The Gym Owners Blog/Podcast/Building a 500+ Member Functional Fitness Business with Willem Hilberdink of Unscared

Building a 500+ Member Functional Fitness Business with Willem Hilberdink of Unscared

Friday, January 20, 2023

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gym, coach, people, members, business, delegate, principles, delegating, systems, owners, classes, training, day, shit, hire, run, retention, week, crossfit


  • How many members do you have? How did you get so many? - 0:00
  • ​The transition from full-time to part-time - 3:25
  • ​How do you know when to put your foot on the gas and how hard to drive? - 9:36
  • ​Worst-case and best-case scenarios for your business - 15:03
  • ​The importance of delegating - 18:11
  • ​What did you have to get in place before you could start delegating? - 23:45
  • ​When money comes knocking, you have to be ready for it - 29:39
  • ​When you can afford a member stop, think about pricing - 32:50
  • ​How often should gym owners stress test their systems? - 37:56
  • ​How do you adapt to online only? What can we do to keep it? How do we keep the coaches around? - 41:02
  • ​You need to treat your business the way you train - 46:13
  • ​Work on your business, not in your business - 49:00


Tyler 00:00
Welcome back to the podcast. Guys. We are joined today by Willem from Unscared. In the Netherlands, I want to open with one question, William, how many members do you have?

Willem 00:10
Straight to the dig measuring content? Yeah, we've been the last few years, including lock downs. The last two, three years, we've been balancing between about 550 and 600 active members in one location.

Tyler 00:24
So if you're on vacation, now that I got your attention that I had to drop that right away. That's tremendous. We talk a lot on the show about how members are not the only number to chase, but I'll be God damn, if it doesn't sound real good when you do have the most members in the room when you're talking. That sounds great. Yeah. William, you've been going through with them. I've been friends for quite a few years with them. They were my main Dutch friends when I lived overseas. So we were The Odd Couple around there, Danny DeVito. And but Willem has been transitioning a lot in the business lately to now you have started as you started as the person who's coaching and doing too much coaching and kind of guide me through your thought process and what you got from where you were at, and then to how you were able to scale now and really turn your business into a real business. And what that process looks like for you.

Willem 01:22
Yeah, I'll try to keep it brief. We've been, we are now almost in our seventh year of running a gym. And we started off both having no intrapreneurial experience, me and my business partner, actually fairly little gym experience as well, we just didn't really like most of the gyms we went to. So we were like, Hey, I think we can do this better. It started off with my business partners a few years older and I already got settled down with kids. And he was like, I'm not going to be working like seven, you know, 7am coaching classes. So he was like the planning guy. And I was the workhorse that was teaching the classes being a head coach, no, I hadn't done CrossFit for more than three months at that point. So that was a bit of a challenge. But I really liked coaching in CrossFit and some strength training that we did. So I basically did all the finance and all the coaching. And at some point, we got more and more members, and more and more classes. So it didn't really you know, it wasn't sustainable to coach more than 2030 classes a week, which is already, I think, pretty crazy amount if you want to deliver a high end service. But I was still convinced I'm going to be the head coach forever. And I'm going to coach a few classes to show, you know, show the young guns how it's done with every new coach who is hired. But after a few years, and maybe that's recognizable for you guys are people listening I you know, sometimes it felt like a chore, coaching another class again. And I got more and more coaches to cover shift for me, the new coach, he got more and more popular, they sometimes outperformed me, you know, when I

Tyler 02:54
Did that hurt your feelings a little bit? I said like, I'm

Willem 02:57
I'm so proud that these guys are outperforming me but if I covered a class for a coach, and they were like, Oh, it's my fault that I'm sick with some disappointment in deployment. So yeah, I went away from that delegating, you know, more of the end delivery of the service desk. So, you know, retention, email work, or coaching classes, really the front end and move slightly more to the back. But as the business grew, and I started doing things on the side as well, it even became less sustainable to do some, you know, back office, day to day tasks. So about a year ago, when we were just over five years in, I hired one of our full time coaches as a general manager. And she actually made that same transition from coaching about four or five days a week to not coaching at all and hired a new head coach as well a few years ago to make sure that I didn't have to, you know, assess the coaches have tough talks. And yeah, now seven years on I'm. I just had a talk the day before yesterday with my business partner, like what are the two of us actually going to do next year? Because right now we're just, you know, we're leeching a bit. You know, most of the profit of the gym, which, which isn't huge, you know, we're not super profit focused, but enough, you know, for both of us to live off easily. But, yeah, we kind of sat down and we're like, we made ourselves obsolete. And I know, that's the goal of being an entrepreneur. But yeah, it feels weird. It feels good, you know, to say, hey, let's take a week off and not be missed. But it's a weird evolution to go through. And I feel like it's almost come full circle because now you know, when all the coasts are on holidays, and I have to cover a class I have that same energy again, you know, from the first year of coaching, oh, this is so cool. So yeah, when from delegating the front end stuff, the coaching admin or retention work, and then finally delegating the bigger tasks as well.

Tyler 05:00
I think it's important to do that, like every step of the way, wasn't you just walking away from something? You know what I mean? Each one you had to, what's the word? You had to turn up what you did into a process? Find the person and give someone that responsibility. And I think that it's not as simple as like, I don't coach anymore. It's like, well, what is philosophy? Is that written down? How do I acquire talent, like all these things aren't just things that we throw up all willy nilly, you really have to, and I know you have a mindset for that very much, you do the thing. And you replicate it, and you systemize it and you hand it off. And that has been from watching from the outside the, the recipe for the growth of your business has been that you cannot continue to be the bottleneck, because there's only one of you. And you always have to empower people and grow the system.

Willem 05:47
Yeah, and you want the coach or the coach, you want members to show up for the entire coaching staff and not make it a development show in order to tell your show and you're very attractive, and you form the gym, it's your baby. So a lot of your personal principles and convictions, you know, that they are kind of pushed out, whether it's through social media, or how you know, Are you the kind of gym where you're, you know, putting on the silver gloves and being really sweet everyone, that kind of stuff gets formed through the first coaches and usually the owners. But I think two big things in this definitely delegating, coaching specifically, and moving to the back on the one end, you can teach every single coach, you can take everyone by the hand, because then you're just doing double the work, you know, hiring a new coach, and you're with them for 20 hours or, you know, every other day to help them out. So one thing that was really big for us was you kind of set that already operating from principles and from a philosophy. So instead of explaining every single step, and every single rule, we have a few set in stone principles. And if it goes, you can fall back on those, okay, that's something we never do unscared, or that's something we always do. That makes it a lot easier. And I'm also inherently pretty lazy. So that did push me to make sure that I wasn't doing double the work. So Systemising. And that's a very, you know, popular buzzword like build your systems. Having some systems in place that you can replicate and scale up with every single new coach you hire, without going through the same process. Again, I think those two things operate from principles and have some things that you do more and more times systematized. Those are two things you need to have in place before starting to delegate an important task, maybe the important task of coaching and actually delivering the service to your members and customers. Yeah.

John Fairbanks 07:36
You took us on a journey of seven years. Yeah. And you're dropping just bombs right now. Seven years to learn, right? It's like its processes. But what do you think over those seven years to get where you are now? And thinking the way you do now? What was the hardest part? What was one of those things that really got you hung up or took you a while to finally be like, okay, like, I got to do this, like, what was kind of the hardest thing you've dealt with?

Willem 08:04
I mean, I think if I like to get a social media reminder of, hey, you posted this four or five years ago, and I'm no, I used to be a big mouth. So I posted a lot of very opinionated stuff. And now if I get a memory from one of those, I'm like, huge, like, business arguments. And I think being able to change your mind on things, even something as deeply rooted as principles is a good thing. But it's also a really tough thing. You know, it's not fun to admit that you were wrong about something you know, and definitely if your typical gym bro tough guy, it's really hard to say like, I was a fucking idiot back then. You know. So I think that was tough. And also, you know, if you are invested, which most people who choose to be a coach or a trainer, they're pretty invested in the relationships they build with, you know, there, I always feel weird seeing customers. So you build a very intimate relationship and move through the back and basically tell your members that you build a relationship with like, I'm done with you guys. That was stuff and then we do a lot of surveys every six months. And then just, it was nice to see the compliments from members, like bring them back or bring this coach back. But it also feels a bit shitty, you know, like, Hey, I, I took this call, I want my new coaches to be appreciated as well. So moving away from the relationships you build with longtime members. Yeah, that's a tough thing. Definitely. When you focus more on building long term members instead of like high volume high churn shit. Yeah.

Tyler 09:36
I have another question. How do you determine this is the thing John and I always struggle with to calibrate when we're moving businesses forward in the way that you have like, are we replicating? When do we hire new coaches? When do we do this? How do you determine or what did you do to determine the pace with which you need to implement some of this stuff? Because sometimes it's tempting to do everything all at once. Yeah, but then there's also that inherent poll to be like, Man, I could just stay the way it is for a while. How do you know when to put your foot on the gas and how hard to drive?

Willem 10:08
It's super twofold, because the way I did that years ago, and the way I do it now were super different. Like, every time I delegated, or we hired someone else, or I took on a new task, or removing a few, the first few years, it was always by by necessity, you know, it was just too much or we completely fucked something up. And we just had no choice. And then, after falling on my face with that quite a few times, and always being relatively good at hiding it. My business partner, definitely, you know, we just said, Hey, if we make a new change, we got to have everything set in place. So we can make that change again, without all this hassle, or without going through this stressful stuff and being on a super strict time limit because one of our coaches is leaving next week. And now we have to get someone new if we don't want to stand in. So the first few years, like all those good steps we took most of them were just because we messed up and by necessity. But we definitely learned from that. And now it's when we change something really sit down and say, Okay, who is responsible? Who do we need to inform about this? And how can we make sure that if we have to do this again, it's not going to be a hassle? It is not?

Tyler 11:16
That's, that's the piece that I think so many people struggle with, too, is like you said, you waited so it was necessary, alone. And that's the thing, like, oftentimes we just sit back, you know, okay, well now you just wait for the universe to push you in a direction and like, break some of your shit in order for you to go. And, you know, like if a coach leaves, like you said, a coach leaves like, Oh, I gotta scramble. Now I'm back on the floor. I have no systems to cover this. Maybe I don't you don't have enough staff. Each of your coaches takes two weeks off, and you're like, well, at some point in the year like, Well, no, I'm still coaching 10 weeks a year, what is what is happening now? He can't even do the backup test without falling to you. I think once people realize that you're like, Okay, well, I got to start building things now.

Willem 11:55
Yeah, exactly. Because if you're gonna have to do it by necessity, what I you know, and it still sometimes happens. We've had a COVID outbreak among our coaching staff, you know, you can have all the systems and shit in the world. And it's good to keep it. But no, I think it's tough for people to give away to death, they really like on the one hand, and you know, coaching for most people own a gym and they start most people started gym, especially boutique fitness studio, Personal Training Center, weightlifting, across the gym. Almost all guys or girls who start that day usually start from the passion of coaching. So giving away that fun part of connecting with your members transferring you know, the principles and trading stuff that you really like and want other people to adopt. Giving that board away is pretty tough. And you're going to have new coaches that are going to not perform at your level first, or if you get really lucky to do but usually, you know. And that's something you just have to have to get through. Because it will be, you know, profitable in the end. The other thing is once you start delegating tasks, and I think that's even trickier than giving something away that you like, because if you give something away that you like, whether it's social media stuff, or coaching, you're going to be automatically involved. So if I, when I hired my first new coaches, I was still very excited to assess them and you know, have performance talk with them and say, hey, you know, that class was really good. But maybe. But once I started delegating things that I wanted to do my way and finance was a big thing for me, I needed to pay all the bills, and I wanted to do all the bookkeeping myself. And I wanted to make sure that I was involved in monthly reporting. And it's actually funny, because today because it's almost Christmas break here, the lady who now does most of our bookkeeping, who's the mom of one of her coaches, actually, she came by to deliver a Christmas gift for me, which was really sweet. And I said, Hey, I'm gonna have a podcast recording later today again, and I'm going to be talking about delegation. Can I use you as an example?" And then she left because the first, like, giving away that Finance Board, which was my control stuff, and I did it my way. And no one else could ever understand how exactly I did it.

Tyler 14:09
as though you were a finance expert to you not just survive fonts, and I'm having a

Willem 14:16
big accountant and he just likes the yearly reports and checks or taxes and stuff. And he does that quarterly usually. And the first time she took over and I was like, Oh, this is gonna be fucking mess. I'm gonna have to control that. I got a call from my accountant at the airport. And he was like, Hey, man, you really stepped up your game and died. messing with it. You invested some time. I was like, Yeah, thanks. Thanks. Yeah, it was a conversation I had today. And I think that's very typical. So you know, I think it's really good. And we do that now a lot. We started rotating tasks now that we have slightly bigger stuff. So everyone, the girl who does retention suddenly does the programming. The guy who does the facility suddenly does retention, the head coach does some facility work.

Tyler 15:03
And so you've got, like everybody, learning a little bit more about the business. So if they want to move a direction, or they can cover your business really flexible,

Willem 15:11
yeah, so like, worst case scenario, what we've had so far is that someone would say, like, Wait, how are you doing this for 30 hours a week? I was done really fast, which is good computational, but it does teach you something about the business and your employees. And best case scenario, it's usually someone that says like, Whoa, that's a lot of work. But why don't you do this, like that? And someone's like, oh, yeah, shit, I never thought about it that way. So

Tyler 15:33
one of the things that we find a lot too is, and you probably you've kind of touched on this as you go is that as people begin to delegate, you do have to take a step down and quality, most likely, unless you just find it as but even an ace is not attuned to your system. So of course, it's a step back, and effectiveness or efficiency a little bit in the beginning, from coaching, to finance, to maybe social media, to marketing, to programming, to sales, you know, and all that stuff. And that does get to the point where you just have to go, I gotta maybe take like a 20% hit in productivity, or 30. But I get to lose 100% of my effort in this project, and whoever I plug in, will improve. And that's the mindset that I think a lot of gym owners need to hear. That's why we wanted to really have you on because you've done that, done that so well. And your numbers show it. I mean, you don't get to over 500 members, by not having a system that's durable and tested and thorough, and that is not all people, it is people. And it always requires learning, you

Willem 16:35
know, to write a system for how someone should hand in their invoice if they were freelancer, and they have what tax percentage should be on it. But once you've explained that to a coach again, and again and a new coach again, then you're going to be like, hey, you know what, maybe if I take half an hour, I zone in and I write the process down and it's not sexy, you didn't start a gym to write a system, but how someone should deliver it fucking invoice, you just want to teach them on a statue, you know. But it's like what you said, you have to accept that if you delegate something, especially coaching, there's usually going to be a drop in quality or effectiveness or productivity. It's either that or it's going to cost you money. Because you know, delegating your social media. If you do that for a few hours a week to a professional, Media Management freelancer or company, it's going to be better, but it's going to cost you some money. So you kind of know, you have to wonder to yourself, is it okay in this test? If I take a small hit in quality? Or, you know, am I going to free myself up? And do I have the funds to delegate it someone who's way better at it because I think I've had this pitfall million times the arrogant thought to think that you can do all the tasks you have in the first few years as a gym, arrogant idea that you're going to be the best or the most efficient. You know, it's confrontational to hear but everything you do in your gym, there's someone who can either do it better, faster, cheaper, or more effective, you know, and, yeah, sometimes they

Tyler 18:01
all have that. One thing in common too, though, is they're not you, which makes them the most valuable thing is that somebody who's not you has to do the shit because there's only so many hours in the day. That's an important thing you touched on because if you're still doing a gym, social media man, there's a whole wealth of information and data and skilled people with lots of experience doing social media, I really still prefer something organic that's plugged into your community. But you can do that via your own photographers, your own style, your own messaging, or you communicate better to your social media people, what your stuff really is what your businesses What's your mindset, your philosophy, what you want your messaging to be, which requires you to know that which sometimes means you have to spend time sitting down and working on your business and understanding these unsexy things which is like, Okay, well, who is my ideal client? What are their backgrounds? What do they want to hear what is keeping them from joining a gym is a lot of that stuff, you got to do that boring, boring work, but then now handing this off, eventually, you'll take the hit in the beginning of their money or time or efficacy, but in anything that you delegate, as time goes on, now you have a coach who universally is more likely your gym, head coach than you and now has taken on the role of General Manager which every time you drop one of these systems and delegate something down, you can step forward and work on something more important for the business, which makes a huge impact. We talked in the beginning. Well, um, you said that your goal still is general health. The impact you want unscared to have is to get people off their ass and make health and fitness a priority. And yes, you could do a lot if you had an 80 member gym and we're struggling, but because you got good at business your true goal you're able to do better for 500 Some fucking people right now instead of 80 people while you're not making a living and you're creating people making a living and making careers in fitness and health that feeds their families and stuff. If the gym owners want to be a Murder thing, it makes them ineffective at their actual goal, which is having an impact on how if you suck at business, your business can't help as many people. So what are you trying to do here?

Willem 20:12
Yeah, and exactly I think every you know, every starting gym owner that listens to your podcast will recognize, you know, the thing I've had a few times before I started, you know, giving away my classes, new coaches, that you're teaching your fifth block of classes in the week and you're tired and a member who pays you to make them fitters like, Hey, are you okay? Like, it's been a rough week, and I still got to do this, this and that, you know, that's a horrible thing that I've done that a lot of times, and I've seen that with other gym owners as well, you know, and it's a sweet thing that members are so connected or involved or bathetic with your gym that they actually ask, you know, the main coach, like, are you okay? But that's, that's not where you want to be. And I think social media is a good example, with delegating, because a lot of gym owners do that at the start themselves, which I don't think is a bad thing. You know, you want to convey your message and your gym and your promise to prospective clients and manage the expectations. But we took a few years to actually delegate that to one of our younger coaches who had personally like 10 times the followers, we had the car so and then you come back to actually what we talked about right at the beginning. So having principles set in place and having systems set in place. So social media is a nice, easy example. Our principles were, hey, if you post something unscared, it needs to either inspire people to come train with us, it needs to inform people about what we do, or it needs to just make people laugh. And that's the principal part. So don't do Philipose with like, hey, today's workout, here's a picture of the whiteboard. Yet no one gives a shit and the systematized part was, hey, we want three or four posts a week. And every Monday, I want you to present me Hey, I'm going to post this all spell check and maybe or a copy editor? Will we do that? Are you okay? With the pictures we're using. And now you know, something that used to cost you a few hours a week and messages, you kind of just said, Hey, I want this many posts just need to be principles, we have one moment a week, which will cost me like 10 minutes to see how it goes and yet cost me you know, a bit more money. But you can just say, hey, I want you to work on this for two hours a week. Let me know if that's too much or too little. And then, you know, if you look at I think a lot of business coaching in the gym scene, call it effective hourly rate over effective hourly rate. And it's basically Hey, how much money are you getting out of the gym? How many hours are you working? Divide that by each other? Okay, this is what they make an hour from all these national doing? How many of those can be done by someone way cheaper? Or can you do for the same amount of money, but it means that you will free up so much more time and that's a very functional,

Tyler 22:55
there's a way to gain that number Willam. It's just pay yourself less money, just live off of less money. And by the way, that's the system a lot of people do. Right? So okay, well, a lot of people.

Willem 23:09
Yeah, I'm like, I need to hire better coaches. But I don't know where to cut funds. But if I go today, I'll just pay myself less. You know, and I know very few gym owners that, you know, made a livable wage in their first year. I mean, I know your story from the early mass anomic days, you know, and it's a very recognizable story. We barely paid ourselves in the first year. And then you have to pit full where once you start hiring coaches tell them Well, I actually make way less than you. And that's the same. Remember, like, I'm not doing too well today, no one can put on your big boy pants, you started a business?

John Fairbanks 23:45
What did you have to get in place? See, we talked a lot about delegation, which is awesome. And that's the direction that we want everybody to eventually be able to get to. But there were some fundamental things that you had to get in place first, before you could just start delegating things away. And I think that that's where I think a lot of gym owners early on, especially where they are in, like their journey, they will see shiny things that they think that matters, like, Oh, they're doing this, the example we've always given is, is like somebody sees somebody with like a really sweet website. And because their website is sweet, that's why they're so successful. Yeah, and so and that's where it's no, like, there's some fundamental foundational things that you were able to get in place that then allow you to be like, Alright, now we need to delegate this thing. Because you had certain skills that only you could do. You couldn't outsource some of the pieces and I think that's interesting to where you are now. Seven years later, you guys are sitting back and saying, "What is our superpower?

Tyler 24:46
Like, what are we? Why am I here?

John Fairbanks 24:50
What were some of those foundational things you talked about getting like the systems that were in place right and you knew what your gyms ethos were, you knew who you were that was able to delegate But what were some of those other things that you were able to really get foundationally in place to where you could say, I'm ready to now delegate this out and hand this off and start that process?

Willem 25:10
I think this is a really important thing. And this is, you know, you don't have to sit down with a branding and marketing guy to do this, I think you can just because I believe in kind of induction, so starting from a few principles, what can you do? What can you delegate, which is the same game as well hanging on to those principles? And I think you need to ask yourself, Okay, what do we want to promise prospect members? What do we want to keep offering to existing members? And how do we want our staff to feel when in the gym or talk about the gym, or whatever, you know, and for us, our end goal, our main goal with the gym is to convince as many people as possible that working out training, doing physical strength trading is something that should be an enjoyable part of your day or your week, it shouldn't be something that you have to do, or else and that has been the marketing ploy for the entire global gym industry, whoever come train, you don't want to look like shit anymore, come train, or else you know, don't

Tyler 26:07
want cancer, come train your diabetes, come train, you don't want the same contract.

Willem 26:12
You know, training should be so much fun that we shouldn't even have to convince you, you know, you have to be knocking on the doors. For our staff. We've always said like, in most European countries, a lot of CrossFit coaches in this definitely changed but a weightlifting coach, they did it freelance on the side for a free membership, or next to their full time job and wanted to hey, we're in a place in history from the, you know, in the history of civilization and mankind, we've never been more overweight, more chronically ill we've been, you know, we sit at work, we sit on the way to work, and then we get home and we sit again. So it's, to me, it's extremely weird thing that, you know, it's not one of the most appreciated and well paid jobs. And we were like, hey, you know, instead of looking at what the average pay is for a coach, and just like getting at the bare minimum, no, we want people to quit their day office job to become a full time coach for us. Or that kind of stuff. And then once you have those, like end goals, those principles in place, then you can answer that question be like, Okay, once I hire someone to do a new task, once I start to systematize, something, how can I do all that without losing those principles, and sometimes something can look really cheap, effective and easy. But if it breaks those principles, you're like, I can't do that. And for us, a quick example is retention, emails, and retention is an overused word, but basically, non face to face contact with members, it's really easy to automate that. It saves you a bunch of time. But if you have a gym, especially with just 100 or 200 members, you can automate stuff, but you should never fully automate communication, you still want to know we automate a part of it. So all members that haven't showed up for the last 10 days, we get an automatic automatic list, we get an automatic reminder to email them. But still, in that email, we will say hey, how's the leg doing? Because we know this person has an issue, or hey, I knew you were on vacation, but I think it's been a while, you know, you got to come back. And if you're going to be running a low volume, definitely compared to a Globo gym, a low volume gym, with a high level of service. I think keeping those things intact, and being able to, you know, profit from having a low volume of members, you need to be able to still have a few things that you can fully automate. And again, that question can only be answered: what are your main goals and principles with the gym for your staff for prospective members and current members? How much can I use to systematize , delegate or automate without losing those principles?

Tyler 28:41
How much can I get away with without losing my soul? Yeah, it's usually how it goes. But that's the way a lot of it works.

Willem 28:48
Yeah. And losing your soul is a good one. Because, you know, once I started making enough money to actually, you know, not have to dig into my savings to run the gym. It took me more than a year once I started making more and more serious money with it. I started thinking, Am I doing enough now? Am I starting to lose my soul in the gym, and sometimes, like I said, sometimes can look super easy, cheap and profitable. But members will notice, especially longtime members, if you're doing something they will lose the gym without, you know, sounding New Age. New Agey, but I think you know what I mean? So I like you know, sticking to your principles and not losing your soul while still making business wise profitable decisions. Yeah. And that's easier said than done. You know, it's easy to say when you're when your profit margin

Tyler 29:39
when money comes knock and you know what I mean? That's a very different thing. Like Well, wait a minute, once you especially when you understand a lot of the sales and retention and resale systems and things like that that are out there that you can use. You can just turn the volume up sometimes and you you know, you didn't get to 500 and over 500 members by going From 100 to 500, with the snap of your fingers, your systems had to grow to accommodate it, you still have to constantly be doing quality control of what's going on on the floor. This is why we always tell people, This is why I wanted to take you through this or have you take us through this journey because so many people just want to turn on the lead faucet. Yeah, you know what I mean? Just get leads. And it's like, well, some of you can't fucking sell anyways. Yeah. So if you've got a

Willem 30:25
Facebook pixel marketing company and build a lead funnel, and, you know, high ticket bait and switch stuff to do that, but it doesn't work in the end. And I know some of my friends when businesses like this, I really hope they're not listening to this. No, it's, you know, it's, it's a tricky, tricky thing. And, you know, we had three member stops of over two months or more in the first few years because we were growing fast, but we were like, Okay, we got to stop for a while. And it worked out well, because it also created this feeling of exclusivity. But you know, just stopping for a few months if you're growing really well and be like, Okay, how can we get the gym ready to have 100 more members instead of constantly be like, oh shit, we got to add add an extra class Oh, shit, that a hire a new coach, because people keep that is

Tyler 31:18
that is a really cool concept willing to, like you said, because you had got to a certain point. And now it's like, okay, I need to fulfill all these clients, and I need to do a good job. And you know that if you just keep letting the lead faucet start pouring in and letting new clients start rolling in, it's gonna cause more problems, they're gonna damage your reputation, ruin your quality delivery in that moment where you were at right now. Or when you said I Hold on No more people, I'm gonna lead free, we're gonna do a new client freeze. And we're just going to then build and build our processes and start game planning how we're going to do this. So when we open things up for 20 more, how are we going to do this? What's it going to look like? And you spend that time working on your business and preparing your business, instead of just doing the thing that all of us normally do is just horror ourselves out for more customers, which is essentially the game we play. Truthfully, you know how it goes in the beginning. That is the game you play for a while you're like, I just need two people, I need new people, new people, new people. And there is a point we have to stop. This is not the game Quit Chasing this, you're not prepared for new people, you need to get ready for new people. And until you are you'll never get them because you'll break.

Willem 32:26
Yeah, or you're going to alienate your current member base. And the first year we started with zero members we wanted to have everyone in, even guys or girls who had a training goal or a fitness goal that was in no way shape, or form compatible with what we offered. There were people like, Oh, you were just doing this programming today. I want to get fucked up for an hour. We were like, Oh, we do get some time as well. You're gonna lose. offing sometimes. And I think you know, if you get to the point where you can actually afford a member stop, that's a great moment to say, Okay, what is your pricing look like? What does your surfing service offer look like? And before we open up again, we're going to change that in that only to a few handfuls of gym owners I've coached over the last two years, which was a weird time to coach gym owners. Only, you know, in those, with most of those, if they if they got to a point where their gyms were filling up to the point where they had to hire new people, we said, hey, you know, pause, check with your current members, what they're missing, how happy they are, see if you have the, you know, the systems and the staff and class schedule in place to host all those new members. And that's usually also a good moment to think about your pricing strategy as well. While not you know, will still maybe grandfather your current member base. But the fact that you can, you know, afford a member stop is usually also a sign that you can, too. Yeah.

Tyler 33:52
And that's a fundamental principle a lot of people get, as they're afraid to ask for more money there. But it's like, well, that's good, it's just an indicator it gives you. It also gives you a better opportunity to deliver higher value to the people you are getting in. And I think like you said, when you're in that moment, where you have a client who's like, man, well, and what's going on today, and you're stressed and you're doing all the coaching that guy is going to be pissed if you pack another 20 People in the gym and he already sees his coaches less useful to him that you are that he is to you and and that you're about to burn out. And he's like, Well, what is why is all these fucking new people in here? He can't handle this, what are we doing? And it costs you. I think it can cause you a lot of trust within and goodwill within your, within your existing business by chasing too many new people.

Willem 34:37
What I like about you know, the stuff you put out from podcast education and all that stuff is that you guys, you know, definitely also push the idea of not just opening that that leads faucet and getting more and more volume and quantity of people in with focusing on you know, higher quality members and offering them a higher quality service. I think the next pitfall is usually if you get to that mindset, really Like, hey, I don't need more members, I need members that show up that stay that become ambassadors and you know, get other people in that they've already prepared for what the promise of your gym is. But I think the big risk, once you get past that point is people like, well, I just got to raise my prices. I've moved on from the old school Globo gym mindset of volume. I'm a new school gym owner, I'm just gonna cap it, I'm gonna just gonna up the price. And I think that's a really dangerous thing to do. You know, you got to sit down first and be like, hey, just the fact that we want more people to come in, that we can host so we'll just up the price. You know, this isn't me as you can easily in what do you call the Canadian economics? Right? It doesn't? Of course, it does work a bit like that. But you got to really look okay. Why are people staying here? What is the service that people are requesting from us? What will be a fair price for that? And for that price? Can I actually hire the people to do that for me or get the extra equipment or, you know, whatever it is that you need for what your customers are demanding of you. And you know, sometimes when you have those principles in place, and you feel like you have everything set, you know, you've stopped just getting new members in, you know, your demographics are you have educated coaches that can convey your message, even when everything seems perfect, you can still, you know, you can still get thrown a really shitty curveball, and we've had to six months lockdowns here. So going back to those principles, one of those for staff was we want all coaches, freelancers or full time coaches to have a serious career here and what you saw whether it was in restaurants and bars in lockdown, or with most gyms that mainly run on freelancers. They're like, well, we're locked down. You guys are freelancers. Yeah. And we were like, Hey, this is an easy call for us, we've always said go just first, you know, a happy coach means happy members, we want people to build a career. Even freelancers, as long as this lockdown takes the first one, I was like 15 days to slow the curve, I can pay my

Tyler 37:05
ship, maybe I should have rethought this policy.

Willem 37:09
I've had to, you know, there were two moments in both lockdowns where me and the other owner make significantly less than our full time coaches. And that felt pretty bad. And I've reconsidered my principle sometimes like, oh, shit, you know. But now that we're, you know, opening up again, the last few months, everyone is looking for coaches, and we have happy coaches, people that are still in place. So I think the message I'm trying to convey in this brand is not getting pity for making less than my coach has been saying, if you get thrown a shitty curveball, and you start doubting your principles, if you've been around on those principles for a few years, you know, it's going to repay itself. In the end, selling your soul on that in a moment is always going to come and bite you back in Yes.

John Fairbanks 37:56
Planning stress testing, right? A lot of us are like, Oh, well, I don't want they're not willing to gamble. They don't have the balls to be able to actually stress test their systems. It's like, oh, no, no, like, it's I can handle this, or I can handle that. And it's like, how often are you testing it? Because at the end of the day, you may just be hiding whatever you think you have in place where, you know, talk about when we say principles and frameworks, the word principles probably gets thrown around a lot, a lot. And I think it's a little bit too liberally when you say you all have principles that have been stress tested, like you're not fucking around, because it's like, oh, no, like, we've we've actually proven that what makes us who we are, that can handle some of the shit that has closed, I don't even know what the percentages are of the amount of gyms around the world. It's like, oh, no, not only did we not close, but we didn't fire any of our people. And we didn't lose, right? We still have, you know, 600 members, right? It's, yeah, it's a testament to win win. Principle.

Willem 39:05
I use the analogy of training, which always hits home with other gym owners, you know. Currently, all of us living in the first week, we have pretty comfortable lives and a lot of strain to create some sort of artificial adversity. So when real adversity hits, you know, we're ready. And whether that's old age or award or whatever, you know, we're going to be resilient. And I think running your business in the same way that you run your training, you know, you test stuff, you build up and then every now and then, you know, in training, you usually get your, your plan your your one rep max, if you're a weightlifter a powerlifter with CrossFit every time you do a CrossFit competition, and I want to say I've never been a CrossFit competitor. But I've coached a lot of CrossFit competitors and you get shit thrown your way. Every competition you have no idea what's fucking coming. But you're going to be ready if you stress test it a few times if you know where your weaknesses are, and especially gym owners who have been athletes themselves, I think They need to adopt some of their athletes mindset to their business as well. And it helps a lot of them. It's just sometimes, and I'm always careful with this advice. If you're the kind of athlete, it always runs himself the fucking brink of time, maybe be careful which of your business but in general, you know, creating artificial adversity, stress testing, if the first time you hit trouble, and for us, honestly, you know, I have my business partner Leave to work for like, go for you for a few years, which was a really big stress test for me because he was always the visionary guy, and I was the workhorse, and suddenly, I was the main guy. That was my big stress test, and it worked out really good, luckily. But the first real stress test for the gym was a long lockdown. And we had a few moments, we were like, Fuck all this shit. I'm done with and we had to kind of smack each other in the face. Like, this is the first time we've had real adversity. And we're ready to throw in the towel. Like if we're going to do that. Now, we didn't deserve any of this. Well, and I think that hits home with a lot of Jim.

Tyler 41:02
And I remember some of those talks we had to replace and interact with during the lockdown ever midway through because we were doing the same thing we were trying to do. How do we adapt to being online only? What do we do? What can we do to at least keep it? How do we do this? And I remember you saying like, I Well, I gotta keep the coaches around. So the coaches are doing video stuff, just whatever we can do trying to add value giving them work, what they can do in the building. But it was like this, we don't know how long it's gonna go. I don't know how long this can be. I know people aren't canceling. We're doing everything we can. We're just and it was. A lot of people don't even understand that uncertainty. I think more do now though, that was subjected to the COVID lockouts. But there's still a lot that weren't that we're able to still kind of operate and don't quite get what it really is to have to like, dig in and say I want to keep these, it's one thing to say I'm willing to take the leap and hire a person and spend money. And I'm willing to do that, because that's for the growth of the business. But your business isn't very resilient. If that's all you've done. Yeah. And again, you got to build it. So then you can keep that person when the bottom falls out. Because you do need that person, you cannot just get to that point and stop. You have to cement everything in and make it thurible and resilient and redundant. And I think that's the reason you were able to survive all of it because you had so many things in place. So much trust, you had the right staff, everybody had a process mindset. And I think that that is the reason that the gym is still thriving today.

Willem 42:28
And I think we come back to like those, you know, those starting principles again, to really super overuse his word once more. But you know, with the, as soon as the first lockdown happened, every single gym I knew was like, we're gonna do online live workouts or a brief video. I was like, No, you got to take a step back. What are you promising current or prospective members? What do you want from your staff? Or what do you promise your staff? Okay, how can we do that now that the physical space of the gym is closed? You know, just going online, if that doesn't fit at all to what you're trying to convey with the gym. Imagine you're like a raw as bad as a powerlifting gym or like, we're going to do zoom classes now.

Tyler 43:10
Get some, right, yeah, get some, get some fans and a yoga mat. And we're gonna get thick today, guys. Yeah,

Willem 43:16
I mean, we had, there was a funny thing. So we switched to pre-recorded classes with a videographer. And then we did some live classes as well. And the cool thing was that we suddenly had to just do everything in English because I'm a pseudo American. My tell me all the time because of this accent, which thanks to you guys is going to be horrible again for a week.

John Fairbanks 43:39
Down Great.

Willem 43:41
Thanks, brother.

Tyler 43:44
It will get on he was like, All right, y'all.

Willem 43:49
Like suddenly, like, Oh, you guys are doing live classes. Like, I'll take a membership again. I've been missing you guys since I moved back to wherever, which was really cool. But then as soon as you know, we started back up indoors. And we had some older, immunocompromised people that were still pretty scared early in the pandemic. We're like, Hey, can we keep doing video classes when we like? Yeah, sure. I knew we had two or three people there a day, maybe you know. So sometimes you gotta let stuff go again. And what I really liked about the pandemic, and there's very few things I like about it, obviously, but is the fact that everyone was always talking about the next step is going to be super scalability of gyms, so even boutique fitness studios or CrossFit or weightlifting or strongman gyms, we're going to go online and so online programs and everyone was like, that's gonna be the next infinitely scalable step for a gym and we kind of learned like, as soon as people could get back indoors, like, nope, online training, not in person training, we want to we want one of the third place

Tyler 44:46
was that there was blood in the water. We had the conversation early on, I was like, Well, you know, maybe you can just sell them you got the video. I was like, You know what I mean? It is a good, whatever and that thing is and as soon as the smoke cleared on the first pan, the first like lockdown Everybody was so sick of zoom calls, even doing you know, with us doing education stuff we find very much like the value of coaching calls. And yet nobody cares. Nobody wants to get on a zoom call anymore. I don't want to get on a zoom call, if I'm paying you or if you're paying me, nobody wants to really have to do this about a work thing. It was just nobody, nobody cares. It's so many businesses were prepared to pivot to that, that it was so oversaturated and got really uninteresting really quick to everybody who was looking,

Willem 45:30
You know, imagine if you're like an IT disc jockey, and you spend, you know, 10 hours a day in front of the screen and doing zoom calls. And the only thing we want to kind of teach with Jim is, hey, you know, at least for an hour a day, get your acid out away from the screen, and we're like, hey, we have this cool service.

Tyler 45:50
The only thing we can do.

Willem 45:53
It's a horrible face. But I like the fact that people were like, Okay, we've tried online training and shit. We just want to see people again, touch actual gear, and I mean, training equipment.

Tyler 46:05
Of course. It's not until the next pandemic, guys, that the interesting thing will happen, we probably got to get close, John.

John Fairbanks 46:13
Well, yeah, I didn't want to come back because you dropped something that Todd we have to speak to because of the amount of interactions we have had recently. Well, you touched on the point that you need to start kind of treating your business as a but your gym as a business and do it a little bit the way you train. Yeah. This means you have to fucking train. And this means as a gym owner, like it's, there are certain pillars that it's as we get busy, because I have to guarantee Tyler, you've been in this boat, I guarantee you all three of us and everybody that's listening has been stuck here once before. We start getting busy doing fucking all the things and then get busy doing maybe at one thing, like I get really heavy in the business, and that's where I'm at. And my relationship with like, my family goes to shit, I stopped training, I stopped eating well, like it's all of a sudden become one track minded and it's fucking, like the wheels are going to come off. Yeah, and I think that there's a lot of gym owners that are like, oh, man, you know, I'm, I'm too busy. I don't have time to and then like, fill in the blank. You don't have time to eat? Well, I don't have time to train. I don't have time for this. And guess what? It's fucking obvious. If anyone that's a third party that kind of has their shit relatively together can look and be like, Oh, you're running your business the same way. It's obvious how you run your life. And so yeah,

Willem 47:35
yeah, yeah. And I think I think that's, that might be a good thing to kind of run it off as well, to keep with that analogy of training and how you train and how you run your business. I mean, you guys noticed as well, there's one proven effective way to get strong naturally, which is training consistently over a long time. So it's like you need consistency of training, whether that's, you know, good periodization of your volume and vectorization blocks, or whether that's just showing up to a class a few times a week, you gotta have the same thing with your business as well. And that becomes so much more important. Once you start hiring people and delegating tasks. Even when you delegate a task, you still need to be consistent, you can sometimes take over that task. And then be surprised when one of the people you hire to do it doesn't do it one day, because sometimes you stepped in, you got to be consistent with checking in on someone, you can't just assess a coach three times in a week, and then not for a few months, you got to if you delegate, it's going to cost you way less time, maybe more money, but you still have to be consistent on when you check in or how you delegate stuff to everyone else. And it's the same with training, you can just go hard for a few weeks and then drop off again. And you know, having a few set moments, just check in with who you delegated stuff with. It's very simple, but it's not easy. It's really easy to say like I've delegated that I'll check in with her tomorrow or so.

Tyler 49:00
There's another thing on the training that I always find interesting too, is that we talk about consistency that needs to happen and on your business. To continue the training analogy on your business, you need to be working on your business, not in it, meaning if you're coaching classes, if you're just doing the doing and not growing or progressing. You're literally not getting those reps in, meaning your business stays the same. It stayed untrained unimproved this week, it survived this week, just like you did on your ass with a cheeseburger in your hand watching TV or however that goes you know. And so that's what I see so many times is people spend time working on their business or working in their business and never get any reps working on their business. It's survival only and it's like well, and then you wonder 234 years later, like, why hasn't this gotten any better? It's like, well, you your squat didn't get any better if you don't fucking squat and your business isn't gonna get any better if you never address it. And if you just put blinders on and say all right, well Open the doors now we coach and surefire recipe.

Willem 50:04
Yeah, exactly don't get used to putting out fires, if you had to put out a fire with something once or twice, like, Okay, how the fuck I made sure that this doesn't happen again, because putting out fires is super fucking stressful. But I know a lot of people that run businesses and that's how I've done it the first year too, as well. It's like, you know, everything is going well. If something fucks up, I'll fix it then you know, you got to be prepared for that. And if you have to put out the same fire twice, that's really the point where you got to start you know, having something in place whether that's an extra employee or a proven system, anything like that. So yeah, I think I like to trading analogy now don't work don't work,

Tyler 50:40
They work, they work. It's the language we speak

Willem 50:44
at the point where I start to approach my training like I run the business

Tyler 50:50
better so we're just from home well, we better get we better let you get going. Well, I know we're running out here so yeah, yeah, we're keeping them out on a Friday night at home on a Friday night. This is not the thing that I was put on here to take well about on Friday nights. Yeah,

Willem 51:07
there's a bit of mystery liquid in Tyler started that if he went out with the two of us in Utah, which was commonly see because I'm 576 11 Whenever we would order a drink like two beers, he would always order like the strongest double shot of whiskey next to it so at least if we went out we were at the same level by the end of the night.

Tyler 51:29
Yeah, cuz if we just drank beer for beer Willem would be in the hospital. So I go about two and a half to his one which just means I gotta pick up the pace and he's usually pretty good at buying for a Dutch guy so it really worked out for me in the long run

Willem 51:42
never went Dutch so we should compare like you know destructive drinking habits how you run your business instead of

Tyler 51:54
Well, I'm thankful a lot for joining us, man. I really do appreciate it. Well, I'll put your links and stuff in the bottom for sure. But unscared Utrecht in the Netherlands is a tremendously big, great gym, and a great place. We had the pleasure of training and seeing the facility and having seminars and stuff there and they got a really great thing going if you're in the area. Beautiful town, beautiful people. Beautiful gym. So thanks. Well, I really appreciate your time. You can check us out on everything else on all the things hack your follow me at Tyler F and stone you can follow the podcast at gym owners podcast, go to community dot hacker And that is the group where everybody can get in. And this is where people can go through some of these concepts and be talking and sharing their wins and successes. yatta yatta yatta all the good stuff. John, how can they find you? Jay

John Fairbanks 52:37
bank set bail on Instagram?

Tyler 52:39
And William Wallace put your stuff below. Yeah. I only did first names on this. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Like in the Dutch site, which for me to figure out. Thanks, everybody. And we'll see you soon.

Willem 52:55
was a nice way to spend a Friday evening. Absolutely. Yeah, thanks.

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