Takeaways from Miami [Unicorn Society Retreat]

Spending a few days with some of our training gym owners, enjoying Miami, and working on our businesses is more fun than a barrel of monkeys on LSD!

In addition to our usual quarterly planning session, this meet-up’s topic was leadership. 

As usual, the BFU team (Keeler, Pete, Ben Pickard, and yours truly) shared our thoughts. In addition, we were joined by two friends-of-BFU-speakers, Eric Cressey of Cressey Sports Performance and John Franklin of Gym Lead Machine, as well as two members of our Unicorn Society, Wendy Shafranski and Tina Morin.

Here are some of my biggest takeaways:

Pete Dupuis – It’s ok to offer an amazing job if your training gym can’t honestly offer a forever-career. You can set your team up with clear expectations about what you can offer, what you can’t, and how you can help them achieve their personal and professional goals; even if it means acknowledging they won’t stay for more than a couple of years.

Wendy Shafranski – While you may feel personally warm towards your team, it’s important to note they’re not “friends” or “family.” Unlike friends, there are clear expectations and performance requirements. And unlike family, you may need to end the relationship if those standards aren’t met. However, you should still strive to treat them well, specifically like “treasured guests.” ←- Love this framing

Michael Keeler – Encourage “saying the unsaid.” This advice holds true in several ways. For one thing, it means surfacing unspoken anxieties, fears, or frustrations and addressing the obvious thing that no one is saying. It also means making your implicit expectations clear for both you and your team.

John Franklin – If you know you do not like managing a team… consider having someone else do it. As an entrepreneur, you don’t necessarily have to do every role in your business. It’s ok to put yourself in a seat that plays to your strength. And if that’s not managing and leading your team, you may need to consider paying someone appropriately to take on that role for your business.

Tina Morin – Systemize the informal – but important! – touches of great “internal customer service.” Just as you map out your onboarding and retention strategies for your clients, you should do the same with your team. Similarly, use calendar notifications to schedule personalized acts of service and care for your team. Don’t leave it up to instinct and chance. Make it a system.

Ben Pickard – Have a weekly “Level 10” meeting with your team. Depending on the size of your training gym, it may just be you and a GM, a leadership team, or maybe your whole team. Use this meeting to create a reliable, consistent, weekly pulse where key stakeholders review the business’s health, study your most important performance metrics, and solve key issues.

Eric Cressey – Create opportunities for your team to spend time together socially. The exact activities will depend on your culture and the interests of people on your team. But invest in the deepening of your team’s personal relationships. NOTE: This can also include intentionally offering opportunities for team bonding without the “boss” around.


Hope you’ll consider joining us for our next retreat in Portland, OR in June. Just like Miami, we’ll offer a few spots for non-US members to join us.

Can’t have a successful training gym unless you spend quality time with Drag Queens,