Chantal: It is such an absolute pleasure to be welcoming along today’s guest, Robert Gerrish, welcome along to the show.
Robert: Thank you very much, Chantal. I’m delighted to be here.
Chantal: This is personally a little bit of a treat for me because, to give everyone a little bit of background, when I first left corporate, the security blanket of corporate many, many years ago, Flying Solo, which we’ve just told everyone you launched back in the day, that was my go-to online community and website to give me comfort when I first stepped out into the world of solo business.
Chantal: So thank you for what you did with that amazing community.
Robert: It’s a pleasure, so I’m delighted that we were your comfort blanket for a few years.
Chantal: You were, truly.
Robert: That’s great. We do seem to have touched a lot of people in the years, so I’m delighted.
Chantal: I wanted to kick things off today by saying a huge congratulations on the launch of your book “The One Minute Commute”. Tell everyone a little bit about the book?
Robert: Sure. The One Minute Commute, as the title suggests, is aimed at those people who run a business form a home base, or certainly run it from a base that’s close to their home, so that’s the title. For those listening in Australia, and it’s pretty well the same in the US actually, over 70% of small business are home based businesses. I know that a number of people listening will be in more established businesses not run from home. But a lot of the theories and concepts and the strategies that I talk about are all centred around creating a business that you really enjoy, and that really supports and serves your life. That’s what drives me, is helping people create smart businesses that allow us all to do what we want to do.
Certainly, I think, within the fitness industry, I’ve never met anybody in the fitness industry who isn’t in it because they really love the business, they love fitness. I think that’s such a gift to be able to make a living doing the stuff that we love. That’s the purpose of my book, is to help more people like you were when you were in corporate, to help you escape and create what really means something to you and that you can really enjoy.
Chantal: Yeah. I want to dive into this because I read your book recently, for those of you that are watching the video, you’ll see it up on screen now. As I was reading through the book, it kept coming into my head about how many of us as fitness professionals could utilise the information that you talk through because you just touched on that [inaudible 00:02:39]. So often in fitness we enter the industry because we’re passionate about something, there’s a cause, there’s a reason that has driven us into fitness. But sometimes it can be a little bit overwhelming, a little bit confronting as to know what to do, where to start, where to go, to ensure that we’re actually setting our business up correctly.
So I thought for the purpose of today that what we might actually do is put ourselves in the shoes of a new fitness professional entering the industry. Perhaps they’re establishing their first business or maybe they’re even moving onto their second, and let’s today focus specifically on three key areas: the market, the offering, and our ideal customer. So Robert, as I was reading through the book, in chapter seven specifically, you were talking about the importance of making sure that there is a market for your business. Can you talk us through some of those steps to ensuring that there is actually a market out there for us.
Robert: Yeah, it’s funny, when we talk about these things, you listen to it and you think, of course there’s a market for my business. We all assume it is. Or that there is. Often when we’re starting a business, we talk to our friends and our family and they all say “fantastic idea! You’re going to have so many customers!” But unfortunately, there’s sort of the passion and excitement that is so wonderful and so necessary when we start a business, is not enough in isolation to ensure the ongoing prosperity of the business. So we do need to make sure there absolutely is a market.
How do we do this? Certainly, we can talk to our friends and family. But let’s say we can’t trust them, we can’t rely on them. What we really need to do is look very closely at the area that you’re living in, is actually talking to people in that area and making sure, observing, making sure that people are indeed the kind of people that we believe we’re going to have in our business. We need to spend time observing other businesses, looking at nearby shops, other health food shops, other shops around that are suggesting to us, that I’m living here within a community of people that are indeed putting health and fitness as something of a priority in their business.
We can learn so much by looking at what other people are doing around us. Going to the local park, are there people walking, are there people exercising? These sound like basic things, but so often we’ll find businesses that move into a space, and they have this wild assumption that the minute they open their door, people are going to start flocking in. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. So we really do need to have a good look. Nothing beats actually getting down and dirty and getting out on the street and talking to people, observing people, having conversations with people. You’ve probably seen it, I’ve seen it certainly, businesses where they open their door, and you can see them standing there behind the counter and there’s nobody there. That worries me, it shouldn’t be like that.
Chantal: Yeah. That’s a feeling that you don’t want to have. I don’t know about you Robert, but in my experience, what I’ve seen in fitness specifically is people get so excited by the idea of opening up a new business and excited by the concept that they have that they put more energy into things like their logo, and setting up their website than they do actually working out and establishing that there is in fact a market there for them.
Robert: Yeah. I think of an instance near where I live, there’s a trainer that I went to three times a week for six or seven years who ran a small gym but a very prosperous gym. What that guy did, which I found very impressive, before he opened his gym, and he doesn’t live in the area so he commuted into the area, about an hour his commute I think, where he came from. It’s a nice area. What he did before he started his gym, is he built a good following, he worked in a local park, he spent time with people, he got to know people, he realised quite early on that a number of his customers had children that also needed a little bit of fitness support. That opened another market for him, he found by spending time in the area that there was a very popular group of people who wanted to go on an outdoor running group, so he started doing that.
He really knew the space before he committed to a lease. By the time he committed to a lease on a property, he had a good following, a good understanding, and his business, here we are, I don’t know, fifteen years on, still doing exceptionally well. Because he had done his groundwork. That’s such an important thing, I think.
Chantal: That’s a great example that you’ve just shared with us. So let’s say we have gone through that research phase and we’ve taken the time to actually identify that there is a market. Talk to us now about how we best ensure that we’ve got our service offering correct?
Robert: Okay, well look, that’s another great point. It can be the case that when we start a business, we business owners have this picture of all this stuff that we’re going to do, all these particular classes we’re going to run, all these products we’re going to sell. But again, with each of those, they’re like almost a business within a business, we need to be talking to the people we’re working with and asking questions before we go committing a great deal to establishing certain things. As you said a few moments ago, you talk about logos, that’s a good example. A lot of businesses get so hung up on getting all that absolutely right. The same, too, with classes. I’ve seen it with gyms that will establish, because the business owner feels passionate about it, will establish a particular class, and will buy the equipment and will set up the flyers and will do all of those things. The one thing they haven’t done is actually talk to people and go, “Hey, would you like to do this? You want to do this?”
There’s this, I think a bit of a myth in business that is, “Build it and they will come.” People say that, build it and it will come. Well yes but they don’t always come. You don’t want to build a massive, big gym and then [inaudible 00:09:15] it out with everything and then find, actually, they’re not going to come. So start small, is the thing I would say. Start small and if you can get a focus group, a group of people that are showing interest in some new service that you’re offering, then expand it, then grow it. But plunging in with everything is often not the best way to do it. I think, to answer your question, how do you find out the right services, you find it by asking, by trialing, by testing.
Just do it step by step. Again, look at what other people are doing, look at the trend that are happening in other states, in other cities, in other countries, and look at what’s going on. Too often, in our businesses, if we’re not careful we can get really insular. We think we know what’s going on, whereas in fact, if we step back a bit and look at it, we’ll often find some really good pointers to trends that are happening. Sorry, I’m talking a lot.
Chantal: That’s what we’re here for.
Robert: I was listening to a podcast recently by the guy who started Lululemon, and that was on the How I Built this NPR podcast, really great podcast. Fascinating story. This guy was watching and observing what was going on, and he made some mistakes, he made some big mistakes, but he got there in the end. But he did it by observing and stepping back. Often, what we don’t do in our businesses is stand back enough and just have a broader look. What’s going on around here, what do I see, what’s happening in diet, what’s happening in exercise, what’s happening in design of equipment and design of clothing? If you step back and have a look. What’s going on in the whole world of yoga, what’s going on in the whole world of Pilates, how does that impact my business? We need to step back.
If there’s one thing I hope I can do through this book, is help people just step away from your business a bit. It’s very easy to stay really busy. Anybody can do that, we can busy ourselves all day. I can sit in my email all day and kid myself that I’m busy. But am I working in the right way, am I doing the right things? That’s the key thing is observing, looking at what’s happening.
Chantal: I’m glad you brought it back to the book there Robert because for me, one of the things that I really found is that because you’ve gone into such a specific level of detail in the book, it actually does allow you to step your way through it. I’ve found it essentially like a workbook, if you will, where you can kind of go through section by section and go right, yep, [inaudible 00:12:01] got that, got that. That’s what I’m up to now, which I found is really beneficial. I think your point around the understanding service offering, and you mentioned about having a trial group or a test group or people that you could talk to, ties in perfectly to our next point which is of course understanding our ideal customer.
We have, on the show, talked about identifying your avatar, which is very similar. I came to understand, from your perspective, what the steps are to creating our ideal client profile?
Robert: Okay. That’s a great question. I think, it’s so interesting, whenever I talk with anybody in a particular industry, I can’t help that I’m starting to really visualise, I know what the inside of gyms look like and fitness centres. How often do you see them where you see an owner busy doing admin and you see a number of customers within the place that are, there’s an opportunity to communicate with them that I think we miss. We need to make, one of the starting points of understanding your ideal customer, is looking at the ones you’ve already got, and spending time with them. Observing them and speaking with them.
Because if I say to a business owner who’s been going a little while, “Tell me who your ideal customers are?”, they’ll often say “It’s that woman there or that [inaudible 00:13:29] there or that guy over there. They’re my ideal customers.” I’ll say, “Okay, what makes them ideal apart from the fact that they come and spend money with you every day? What makes them ideal?” Often we don’t stop and think, but often what will make an ideal customer, in the fitness industry perspective, is somebody who is committed to their own personal health and well-being, someone who takes the time to understand how things work, who is respectful of your workspace as much as you are of their space when they’re there, if that makes sense.
An ideal customer is not just somebody that, we shouldn’t articulate it in terms of money or status. But it’s how they interact with you, how they respond to your help and advice, how respectful they are of you and you are of them. This might sound like I’m sort of [inaudible 00:14:29] a bit here because I have, as you know in the book, quite a detailed action that I take people through to think about your ideal customer. But within the context of a fitness centre, you might have a number of ideal customers. You may have, early in the morning, for example, your profile of your early in the morning ideal customer may be somebody who is in a steady corporate job, is someone who operates on time and is structured and organised and quick, you want them in and out early in the morning. Your profile of somebody coming in later in the day may be, typically it might be a woman with young children who’s dropped the child off at daycare, who is free between the hours of 9:30 and midday, let’s say, if that’s a window that you’re trying to fill.
You, in a business, will often have profiles of ideal clients that fit certain stages of our business and certain products from our business. The ideal customer for your early afternoon class might be somebody who’s over 50, let’s say. The ideal customer for your 5:30 to 6:30 may be gen x, high energy, well-paying job. If you write a profile for each of your target audience, what that does is it starts to give you some pointers as to how you can retain and attract more of those people.
But what a lot of businesses do is they will broadly summarise their ideal client and say “My ideal client is anybody who wants to get fit and whose got lots of money.” That’s not an ideal client profile. We need to drill down, get really clear on who they are, cause what that then changes is how we message them, how we talk to them, the kind of staff we have on the front desk when that group of people come in, how responsive we are to them. Are these the kind of people that want somebody walking around helping them with equipment, or are these people that have got their headphones in and the last thing they want is any help?
I think the key thing within this sort of industry, within your industry, is to really break it down by section. Look at your gym Monday to Friday, look at the hours that you’ve got, look at your ideal people at any time of the day, and that will help you clarify your messaging, your communication, and how you respond to those people.
Chantal: Robert, thank you for taking us through that. If you don’t mind me, I’m going to indulge for a second and I want to share with everyone who my ideal target, or to show, as an example of just how specific you can get, and you tell me if I’m on track with this or not as far as knowing our ideal customers.
For me, when I’m producing a show, I have a test in my head where I always think to myself, is this a show that Daniel will enjoy? So my avatar or my ideal customer, his name is Daniel. He’s 35, and he was actually a personal trainer for a couple of years before starting to go out on his own. I always think to myself, okay, is Daniel going to enjoy this information, and is this a topic that he’s interested in? Am I asking the questions that he would have about this guest? So Daniel, he’s 35, two years as a personal trainer, started off his own business and now he’s trying to get established. He’s got a young family, he lives in the US. Really, what I’m trying to do for my ideal customer is provide Daniel with education and information and hopefully a little bit of inspiration to make his role in the fitness industry just that little bit easier and to help him run and establish his business. How’s that as far as an ideal customer profile goes?
Robert: That’s genius.
Chantal: We’re good?
Robert: Seriously good. You nailed the person. Clearly you know their behaviours, you know how they live, you know what they want, you know their needs. That’s brilliant. Again, I think when you’re listening to, or when you’re viewing it from the perspective of a listener to your podcast, that’s just [inaudible 00:19:01] anybody listening to you would’ve gone “Whoa, that’s really clear.” I think the thing with certain businesses, and certainly in the fitness industry, you may then have three or four different ideal clients at different stages. Their businesses change, the people you have at four in the afternoon are different to the one you have at seven in the morning. I think your clarity that you’ve got there is fantastic.
It’s interesting, when I was running my business as a coaching business before I started flying solo, and I was building my newsletter list, I remember a thing that I used to do, and gosh it was effective, was if in my newsletter if I put a very specific call to action. So often what you’ll see businesses doing is they’ll do a broad call to action. Anybody who does this in the next three weeks gets 20% off, that sort of thing. What I used to do is, using the kind of insights that you have of your ideal customer, I would say sometimes in my newsletter “Anybody who’s aged 30 to 50 who’s in the creative business and is looking to grow their business by two or three clients in the next four to six weeks, I would like to talk with you.
When you get really specific, what happens is your phone rings, you get exactly those people. Whereas, what happens is when you do a broad message, you’re basically not being heard by an awful lot of people. It’s far better to be heard well by a few people. That’s where I think that’s what comes out of having real clarity around your ideal client, as it allows you to speak directly to that person, and there’s nothing more powerful than that. That’s what I hope people get from this book.
Chantal: That is such a great example, Robert. So I guess as a bit of an action for all of our FBP family out there, I would say to you right now, how much clarity can you currently describe your ideal customers? How clear are you when you sit down and tell someone about your ideal customer? Because if you don’t have that level of clarity or that level of detail, ten this is the perfect opportunity to work on that, and to have a real think about that because as Robert just mentioned, once we truly know what our customer looks like or what our ideal target looks like, then we can properly speak to them, we can tailor our messages and we can tailor are marketing and we can create our service offering to truly relate to our specific audience. I encourage everyone to have a look at the steps that Robert takes you through in the book, because that will actually help you with that process as well.
Robert: Can I just do- sorry, I’ll be ever so quick. I draw a parallel in the book, you may recall, about a dating website as the ideal client. If you don’t have an ideal client profile, it’s like joining a dating website, me saying “I’m looking for a woman.” That’s my headline. That’s not going to work. Whereas if I say “I’m looking for a brunette, age-” I’m just describing my wife now. I better. “I’m looking for a brunette between the age of 45 and 55, who’s creative, interested in the arts, likes travelling, enjoys eating out, enjoys time in the outdoors.” If you describe someone in detail, then that person will feel like “Okay, he’s talking to me. He’s interested in me, he understands me.”
But in business, so many businesses don’t do that. So many businesses give the broad message, and it’s just a waste of time. Sorry, I [inaudible 00:22:41].
Chantal: No, that reference that you make in the book is so perfect, such a really easy way to understand how important it is to really narrow down our customer focus.
We finish off each of our interviews each week, Robert, with our fit inspiration, and perhaps you can share with us the three most important things that a fitness professional should do to succeed as their own boss?
Robert: I would say, in these three steps, the first thing, and it might sound a little [inaudible 00:23:10] but the first thing is to know where you’re going. The core of every successful business, I believe, is clarity around where you’re trying to get to with this business. That can change. The business that you start, a year in or two years in or three years in, you might have a different view of where you’re going. Some businesses that have been going for a while might be looking at exiting their business. Some may be looking at replicating their business. But you’ve got to have a clear picture of where you’re going. Otherwise it’s like you’re heading off in a car without a map and with no purpose, what are you going to do? Drive around and get lost. You’ve got to know where you’re going, that’s the first one.
Once you know where you’re going, then you can get some clarity around what are the daily steps you need to take to get there, and making sure that each and every day you are doing at least three things that are stepping you in the direction that you want to go. If you’re just sitting there, head down, bum up, busy, that’s not going to work. You’ve gotta be clear, where am I going, and what are three things I’m going to do today to help me in that direction?
The final point I would say, and I think it’s so important, in the fitness industry, is to make a fuss of the people that are fans of your business. It’s so much easier to grow your business through helping others talk about your business than it is to always be starting with a clean slate and find new people. So make a fuss of the people that you know.
A scary statistic I heard is that 68% of people leave a business because of something that’s being defined as “perceived indifference”. This is by a guy called Dr. John [inaudible 00:24:53], did it from the University in Queensland, this research. Almost seven out of ten people leave a business because they don’t think you give a damn. How bad is that? People leave because you don’t care. This is criminal in our businesses, and particularly in the fitness business. People will leave if your water bubbler is suddenly empty, your towels aren’t clean, your shower isn’t working. Little things, if you do that, you don’t make a fuss of the people that really love your business, seven out of ten of them, little by little, are going to start walking out the door. We don’t want that.
Chantal: That last point is so important, Robert, and I’m so glad you’ve brought it up because we have in the past talked about having ambassadors of our business, having what we call micro influencers within our business, but it all comes back down to that retention piece. Which really is, we do pay a lot of attention into new member recruitment drives, we put a lot of effort and energy into going out and bringing new customers into the business. But as you say, it’s just so important that we continuously look back to our existing clientele, to our existing members, and make sure that they’re receiving the love and the attention that they deserve.
Look, if when your favourite customer leaves your gym, you say “Hey, guess what? I’ve bought you a latte. I know you always go from here straight to the café, here’s your latte. I love having you in my business. Please, two more people like you, brilliant. If you know anyone, please nudge them this way.” Those are the people that will open doors for us, we just have to acknowledge them, thank them, and ask them. It’s the stuff we need to be doing.
Chantal: That is a wonderful point to finish on. Robert, you’ve gotta do me a big favour, so hold that book up again. I’m going to hold it up on my screen, you hold it up on yours. So for all of our audio, podcast listeners right now, what we are doing is we are having a look at twice the view of the one minute commute. I’m going to be putting links on our show notes to Robert’s book so you can go out and purchase it. I know that many of you out there are Audible listeners like I am, and Robert, I believe you’re about to head into the studio to record an Audible version of your book.
Robert: Indeed I am, and I can’t wait. I think it’s over the next couple of weeks and I’m not sure how long it takes to turn around, I have my publisher Pam [inaudible 00:27:10] doing all that. But I’m pretty sure it’ll be within the next few months it’ll be available as an Audible book, thank goodness.
Chantal: We love an Audible book. But this is a fabulous book to grab hold of, guys. So please make sure, jump out and grab your copy. I will put a link in today’s show notes. Robert, you and I will have to stay in touch so you can let me know when that Audible copy is also available.
Robert: Indeed I will.
Chantal: Congratulations once again on the launch of your new book. Thank you for joining me today and giving us those insights and helping us understand some of those really important stages of getting up and running in our own business. Robert, thank you for joining us on the show today.
Robert: Thank you very much, Chantal, thank you.
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