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Transcription – Travis Barnes Show 185

Chantal:               Travis, I am so excited to welcome you to the Fitness Business podcast.

Travis:                   It’s a big honor to be here. Thank you so much for having me on the show.

Chantal:               Now we of course met not that long ago at the IDEA World Convention 2018 and I had the amazing opportunity to sit in the audience while you presented to the delegates of the club and studio summit. I was just blown away by your presentation and by the systems that you spoke about. So it was a no brainer for me, I was like, “I’ve got to get this guy on the show to share your knowledge and your experience with the listeners of the show.” But before we talk about systems, you obviously have had quite a remarkable journey to becoming a multi-location fitness business owner and I was hoping that maybe you could start off by sharing a little bit of your story with all of us here today.

Travis:                   Sure, absolutely. I’m honored to share my story because my hope is that there will be somebody listening that feels like they have some adversity. That they have an obstacle to overcome and that maybe they have a mindset holding them back like they don’t have enough resources or money of enough education. And I wanna let you know and I wanna let the listeners know that I had to … from a decade of incarceration to get to where I’m at. So that’s a decade, yeah, 10 years, right. I know we’d like to think a decade, is he talking about 10 days, 10 months? It was 10 years and it was just poor choices. I’m sure that we’ve all made different poor choices in our life, but that has become the better part of who I am. I remember early on in my decade of incarceration, my hope was to get a job in this furniture factory.

I don’t know what you know about prison wages, but most of the time you’re just sweeping up a floor for maybe 40 cents an hour or maybe 20 cents. But if you can get into that furniture factory, you could make a dollar an hour. And if you’re willing to work 15 hours a day then you could actually make $2 on your second half of the day. So I got into the furniture factory and in order to work my way into that dollar per hour, I had to get a P grade and there was only one available in each department. And these correctional officers were very concerned about this guy who was leaving, this guy Ryan ’cause he had been there for 20 years and nobody knew how to do Ryan’s job. So I asked him, I said, “Hey, has anybody ever sat beside Ryan and written down what he does?”

He went like, “Well no, do you wanna do that?” I was like, “Of course.” ‘Cause at the time I was trying to just make some money to take care of myself and probably was willing to work 15 hours a day. I could send a little money home to my family and that became the first time that I actually ever systemized anything. I systemized his position by writing down step-by-step processes for what it was that he was doing and that became my first operations manual. Little did I know that one day I would be released and write an operations manual for the first business that I worked for, the first fitness business and now of course I opened up my business that operations manual, which allowed me to grow from one location to five locations in less than four years.

Chantal:               That is just remarkable Travis and of course, not only have you utilized systems within your business, but now you teach other fitness professionals and other business owners about how they can systemize their business. That’s what we’re gonna be diving into today. Do you wanna start off by explaining to us what areas of our fitness business we should actually look at systemizing?

Travis:                   Yes, yes, I think every area that you would like to work for you. Meaning that when we carry things around in our head and then there’s things that only we can do and that people have to come to use for the answers. If you find somebody coming to us saying, “Oh, how do I do this? Or where do I find the answer to that?” That is an indication that you need to systemize it. You need to write it down, teach it to your team and make sure that they can look it up in a book so that … it’s nice have an open door policy, but it’s not nice if your door works like a revolving door with people spinning around it because nobody can find the info, except for by talking to you. So everything in your business, from the sales and marketing end of things to the operations, to the finance and admin that happens on the back end, all those things should have processes and systems. They can be found in a thing called the operations manual.

Chantal:               So Travis, you know what? Whenever I think about systems, in my head I quite often think about franchise-based businesses ’cause I think they’re always a pretty good example of where systems work incredibly well. Is there anything, in your experience, that you say that we could learn from franchise business models?

Travis:                   Absolutely, one of my favorite books, The E-myth by Michael Gerber, talks about how 80% of franchises succeed, while 80% of small businesses fail. It’s a really interesting statistic and we might be misled actually to think, oh well of course they succeed, they have this brand or they have this name. However, if you show up at the McDonald’s drive thru and suddenly it takes an hour to get your meal, you’re not going back. They succeed because they have a playbook of systems that they follow that allows them to run that drive thru in 90 seconds or less or whatever the case might be. In Starbucks in Kenya, a cup of coffee tastes the same as it does in New York city because they have system that they follow. I think that when we look at franchises, what we’re really looking at is a business that has decided to run their business on a playbook of systems. And I think that’s a big difference.

Chantal:               You said at the very beginning that you’re kind of known as the systems guy, but I wanna say, I think you’re also the acronym guy because you have so many great acronyms and different ways of remembering things and one of the ones that spoke about at IDEA was FITBIZ. So can you talk us through the FITBIZ system that you’ve created?

Travis:                   Yeah, I love acronyms, I think that they make great teaching maps, I love the one system, save yourself some stress, time, energy and money. Super important and my FITBIZ acronym is actually how I break down the components of an operations manual. So I spell that F-I-T-B-I-Z, FITBIZ and the first one is, figure out your organizational structure, that’s the F. If everyone is accountable then no one is accountable. So when we have a person that’s either filling every role or two people filling multiple roles, it’s time to figure out your organizational structure. So making one person accountable for each position is super important.

Determining what those KPIs, those key performance indicators are, like a top five for each position, allows us to start to organize our company into getting people in the right seats. Get the right people in the right seats according to their strengths for the position, rather than letting it be, oh well I thought that they were gonna do it and oh no, I thought you were gonna do it and then there winds up being a lot of confusion. So that is the F. The next one, I, is about investing in your talent. Once you start to realize the positions that you have, then you have to fill them. And investing in your talent starts early on, just in the way that we interview, the way that we onboard, the way that we educate people as we bring them aboard.

The way that we continue to educate and I feel like there’s a famous little conversation that goes on between a CFO and a CEO. The CFO is always concerned of course about the finances and the books and so the CFO says, “Well, what if we invest in them and they leave?” But a good leader says, “Well what if we don’t invest in them and they stay?” We don’t want these people like this … we wanna continually improve, we want a great company that’s made up of great individuals. So the I in FITBIZ is about investing in your talent and really having a solid plan to do that. The T that I talk about is tailoring your marketing. There are so many opportunities for marketing and I think it’s great that we are all getting in tune with social media.

But there’s actually at least 18 different forms of marketing that we should be thinking about. I like to follow a marketing wheel in our course, I also like to challenge people to identify who do you serve? Who are your three customer types? What are the words that you own? And really tailor your marketing message so that it’s not about your company, but about them. So that’s the FIT and then the BIZ. The B is boost your sales. If you cringe when somebody answers your phone, when you have a team mate answering the phone and you wonder, “Oh, what are they gonna say? Are they gonna make an appointment out of this phone call? Are they gonna get the person to come in?”

It’s an indication that you need to actually systemize your sales process. You need to give them a phone script and then if you wonder what’s gonna happen when somebody walks through the door, then you need to systemize that as well and that would be your sales tour. So boosting your sales comes with systemizing your sales processes and then the next I is initiate operations. I know when we talk about systems that people are often, they’re often feeling there’s gonna be such a tedious, arduous process. How could I possibly have time to write things down? Or what would I write down? Is it a bunch of policies and procedures? And the answer is no. It’s actually a lot simpler than that. There are people that you have working with you that are great at what they do and they can write down their processes.

There are people such as … if you are the main operator in your business, you are the most important system that you have. The problem is everybody’s coming to you and you feel like a master juggler. Like you’re just spinning in place because you’ve never taken time to write down what it is that you do and teach it to other people. So when you initiate operations, you are taking the things that you do well and that other people do well and just putting it down into like a bullet pointed check list. Even surgeons and the book E-myth by Michael Gerber, he talks about how surgeons use a check list and so if surgeons in surgery have a check list, we should have a check list for what we do.

Then, finally there’s Z, zip your financials. Dave Ramsey can be quoted to say, “Don’t ask your money where it’s gone, tell it where to go.” I think that, that’s so important. When we look at our financials at the end of the month, it really shouldn’t be a big surprise, we shouldn’t be like, “Oh no, I spent that much on compensation or I spent that much on marketing or …” Those things should actually just be confirmations. A P-note report is something that you should pretty much be able to expect 90% of it based on the fact that you’ve already set different budget numbers. So in my course, FITBIZ, we talk about how to set those numbers and what’s appropriate for the different size companies that are out there.

Chantal:               Travis, I wanna look at two different life stages of a fitness professional. One, of a stage where they’re just starting out in their business, they might have just bought their very first studio and the second one’s someone who’s a bit more established, that’s been around for a while. If we take that first example, someone who is just starting out, maybe they’re a PT that’s opened up their first studio and they don’t yet have specific ways that they maybe onboard or the way that they do their sales tour, that type of thing. What would be those kind of initial critical systems that they should start writing down as they’re developing and growing and implementing systems within their business?

Travis:                   I think that it’s very important … I know that we don’t necessarily think of it as a system, but this is part of figuring out your organizational structure and ultimately, your end goal. As Stephen Covey might say, “Starting with the end in mind.” If you’re just starting out, part of your systems is actually your vision because everything that you build in your company is going to be done according to … the vision is how the world is gonna be different because you were there and once we know how you’re gonna make the world a different place, then we start to systemize a business to support that. The mission is the how we’re gonna do it.

So once we establish how we’re gonna do it, there are processes that underline that. And I believe too that foundationally they need to know their core values because every decision that’s made about what systems we’ll allow to be a part of our business is gonna be based on those core values. Because often businesses that don’t spend much time thinking about their core values regret it later on ’cause they feel like they’re starting to lose the heart of the business. So I think that, that’s very important for someone early on to say, “What’s our vision? What’s our mission? What will be the core values that we’ll hire by, that we’ll make decisions by?”

Chantal:               I love that answer Travis because I feel as though that is also that point, having your vision and your mission written down, even though as you say, maybe we wouldn’t traditionally call them systems, they become a … I don’t know, they become a check for you as well later on, don’t they? So once you have been in business for a little while and perhaps you’re going through your operations manual or your playbook of systems. Sometimes it’s good to have those there as that point of reference, to go back and check that everything that you’re doing, continuously points back to that original vision and value.

Travis:                   Yeah, for example, even in how we structure our memberships. I know that there are some people out there that have really easy cancellation policies for their members. I’m in fact one of them. I like to say that we have clients and not hostages. Often people sign up for memberships and they have to produce a death certificate or something in order to get out of the membership, which is a really hard thing to produce.

Chantal:               It is, rather.

Travis:                   But the point is, that is a core value decision. That was a core value, so it’s tough to write those policies, those procedures until you’ve already established those core values to say, you know, what is it that we’re gonna be about?

Chantal:               Yeah, absolutely and then let’s just go to part B of that question that I mentioned earlier. So if we now put ourselves in the shoes of a business owner that has been in business for a little while. Maybe they’ve got one or multiple locations and perhaps they have established a playbook of systems or their operations manual, how regularly should we go back and review those systems and just recheck that they’re still relevant? How often should we review that?

Travis:                   You know, I believe that an operations manual should have quarterly updates. We’re always going to conferences and reading books and learning from our colleagues as to different systems that could improve our business. So when that happens, we wanna have a sheet that just running and we can say, “Okay, here’s something that we’re gonna add in and we’ll do a quarterly update at a quarterly offsite meeting with our team.” So that’s very important and another indicator that you need to go back and revisit your systems, is that there’s three components in every business. There’s that sales and marketing on the front end that gets those customers in.

There’s the operations that retains those customers and provides that excellent customer service and then on the back end there’s the finance and admin that make sure that there’s not money going out the back door faster than it’s coming in the front door. So if you’re having problems in any one of those areas, it’s also an indicator to say, “Well let’s take a look at our systems.” And if the system has been wrote, then it’s probably that people are not applying the systems and so we need to revisit and retrain people in those systems.

Chantal:               Yeah, that’s so important Travis and you know I bring that point up on purpose because I have this theory that quite often an operations manual becomes like so many business plans and that is, we spend all this time investing in creating an ops manual and producing it and then sometimes it can just sit in the drawer and not be looked for 12 months. So the idea of actually putting in quarterly checks and as you say, keeping that little tally of things that you wanna update and just cross checking it against other areas, other departments of the business, who’s absolutely pivotal and I want to take this opportunity to give everyone an action and that is to go now and have a look at your operations manual, double check when the last time was that you updated it, if you have one. And if you haven’t already, then take Travis’ advice and schedule in quarterly reviews where you actually take the time to look at your ops manual and make any updates that are necessary.

Travis:                   You know, I love what you’re saying. An operations manual too often becomes a dusty book on the shelf. We don’t want that. One thing that the Ritz Carlton does is they have a credo card and that credo card is something that they carry with them every day. It reminds them of their steps of service, their service values. The things that they’re supposed to do to really make the Ritz Carlton way of doing business live and breathe. When I found that out and I found that out through Todd Durkin, who visited the Ritz Carlton and created his own credo card.

I said, “I’m gonna create my own credo card.” So we created our own credo card and it was based on things that were in our operations manual, parts of our extraordinary trainer checklist, parts of our core values, just the way that we wanted to treat our members. And every day we send a text to all five locations, all the team members there about just one little piece on that credo card and that credo card, it just really helps us to make that operations manual live and breathe. So just another suggestion there for people, so it doesn’t become a dusty book.

Chantal:               Wow, that is really cool, I’m gonna … you can totally say no to this request. Would you consider sharing a photo of that with us?

Travis:                   Absolutely, absolutely.

Chantal:               Yeah, we would love that ’cause I would love to pop that in the show notes because I know that I’m right now thinking, “Oh wow, I wanna see what’s on your credo card.” I’m personally gonna take that idea and use it for the show and I’m sure that a number of our listeners will be interested to check that out. So if you’re willing and happy to share that with us, then I would just love to see a pic of the Journey Fitness credo card. That’s awesome, love that-

Travis:                   Absolutely, absolutely-

Chantal:               Now we’ve already talked about a lot of different areas of business, a lot of different systems within businesses, are there any other critical systems that you think we should keep in mind or be implementing into our business?

Travis:                   You know, we talked about the new business owner and we talked about the one that had been in business for a while and I think that it’s important for us to understand too that management is a system. Having productive meetings, having score cards for each of your employees, so that they know what’s expected of them and how they can become responsible for the overall goals of the location. I think that, that is very important as well. So another critical system is, even the way that you host a meeting, Patrick Lencioni, Death by Meeting. Making sure that you’re systemizing those things, so that you’re not killing people, killing your people with your meetings. So it’s very important that we even systemize our management.

Chantal:               Yeah, that’s a great one to keep in mind. So look Travis, we’ve covered a huge amount of information already today. I would love you to leave us with our FITBIZperation for today and can you share with us what you feel are the most important three factors for systemizing a fitness business?

Travis:                   Sure, the first most important factor is yourself because most often, when we’re talking to the different fit pros that are out there in the industry, that are listening to this call, you got into this business because you were good at what you did. And so if that’s you or if you have somebody working for you that is just the face of your location and they’re great at what they do, realize that what they do is a system. So it’s not something that you can’t train someone else to do, sure there will be different personalities, but it’s just very important that we start writing it down, teaching it to other people. Otherwise, you have someone in high demand and you have someone who, no one else can fill their shoes. So that is essentially your operations component and I feel like that is our extraordinary trainer checklist. So three factors for systemizing your business.

Number one: take a good look at who your best players are and what they do so well to systemize and giving a great customer service to your customers. Then, when it comes to other factors for systemizing your business, I would say, again, take a look at the other forms of marketing that are out there because when we look at our sales and marketing component, I feel that everybody is learning about social media nowadays, but other people are forgetting about the grassroots. The grassroots of where we attend chamber events and get out there the GIFT marketing, where GIFT, again an acronym. You said earlier that I was good with acronyms, so here you go. Let’s have some GIFT marketing, where we get in front of them. Let’s have some GIFT marketing, where we have events, something to invite people to.

So I think that, that’s a very important factor when systemizing your business, not to just get so hung up on social media that you actually disconnect from the other opportunities that out there in the world, when social media was meant to connect you more. Then finally, on the back end, the factors as you grow, I think that we need to scale, we need to scale our finances. So early on it’s very important to identify what you will allocate for compensation. I know in our coaching business we shoot for 40%, we shoot for 5% of our budget to go towards marketing and that’s 5% of our revenue. So I think understanding your numbers early on would save you from a lot of headaches later on, where you were wondering, “I brought in all these customers, but now I still haven’t made a profit.” So it’s very important to understand early on what your budget numbers will be.

Chantal:               They are three fantastic takeaways and Travis, I just feel like this has been such a valuable 30 minutes that we’ve spent together today and I wanna thank you so much for sharing your experience with all of us here today and I think it’s a great reminder that we should always be checking in with the systems within our business, we should always be reviewing them. Thank you for the amazing acronyms that you have shared with us along the way and I have to point out, if anyone missed your Pre Core Quick Five, Five last week, we did talk about the fact that you are an avid reader and I think you probably dropped about five book titles in the last 30 minutes.

So I’m gonna go back through and I’m going to get the links for each of those books and we’re going to include those links in today’s show notes. So if you guys wanna jump on and check out the books that Travis has mentioned today, then I strongly recommend that you just head over to and check out those books that he has been talking about. Travis, as I said right at the very beginning, it was such an amazing opportunity and privilege to see you speak at IDEA and I’m very, very grateful for you taking the time to come on and join us here today on the show.

Travis:                   Well, thank you for the honor of being on this amazing show. This has truly been a privilege and I will be sure to thank our listeners with that photo of the credo card. So thank you all for listening as well.

Chantal:               That’s amazing, thank you so much. Now, before I sign off today, I wanna also let everyone know ’cause we didn’t … we talked a little bit about your personal journey to getting to where you are today. But of course, you have a book, which I read just recently and do you wanna just tell everyone briefly about the book because we’ll also put a link to that in the show notes.

Travis:                   Sure, it’s Journey Fitness and that is more so the story, if you are out there and you are a business owner that is struggling to achieve success, then this story is for you. I believe it will give hope to anybody that’s struggling. So that is Journey Fitness and it can be found on and we also recently released a book called 52 Amazing Journeys. In fact, that was number one in five categories on and it highlights the transformations and success of 52 of our members. It’s pretty amazing how when you share your story, how many other people become willing to share their story with you and that’s what happened with 52 Amazing Journeys.

Chantal:               That is so cool Travis. Well, thank you, we’ll make sure that we pop the links in the show notes and thank you once again for joining us today.

Travis:                   Thank you.

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