Episode 325

Building vs. Running Systems in Your Gym with Ben Pickard

In this episod, Ben Pickard joins me to talk about building vs. running systems in your gym.

[00:00:00] Hello, my friend on today’s episode, I’m speaking with my fellow business unicorns coach, Ben Pickard. And we are talking about the difference between building systems and processes in your business versus running those systems and processes and how many of you, including us likely have a preference for one over the other and what you do about that in your business, because we need to build strong and resilient systems in our business that can produce repeatable results.

We also need those systems to run consistently for a long time. So how do you do. Both well, that’s the topic of today’s podcast. If that sounds useful to you, keep on listening and let’s dive in.

Welcome to the business for unicorns podcast, where we help gym owners unleash the full potential of their business. I’m your host, Michael Keeler. Join me each week for actionable advice, expert insights, and the inside scoop on what it really [00:01:00] takes to level up your gym. Get ready to unlock your potential and become a real unicorn in the fitness industry.

Let’s begin.

Hello, fitness, business nerds. What’s up. Welcome to another episode of the business unicorns podcast. I’m back with the man, Ben. How are you, my friend? Good. Thanks. How are you? My title for you today is just the man. That’s as good as I got today. It’s a Monday. We’re recording on a Monday. My creativity is not at its peak yet this week, so that’s what I got for you, but I’m excited to talk to you today.

Before we dive into today’s conversation, I just want to do a quick shout out. We have this really valuable tool on our website right now. This is phenicorns. com. That’s called the ultimate gym owner report card and it’s free. It’s a free tool. And the reason we made this tool is because as a gym owner, you wear so many hats in running your business every day, and it’s hard to know what to focus on next, which part of the business should get my time and attention and energy next.

And so we built a [00:02:00] tool. It’s called the Ultimate Gemini Report Card. So help you figure out what are the areas of the business that you are already crushing and doing well. What are the areas of the business that are really snailing it and you’re not doing well and need your time and attention and which ones are just meh, that are just chugging along but maybe not great.

And I think that’s exactly what the report card helps you do is focus on what are the ones that desperately need your attention so you can spend your time as wisely as possible every single day, because we know how precious your time is. So go click the link in the bio or go to our website, businessunicorns.

com, link in the bio, link in the show notes, what am I on Instagram? Click the link in the show notes and go get that report card because it’s a great free tool that so many people have told us they’ve used and loved. So I hope you use and love it as well. Anything you would add to that, Ben and a perfect segue for the conversation today.

But yeah, the report card is do it quarterly review your ads, see where, what things improved, what things slipped when we’re wearing 75 hats. [00:03:00] It’s sometimes hard to see the forest for the trees and having objective self assessment to give you direction and reinforce your positive efforts. Always helps keep you on track.

Yeah. That’s it, my friend. And you’re right. This is a perfect segue to today’s conversation. We didn’t even plan it this way, but let’s pretend we did. And because today’s conversation is all about building systems in your business requires two very distinct kinds of efforts. And the approach that we’re going to talk about today is thinking about building your systems in your business.

In two phases, one is building the plane and the second is actually getting the plane off the ground and flying the plane. Or maybe the analogy is launching the rocket and then flying the rocket. One of those two. But the idea is that it takes a certain kind of energy and effort to build something for the first time.

And it takes a very different Kind of energy and effort to keep something running maybe for months or years. And so Ben breakdown for our listeners, how do you think about this process of building and running systems in your business? Yeah. The first thing that [00:04:00] comes up in my head for this is really Dan John’s plan.

The hunt discussed the hunt, but for our sake, we’re emerging hunting and discussing the hunt at the same time. And. Like, you know, speaking completely candidly, like I find planning the hunt to be in a lot of cases, way more fun. I’m inspired from a talk or a retreat or the report card, shameless plug, to build a system.

And it’s cool to map that out and gather information and forecast what it could look in the business. And I want to be clear, listeners forecasting isn’t this complicated thing. And so if I could add one more member a week than I am now, that would be this impactful in my life. And it can be like a really exciting, but also like brainstorming stage.

And then the part where I personally have the least fun sometimes is keeping that plane in the air or doing the hunt. Cause that’s a, it often comes with just being like, I’ve heard Mark say it like stubborn pigheaded, consistent effort. Like phoning leads is not a ton of fun. Having accountability [00:05:00] conversations can sometimes not be a ton of fun.

And it’s the thing where you’ve, you’re just trying to like, you try not to, you’re trying to get the ball off the ground at the beginning and this big lift with lots of moving parts. And then you just keep bumping it up, like playing keep up with a balloon with your children. If you’ve ever done that little taps here and there.

So I guess what I’m saying here is it is a very distinct type of effort. And I imagine for personality style reasons, there are upbringing, nature, nurture, different people have different strengths in different areas. And I think of all the things that I launched in my business and never K stayed consistent with.

And I bet if I launched half of those things and stayed consistent with them would be further ahead than launching 50 new ideas. Yeah. Yeah. I think that’s really well said that I think there are some people who are really well suited to that starting from zero place. That, Hey, I need to build a sales system in my business.

And that kind of blank page, if we don’t have one yet, we’ve never had one before. In fact, I don’t even know what it means to build a sales system for some of us is so exciting. I think [00:06:00] that’s like, by definition, a little bit of the entrepreneurial spirit is like, we love going from nothing to something.

We love doing some research about it, reading about it. Trying stuff, making drafts, testing things, right? Really figuring out how do I build this? And obviously if you join a group like our unicorn society, shameless plug, right? We help because we have playbook to say, here’s your first draft, right? Here’s how you get, you can build a sales system or a sales script, or you get the idea of marketing funnel, but, and there’s a certain kind of person who really loves that.

There’s also a certain kind of person who’s wait, when I look at a blank page, I do nothing but panic and sweat. Right when I have to build something for the first time that builds up from scratch, kind of energy that’s required is just really overwhelming, like the freedom of all those possibilities of what we could make is just too much.

So walk me through and then obviously the on the flip side of running it, it’s a whole different ballgame when you’re running it, when you’re running a thing, so you have a sales process that you’re running, it requires like just regular persistent [00:07:00] pigheaded dedication to run that thing. Day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, which is also some people’s favorite thing to do and some people’s nightmare.

Some people love the consensus, tell me what to do, give me the play and I will run the play. Hold me accountable. And I will love the repetition of it and the consistency of it. And for some people, in fact, like you and I are the same on this, that sounds like my worst nightmare. To have to do something again and again, I much rather have a blank page at the start of every morning.

So I think that point here is that all of you, dear listeners, you should at first know where you stand, understand your relationship to both of those processes, because it might be different, right? It might be different, but let’s start with like building, building the systems at first. So what are your kind of best tips and tricks here, Ben, for getting someone in the zone and in the place where they are ready, willing, and able to build a system in their business?

Yeah. The first piece I think is really clearly identifying the problem because as you mentioned in the intro where jimmers are wearing a [00:08:00] lot of hats more than they probably recognize that they’re wearing. If you think you’re wearing 10, you’re probably wearing 12. So it’s recognizing like where is the place that you want to spend the efforts and that can be due through a quarterly planning process like we do with our members.

It could be done through something like the report card. That’s why this exists. It can also be done through getting 360 feedback from your team or doing some customer feedback with your members. There’s lots of ways that you could identify what the area is in the spirit of go five layers of why deep, make sure it’s something that you like really want to do, not just, Ooh, I heard it on that one podcast and that person’s smart.

I think it’s a good idea. So we should do it instead of that thing. Get clear on like, how’s this really going to move the needle for you in your business or your life. Or your client’s lives or your team’s lives, but it needs to be important. I think from there, just double down on that for one second.

Cause I think that’s a great place to make sure that, cause if you get this wrong, the rest of the process can really suck or just be a waste of your time. So making sure you pick something that has a real clear ROI and improves your revenue, it decreases your expenses and improves your profitability in some other way, and it [00:09:00] makes your client’s life better, your team’s life better, right?

Like it has to check one of those kind of five boxes there. And if it doesn’t, you really want to question, do you really need to build a system after all? If it’s not helping you with one of those things, then do you really even need to do it? I think that’s a really great place to start. Yeah. So keep on going.

What else would you consider at this stage, Ben? Then I’d consider some version of like information gathering. You get nothing against the mad scientist toiling away in their garage to invent a brand new machine or technology, but I think there’s probably few and far between mad scientists, GMOers that are like truly revolutionizing things for the vast majority of us, no matter how different we think they are.

Myself included, probably MFF included. We’re really just like different flavors of the same pie going with pies. I love pie. Um, yeah. So why not? Like why reinvent the wheel? Look at some best practices, which could be podcasts, courses, coach, mentorship, research, buy a book, whatever, and figure out, okay, what, how does this work?

I also really love looking at how things work in adjacent industries. So the principle is the same, but the method is different. Cause I find it very [00:10:00] challenging to think about the problems within my own business. Cause I’m like so intimately and emotionally tied to them. So I often think of my gym, like a landscaping business, cause I’m not emotionally tied to landscaping at all.

So I’m like, Oh, how would that work in there? What’s an org structure? Oh, the grass cutters, like the coaches, same idea, but I’m going to be gathering information around what does this initiative or this thing I want to roll out. Look like, or could look like when it’s working to give me an idea of like, give me the North star, maybe Northeast, maybe Northwest.

That’s fine. I just need to know, I need to identify which direction is North. That makes sense. So you’re clear on the project. This project matters. It’s maybe urgent. It’s important. It has great ROI. Then next is do a little research and digging, figure out who else has created something like this before.

Are there models I can follow coaches I can hire all of that kind of stuff to make sure that you’re clear on this is roughly what it’s supposed to look like. When I’m finished. And then what? Now I think it’s where the rubber really needs to hit the road. And this is, I think the piece, the, the obstacle that most of us as gym [00:11:00] owners have a hard time getting over it’s you’re front loading a lot of the work.

So you’re going to need to carve out that thing might only take a couple hours a week to run, but it might take 10 hours to get off the ground. So making sure that you actually set time aside in your calendar that isn’t at Friday end of day, when you’re already fried, like prioritize some of your magic time.

And really just come up with a shitty first draft and embrace the idea of a shitty first draft. And we say that tongue in cheek. That’s the term we use here at BFU. A shitty first draft is rarely actually shitty. It’s just a way to, this is my definition. I’ve never heard you define it. So feel free to give me feedback on mine.

I view it as a way to give yourself permission to start with something imperfect. Yeah, that’s exactly it. Yeah. And I think your point here is so well taken that when you’re, once you have a project and you’re clear what it is, and you have some examples of what it might look like to be finished, then you start to actually build it.

The thing that is challenging for most people is that they underestimate how much time that’s going to take. And to allow yourself [00:12:00] to get. It’s got the first shitty draft out. It just helps build some momentum to get something on paper, get something written down that you can respond to or other people can respond to.

And so I’ll give you a quick example. One of the playbooks we’ve been talking about recently is a playbook we have for our Unicorn Society members is basically a playbook on email marketing. And this is a perfect example of what we’re talking about, which is to get your email marketing system off the ground, to get this rocket built and launched takes a lot of hours in some cases, many of you might have emails and like different places in your Gmail, in your CRM and like in your mind body, also in a few other platforms you survey monkey 10 years ago.

And so the first step of gathering all those names, whatever emails, putting them into some spreadsheet. Then you can make sense of and clean up the data on and uploading it into a place. And then segmenting those lists and some reasonable segments. This is something that can take you days and days in some cases, right?

And this is before you’ve even sent a single frigging email, right? Creating email templates. It’s all this work that’s got to be [00:13:00] done. And if you say, Oh yeah, I’m going to get that done this weekend. You’re probably not. This is something that you when you’re building these systems, you want to make space for the fact that you’re going to hit roadblocks.

It’s the first time you’re doing this often, so you don’t even know what to expect. It’s always going to take longer and cost more. And so I think anticipating that when you’re building a brand new system is really critical. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. All right. So we got All right. Thanks. Those are the steps.

So when you’re building a system, which is get clear on the project, do some research and digging to figure out what it’s going to look like, really plan for the time it’s going to take to really build the thing and make sure you have clarity of how the work gets done. But let’s just say we did build it.

We built this email marketing system or whatever system is we’re building. It takes a very different kind of energy to then keep this thing running to find a pulse for it over the longterm. So walk, walk us through, like, how do you think about that? Portion of building systems. Yeah. I don’t think it’s that different than the way we approach habit [00:14:00] change with our clients.

We know that the clients who do consistent daily actions on a thing that they’re looking to improve are going to get better results than people who do something once a week or once a month. So for instance, when I’m trying to, when we build systems at BFU and I’m trying to make them habit essentially, because that also gets them polished.

The more I engage with the thing, the more frequently I work with it, the faster I’m going to figure out what should I improve and get it from a shitty first draft to a next iteration. So I personally make things recurring every day in my calendar or five days a week. I don’t always do stuff on weekends, but I think of it as how do I turn this into a habit?

So for instance, if we made a new email marketing system in our gym, I’d be looking at, maybe you don’t need to write a new email like every single day, but I wouldn’t want to interact with that as much as possible without it becoming a time suck. Or if you’re going to integrate a new sales script into your sales process, because you don’t have a sales script [00:15:00] and that feels like a heavy lift and you’ll definitely do better if you have one.

You might not have a consultation every day, but you could totally make sure you get a rep in every single day. If you didn’t have a consult that day, do it in front of the mirror. And if you did have a consult that day, still having that prompt, Ooh, I should use my script for this. So it’s how do you build it to become habits?

So that again, the more you interact with it, the faster you’re going to see changes. I think a lot of times when we talk to Unicorn Society members and they have a system in their business that isn’t really working, what’s like half rolled that out one time, two years ago. So it’s like the first time we did client feedback, we didn’t get We got 30 percent of people answered and we wanted to get 50 percent of people.

Okay. That’s great. You’re not that great at getting people to fill out a feedback survey yet. Like that. Yeah, that’s exactly where we all started. That’s step one. Just don’t stop after step one. Do another one next quarter. Yeah. I think you’re totally on the right track. I think the way that I, I frame up the running of systems long term is really pretty simple.

It’s who’s going to do what, [00:16:00] when, and how will I know it’s getting done? That’s like the core phrase for running any system. The businesses, who am I asking to do exactly what and when, how often at what pulse, what interval, and how will I know it’s getting done either from my holding myself accountable or holding others accountable because every system, I think the Big challenge we hear all the time in coaching calls is that I have the system, as you just said, but it’s just not always happening consistently.

And it’s because they missed that last piece. They might’ve told someone what to do and maybe even when to do it, but they weren’t really clear exactly on how to execute and how they’re going to be held accountable to making sure it was getting done. And so every system that you run, your business needs to have that quality control mechanism that makes sure That someone has to report out to someone somewhere to make sure it’s done.

And that can be a simple checklist that is hanging on the wall in your office. Great example here is like system for cleaning bathrooms. It should be very clear about whose job it is to clean the bathroom, what it means to actually clean the bathroom, how [00:17:00] often it happens. And then the process that we often use for checking that is that there’s like someone initials the back of the door when it’s done.

And then like maybe once a week, someone walks through and make sure the things are actually getting cleaned and the initials actually represent actual work that took place, right? But this is a simple example of how you run a system as being really clear who’s going to do what, when, and how do I make sure, how do I know it’s done?

Yeah, that’s beautiful. Yeah. What I like about our difference in answer here is I’m thinking I was thinking about it in terms of like headway and keep improving the system as it’s happening. And there’s just more tactical from an operation standpoint to make sure that it’s like it’s being consistently implemented.

Because if we’re with the beauty of getting the plane in the air. And getting it to 80 percent is then you can get somebody else to do it. It’s a thing that you had to get that off the ground and you had to front load that effort. And I know that can be a big task fellow Jamar. And once it’s in place, it can quite literally be something that is like one of [00:18:00] a few agenda items on a weekly meeting with a staff member.

And it takes you five minutes of not just work, but total mental capacity. Yeah, for sure. Yeah, you need both. You need, you need to have the system in place that makes sure that the engine is running and either the ability to like look at that engine from 10, 000 feet. Is this still the right engine? Can we improve it?

Can we make it more efficient? Run more efficiently, faster, etc. So I think those all really matter. I’ll share one more tip and then we’ll maybe wrap things up, which is when it comes to that quality control piece that like making sure that the engine continues to run the way we want it to. So often I see managers get hung up thinking that they have to go in and babysit everyone to make sure they’re all doing what they’re supposed to be doing, that they have to be big brother and what, sometime I’ve heard this before, literally watch them on cameras to make sure they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing or going around and Asking them every single week if they did, that’s not how you hold people accountable.

It’s a whole nother podcast for us to dive into. I’m sure we’ve covered it before on this podcast, but whenever you’re building [00:19:00] system, you want to think about the accountability for doing the work comes to you as the person holding them accountable. You don’t go to all of all the people on your team and ask one at a time.

If they’ve done the things, part of doing the thing is reporting to you that it’s done. So that could mean giving you an end of the shift, shift report. That can mean submitting my weekly checklist to you or doing it somewhere in a shared Google doc where I can see if someone checked all the boxes or not.

Or it might mean we have a one on one weekly meeting. And in that one on one weekly meeting, you show me the proof that you did the things that you said you were going to do, or it can be, I could keep going. But the whole idea here is that you’re not going around babysitting your team. Micromanaging your team running around watching to make sure they did all the things that they’re going to do the process for quality controls.

They report to you that they did it at some regular interval that has been predetermined in advance by both of you. So you don’t have to remember to do that. That’s just built into the system is that you get an update that the system is still working. [00:20:00] Am I explaining that clearly, Ben? Yeah, and it’s a really beautiful.

It’s clear to me. At least it’s a really beautiful. But minor difference that like, cause yeah, if you’re going to watch them on camera, that one that’s creepy to, it’s going to take you the same amount of time to watch them do it as you are going to do it yourself, like defeats the entire purpose of it.

But even in a, I’ll use us as an example, even in a business with a ton of trust, like I’m still like, Hey, Michael, here’s the thing I was working on ready for review. Or you’re like, Hey, I’ll tackle that email and I’ll just see you want it. It doesn’t have to be like, Michael, I need you to do this thing.

You said it’s gonna be done by five. I need you to come to my house and tell me all the things that went good and bad about it exactly at Friday at 5 p. m. This isn’t Fucking, I don’t even know how to good example for how awful that would be. It’s just like each other looped in on it. And it’s the person kind of the definition of micromanaging, right?

It’s just, no, there should be a process. Part of doing that task, cleaning the bathroom is putting my initials up there. Right. That I’m showing you that I was. Physically here at this day and time and it’s done, [00:21:00] or my, my process for closing the shift at the end of the night is, is checking this checkbox.

It’s about the front desk to make sure I turned off all the lights and things. And I checked that checklist and someone checks it once a week, or the morning person who comes in the next day checks to make sure that it was done right. You get, but the whole idea here is that no one has a task to go check with someone.

to go make, to go ask them about whether a thing was done, right? That’s just not a good use of anyone’s time. It should be built into meetings or systems that happen automatically without anyone having to remember it. Yes, that is the key. It’s built into systems or meetings so that nobody has to remember it.

It becomes automatic to check the thing. And this is another podcast for sure, but then I think it builds. A culture of trust and momentum where you’re part of a group of people who get shit done for the most part on time to move a greater entity than themselves forward. And that becomes powerful as hell.

That’s a great note to end on my friend. I think well said, all right, we’ll end it here. Hopefully you found this [00:22:00] valuable. My friends, if you are building or running systems in your business, hopefully this gives you a new lens to think about how you do that. And maybe a few tips for how to do it better.

If you are not sure what to work on next in your business, go get that ultimate gym and report card. That’s down in the show notes or on our website. Thanks as always for a great conversation, Ben, I’ll see you on the next one. Looking forward to it.