let’s say that you have a million dollars sitting in a bond somewhere. OK, it’s locked up, you can’t touch it, but it’s never gonna go away, and it pays you 5 percent interest every year. Well, that’s $50,000 recurring forever. Another way to think about it is real estate. And this was the first path that I took because it’s the first one that I learned. And so I bought the building that my gym was in, and I knew that any tenant in that building, whether it was my gym or somebody else, would pay $3,500 to $4,000 per month forever.

Chris Cooper (06:21):
And once that building was paid off and the mortgage was gone, I would still be collecting that money forever, so I could stop working and still just collect rent on my building from another tenant even. And that would be income for the rest of my life. A great book on this is “Rich Dad, poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki. So that’s what becoming a millionaire gym owner actually means: having enough assets and investments that pay you without you showing up for work every day and coaching the 6 o’clock class and billing the clients, okay? That’s what investment means. Now, there are other ways to do this. Of course, you could just build up your fitness empire to be one really huge gym or like multiple smaller microgyms, and then you could sell it all at once and make a million bucks all at once and then retire from that.

Chris Cooper (07:08):
That’s fine. That’s mapped out in the book, too. For most people though, it looks like having a business that they’re proud to own, that they love because they’re not burned out, that pays them a little bit more than they need. And they can reinvest that somewhere else into passive income streams that will build for them and compound until they’re ready to retire and then pay for their lifestyle. That’s what being a millionaire gym owner really needs. For me, I’m gonna take this a step further. What motivates me is giving away money. It’s not making money. And so my motto is “make lots of money and give it away.” And so for me, my goal is to give away a million dollars every year for the rest of my life and not impoverish myself. So what I need to do is have $20 million in assets that pay me an average of about 5 percent each per year.

Chris Cooper (07:57):
That could be real estate, that could be bonds, it could be stocks, it could be anything that gives me about a 5 percent return, any investment. If I’ve got $20 million in assets, and they’re paying me $5 million a year–sorry, if they’re paying me 5 percent—that’s a million dollars a year in income that’s coming to me possibly that I can just give away. And so that’s what I’m building toward right now is $20 million in assets so that I can give away a million dollars every year. You can do it however you want to. I wanna make sure that you’ve got enough assets that you can retire and have the lifestyle that you want and just work as much as you want to—or as little. Robert’s fourth question was “how would my life change how much or how little if I just became a millionaire?”

Chris Cooper (08:37):
And here’s the reality. When people are going through Two-Brain, we’re tracking their metrics all the time, and then when they enter the Tinker Phase of mentorship, we track their net worth. So up to that point, we’re tracking how much they’re making, like income, and then after that we’re tracking their net worth. And a lot of them, they get to that millionaire mark, and they do the net-worth calculator, and they’re like, “Oh, I actually passed it. I’m already a millionaire.” Like, they don’t even realize it until they’ve passed it. And that’s because they’ve been smart, they’ve been making an income, they’ve been making investments, but they’re not looking at their bank account all the time. So we send them a big award because when I became a millionaire, there was nobody waiting outside my door with a top hat in a monocle saying, “Hey, Chris, welcome to this super-exclusive club. You know, now you’re a millionaire. Whoa, let’s go play ‘Monopoly’ on the beach or something.” Nobody celebrated it. And let’s face it: It is a really amazing outcome. It’s a mark of entrepreneurial success. You took the risk, and it worked, and you did it, and you’re smart enough and hardworking enough that it paid off. So we send people these massive plaques saying “certified millionaire,” because, Number 1, we check the math. We make sure that they actually are a real millionaire. I know there’s people that you see on your Facebook feed who are saying, “Oh yeah, I made $80,000 this month. If that continues for the next 12 months, I’m gonna be a millionaire.” It’s not the case, right? Like Number 1, forecasts are BS. They don’t count. But Number 2, that’s like business revenue.

Chris Cooper (10:10):
That’s not personal income. They’re not a millionaire. We wanna actually calculate net worth. But when it occurs, a lot of the time people don’t even realize it because their lifestyle hasn’t changed that much. For me, when I finally calculated what my net worth was, it was probably around two and a half million. And I know that I breathed the sigh of relief. I kind of felt like no matter what happens here, that’s enough money to give a little bit of income to my family forever, right? Like, not enough to pay for my kids’ education, not enough to like retire at age 40 and just live on the beach. But if I’m smart, like it’s enough that we’re safe, right? It’s a safety net. And so I felt good about it. I felt more confident because I could walk around and say like, “I’m a millionaire.”

Chris Cooper (10:57):
You know, people might introduce me as one. I don’t know. But the reality is it didn’t change my mission. It didn’t change the way that I carried myself. I still got up for work at 4 a.m. the next day and wrote a blog post to help gym owners. So for most people in this day and age, being a millionaire is not a dramatic life change. There is another time when it is. So let’s say somebody wins the lottery. They perceive that they’ve had this massive life change, but the reality is that money was like a thunderbolt into their life, and it’s often pretty destructive. If you get it without working for it, it can dramatically alter your life because you don’t know how to handle it. You have no financial education or experience. And so people who win the lottery generally are broke again within 2.5 years because they just don’t know what to do with it.

Chris Cooper (11:44):
Entrepreneurs who build up slowly to becoming a millionaire, they don’t see a massive change because their lifestyle has been changing so slowly up to that point that there’s not a big flip of the switch. The biggest actual change for me when I realized that my net worth was more than enough to provide for me for the rest of my life was that I felt like, “OK, now I can be more generous.” Up to that point, I think, I wouldn’t say that I had a “scarcity mindset,” but I would definitely think about every donation that I made. “Should I put a 20 in the collection plate or a 10? Should I give that person $50 or five? Should I tip 10 percent or 15?” Now I don’t even think about it, and it is the best feeling ever. And so the reason that we wanna make gym owners millionaires is because these are some of the most giving people on the planet.

Chris Cooper (12:31):
They’re willing to give up their lives in the service of others. And these are the people who should be millionaires, right? These are the people who are going to do the right things for all the right reasons for all the right people. And that’s why I wanna make gym owners millionaires. Robert’s next question was “why do some gym owners become millionaires and others don’t?” And it’s because most entrepreneurs—this is not just gym owners—most entrepreneurs buy themselves a job. They aren’t actual business owners. They become self-employed. And there’s a few reasons for this. Number 1, at first they’re happy just doing what they love. And so they don’t set themselves up for success out of the gate. Number 2, they probably don’t have a lot of financial experience or education. Most gym owners are first-time entrepreneurs. And so nobody’s told them “you have to charge enough that you can make a margin.”

Chris Cooper (13:18):
They feel greedy. And so they just charge the minimum amount that they can, or they charge what they could themselves afford, not what their clients could afford. And that’s gonna be a low number because they’re a broke gym owner. So that’s part of it. Part of it is that they just can’t replace themselves in their business. They don’t systemize anything. You know, a great book about this is “The E-Myth” by Michael Gerber, and it talks about buying yourself a job and becoming self-employed and everything’s great for a year or two, and then, “Oh geez—I hurt my leg or I need to take a vacation and I can’t.” Or like, “Oh, man, you know, my wife’s having a baby. We need money and we need to take time off.” And so we just don’t think of these things in advance.

Chris Cooper (14:00):
There are also some of us who are passionate about our fitness method, like CrossFit, right? And so we confuse what we’re doing with being altruistic. We’re ready to murder ourselves to coach CrossFit. So we almost feel bad about making money. That’s not how it should be. The things that will make you a million dollars are mostly the same things that will make you a sustainable gym that will last for 30 years, create meaningful employment for other coaches, and get your clients better health and longevity outcomes. There are a lot of the same things. In fact, if you just did the things that will fix your gym, made it profitable and made it run itself, and then extended the time horizon far enough, you would become a millionaire, right? That’s where it starts. And so the reasons that some gym owners become millionaires but most don’t is because they don’t systemize their staff. They don’t systemize their prices. They don’t change their prices. They don’t have a clear idea of who their best clients are. They don’t have a retention plan for those clients. They’re not being prescriptive with them, so their churn rate is too high. They don’t charge enough. So they’re just trying to get more bodies in the door, and eventually they get burned out. They just don’t know how to run a business. And that’s what our, our Two-Brain programs are for. So this might be my favorite question from Robert: “Doesn’t becoming a millionaire create a whole new set of problems?” It didn’t for me. But again, if you win the lottery, yes, it will. You are going to have people coming outta the woodwork asking you for money. You are not going to understand where to put your money and and how to have it compound because you were never forced to learn those lessons.

Chris Cooper (15:33):
And so you’ll go out and you’ll buy your Ferrari, and you’ll lose 40 percent to taxes, and you’ll forget about that—and all these things, right? And so suddenly you have to become financially literate when you don’t feel like it and everything’s on the line. You might even quit your job. Instead, if you earn the million, you learn financial literacy in advance. And that’s one way that you get to the million. You learn discipline and habits that will create wealth instead of just spending money, right? And like, that’s how you get to the million. And so the way that you get there really, really matters because it serves as a forcing function to create the habits that will help you be successful when you are a millionaire versus just winning the lottery, right? I’ve had some family members do that, and trust me, three years, they’re broke again with no lessons learned.

Chris Cooper (16:24):
So I even know somebody who’s won the lottery twice, and they burned through it both times within three years, and they were absolutely broke. Again, without learning any lessons from it, they’re still buying lottery tickets. So the way that you get there really matters, right? The problems that are created are not created by wealth. The problems are the things that you learn on your way to becoming wealthy, like financial literacy, like paying yourself first, like compounding interest and thinking like an investor. And so it doesn’t necessarily create a whole new set of problems on the way there. You’re gonna enter new tax brackets, and you’re gonna learn new things about not overpaying taxes. And you’re gonna learn how to move money around, and you’re gonna learn how to put money aside for your kids, and you’re gonna make decisions about how much money should you give your kids?

Chris Cooper (17:11):
But I’d rather make those decisions because you’re wealthy than make those decisions because you’re broke, okay? Nobody cares about money until they don’t have any money. Then it’s all they care about. I want you to make those decisions from a position of strength. And that’s why I like people building up to the million dollars and avoiding those problems by working through them in advance. All right? And this is now my least-favorite question, but it is the most common one, and that is “don’t I have to become a different person to become a millionaire?” You don’t have to become greedy or a bad boss or a bad friend to become that. And the reason that most people think this is because of the imagery that we see all the time in popular media, right? Like, you watch a Disney movie and most of the bad guys are wealthy and all of the wealthy people are bad.

Chris Cooper (17:59):
You come up through an industrial education system, which is heavily unionized and geared toward getting a job that you will keep for 40 years by passing these tests and meeting the standard every time and never varying. Like none of this points toward entrepreneurship. Financial literacy is dramatically lacking. And so what happens is that the wealthy actually get demonized or villainized in our economy, right? Like when you think about a wealthy person, if you’re just drawing ’em out on a piece of paper, what would they look like? Probably kind of crooked, right? Like we tend to believe that people who are wealthy must have taken their wealth from somebody else. We have this scarcity mindset because that’s how we’re brought up. That’s how we’re taught. I have a new blog called “Business Is Good” that’s built to change that mindset, that perception.

Chris Cooper (18:50):
I want people to understand that being wealthy doesn’t mean victimizing somebody else or terrorizing that person, or I don’t have to take from you to get. In fact, the way that we grow is we all grow together. And that’s how you grow fastest, and that’s how you grow best. The people who are most likely to get this lesson are entrepreneurs. And the best entrepreneurs that I know are mostly gym owners. These are generous people who do not want to take anything that they haven’t earned, who want to grow their personal wealth by increasing the value that they provide to their clients and community and the world. And so they understand these lessons. If anybody’s gonna be wealthy in this economy, it should be gym owners, the people who are saving people from early death, from sadness, from disease, from preventable medical conditions that are costing the taxpayers.

Chris Cooper (19:41):
These are the people who are generating taxes by running small businesses and employing other people. These are the people who can change our economy and change health outcomes for their community and the world. If anybody should be rich and wealthy, it’s gym owners—trust me. But most of them grew up in an environment where they were suspicious of money, where they didn’t trust anybody with money, where they had a scarcity mindset, where they didn’t understand what wealth actually meant. And so I’m writing this book for two reasons. Number 1, to help gym owners actually become millionaires and stay in the game long enough to change lots of lives. But, Number 2, so that they actually understand why it’s important for them to be successful long term. Build a business that you’re proud to own. That means a business that makes money. It makes you a little bit more than what you need so that you can provide for your family in the future.

Chris Cooper (20:30):
It makes a little bit more than that. So that long term you can give back to other people in your community and create a legacy. And if it’s really successful, then you can make lots of money and give it away. That’s why I wanna be a millionaire, and that’s why I want gym owners to be a millionaires, too. Hope this helps. My name’s Chris Cooper. I’m the founder of Two-Brain Business. If this was useful to you, this podcast is called “Run a Profitable Gym,” and you can join the conversation gymownersunited.com. I give away free stuff in there all the time to help gym owners be successful and grow on their path to becoming millionaires. The new book is “Millionaire Gym Owner,” and it will be out in fourth quarter of 2023. Hope it helps!

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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.