Show 182 Zack Bell
Chantal: Hey Zach. Welcome along to the show.
Zack: Hey, how are you doing? I’m so happy to be here. Thank you.
Chantal: I am so excited to have you on the show. Now, before we even dive into the main interview, I want to say a huge congratulations on being named as one of the 2018 URSA Rising Stars. Congratulations.
Zack: Thank you so much. It means a lot. I’m very surprised and happy to receive the award, so it’s an honor.
Chantal: As I mentioned during your bio, you are the Regional Fitness Trainer for Orange Theory. I want to dive into really the topic of people today. Can you tell us a little bit about your coach recruitment strategy?
Zack: Absolutely. We’ve actually refined this over the past I’d say year to year and a half. As hopefully you know, Orange Theory is a very quickly growing brand so we get a lot of notice from fitness professionals. I think they have a great reputation as an organization that people really enjoy working for, and all the amazing stuff that comes with being an Orange Theory coach.
The reason I say that is because it almost seems like folk are kind of away knocking on our door to have an opportunity to coach and work for us. Then you gotta think about the fact that we have thousands of clients out there. A lot of these folks make major lifestyle changes and they too sometimes, they say hey, I started as a member. I had this amazing transformation. I see what you guys do on a daily basis and I think I could have some fun doing this Orange Theory thing. That’s the first thing is just getting folks who are interested in the brand and kind of doing what we do. From there, we more or less have open auditions, kind of like line up around the block. Come on in. We toss folks on a mic literally. It’s a really fun, I should say, experience for myself. We get all types of folks.
There’s obviously requirements to be a fitness professional with Orange Theory. Of course, you have to be certified in CPR and education, etc. etc. But we let folks come in for an audition. I do icebreakers as this corny thing that I always do to get people loosened up. Then I give them five minutes of what an Orange Theory session is like. Maybe ten. Most of the folks have already done it. But if they haven’t, I give them a little teaser. Then, we just literally hand them a small script. I say to them, look, no pressure. I don’t expect you to know the Orange Theory lingo or the Orange Theory way today. I just want to put this microphone on you and see how you command a room. See how you would lead a group of folks as a fitness profession. They use the script. They get on the mic for about five minutes and then that’s when we kind of begin our process of narrowing it down to candidates.
From there, they get an invite to coaches training, and then coaches training is about a forty plus hour training week where hopefully they make it through the written and practical process and they can join the team. That’s the nutshell of how we recruit folks for sure.
Chantal: Okay, cool so I’ve got quite a few questions for you.
Zack: Yeah, go ahead.
Chantal: First of all, when they’re doing that kind of mock session that you just mentioned – you put them on the microphone – do you have a group of people that come in to play the class for that session or are they just doing a makeup, a make believe session.
Zack: They actually – all the other candidates work out while the person is auditioning. Say we get 20 folks, we have one person on mic and then the rest of the 19 work out. We do that for a lot of different reasons. The audition process – just really to pull back the curtain and see why we do this one – we’re just looking to see all these folks come to us as some form of a fitness professional. If I put a fitness professional in a room with equipment and a microphone and music, I would expect them to be able to come up with some sort of routine.
They should be able to put something together to demonstrate their expertise and demonstrate their personalities. So we get them in there to see how they’re going to coach. We get them in there to see how they interact. Do you talk to the other candidates in the room? Do you joke with them? What’s your personality like? Then, there is a lot of blank space. The reason we put that in there is to see if they can more or less improvise.
Great candidates, it’s funny you mention that about just pretending people are there, great candidates will come in, they’ll coach, and they’ll even pretend to be giving someone corrections, even if there’s someone not standing there, which is kind of funny. I’ve seen folks do that. They’ll pretend that someone is on the bench or on the TRX and kind of give an imaginary person a correction, or critique, or congratulations. We’re looking for stuff like that, so we leave it kind of nebulous I guess you could say where people can move in and out of their space and see what they’re made of I guess you could say.
Chantal: Okay, I’m going to wind things back just a second because I kind of went into this assuming that most people would know what an Orange Theory class consists of but there’s going to be a core of our listeners out there that have never walked into an Orange Theory studio before, so do you want to just quickly paint the picture of if I’m a new member, and I’m walking to the class for the first time, just tell us a little bit about what to expect in a normal Orange Theory class.
Zack: Yeah, Orange Theory is a group personal training session. It’s 60 minutes. It’s half cardio, half weights. We work through endurance, strength, and power. So we work through essentially three different styles of training. The whole time you’re led by a coach and you’ve got a heart rate monitor on that projects your data up on these big screens. Your coach takes you through five heart rate zones as you work through the session. What we’re doing is we’re trying to essentially get you to spend the majority of your time in the top three zones to get you the most efficient workout that we possibly can.
The coaches are also there to keep you safe, to prevent you from over-training and under-training, so that you can continue to come back and see results. Basically when you come in, you come into the session, you know you’re going to get 60 minutes of a really great session. You’re going to get 60 minutes of strength and cardio. It’s more or less like the Swiss Army knife of workouts. If there was that one workout you could do – you’re stranded on a desert island and there’s only one you could do – I think we do a pretty good job of delivering that in a 60 minute session every single day.
I guess that’s kind of it in a nutshell. What you do inside of that, we tell folks it’s like delivering the Orange Theory cake. Every time you come to Orange Theory, you get a delicious piece of cake. I love cake. Who doesn’t love cake? Come on in, get that delicious slice of cake. The difference being though that the swirl of icing or the flavors kind of change every day. However, it’s always delicious and you’re always going to enjoy it and that’s kind of how we look at the Orange Theory session.
You get that core 60 minutes. You get the strength in the cardio. But the workout is different every single day that we’re open, which is pretty cool.
Chantal: That is such a good description. You had me at cake.
Zack: Yeah for sure.
Chantal: You know, it’s interesting when you say that because it just reinforces to me how important that coaching role is and you obviously just took us through that recruitment strategy. I’m wondering had there ever been or are there any examples you can share where someone who’s coming to do an audition that has done something that just made them absolutely stand out from the crowd that just made you go that person is going to be an amazing Orange Theory coach?
Zack: Yes, without a doubt. I can get into this as we talk more about what to really look for in an Orange Theory coach. There’s a lot of things that can be coaches is usually what I tell folks. I can teach you how to deliver the Orange Theory workout. At least, I can get you pretty close to being able to memorize certain parts of the content that’s necessary to be an Orange Theory coach. There’s intangibles that can sometimes be very difficult to coach. Over the years, since I’ve certified not just Orange Theory, but other group training sessions, it’s just been a constant. I’m always just wishing sometimes, I’ll see someone. I’m like oh man, they’ve got all the pieces, but to put it bluntly, they’re just a little bit dull and I wish that they had some of these intangibles.
I think back to our last audition, we had someone come in and she was dancing. Literally, the music playing, the treadmills are running, the people are on the weight floor, she’s having a good time and she high fives one of the fake members and pretends to dance with them. That’s the type of stuff that jumps out to me. She’s showing me a lot there. She’s confident in herself. She’s confident in her ability. She’s not afraid to have fun. She’s not afraid to be a little bit silly and potentially embarrass herself.
Those are all things that I can very much respect. It’s not an easy thing to walk into a fitness studio and the way we do it is a bit funny – myself and a couple of what we call our regional fitness assistants will kind of sit in a corner and we look all menacing and intimidating and watch these people do this. For her to come up there and dance or tell jokes on the microphone, or even something as simple as turning up the music volume are little things that show me, okay, that’s something unique. That’s something you don’t see every day. That’s something that seems above and beyond in that intangible category. So I think the last one was dancing. She was pretty good actually. She’s coaching for us now which is amazing.
Chantal: That’s awesome. That’s such a great example and it really goes to show how important it is to see that personality shine through when you’ve got a group of people that are auditioning. Zack, one of things that I’m interested to understand because obviously, leading a team of coaches in a single environment is one thing, but actually being able to lead and communicate and manage a group of coaches, rather, across multiple locations is something entirely different. Can you explain to us how you actually master that?
Zack: Yeah, this is something that since I’ve started in the role that we are constantly trying to perfect. I will say that I rely heavily on my teammates. I have a lot of confidence in my teammates, in their abilities, whether it be the regional fitness assistants that we have, or the leaders that are a part of our leader team, or even the head coaches and managers across the region. We use a lot of different mediums for communication. I think we work with individuals who are relatively young and so technology is something that is generally easier for them to pick up. We use apps like GroupMe or What’s App or Slack Chat, things like that for just kind of day to day. Each facility more or less has their own little chat that they can get into and you can quickly address issues that are both important and urgent.
Something is equipment being down would be posted in a message board like that or something like picking up a shift would be posted in a message board like that. Then, if it’s big picture stuff, I personally Like to do videos a lot. We of course do email and text messages and what I guess you could call more traditional forms of communication. But I like to do videos. I have a little private YouTube channel. If there’s something big or exciting that I need to get across, I feel like virtually looking someone in the eye and seeing their expression and their body language is important.
Earlier this year, late last year, Orange Theory introduced a new modality to the sessions, and it was a big launch. Orange Theory hasn’t put out a new piece of equipment in quite some time. This was a big deal. WE wanted to make sure that it was communicated and executed effectively, so I made a video. For me, I feel like I get better response, better interaction, a little bit better I guess the word is buy-in that folks are always using. Whether it be GroupMe, What’s App, email, text, we do our best to be very thorough in our communication. My favorite is actually sending videos.
Chantal: That’s so cool. Do you broadcast those as a Live video or prerecorded?
Zack: I do prerecorded. I’m not the smoothest of speakers, so prerecorded usually works best for me, especially if I’m demonstrating some sort of exercise or selling something important to the team. I would love to do live.
Chantal: Maybe that’s the next step. Once you’ve done that prerecord video, do you then distribute the link via one of those channels that you just mentioned like What’s App??
Chantal: Right, so you distribute it via there and they come over to your channel to watch the video?
Zack: Yeah, yeah it’s great. They leave comments. It also helps because I can see who has received the message or not which is very useful in communication. We usually just put off the media blast when new record a new video. Everybody jumps on board and usually sends it out through like I said we usually use a specific app called Group Me for each location. It’s a pretty popular app. I’m sure most folks have heard of it, and if you haven’t, it’s very easy to download and set up.
Chantal: If you’re using those platforms like YouTube and What’s App, and GroupMe and Slack for like you were saying those immediate communication pieces and also your videos, what situations would you use email for?
Zack: We use email when we have any events that are more procedurally heavy. Let’s say that we have a transformation challenge coming up, there’s a guide book that’s involved with that – 150 plus pages. Or if there’s a coaches training coming up and I need to get people textbooks or workbooks or things of that nature that are a little bit more technical or a little bit more procedural but that I need to get out there, email’s going to be the way.
All of our daily statistics for opening and closing studios etc, that’s all sent through email. Anything where you’re going to need to retain and save some information, whether it be Statistics, whether it be knowledge base or learning type of stuff, I try to send it in a forum where folks can download it so that they can review it later or come back to it as needed. I imagine it would be difficult for somebody to fast forward to the eighth minute of my 20 long ramble video to find information, so maybe it’ll be a little more deliberate for them to be able to find information if it’s written or attached to an email.
Chantal: I wanted to ask you that because I think it’s so important that we deliver our communication in the right way for the type of communication that we’re trying to get across and that’s why I asked that question because I think those channels like Slack and What’s App and those one’s that you mentioned are so fantastic for that immediate communication and making sure that people are actually checking in and getting it right away. And as you explained, I think email is fantastic for a more information-rich kind of communication or something that’s a little bit longer term. Thank you so much for diving into that. Now … sorry what were you going to say.
Zack: I was going to jump back. I have to jump back and also say email is great for documentation. As a leader and as a fitness professional and dealing with a bunch of different individuals who work for us and work with us, and clients and members, there are certain things you need to document. There are certain things that you need to have record of. Email to me, does a good jo. If you have to scroll back through texting and GroupMe or like I said, slide the video bar back and forth to try to find something, it tends to not be as effective. If you have some important stuff that you need to make sure gets out there in cheap documentation, to me email is also really great for that.
I think that’s probably the better word that I should have used a little bit early. Sorry for backtracking there.
Chantal: No, that’s good. Okay so I want to dive back into some specifics around coaches. Can you take us through the KPIs that you use to measure your coaches performance?
Zack: Absolutely. Our specific ownership group has some parts in it that I am quite proud of and are also very unique. We do evaluations on our coaches – performance evaluations – for our coaches on a monthly basis. Our coaches are also enrolled in something that we call the employee development plan, and that plan is something that we created almost two years ago. The plan allows coaches to work up a ladder system, kind of to achieve different criteria that allows them to achieve a higher compensation rate.
We’re super proud of this because most Orange Theory’s don’t do this. It’s something that we feel is important to give folks an opportunity, a clear path to kind of move up. Starting with the monthly evaluations, these are all performance-based. The evaluation that we use relative to the coach, is dependent upon factors usually tied to their experience. If you’ve been coaching for a certain amount of days or coached a certain amount of sessions, there’s a specific evaluation that is relative to you.
The other way that you can jump back and forth between evaluations is more or less your performance, so if you score very high on what I guess you could call the tier one evaluation and from that point on, you move on to the two and three. They’re just looking at different things as you could imagine. Coaches evolve as they go and usually time is the best thing to give a coach if you want them to get better.
The employee development plan that I mentioned, we didn’t create it as a measure of performance, but it is a great indicator of performance, because there’s a lot of factors that are baked into that, that will show a coach’s evolvement and commitment to their teammates and members themselves. For example, one of the things that they can do is attend an outside marketing event, which is not required in their – I guess you could say – their job description. But it allows them to work up levels, so allow themselves to make a little bit more money. It also helps out our sales side. It’s great to have the coach at a marketing event, so little things like that. If you have been an employee with us for two years and you haven’t done anything on our employees development plan, I want to have a conversation.
You don’t have to move up that plan. But I’d be curious to know why as a young fitness professional, why wouldn’t you want to make more money. Why wouldn’t you want to help your company at the same time? It’s kind of a performance indicator, but it’s certainly something that we look into. Then on top of that, very specifically, we look at coach’s closing percentages, their attendance percentages, and just their overall trends that we see amongst those two things.
Monthly, we send out statistics to our entire staff of coaches showing their closing percentages. Then we also send out weekly their class attendance percentages. If you’ve been coaching 5 a.m. Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a year, and we’ve seen your average attendance go up a certain amount, obviously that’s a healthy indicator for us. A few different things, but we try to do our best to be evaluation heavy and then we have to do a really good job of not just doing the evaluations but actually telling the people or communicating with people how they do and what we might be looking for them to get even better.
Chantal: When you send out those weekly and those monthly numbers, is the data transparent to everyone? Can every coach see what other coach’s performance is like? Or do they only see their own performance?
Zack: They see everyone. We send them out for everyone.
Chantal: Wow. Interesting. Culturally, how does that affect people? Because I assume that they can see if they’re ranked as the coach that is scoring the best result? Is that the case? How does that affect them culturally?
Zack: I’ll be the first to say this, I don’t think it would work in every setting or with every team. I really don’t. I think with our team, it does work. For our team, the word everybody uses is always culture, culture, culture. But we do one of our pillars for the way we carry ourselves is to treat each other like family. We really try to live in that way. That means we love each other really, really hard. That also means we can be brutally honest with each other. By the end of the day, it comes back to that love and caring almost more for your teammate than you do for yourself.
One I think something that happens with our teammates is you’d be surprised or at least I was at first to see how many folks from the top would reach out to folks at the bottom.
Chantal: I was so hoping you were going to say that.
Zack: Yeah, yeah so that happens which is amazing. It’s great. We have some coaches who coach for us who have coached over 5000 sessions. In the world of Orange Theory, there are probably less than 20 coaches who have ever coached that many. To see coaches like that reach out to coaches who have only coached 50 is pretty spectacular. Then there’s a little healthy competition there too which is interesting. You’ll see coaches willing to improve. It’s been really amazing. I think probably when I first said that either the listeners or maybe even you were thinking oh wow. You show everyone?
We like to think of it like showing stats for a professional athlete. You’re out there. We’re going to see your performance. Then as a team, were going to try to get better. It’s been really refreshing and almost surprising. I’ll admit it, it’s surprising. It’s probably unique. Maybe we’ve got a unicorn on our hands or something, but the top has been helping out the bottom, for the most part, which is really special to me.
Chantal: Yeah that’s amazing and it says a lot towards that kind of family feel that you said is built into the vision of the business and obviously people living out that vision is really key to the success of that model. So thanks for giving us that behind the scenes and diving into the detail of that because I think that’s a fascinating way that you do things. Thank you so much for that.
Look, Zack I wanted to finish off today – and we did touch on this briefly earlier – but I’m hoping that our fitspiration today is you can share with us the three common traits that in your experience, you suggest looking for when recruiting new coaches or recruiting new team members into your fitness business.
Zack: We have a very specific, and again, I wouldn’t say it’s unique, but we have some very specific things that we look for. I’ve been extraordinarily lucky to work with some very smart, smart people in the exercise science community. Something I learned very early on in my career, was I would work with some very educated, some very educated, some very accredited folks with credentials a mile long. I got to work with some of these really cool people. But they didn’t make great group coaches. When I first started out I was chasing degrees and I’m like I’m going to be the smartest coach there is. I quickly learned that there’s a whole other aspect to this that may even be more important than that or at least equally important. The things that I look for are oftentimes some of those intangible things.
I think the first thing you look for is somebody who is we call it has a giving heart. Actually before you can interview with us, we ask that you either show us that you have done community service or do some community service. We just want to see if you’re the type of person who wants to help your community. I hear fitness professionals all the time, and I know you’ve heard it to, I’m in the business to help people. I wish I could say that that was always true or that was always reflected in people’s performance. But it’s not always the case. One of the things we look for, is are they giving? Are they truly giving?
We actually ask folks, hey, you know what would be really cool if you want to interview with us. We interview folks who have done community service. Would you mind sharing that with me? And if you haven’t, we have this great partnership, and we really love these people. Would you be interested in going to hang out with them. That has been a major change for us.
I think something else is a sense of gratitude. I guess that gratitude maybe it ties into an eagerness to continue to learn. Or maybe that’s my third one, but the sense of gratitude for me is also really important. We have an opportunity – I tell folks all the time – when I finish coaching in the morning, which is something that I still do and I still love to do, I have been able to connect with 120 people in about a span of three hours, barely four hours.
There’s not a lot of fitness professionals that can say that. I think if we’re all in the business of connecting with people, like really connecting with folks and sweating with them and joking with them, playing their favorite songs in session, being able to connect with those many people in that short amount of time is something that I really try to do my best at being grateful for and happy for. I too look for that in our staff, whether it be grateful for just the job itself or grateful for the ability to work for this brand. Or to be able to live out what should be most of our dreams every single day is pretty cool.
I guess that last one for me really is an eagerness to learn or an open-mindedness. Sometimes, like I said, I’ve worked for some very smart people. I’m not afraid to say some of those smart people I think thought there was nothing else left to learn. I think that’s a mistake. A big mistake. I’ve probably learned more since getting out of university than I have in just by trying to listen to people and connect with people.
I always joke around with my wife because when I do trainings with her, with Orange Theory before, I feel like there’s a specific cast of characters at every training. There’s always that one trainer – that young trainer- that I almost see myself in. He’s got his brand new degree. He’s got his very prestigious certification and I can tell he’s not quite listening to me. Or he’s not quite hearing my message. Let me first say that’s probably a mistake on my parent for not speaking his language. But it’s something that I often see, some folks out there that are just a little shut off from being a little silly or being open to learn. That’s probably the biggest thing that I value with staff is whether you’ve coached 5000 or 50, there’s something out there that you can learn and polish up. That’s something that we look for in our fitness professionals.
That’s a rough three. I think that was three. I was rambling around but if we could compile that, I’m sure it’s close.
Chantal: Zack, that is such a good three. I want to just go back to that first one that you mentioned because I’ve asked this question to a number of leaders throughout the years and you are the first one who has said that they look for someone that has given back to the community or done some type of community service in some way. I think that’s an incredibly special quality to look for in someone and something very unique in your hiring process. I love that you do that and I wanted to ask you because you said if by chance they haven’t done some type of community service, then you actually say to them hey, there’s this group that we work with. When you refer them to a community group, does Orange Theory support one particular organization, or does each individual business support a local community group?
Zack: Orange Theory, as a whole – the brand – we’ve done some really amazing charity work. Specifically, we do a drive for ALS that we’ve done for the past few years that’s been just absolutely – working with Auggie’s Quest which has just been extraordinarily rewarding. Here, in Tampa, where I live, and where we’re kind of home-based out of, we work with an organization called Feeding Tampa Bay. What we do is we have a few events with them throughout the year. We donate money so that individuals can eat. Individuals who are hungry, need our help. Whether it be providing cereal for children during the summer, our rowing event that we do in the fall, or our running event that we do in the spring, Feeding Tampa Bay is our main drive.
We go out there as a big team and we pack meals for folks. Generally if you come to me and you haven’t had the rewarding pleasure of doing community work, we recommend Feeding Tampa Bay. They’re a great partner with us. They’re always willing to work with us. They rely on us and sometimes, I feel like we rely on them more so. But it’s a cool experience to be able to partner with them and then see that go straight back into our community right here in Tampa, which means a lot to us. That’s our main one and we’re working on some more now that we’re going to be more specific and something new. We’re working on that now, so we’ll share that next time.
Chantal: Amazing, amazing. Zack, hey thank you so much. I have absolutely been … you’ve had me fascinated from start to finish today listening about really the behind-the-scenes of how you recruit your coaches, how you manage them, train them, lead them, and obviously what to look out for when recruiting new coaches into the business. Thank you so much for sharing so much detail with us. We really do appreciate it because we can all learn so much from the way that others do things within our business. I really appreciate you going into that level of detail and sharing your experience with all of the listeners of the fitness business podcast, so thank you so much Zack.
Zack: Oh no, thank you. It’s been an absolute pleasure. Hopefully some folks out there can steal some suggests away from what I said. At the very least, maybe I inspired you to eat a slice of cake today which is probably something we could all do.
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