In today’s missive, we’re going to cover five topics where I’ve changed my mind over the past 10 years of running MFF.
But first, I wanted to remind you we’ve got a truly awesome virtual event coming up.
If you’ve ever wanted to peel back the curtain and go behind the scenes at Mark Fisher Fitness… now’s your chance!
We’re hosting our 2-day deep dive into MFF on Fri Oct 22nd and Sat Oct 23rd. It’s being held virtually on Zoom; no expensive plane flights or hotel rooms are necessary. We’ll show you how we handle every part of our business. And we’ll even get you the recording after the fact to review the content.
We’ll also give you access to our scripts, systems, SOPs, dashboards, templates, and more. PLUS attendees will get 90 days of access to our Unicorn University learning platform. Education junkies will be in heaven. 🙂
The price goes up by $300 after Sunday, September 26th. Click below to claim your spot today.
We are super pumped to share what we’ve learned over the past 10 years.
And speaking of 10 years of MFF (!!!)...
I thought it may be interesting to share with you a brief list of some things I’ve changed my mind about.
Inspired by books like Drive, I was originally committed to a world without financial incentives. Author Daniel Pink referenced studies where money hurt creativity and overweight the financial elements of the business. And who was I to argue with a bestselling author?
Based on this data, I felt the best path was to pay people fairly and trust their integrity to perform at a high level. I was concerned that performance-based incentives would 1) be hard to track and 2) potentially create ugly second and third-order consequences. While both of those concerns are valid, I no longer believe salary-only compensation for all non-owner roles does the trick.
For the best performance, most people — particularly ambitious high performers — need some financial skin in the game AND deserve some upside.
For a long time, I raged against any kind of script. I was worried it would constrain our team and make them feel stilted.
But in practice, any employee with a repeated interaction will say the same words the same way. For instance, you know that joke you always tell when consulting with a prospect? Yep, that’s what I’m talking about.
The only question is whether those are the best possible words that consistently lead to the best outcomes.
Scripts don’t have to suppress humanity. There’s still a lot of room to be a human, to adjust the rhythm and vocal inflection, and in rare cases, to throw the script out when truly appropriate.
But if you’re not being consistent with verbiage in your most important conversations? You’re relying on individual human judgement. And at least in theory, a script that represents your team’s collective best thinking. And that’s better than a front-line team member making it up as they go along.
When I opened up MFF, I sincerely thought it was possible for everyone that worked with us to open up their own Clubhouse. And I still think people with talent, hustle, and ambition can carve awesome paths within MFF.
The reality: for most training gyms, there are going to be natural limits to how fast the organization can grow. Furthermore, the skills required to be “intrapreneurial” are very specific; they need to have a proactive owner mindset, but not want to do their own thing.
I want MFFers to stay at MFF for as long as we’re mutually happy with the arrangement. But for most training gyms and most employees, 2-5 years is the sweet spot before the individual needs to move on to keep growing and before the training gym needs fresh blood.
CAVEAT: This timeline seems to be on the longer side for less metropolitan markets, in part because there are less competing opportunities.
Focusing on fulfillment and customer service alone will get you far if you’re really, really good. And lord knows, we hit $4m in a single location without really understanding the basics of marketing. But if you want your business to have long-term legs, at some point you have to learn the principles of marketing and sales to intentionally grow your business. Otherwise, you’re left hoping clients will refer friends. And hope isn’t a strategy.
To be clear, a business can and should grow organically. If you’re not getting referrals without having to ask, it means your service isn’t good. And you can’t fix poor fulfillment with strong acquisition.
To our defense, marketing isn’t really a topic where we changed our mind per se. We always knew this was important. And we’ve always crushed “purple cow” branding. But it took us years to figure out how to create effective systems for growing the business.
NOTE: In my experience, most training gym owners are like young MFF. They understand this is important, but fail to realize how truly inadequate their skills are.
This relates closely to the first topic. Part of the challenge with creating incentive plans is deciding what numbers track with an individual’s performance. For some roles — sales, for instance — this is simple. But for others, it’s a bit trickier to settle on metrics that quantify performance.
More broadly, we knew there were subjective parts of the business that would benefit from data. But the tracking methods seemed both labor-intensive and so imperfect as to be worthless (or so I thought).
For instance, utilization percentages for a given coach’s session could be an indicator of how your clients feel about the coach. But we also know clients heavily weight the time and day when choosing which sessions to attend. And there’s no perfect way to scrub that confounder out.
But now I think this: imperfect tracking of subjective qualities is better than insisting on perfection and not tracking subjective qualities at all. Not everything in your business can be easily quantified. But so long as you keep the inherent limitations in mind, “what gets measured gets managed.”
Thanks for reading. Here’s to ten more years of learning!
Living is learning and learning is living,