Mike Gelfgot: Coaching your PTs for Success as a Gym Owner

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“Does the relationship with the member end when they bought a membership, or did it just begin? I’ll never take an eye off of selling, but I’m more interested in what are we keeping, because that determines the success of the overall business. If you want to keep a member, you have to engage them with a coach.”

 

Welcome to the second series of mPowered! We are dedicating the next couple of episodes exclusively on The Future of Personal Training. In this episode, we’re looking at how to implement a working strategy to keep members for longer at your gym and really increase your sales numbers.

Joining us today to share his philosophy for success is fitness entrepreneur and sales expert Mike Gelfgot, who is currently the Chief Operating Officer at Activate Brain & Body Inc.

We talk about his achievements while operating 21 Anytime Fitness clubs in the United States, how to empower your personal trainers as a gym owner and what it takes to drive the revenue numbers up.

Listen to the full episode now:

What does the future of personal training looks like? Tune in next week for an mPowered recap of season 2 with some of the biggest insights from our guests with hosts Craig McNeill & Jack Malin!

Discover more mPowered episodes on Spotify or Apple Podcasts, click on the icons below to browse and subscribe.

 

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Read the full transcript below:

Craig McNeill: [00:00:00] Welcome to mPowered. We’re here for another episode and I am joined with our co-host Jack Malin. How are you Jack?
Jack Malin: [00:00:08] Very well, thank you, Craig. How are you today? 
Craig McNeill: [00:00:10] I’m good, and I’m, I don’t have this problem where I need to have a haircut after four months of locked hairdressers, but I fully, fully appreciate how you must feel with your new fresh cut!
Jack Malin: [00:00:22] I feel aerodynamic 
Craig McNeill: [00:00:23] So that means you’re going to run faster this week!?
Jack Malin: [00:00:25] Mate, don’t know about    that!
Craig McNeill: [00:00:27] Jack we’ve got our first international guest with us, Mike Gelfgot
Mike Gelfgot: [00:00:32] Hey guys. Thanks for having me. 
Jack Malin: [00:00:34] Nice to see you Mike.  Mike’s international in a respect as well, that not only being an American, I think I’ve only ever seen you at international conferences, met in Holland, met you at other Anytime Fitness global conferences, which are always rather good fun to say the least.
Mike Gelfgot: [00:00:48] Yes. Always a good time with you, Jack. I hope to get back to the Netherlands and to UK sooner than later.
Jack Malin: [00:00:54] Yeah, absolutely, hopefully it won’t be too long now.
Craig McNeill: [00:00:57] Mike, whereabouts are you based? 
Mike Gelfgot: [00:00:59] I live in Cincinnati, Ohio. I’m not sure if you guys know where, where it is, one of the States.
Craig McNeill: [00:01:05] Well, I, I know where it is, but maybe if we can go a little bit into your background professionally, and then it may come out that you may have an interesting fact about where you live, or maybe not. So little bit more of Mike’s fitness background. Currently you’re a chief operating officer at Active Brain and Body, and you’ve been working in the fitness industry for many, many years.
And that means that, where you are at the moment, a really, really interesting point where you’re influencing in terms of independence and corporate gyms in terms of how they work with coaches and how they then work with members, and how to really kind of be in touch and use high tech at the kind of disposal of the trainers and make sure that we’re all actually doing what we wanted to achieve and help people become healthier.
Sounds really, really awesome what you’re doing at the moment, Mike, and you’ve come to this place where you are today on the back of working at Anytime Fitness for a number of years where you ran your own clubs, which I’m sure you’ve got a few stories to share with us about that. So it sounds like you’ve got a really colourful background and again, kind of, we want to kind of pick your brains and, and understand what your thoughts are.
And also because we have been working and talking to UK-based guests, also deep dive into, what’s happening in America, especially post-COVID, and what that means for the fitness industry in America because, I don’t know whether you know this, but the English and the British are obsessed with what’s going on over the other side, because we always always feel that it comes in a couple of years or a couple of months if we’re lucky. So we’re always, always obsessed of watching and listening. So it’d be good to pick that out as well. Mike, interesting fact about you, how tough was this to get out your, suitcase? 
Mike Gelfgot: [00:03:00] Yeah, you know, I didn’t know where, where, where to go with that.
I want it to be funny or like really serious, so I kind of chose an in-between and what’s interesting is this – so I wasn’t born in the United States. I was actually born in Uzbekistan, which is like Southwest of Russia. And I came to the United States in 1993. So that’s not, that’s not necessarily the most interesting thing, although that is somewhat interesting, but that’s not the most interesting, the most interesting thing is this:
I had a banana for the first time when I was 10 years old. I love bananas. I mean, I’m telling you, since then, it’s been an obsession. I’m 38 years old now, and for 28 years I’m not sure if I skipped a day eating a banana.
Jack Malin: [00:03:49] So you knew what a banana was, you just never had one?
Mike Gelfgot: [00:03:52] I’ve seen them on television, but there were just where I lived that that’s not that wasn’t available.
Right. So I tried it for the first time when I was 10 years old and it’s a, it’s an obsession. My wife thinks it’s very odd. That I like bananas as much as I do
Jack Malin: [00:04:11] There could be worse things to be obsessed, obsessed with. 
Craig McNeill: [00:04:14] And not for this to be X-rated answer, and it could be going in a dark place, but what would be the, the five top ways that you could eat a banana? 
Mike Gelfgot: [00:04:23] You know what, I’m kind of boring. I eat my banana with with some oatmeal, right. I love anything banana, sweet related. But it’s just my go-to, it’s just my go-to snack. Like, do I have any bananas? Like, I mean, I think every time I go to the grocery store, I buy bananas, even if we have bananas, we have a lot of bananas all the time, so it’s pretty funny. 
Jack Malin: [00:04:41] Awesome. I actually knew your, your interesting fact, you did tell me that when we were having a beer once, which is an obviously exciting, exciting background.
Mike Gelfgot: [00:04:50] Yeah. I mean, so it’s interesting because you know, living in the United States, being a, being an immigrant and not having anything growing up, literally nothing like think of er poor, but gosh, we were less than poor. I mean, we would eat bread and, and you know, eggs and eggs would only be a couple of times a week.
I would have meats maybe a couple of times a month. And it was long story short, having that as a background to now, you know, living in the land of the free is a, is truly a blessing. 
Craig McNeill: [00:05:22] Yeah, I bet
Jack Malin: [00:05:23] That’s an incredible story.
Craig McNeill: [00:05:24] Mike, what what’s going on in America at the moment in terms of, obviously we, we understand state by state it’s slightly different what’s going on in terms of the fitness industry? 
Mike Gelfgot: [00:05:34] Yeah. To say the least the fitness industry has been affected quite a bit. It would be an understatement. I think IHRSA reported average ah, club is down by 30 plus percent, as far as top line revenue    So, every state is different, right? So, you know, you have some states like Florida and in Texas everything is fine. And Atlanta, I’m gonna say fine, meaning there’s not even a mask mandate any more. And you have other States like you know, Washington, for example, very, very tight, still very heavy restrictions. So it depends, it’s, you know, very much so politically driven, which is which is unfortunate.
I wish that there was more I wish there was more people paid attention to more of the actual studies and the actual research, but whatever, it’s not. So depending on where you are, so I we’re, we’re in Ohio. Right. And so we were shut down for about six weeks. Right. And so we can speak to that week. So in the six weeks that we were, that we were shut down, we you know, we, we run a pretty small, so we had 20 clubs.
We sold 20 of our 21 clubs, which we’ll talk about here in a minute. So there was one location we have, we have left. And so at that particular club we have about 250 or so members average member paying between $66 and $78 a month. It’s very, we have about 3,400 square feet. We have 125 clients paying us on average, about 180 bucks a month.
Right? So it’s a very, very different type of an operation than a typical Anytime Fitness runs, which once again, we’ll speak to that. There’s a lot, a lot of lessons there I believe for a lot of coaches that are going to be listening to this podcast. The reason I bring it up is because when we’re shut down for six weeks, Craig and Jack, I, I, I believe we only lost like five clients.
All right. So we retained 120 clients paying us throughout the duration of that six week period. Because of some of the processes and the systems that we that we put in place. You know, I ever since we sold our club is I have the pleasure now of working with a few Anytime clubs were very private, small group that we, we, we, we manage, we, we help them particularly with personal training, which by the way, my end of our 21 club operations was PT and everything PT related.
Right. Reason I bring up the small group that we work with is because some of those clubs are still shut down and we’re still implementing a lot of the strategies and they’re able to retain tremendous of their amount of their clientele. And those clients didn’t fall off because of COVID.
Jack Malin: [00:07:49] When you say kind of what we know that different States have taken different approaches to the lockdowns. and obviously in Ohio, that sounds like you’ve, you’ve ridden a pretty good ride there and only having six weeks. Is it that the, the kind of infection rate is significantly different in each state or, or just locally the government’s taking a really different approach to it? 
Yeah. I think a lot of it is, I hate to say, it was politically driven, right. Because as the new president was elected, it seems like the guidelines got looser, so it’s just challenging.
Right. It’s hard to say which end is up so to say, but some of the, you know, some of the, some of the guidelines just don’t make any sense. So like, so for, for example, in, in high school wrestling and I pick, I pick wrestling cause I used to wrestle back in high school. So, but so for example, the high school wrestling.
When you are not wrestling when you’re when you’re out and about, say in the, in the, in the arena, right? You, you need to wear a mask, but then when you’re wrestling, you don’t need to wear a mask and you, you can, but you can’t shake their hand, but it’s okay to wrestle. Like just some of the stuff doesn’t make any sense, you know?
And so I, you just kind of wonder what, what the deal is, but regardless, regardless, I think because there was a lot, a lot of what’s politically driven. There’s definitely high infection rates, but as we, as we got the vaccines out, right. And that’s really, I I’m, I’m, I’m very hopeful for what’s going to happen in the fitness business in the fall.
Especially as the headlines start talking more and more about vaccines in which they already are. We’ve already, we already see some of that trickling in, into our, into our facilities in some States better than others. Of course. Where it it feels like the members have more confidence about coming back to the gym.
So I’m looking forward to that. I’m looking forward to the fall and winter of of 20, 21. I think the fitness business hopefully will bounce back and the club, industry and IHRSA have tremendous amount of articles that go back to what, what I just said as well. Right?
Craig McNeill: [00:09:37] Yeah, absolutely.
I think there is an optimism and a positivity around, and I think that’s just generally round the people in the fitness industry are more built that way. And I think we, we see that as well that got to stay positive and you’ve got to see, okay, well this has happened and it is what it is and let’s, let’s move on and let’s change things if we need to.
Mike Gelfgot: [00:09:59] Yeah. I think it’s it’s interesting. Cause there’s always been this poor relationship between the fitness community and the medical community. Right. And I think now more than ever, the people recognize that. Okay. If I wanted to minimize the odds of me getting sick, whether it be COVID or anything else, I have to eat better. I have to exercise. I think the media has done a pretty good job in educating people in the last 12 to 16 months or so. So I think hopefully the fitness business will benefit off of that right. Going into the fall and the winter time.
Craig McNeill: [00:10:34] Absolutely. Yeah. Let’s hope so Mike! Mike, so you mentioned it a couple of times there, I’m going to, I’m going to jump in now in terms of we want to really understand your experiences of operating within the clubs as as kind of leading the PT side of it.
So in our series of the Future of PT, we’ve talked to educators, we’ve talked to operators who are managing PTs on behalf of gyms. So in the UK that that’s a very popular way to outsource PT management. Then we’ve spoken to a few guys at PureGym, which is one of the biggest gyms in the UK, who then they do it internally, where they, they manage the PTs and they have mentors. From, from your side then tell us a bit more of what you were doing at Anytime Fitness when you had, was it 21 clubs? Did you say?
Mike Gelfgot: [00:11:26] Yeah. Yeah. So in 2003 we signed our first franchise and we actually opened in 2004. I think at that time there might’ve been, I don’t even know, maybe 25 or 30 clubs or so opened just in US right.
So our goal was to open up five clubs in five years we ended up doing that in four years, which is which is, which is great, obviously. And then, long story short, we scaled to 21 different locations. If you were to ask Mike did you want to scale to 21 clubs, I think we were happiest when we had about six. But the reason we scaled up was because we acquired some really wonderful talent. Right. And those people wanted more responsibility. They wanted more of a career than they were currently getting. Right. So in order for us to keep them, we kinda, we, we scaled But my end of the business was anything and everything essentially PT-related.
So my business partner, his name his name was John Spence, and Chris Slater, they were managing everything membership-related within the Anytime clubs. And I was doing everything, a PT-related and we scaled up to 21 locations at you know, at our highest, we probably had anywhere between 90 to a hundred trainers worked for the company just PT alone.
We’re doing quite a bit of revenue. We’re doing quite a bit of sessions. What I think is interesting about our business and this is like a lot of trainers need to consider this. And, and this is one of the biggest lessons that I think back that we learned was was this, we changed our business, personal training business one time.
So in the, from 2000. Right. So you have 2004 say to 2018. All right. So you got 14 years. There was only one massive change that our entire PT business, you know, went through. And I think if you ask an average trainer, how much, how often does he change his approach to personal training? How often does he approach his business, it seems like every month, like a new diet, right, that they jump on. So the major change was when we went from 30 minute one-on-one personal training business, all employees, none of them were independent contractors. I believe there’s tremendous amount of benefits to that, to everything that you guys talk about, which is controlling the culture controlling the day-to-day operations.
Everyone is on the same page on what the mission and the purpose on why we do what we do. We only hired people with that same mentality that therefore, I don’t want to say it’s easier, but it was a lot easier to run an operation. We had a goal in mind and everyone else’s goals needed to align with our goals and vice versa.
Otherwise it, didn’t work. The operation didn’t go anywhere. Right. And so we transitioned our business from 30 minute one-on-ones to small group and team training that was the Mo the biggest major change we made to our business model. That was back in 2015 is when we, well, okay.
So what happened was in 2015, we had a low-cost competitor move into our market. So when I say low cost, I’m talking about anyone that pays $30 or less for a membership, right? This is a very small town town of 20,000 people, or so the median household income in that town was about $52,000 US, which is pretty good.
This was in Indiana. And when that low cost competitor move into in the town and by the way, We had about 1200 or so members paying an average 40, $45 a month in that club we’re doing about 25 or $30,000 a month in PT. This is all one-on-one 30 minute sessions. We thought we were, you know, God’s gift to running health clubs in personal training.
Any ways, we, we got we got exposed. We, we gosh, we, we realized how poor operators we were, so the only positive thing I’m going to say about the low cost competitor, at least what it did to me positively-wise, which had made me question everything I know and understand about running operations, running a personal training business.
We get exposed for our piss-poor business practices if you will. We, like, we thought we were really good. We weren’t You know, we thought we were really good in building relationships with people and building a community with people we thought were really good with accountability and results.
And if we were so good, how is it possible for any one business to have that much of a massive impact on your organization? So we looked at our numbers and you know, we were our top-line was down roughly about 20% year over year. And so my business partner and I, we looked at our bank account.
We did some calculations. We said, okay, if we do nothing, if we don’t change a darn thing, we will literally bleed a slow death at about three and a half, four years. So it was very depressing, but then we went to work. And so this was when I started questioning everything I knew about how to run and operate business, everything we did was NASM-based from an exercise science approach. So we, we, we knew what we were doing when it comes to exercise science. I thought I knew what we’re doing when it comes to business. But then again, how is it possible that a low cost competitor kicked our butts? Long story short, what ended up happening is this, you know, how you go you have all these gurus where you scroll through your Facebook and they say, click here to make six figures in the PT business. So I did that because you know, I, I had a problem. You’re a guru, you must have an answer. Right. And of course, every one of them want to sell me, you know, consulting, which I don’t have a problem with buying.
I just, I need you. I need you to answer my question first. And here’s my question. I’m looking for a for a gym, not a studio because in my mind gyms, like in Anytime Fitness or other gyms in the way that it operated is this; memberships come first, PT comes second. That’s how it operates versus studios.
That’s not how they operate. Right. Personal training is the only thing that they sell. So what I said was, I’m looking for a gym. Not a studio that you’ve worked with in a, a town of 20,000 or less with a particular low-cost competitor in town that’s crushing it. I don’t, I don’t want to talk to somebody that’s doing okay.
I want to talk to somebody who is absolutely killing it. Who do you have? Crickets. They had no one. They didn’t have, they didn’t have, they didn’t have a gym, but here’s what they said. They say, Mike, I don’t have a gym, but I have, I have a studio. You gotta talk to this lady. You got to talk to this guy, they’re operating a town of 6,000 or 10,000.
And so I must’ve talked to about 15 or 18 studios. And what I came to realize was this, that the only, at least at that moment in time club that was winning against the low-cost competitor wasn’t another health club, it was a studio. It was the most obvious answer. Right. And so my thought was okay, so why don’t I operate a lot more like a studio, and a little bit less like a gym? Doesn’t mean that we don’t offer health club memberships any more. We absolutely do. But what are the characteristics right of a studio? So I’ve wrote down all this stuff, right? And then I found what, at least in that moment in time, this is 2016 now, who is the best operator when it comes to the studio business.
Now it, wasn’t only looking at the dollars that they were generating, which is important, but more so was I was into what I was interested in is what they’re keeping. Right? Cause when you, we all know that it doesn’t matter what you generate, you can’t take your eye off of generating new business, but we gotta really make sure you double down on, especially with personal training is what are you keeping?
Right. So over, you know, and we were very tight with our numbers with our 21 clubs. So we were keeping personal-training wise about 56% of the dollars that we signed up the previous year. Right. Which in my opinion is. Poor. It’s awful. It’s terrible. We were really good in selling. And as much as what I’d like to say is back then, we were really good in keeping we weren’t very good in keeping, right.
And I learned why. So I found a guy and the way that I defined or deemed him successful is 80% retention and $150,000 a month in PT revenue for 10 plus years. So we adopted his system is what I’m saying. Right? And so what, the biggest, the biggest lesson for me with the one-on-one personal training business that was lacking were the relationships and the community that wasn’t being built with all the other clients, all the other members that were at the gym. I was at the mercy of the coach, as the guy that’s running the show. And so if Jack and Craig are my great coaches and they do a good job, that’s great. But when they leave, as we all know, what happens as much as we like to keep those clients, those clients build more of a relationship with the coaches, right?
And that, that was very challenging. Right? And at the end of the day, I’m a personal trainer as well. I needed to flip that switch or I needed to flip the script where the clients and members established a bigger relationship with each other. The coach was there to facilitate the programming. The coach was good, but I took the, to me, the one-on-one personal training, the model, the coach is the hero.
Right, but you can’t scale a business from that perspective where the coach is the hero – we had to flip the script where the coach is not the hero, the coach is the guide, the hero are the clients, right. That we’re, that we’re training. I needed a better systematic approach to create community and relationships.
That was the major switch that we did. And what ended up happening is we ended up increasing our retention, my average trainer made 10% more dollars. It was probably one of the best things that we did for our organization. We, we, we were able to charge more, more money for the same services. We needed fewer trainers to to train those people and the trainers made more money.
Clients loved that because they saw that or better outcomes. Anyway. So, so that’s my, that’s my approach where we start, or that’s my background. Long story short is that we started with one club doing $0 in revenue and it at the highest we were doing about $3.8 million a year in PT revenue, out of Anytime clubs.
And yeah, it was in charge of hiring, firing and putting together all of the processes to do so. 
Craig McNeill: [00:21:21] What a story!? I think, I think I have to absorb quite a lot from that 10 minutes in terms of what you’ve just gone through. There’s some absolutely amazing points that you’ve just gone through there Mike.
 
 Mike Gelfgot: [00:21:32] yeah. And so like if there’s, you know, I would say, I would say probably the biggest lesson for me as was this one here, like yeah. We, everything was community like the most important thing is making sure that the members and the clients build a community with each other.
Right versus just what I’m on with the coach. Cause that long-term, that, that doesn’t, that doesn’t work. Right. That’s not to say that one-on-one personal training is dead. That’s not to say any of those things. None of you want to scale though, and you want to do something that’s more significant, it needs to be where the coach is, the guide.
He’s not the hero and everyone else builds a relationship with her, but I’ll tell you the biggest one is this. The biggest lesson to me is this; I learned that my entire PT business was totally 100% reactive to what happens at the front door. So if Jack and Craig are my membership staff and they’re, and they do a good job and you guys signed people up.
Great, me as the coach, I’ll have plenty of new members to sit down with to take them through personal training sales process and invite them to be a client. But what when the front door stops working? Well then as a personal trainer, I have to go out. So what I’m saying is I had to retrain the whole culture, right?
Create programs and processes and systems    for the trainers to go out and generate their own business. And whatever happens in the membership side of the business, take that as a blessing, not as an expectation, but I never had to. What I’m saying is I never had to question the status quo and the way that we run our business until I was faced with tremendous amount of pain and you become very resourceful and figure it out.
Jack Malin: [00:23:00] So with the, when you kind of change the model and you, I’m putting words in your mouth, but you went from selling access to a building, to changing to much more of a sort of coaching-focused coaching-led model, when you ended up in that kind of second model, which I’m presuming then rolled out across the other clubs did there become less separation between membership sales and PT sales?
It was much more, you were selling a package that gave you access to a coach. Is that how you ended up with that model?
Mike Gelfgot: [00:23:29] Yeah. Yeah, for sure. Man. One of the ways that we needed to evolve as an organization is from the time that you walk in to our facility, that experience had to be significantly different than if you were to walk into a low-cost competitor.
And I know that everyone knows that, but specifically what we did to make our experience different is education. Right? And we had a very specific two point plan that our basic member had access to that was designed to help members get started and stick with it as it relates to exercise, as it relates to nutrition.
And we educated people on the two point plan throughout the entire sales process, we did functional movement screens during the membership sales process. Right. And so, because there was tremendous amount of personal training education happening during the membership sales process. When I say personal training, just simply educating people on the basics of the science of exercise that they would not get at a low cost type of a gym. Because of that, and we had a very specific two point plan, and that was our unique selling proposition that members get access to a two point plan that’s been designed to help you get started, stick with it and finish what you start as it relates to exercise or relates to nutrition.
Jack, can I tell you more about the plan, right? Sure. And then we tell them about the plan. What are your thoughts on the plan? Jack thinks it’s a great plan. What Jack is thinking about when he is about to make a decision to join, at least our Anytime Fitness, was I’m not necessarily buying access access his parts, at least in that moment, in that moment in time, and was part of a membership. But what he’s really buying is a, is a, is a plant, right. And will, and when we talk about what we did how we’ve ultimately evolved, I’ve, I’ve made it even a thicker type of a division between just buying a membership versus buying a plan. And in many ways, that’s one of the ways we we’re able to retain a lot of our members during COVID is because we properly qualified the prospects and understood the problems and what is it that they want to accomplish. And then we were able to help them understand how we have a basic plan which is what they’re purchasing rather than access to a club. Like access is free. What you’re buying is a plan to help you get started and stick with it.
So if access is denied for whatever reason, that’s okay, because you still have a plan. Right. But yes, every so because of that, we raised membership rates, right? Because we started to really differentiate more and more so that we’re not just here for free access.
No no, people are coming in because they want to see results and they want to see the benefits of exercise, not just joining because you have a fun, clean, great facility. Those are expectations. Does that, does that answer your question, Jack?
Jack Malin: [00:26:30] Yeah, completely. And I assume so from that base plan, you can then add on small group training or even one-to-one sessions, if you wish. Is that, how is that how it works? 
Mike Gelfgot: [00:26:39] Yeah. Yeah. I mean, so depending on how the lead is coming in, which then determines what kind of tiered options you show people. If you just walk into the club, for example. So right now, so we sold 20 of our 21 clubs, which by the way, whoever tells you that work-life balance can exist in my opinion, has never worked a day in their life. And so, we sold our clubs and as people, that’s how you were, you’re talking about you’re talking about the tiered memberships. So if you just walk into the club, for example, currently at our, in our own little facility, and you’re asking how, how much of your memberships I’m here to check this place out.
We’re going to take you through normal membership sales process and you’ll have access to the basic plan that comes with with our membership sale. And then we’ll up-sell you during a point of sale of a membership to a short term, like a 15 or 30 day PT program that, about eight or nine out of 10 people end up taking us up on.
Right. And then we take you through a trial conversion process. And if anyone gets a chance to, and I’m sure you guys have you guys have some interesting numbers, but from our, the numbers that I was tracking, when people take us up on a 15, 21 day or 30, they were a six week offer. Our conversion percentage goes from 28 to 30% from a normal conversion that PT sales person process up to 60, 70, 80%.
We’re closing significantly higher, right on us, on a trial. Now, if you come into our facility, which we should, we should talk about this. Off of a wellness program. Right. And so Craig, when we started your talk, you mentioned earlier how UK is kind of a following kinda like the footsteps on us. Like whatever’s in US is coming to UK.
So if I was to go where the puck is going, right. That’s what made Wayne Gretzky such a great hockey player, right? It wasn’t the fact that he was the greatest or the fastest. No, he just understood the game. Right. He got to the puck before the puck got there. Right. If I was that type of a coach, I would focus on wellness programs.
So Jack, if you’re coming in, say off of a diabetes or heart disease program, then we show you, you, you go right into the PT. There’s no talks of a membership because you’re coming in to purchase some sort of a six week program that we’re running, that we’re selling anywhere between five to $600. Right? So in your mind, that’s what you’re coming in to purchase.
And then the up-sell is your traditional regular 12 month personal training program. As long as the incentive is heavy enough, people will do it. Right. And so that’s when we would convert you right into the training program, Jack, within a health club setting, it’s all in how you’re coming in. Right? And so, like I said, if you’re just coming in off the street, we take you through the regular membership process.
We up sell you a short-term 15, 30 day program. If you’re coming in off some sort of a specific, a six week wellness ad that we’re running, then we up-sell you into a regular 12 month, 12 month personal training program. Of course, membership is all part of the deal.
Jack Malin: [00:29:42] I think you often talk a lot about kind of having sort of purpose driven, kind of value driven business and trying to find the right people and get them behind that.
But I guess kind of remunerating the staff and in the right ways is obviously important as well. You talked about the conversion at the point of joining to PT. So am I right in thinking, and again, sorry for the questions, but this is built a fascinating personal training business – at the peak turning over $3.8 million of personal training is kind of unheard over here in the, in the UK.
So I just wanted to kind of understand as much as we can about how you, how you did that. Was it the membership sales team’s responsibility for the sale of personal training as well and therefore the trainer was just delivering or is the trainer selling and delivering and, and how does the kind of the structure from a personal trainer work from a paid perspective?
Mike Gelfgot: [00:30:35] So there’s a couple of different paths that this could follow. So path number one is this – let’s say Jack comes into the club to check out the facility. I’m here to learn about Anytime Fitness or how much are your memberships. And of course, Jack, thanks for coming in. How did you hear about our facility?
Oh I have a seven day pass I printed offline. Jack, I’m so glad you have your seven day pass with you today. At the end of our time here today, I’m going to show you Jack, how you can use your seven day pass as a coupon towards your membership. So glad you’re here, let’s sit down and discuss your fitness goals.
I take you through the normal membership sales qualifying part of the process, right then on the tour it’s very PT-centric. Right. We don’t guess what we think we should be doing with you, Jack. No, we prescribe exercise much, like much like a doctor would. And the way that we do it is through a tool called FMS.
FMS is a tool that helps me as a coach better understand which of your muscles are weak. So we just go through this whole spiel and we do the FMS and that’s not to necessarily identify how you fit into a program, but more so to help you educate you. Remember when you come to see me, I am the guide, you’re the hero.
And every guide, one of the ways that the guide becomes the guide is through two things, the way that, and a guide becomes a guide is by showcasing what they know. So education matters, right? And, and I’m like, and then not a whole lot, but education, education matters. So I have to, wow you. Right. I need to explain and educate you during the membership sales process. And when I, when I do that, anytime you get a chance to educate someone, instantly like you’re, you’re a level or two higher, like you think of like a think of like teachers, right?
Or think of like professors, right? Where anytime we get a chance to learn something and it’s applicable to us, it’s a good thing. Right? And it instantly, we view that individual differently. And I need that to happen during the membership sales part, I don’t want to be viewed as a sales guy. I want to be viewed as a teacher or as a professor.
I need to showcase    my value. And one of the ways that I do that is through education. Anyways, I take you through the sales process. You’re here off a seven day pass. Right. And we talk a lot about personal training. I explained to you what makes our facility unique and different? Jack? We have a two point plan that’s been designed to help you get started and stick with it.
Can I show you how it works? And I show it to you at the end, I sell you a membership and then I give you an opportunity. Instead of working out with the coach upfront, Jack for two sessions, like all of our memberships get, you have an opportunity to work with a coach for the first 30 days in an unlimited basis for an extra 49 bucks.
So my question to you, would you rather get started in a membership with just two sessions, Jack or 30 days of personal training sessions, right? It’s a very cheap, up-sell. I that’s what the membership does in that scenario. That makes sense. 
Craig McNeill: [00:33:38] That breaks, that education from the consumer side, the client side that they say no to services that they don’t know what that service provide as a value. That’s why there’s no sale. It’s not because they don’t want personal training. They just do not know the value of what that 40 around dollars would give them.
Mike Gelfgot: [00:34:00] Unfortunately, most memberships salespeople they don’t understand how to proposition that value. Right. And so we’d say so there’s and maybe we should do a completely separate podcast where we talk about, Hey, how do you increase your onboarding percentage? If you’re selling memberships, onboarding percentage, meaning with a coach at the end of your personal training session.
And see, to me there’s like five or six specific things you’ve got to do. And listen, it was 21 clubs. Our onboarding percentage bounced between 85 to 90% with a coach at the end of a membership sale and that’s quite a bit to be able to do with 21 clubs because of the way that we were, the way that we were touring people.
 Jack Malin: [00:34:44] Touring people, but also you see them as one continued process, quite clearly, the way you talk about it, it’s not a sales process that then falls into a PT process and- 
Mike Gelfgot: [00:34:53] Yeah, well, and I think it starts at the, at the top Jack, right? I think it starts from like in what is the goal of our organization? Does the relationship with the member end when they bought a membership, or did it just begin and see, in my case, it just started, I’m not interested in selling thousands and thousands of memberships. I take it back. I am interested, but I am more interested on top of that. What I’m more interested on top of that, I’ll never take an eye off of selling, but I’m more interested in what are we keeping, because that determines what the success of the overall business is. And if we want to keep people come on, statistics are all like, they’re everywhere. If you want to keep a member, you have to engage them with a coach.
You have to engage them with a coach. Right. So anyways, so you asked me earlier about conversion. So from a membership perspective, if somebody comes in to check out the club or they have a seven day pass, like we try to blur the lines as much as possible by educating our membership people on how to do a proper PT-centric tour to improve their onboarding percentage at the end with a coach. The other way that majority of these leads, at least now are coming in either through referrals or specific six week wellness programs and Jack. And if those are, if that’s how the lead comes in, right then the PT manager at that point services that sales process. Now I think that long-term, and what’s really served us well, at least within our 21 clubs, is that when you have a general manager, so the membership sales representative who is maybe not the best but is capable of selling personal training and the PT manager that works at that facility is capable of selling memberships. So it’s interchangeable, right. But if somebody comes it’s so that when you have that hybrid type of approach, that’s when it really works the best. And to me, that’s when you can run array of different promotions that drive people into PT first, and membership second.
Right. And if you’re Wayne Gretzky, and you’re listening to this, if you’re club was through that, the way that I would start thinking is yes, we’re promoting memberships. We’re promoting access to our facility, put just as much attention and focus in promoting personal training.
Wouldn’t it be great if you have 10, 15, 20 people going straight into your personal training business, along with 20, 30, 40 people going straight into your membership business? We know that we get some of those new members are going to buy personal training, right? That to me, that’s critical.
Jack Malin: [00:37:33] it’s fascinating like you say, Mike, there was an episode on onboarding it feels like we can five or six episodes about specific topics, but something that you touched on really, really quickly that me and Craig have talked about it in earlier episodes is it’s kind of aligning the goal of the organization.
We see over here too many, too many health clubs in the UK where the goal of the consumer, the goal of the operator and the goal of the trainer are completely out of synch, and it, it results in this kind of disjointed member experience disjointed PT offering. It sounds like you guys really started with that.
And again, you talk about having a purpose driven business, but it looks like the goal was the business’s goal and the direction you wanted to take the heroes, being the members, not these kind of separate departments within the organization. 
Mike Gelfgot: [00:38:19] Yeah. And you know, that was out of necessity. Right? we had a problem that the old way of doing business wasn’t effective.
We saw the writing on the wall. We had to evolve or we die. Right. And so how do you, how do you evolve that you make it more, you hone in, like, you, you really figure out who are the people you don’t do your best work with and who are the people that you do your best work with and everything in your facility needs to cater to that individual.
So we went in and we really got it all. We spent $1.8 million in roughly 18 to 20 months because we went inside of all of our facilities and we catered the facility to the people that we do our best work with. We didn’t know that was probably one of the biggest realization. Cause we didn’t know, like we were a gym for everybody come and join a workout, we’re nice you’re nice. Sounds like a good match. Well, that’s an absolute crap way of running the business, you have to understand who are the people so, we started with, when we had our 21 clubs. The people that we do our best work with are the ones that have 20 or more pounds to lose. Right? And so we started reshaping our facility to be specialists and experts when it comes to weight loss with the one facility that we have now, we are experts in helping people with metabolic syndromes. Right now, I don’t promote that. I don’t, I don’t promote that we’re experts with that, what we promote though are heart disease programs, diabetes programs, we promote lifestyle programs. We’re looking for folks that are living with obesity now, which is doing some interesting brain programs as well.
So like you have all these different hooks so to say in the water to bring people in, because I don’t know who we want to attract. Somebody that comes into the club to just check our place out, he’s not going to join because he’s not going to want to pay $78 a month. By the way, we have a Planet Fitness in our town, that’s about a mile and a half mile down the road and they’re charging $10 a month. We’re at $78 a month for a membership. I’m looking for it for a very specific individual. And if you are, and to me, that’s how you, that’s what, I’m one of the best things that COVID did is it helped us narrow in and really focus and figure out exactly who are the people that we do our best work with.
We, we had a very good idea of course coming in, but now as a result of COVID it really helped us fine tune that even more. 
Craig McNeill: [00:40:43] Yeah. So in terms of just moving, moving backwards, when you, when you changed from the one-to-one approach to, to the small group, my first question would be who was the harder group to, to get buy-in from that? Was it, the staff or was it the clients? 
Mike Gelfgot: [00:40:58] That’s a good question. Remember, the clients will follow what for the most about whatever, whatever the staff does. So, first and foremost, I got to win the hearts and the minds of the team. Right. I needed to show them what we were doing was good and it was great and it got us to where we need to be, but good is the enemy of great of course I didn’t come up with that.
Jim Collins did from his book Good to Great, a wonderful business book. And so we were good, but we weren’t great. And we got exposed. Right. And I think one of the most important things in business is to get humbled and recognize what you’re not really good at. And we’ve got our butts handed to us.
And so it was just,  we weren’t going to lose, this was not an option. Right? And so we had to evolve. So step one, you have to win over the hearts and the minds. You have to show people your trainers that long-term, this is not only good for the client first and foremost, because whatever change you’re putting in place, if you’re a personal training business, if it’s not good for the client, right.
If it’s not good for the trainer, if it’s not good for the company, you shouldn’t do it. It has to check off all three boxes. It can’t be great for the client, but bad for the trainer, but it can’t be good for the trainer, good for the client, but it’s bad for the company that long-term, that’s not going to make it all three boxes need to be checked off.
And so that was a, so once we did that, not everyone got along, Craig, not everyone wanted to go this route. They want it to continue to stay the hero. And fundamentally we needed to change our business. And to me, the business is my members and my clients. I have to be on the lookout for a business model that helps my members and my clients progress the most.
And this was the business model that helped them do it. They were having more fun than they’ve ever had before. And they were seeing better results than they’ve had ever had before.
Craig McNeill: [00:42:47]    How did the change in the model change in their, in the trainers pocket financially?    
Mike Gelfgot: [00:42:53] And so long-term it, my average trainer actually made 10% more money, right? Because they were able to service significantly more people. Right. You had to, you got to start with once again, with the end in mind, our, our, our objective is to never, as an organization set our members, nor our trainers on the wrong path.
If we do that by accident, that’s our fault. We need to fix it. And so in many ways you have to acknowledge what you’ve done is good. However, it’s not going to continue to get us to where we need to go. We need to evolve, and here’s why we need to evolve. So we changed the pay structure with the trainers where they were able to make more money because as a trainer, if you’re, if you’re doing 30 minute or 45 or six, your capped, at how many people you can service In that hour basis versus in the, in a small group or a team training setting you’re not capped, right?    So you just have a lot more space for you to make dollars. Right. And so financially-wise it made sense to those trainers. And then we showed them the outcomes that the clients were producing.
And that’s what I knew was the right thing to do. Right? It’s like when your clients are making more progress, when they love it, we just have to make sure that number wise, we make it right for the trainer. Once again, not every, not all the trainers like that. We lost some high quality trainers and that’s okay.
They weren’t bad people. I’m not a bad person. They weren’t bad people we just weren’t good for each other any more because they had different goals and I had different goals and that’s OK. Sometimes you grow apart versus grow together. My objective as an organization, when we had 150 people plus that worked for our company, and that could be a whole separate conversation we could have is what do you do to build that culture of connectedness and this culture of constantly building into your team that I think a lot of health clubs they don’t do 
Jack Malin: [00:44:39] Absolutely.
Craig McNeill: [00:44:39] Completely agree. So in terms of moving into, there’s a lot similarities there in terms of picking out keywords, you’re talking about member experience. I love this Mike because it’s absolutely fundamental. And it’s something that I think the last 12 months it’s come to the surface again that actually with the clubs being closed for six weeks, or we’ve found that some, gyms in some nations have been shut since last March, they’ve been closed 12 months nearly – there’s been a huge change in, okay, well, our members can’t come to our facility any more.
How do we, how do we help them? And that has really opened up what you’re talking about, the experience and it not just being a gym that people visit to be a membership. We’ve actually, we’ve got to think outside. Pardon the pun, we’ve got to look outside the walls of our gyms and what do we provide outside of that?
Mike Gelfgot: [00:45:33] I think it’s just recognizing what is the business you’re actually in? See a lot of trainers think they’re in the fitness business, they’re wrong, you’re not in the fitness business. Fitness is just something we have in common. The business that we’re in is the business of community building, that’s our business. The business we’re in is relationship building. That’s the business that the business we’re in is accountability and results. That’s our business. We are in the entertainment business. That’s the business. See fitness is just something we have in common. If you go to a restaurant, for example, and I think about this, you go to a restaurant, the walls are black and white.
You walk in, nobody says hello to you. You come up to a menu, you order and you leave like, what is the likelihood you’ll ever go back to that restaurant? It doesn’t matter how good the food was. You might, if you’re in a hurry, but the reason you go to the restaurant is not just to eat food it’s for literally everything else.
You love the environment. so I think once trainers understand what business am I actually in, then you start operating differently. So one of the things that’s really important is you got to look for ways to bring people in other than their scheduled workouts, that’s our business. So what kind of events can we put on?
Like, there’s a lot of gurus that talk about this, which makes total total sense. And I didn’t really realize what the heck we were doing until I listened to some of these guys. Oh, well, this is exactly what we’re doing. This makes a lot of sense. Like a lot of people spend a lot of money to get new customers.
How much money are you spending to keep customers? And so you should have a budget per client. Right. And my budget is about three bucks per client. We’ve got 120 clients. So we’ve got a $360 a month, roughly we’re spending on events. I mean, you can put on a great party. For $360 a month.
Craig McNeill: [00:47:09] Have you, have you got a sporting background, Mike?
 Mike Gelfgot: [00:47:11] Just wrestling back in high school is my, yeah.
Craig McNeill: [00:47:15] This is a great analogy and experience that I’ve had and Jack can kind of jump in from, from a rugby perspective. The amount of times I used to play football, I used to go to training on a cold English evening in December at 7:00 PM.
I didn’t want to go, I didn’t want to go. It was outside. It was cold. I’m not obviously being manly. I’m quite open to say it was cold out there. And I didn’t want to get my legs out in the English weather. I didn’t want to go, but what made me go? Everything that you just mentioned!?
Community. My teammates, the fact that my coach would’ve give me an absolute rollocking at the weekend. Yep. And I wouldn’t play it at the weekend because I wasn’t at training. So everything, what you’re talking about from a fitness environment and a membership environment and a community environment, actually from a sports background in wrestling, I’m sure there was training sessions that you didn’t want to go and do X, Y, Z. I’m sure. Jack, you didn’t want to go and throw yourself around a rugby pitch?
Jack Malin: [00:48:18] My body is saying no, but I know that it’s the opportunity to have half a dozen pints of lager at the end of it is making me still turn up and play rugby with my mates.
And it is it’s that, that community, that sense of needing the mates, the friendships, the relationships you build that make you turn up and put yourself through something you probably know you shouldn’t be doing. 
Mike Gelfgot: [00:48:37] And Craig, you bring up an interesting point. You’re absolutely right as you’re saying this, I remember when I used to wrestle.
If you show up late to practice. Everyone else suffers. Like all of your teammates. I didn’t want to see them suffer, right? We’re all running, but we’re doing drills that nobody likes to do. So you’re right. I showed up before practice started because I wasn’t going to be the one that causes my, but the point is the, the idea is it’s something else that brings you in other than your scheduled work.
I know Howard Schultz talks about in his book. He talks about the third place. Right? And then that’s how Starbucks wants to be right. They, it’s home. It’s work and it’s Starbucks. That’s why they do what they do inside of there store it’s a beautiful, really decorated. Right? You want to go there to hang out and relax.
They create great, great music. It’s very, I mean, love it. We need to do the same thing inside of our, and so when I went on that research, essentially of these studios that I talked to, one of the most, one of the common denominators amongst all of them were these absolutely just amazing events that they would put on for their clients to come to. That was fun. That was engaging. They would take the time and the energy to think things through, they would spend the money on those events. And so we started doing that and it paid dividends in terms of referrals, in terms of retention, it was, it was beautiful. 
Jack Malin: [00:50:09] And then the Starbucks analogy is a, simple, but really relevant one for what you were doing with Anytime compared to the budget club, because you’re trying to create that experience within Starbucks that means that someone does come in and spend $5 on a coffee. It’s not about the caffeine hit. It’s not about the drink. It’s about the environment that they’ve created that is that first base between home and work. I guess the gym, the gym is exactly what you’re trying to do with the health club isn’t it? Create that other place where you could come and feel comfortable, create relationships, create friendships, and enjoy being.
Mike Gelfgot: [00:50:44] Yeah. And that’s exactly it, right? Like, like you go to Starbucks to have a meeting, right. You got to because it’s just a, it’s a good place to sit to, you know, to talk to a friend. And so same thing at the health club like everybody at the club just needs to understand what is our business like?
What do we actually do? Fitness is just something we have in common. Nutrition is just something we have in common. Just like to talk about those things. The business is actually something different when we understand that everybody gets really creative in coming up with really exciting things to do.
Like, I think one of our best events that we did with our members is dogs and coffee. So who doesn’t like dogs. Right.    even if you don’t have dogs, of course, you’re welcome. And so that’s what we, we just met at a dog park. We bought a lot of coffee. It was cool. It’s fun. So then of course, what ends up happening is members come in next week and what are they talking about? You know, they’re talking about Craig’s puppy, they’re talking about Jack’s puppy. And it just, once again, that builds that sense of community inside your club, takes the trainers out of it.
Remember the trainer just guided and facilitated that connection. That’s beautiful. That’s our business. That’s what we do. Pre-COVID if you did a really good job with that, you reaped the benefits during and after COVID because not only do those members continue to stick with you and continue to pay you money like they did with us.
They came back faster than the typical gym does because there was these relationships. They missed other people. They didn’t miss us. They miss hanging out with everybody else. And if you understand that as a coach, oh my Lord, everything else is just secondary. See all these big boxes and all these other clubs, they’re trying to make exercising based on a workout.
So big box clubs in US. What they’re doing is they’re including unlimited team trainings, part of their membership, right? So you got like Planet fitness is LA fitness is some of the LA fitness is they even crunch Fitnesses for like 10 bucks a month. Craig, you can have unlimited access to team training and what they’re trying to make it about is the workout and see people like trainers or studio owners or mid mid box clubs.
Like at Anytime Fitness, they think they’re competing with the workout. And if all I’m doing is competing with the workout, come on. Why do you need to do, if you pay $10 a month for work, I can’t, you just get on the internet and Google workout, you have to understand what business you’re actually in, and see if you understand that. You’ll all of a sudden find a competitive advantage, and you’ll figure out a way and how to showcase it 
Jack Malin: [00:53:03] And to tie that back to the kind of personal training, the PT and the goals of the operator that is absolutely impossible to deliver without a strategically aligned and well executed personal training model. It’s just impossible. And that has to be the differentiator having that PT model, or whether it’s PT model or the kind of the, the unified customer experience that the PT model creates to be able to differentiate yourself from the big box Planet Fitness clubs as well. Like you say, you’re just getting access to a facility and maybe even access to a workout. And Peloton is a great digital example of that.
They’re creating, they’re creating the community side of it where it’s not just about replicating the bike. They’ve got a bike, they’ve got some good-looking trainers and some beautiful content, but it’s so much more than that. And that’s why they are continuing to innovate, continuing to stay at the forefront of digital because they’re focusing on that community element that people, that people crave.
Mike Gelfgot: [00:54:02] Yeah. Peloton has done a good job. Let’s actually talk about that. Right. So is that like, as a, if you’re, if you’re, if you’re a coach, if you’re trainer at a facility or even a facility, like how do you compete with that? Right. And so once again, I think it goes back to purely understanding what business you’re in, first of all, and then two, as a coach and my goodness. I think we could talk about this topic for an hour. As a coach, you get paid for done. We cannot forget about that. How do you measure done with your clients? It’s as simple as is my client on track with whatever goals they set out to accomplish since the very first day they started training with me.
So here’s my point, whether it’s Peloton, whether it’s Jazzercise, whether it’s a water aerobics, whether it’s any sort of group classes, cycling classes whatever, whatever option there is, virtual or not, doesn’t matter where. As the coach, what you ought to be doing is facilitating, guiding that person’s fitness journey.
That includes all sorts of different, whether it’s wearable technologies, right. Or different fitness options that are out there. So it all starts with the, with the end result. So let’s say it’s simple as let’s say, we have a client that wants to lose 40 pounds, for example. Right. So if the client wants to lose 40 pounds, she’s willing to commit to exercise, strength training twice a week, and she wants to do yoga and she wants to do cycling say the other day, the week she’s put, she could be a member of a cycling studio, right. She could also be a member of a yoga studio, but she comes to me for twice a week, personal training, for example, at my club. Does that make sense? Right. So what I’m going to do is I’m going to include all the different things that she would like to do as long as she’s willing to dedicate the time and the wearable technology to help her track all that stuff.
As a coach, I just need to facilitate and guide it. I’m not in competition. I’m the one that sets it in motion. And then what’s more important. What’s more important than this as the coach. And this to me, this is, I guess you could talk about the future of PT, as a coach, whatever plan you put the client on, you have to assess it, is it, or is it not producing the outcomes that are desired?
And so that needs to be a ritual deal. Like, so for example, in our system, every eight weeks, all of our clients go through a very specific evaluation to show me as the coach, is Jack, is he or is he not on track? It’s that simple. Right? And so, whatever I’m doing, whatever I am tracking, am I, is he progressing.
All right. So what’s cool about wearable technology. For example, not only can you track calories, which is what we’ve been able to track for a long time. But to me what’s more important when you are able to track now is recovery, not just how many calories you’re burning, but how many hours are you sleeping?
How many of those hours were in REM sleep versus deep sleep, right? What’s your heart rate, variability. You can track all that cool stuff, all that cool data that you’re able to track now that you weren’t able to track before it to help your clients progress. And so it doesn’t matter to me what the client wants to do, whether it’s Peloton, whether it’s yoga, whether they, they could join a cycling studio, they can take Jazzercise.
The question is, how many times a week are they planning on exercising in general? What is their goal? And as a coach, I got to guide them to put the best physical form of physical activity to accomplish that particular objective. And to me as the coach, that’s how you navigate your way around all this to you, you just accepted.
You’re not, you don’t have to be partial to one or another. Just understand how it works and help your people progress. 
Jack Malin: [00:57:36] Definitely. And, and you’ve kind of, I presume intentionally, but you’re referring to this as the coaching process aren’t you? It’s not the training process and it’s around coaching them to make those decisions to involve the types of exercise that are either accessible to that person or that the elements they like to ultimately get them results they joined the club to, well, the reasons they joined the club because they join at Anytime Fitness, they’re prepared to pay 78 bucks rather than 10 bucks, because they’re wanted to support to achieve a specific goal. And coaching is obviously all about kind of finding out what that is, and then putting them on a path to help them achieve that.
Not just getting away I should say from the, have, the stand next to you to personal train in inverted commas is around guiding exercise, rather than PT
Ya, that’s exactly it. You can count your own repetitions, right? I’m not going to be there. I mean like, no, no, no, no, it’s not. It’s not about that. No. It’s about the end result.
It’s about the, the community that I, that I formed with other people, it’s about how much fun I’m having. And at the end of the day, yes, I need to have fun. Yes. I need to have friends, but I also need to make sure that I’m somewhat progressing and moving forward. Right. And if I have an Apple watch or if I have the, the Whoop band or the Oura ring, whatever tech I have, how is this tech going to help me progress from point a to point B?
Right. And so I, as a coach, I have to be able to understand this. And so, you know, the future trainer needs to be better skilled and I love it. Right? Cause it’s gonna just step everything up as far as professionalism. Me, the future trainer needs to be able to communicate better, right? The future trainer needs to be able to understand the basics of human behaviour and human psyche and what makes people tick and why people do what they do.
And education is one of the ways that you differentiate yourself, it’s a, it’s your authority, essentially that you know your stuff. Right? So, yeah, I think education is very important. It’s not the most important thing, but it is really important if you want to continue to differentiate, but I’m going to go one step further.
When I say education, not random education, education in whatever is it that you specifically are really, really good at and you like to do, so for example, in our, in our club, what we’re really good at, what we like to do is work with people with metabolic syndromes, which means all the education that we get as an organization, because there is a focus, there is a goal, it all goes in that direction.
 So what, 2020 for example, and really a better part of 2021 for us is all about recovery. So all the education, right? All the programming, all the workshops that we put on has that as the core theme, all the tracking that we’re doing, whatever tracking device we’re using is all about recovery.
Right? Cause that’s the theme. So whatever education we need to get, we got to get re we got to feel we’re experts in that particular field. Right. And so, The more narrow your education is, you don’t have to be good at everything. You have to be great at one thing, figure out what your one thing is.
And be really great at it. I know it sounds so basic. We all hear this all the time, but gosh, it’s, it’s, it’s true because that’s what’s happening now. 
Craig McNeill: [01:00:41] Yeah, it’s true. 
Jack Malin: [01:00:42] Definitely. Mike just to, to reverse about 10 minutes, there was a point you made that I think was really, really interesting that we, that we kind of glossed over at the time, you made a point about kind of building communities, pre-COVID and then you were able to kind of keep a high percentage of members paying through COVID.
Now, I guess some of that is based on the business model, because you would charge it. You had people in the mindset, they were paying for a program, you remove the bricks and mortar, they’re still paying for a program, they’re accessing a different way, but if a big part of that was about the community. What’s really interesting.
It again, it seems blatantly obvious, but it’s something that probably a lot of, a lot of operators have learned the hard way from, it’s, it was difficult slash impossible for people to suddenly try and create communities in a locked-down pandemic world. And I think where a lot of operators went wrong is pre pandemic.
They almost had it too easy. They didn’t have to build these communities. Simply giving access to a building was enough to justify the, the charge for membership fees. And then suddenly when you remove that, they tried to create the, these communities and try to do it online. And, and very few have been, been successful.
It’s really interesting to see that you’ve had success of it, but it’s not necessarily been through going out just suddenly launch digital, you, you build a community ultimately, and the community has access to the building or the community has access to coaches online. It largely doesn’t matter.
And I’m, I’m kind of putting words in your mouth, but I’m interested to hear your, your thoughts on that, whether we’re kind of on the right lines as that’s how the last 12 months has played out. 
Mike Gelfgot: [01:02:15] Yeah. I’m going to give you an extra some, some tangibles versus just talking about this in a theoretical or educational type of way, I’ll give some takeaways for whoever’s listening that they can do.
So Jocko Willink he, I’m not sure if you guys have heard of him. He wrote a book called Extreme Ownership. Jocko Willink was probably like one of the most he led one of the most decorated unit, Navy seal units into battle, like in the mid two thousands, this guy is a living killing machine.
Like I didn’t even know people like that existed. He he, he taps out 20 Navy seals for practice, right? I mean, he’s just incredible. The reason I bring him up is because he is now retired from the military and he’s got his own business now where he takes military practice, essentially military lessons and applies it to the real world.
Right. So you can, any company could hire him and he would teach you how to apply military principles within the business world. And one of the, one of the principles that he talks about is this one. And the principle is this: the enemy is coming. And he talks about in his book over and over and over and over and over and over and over again, the enemy is coming.
So as a guy that trains the Navy seals, how do you out train and outmanoeuvre and outsmart and outwork the enemy, he provides all sorts of strategies to do it. So how do you apply that to business? Well, I can tell you, in 2015 we were fat sick and nearly dead, not metaphorically speaking. There’s actually a documentary by Joe Cross.
It’s a nutritional documentary called fat, sick and nearly dead. I like that language because that’s, I like, and that’s what we were in 2015 when I plan a fitness moved up. So what I’m saying is we were under-prepared, we were fat, sick and nearly dead so ta say. Right. And so I had a lot of that.
Back from 2015 to 2016, is that we were waiting for things to happen. We weren’t prepared. So the ultimate question is this: not is the enemy coming, it’s what is the enemy? What does it look like? Nobody was prepared for COVID. I mean, no, I don’t care. I was not fully prepared for COVID, but the only thing I knew was this, the, what we had to do better than what we were doing when we had our one-on-one business was we had to take the trainer out of that hero spot.
And what’s interesting for the trainers that understood this, they actually significantly made more money, and they were able to create a bigger impact on their clients. I think it’s very cool, but the ones that had a big ego just didn’t didn’t work out with them and that’s fine. Anyways. So I knew that coming in which we were already heavily like the program, when I say the program, the exercise science, so that like, you have to know your stuff, it’s gotta be good.
Doesn’t even have to be great. It’s gotta be good though. Right. But where you have to be great at it, it’s just understand the business that you’re actually in. So specifically, yeah. I mean, so a lot of our well, our members you’re, as you say, Jack, you, right. They, they knew, right.
So we kind of, they, they bought a program, not necessarily access to, to a club. We still had to, you know freeze or cancel a few members here and there because they they just, they, they, they liked coming into the gym, using their plan, rather than doing the plan at home they needed a place to go. So I get that. But for the majority of them, especially our paying clients that were paying us $180 a month, we were able to keep, so part of it was the program, but the other part of it is this. How do you keep your culture going when you can’t see people, that’s where you gotta get creative.
And there’s two, two, then there’s many things that we did once again, we could to have a whole separate call on this, but, but there’s two specific things that we did that I thought were very, were very successful, we’d have virtual happy hours every single week. We would have a theme. It would be, we would dress up.
It would be very silly. And we would just get on, on a, on a video conference call and we would have, you know, a glass of wine or a beer. And then we would just give people an opportunity to chat with each other. They, everybody knew they couldn’t see each other, they get it right. Let’s at least physically, right.
So we gave that opportunity for people to do it. And that was an, that was every single week. That was the deal. And the other thing that, that that we did is for certain clients that were paying above a certain amount of money, we would send them gifts. On a monthly basis. Once again, doesn’t require a whole number because we’re still billing, right?
Our our clients that we have some money coming in. So we were able to spend a little bit of cash on those more cash right on those clients. And we would send them something. Sometimes it was something silly. It didn’t really cost a whole lot. Sometimes it was maybe a little bit more, but it it’s, it’s nothing more than you thinking about people when they least expect you to think about them.
Right. That’s really what it is. If there was a great customer service book that I think every gym owner should read, it would be Life as a Day Maker. I can’t remember who the author is it’s a very quick read Life as a Day Maker is the book, I think everybody in everyone’s organizations should read that book, it’s helped me totally reframe on what it means to truly be present and get curious about someone and be with them when they’re with me for that 60, right. When for that 60 minute period. So those are two specific tangibles. There’s a lot more than that, right? There’s there’s day. Like if I were to describe to you my plan, it was, I guess it was a four point plan that we, that we put together within our organization was daily, weekly bi-weekly monthly contact.
Right. And so there were specific things that we were doing daily, weekly, bi-weekly, monthly. Right. Because we knew that if we don’t touch them, if we don’t stay connected with them. Good luck.
Craig McNeill: [01:07:55] Yeah.
Jack Malin: [01:07:56] It’s about having that community pre-pandemic. And then you, you pivoted to how we can deliver that online. And it continued, which is probably why the cost, the members still got still got value from that. And I think that’s the, the real big takeaway from talking to you today, you already had that community focus and therefore you were delivering online, not, Shit, we can’t let people in the building, we’ve got to find out a way of creating a digital community, which we just haven’t seen people make a success of, but yours was very different to that cos you already have that, that community focus.
Mike Gelfgot: [01:08:28] Yeah, you can’t be, you, you, you can’t be afraid of over-delivering right? You can’t, you have to because here’s the deal.
If you don’t, over-deliver someone else will, and that customer is gone, but they’ll tell, tell you as Jack you’re great or Craig you’re great. But you know, I don’t think I want to try something different. And in actuality, what they’re telling you is they don’t like you any more because you stop doing the things that you were doing to get me to here, right?
And, and all this stuff sounds basic until you actually put it into practice. Like you can’t be allergic to work. And I think once again, if you understand what business you’re actually in, see if I’m, if, if all I’m doing is typing up workouts, if I’m in the workout, it in, in the, in the fitness business, it takes me a couple of hours.
I can type out some programs. I’m good to go. It’s everything else around that that requires work and energy. 
Craig McNeill: [01:09:17] Mike, in terms of asking you one last question. So you’ve given some awesome book recommendations already, and we’re going to, we’re going to add those to the, to the episode notes as well for our listeners to look into some of them sounds like really good reads, which I’ve not heard of before.
So thank you for, for those insights. My last question for you would be what, what would be the one or two tips for gym owners in a post-pandemic world, from your perspective of everything that we’ve discussed already, or even something separate, what would be the biggest tips for the gym owners to think about from a PT perspective in a post-pandemic world?
Mike Gelfgot: [01:09:59] Yeah, I would say actually two things. Right. One, it would be, it would be understand what business are you actually in? And we talked about, right. If I were to put it into five different words, it would be the accountability business. So double, triple down, quadruple down, systematise accountability, and there’s ways to do it.
Results, business, systematise that right. Community, systematise that, relationship, systematise that and entertainment. But that’s the business that we’re in, right? If they, if, if as a health coach, as a coach, if the trainer, if you understand this, your life is going to be significantly easier and by the way more fun.
And I would say the second part is if you’re a trainer, especially working inside of a gym and your primary way to get new personal training clients is through new members. You are reactive to what’s happening at the front door. And so my advice to you would be stop being reactive and start being proactive.
Take what the membership side has given you as a blessing. And do the best that you can with those new members. In addition to that, there should be equal amount of energy focus drive and money that’s allocated towards personal training lead generation, much like it is on the, on the PT lead generation, but listen,
I actually want to leave people with that, with this a different book which in many ways actually is something that, what I’m about to say next, I think we should be the book that people should, should read. And, and, and here’s why I say that because at the end of the day, we would talk about a lot of stuff.
If you listen to this as a lot of different, actionable things you can do to, to, to implement, that’ll make your business better now, which is great. The world is full of ideas. We all know this, but every one of us only get paid for done. Right? We don’t, we don’t get paid for ideas. So if there wasn’t, if, if there was something that we all was, me included, get really good at, it’s getting things done. Like the best workout is the one that you’re doing. Right, right there. The best idea. It’s the one that you’re executing. Right. So if there was a book, it would be book around that particular topic, which is how do I get really good in getting things done? And the name of the book is called Four Disciplines of Execution.
That would be the book that if I’m a trainer or if I’m a club owner that I would read, because everyone already has within them, all the wonderful ideas that would create a massive impact in their organization. The question is, are you doing it or are you thinking about it? Right. And so if we can get better at executing that would make some impact.
 Jack Malin: [01:12:34] Mike there’s been so much content in the last hour or so that your, your point number one, there summed that up. You have five points to your one point. It’s like, if you just so much fun with this, went off, went off everywhere, but it’s been fascinating talk to ya. I feel that we’ve only scratched the surface of the amount that you’ve got in your head and from the experience over the last 20 years, being running a hugely successful PT business.
Mike Gelfgot: [01:12:59] Yeah. Yeah. Thanks for having me. You guys. I, this is, this is a lot of fun. I I, I would love to come back and really dive deeper right. In some of those other areas and some of those other topics because I think it would make massive impact for people. I wish that I could have listened to a podcast such as like this or many other podcasts that I’ve listened to when I first got started because it would’ve saved me a tremendous amount of time.
Jack Malin: [01:13:21] That’s it isn’t it there’s so much content available now for trainers to learn and educate themselves. And people like ourselves that have all worked in can only imagine the amount of combined hours, the three of us have done on the gym floor, that people are putting content out there for, for others to learn from and, when we were all PTs your only education really came from going on courses and it’s yeah, be it be a wonderful time to be a PT now I think
Craig McNeill: [01:13:43] Yeah. Mike, in terms of everything that you’ve gone through today really appreciate your energy and your insights. If our listeners wanted to go and reach out and speak to you after the podcast.
Where would they be able to go to in terms of finding you and contacting you Mike? 
Mike Gelfgot: [01:13:59] Yeah, yeah. probably the fastest way would be my email, right. It would be Mike dot Gelfgot. So my last name G E L F G O [email protected] 
Craig McNeill: [01:14:12] Legend. Cool, and again, we will put Mike’s email address in our show notes and please reach out to Mike. Yes, you are a U S knowledgeable bomb. But your, your knowledge would be absolutely appreciated across the globe. If clubs are looking into kind of insights into PT models, et cetera. So thanks again, Mike, have a great day and hopefully we will see you in person this year.
 Jack Malin: [01:14:40] We’ll also absolutely have to take you up on the offer of getting you back on. there was so much to get started on today. Really, really appreciate it. And, yeah. Great to speak to you again. Looking forward to having a beer. Sooner rather than later.
Mike Gelfgot: [01:14:51] Yeah. Likewise. Thanks for having me guys will be my pleasure to come back.
Craig McNeill: [01:14:57] Thanks for listening to mPowered with your hosts, Craig McNeil and Jack Malin. Connect with us at membr.com and don’t forget to subscribe. Join us for a recap next week on what the future of fitness looks like with some of the biggest insights from our season 2 guests. Stay safe and see you soon!

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