On Saturday night, I got the text I’d been dreading:
“Coop, I think I have it.”
It didn’t come from a gym owner in the Two-Brain family, so I knew he was flying without a net. I remembered, as a new gym owner, driving in crazy whiteouts or teetering on shaky ladders and thinking, “You know, if I go down here my family is screwed.”
My early partners insisted I take out “key shareholder insurance” in case I ever got sick. But I secretly cancelled it because the business couldn’t afford it. (As if it could afford for me to get sick.)
So it wasn’t hard for me to put myself in this poor guy’s shoes. Back then, I’d have had no idea what to do: My own illness would have turned a bad week into a decade of trying to recover from bankruptcy.
But now I do know what to do.
In the Two-Brain mentorship program, we tell owners they have to pass a “hit by a bus test.” In other words, they have to make sure their businesses can continue running if something happens to them. Of course, we give them weeks to build all the infrastructure. This guy has hours.
Here’s what I told him.
1. Get tested.
Maybe you have the flu. You need to measure exactly how bad things are before you take drastic measures. (At Two-Brain Business, we use the Road Test with our clients.)
2. Duplicate yourself.
This took me one very long weekend. But you have to visualize yourself going through every step you take in a day. Usually, that means, “I open the door with this key and turn on the lights with the switch located here.” But right now that means, “I open my laptop at 5 a.m. I access my client list and open up the group programming WOD.”
The next step is to write down instructions for each step. Make them dummy-proof. Link the relevant documents. List your passwords. Pretend you’re going to be in the hospital for a week. This used to result in a written staff playbook. But now—if time is critical—you can do it with short videos.
Two-Brain clients can skip this step; they’ve already done it.
3. Secure your replacement.
Look at all the instructions you’ve just written down. Who can pull those off just like you would? Don’t just look at your stable of underused and available coaches. Your clients deserve the best, and some in-person coaches are not the best at delivering online coaching right now. Who will you “hire” to replace you?
4. Decide on payment.
You might feel like you have to give the person everything. You’re desperate. You’re grateful. But remember: You’re providing an amazing opportunity here.
5. Add a buffer on top of the 4/9ths Model.
This is the “management layer” that you usually wouldn’t add until your business is in Tinker Phase—the third phase of entrepreneurship. But this layer means the person is accepting responsibility: He or she can’t call you in the middle of the night or text you. When a client tries to cancel, the manager has to talk the client into sticking it out. When another coach drops the ball, this hire has to fix the problem. At midnight, at 5 a.m., at noon—this person’s job is not to report the problem to you. It’s to solve the problem.
Historically, it’s been hard for gyms to hire this person. If you don’t have this person, don’t just assume that anyone will “step up.” It’s a critical role. I’d rather your spouse fill the role than have you put the wrong person in to bat.
Usually, this “management layer” is worth around $100 per week. You’re buying peace of mind. Make sure this contract is temporary.
6. Have the person teach you the system.
You don’t have time for him or her to make mistakes or for you to mentor the person through it. The new person must prove he or she can do it.
7. Provide your mentor’s phone number or email address.
This is the ultimate safety net: If your staff person gets into trouble, he or she can talk with the person guiding you through everything.
8. Inform your clients.
Post in your private Facebook group:
Dear gym family,
I have it. I am not sure how I contracted COVID-19, but I am extremely thankful that we took the extra steps to shield you from this virus.
We spent $ cleaning the gym. We were among the first gyms in the area to close. We pivoted our coaching delivery.
It’s working. You’re safe.
I’m sick, but I’m thankful.
Coaches are set up to replace me. I’ll see you on the other side of this.
9. Turn off your phone.
Get better. There will be problems, but we’ll fix them together later.