What’s Holding Your Business Back? Here’s the Answer.


Chris Cooper: 


Hey, Chris Cooper here. And today, I’m gonna tell you what is holding your business back. There are a few things that it could be, but it’s not the things that people usually suspect. So if this is a good episode that helps you, please hit subscribe on your favorite podcast platform and I’ll know to do more just like this.

So most of us think that the reason that we can’t grow is we don’t have more clients, or we need more acumen for advertising. And I certainly thought that when my gym was struggling and I was missing my paychecks, but what I learned over time was that I needed things like systems.

And that formed a triage that actually saved my gym.

Today, though, I’m gonna talk about the bigger things, the meta problems. And this is actually a hard podcast to record, and it might be even hard for you to listen to, but these are the truths that I’ve had to face about myself to make my gym successful.

The thing that stops our gyms from growing is not our lack of knowledge. It’s certainly not lack of ideas. It’s usually our own self-limiting behaviors and beliefs.

Here’s a great example. When I found my first mentor, I thought, I need better marketing. And it took him, an objective third party, to say, Chris, you have no systems. You’re exhausted. You’re yawning in front of your clients. Your staff don’t feel secure. Like, this gym isn’t even gonna exist in six months. And because you’re tired, you’re mad all the time. When we take clients through the Two-Brain ramp-up program, we know that we’re taking them through a process that often requires them to change their beliefs. We can say all day, discounts are bad.

Here’s why you need to eliminate them. And here’s how to do it. But as I’ve written many times in the past, changing behavior means more than informing the brain that something is wrong, right?

If you wanna change the path of an elephant, you can’t just tell the rider on top of the elephant, Hey, you’re going the wrong way. You need to motivate the elephant to turn.

Gym owners usually don’t want to change their beliefs, their brains wriggle around trying to find an easier way. They procrastinate.

Sometimes they argue, they follow people who tell them, like, “Just get really, really good at coaching CrossFit and people will flock to you.” It’s because the elephant doesn’t want to follow the hard path, right? We try to believe the things that we wanna believe.

The things that seem easier to us now. Trust me, I face tough decisions and hard conversations all the time. I still try to avoid them.

My rider, the cognitive part of my brain is very informed, but the elephant in my head has its own ideas. It wants to follow the easier path, but self-examination is critical for the growth of your business and your growth.

As a leader, I needed my first mentor to perform this examination of my business because I was too close to see its flaws. Now, my mentors help me work on the biases and bad behaviors that I’m gonna talk about today because you might have them too.

The first is confirmation bias. We tend to surround ourselves with people who believe what we believe. We create these online echo chambers around ourselves.

We seek out people and ideas that confirm what we think or what we want to believe, instead of challenging ourselves to see another perspective. The second one is novelty bias. We tend to believe that the last thing we learned is more important than anything else. How often have I read a great book and immediately changed my business because of its message? Too often to count .

The last thing that you learned or read is important, but not so important that it replaces everything else. This is sometimes called recency bias, but it could be called frequency bias too. You also tend to pay attention to the things that appear the most often. So if other gym owners are talking about Facebook ads all the time, you’ll pay attention to advertising on Facebook. Even if it’s far less important than retention or lead nurture right now to your business.

I once had this coach working at my gym who attended a weightlifting seminar. He didn’t own weightlifting shoes. So the instructors had in place five pound plates under his heels while he was lifting.

So when I walked through his first class on the following Monday, every person in the class had five pound plates under their heels. There was no dissemination of, does anybody here actually need this?

No dissemination of, what is our purpose with this class? No discrimination between training weightlifters and training people for general fitness. So we had a long conversation about the goals for our clients and what recency bias meant. But that memory still makes me smile, ’cause I know that I’ve been guilty of the exact same thing.

So many times the next bias that could be holding you back is the busy-ness bias. We believe that if we’re super busy, then we must be getting closer to success, but this isn’t true. Truly successful people have control over their time and brain space. Like the other biases and behaviors being busy can become hardwired into our brains.

Everything that we take into our minds for processing goes through this little almond-sized part of the brain called the amygdala. It’s a really old system that predates our prefrontal cortex and it’s mostly responsible for fight or flight.

So the first unconscious thought that we have about anything new that appears in our world is, will this hurt me? The thing is, Founder-phase entrepreneurs face a ton of fight or flight decisions. Every single day, everything is an opportunity and everything is a threat, plus they’re stressed out.

So these factors are like exercise to the amygdala and it actually grows. And then when the entrepreneurs finally reach Tinker phase, when their job is mostly just to think instead of to grind and grind and grind, they try to relax and the amygdala fights back to justify its own size and control.

The amygdala seeks stimulus. So the entrepreneurs suddenly can’t put down their phones and they create drama in their lives unnecessarily, and they make sweeping changes to prove their businesses still need their constant attention. In other words, they break stuff so that they have something to fix.

I’ll link to a post below called “The hustle is a lie.” Most gym owners I know are working really, really hard, but very few of them are actually accomplishing anything that will grow their businesses. Now let’s talk about multitasking bias. We try to do too many things at once.

The reality is that you can only do one thing at a time, and jumping back and forth between them makes you really, really tired. If you have five really, really big ideas for the rest of 2022, I can guarantee that you won’t deliver all of them. I can almost guarantee that you won’t deliver any of them. But if you have one big idea and you work on it with singular focus, you’ll probably bring it to market.

The next thing that’s holding you back is blame. It might not be your fault, but it is your responsibility to fix. When I see box owners complaining online, I always want to ask, what are you gonna do about it?

Complaints about city zoning, rants, about their clients, frustration with HQ. When you realize that you have to actually solve the problem, instead of just sharing the problem with other people, then you waste less time complaining and you spend more time working on the answer.

When you realize that nobody is coming to save you and complaining that HQ is hurting your business or whatever you’re doing, that isn’t going to solve the problem for you. That’s not gonna pay for your groceries and you have to start it out yourself.

That’s a big turning point in your career as an entrepreneur. It’s a step in entrepreneurial maturity. Still, I love to play the blame game. So I get it. If that guy had just done what I told him in 2018, he wouldn’t be stuck with a broken gym four years later, but that’s the wrong mindset. Instead, I should be saying to myself, if I only convinced him to work with a mentor four years ago, he’d be very successful by now.

Here’s what I see all the time. My clients are gossiping or chatting while I’m explaining the workout. And then they ask me questions instead of warming up. Why can’t they just pay attention? The real question you should ask yourself should be, how can I get my clients to engage with my workout?

Explanation, blame and ownership are mutually exclusive. Leadership means radical acceptance of responsibility . If you are blaming others, you are not fixing problems. Now that’s fine when you’re an employee, but it’s not acceptable if you own the business.

If you don’t solve problems, they’ll kill you. And if you’re blaming others, then you are not solving problems. Now, the last thing that’s probably holding you back, this is the hardest one of all to talk about. And that’s ego.

Ego is not the enemy. It takes a bit of ego to coach people. It takes more ego to open a gym, but when you’re starting something new ego is a tool.

The problem is that ego is also a mental trap that kills most gym owners. It almost killed me. Ego is what gets us across the starting line. But it’s also what holds us back from finishing the race.

When I opened a gym, I didn’t have a plan. I was just really, really passionate about teaching exercise. And in full honesty, I was probably the most knowledgeable coach in town, but that didn’t make me the best coach in town. My ego said, you’re the smartest, so you’ll make the most money. But that wasn’t true.

My ego said, if you tell your clients how dumb that other coach is, they’ll respect you more and stick with your business instead. And that really wasn’t true. My ego said, you’re smarter than all those business experts. You don’t need their help. They don’t know your business like you do. And that almost killed me. My ego said, asking for help means you’re too pitiful to deserve it. And that was completely backward.

My ego said, you can outwork your mistakes. You can dig yourself out of this hole. And that was crazy. My ego said, your wife and kids will respect your sacrifice more than they will miss you at bedtime. And that almost ruined my life.

Now it’s hard for me to record this podcast because reading that list of biases makes me realize that I haven’t eradicated any of them completely. I still have them.

And that’s a bit depressing until I realize that even a little progress on any of these biases will have a tremendous impact on my business. I don’t have to eliminate my ego, but if I learn to recognize its tricks, I’ll remove the barriers that are stopping my growth. If I see from the outside, looking objectively, that I am sticking my fingers in the business and trying to break things, instead of letting my team run with growing this business and doing what they know how to do, the reason that they were hired and they’re better than me at it, then I will keep sabotaging my own business forever because here’s the ultimate hard truth.

All of us are holding our businesses back. The knowledge and systems are out there, but most of the time we’re pushing the brake pedal while we’re pushing the gas.

We think that we’re putting the business on our back and trudging the lonely trudge to eventual success, but it’s not true. And identifying and working on these biases and behaviors will take your foot off the brake pedal a little at a time, but you can’t do it alone.

It’s impossible. It took my first mentor to help me see that. And every mentor that I’ve had since has helped me peel back the behaviors a little bit more, allowing my business to grow faster and faster because it’s no longer in my shadow. I hope this helps .


Mike Warkentin: 


That was Two-Brain Radio. Please be sure to subscribe. Now, here’s Chris one more time with a final message.


Chris Cooper: 


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 in 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.

Thanks for listening!

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