The Gym Owners Blog/Podcast/Imperial Bodies Gym with Coach Deena

Imperial Bodies Gym with Coach Deena

Friday, January 20, 2023

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gym, people, coach, numbers, point, owners, started, pay, money, john, build, expensive hobby, thought, globo gym, business, world, lives, hours, calls, moment


  • The hardest lesson she has had to learn as a gym owner - 0:00
  • ​What is it that you’re focusing so heavily on? - 3:57
  • ​Where is Deena’s home now? - 6:06
  • ​Deena's 24-hour gym - 8:28
  • ​It’s really hard to let go of the voice you want to preserve - 13:14
  • ​What keeps you from hanging it up? - 15:01
  • ​Making a difference in people's lives - 17:06
  • ​The most common situation for gym owners is that they get to this point in their business - 19:48
  • ​The importance of having a moment in time to share - 22:50
  • ​Advice for those who want to open their own gym - 25:09


Tyler 00:00
Do you know share with us the hardest lesson you've had to learn as a gym owner?

Deena 00:06
Good to know my numbers, know what's actually going on in my business wherever, then bury my head in the sand.

Tyler 00:14
How exactly does one learn that lesson?

Deena 00:19
Well, I came into it thinking I could just be a coach and help people. But you know, bills have got to be paid. So you need to kind of make sure you know what's coming in and what's going out. Because every month is different as well. So that was one of the biggest Wake Up Calls for me.

Tyler 00:35
Yeah, yeah. John, you have to build on this one to go ahead.

John Fairbanks 00:41
Well, as you were like, as a gym owner, right, you just said like, I got into it to help other people. But as you quickly realized, if you're not looking at the numbers, nobody is. Yep. What happened? Like something happened that caused you to all of a sudden go, oh, I need to be thinking like this next level. I can't just be only doing this one thing.

Deena 01:08
Yeah, it happened pretty quickly for me. So before I even opened the gym, I thought, you know, all my friends and family would sign up and I just have money straight away. And that didn't happen. So I quickly needed to know who I needed to target and how I could get people in how many people I needed to cover my rent, the electricity, the water. So yeah, it started pretty much in the first three moments when people just didn't sign up when I built it. Yeah.

John Fairbanks 01:39
Yeah, the thing is that we are a lie. It's a lie, right? It's a dirty, dirty lie that Hollywood from America has put on the world, which is if you build it, they will

Tyler 01:51
Come right. From the truth it just and now things work that way. It's crazy to me. I used to have developed this theory on that thing that's like that. I really think that like that phrase gets put out there to like, keep people poor is crazy to me like that idea. And that's the way I thought business works forever. Forever. I just make my own ideas. And then I just did the same thing. If you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door. No fuckin way. Because a mousetrap cost about six cents. And if yours is better, it's $2. And then by the time it has to get to market as 15 Nobody gives a fuck about your better mousetrap. It does not matter. It doesn't work. The whole thing's got to make sense from the beginning. And damn it does that thing suck. You build it? Here I am. And then there's like, Oh, that's not the only piece.

Deena 02:46
Yep. It's brutal. It was brutal, really brutal.

Tyler 02:51
But we've done it with online stuff to John and I where we've helped. We've had clients come in, they want to leave, they want to build a thing we help go forward and we find out. We build things, programs, courses, whatever. They're great, except there's no traffic. And it's the same thing with a business where you're like, oh, here it is. Well, is my traffic making me money? Is the traffic I'm getting enough? Is it walking through the door? Am I closing at low rates? High rates? Am I making a lot of money per transaction? Or none? Am I stretched too thin? Am I booked completely and I still can't pay the bills. How does any of this work? And all that falls on us so goddamn fast in the gym business? Because we're too busy coaching. It does. Yeah, it's not really.

John Fairbanks 03:31
So you reference how you got started. So maybe take us back. Take us back to the right . Maybe you said you had to figure it out quickly because you built it. Nobody came. So what did that look like for you? What did your place look like? What was the gym? What did you look like? What was kind of what got you started to decide to take on that new role?

Deena 03:57
I just wanted to help people. Honestly, when I got into it, I had a passion for just helping people move their body better. I often referenced that it saved me from self destruction. I won't go into my story but it was something that I just really took to wanting to know more about. And I just wanted to be a PT and I just wanted to coach people. It came pretty easily to me. And I saw people doing it pretty badly in the gym that I did train up so initially just wanted a little PT studio. Hope a couple of moms out and that grew quickly into having a gym have an investor who was my client, my sister got involved and then it kind of went to share

Tyler 04:42
All of those dangerous like dangerous steps

Deena 04:47
Great 15 hour days were tough for a single mom because she couldn't be with me. I was here at six o'clock in the morning. Coaching had to go back to sorta schoolwork. Get back and finish at nine o'clock. And I got burnt out really quickly. And then life happens outside the doors and you still have to keep it going. I'm gonna say it's spoiled. It just kind of pushed me to know my numbers, know what I needed to do and set myself targets. And I couldn't just show up, help people and go home.

John Fairbanks 05:21
And, and I think so you're taking us on this journey and you referenced the numbers again. So what are the numbers? What were the numbers for you? What were they then? And maybe how have those maybe changed? But what is it that you're focusing so heavily on as a gym owner?

Deena 05:38
For me it was just paying the rent. It has now become an expensive hobby. But before 2020 I was doing well . The numbers were good. You know, I was making the money. bills were being paid and I was gonna start paying myself. Almost almost.

John Fairbanks 06:02
So close.

Tyler 06:06
I feel that Where's

John Fairbanks 06:07
Where's home, Deena, so folks that are listening and watching.

Deena 06:10
I am from Northampton in a UK little town called Daventry. So yeah, going from zero clients to 50 members was our first six moments. You know, but I had to borrow money from family and friends just to pay the rent. We had bailiffs because we fell into rent arrears in the first six months. And it was a scramble to get people through the doors.

Tyler 06:37
It was a mess isn't the word I want to use, but it was unexpectedly challenging almost immediately. Hmm. Yeah. And then you got a little bit clearer. And then COVID stuff. Yes. gnarly. Yeah, these are these things from all over the world. So you're definitely not alone. What exactly now know how your gym came to be, though, is really what your gym is, is very interesting to me because your gym is the model that if I had to open a gym that I would use, meaning there's global gym equipment, kind of it's not simply an open space with gyms and barbells not a traditional functional fitness gym on its own. But like combining bodybuilding and Globo gym equipment, I still track work for sled work and things like this. But you've got the setup that if I had to, if I had to start up my gym tomorrow, equipment wise and flow wise is that's exactly what it would look like for me. So, having seen your gym, or what's your gym called, again, its imperial bodies, Imperial bodies, is to me that that's the style of coaching, the framework with which the tools that I would use if I wanted to coach people. So having seen this chip, there's so many interesting things from a business model perspective and services that can be offered and like specialty types of things that could be built into that thing that so when I see that when I see your gym like on Instagram as like as like, oh, that's there's, you have the potential. It's a dope spot. So many of these functional fitness spaces are just, it's a warehouse. And when a person walks in on a person who doesn't know anything about fitness, they walk in and they look around and go, What am I paying for here, but you go into your spas like oh, that looks like things I see in other gyms that do this. And that looks like the things I see in gyms that don't do that. And it kind of seems like a place where you could do almost anything.

Deena 08:28
Yep, that's what I wanted. I definitely wanted people to get up and move. And I think like John as well enough to tide me over. I know you from the podcast with Julian at strong fit. He was one of the first people that I kind of went to see when I qualified in 2015. So I was an early follower of him. I loved his principles, got a load of sandbags, and got a sled. And I looked at bodybuilding side bodybuilding is what got me into fitness. So I had to combine the two alongside a little bit of CrossFit because that's what I loved. Yeah, yeah. And it's fun and it pushes you so when I was looking to help people it was taken a little bit of everything so it was always varied. You couldn't get bored because once you've done a little bit of bodybuilding you can move on to something else so yeah, that's what I wanted to create and obviously having your numbers knowing your numbers I was already spending money to get more stuff build this space so I went from a small small unit to something nearly twice the size just before 2020 happened so yeah, I'll kind of money and reinvested it.

Tyler 09:50
Yeah, timing everything, isn't it? What are at what point throughout all of this and we've probably there's Probably a few moments throughout this, but at what point throughout this whole process from, from starting the gym to location one to things. What moment did it really get real though are you not only like I'm in this I'm doing it it's maybe harder than I thought but were you just set you really dug into like this still is my thing when did this? When did this be confirmed that it was real as hell to you

Deena 10:20
Probably would have been about 2018 were paying on bills was pretty easy. I didn't need to, you know, the money side wasn't an issue, it was pretty successful, I was able to pay a coach. And that's when I was like I've got to grow this space, or take back time for myself. So I decided to go 24 hours with the help of a lock, so I didn't have to always be at the gym. I think that's made things worse.

John Fairbanks 10:52
Let's share that because that is too 24 hours. Yeah,

Tyler 10:58
I love the idea. I've never fleshed out the execution of it. So so let's let's hear

Deena 11:03
Yeah, so being a mom having to be at home with the kids. I couldn't be at the gym for 15 hours a day anymore. I needed something. Now I had kind of people at the gym that I could trust to kind of not run it, but they were there if people needed help. So I invested in a little door lock. It cost me like 350 quid, where people could just put in a PIN number, check it through with the insurance and as long as we were an overriding gym and we had all the T's and C's. It was easy and it worked like a dream. But then you're in a 24 hour gym so people think you run 24 hours. So the call started and little text messages and we got more people coming in because we were the only 24 hour gym in Daventry. Which was great from a business side. But it just meant more work.

John Fairbanks 11:58
Yeah, because it never stops.

Deena 12:00
No, it doesn't ever, ever, from toilet leaks to roof leaks to all problems.

John Fairbanks 12:09
And when it comes to execution, was it? Is it still now? Like is it? Is it just you like who's like who's the one that's Manning? The phone calls and the text messages and the emails and then all those other pieces as you've been growing? Or as time has gone on? Like, how did that evolve? What did that look like originally? What does it look like now,

Deena 12:31
A lot of it still remains to me. And I was lucky from 2017 18 to start getting reception staff. So they'd be there at the front desk dealing with new signups taking phone calls. But I still manage the online side of it. So any web forms emails that come directly to me phone calls, it's not so bad. It's about 5050. If the desk staff can't deal with the questions done, they just kind of grab me or send them my number. So it's not as intense, but I don't want to let it all go. I can't let it all go. Because it has been built on me and my name. That reputation.

Tyler 13:14
That's a piece of John I've talked about a little bit too or it's like it's really hard to like, the first thing you want to preserve as a voice like, obviously you want somebody at some point correspondence needs to not be you all the time. Of course, it's just inevitable at some point, it can't all be you but you're like, damn, some of that generic salesy coffee language just sucks. And if people thought they were getting you and they got that, you would be offended as the one you think that they're getting a little on them. They may not care, but you just don't like being misread and misrepresented. Like that. It's really, really challenging. It's the same thing with which I was talking to a friend yesterday, he owns a gym. And they're like, it's tough because he has full control over the quality of what goes on in the gym floor right now. Because he does most of the coaching. So I know, it's good. I know that people getting coaching are getting great work because it's getting me it's me doing it, I know this. And as the owner, you're like, bam, quality control, I got that nailed. But he said, you know, he's kind of getting at that point where it's, it's hard and to be able to take a step forward and put somebody who's like, less capable than you, or like less funny or less charming or less interesting, or whatever it is, you're like sitting there like shit. And even if it takes a 10% Dip in quality, you know, what's on the floor is that you're like well, but it saves you 100% of your effort. So you kind of have to take that and then you can coach that up. But that is a painful process and you get kids as they get older. That's what this feels like, it feels like your kids are getting older. You're like I gotta I gotta start nudging, nudging a little bit of this away and it hurts a little bit every time and you know some of it you're never gonna get back and you just gotta take the good with the bad. It's really a really challenging growth process as you have to start letting go of those things within the gym. It's hard It's

Deena 15:01
It's very hard. But like you said, you need to make it happen. I think I've been lucky with the coach that I have got helping me on the floor. I don't coach them much in the evenings, but we do at six o'clock. But again, I've just had to cut back on the classes since we reopened. And that's made it easier as well. So just not doing lots of classes in the day. It's one in the morning, one in the evening. But I don't do the evening ones over then on a Wednesday night.

John Fairbanks 15:32
So definitely it evolved to sound like kind of the COVID and shutdowns and lockdowns have forced some of that evolution. I want your story to have a happy ending, though. And so as I'm thinking about this, right, in the back of my mind, it's thinking like you went all in, you've been doing this thing, you you adjusted. You saw a problem, and then you shifted to 24 hours, then that had its issues. Like it's always what kind of one step two steps back. So what keeps you from hanging it up? Like, what is it about your gym that yet? I mean, really, that's it like, it's, it's awesome.

Deena 16:16
Especially from the group side of it. So we do have like the community, the CrossFit thing. But the feedback that I get from a lot of my members is if they didn't have impure bodies, they don't know where they'd be. And for me that hits home, because fitness literally saved me from that self destruction. So for a lot of them, it is about their mental health and just leaving the ship the real world outside and just having a laugh. It's not about weight loss. It's not about you know, being able to lift the heaviest numbers. It's just having fun chatting and having a laugh. Doing something.

Tyler 16:52
Yeah. So the same, the same thing that the same thing that got you in it is the thing that's keeping you in it, which is good. It means you've been able to deliver exactly what you hope to deliver. Yeah, definitely.

John Fairbanks 17:06
And there's no marketing. It's not a trick, right? It's not gimmicks these things where it's like, it sounds like this thing is very much like your Blood, Sweat Tears time family. Like it's like there is no giving up. No, like, it's not the thing.

Deena 17:24
It's definitely coming. Okay, over the last couple months, it's come close to doing. I really want to keep doing this. Because you know, a lot of us have been thrown into debt. So it's not an expensive hobby. It's something that I'm going to be paying off for the next three years, before we even take a salary. So Is that enough for me? Someone's got to give back. So I got a job and the gym is still here. I'm still making a difference. So that's where I'm at right now. Is making a difference there. I don't want to hang up the door keys. Yeah. And I don't want to quit it all. But that's the point that I'm at, these are the numbers that I'm playing with in my head? Is it where people going to steal come on that basis that it can help them feel better and transform their health?

John Fairbanks 18:18
And it definitely is, we've talked to a lot of different folks and definitely the last 18 months has taken them in this mindset, right in this state of mind of what you're talking about where it's like man, weighing the good that I do. And it's kind of like it's these intangible things that keep me going. And when someone says something about how I've changed their lives, or how it mattered, you know, all these things that I've done, or that makes their lives different and better. And it's now helping take that passion for all those things that keep you to help you get up in the morning. And how can we tie that together? To have that translate to more money? Yeah. And that definitely is like that moment where I think everybody at some point has to meet that wall, where it's you just ask that question. I think that's the question. A lot of gym owners have to look a hard, serious look in the mirror and be like, is just making a difference in people's lives enough? Or do I kinda sorta get to eat and also be able to, because if you can, ever since we were little, I know for me, it was like, you want to find something, like, if you can find a job that you love. It's no longer work. Right? And so it's, you found the job that you love. And so we need to not have it work anymore. Like it needs to now be a thing where it's like, okay, this is gotta work.

Tyler 19:47
Well, the jobs pay your money so that's important.

John Fairbanks 19:51
That's my point, though. Like we got to get to that police. Yeah, yeah, you gotta

Deena 19:56
Set the same last week. I said if money wasn't an object and We could just get food from the local, you know, neighbors and we didn't have to pay for anything. Got the perfect job? Yeah. Right. So yeah, so then it's a job.

Tyler 20:13
Cool. Well, this, this thing that this, this situation you're describing too, is like, the most common situation, I would say amongst gym owners, everybody gets to this point, either sometime, if all the gyms that have ever existed, the ones that aren't still open, went to this through this and stopped and the ones that are still open went to this and through this, and kept going. And that's like, I think every single gym owner has been at this point. And that's where John and I kind of picked up on this project where we want to kind of like, share these stories so people can start to see the same patterns that we were talking about that John and I have been hearing for years and and so we can go Alright, got in because gym owners these people are truly are our people. Is it just like guys, I just want so much better, because of the exact reasons you describe why you're doing it and why you keep doing it. It's like, Yeah, this isn't somebody who's I'm not trying to just get somebody who's like, I want to can Porsche and I wanted this and I want that I want want want want want. Like that's not what anybody's in here for. And I think as people look in, they're gonna see that there's very similar people with very similar passions and a very selfless giving attitude that at some point, they need to start to get it back. And they need to start getting back, you get all the good feedback back, all the feedback you want, and all of the impact you want. And you're having, except for financially, there's no financial windfall. There's lots of good feelings and good community and things like this. But there are ways to start. And that's why John and I had kind of started this project because I don't like I don't like when conversations like these, sometimes they can feel hopeless, and sometimes they can feel hopeful. And the hopeless ones, when we started hearing too many of those were like we need this is gotta be enough, because these people cannot go become fucking accountants or janitors, or whatever. Like, that's their job, and they're not going to like it, they're going to be there and it will suck the soul out of there. Like when you feel the impact you have on the day. You're not gonna go stocking shelves at the grocery store. Snot. Nobody wants to do that. You're it's, it's too unsatisfying. And so I think that the story you share today is exactly the reason John and I had started this project here. And so to start to shine some light on these types of situations, let people know that there's a, there's a bit of a way out if they can start thinking a little bit differently about the business a little bit differently about a few things and just pay attention to the things you do in a different way. And it goes. So there's a lot that we'll see kind of on this platform here. In the future, for sure. This should be able to point you guys in a better direction. John, did you have anything else before I roll to the final questions?

John Fairbanks 22:50
I would say before the final questions, it would be the reason why this is beneficial, like this one is we have you on record, right? We have you on record for like a moment in time. Because it's all super cheesy, right? We're all just a moment in time at any moment that we have it. But one thing that's nice about this is that I'm excited to see where you are three months from now, or six months from now have these moments where if you can capture that and kind of get a feel of like, this is where I was. And then I'm excited to see what's next because of the fact that you were so willing, and you've been so willing to be vulnerable and honest. Because I think we get inundated, especially when we're talking like in the world of social media. We get inundated with everybody's prs. Everybody when they're in their leanest, meanest and sickest. Like it just is. That's all we ever see. And very rarely do we, especially folks that are entrepreneurs, build something that's a piece of themselves. Do we get to have someone be like, no, like, this is actually what it looks like. This is actually what it sounds like. And I think that that's crazy important. Because I think, again, why we started this project is that you're not alone. There's so many gym owners around the world that are going to feel and think and have gone through or are about to go through everything that you've described and the fact that you're willing to come out and honestly be like, This is what this looks like everybody is huge. It's huge because the value to everyone else is just sky high and being recorded. It's more or less just a comment of just thank you for coming on and being able to to share that and I think it leads into kind of our typical last question that Tyler will hit me with.

Tyler 24:44
Yeah, will you survive the COVID squeeze you survive the startup phase, which are two by the way, those are the starting up your gym and then COVID Those two things combined, I would say killed more than half of gyms, frankly right how many gyms survive five years? How many gyms survived five yours and COVID. So we can survive, you know that like surviving, you could do the gym and stay open, there's resourceful crafty people. But what I want to go to is if you had to give one piece of advice, and it can be on any kind of level, but from someone who maybe wants to go from coaching, to make their way into owning their own space and wants to really do their thing on a bigger scale beyond just wanting to do things differently than the gym you're working in, right, you want to go to open your own spot. give some advice to somebody who's maybe where you were years ago.

Deena 25:34
Be prepared to sacrifice your whole life, literally, and it's time with loved ones as well. You don't have time for yourself. So that's got to be, you've got to be prepared to do that. And potentially lose people. So also be careful if you're going into the business with

Tyler 25:54
This a lot. That is , those are all the hard lessons to learn. But if you don't, what's interesting is everybody that has been in any business. Let's say that to you know what I mean, I know people that have opened stores and storefronts and brick and mortars, they'll say the same crap, what you got to be careful who you go into business with be married to the thing, because especially in the beginning, if you guys we've talked before, if you start businesses, I don't start new businesses with a bunch of money I never have. So it's like, I just have to sell my time. It's the only way to do it. And I think that gym owners are very common. It's very common for gym owners to be bootstrapping their projects. And so your advice is almost nearly universal.

Deena 26:34
Appreciate that. Thank you. It's gonna be really as

Tyler 26:37
I thought when I started, it would be just like sexy people and like, nice gym, and like, I get to work out all day. And then I just put on my shirt, and then it'd be like, Hey, you guys want to work out? And like, here's the things and it's all good. And that takes about two to two group classes for that to go away.

Deena 26:55
It's not that

Tyler 26:58
Well, do you do you know your gym is honestly the setup that it is exactly that it's the game that I would want to be playing if I had a gym because this speaks to exactly my passion is the way I like to train partners type stuff with the global gym equipment, the bodybuilding style stuff, just enough heavy lifting some space to move like it is, it really is exactly what I would do if I had to open a gym. So you're already on the right track as far as, as far as I'm concerned. There's a by the way, and we talk people can make businesses make gym business out of any not any number of models. But you're the only person that I know personally, who has the transition to also adding a 24 hour thing. And I think maybe what we should do is at some point in the future as we get going, and maybe when we check back in, I'd like to talk a little bit more about how that fits into some of your pricing and packages and models and things like that, as we kind of roll out some more information and resources for you guys to tinker with that then you guys will like I'd really love to see how your framework gets applied because I have a ton of ideas that I like to do with them. Like this. I'm telling you all I do is sit. It's like if I just had a small Globo gym with a CrossFit gym in it. We're set and so I'm really stoked to see what you have is a very high potential location, a very high potential facility and you have very high potential personal investment into it. So it's really just a matter of time in Latin a few things up so you've already survived all the worst shit.

Deena 28:27
Yes, I have.

Tyler 28:31
Awesome Xena. Well, John, can you find how we found it? Yeah, how do we

John Fairbanks 28:35
How do we find you? Dina? How do people follow you, follow your journey, follow you online?

Deena 28:40
Instagram, it's at Imperial bodies gym, and the websites are impure.

Tyler 28:46
Awesome. Awesome. Well, thanks a lot, everybody. On our end, you can follow the gym owners podcast on Instagram, go to hack your For more information on the other stuff. And if you're listening, get into the Facebook group. If you're watching, you're already in the Facebook group. So thank you. Yep, there you go. I think thanks a lot and we'll see you soon. John. I'll sign us off for today. Correct?

John Fairbanks 29:07
Yep, that's it. Thanks, guys. You

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