Barbell Business - Podcast for gym owners by Barbell Shrugged

Because gym owners almost always love coaching, it’s easy to fall into the trap of wanting to do all the hands-on stuff yourself. You love your work, so why would you want to let anyone else take over?

This week, we talk to Alwyn Cosgrove of Results Fitness to find the compelling answer to that question. We were thrilled to have the chance to sit down with Alwyn, because he was one of the first people to really convince us of the merits of systemizing our own business.

Alwyn helped us explore some of the reasons we choose not to delegate our work or simplify it with systems. A lot of times we think of handing over a task as a form of ‘giving up.’ Alwyn’s response is that “It’s not about idleness. It’s not about stepping out to be lazy. It’s about what if you had to? Could you?” 

When Alwyn was diagnosed with stage-four cancer, he very quickly figured out how to get all the systems in place that were necessary for his gym to operate optimally in his absence.  

“I had to move in at UCLA to have a stem cell transplant, right? We had insurance because of the gym, but your bills at home… You still have to pay your rent or your mortgage. You still have to pay your car payment. You still have to pay for everything, right? How do you create a business that runs without you? That’s what you should be doing in the first place.”

Alwyn’s gym underwent a thorough systemization under circumstances that were far from ideal. But it worked. In fact, he jokes that he must have been the jam in the system, because business boomed while he was gone.

As a result of the groundwork he laid years ago, Alwyn is now able to focus on refining his systems and getting incredible results. Some of his members, for example, have been with his gym for 17 straight years, with the average membership running in the seven-to-ten-year range. Ideally, the only reason someone would chose not to renew their membership is that they’ve moved out of the area entirely. Otherwise, he wants to be the last gym his members will ever join.

Direct download: The_Last_Gym_Theyll_Ever_Join_with_Alwyn_Cosgrove_-_165.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:00am CDT

It’s a tale as old as time: A Major League Baseball right-fielder starts selling deer-antler supplements to teammates during pitching changes. Word spreads until members of rival teams are making transactions on base, until finally, one day, he’s inadvertently made the career switch from pro-ball player to nutrition entrepreneur. Sound familiar? 

Okay. So maybe former Oakland A’s outfielder Danny Putnam’s specific story isn’t one we’ve heard before, but you’ve seen those basic elements over and over: A hobby or a side-gig ends up taking off, and before you know it, you’re in business. As the Founder and Managing Director of Lurong Living, Danny’s business literally started on the field during ballgames. It wasn’t anything he’d expected. The way he’s sustained the growth of his business is by putting the right systems in place at the right time.

In this episode, we talk to Danny about how to know when to build a tool versus when to hire a person, the difficulty of putting up boundaries on your time when things start taking off, and how to create buy-in with your employees. We also use juggling as a metaphor a lot. It works. (Anyone who’s ever dropped the ball can back us up on this.)

As entrepreneurs, we often don’t want to develop systems or automation, out of the fear that it will make our business impersonal. We talk about the ways that systems can actually make us more creative. When we can find a better way to take care of tasks that are outside of our wheelhouse, it frees up our time and our brain to work on the bigger picture of our mission.  

Whether you’re growing your business or you just want to hear more about the world of deer-antler side-hustles, we hope you enjoy the show!

Direct download: BBB_DannyPutnam_Audio.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:00am CDT

As a Marine Corps lieutenant, and usually as the only woman in the room, Taylor Drescher anticipated the challenges she might face as a leader. In her case, she was able to identify that her strength as a leader was literally her physical strength -- so she played it as much as she could.

“I'd carry more weight on purpose, just to, not to prove a point, but because I could and I loved it. I lived for that, you know? So, why not? Then, the guys would be complaining or falling down, I'd be like, ‘Do you want me to carry your pack for you?’”

By the time Taylor decided to become a Marine, she was already deep into the functional fitness lifestyle and competing as an athlete. When she had to go on a five-mile, weighted endurance run through the mud for basic training, her reaction was, “I can’t believe I’m getting paid to do this.”

This attitude has helped her have an awesome career not just as a Marine, but now as a life coach.

And it isn’t all about leaning on your strengths: Effective leadership requires an honest assessment of weaknesses and a plan to overcome them. In Taylor’s case, she was not good at taking standardized tests. That’s where she would ask for help studying. She knew that, just as her team would look to her for guidance in her strongest areas, she needed to be okay with sometimes saying “I don’t know this,” and seeking out help from someone who does.

She now applies these principles of playing up strengths and identifying weaknesses with her clients who look to become more effective leaders themselves, in a variety of fields.

Direct download: BBB_TaylorD_Audio.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:00am CDT

Just because you’ve eaten in a restaurant doesn’t mean you know how to run a restaurant. Most people will agree with that in general, but it’s harder to see the truth when looking at your own business. The same goes for working out or coaching in a gym versus running a gym.

This week, Garry Lineham talks to us about why it might be more important to grow in your business experience than in your technical knowledge when running your own gym (or any business for that matter.) The core reason is corporate intelligence: the attribute that you exercise and expand by working on a business as an entrepreneur rather than just working in the business as an employee.

Currently, Garry runs Human Garage, a health and wellness company in Venice, California that specializes in the connection between the body and the mind. On Barbell Business, Garry tells us how he applies his corporate intelligence daily to the tasks of leading and growing his team there and scaling his operation.

Garry explains a lot by breaking down what is and is not a real business.

  • “It’s not a business if you have to be there; it’s a job.”
  • “If you’re doing it just to make money, then you better get out of there. That’s not a business.”
  • “If you can’t define your values and your beliefs, then it’s not a business and you shouldn’t be in business.”

For him, your skill starts off as a trade. Then you create a hobby out of it, even if you’re actually operating a gym, for example. A real business is when you can duplicate it, and that requires a certain amount of corporate intelligence in the owner.

When it comes to starting and continuing a gym, Garry believes that corporate intelligence is the key to making the right call: “Just because something is a good idea doesn’t mean it makes a good business.”

But even if you’re running a business that should work, your corporate intelligence will determine if you’re the right man for the job: “Just because it’s a good business and a good idea doesn’t mean I’m gonna be good at it.”

For those who are already successful at their business but are eager to learn more, Garry also has some wisdom to share.

  • “The biggest killer of businesses is success. It’s not actually the challenges of getting started.”
  • “What the brand really is is what people feel and say about you when you’re not there.”

So if you’ve been wondering why all these hours spent in your gym haven’t elevated you to a higher level of business success, or you already have corporate intelligence but want to gain more, check out this week’s episode of Barbell Business.

Direct download: BBB_GarryLineham_Audio.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:00am CDT

How do you know when your business is big enough? When can you stop raising capital? Can you get out of your building’s terrible lease terms?

Mike Melby is a venture capitalist who works exclusively in sports and fitness. He’s overseen the inception and growth of a lot of businesses, and on this week’s episode, he shares some of the common traps owners fall into.

As a functional fitness entrepreneur, you probably get a ton of unsolicited advice about how to grow your business. “You should get more investors!” “You shouldn’t franchise; you’ll only get a 5% royalty!” “Now that you have four gyms, you might as well open up a fifth!” And while it’s a good idea to listen to all the advice you get, it’s not a good idea to take all of it.

This week, Mike talks about how to know when your gym is the right size for you. Sure, getting investors means more money, but it might also mean having to report to someone when you’re used to being your own boss. Franchising royalties that sound like small potatoes end can end up being big paychecks. And the difference between opening that fourth gym and opening that fifth gym might not mean 25% more work for your staff — depending on the scalability of your current model, that one location might bring 100% more work (and pain) for everyone involved.

Let’s say you know you’re ready to start approaching investors. Listen in for great advice on who to ask, how to ask them, and how to deal with the inevitable rejection. Plan to ask 100 or more people for money, and don’t take it personally when they reject you. In fact, don’t even look at it as rejection. Mike has tips for getting through the pain of our own egos.

You know you want to grow. Listen to this episode for insight on the right way to do it for your brand, your business, and your life.

Want help creating and executing strategies and systems to grow your membership, dial in your analytics and strengthen your gym’s community? Learn more about our individualized business coaching program, Barbell ETHOS and get on our waitlist for the next opening.

Direct download: BBB_MikeVC_Audio.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:16pm CDT

If you want to learn how to juggle, you don’t start with five balls. You become proficient with two and add from there. 
The same is true for gym owners.  We often see gym owners take on multiple projects and attempt to create multiple revenue streams at the same time. This often leads to a lack of focus, frustration, and sub-par work as projects don’t get completed on time and additional revenue streams fail to materialize. The shotgun approach seldom works. 
Ask yourself this…
…in moments of weakness, do you take on a project or a client that is outside your focus zone? In other words, do you say “Yes”, when you should be saying “No”?  This is a common pitfall for business owners that have not defined their core competency and their unique genius.
In this week’s episode, we are chatting with Ron Wilson of Hylete. Hylete is one of the top apparel companies in the fitness industry.  Ron has built a multi-dimensional business with apparel, fitness accessories, and training apps. His vision is set on doing even more, but what made him successful is the fact he started with a singular focus, what he calls his Focus Zone.
For 5-years Ron lived in his focus zone, to create the best performance shorts in the fitness industry.  After building trust in the community, revolutionizing the way performance apparel is purchased, and delivering the quality a demanding marketplace required, and only then, did Ron began to expand the variety of his product line.  Now, Hylete has one of the most loyal followings of any apparel line in the industry.
Gym owners, small business owners, and aspiring entrepreneurs can all learn what the Focus Zone is and how to identify it in this episode of @barbellbusinesspodcast.
enjoy the show,
Direct download: BBB_RonWilson_Audio.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:00am CDT

Entrepreneurship is inherently lonely. Not to mention, it can be stressful. Being the only one in charge means you hold all the responsibility, which is why partnerships are often so appealing to experienced entrepreneurs.

When executed correctly, partnerships can help bring a business to the next level. At the same time, they can cause more stress, and lead to failure of a business. Like any relationship, a healthy partnership is build on trust and communication.

This week, we visited Athletics United to chat with Brian Arthur and Jake Sirokman to hear about how they are working together to build a kick ass gym. Jake and Brian, come from different backgrounds but have come together to build something bigger than they could have alone.

In this episode we discuss:

  • The importance of having specific roles in a partnership
  • Why it is vital to understand and respect the strengths and weaknesses of each partner
  • How to make business decisions when multiple people are involved 

If you have a business partner or considering partnering with one, sit down and give this one a listen.

Enjoy the show,


Direct download: BBB_athleticunited_audio.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:00am CDT

We say it all the time- it is important to communicate to your clients that they are paying for coaching and not just a gym membership.

On that note, it is important to charge a price for your service that matches the value you are providing. More often than not, gym owners are not charging what they are worth, and that is problem. Some say, it feels strange to charge a high price for something they are passionate about and others say they have to compete with the cheaper box down the street, but the truth is, you are setting the standard of your fitness service based on how much you are charging, and chances are, you are not charging what you are truly worth.

In this week’s episode, we are talking to Aj Rivera. AJ runs a consulting business called PT Freedom where he teaches trainers and gym owners how to set up systems that provide the most value to clients, while at the same time creating more financial freedom for the trainer or gym owner. AJ also founded, operated, and sold two gyms in Chicago. We also dive into some his experience with setting up gyms to sell.

If you are currently getting members in the door but still financially struggling to make what you deserve, this episode is a must watch.

Enjoy the show,


Direct download: BBB_AJRivera_Audio.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:00am CDT

There is a big difference between working IN your business vs ON your business. No matter what industry you are in, there is a milestone that every entrepreneur needs to hit in order to take their business to the next level. That milestone is systemization. 

In this episode, we catch up with Angelo Sisco, our head business coach at Barbell Ethos, and Jason Dunbar, founder of Iron Fire Athletics & CrossFit Poway, to talk about the process of setting up systems in a gym business. model. 

If you are currently in a place with your gym where you are coaching classes, doing admin work, managing finances, and struggling to find time to even think about sales & marketing, you are very much in a survival state. It is common as entrepreneurs to assume that the answer is to just work harder. That is simply just not true. In my experience, and what holds true in all business, is creating an environment where  the day to day tasks are outsourced, automated, and systematized. When this is achieved, there is a shift out of the the survival state into a state of clarity where you can focus on growth, and more importantly, create the time to focus on what you enjoy doing.

Enjoy the show,


Direct download: BBB_Poway_Audio.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:00am CDT

Direct download: VSLETHOS.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:31pm CDT