Episode 289

Hiring the Right People for Your Gym with Kaleda Connell

In this episode, Kaleda Connell joins me to talk about hiring the right people for your gym.

[00:00:00] Hello, my friend on today’s episode. I have a very special guest. It’s Kaleda Connell, who is the CEO of Kilo. You’ve heard us talk Kilo on this podcast, and I’m excited to introduce you to Kalita. She is so brilliant. She was a gym owner who then sold her gym. She was also a gym mentor for other gym owners.

And now she’s the CEO of Kilo, which is an amazing software company that you’ve heard about in this podcast many times. We cover a lot of topics in this episode, we talk a little bit about Kalina’s journey, selling her gym and how she decided to sell her gym to an employee and how she did that. And then we spend most of the podcast talking about how to develop a team, how she thinks about building a team and managing that team.

So if you’re in that place in your gym’s growth and you are organizing your team and hiring people and trying to be the best possible manager you can be, this is a great episode for you. So keep on listening.[00:01:00]

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 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 very excited for today’s episode, but before we dive in, I have a quick announcement to make sure you all have heard about this exciting news, which is we have a new free webinar coming up. Mark Fisher is doing a free webinar on December 16th and December 18th at 12 noon Eastern, and it’s all about how to kick ass and grow your gym in the first quarter of 2024.

2024. I can’t believe I’m saying 2024, but it’s real. It’s coming 2024 is around the corner and he’s going to give you our specific playbook for how to in less than five hours per week, [00:02:00] grow the shit out of your gym. So if you want to grow your gym in 2024, you want to hit the ground running in January, and you want to do all of that in less than five hours per week, sign up for a webinar.

Link is down below. Hope to see you there. That brings me to today’s guests. First time on the podcast, and I’m so excited to introduce Clayda Connell. And she is the CEO of Kilo. And you’ve heard us talk about Kilo a billion times on this podcast. We’ve had John and Mateo on the podcast, but let’s be honest, the real brains behind the machine.

Is Kalita and so she’s here today to tell us what’s up in Kilo and so much more. So welcome to the podcast for the first time, Kalita. Thank you so much, Michael. I’m going to need a recording of that part just to put on repeat for John and Matteo. That’s great. I’ll just call and leave a little voice memo for both of them after this podcast.

I’m like, just so you know, I told everyone Kalita is, they’ll agree. They’ll agree. Yeah. Welcome to the podcast. Thank you so much for doing this. Maybe just start by telling the people a little bit about your background and what you do now at Kelo. Sure. Like you said, my name’s [00:03:00] Kalita. I live in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

I am one of the small group of Canadians from Kelo while the rest of us are all spread all over the world. But I’m a former gym owner, former business mentor for gyms, and now I’m running Kilo full time. So yeah, what else do you want to know? That’s amazing. I think it’s such a fascinating journey to go from running your own gym to helping other people run their own gyms to now working for a company that builds this amazing software for gyms.

Like what great experience. Before we get into that a little bit more, maybe for folks who may be newer to the podcast or haven’t heard me explain what Kilo is, maybe just give us the 30 second, what the heck is Kilo speech. Sure. Kilo is software that’s meant to grow your gym. So we do a lot of different little pieces of software that come, they essentially are in one piece of software.

So we do everything from your websites, your marketing automation to your gym management software. It is really efficient, it’s really beautiful, and we have really great support. But at the end of the day, [00:04:00] it’s meant to make a gym owner’s life easier, but also grow their bottom line. Fantastic, and I’ll just, listeners, you’ve heard me say this before, but we’re not just fans.

We’re actually users. Both Mark Fisher Fitness and Business for Unicorns has and will be using Kilo software, and we recommend it to all of our Unicorn Society members. So get into it and go. Go talk to them and see if it’s the right fit for you. So let’s go back to your experience. Glade, can you just talk a little bit more about what was this, your transition like from being a gym owner to a mentor to selling your gym, just talk a little bit about just looking back at that journey for you, some lessons learned that are.

Listeners might find fascinating. Wow. That’s, this is rewinding probably about 10 years. I went from like most gym owners working in the corporate world. Mine looked a little bit different. I worked in agricultural sales, so I was a sole female on a fully male team trying to. Sling bags of seed and fertilizer with my, my co patriots at the ag [00:05:00] company.

I toughened up quite a bit through that experience, but quickly realized that in that line of work, I’m formally educated, like through university educated in geography and earth system science and that kind of thing. And so my, my real focus, I wanted to help. I wanted to help the environment. I wanted to help farmers.

I want to, that, that experience really taught me as a. You can work in some of these companies, but all you’re doing is selling and you have to undercut and you have to undercut and you have to be competitive. And being a female in that industry was really tough because of course, that farmer, he may not want to buy from you, but he sure wants you to drive in his laneway every week.

He really wants to have that conversation and he really wants to, so yeah, that was really tough and I wanted to transition into something that was actually helping people, whether that’s helping. The world are helping my community or whatever that may be. And so I started a gym out of my garage, like most of us.

And I did that for a couple of years, [00:06:00] found a business mentor, and then, um, learned a lot of the things that you need to learn when you’re, don’t know anything about business. And so you, you learn all these things and you get a little bit more successful and a little bit more successful with the information that you’re getting.

And then of course I bought my building and I opened in a. A real space. And I was like a real gym owner. And I ran that gym out of the, out of that building for five years. So in total, it was about seven years of gym ownership. And through that I was testing things and trying to make things work. Mind you, I was in a town of 2, 300 people, so really small and still being able to pull in numbers that.

My, some of my colleagues or people in the same space, they were doing in much larger centers than me. And so I thought, okay, so there’s some to this, some of this stuff that I’m doing is actually working. To get that kind of traction in a small town is really impressive. I think. I [00:07:00] actually think it’s easier in a small town if you let it be because people know who you are.

You can literally go and knock on doors and they won’t slam it in your face because they know who you are. Like you’re their neighbor, the mayor, the business improvement association. You have a voice when you do marketing, people pay attention when you call them, they actually pick up the phone. So I think in some ways it can actually be easier, but then again, you do one.

Small thing wrong and travels very quickly. So small towns talk there’s ups and downs to that. But yeah, I became a business mentor and started mentoring other gyms. And through that experience, I met John and Matteo. We put our heads together and, and. Being gym owners and mentors in our own right, we’re, we were pretty well informed in what gym owners need and what they were struggling with in terms of marketing.

And so we worked on a marketing project and we taught gym owners how to market their gym. And [00:08:00] each of us have our own skill set. And my skill set was building teams. And sometimes. Unbuilding teams that I inherited. Yeah. Or I guess the word would be rebuilding, but unbuilding and then building back together these teams and yeah, we’ve worked really well together and so we decided that.

We would just continue to do that and so clearly it’s working. Yeah. Yeah. So then we built Kilo and that’s been a labor of love for the last three and a bit years. And yeah, we started with just offering websites and then just continued to layer on from that. Good for you. What a great story. Do I remember correctly hearing that you actually sold your gym to an employee?

Is that right? Yeah. That’s exactly. Maybe. Yeah. Let me, let’s start there. Cause I think it’s a good segue into the topic we’re going to cover today, which is building a team. And you really built someone all the way to the ultimate position of taking the business from you. So you just talk a little bit about how you decided that was going to be the path for selling the gym.

It’s funny [00:09:00] because through the process of owning the gym and being in that physical space for five years, I very quickly, like I knew I wanted to, let’s put air quotes here, retire, um, before the age of 30. That was like my goal for, I don’t know, I had no. reason for that other than I was like, I think this would be cool.

It’s a great goal. Why not? Yeah. So I was like, what do I have to do in order to get there? And so I asked my mentor all these questions and we built all the systems and built the team and that kind of thing. And then I took off to Portugal for six weeks and just to see. How things would run and Kelly, who was my manager at the time, she ran things beautifully.

I had a call with her a week where we really just shot the shit. Like we didn’t really talk about a whole lot. Sometimes she would have good questions for me and I would be able to unblock her and stuff. But really she, she did a lot of the heavy lifting and I even hired her a mentor so that she could have someone to talk to and complain.[00:10:00]

It’s critical. Yeah. There was a point though, where she made the decision to fire an employee and she like, she didn’t really run it by me. She more or less was like, Hey, this is what I’m doing. Is there anything you would add? And I was like, not really just maybe, Give her the envelope of cash for the two weeks that she needs to be paid after that.

That’s it. And she did it. And I was like, Whoa, that’s exactly what I expect of someone who would take over this business. They take ownership. They love their community. She was also born and raised in that community. I was not. And so she had quite a lot of clout. She’s also one of the most wonderful human beings I’ve ever met in my entire life.

And I actually wasn’t going to sell the gym. That wasn’t really part of the plan. And I think you probably hear this a lot with people who sell businesses. It’s like the best time to sell your business is when you don’t really want to. So yeah, [00:11:00] I had actually gotten an offer from someone else to buy my gym.

I was like, Whoa, I didn’t really, that wasn’t really in the plan, but maybe I should entertain this. And then I slowed right down and thought I’m going to sell this thing. I should probably talk to Kelly first. And so I set a meeting with her, I cried, she cried, and then she said, I wondered when you, I wonder how, I wondered how long it would take for you to ask is what she said to me.

And then we just went from there. Yeah. It was really about having a good person in place though. Yeah. What a great journey for both of you. And I think there’s a few takeaways in there. I just want to underline for our listeners, I think are really just so smart. One is if you want to know how people run your gym without you leave.

Go to Portugal for a few weeks, right? May I recommend Lisbon? Exactly. Exactly. Anywhere, Hawaii, Thailand, wherever you want to go, but just go away. Give them a chance to succeed or fail. Give them a chance to learn on their own TV. Give them a chance to not be able to turn to you every three seconds and ask you a [00:12:00] question, right?

You want to build autonomy on your team, leave them alone. I think that’s really great takeaway. I also love the idea of hiring a coach. That’s not you. Right? Having someone else to help develop the people on your team, because you’re the boss, you’re the one they see every day. They’ve probably heard all the things you have to say a million times, and it just stops landing after a while, no matter how good you are as a leader, you just can only be so impactful as a single person, but having someone else in the mix, some other mentor, I think it’s such great advice.

And I think our listeners who want to develop anyone on their team into that next level manager or leader, I think they should. Consider that for sure. Bravo. Yeah, absolutely. One thing I think I would add too is I hired her a different mentor than my mentor because the person that works really well with me.

Like Kelly’s a different person, right? So they’re somewhat, she needs a different voice and she’s going to like be able to take feedback. So we [00:13:00] hired her someone that was more like her. That’s awesome. Yeah, it was just goes to show that hiring, finding someone who’s a good coach, a good mentor, isn’t like finding a good trainer.

If you do one on one training or finding a good therapist or finding a good hairdresser, like you just need to find the person who really, you can create a relationship. With you, where you get the results you want. That’s not going to be the same for everyone’s Bravo. I think that’s, that’s awesome.

Kalita let’s use that to switch gears into the thing. I really want to dive into our, our next 10 minutes here, which is building a team. So clearly. You’ve got some skills at building and managing a team here, but you’ve also been doing it at Kilo and other places in your career. So when you, I’ll ask a big picture question, then we’ll get more specific, but big picture, how do you think about assembling a team?

Yeah. So there’s a couple of things. It really depends on like where, like what the function of the job is, but essentially I don’t, for most of the things that I hire for, I don’t actually need you to be like an expert. In that thing, I need you to be a good person, fit the vibe, fit the culture, [00:14:00] be able to like, type well, like they’re more of a lot of soft skills before the actual technical skills.

Now that’s for our customer support team. Drilling down into a particular team, but yeah, if they’re not going to work well with others Then that’s gonna be a problem and I think people look over that too much 100 percent yeah, I think people skip over the kind of emotional social intelligence too much and go right to To some specific hard skills.

When those are the easiest to teach, right? Teaching the hard skills of how to do and follow an SOP or learn the software or that’s so easy to teach. And the same thing is true in running a gym is the thing that we want to hire for is someone who’s going to fit our culture, make friends with our clients.

Be fun to be around, be the person I can’t wait to see again, be the person who makes me feel like my best self, who makes me feel like they’re paying attention to me. Those are hard things to teach. If people are not already that kind of person, that’s fucking hard. We can teach someone how to [00:15:00] coach a deadlift.

Like, those are just words to say. And so, I think that’s so critical. So that’s a good starting place, which is higher for the emotional, social intelligence. What else matters when you’re thinking about forming a team? I guess it’s like, what are the things that you’re spending? The majority of your time on that are like the low value roles.

And this does not mean that you’re hiring a low value person, just a low value role so that it’s those things that you’re spending your time on. Are they taking you away from the things that are really pushing the business forward? So if you’re spending a lot of time posting on social media, That’s, you could hire someone to do that, someone that loves that.

For dollars. Yeah. Yes, for dollars. Whereas your, what you should probably be doing is like spending more time creating the content instead of worrying about where it’s posted, that kind of thing. That’s just one example. But I think that’s one of the big things, and I get caught up in it so many times.

That’s easy. I’ll just do it. No, it’s actually taking 30 minutes of your time, which could be spent creating a whole other video or something [00:16:00] like that. Yeah, let’s just dive into, let’s just double click as they say on that one for a second, Cletus. So for listeners who are like, yeah, I want to delegate the things that are, maybe I’m not the best at, or I, it’s not my most high leverage task, but I don’t know what those are.

I’m not sure how to differentiate between what is my zone of genius and what is stuff that I really should be having other people do. How do you do that? Yeah. So I, I’ve done this with managers a lot in the last little while. Cause we’re at a point at a difficult point in our startup where we’re like, we’re growing.

We like, we need to hire, but we’re like not quite at the point where we can hire. So we’re like doing all of these bootstrapping, these things together at the moment. So I have them do a time audit. I’m like, so for the next week, I just need you to, and this sucks, right? Keep a piece of paper right next to you.

Every time you switch tasks, write it down. What’d you do for how long? Like that kind of thing. And then me and that manager can then go through that list and, and I can help them identify, Hey, so you spent three and a half hours answering client emails when you should really be [00:17:00] mentoring Your staff on how to, whatever it may be like writing SOPs so that they can get the answers out faster or mentoring their staff on how to, how to win friends and influence people or something like that.

So that’s where they need to land. So the time on it’s really important for that. Yeah, I think it’s a great first step. It just almost all change always starts with some sort of self awareness and right. And so the, having the self awareness of how am I spending my time? And when I go add up all my time spent in a given week on all the tasks that I am responsible for, where does my time actually go?

And is it going to the things that are the most important thing for me to be doing, not to be done, but for me to be doing in my specific unique role, given my strengths. And that’s a hard, it’s a hard thing to do. Cause so often I’ll speak from my own personal experience that I have stuff that is not my most high leverage tasks, but I’m, I’ve gotten really good at it.

And part of my identity is being wrapped up in the idea that I’m good at this. People come to me for this. They ask me questions about this, [00:18:00] right? I’m an expert in this, but it’s not the thing that really helps me help helps me move the boat, move the business forward. It’s like a thing that fills my cup and maybe it’s important function, but I can totally have other people do it.

That those are the hard ones for me. When my identity is wrapped up and being good at a thing. Yeah. But I think that’s important too. Like I think if a gym owner, like really, this is one that, that I think gets like poo pooed a lot, cleaning your gym. Oh, sure. And it’s like, you should hire to clean your gym.

It should be the first thing that you do. And it’s like. What if you just really love it? Yeah. What if it’s like, it’s the fun thing that you do. It really does energize you. I think that’s okay. I think there’s nothing wrong with that as long as it’s not interfering with the really important stuff. That’s where I have a problem with it.

Yeah. I think it’s a great distinction is if you’re going to make those exceptions and keep things on your plate because they’d let you up in some meaningful way, even though they’re not growing the business, let’s say, at least make a conscious [00:19:00] choice to do it. Don’t just stick in that, stay in that lane by default, like really decide that that you’re doing that because it lights you up.

A good example of that right now for business unicorns is I like coaching. I’ve been a coach for over a decade. I’m, I plan to stay in coaching conversations. Might I do less of them over time? Sure. But I’m never going to. Want a job where I don’t coach our clients, right? That’s part of what lights me up, right?

Is it, does it mean that I’m going to be less effective at maybe growing the business in some ways? Maybe, but I’m going to make a conscious choice to, to stay in that lane. Cause I love it so much. Yeah. Good example. All right. So we got hiring for the right character traits and competencies, especially the social emotional intelligence stuff.

We got making sure that people are doing the tasks that are most important, right? So hiring people who understand what their zone of genius is and trying to get as many tasks as possible on their plate that are good for that. What else really matters when you’re growing a team? So it’s to get organized.

And I think that is something that, you [00:20:00] know, especially as a startup or as a single gym owner, we struggle because we like have all this knowledge in our brain. And to disseminate that knowledge to other people becomes difficult. And so we just have a meeting in passing, like a water cooler meeting.

We’re like, Hey, don’t forget to do the thing. And you click this button and that button and you’ll be fine. And it’s never written down anywhere. And so then one thing that I think is really important. To do in order to let your team like fly and give them that autonomy and give them that confidence in running things essentially for you or doing their job to, to their utmost potential is having things written down in, in a really organized manner, or it could be recorded.

It could be whatever, however your team learns best, but there’s no replacement for a really good SOP. And I know a lot of people don’t want to hear that, but it’s just so important to give. Just to give them that autonomy and also for them to say, Hey, what you’re doing right now is not the most efficient way to [00:21:00] do it.

Like we could do it this way instead. Yeah. I’m so glad you said that because I think it is one of those things I see, especially in gym owners that they just get it wrong so often. They just, they don’t want to do the non sexy work of expectation setting. And so they have all these implicit expectations that they’ve never made explicit to people in writing or in video or in photos or in, and so the SOP can look like anything you need to be, but you got to get all those things that you want people to do out of your brain written down somewhere.

They can teach it, remember it, and it’s maybe not the sexiest work, but there’s really nothing more important when it comes to leveraging a team longterm. They’re never going to be able to perform the way you want them to. If you haven’t made it really clear what your best thinking is at any given time on that topic.

And that’s what SOPs ideally are is right. It’s a recording of this is the best way we know how to do this thing right now, whether it’s a strategy session or a workshop or a sales call, right. We wrote down all the best things we know about how to do that. And we teach it to everyone. It’s so [00:22:00] critical.

Yeah. And it’s a great. Strategy for retention too, right? Because people don’t stick around when they feel like they’re not supported. And one of the best ways to support people is here’s a guide on how to do all this stuff. Um, they want to know how to win that they want to do a good job. Yeah. And giving them the playbook on how to do a good job is literally one of the most important things that you can do for staff.

One of my favorite things to do actually is when we hire a new person and I’m like, Hey, I’m giving you this handbook. I know you’re going to find problems with it. I cannot wait. For you to tell me that this part sucks and that you are empowered to change it. That’s one of my favorite things because when I do that and the staff person actually does come back and has like a list of stuff, that’s one, this is wrong.

And two, I think we can do it better. I’m like, I know you’re perfect for my team. Yeah. That’s great. I think that’s a super tip right there, right? It’s such a pro tip of just like teaching them from the beginning, the expectation that you have autonomy here, like your voice matters and I need your [00:23:00] perspective to help see things that I can’t see because I have a different one, right?

And on day one, I’m going to ask you to use that and leverage that to help make this place better. Yeah. Let’s leave it there. I think that’s a great pro tip. We’ll end on that one. Fantastic. Yeah. Thank you for your time. This was such a great conversation. I feel like we could keep going for another hour or more talking about leveraging teams and growing teams.

So we’ll have you back on the podcast. I’m sure. Is there anything you want to share about what’s going on with Kilo these days that people should know about? Yeah, something really big actually is happening. We’ve launched our gym management software. We’ve got almost a hundred people on it so far. We’re looking for more.

We do have a special little deal for some business for Unicorns clients. Definitely hit us up to see what that is. But if you’re interested in Kilo, just reach out. Michael, I’m sure you’ll put my contact information in the show notes here, but like I’m available all the time. So if you’ve got questions for me, like I’m happy to answer DMs, emails, actually emails the worst way to get in contact with me, but otherwise, [00:24:00] yeah, I’m happy to chat.

Yeah. And listeners really means it really reach out. We’ll put all the contact information in the show notes, but if you want to learn more about kilos, he was right fit for you. Go check it out. Thank you again so much for your time. This was a real treat and I’m excited to have you back again someday, but thanks y’all and see you on the next one.

Have a great day.