Chantal: Michael, welcome and thank you for joining us on the show.
Michael: Thank you. This is awesome. It’s an honour. I know you only interview the heavy hitters, so I feel privileged today. This is awesome.
Chantal: Well, look. I’ve wanted you on the show for a long time, and I’m not just [00:00:15] of course. You were the winner of the 2017 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year Award, so congratulations on that.
Michael: Thank you so much, and it’s awesome to finally get onto the show. I’ve been told this so many times, it’s like everybody else has been on the show [inaudible 00:00:32].
Chantal: We got you on, we got you on. I thought we should start off today because we’re, obviously, going to talk a lot about developing relationships with local government and community organisations. But before we even go there, do you want to give everyone a bit of an overview about your business, the LAB?
Michael: Okay. Where should I start? We’ve been in business for probably almost six years, well, we’ll be in business six years on April 22nd. My background, I started off in big box gyms, and I remember being in big box gyms in probably doing every single job, and as a trainer, had people coming on a regular basis. People spent a lot of money, and they were there for a long time. They wanted to get better, both athletes and everyday athletes, and they weren’t always treated the way I thought that they should be treated.
So I wanted to start a place that offered premium fitness services for people, a place for athletes to get better, and also to use athletic-based concepts from my background as a professional baseball player when I was doing that, kind of add those concept and use some of those concepts in training. Then, also have people be treated well from a customer service standpoint.
I started the LAB probably six years ago, and it’s been great ever since. We just had the opportunity to move into a bigger space, which a 6,000 square foot space in Fairfield, New Jersey. That’s where a lot of things that kind of some of the concepts that I’ll talk about, like that idea different things from a community standpoint, from a marketing standpoint working with community, government, different events that your community kind of stem from.
Chantal: So, this new location that you’ve moved into, is that far from the original location?
Michael: Probably not even five minutes. Two minutes.
Chantal: Right, so you’ve been working in that same community for the full six years?
Michael: Yeah, well to be super honest, I’ve been in this same community probably over ten year, because the big box gym that I worked for which was New York Sports Club, and I worked with them for a long time as a fitness manager, fitness director and did a lot of things. So, I’ve been in this same community for a long, long time, been very familiar with the people, very familiar with local government, very familiar with a lot of different local business and things like that for quite some time.
Chantal: And Michael, do you think that we’re going to see more of the lab opening up, or are you sticking with the one facility?
Michael: You know what? It’s easy, you want to think really big. I would love to be able to expand it. This first one was, when I first started, it’s really, I wanted it to be a community place. I always thought like, great gyms in the area become almost like the community people. Places for people to go, places for people to connect, and things like that. And I would love to open more. I just want to make sure that it would always have the heart into it. So, the thing is here, I have people, and I said this in the speech for the award and things like that, I genuinely don’t have one person that comes in that I don’t love, or one athlete that comes in that I don’t love. And I don’t ever want that to change. I want to be able to disseminate that.
so, I would hope to be able to expand that and be able to create something where you can get a culture like that. I just need to figure out how to bottle it up and take it to different places. So, right now we got one. Hopefully maybe we’ll get two at some point, but right now, we’re just having fun living life the way we’re living it, Chantal.
Chantal: So, let’s talk a little bit more about that, because it’s obvious in the way that you speak and the language that you use that community is at the heart of your business. So, how important has that been in actually developing the business, developing relationships with local government and community organisations? What role has that played in the progress of your business to bring it to where it is today?
Michael: You know what? It’s funny. If you look at kind of we’re in like this microwave society right now where everything is kind of online. And if I look at the role of being in the community, it’s kind of like, it can kind of be the heartbeat for your business a little bit. Because right now, everybody believes that everything is online, so it’s really easy to really get involved in just staying in that one space, in doing Facebook ads, just doing Instagram posting, doing a bunch of things, and then kind of sitting in the office and not really getting out into the community. And I think that when you look at it, it’s something that I even got sucked into for a little bit. I got into the bigger facility and I felt like I wanted to get a little bit more reach because you got stress, you got more bills, you got more different things. And it’s like, how can I reach more people?
N I got out of doing the little small things, and I kind of suffered from it for a little bit. And I think that it’s super important that you go out and become, because if you look at the key ingredients of like, we’ll say marketing or just building your culture, it’s always, know, like and trust, right?
Chantal: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Michael: So, it’s like people, first, they got to know you. All right. And how do they get to know you? We can sit behind a screen and build great avatars for people, but at the end of the day, do people really know you from a standpoint where they really like you? And then, once they like you, they really have to trust you to come in and take advantage of your services and that doesn’t always happen. It’s I guess, in this day and age, we would call it relationship marketing, right? Where you start to kind of build this relationship with people and then business ensues from it. And I think that that’s kind of the magic formula to this whole community involvement.
Chantal: Do you reckon that you could share with us a specific example of what you’ve done with the lab to connect with your community and actually drive leads for your business?
Michael: So, if I could pick out one instance, I think that it’s one thing that I did early on that’s kind of been [inaudible 00:06:34] building a little bit more of a foothold in a community is I started participating in the St. Jude’s Cancer Walk. And that just developed in like kind of doing warm-ups before the walk. And it was a way for people to get to know my business, but also get to know me on a personal level from seeing me every year. And then how many people go to the Walk is an opportunity to get e-mail addresses and different things. So, something like that was super instrumental in saying, hey that these guys, not only then, I’m not just out saying, “Hey, we got this 19.99 membership,” or “We got this low-cost membership,” or “Hey, come in for this transformation challenge.” It was, all right, this is a person that’s involved in the community, that cares about doing great things for a great cause, and this is somebody that was fun and that it might be fun to go train there. Let me go see what they’re about.
And in turn, it’s a chance for you to reach a lot of people at one grand event, and on a bigger scale.
Chantal: So, did you align yourself, because I think you said you went a couple of times, did you align yourself with that one event over a period of years, and that kind of made your brand familiar to the participants?
Michael: What actually happened was, of we start going back to like that first conversation about being involved in government, what happened is I got involved with actually the mayor way up front. So, it’s one of those examples of know, like, trust once again. So, I actually was able to meet the mayor of the town where I was at, which is the mayor of [inaudible 00:08:13]. And we had a couple of different interactions. And this is something that I’m going to kind of elaborate on in my presentation and idea later on this year.
And we had a couple of different interactions and in each interaction it was great to meet and have, he was a nice guy and it was great to have a lot of conversations. And I had offered training, to come in or do whatever. And he’s kind of a come in, do the treadmill type of guy, and some different things at the old place where I was. And in one particular instance, I remember we were talking, and he was telling me about somebody, events that they had going on in the city, like maybe it had a five K or maybe they had a marathon. Or maybe they had some other things like that. And I remember telling him a couple of times, “Hey, if you ever never need anybody to come do a warm-up or something like that, just let me know. I will come.”
And first time I think he kind of brushed it over and then, I would see him again and I’d say, “Hey, remember if you ever have any events, I would love to come.” And this is something that, for me, I enjoy that. I like to go out and be with people, and things like that. That’s part of my personality, part of kind of like my core.
And there was one particular night, and I was inside of a shared facility which was, it was a shared tennis facility where he would come in and kind of do some stuff. And he was coming in to play tennis one night. And he kind of popped into the office right after tennis, and I was in there doing some paperwork, and he said, “Hey, you doing anything right now?” And I said, “No, I’m not doing nothing.” He was like, “Well, get ready, come over with me. We’re going to go to this dinner.”
And at the dinner, came in, I’m like, “Great, this is just a great free meal, or whatever it is.” And I’m like, “Hey, this is cool.” And at the dinner he said, “You know what? I want everybody to meet Mike. He’s going to do our warm-up for the St. Jude’s Cancer Walk.” And-
Chantal: So just like that? Just no warning, that’s it?
Michael: No warning. He introduced, you walked in, he had hundreds of people, or whatever the number was, and he just said, “I want you guys to meet Mike Piersey. He’s dutily volunteered to do our warm-up for the Cancer Walk this year.” And then people came up, and they exchanged their information. It was a great networking thing for me. But it was just based off on the fact that I kept offering and just, he would see me all the time. And it wasn’t like I was I was asking him for something, which in his position, I’m sure, you’re used to people coming up and saying, “Hey, can you do this for me?” It was just from me making contact and once again, it was just know, like, trust. So it was like, “Hey.”
And it ended up being an extremely successful event. And from there, the relationship I had with them and the people that ran the walk. There was in particular a lady there, and her name’s Terry, and every year she, and her grandson had terminal cancer. And he actually was able to get pretty fortunate and was able to beat it. So, every year she’s there with him and she requests every year that I do the Walk, but every year what I do is I bring her up and she dances during the music, her and her grandson while I do the warm-up. They do the warm-up, but they dance onstage. But, for part of that was being part of the community, being welcomed in, and then that acceptance basically is every year she requests that I be there to do that Walk. So, it’s a chance to not only do something great for you and for your business, and to be out there. And I got pictures of most of that, I think on my social media that people can pull up.
But, it’s a chance for you to get all those people that are there and associate them with your brand. And not only that, but forget your brand, it’s just to say that, “Hey, this is a brand that cares about these causes, that cares about these things.” And genuinely, I do it because it’s something that I care about. Kids are great and cancer is something that’s taken a lot of people from me and my family that I love, and I think that it’s a great cause. But it’s a chance for you to expose your brand and help people understand that this is a brand that actually cares about people.
Chantal: That is such a beautiful story, Michael. Thank you for going into the detail of that, because I think that’s the true heart of it is that relationship early on that you built with the mayor, the local town. And I think what I take away from that is just how important it is to be consistent in your approach, and to be persistent, and not sort of give up after someone doesn’t take you up on an offer because obviously as you said, it took a couple of turns for you to offer or volunteer your assistance before he actually embraced it and took it on, and then the journey went from there.
I’ve actually got a couple of practical questions for our listeners who are thinking that sounds like something that they would like to try and do in their local community. What I’m wondering is once you have, you’ve gone through that process, you’ve started to build that trust with member of the community. How do you physically take it from there to either, you mentioned collection e-mail addresses. How did you actually go from, “Hey, I’m here and I’m this brand and I’m representing the lab, and I’ve built these relationships.” So yes, people might walk in the door because they’ve got that recognition, so that’s one element. But how do you actually get e-mail addresses from those people that participate so that you can then offer them a special membership or a trial?
Michael: One of the things is that I was able to do is, there’s always a DJ or something out there to create atmosphere and music like that. So, one of the practical steps that I would say that I’ve been able to use is I’ve been able to give stuff away. So, for instance, a couple of years back, I was able to do a men’s health DVD and stuff like that. So, in that situation, at something like that, I might be able to say, “Hey, I’m going to give away a DVD for anybody.” Or, they’ll have a lot of giveaways because basically, they’re looking for a contributor with donations and things like that. But they want people to have a great time too. So, there’s usually like some raffles or that I’m giving away something for people that are participating in the Walk.
So it’s nothing for you to say, “Hey, I’m going to throw something in there.” And not even just a walk. I mean, are there [inaudible 00:14:56] where you are that you could donate something and be able to say, “Hey.” There’s always schools looking to say, “Hey, can you offer something in our [inaudible 00:15:07]?” Or health events where you can do things. And then, when you give away things, people have to put their names in there. And they have to put their names, e-mail address, their information and stuff like that in there. And in kind you do the raffle or whatever. It’s a chance to expose yourself to those different people who entered into whatever it was to get your DVD, your book, your free week, your two-week pass, or whatever you might have to offer.
Chantal: That’s such a great example, Michael, and I want to take this opportunity to kind of, for anyone that hasn’t checked out your social media presence or your website or if they’re not aware of what you do, one of the things that I think you just do phenomenally well is you’ve built your personal brand. Obviously, you’ve built the business brand as well, but you have so much supporting material that you’ve created around what you do. So, you just mentioned the DVD then, and I know you’ve contributed a lot of articles, and that’s another area that I think people can use to actually connect with the population is being able to contribute their knowledge in various articles. You’ve done a lot of podcasts. And I do encourage everyone to jump on. I will put the links to Michael’s social media pages in today’s show notes so that you guys can check it out.
But I think you’ve done such a phenomenal job of building your brand, but also having consistency with your brand. You have an incredible energy that comes out in all of posts that you do, and I think that that probably really helps your connection with that local community and with your team. So, congratulations on everything that you do, because it’s just phenomenal and it’s great to watch you.
I actually have one more question. One more question, because I like to make sure that the listeners have some really great practical takeaways, and I think that we’ve already helped them with sharing that fantastic story. But, can you give your top tips on how we can start to begin to build a relationship with out local government or community organisations?
Michael: Okay, first one I’d say attend city meetings. Attend city meetings. Like, if you have a local government. It’s not going to be exciting. It’s not sexy stuff. But attending the city government meetings, you get a chance to meet the people who are in your government, and then you get a chance to understand who, it may not be the mayor. And then, a lot of times, it’s not. When I look at it, it’s everything. I just happened to be, but it could be. So, I don’t want to set the bar that you have to be, “Hey, I have to have this relationship with the mayor.” But it’s having a relationship with the recreation director allows you to do some different things.
For instance, we have a turf field. A lot of people look at the facility and say, “You don’t have turf.” No, we have the use of a turf field. So, we don’t need to.” But that comes from relationships with different people in the city government, and that changes things on another level. So, attend the city meetings, then you know what’s going on in the town. You know what kind of events, and there’s always some things that you could be getting involved in to kind of get yourself in front of other people, as opposed to kind of like, trying to do everything from social media.
The second one is, like it’s one of the old staples for everything, and it’s always pretty much in sales circles, it’s one of those old tried true methods of trying to get into the community, but join your Chamber of Commerce or become familiar with your Chamber of Commerce. Because usually sometimes you don’t have to join. Sometimes, there’s usually a very consistent string of events with the Chamber of Commerce.
So, for instance, it just went to an event that we had here locally called a Taste of Essex, and it’s all these different restaurants. But I couldn’t really tell you right offhand how many people I was able to connect with just by being at that event. What it is it’s a round table of restaurants. Everybody loves to eat, have a good time. The like to have a glass of wine. So, all of your representatives in different community events, I mean, different community organisations, a lot of they key holders are there having dinner or drinking wine, talking different things, talking shop. So, Chamber of Commerce is great.
That will open you up to speaking opportunities. Every so often I get a chance to speak for a different breakfast, or you go in and maybe your can give your ten, 5-minute speech on something that you are proficient at, or something that you want people to know about your business. In addition to that, you get a chance to give your 30-second commercial, they like to call it, where I get to tell people about what we do. And you get to go there and it’s great to get face value in front of the other company.
And if I get a chance to expand a little bit on that, what it does is when you get a chance to go to some of these different events, don’t look at it as an opportunity to try to make a sale for your business or look at it as an opportunity to, or grab a card and things like that. What it does is, for me, it allows me to create maybe possibly a joint venture with a person. So, if you look on some of my social media, er have fitness event coming up and it’ll be some of my, I like to say partners, because we partner because our businesses complement each other. So, it’ll be something with the Lab in conjunction with the joint chiropractor and revive body and mind which is cryotherapy, which is something that I would like for my people to partake in. But the businesses complement each other. Also we have a nutrition company that comes in too, so that’s, it’s just businesses that complement each other, that we can work together to try to basically help each other by driving business to each other. Because the services complement each other.
So, that just comes from being in the community, seeing each other and talking to each other, and now all of a sudden, there’s something that we can do that might be mutually beneficial to not only just drive new people to our businesses, but also create more services and extensions on a business for my existing people.
And then the last, wouldn’t be the last thing, it would be hundreds of things, but be up to speed on events in your town. There’s always a health fair. There’s always a marathon. There’s always something going on that you can get involved in. And the thing is to change kind of like, the difference for me in changing my engagement with my general community and community government is to realise that there’s something that you have to offer. So, if you go bearing gifts, kind of, or just saying, “Hey, what can I offer? How can I help you,” changes that posture, and it allows people to say, you know what? It allows that moment that I had where a person says, “You know what? I’m going to bring this guy in to do the warm-up.” Just because I’m saying, “How can I help you?” The majority of the time, remember the people in your government, people at an event, they are swamped with businesses asking for stuff all the time.
So, if you have a chance to say, “Hey, how can I help you? What can I offer you?” In that specific case it was a chance to offer, “Hey, maybe the guy says, hey I’ll have somebody do a warm-up and I don’t have to pay him. So, I’ll get this guy. And he seems like he’s okay. He seems like he’s not a wild, crazy whackadoo.” So, I come do the warm-up, and in that situation I benefited from it. So, those would be a mouthful, but some tips.
Chantal: They’re some really good tips, and as I’m sitting here listening to you, Michael, I’m thinking, I truly believe that you are one of the hardest-working fitness professionals in our industry, and hearing you talk today about those initiatives and the way that you approach your business, it just reinforces to me why you have had the success that you have, and you truly do care about people in your business. And I love that ongoing message, that theme throughout our conversation which really is it’s not about putting that hardcore sales focus up front. It’s actually about putting the needs of our community and our potential customers and our members first. And then, once you, as you say, sort of build that like and that trust factor, that’s when they become part of your membership or part of your business.
So, I want to thank you so much. I’m thrilled, and I’m sorry it’s taken us so long to get you on the show. But I just know that the information that you’ve shared today is going to be of immense value to so many of our listeners. So, thank you so much for joining me today.
Michael: Thank you so much for having me. And no, it was good. It’s good to talk, and I think that, I am so honoured to be on the show and I appreciate all your kind words. And then, just thank you for having me.
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