Episode 308

No One Knows Your Gym Exists with Pete Dupuis

In this episode, Pete Dupuis joins me to talk about how no one knows your gym exists.

[00:00:00] Hello, my friend on today’s episode, I’m speaking with Pete and we are talking about the uncomfortable fact that many people in your community don’t know your gym exists. You might think that everyone knows you’ve been there. Cause you’ve been there for five years, 10 years or more, but the reality is many people in your community within a few mile radius, just.

Don’t know your gym exists. So we go through eight strategies you can use to improve your reputation, make an impact on your community and drive some real ROI in the form of doing good and driving leads. So if you want everyone in your community to know you exist, this is a great episode for you keep on listening.

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 [00:01:00] 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 today. I’m back with Pete. What’s up, my friend. How are you? Hey, Michael. I’m well, how are you today? I’m so good. We’re both having a snow day, a second snow day in the last few weeks. So, uh, feeling a little snowed in and chilly, but I’m going to make the most of it today.

Our topic is going to be about. How to make the most of engaging with your community to drive sales and build your reputation. And I’m excited to get to that topic. There’s a lot we have to say about it before we do. I just want to give a quick shout out to something we haven’t never done before, which is we are selling a time management course called time management for gym owners.

And we’ve never really done this before. Literally the first time we’ve been doing this course for a long time, but we are making it available to all of you and a self paced way where you have lifetime access. [00:02:00] To this time management for gym owners course. And if you enroll using the link down below in the show notes before February 9th, you get half off.

And again, you get lifetime access to the self paced course for getting better at managing your time. Mark and I just recorded a whole nother episode of this podcast talking about time management. So go listen to that one. If you want to hear more of our thoughts, but for those of you who struggle to manage your time and focus on the most important things every day.

This course is priceless for you and it’s one that we’ve gotten some of the best feedback of all the courses we’ve ever done. So we’re excited to make it available to all of you for the first time in the self paced lifetime access kind of way. So go click the link down below and get into it. I think you’ll be so glad that you did do it.

All right. Selling is over. Let’s talk about community engagement. Let me, I’ll just kick us off Pete by saying, listen, I think that when you own a small business. Anywhere in the world you have an obligation to use that small business as a platform For [00:03:00] making your community better and I know people who listening to this podcast.

No screw you My job is just to make some money for myself and treat my clients. Yeah, maybe yeah So if that’s you and you’re like, no, I don’t give a shit about community We live in you should probably just stop listening now To this podcast, but if you’re someone who wants to engage with the community to build a great lasting long term reputation and use that reputation and engagement to build sales and to grow your business, then keep on listening.

Cause that’s what we’re talking about today. Pete, let me just general big picture question before we get into our tactics and strategies here. Like over the years, Cressy has developed an enormous reputation, has great connection to your community. Can you just talk a little bit about like how y’all have thought about that either consciously or unconsciously over the years, I don’t know that we were intentional about it in the early years.

Not in the sense that we, we sat down and drew up a strategy for aligning ourselves in the eyes of the community with good, but I think that the successful gym owners and business owners I know just do this [00:04:00] instinctually because it’s who they are, whether they own a business or they are the matriarch or patriarch of a family or anything along those lines, it’s who we want to be.

And so we have definitely been a face in the community. That we’ve been in since 2007 and we’ve contributed in a variety of different ways. But one thing that I’ll say with full transparency is that we don’t have SOPs surrounding it in my operation the way that we thankfully do in Unicorn Society. And so I don’t want to claim ownership of any of the, I believe there are eight SOPs that we might run through today, but I want to tell you that I’ve done a little bit of all of them.

Maybe unintentionally. Yeah, listen, I think honestly Pete, that’s like a great place to start, right? It’s just like even if you’re not intentionally like running any of these like a regular like a system at the very least Taking advantage of opportunities to put yourself out there in the community to increase your word of mouth to build Like I said your reputation to give back a little bit to the community that you [00:05:00] exist in like even if you do that Casually, it’s better than not doing it at all by a mile.

And then over time, when you find the things that do work to give you a real ROI, the ROI of feeling good or building reputation or generating leads, whatever your ROI is, when you find something that works, then double down, triple down, turn that into a system. And even the podcasts we did a few episodes ago about your kind of night with the pros is example of something you engaged your community.

It worked. Now you’ve done it year after year. And it is a real lead generator for you. So even that is a perfect example of something that probably started pretty casual as an idea. Now it’s become really baked into how you run the business. So absolutely there isn’t anything that falls on our annual marketing or event calendar.

Yeah. That in iteration going from zero to one, we said, I can’t wait to do this for the next 10 plus years. So the ones that we are still doing are. Part of that trial and error, double down on the things that worked. I think that in each of the pieces of [00:06:00] advice that we have here, there, there moments where if you’re really stressed or you’re in the weeds with the gym, or you are struggling because you want fast leads, this is going to sound a little bit like.

Something you don’t have time or energy for because you’re getting my fingers into the community isn’t really the move when I’m over here trying to make rent and it works for people who are stressed and it works for businesses that are killing it. So the ideal setting you’re in a business that’s thriving and you have a little extra bandwidth or you’re that owner who has successfully extracted themselves from the operation and they can focus their energy in other places or in a variety of new places and it’s great for that person.

Because it’s a stress free way to start thinking about how they can be better contributors to the community. But on the flip side, I have never seen a business that does right in the community that the community will let fail. If they have the ability to contribute. So even if you do feel like you don’t have the bandwidth for it, [00:07:00] I’d say throw yourself into it anyway.

Because we are in this world where a rising tide lifts all ships. And if you’re alone out there and not near any other ships, no one’s going to be looking to help. And this is a great way to start building up that collective community that can help. You set up COVID with the ultimate test of that. I know we all know something like 30 percent of gyms in some markets closed during COVID.

In some cases more, some cases less. And we all know we’ve, I have dozens of examples of gyms who rallied around them, including MFF, right? To say, Hey, I know you all have to be closed legally in New York city, but let me keep paying my dues so you can keep paying your staff. Or we’re going to actually tack on, please tack on an extra 20, 30, 50 to my dues each month to help you guys get back on your feet.

That kind of stuff. I have a million and one examples of from us and from other Unicorn Society members and. That is because that person made some investment into the people that they serve beyond [00:08:00] transactional interactions like they really can the people who were thinking and acting that way are probably the owners of the businesses who are running this playbook very effectively day in and day out because it’s just an extension of who they are.

Like I said earlier. Yeah, well, let’s talk about it. We’re going to give you all eight ways to engage your community, to create more impact and make more money. Some of these might be quick wins that do get you leads right away. And some of these are long term investments that pay off pay dividends over time.

So let’s start with the first one. I will go through these relatively quick because there are fucking eight. And so the first one is partner with local charities. The idea here is that find a local nonprofit that speaks to what your clients care about and then do stuff with them. Do you want to say anything about this one, Pete?

Yeah, I think you’re going to see overlap in some of these. Yep. Because once you find that cause you find a lot of opportunities to work with them in the future. Yes. But partnering with local cause could be as simple as putting their logo on your website and and sharing their messaging around your space and just mutually collaborating to make sure that the community has as a [00:09:00] whole knows what you’re both doing.

Yep. Yeah, 100%. I think that the low hanging fruit of this strategy for a lot of you is just organizing a team for a local 5k or organizing a team to go volunteer at a soup kitchen, including your team and your clients and their friends and their co workers. And you can organize this team for your local 5k that includes anyone who wants to join.

And then suddenly you’re connecting these people who may not be gym members and getting leads from people who want to connect you because they care about the cause. And then also we’ll come to your gym. And I’ll say this, one of our long term partners at Mark Fisher Fitness is an organization called Broadway Cares, Equity Fights AIDS, which is a kind of Broadway organization that supports organizations across the country.

We’ve been partnering with them for over a decade, and there’s not an event that they do these days where they don’t ask us if we want to be involved. That’s hardly event that they do where our logo is not on their materials, right? But that comes after a decade of relationship building So some ways to do this where I think there’s some quick wins There’s some ways to do this where it’s gonna benefit long term that [00:10:00] anyone that needs with that organization It’s gonna know you exist at the same time.

So number one partner with local charities number two is offer some pay what you can Community classes. So this one’s trying to get at engaging with those people in your community who may not be able to really afford you yet, but maybe they’re on that cusp and yeah. What do you got to add to this one?

Pete, since we never ran a big class format at my gym and we were designing training material for everyone who came through the door, our iteration of this was scholarships for athletes. And so in our case, it was communicating with the program directors or the head coaches and saying, Hey, we are not at capacity.

And we have the potential to add a few bodies. Is there anyone in your community or on your roster who just doesn’t have the means to pay for what we do but they have the right character and they’re good leaders in the locker room and they’re people that other kids follow and they’re just they’re kind human beings if those people exist and we’ve already built out it vetted the network in the sense [00:11:00] that I’m asking people I trust in this case and if I get a lead in that context.

We’ve handed out tens of thousands of dollars of complimentary training to the right families. And it has come full circle. I’ve got a former athlete who lost his dad unexpectedly to a heart attack about 15 years ago when he was in middle school. And we trained him free of charge for several years all the way until he went to college.

And here we are a decade after that. And he’s a local high school varsity baseball coach who funnels us business now. And I didn’t see it coming, but he feels compelled to do right by us. Because of something that happened 3, 000 plus days ago. And so you just never really know how the long play is going to go here.

That’s such a beautiful example, Pete. I love the idea of scholarships are great, sliding scale, kind of, um, membership rates. I know a lot of Unicorn Society members who offer like a, um, a weekend free community class where people can just always bring their friends or anyone can show up. Some of those people wind up converting and some don’t.

But I think it’s a great [00:12:00] way to get your reputation out there for being inclusive. I’m going to hit number three because we do it a lot of it, which is please raise money awareness or resources for a cause. This would be example of something that Michael said you could double down on while we do our quarterly charity bootcamps and we pick a cause and.

As I mentioned, this does align a little bit with tip number one, which is partner with local charities. And so in this case, we pick the cause and we give 100 percent of what we collect to it. I will share a couple piece of advice on this, and it is emphasize local in picking a cause. I’m not saying that the national causes aren’t worthy of people’s support.

But the whole point of the conversation we’re having right now is how to get yourself infused in the community and the local community causes are ones that tend to drive more foot traffic into the room and you have better conversations and you meet more interesting people, whereas the bigger, higher profile causes that we talk [00:13:00] about.

Like the real, the ones on television, we’ll say they are absolutely worthy of our support in some capacity, but they very rarely care about what’s happening at the mom and pop gym down the road when we’re sending them a check for 500 to a thousand, sometimes 2, 000, we’re dropping the bucket for them.

And so you want to partner with people who are going to be excited to play the game with you in each direction. Yeah, I think that’s such a great point, Pete. Yes, 100 percent those big national organizations are important, they’re doing great work. We should support them if we can. And the point of this conversation is local, right?

To engage in your community. So finding charities and non profits nearby that are doing work that your avatar cares about is really important. And the reason this is different than the first tip is that this doesn’t require a partnership. This is one way. You’re not asking anything of this charity.

You’re just using your interest and commitment to this charity as a way to expand your reach. To say, hey listen, I don’t know if you all know this, but there’s a soup kitchen in our community. So we’re doing a canned food drive this December because they really need more [00:14:00] vegetables and canned things for the holidays.

Or, I don’t know if you all know this, but there’s a homeless shelter in our community and they need coats. We’re doing a coat drive. This winter, we’re just using our, sharing our values by saying we care about taking care of people who live and work, or maybe not living very well, nearby, and we want all of you to join us.

And this includes your family, your co workers, your neighbors, include all of them. Have them stop by the gym, drop off some cans. Have them stop by the gym, drop off a coat. Right, and so we’re just being known as this kind of community center, which I think is, it goes a long way. Both in, can I go slightly off script here and tell you my favorite way in my personal life that charity has become to please.

It comes up periodically over the year. Our mutual friend, Alan Cosgrove texts me typically immediately before his favorite team, Manchester United plays Tottenham Hotspur, which is my team. And if you’re in the audience and you disagree with that position on either side, I don’t want to hear it. However, every time they play.

He reaches out to me and he says 20 bucks on [00:15:00] the game question mark and he doesn’t mean Venmo me 20 He sends me a hyperlink for cancer related charity because he’s a cancer survivor Which some people know some people don’t but he says if my guys win you’re making 20 donation to my charity And if your guys win, I’ll make it to the cause of your choice and love it And now we’re doing it twice a year around for years and I look forward Occasionally making that donation, even though my team needs to lose for it to happen, because it’s an easy way to play this game and I don’t know exactly how you’re going to plug that into maybe your work life.

But even so, you could do it with a local business, like we have a part up here where we’re going to say support other local business owners. I know I skipped a couple ahead, but this is a way you could do it. Yes. You could figure out a rallying point and challenge them in some sort of competitive fun landscape and say, we’re going to donate if you lose, you’re going to donate it.

Or sorry, we’re going to donate. If we lose, you’re going to donate. If we lose, use like local [00:16:00] sports teams, like the local little league teams or sponsor some kickball teams or some high school teams. Like you can totally find a way to use charity as a way to do a little, little, what is that called? I want to say it’s like Spanish fantasy sports league, right?

Charity, charity gambling. Let me jump us into the next one. Cause we’ve done these in the past, which was number four was offer workshops to the public. Yep. And in, in our case, I think Andrew Millet and our PT clinic do a really nice job of this. They get out into the, into the community and offer workshops.

They get a table at the town event day every year and do complimentary screenings. And they bring their force plate out and they test vertical jumps for people. And one, it’s great just to be part of that community dynamic. And two, it’s shocking how many email addresses he comes back with. It works for all parties involved.

We also, historically, we’re actually close to the world headquarters for Bose, the speaker company. And we’ve had a number of their employees train with us over the years. [00:17:00] And on one or two occasions in the past, we’ve been invited into the lunchroom or the auditorium to deliver a lecture during lunch hours.

And historically that’s been on nutrition and supporting good training habits, but you can do just about anything you want. So it’s an opportunity to blend what you do with corporate. Love that. And I would say for those of you interested in that one, just go listen to the, the podcast. There’s two podcasts that Pete and I did about their night with the pros on, cause that’s a perfect example of a workshop that, that really has taken on a life of its own.

The next one’s real fast. The number five one in here is join a local board or committee, oftentimes nonprofits and groups and business groups in your community. They want business owners, local business owners to be on their board. It’s a great way for you to network professionally, personally, it’s a great way to stay connected and demonstrate yourself as a leader in the community.

So look for those opportunities and sometimes it’s as easy as just asking around, asking the charities or the organizations or the networking groups that you’re a fan of, y’all looking for some board members, it’s a great way to [00:18:00] stay tapped in anything you would add to that. Pete, I’d say the next one, support other local business owners is a.

byproduct of joining these boards and committees. We have been on and off in part of the Chamber of Commerce in our town, and the value to me in that is twofold. First, we were quite surprised by the fact that I’ve had more success in lining up Short term accommodations for guests from for clients from out of state through that than anywhere else because they’re just hyper connected with the families and the homes in our community And so when I happen to mention in passing that we had athletes moving in from out of state and they needed rentals The director of the Chamber of Commerce was apparently a monster at facilitating these Types of connections.

So that was great. But secondly, they have quarterly events, lunchtime, meet and greets, and that’s where we find the other business owners to connect with and help. And so it, one kind of feeds the other. That’s it. I think that’s a good one. I think supporting other local business owners means they will support you too.

And those [00:19:00] B2B partnerships can go a long way to expanding your audience. That was number six. So I’ll do seven and eight together and we can talk about them just to wrap things up here. Seven is volunteer as a team. And eight is offer your space. So I’ll just say quickly about volunteering as a team.

Like this is an extension of the charity one, which is just cool. Go offer your team’s time and energy for a few hours to volunteer at the soup kitchen, Habitat for Humanity, helping organize runners for a 5k, right? They sometimes just need time and energy and your team showing up with your gym t shirt on for the day, showing their face in the community, both feels good as good team bonding and helps you get out there.

And then the last one number eight is about just offering your space, which is. If there’s a lot of people in your community looking for a place to gather for the book club or the running club or the whatever the heck, use your space, like a community center, then make yourself available to those groups and having them treat your gym as like a home for their community event.

We’ll have ripple effects that I think probably [00:20:00] should seem obvious, but we’ll start, yeah, anything you haven’t done that before, volunteering or offering your space. Yeah. I’ve heard some wonderful stories from gym owners in the performance space where they were able to do good, but also really unite the team volunteering at special Olympics.

So it’s a good way to bring people together. Yep. Not just, and it’s been rewarding for the team to the point where they’re like, we have to do that again. Yeah, 100%. We had a place at MFF where there was a, there was like an assisted living center, which is a few blocks from Mark Fisher Fitness and Hell’s Kitchen in New York.

And we would go every year and help prepare their Thanksgiving dinner that was brought up to everyone who lived in the facility. We did it a bunch of years and our team would ask us if we were coming back. Like they were excited to go and have that bonding time and feel like we were doing good together.

And listen, there was no one in that facility who was probably gonna be a great avatar for MFF. But it got us out there and getting to know the people who work to that assisted living facility was helpful and it also just felt great and our team loved it. In the interest of [00:21:00] wrapping things up here, let me just go back through the eight.

For those of you listening who like to take notes, let me make it easy for you. These are eight ways to engage your community to create more impact and money. And one is partner with local charities. Meaning real partnership. Number two is offer some pay what you can community class experience something to help people who are right on that cusp of maybe being able to afford you number three, raise money awareness and resources for a cause.

So just raise some money resources for a cause you care about offer workshops to the public. Number four, number five is join a local board or committee. Number six is support other local business owners so you can start to build partnerships with them. Number seven is volunteer as a team. And number eight is offer your space.

Closing thoughts about this topic, Pete? You could explain what this list is. It’s why do you have this list assembled, Michael? Yeah, listen, this list is because it’s a playbook for our Unicorn Society members. And I think that Two things. Like I said, the beginning of this podcast, one, I think it’s like our responsibility as [00:22:00] business owners to make an impact in the place where we live.

We have resources like space and like money and people that our community needs. And so I think there’s a real kind of personal kind of altruistic part of me who thinks it’s just our responsibility. And the other capitalist side of me is this is a great way to make money, to build your reputation. To get more people in the door, to expand your reach, expand your network, and it does have a ROI, in some cases, a very quick ROI that you can feel right away by lead generation.

And sometimes it’s a long term investment that will pay off dividends over time, like the example you shared, Pete. And so I do think all of these are just eight of, I’m sure, many more strategies for engaging with your community. Amen to all of that. Yeah. Awesome. Thanks for great conversation. As always, Pete, I hope you all listeners found this one useful.

And as a reminder, if you suck at managing your time, we are offering a way for you to get better at that. So go take our course time management for gym owners link is in the comments below register for February 9th and get 50 percent [00:23:00] off. Thanks so much, Pete. See you on the next one. Talk soon. Enjoy the snow.