Chantal: Greg, welcome. Thank you so much for coming on to the Fitness Business podcast.
Greg: Well it absolutely my pleasure. I look forward to this.
Chantal: Look, I know that we have so much ground to cover today ’cause we’re gonna be talking abut how to build legacy fitness business, but before we get into that, I was hoping that you might be able to share with us a little bit about the books that you’ve published because you are a published author. And not only that I know you help other fitness professionals publish their works as well. So just give us a little bit of a background on the books that you have published.
Greg: Well sure and thanks for mentioning that because that’s such an enjoyable part of what I do and what I’m able to do and share with the industry and the book probably that I’m best known for is my signature book called Treadside Manner: Confessions of a Serial Personal Fitness Trainer. And it’s a compilation of stories from the first 25 years in the industry and actually we’re now working on a volume two that will include the last eight or 10 years that weren’t in that first volume so I’m looking forward to updating that and sharing more stories of Treadside Manner with the industry. And I’ve done a series of books about mindset, about five different books on the mindset of weight loss, the mindset of athletic success, mindset of business and mindfulness.
Anything we do to be successful, it all starts with the six inches between the ears and it doesn’t matter what the subject is, if you don’t have your mind right and you’re not in that right frame of mind, you’re not going to be successful long-term. So we like to start with that premise and so I have a whole series of books about that. And then I have some books specific to sports … sports specific type books of golf and baseball and things like that.
Having been in the industry as long as I have, back in the day when I started my business, we were jacks of all trades and masters of none. Now the industry has come 180 degrees from that and everyone has a specialty and so it just shows the evolution of our industry, much like doctors and lawyers, those industries really started to specialize and I love seeing our industry follow those professions.
Chantal: I love that Greg and look, just tell us briefly because I know I am not the only one who has aspirations of publishing a book, and you have created a publishing company, Scriptor Publishing.
Greg: Well, I co-founded that with Kelly Watson. She’s in New York and I’m here in Kansas City and of course our mutual friend, Todd Durkin is the one that really encouraged us to do that and it’s because he was looking at the industry and saw a void of people in the industry that wanted to be published. Many of them shared the same experience that both Todd and I experienced and that was the experience of rejection, of being turned down by the big publisher. In fact, I kept my series of rejection letters which reached at least a half a dozen for multiple reasons, and so finally I said, well, “Okay, fine I’ll just do it myself.”
And so once I developed a system, it was very replicable and so Kelly and I opened Scriptor Publishing group to help other fitness authors develop a platform to grow their business and its through what we call authority marketing. And when you have a book, a platform book that tells what you do, how you do it, and why you do it, it’s an incredible way to scale your business and elevate you and what you do in the eyes of others. When we started to do our due diligence about Scriptor Publishing, we found that nine out of 10 fitness business owners wanted to write a book. They just had no idea of where to begin. And when we found that out, we knew that we had to start the business.
Chantal: Okay, quick break away for a second. If you’re listening to this and you’re feeling inspired to get your own book published, then I’ve included the link to Scriptor Publishing in today’s show notes at FitnessBusinessPodcast.com. So make sure you check it out after the show, of course. Okay, now back to the interview where I’ve just asked Greg to explain the term legacy business.
Greg: Starting a business, and I’m talking about any business it is some incredibly rewarding experience and even more rewarding is watching that business become something even greater, a successful business, and as you know it takes years of hard work and commitment to grow a business that you’re proud of. And the legacy business is really one that’s founded on strong values, excellent customer service, and has a strong company culture. A legacy business is one that the owner can look back on one day with pride, knowing that he or she has created something greater than himself or herself.
Chantal: Great description. I believe that you have a breakdown of five stages of the lifecycle of a business. Would you mind talking us through those?
Greg: Sure and we’ll dissect each one of the stages but the overall stages they consist of the dream stage, the start up stage, the growth stage, the expansion stage and then the maturity stage. We’ll start with the dream stage and that’s before you’ve opened your doors or gone into homes or started your business at all. It’s just an idea that’s planted in your head. And now, our industry suffers in certain ways because we’re a hobby type business which means that at lot of people get into our industry because they love fitness. Right? And so they may be in another career and they decide to switch careers because they love working out or they just think that it will be an easy transition into a business, but it’s just like any other business and the key in that dream stage. And I think where a lot of trainers go wrong is they just go into it without laying the foundation.
The dream stage of any business is important to do certain things, doing your due diligence, creating a vision board. I think that would probably be my number one suggestion to anyone thinking about starting a fitness business or any business is to create a vision board. And a vision board is nothing more than a tool to help you see the future of what you want to create and when you do that it can be through pictures, it can be through article, words, quotes, anything like that, but it’s important to see where you want to go before you actually start down the path because it’s like having a road map of going from one destination to another. It’s important to know where you’re going and that vision board can help you toward that path. And that’s just one of the parts of doing your due diligence.
Now, as you start to develop the idea of building or starting your business, it’s important to know who you’re going to serve, what their needs are, and then starting with an overall sales and marketing strategy and I’m not just talking about a little tactical things that trainers do but an overall strategy and I’ll just give you an example of my business. When I started my business, I knew that, and I did all of these things. Step by step and I was very methodical. And this goes back to the early 1980s, so it was … When I started my business it was before personal training was even an industry. So not only did I have to worry about introducing a new business to a community, but it was an entirely new industry and people didn’t quite understand or grasp the idea of personal training.
So I had to develop an overall sales and market strategy and what I did, I created my own system or my own strategy and I call ERI. And that stands for educate, relate and investigate. And what it really is is kind of a mishmash of three different strategies. Education based marketing. If you know the book by Chet Holmes called the Ultimate Sales Machine, that’s a great description of what education based marketing is. It’s about putting out your best content, your best material. Educating the potential prospects that you’re trying to reach and give ’em your best stuff. Because information now, especially with the internet, information is available everywhere and the example is similar to what we were talking about with the publishing business.
You can go online and go through step-by-step processes of how to do your own book. How to write your own book and how to publish it. But the difference between that, having the information and getting things done is the personal coaching. That’s the biggest difference. I say put out your best material. Educate people to the 10th degree and then when they’re ready to hire someone for that product or service, you become the logical choice to hire. So that’s the first phase of my marketing strategy.
The second phase is once they have signed up, that’s when the real work begins. That’s when we go in to the relate part, the R. And that’s building the relationship. That’s what this industry is all about is relationships. Personal training, fitness industry as a whole is about relationship, so once they’re in your doors and they become clients, you’ve got to make them feel like the most important special person in the world every time they come to your facility or you go to their home, whatever type of business you have.
The relationship is so critical to the long term success, ’cause I know a lot of trainers that are very good about getting people into their doors through marketing, but they don’t do that next stage of keeping them in, so it’s a perpetual cycle of getting new people in. And I’m not discouraging you from getting new people in, but it’s so much easier keeping the current people you have, if you treat them like gold. The recurring revenue is what keeps your doors open. So think about the relationship part of it.
And then that I is the investigate. Find out from your best clients why they came to you in the first place and why they keep coming to you and you do that through surveys. Right? That’s one of the simplest things to do that most fitness businesses don’t do. The bottom line is when you ask your people why they came to you in the first place and why they keep coming to you, what they’re doing is giving you a gold mine of information on how to continue a marketing strategy, because they’re telling you exactly what brought them to you in the first place and why they keep coming to you. And then you just do more of that.
I know it sounds simplistic, but so many of the training businesses that I have consulted with, they don’t do some of those basic simple things, so feel free if anyone’s listening to this that once to use what I do, the educate, relate, investigate. It’s more overall strategy and we do little tactical things under each of those categories differently but the broad strategy is about educating them, building relationships with them and finding out why they came to us, why they come to us and then we do more of that.
Chantal: You know Greg, I think that last piece that you just talked on, the investigate, is so key and I think I truly believe it’s an area that we quite often do forget to pay attention to and not only do we need to give attention to that investigation and that survey and getting feedback from our clients in the early stages of the relationship, but we need to do it ongoing. [crosstalk 00:13:15]. Yep.
Greg: Ongoing. Absolutely. Yes, you do have to be consistent and that’s a great point. I’ll just give you an example of my own business. My average client has been with me for 28 years. That’s the average they’ve been with me.
Chantal: That’s an incredible … incredible life cycle.
Greg: And jokingly … yeah, you know, but again, what that does for a business is it brings stability into a business and I can’t tell you the number of consultations that I’ve done with fitness business owners where they start completely freaking out when the summer comes and they suddenly don’t have a client base because they’re all going outdoors and stuff and it amazes me because if you look at my numbers in month over month, there’s really no dip. I mean it really is really very consistent through the course of the year.
And again, it’s because of those simple things about know who they are, knowing what they like, why they’re there and then we just replicate it over and over and over again. And long-lasting in the dream stage of it. This is very important because a lot of times, and people don’t mean to, but a lot of times people are in the dream crushing state of mind. And what I mean by that is if you’ve got a good idea to do something and you share it with others, a lot of times they become the anti-whatever it is you’re talking about.
And for me, the example of that was when I was starting AYC and AYC, by the way, stands for At Your Convenience. That was my differentiator in the early days ’cause I was competing against the big box gyms. It was the big box gyms and then me. I was the open, the original personal fitness training center here in Kansas City and so that was my competition was the big box clubs. When I was sharing my idea with some mentors and business people that I had reached out to, they kinda looked at me kind of quizzically thinking “That is the strangest idea I’ve ever heard.” And one of them even said to me, “Well, I guess the only thing I can say to you at this stage is that you’re at a great age to fail.”
And I kinda looked at him … well, and you know, and in fairness he wasn’t trying to be mean, he’s like I was 24 years of age and he said, you know, “Hey, if this whole thing doesn’t work out, you’re at a great age to fail because you’ve got plenty of time to recover.” And another interesting … I’ve got two other quick quotes that have always stayed with me. One of them came from fiance at the time, now my wife of 33 years, as I explained the concept of what I was about to embark on, she looked at me and she said, “And people are gonna pay you for that?” She didn’t quite understand. This is before personal training was an industry so it was something completely out of the blue so in all fairness, she does fully understand that yes, indeed, people are gonna pay me for that 33 years into the marriage now, but no, she didn’t understand it.
And then last story specific to that is about three months after I opened my business I was invited on to Kansas City’s most popular radio talk show. This guy is a legend in Kansas City radio and he invited me on to his very popular radio show and proceeded to tell me and his entire listening audience that this type of business would never work in Kansas City. He said, “You’re gonna have to move to New York or California, because Kansas City will never support a business like this.” And now that kind of brings up my last suggestion in the dream stage, is always be willing to say yes to yourself when others are telling you no.
Those are just kind of three quick quotes that have always stuck with me and if I listened to those three, then I would’ve never had the opportunity to celebrate my 32nd year or 32nd anniversary in business and we’re just getting started.
Chantal: Well, Greg, that is such an important message and thank you for sharing those examples with us. I think if anyone said those things to me it would make me even more determined to make the business model work and you obviously have, so congratulations on 32 years in the business now.
So that is stage one is dreams. So talk to us about stage two.
Greg: Yes, okay, so once you’ve got the due diligence completed and you’ve got everything in place. You’ve got the ground work done. Then we go into the start up stage and this is where the rubber meets the road because this is the tires are on the road and they start down the road. So it’s all about laying the foundation for the day-to-day practices at this stage now. It’s important, number one, right off the bat, know who you are. Know your core story. Right? You’ve got to be client-centric at every step of this process and this is what I call Treadside Manner.
And I’ve created a system for my trainers that all of my trainers have to go through this Treadside Manner and learning because it consists of how you dress and how you carry yourself around the gym and outside of the gym. It’s about how you act and react to clients and colleagues. It’s about how enthusiastic you are, how motivational you are with your client base, and this is a real important one, it’s about your expertise in exercise science. The reason I put that one in there is because we are truly one of the most under regulated industries in the world. If you think about it, here in the US, and I assume it’s that way where you are, you have to have a state or national license to cut people’s hair. You have to have a state or national license to give a massage.
But to be a trainer, all you have to do is put up a shingle on your door that says “I’m a trainer.” We are so under regulated that a lot of times you have bottom feeders that come into the industry and bring us all down. It’s important to elevate the ethical and professional standards of our industry, and you do that through your expertise in what you’re teaching and that’s exercise science. So, that’s truly, truly, those are important steps and stages of the start up stage. And I can’t underline and bold and highlight that enough.
Chantal: Okay, so we’ve done stages one and two. Take us into stage three.
Greg: Yes. Okay. So now the growth stage, now this is the stage of business that so many fitness professionals are addicted to because we’re a little bit ADHD and the growth stage is the ADHD stage. It’s what I like to call the eight second stage. Now, do you know what I’m talking about when I refer to the term eight second?
Chantal: No, you’re going to have to tell me.
Greg: Okay, so there’s a term in bull riding called the … it’s eight seconds and that’s the time length that a bull rider is to stay on a bucking wild bull and that’s basically what a growth stage of a business is. It’s like being on a wild bull ride, getting thrown all over the place and it is fun, exciting and times can be overwhelming because the opportunities are coming at you left and right and you know you’ve gotten a little traction from the start-up stage and things are really starting to ramp up.
The key here in this growth stage is to stay focused on your mission, your vision and your values. As long as whatever projects you’re working on fall under that mission, vision and values, then it’s okay to do. But too many people get too spread out, too wide, rather than deep in what they’re doing, that they lose focus and a lot of times the growth stage can be the end of a business because they haven’t handled it correctly. You’ve got to hire smart, you’ve gotta be real, real diligent about the hiring process in the growth stage. You’ve gotta make sure you hire the right energy, the right commitment to your business and your process.
Now the bottom line is the rewards, at this stage can be amazing, because it is a fun, addictive stage that is filled with possibility and this is also the stage that you see those strategic partnerships that you start to develop in the start-up stage, this is where those start to pay off. And it’s amazing what can happen when those strategic alliances of partnerships start to pay off and that kind of takes us into the expansion stage which is that next stage, and the reason I kinda bring these two together and transition to it like this, is because there’s a lot of overlap in the growth and the expansion stage, but the differentiator is when market demand for your services exceeds your ability to deliver.
So that’s where I distinguish the growth stage from the expansion stage. And what I mean is if you’re a solopreneur, which means you’re the only person doing the training in your business, when you have run out of hours in the day to train, and a lot of trainers have been there. In fact, I myself at one time had 78 regularly scheduled one hour appointments on my book.
Greg: I had grown it as much as I could as a personal trainer and it’s interesting because I was so in the trenches, blinders on, focused on just growing, growing it at the expense of virtually everything and it was at that time that my wife came to me and said, “If you want to be part of this family, get a life. You’ve got to be here more than there.” And that was very eye-opening for me and that was when I was able to transition from the growth stage into the expansion stage because I started to bring on trainers. I started to open an additional location, add more products and services to my business.
So it was really, when I realized that the market demand for what I was offering, I could no longer fulfill that and that was when into that expansion stage. But it also took my significant other to basically bring me back into reality and now, expansion can take the form in more than just what I said. It can be geographic expansion. It can be adding, like I said, the services or products to your current offerings, but at this stage, this is where it’s really, really critical to listen to your cents.
Obviously you need to listen to your clients at every stage of your business, but this is where you can really start to learn as you start to grow and expand your business, you need to be responsive to your clients needs. Because if a client comes in and you’re just running a personal training business and they’re going across the street for massage therapy or to somewhere else for a different type of service that you could provide under your roof, why not listen to them and be responsive to those needs and add those things to your offerings. I mean it just makes sense and in the expansion stage, that’s the logical time and place to do it.
Chantal: Greg, I just wanna touch back in that growth stage, the analogy that you gave about the bucking bull I thought was just gold because I think so many of us probably have that feeling of, that mixture of exhilaration but also hanging on for dear life at certain stages about business growth. [inaudible 00:25:59] it was just the perfect analogy. Okay, so we have [inaudible 00:26:01] … we’ve looked at the stages of dreams, data, growth and expansion, so talk us through the fifth stage.
Greg: Yeah the fifth stage, what I call the maturity stage. Now this is when your business is clicking on all cylinders and this is cool because this is where you’re really able to start truly fulfilling your individual mission and purpose. My mission for my fitness business is different than my personal mission. Right? So this is where, when a business gets into a maturity stage, this is when basically it’s running itself. It’s like I was fortunate to be able to go out to San Diego last week, and where I met you and I didn’t even have to think about whether my business would still be standing when I came home because the right people are in the right positions to run it without me being there.
And that’s when the stage is truly … that’s when the business is truly a mature business. This is when you as the business owner can start thinking about maybe some people wanna start thinking about selling the business. For me, this is when I am able to start fully digging into the mentoring stage of helping others grow their businesses because we veterans of the industry, it’s on us now to help the next generation make their generation even better than ours.
Being able to mentor others and elevate our industry, that’s the way we can truly make sure that the industry elevates every generation beyond our own. It allows us to do things like writing for industry publications or books. Sharing what we were able to do to be successful in helping that next generation. It allows us to go out and travel the world and speak, create products, and most importantly, to give back to the industry and to others.
Chantal: Okay Greg. Let’s wrap all of this up now into our weekly fit-biz inspiration and can you tell fitness professionals that are just starting out in the industry, what are the first three steps that they should take to begin to build their legacy brand.
Greg: Absolutely. I’m going to give you three and then one to grow on because I always like to do what Todd Durkin always says, and then some. So I’m gonna give you four. First of all it’s important at any stage of your business, but when you’re beginning, especially important to know your non-negotiables. What are you willing to do succeed within the ethical and professional framework of our industry. It’s obviously important to be ethical, but you’ve gotta be able to work hard and be diligent and see beyond all the obstacles that are in front of you. The obstacle is the way, as one of your recent interviewees said.
Chantal: That’s correct.
Greg: So I love that and I always love that book.
Greg: Next it’s important to create a strong and supportive company culture and that starts with you the leader. You’ve gotta provide your team with growth opportunities at every step of their process as well and then I think this third one is important. It’s all about leading from behind and a lot of people don’t know what that means when I say lead from behind. What I mean by that is to put your people, your trainers, your staff out in front of other people. Give them the opportunity to lead.
I’ll give you a classic example of that is Todd Durkin, his Mastermind group, what he does, he puts his people out there in front of others to lead. It’s a great example of leading from behind. And then the last part is to find a mentor or mentors. That has been such an important process for me, my personal growth and development and everyone in this industry should have at least one, or up to five or more mentors at any given time throughout every stage of their business because it will shorten that learning curve and help you grow exponentially.
Chantal: I couldn’t agree more with all of that advice. Greg, look I feel so lucky to have been able to spend this time with you because I love all of those five stages that we talked through. I love the concept of building an growing a legacy business and leaving a legacy and I especially respect the … I guess your philosophy or your outlook on the fitness business and your desire to give back and to help others.
And that’s something, personally that’s very, very important to me and I wanna thank you so much for sharing your time with all of the listeners of the Fitness Business Podcast. I’m sure that so many of us will take away so many valuable gems from what you shared with us today, so thank you so much. I’m gonna put all of Greg’s contact details in the show notes today in addition to Scriptor Publishing details. So Greg, thank you so so much for joining us on the Fitness Business Podcast.
Greg: It was absolutely my honor and a pleasure to be with you today.
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