The Gym Owners Blog/Podcast/Stop Doing Everything Yourself and GROW YOUR BUSINESS with Nick D from CrossFit Stamford

Stop Doing Everything Yourself and GROW YOUR BUSINESS with Nick D from CrossFit Stamford

Friday, January 20, 2023

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  • ​The hardest lesson he’s learned as a gym owner - 0:01
  • ​What it was like to shadow the gym’s previous owner - 2:16
  • ​How he got the opportunity to buy CrossFit Stamford - 5:59
  • ​What have you dropped off and picked up on and how has it changed? - 8:04
  • ​What happens when you have to put your membership on pause - 12:38
  • ​Rethinking how you’re doing everything - 14:29
  • ​Nick’s transition to taking ownership of his business - 19:07
  • ​Nick’s advice for those who want to follow in his footsteps - 23:25
  • ​Nick has been a poster boy for success - 26:58


Tyler 00:01
Nick Della Camera, what is the hardest lesson you've learned as a gym owner?

Nick 00:07
Trying to do every single thing in the gym myself

Tyler 00:09
Elaborate, when does that become the thing.

Nick 00:13
So when the paper gets signed, and you realize that you own the gym now, and you're still a coach, you're still somewhat of an administrator. And your days are filled with more hours while you're still trying to maintain a business. So that actually the next day after the paper gets signed, and you know,

Tyler 00:34
Yeah, cuz you bought your gym and the gym that you are coaching in, right? So you kind of bought, bought in and became the owner from there. So at that moment, you're like, Oh, if you were sort of you were kind of running the place before then, for managing

Nick 00:46
What? Yeah, so the one good thing about me being here, so long before I owned the gym was that I did learn a lot of the things with the exception of like, all the book work and all this stuff, like where you really need some help with, like accounting wise, and like making sure that everything is like, you know, flowing, right and expenses, and like all the different kinds of things that you have to have going on in the gym to maintain the everyday stuff besides like the actual classes and training that are going on. So, you know, so you know how to use the system as a coach, you know how to obviously train people, that's what we got in the business for right, it was learning that we had a passion that we would like to coach people and provide a certain level. But, you know, once it takes effect, like, okay, now I own the gym, and I have to manage the people that are going to do all those things, you have to figure out a way to step out and start to focus on working on the business rather than in the business so much. So that's when it all takes effect. It hits you all at once, and you don't even have any time to plan. And then you're really stuck because you have no way of understanding how you can get out of there as soon as possible without taking in the money that you take in? Right? Because you don't want to lose the money right away, obviously, as well.

John Fairbanks 02:07
How long have you been coaching at the gym? Nick, before you got the is to become the owner? Like, how long have you been doing all that though?

Nick 02:14
Okay, so I started part time, like a couple hours a week shadowing, you know, 2012. So I walked in the gym as a member, and the previous owner came up to me and was like, hey, seems to be that you really like into this, you know, some stuff already about fitness, because I've been working out since I was, you know, whatever, 14 years old, off and on. And so he asked me if I was interested in coaching parts. It's one of those things where like, I realized that now, when I see people walk in the door here, it's almost like you can already identify a coach like, or if they have the ability to get through to somebody in a way that you know that they'll be successful. So I feel like he had that when he came to me, he asked me, and he was like, Okay, well, I'll train you myself. And I was like, I don't really know anything about this. So this was 2012 where I started to shadow the actual owner himself. And then, you know, within a year's time, I was actually coaching a few classes, and I had my first personal training client. So yeah, I mean, you're talking so 2012 I took over three years ago, which brings us to what 2018 Yeah, so about six years all right, and so like the first couple years was crazy year and a half a couple years was like finding my way figuring out how I was going to do this. And you know, then it turned into more of like, okay, I can make some money doing this after the first couple years.

John Fairbanks 03:56
So it sounds like you really got the opportunity to kind of like do this coal like a co owner apprenticeship ownership type thing for a little bit because you got the opportunity to kind of like shadow I don't know if I've heard that before of the idea of like getting the kind of really ease your way in or see some of those things did you get to see the good the bad and the ugly of what it meant to be an owner before you got to officially like take on the title Yes,

Nick 04:26
I did, but not in the back end weigh like I did from like they did a very good job of keeping everything secluded and sense of like, you know, making the gym present to be this like great place but then obviously there has a trials and tribulations and all these like stress things that they had to go through all the time to make sure that the gym consistently had a good membership base. Right and so I didn't get to see all of like, the personal conversations between the two owners, but I got to see like the The complaints or the, you know, the things that we would get from different sample members or whatever it could be that we're like, okay, you can do this, or we would like you to do this or whatever it can be, but you never got to see like, what the actual cause because not for nothing when you see, when you're just learning about something, when you see 20 to 25 people in a room, every single time there's a class going on, you're like, Oh, my God, and you're, like a successful business. Yeah, multiplying, you know, 200 bucks times 25 people in a room throughout the day, boy, oh, we're fucking rolling. Yeah. And it's like, okay, these guys are making a shit ton of money. And then you're like, Okay, I know, they got to pay rent. And I don't know what all the other expenses are, obviously, you know, payroll, and all those other things. But you start to kind of map out, you're like, Okay, this, this is a pretty good business right here. Like, there's a potential here to like, do something. And so that's where it caught my eye. And it was like, Okay, if I can get my opportunity, I'm gonna take it because I literally was on the verge of creating my own website already. And everything. Like before I got the opportunity to take over and I got wind that they wanted to see, I knew for years that they wanted to get out. So about five years before I took over, I knew that their time was coming. And they wanted to actually move away from this area. And so I was like, Okay, this is all processing, let me figure out if there's an opportunity here. And you know, once it was like, a little bit more public, like not public to the members, but by public to the staff that they were really going to probably move within a couple years. Like, out of the area. I actually picked up the phone and called the owner and I was like, Look, I want you, you are getting ready to get rid of this gym. I want the first opportunity. Yeah. And I had to let that be known before, you know, because I think they always had in their mind that they wanted to keep it as an internal sale before they had some external search.

John Fairbanks 07:02
Yeah. Now we haven't established yet. Nick, where is the gym? So where do you call home for everybody listening or watching?

Nick 07:09
CrossFit Stanford 75 Sell it over in Stamford, Connecticut. Okay, he's both.

John Fairbanks 07:16
Now he's got a

Nick 07:18
Great big race everywhere.

John Fairbanks 07:24
So transitioning from that story of coming in, kind of getting started cutting your teeth as a coach shadowing, you said the hardest thing that you learned as a gym owner is that you literally can't do all the things forever. What was that trend? What did that look like? What did that transition look like? When kind of you decided that you were your own worst enemy. And you were kind of this bottleneck that was keeping your gym from kind of doing what you wanted it to do? What is that transition

Tyler 08:00
Evolved from what you were doing before to what you're doing now? What have you kind of dropped off and picked up on?

Nick 08:08
And so I went through actually like an up and down of like taking myself out of stuff and then getting back into stuff. So as a coach to start here. And then going into a gym owner. I knew that when I took over, there's got to be a way that I figure out to keep my coaches here and build a career for them. Because there's only a very limited amount of time. It's not right. And so what happens is, it's like, okay, when somebody becomes 34 years old or lower, they're gonna say to themselves, okay, how can I be a coach for the rest of my life and only take home $30,000 a year, or whatever it is, and work eight hours a day. There's only so long you can do that. Because obviously things come along in life where it's like, okay, somebody may get married, somebody may have kids, and they're like, Okay, I can't afford to take care of my family anymore, I gotta get a real job. So that was always the stigma. It was like, I gotta get a real job. But what if I can create a real job here. And so there was always figuring out a way to do that. So that was one of my first steps. And then figuring out once I can make more money for the gym, and figure out ways to, you know, bring in more flow for the trainers. It's like okay, now we have more stability going on. They don't have to worry about, like, their days are numbered or like, how much money they're gonna make. So, but I didn't have a plan yet. That was just my mind. Like thinking, Okay, this is what I need to do. And then one of the hardest things was actually taking myself off of schedule, where I was like, Okay, well now I have to, if I take myself off the schedule, I have to pay people for these classes. And then I'm taking money out of my pocket when I'm on a break even basis. You know, because I obviously well, people don't know this but I didn't buy the gym outright. Money in the backyard like I wish I used to and go and buy the gym, like in cash, like, so I had a debt, right every month. And I'm like, Okay, anything that is not happening consistently. You know, when I took over, if I took myself away, I would have to pay somebody. So now I'm losing money, right? And so now I'm not breaking, so I gotta get more clients. So as always that mindset of like anything that I don't do I have to pay somebody to do, and I can't afford to pay anybody to do. So.

Tyler 10:29
It's like a cyclical trap that once yeah, there's no way to get, it's tough to get out until you break that logic, you just have to start to value that whatever, I got to take the hit, because I can't scale from here, you know. So I learned

Nick 10:42
That I take the hit, and I take myself out. And so I did that I took myself out. And I think I only coach like two classes a week, and I still had my one on one clients that I would train. And I realized that I was allowing myself more time to work on the business when I wasn't coaching those classes anymore. So sure, it was actually more beneficial. It's very hard to do. But once you do it, you realize the benefit. But then you lose coaches, right, because you still don't have a plan to keep these coaches like in a career, where you want them to be like, knowing that there's like, you know, like an upward rise for their career here. So, you know, I faced the fact that I had to step back in and coach some more classes because I lost a couple of coaches due to my everyday lifestyle. It wasn't because they weren't happy here. But it was like, Okay, I'm moving to the West Coast or something like that. You know, and so I had to step back into the business and work in the business again. And then I found myself, like, not having the time, especially with having, you know, a family and everything, not having the time to balance everything out. And so it should start getting really stressful.

Tyler 11:51
Yeah. When, at what point did this get, like, extremely real? I mean, there's a moment in here where you've got, you got debt, because you bought the gym, you're sitting there, you're trying to work your way out, like, like, is there a moment where you go, I have to know I absolutely need to start approaching things differently. When was that moment?

Nick 12:14
So when I, when I got about two years in, let's say a year and a half, two years in. I say took 18 We hit COVID When we hit COVID and 20. So two years in, right? And, and then we got hit with like you have to close your door. And now it's like, oh shit, what am I going to do? Like, I get emails, like immediately probably, like within a day or two of people that were like, Okay, I have to put my membership on pause. I don't know when we're coming back. And I was like, Okay, so now like, I'm not like really dependent on the money to come from state yet to pay my employees and like to take care of my bills and stuff are more along the lines of like, okay, wait, like, I have to actually sit back and think about like how I'm going to make as much money as possible through these months until we actually open our doors again, and people start coming back in. And then it was like, every single day I would dread to wake up. It was like, every single day, I would wake up and I would see an email where it was like, I have to put my membership on pause I'm sorry. So, you know, it got to the point where, you know, our revenue was cut in half by 50%. for like three months, yeah, like literally in half. And I'm like, okay, like, I have to keep my head down. I have to keep on going. I can't just stay home. And so I you know, I made some things happen where we provided the best possible service that we could and like to give out all our equipment. And it was like, okay, just counting the days where it's like, okay, when are we going to get back in the door? When can I get some of my members back? I had a list of members literally losing like, you know, 30 plus members because of COVID. Right and so that's a lot of revenue for your gym owners that know a monthly EFT is like obviously here, your bread and butter and you're like, Okay, I need that money coming in every month, but I don't have it anymore from those 30 people. So that's a big, big difference, right? So that's kind of when I realized like, I gotta make some changes because I was like, what if I come back from COVID and these people still don't come back? Like Yeah, still cut cut in half.

Tyler 14:31
So you started to really make up. You started to really rethink how you were doing everything. At this point you're like I got this whole system now can be retooled because you had a reset a little bit, right?

Nick 14:42
Yeah. Yeah. And, I had an i like it was like, Okay, now is my opportunity to figure out ways that I can come in full force. And that's what I reached out to us about when I reached out to John, after we actually were up and running for life. We'd like two and a half months, right, we got back here, June of 20. In, in the gym, well outside first, because we want to ease people back in and we got in the gym on June 20. And then I think I reached out to John one night and like, October, so maybe three months, I was getting ready to actually fly out to the West Coast to try to figure out if there's an opportunity for me to do something with another gym owner, you know, and figure out if there was some way that, you know, I can ramp things up here, right and build my brand and, and, you know, things like that. And then I reached out to John, and when I got back, we had a serious conversation about life, taking everything that we have here. And, you know, first it was like, Hey, John, I need some help with some back end stuff. And John was like, okay.

John Fairbanks 16:00
You know, I want to know how you could change colors on buttons, Nick. Yeah, website, fix the website, website stuff. Yeah,

Nick 16:08
Get an online store, like some things that I thought would benefit us, right? Like,

Tyler 16:13
You're just grasping at straws at that point, right? You're just like, here's a world full of problems. Let me just start throwing solutions at

John Fairbanks 16:20
The wall and see what sticks. And certainly what like, we know, like, when you go to another gym, or you look at what other people have, it's like, well, they have this, they have a super sweet store, or they have these things. And it's like, well, then, alright, well, they look like they got to figure it out. So like, maybe that's what we need to get right now.

Nick 16:39
Right. And I think one of the biggest things that I don't know if I mentioned this to you, and the thing was like, basically like, okay, like, some of these places are selling these things online, where they're like, physically doing the hours, like, I'd like to be able to do something like that, where it's like, almost like I have a same membership base as like what I have in gym, outside the gym. And so that was in my mind, I was like, Okay, this could be a way and ramping up the personal training. And so, you know, we had a decent personal training business, and we had some of these things already. We got some really great coaches that are fucking amazing. So it was like, Okay, how can I get going with this? And then I came back from vacation slash, you know, trying to do some business. And, and John was like, alright, well, how about we just like, we just, like ramped it up, like times, like 30. And I was like, he was like, all I need you to do is just tell me yes or no. Are you ready? And I was like, Yeah, I don't really even think I had to think about it. I was like, Yes, of course. Like, I am. Like, in that mindset already. That's just the person I am of, like, there's no way you stay in a comfort zone of like, trying to like hustle and grind, without taking chances. And obviously, you know, spending money and knowing that it's going to cost you money to make money. I've always known that that's, you know, that's just something that was instilled as a kid and, and it always stuck with me. So John was like, Okay, well, how would you like to, like, you know, go stratosphere? And I was like, Well, yeah, yeah, let's, let's, let's, let's go, like, say,

John Fairbanks 18:12
Every conversation we had had wasn't pointing me in the direction of buttons on a website. Right now, these conversations were about these much bigger things that you wanted to achieve. And so I'm like, well, like, we could fix the website. Or, yeah, like, we could just launch this bitch, like, into the lower regions of the atmosphere and see what happens next. And you're like,

Nick 18:39
Yeah, I think one of the things I said to you was, like, I want to take over the East Coast. And, you know, I wasn't talking around when I said that. So I was like, Okay, how can I start to take my path towards that? Like, how can I be, you know, the biggest, you know, well known. You know, Jim, on the East Coast, that's, you know, providing a higher level of service than anybody around me. So that, like everybody that sees us now wants to be here, because what we're doing

Tyler 19:07
Well, having known Nick for probably about five years now for five five years, wow, give or take is like I've we've seen these light transitions where like, Nick starts to take it like so I've seen over the years and the first one was kind of as you started to really craft, stamping, your coaching philosophy was kind of in some of the educational stuff we've done with seminars we had met before. And then, but I remember just before I moved overseas was when you bought the gym and you have yet another message. Yeah, you had another

Nick 19:38
Baby. And I was like, Yeah, I'm taking over the gym now.

Tyler 19:41
The baby was just born and you just bought the gym. And I told somebody, Nick was like, Oh, come over and I like to come out and visit you up. I just bought the gym. So maybe like, maybe this summer or something. I was like, we'll see in five years. You're not going to the gym? Yeah, but I remembered those moments. And then all of those things where Nick is taking this seriously, this is his putting a stamp on each one of these things. And these are like majors. Not even, like, we talk a lot about limiting beliefs, but like just a turning point where you like are deciding to value yourself your situation and really take anything to the next level. And when you had that conversation with John, about where it's like, I'm ready to take this thing I want to take over the East Coast, and I knew you were fucking around like that is absolutely another one of those cases. And since then, Nick, it's been fucking madness, right? It's been, it's been a lot of work, you've done all this and made all sorts of changes. But the troubles of COVID are no more. And the success that you guys have had is hands down, like nothing I've ever seen. And it's not just purely on the strategies we've had. But it's the mindset change that you had, as soon as you got to this, we're like, No more bullshit. We're doing this, we're really doing this. I'm not pretending I'm not sitting back in my gym and wondering why it's not working out the way I want it to. We're wondering why I'm not making the money, I want you to just say, No more, we're doing it, whatever it takes. I'm gonna figure this out. And as soon as you took ownership of that, things just skyrocketed.

Nick 21:10
Yeah, I was I was literally like, Okay, I'm gonna take a backseat, I'm going to ask the stupidest questions that I have to ask to find out answers for, I'm going to learn, I don't even know how to press any buttons on a fucking computer, like John John was there, we, the best thing that I've always learned here is that, in order to be able to deliver something, you have to be able to learn it yourself to understand how to deliver it correctly to your people that you want to hire to deliver it the way that you would want it delivered, right. And so I literally was like, John is the best at this stuff. He's going to teach me everything he knows, and I'm just going to, you know, adapt to all the situations that I have to. So, and obviously, you want things to happen quickly, where you're like, Okay, I have this, I have this, I have this, and it's like, okay, let's systematize it, let's make sure it goes in order the way we need it to go. And then like we just renewed you, I and John recently with what we're doing for the next six months here, like after a whole, almost a whole year of basically, everything that we wanted to put into place, you know what I mean? Kind of like getting to that point now where it's like, actually, there and running. And I have like a stack full of people that are like, I can walk out of the door and not be here for two days. And now I don't have to worry about anything. That was the biggest thing.

John Fairbanks 22:29
You were complimentary. And I appreciate that. The idea is like the frameworks and the strategy, but the biggest difference is that we can have all the strategies in the world. But it was in the combination with you being like an absolute psychopath, when it came to like execution. And just taking full ownership on what you wanted to do is I wanted to do this, and I'm willing to go as hard as I can, the pain to go make it happen, then just made it to where it's like, Alright, here's the roadmap, and you're like, Alright, I'm already down, like I'm already on it, like I'm already driving in that direction. And that's where I think that combination of the two, just made it to where that's why the success that you've had is on the back of you not sitting around and being like, Oh, well, I'm going to pay a bunch of people to make this happen. It's like, No, I'm gonna put the right people in place. And then I'm going to just execute ruthlessly, and you've seen just tons of benefit.

Tyler 23:25
Well, Nick, you've learned so many things. Now it's like and also like you, by the way, when you said that you had to kind of learn a little bit of how to do each of these things that were always present, and you didn't understand them. That doesn't mean these things are your job anymore, right? But you understand them enough to know how they operate. And then you delegate that you've moved on. I mean, you went from coaching to not coaching, you went from doing 100% of your gym sales, mostly to now doing almost none of it the vast majority of all the sales come through your employees who have been appointed to handle these things now, so this is a system that you're not the bottleneck anymore, and the only bottleneck is on innovation and the gas pedal those are the two things that go through NEC you know and so so and that's how it should be because these systems just completely execute themselves. Yeah,

Nick 24:12
Yeah, they do. Yeah, I literally would get on a phone call with John every single morning for I think three months like every single morning so he can hold me in like I in like just give me a checklist of stuff that I would have to do every day so I can stay organized because I was still in the business working in the business you know, at some level still so I had to figure out how can I be organized enough to be able to get all these tasks done and and you know, create this bigger thing. And then as these things started to happen, it was like no longer are you like you know, all right, I have to step away for a couple hours like if I do shit gonna go to shit or if I have to, you know, not do all the sales myself is it actually going A workout, right? And it's like, and then once you have the right people like John set in place, and you, you know, go through finding the right people, you know, you can take a backseat to do anything anymore.

Tyler 25:13
Yeah, absolutely. I'm thinking John's got John's got a heart out. So I'm gonna get to the last question here, Nick. Okay. Yeah. So the final wrap up question. And guys, Nick is going to be on before Nick is helping us a lot with some of the sales stuff. Now some of the stuff that he went through. Nick's gonna be teaching some of these things as we get further on. So you guys will be hearing from Nick again in the future? Absolutely. So I'm gonna let you guys know. You can get a hold of Nick at you can find Nick's GM at CF Stanford on Instagram. You can find Nick hat and della Camera on everything else. Andela camera on Instagram CF Stanford on Instagram. My phone's blown up like crazy. No. And yeah, what else? Oh, Nick also has a podcast talking about the gym life with one of his coaches, called all the reps podcasts, highly recommend checking that out as well. I may have been a guest there a couple times. So before we run out of time, Nick, would you give one what's one piece of advice that you would give to somebody who maybe wants to follow in your footsteps.

Nick 26:17
So one piece of advice that I would give is being able to accept the fact that you want to have the best place in the world, and then you're willing to go through everything you need to go through to do so. Yeah, like you need to, you need to, you need to actually sit down and realize that you're ready for that step. And you are going to know that like, Okay, this is going to cost me money. And it's going to be beneficial. And I'm going to learn a lot more. And, you know, knowing that you have to hire the right people to help you do so.

Tyler 26:55
Yeah. Yeah. Lots of exceptionally good advice. Nick has been a poster boy for success. The sky is the limit we've been like it's been, it's been a real treat. See you Nick. So when I consider a friend and the things that have been going, going his way lately has been John and I have a lot of like internet high fives when we when we hear back from Nick on things that he's crushing here and there, it's definitely for the same thing the gym owners get when their clients have success and somebody loses their weight or hits their goals. That's the nice thing for John and I, we get pretty fired up. And having a guy that comes in is tuned up, keyed up and ready to just rock and really make the things happen. Like Nick, it's just easy. Because everything we say, every strategy we give has its maximum chance of success. Because you're like, Alright, I want the thing, I really want the thing and it just makes it so much easier to make that stuff happen. So Nick, thanks a lot for coming in. Guys, you're going to hear from Nick. Absolutely. Again, in the future, Nick will be all over the thing. Nick's going to be able to teach you guys how to do some of the stuff that he's done, how to run the sales stuff and really teach on some of the transitions that go on in the back end with businesses and all that stuff. Because there's a lot that goes on the people don't see if we just say cell this cell this cell this or stack this. It's very different than what it's going to be if you have somebody like Nick who's like, I am ready to absolutely rock and roll and still make all those processes work because there's a transition. You can't just flip all this stuff on. It took a year, right?

Nick 28:22
We're not? Yeah, I mean, we're on

Tyler 28:24
It's not even a year. Yeah, it's 11 months now, dude. And I don't even know what all I can say is I'm not gonna give away any of Nick's candy or any of this stuff. Since this is all behind the gym owners thing anyways, but Nick's gym has become what I would describe as indescribably more profitable in the last 11 months, it's crazy, right? It doesn't even yeah

Nick 28:49
The number, the number in mind that we had when we first started this has actually become a reality and like now I'm actually like, not even a year in and I'm like alright, the number has to change.

Tyler 29:02
Yeah, yeah. Which is crazy. I want to send you off on one more thing. I want to say one more thing: if we go okay, tell me what happened and tell them what you got clear of this year, the summer. Guys, issues you paid it off?

Nick 29:17

Oh, yeah, August came. I was backed up for like three months during COVID Actually just gave them a lump sum a month early and got them out of my way. I got the landlord's pay from the three months they gave us a break for COVID being shut down. Like all within like three months time I got all that done. I actually paid the owners off like a month early, just out of the way and have your house yours. Yeah, yeah, I wanted to clear your head. I was yeah, I'm out of here. That's awesome.

Tyler 29:48

I love that. I guys thanks a lot for Nick. You can find me at Tyler f and so on all our all our other stuff. Shop the pod or check out the podcast at the gym owners podcast on Instagram. Leave us a review on iTunes. Whatever Some got joined the Facebook group if you're hearing this if you've watching this you're already in the Facebook group you find me at Tyler reference on Instagram John at J banks NFL and go to hacker gym on for more thanks a lot Nick we'll see you later Later

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