3 LESSONS LEARNED FROM RUNNING THE WORLD’S ONLY UNICORN FITNESS CULT IN 2016: THE MICHAEL EDITION

Welcome to Part 2 of our lessons learned from 2016. Miss Mark’s Edition? Check it out here.

Damn. What a year it’s been. Happy reading!

 

Michael’s Lesson # 1: Some parts of your business are never done. Get used to it.

I used to believe the myth that if you work on your business smart enough and long enough at some point you’re done. One day you reach a point where you’ve figured it all out and the business runs every day like clockwork — maybe even like magic — and all you have to do is sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Well, that might be true for some folks, but for anyone who wants to run a brick-and-mortar, person-to-person, high-touch fitness facility, nothing could be farther from reality. At the core of our business is people and people are infinitely complicated and unpredictable. Clients have breakthroughs and breakdowns. Staff members have huge successes and epic challenges.

The work of helping people work on themselves is an incredibly rewarding and beautifully never-ending endeavor. The truth I’ve learned is that some parts of your business will always be a work-in-progress and that’s okay.

For many aspects of your business, the mountain will have no top. The work of getting 1% better every day will never end and that’s something to embrace, not resist.

At MFF the process for scheduling our 16 trainers each month continues to evolve and (hopefully) improve. And that’s okay because it shows that our systems are flexible enough to adapt to the ever-changing demands of our clients and our team.

At MFF the service standards we use to guide our interactions with clients are frequently being refined. And that’s okay because it demonstrates that we are listening to feedback from our clients and working to address their changing needs over time.

At MFF the methods we use to forecast our revenue and track our spending are regularly being improved and clarified. And that’s okay because it represents our willingness to learn from our choices and take action on our best thinking at any given time.

I could go on. There are so many parts of the business that will always be a work-in-progress. What I’ve learned is to not fight that change, but to embrace it as a reflection of our desire to get 1% better every day.

 

Michael’s Lesson # 2: “People first” is a value that always points you in the right direction.

Almost everywhere we go, Mark and I talk about the importance of having clear and actionable values that guide your business to achieve its goals. Our most common advice is that each business should take time to identify their own unique values — working with your teams to discover your shared priorities.

Once you’ve articulated your business’s values they act like guardrails to keep you aligned with your highest vision of who you want to be as a company. You can refer to your values when hiring new staff, creating new products and services, or any other moment when you need to make a key decision.

All of that is still true, and I also think there is one universal value that belongs on every fitness business’s list of core values.

That value is people first.

At MFF we often talk about this value as “people over profit,” but that’s just our version. The important part is that valuing people belongs at the center of every fitness company’s thinking. Above all else the work we do with our clients succeeds or fails by our ability to understand how the actions of our business impact the lives of the people in our tribe.

I invite you to ask yourself, what decisions did my business make this year that were not well received by staff or clients? And how could we have anticipated that challenge by putting people first in our decision-making process?

I’ve learned this lesson the hard way by often leaning too hard on the mantra of it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission.  Instead of truly considering all the ramifications my decisions could possibly have had on people, I’ve been too quick to take action now and explain myself later. In fact I have so many examples of screwing this up, I’m going to save them for another blog (haha).

The key lesson for me is that when you succeed in putting people first in your business you will have more loyal clients, happier and more productive staff, and an overall stronger and more vibrant business.

 

Michael’s Lesson # 3: Your ability to take deep risk is the ultimate test of your business’s health.

In 2016 MFF took a our biggest risk to date, we opened a second location in NYC. We had expanded our physical space in Hell’s Kitchen several times over the last five years, but those projects didn’t nearly prepare us for the colossal undertaking of building our new studio from the ground up.

There’s so much I can share about what I’ve learned from this process and it will no doubt be fodder for many future blog posts.

However, the main lesson I have taken away from this experience (so far) is that the high degree of risk required of this project has tested MFF in a way that has truly exposed our strengths and weaknesses.

We have all heard the prevailing wisdom that who we truly are, our true colors, are revealed not during times of calm, but during times of struggle and strife. It is crisis that shines the brightest light on our true selves. The same is true for our business — for us as a collective unit.

To illustrate this, I first have to unpack two types of risk we undertake in our businesses. The first type of risk is the everyday challenges and choices you have to make. You take a risk every time you hire a new staff member or bring on a new client. You take a risk when you choose a new internet provider or purchase a new piece of software for your business.

Sometimes those risks come with great rewards, and sometimes they come with great challenges. But rarely will those everyday risks amount to any significant threat to you or your business.

The second kind of risk (and this is the one MFF faced for the first time in 2016) I’ll call deep risk. These are the kind of decisions and actions that can have outcomes with the potential to deeply affect the very existence of your business. A useful analogy might be to think of everyday risk as taking place in a peacetime environment and deep risking existing in a wartime environment — when the life of your business is literally at stake.

For fitness businesses, deep risk decisions could include things like making a significant change to the services you offer, completely altering your pricing model, restructuring your staff, and (in our case) opening another location.  These moments in time represent a unique threat and a unique opportunity in your business.

The opportunity presented by these deep threat moments is a chance for you to see what you, your team, and your clients are truly made of. When your business is starring in the face of existential threat, you quickly learn how much you trust those around you. You quickly learn the effectiveness of your communication systems. It becomes immediately apparent which team members are truly called to the mission of your business and who is simply in it for the paycheck.

Deep risk offers a chance for your business to look intensely into a funhouse mirror of truth that instantly amplifies your strengths and exposes your weaknesses.

Fortunately, MFF’s encounter with deep risk this year has reinforced for me that we have the greatest team on the planet and the most amazing clients any business can hope for. It has also uncovered countless opportunities for future growth. Opportunities I can’t wait to tackle in the new year.

 

On behalf of myself and Mark, thank you so much for coming alongside us on our journey to get 1% better in 2016. If the above is any indication, there will be plenty of lessons learns to share in 2017, and I can’t wait to share them with you!

 

6 thoughts on “3 LESSONS LEARNED FROM RUNNING THE WORLD’S ONLY UNICORN FITNESS CULT IN 2016: THE MICHAEL EDITION

  1. Great, thoughtful points. Thank you for sharing them Michael!

    Thank you to everyone at MFF. While 2016 was indeed crazy. I hope you all realize the significant impact you have made on myself, our business, and our #NSSfamily. Through your social media, blogs, in-person meet ups with Mark, and the BFU business consults. You made our 2016 better than it could have ever been without you. Thank you.

    1. Thanks so much Dustin. It’s been a real pleasure working with you this year and I hope we can kick more ass together in 2017. Please give my best wishes to your #NSSfamily and have a Happy New Year!

  2. We can’t thank you enough for all of the love, support, and guidance you, Mark and the MFF team have shared with us this year. AMP is a more magical place because of you as is the entire fitness industry. Let’s keep learning in 2017

    Lof u!

    1. Awesome Andy — Time to find our what you’re made of. Haha.
      Keep me posted on how it goes. Carpe diem!

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