Episode 313

Should You Own a Gym with Your Spouse? with Pete Dupuis

In this episode, Pete Dupuis joins me to talk about the question “should you own a gym with your spouse?”

[00:00:00] Hello, my friend on today’s episode. I’m here with Pete and Pete and I are answering a real tough question, which is, should you own a gym with your spouse? And I’m not going to have any spoilers here. You have to listen to the episode to hear our opinion on this, but we know a lot of you out there are gym owners that have.

Business partners. And in many cases, those business partners are your spouse, uh, is your spouse. And so we cover that topic today, all the ups and downs and the goods and bads about being a business partner with your spouse. So if that’s you, or if you’re thinking about doing that at some point, it’s a great episode for you.

So 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 really takes to level up your gym. Get ready to unlock [00:01:00] 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 for unicorns podcast. I’m back again with Pete. How are you, my friend? I am well, how are you, Michael? I’m great. I’m so excited for today’s topic. We’re going to talk to all of you partners out there who own a gym with your spouse.

All of you out there who are maybe married or in some sort of romantic relationship and also in a business relationship. That’s what today’s podcast is all about, because that is a sticky place to be. It can really work and can really suck. So we’re going to cover the good, bad, the ugly today. But before we dive in, I just want to give you all a quick reminder that if y’all want to work with us and join our unicorn society, you can apply at any time.

Go to our website, businessunicorns. com links down below, click the apply now button. And the application process is No commitment, it’s just triggers a conversation where we get to see if you’re the right fit for us. So you get to see if we’re the right fit for you [00:02:00] and there’s really no obligation to continue.

It’s just a first date. So if you like what you’re on this podcast, you’ve been thinking about working with us, just go click the apply now button down below. And we’d love to talk to you and see if we can help you out. That being said, let’s dive in Pete. So the reason this came up is because we have a lot of people in unicorn society who own a gym.

With a spouse and I’ll speak for myself. Then I say, I’ve seen that be very successful and I’ve seen that be the thing that ruins gyms. I’ve seen both ends of the spectrum. Obviously the people who work with us, I think have a better chance of success. If I’m being candid and bragging a little, but tell me a little bit about what you’ve seen when it comes to spouses and partners working together.

Sure. Through coaching, I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly, just like you. I’ve seen it work. I’ve seen it fail. I am in a business partnership with a spouse pairing in the Cressy’s who run our Florida facility hand in hand. And if you were to see their metrics, you would conclude that they are succeeding.

And I’ve watched [00:03:00] them struggle through it and I’ve watched them kill it certain ways. So I definitely have ideas. I think this conversation uniquely positions us and unicorn society in our coaching services. Because of the, I don’t know how to put it other than we’re not just here to chase lead gen and stack money for you, which may not be what you want to hear.

In which case we are not a fit, but I don’t, I wouldn’t call what I do marriage counseling, but there are times where I am taking a position that they didn’t expect, which is, I want you to do less for the gym and more for the two of you, which longterm is. In the best interest of the gym, but it’s a slow growth initiative that I’m preaching, preaching here, but yeah, happy house, happy gym.

I think it’s a great point, right? Is that business coaching? Yes. Should help you grow your business. And obviously we’re here to help do that. Whether you work with us in Unicorn Society or any other business coach, we hope that they’re helping you make your business better, which means more clients, more [00:04:00] money.

Yeah. And often the thing that gets in the way of that more. Impact more money and more clients is that there’s like dysfunction in the team. And sometimes there’s dysfunction at the top when it comes to a sticky owner relationship. And I think you’re right, Pete, that I don’t, certainly I wouldn’t position us as some sort of marriage counselor, but I think oftentimes we’re like a mediator.

Oftentimes we’re like a third party who can break a tie or an outside eye who can reflect back what we see is working or not working. And just having that person that’s outside of your business that doesn’t have a stake. And winning or losing or being right can just be that objective outside eye to reflect back what you’re doing and what you’re not doing.

Like I think that’s valuable, especially for couples who are sharing responsibility for running a gym. Yeah. So when you talk to percentage members or anyone in your career that have spouses that run gyms, what’s some of the most common advice you wind up giving? My most common [00:05:00] piece of advice to this community is that there needs to be a separation of church and state.

And for example, the reason we put this topic on the table is because I spoke to two pairs of Jim Moaning spouses today and I had really great calls, walked away feeling good, but I said to you, I gave the same piece of advice twice, which was, I want you to meet less. And meet more by that, I’d say, how often do you guys do a one on one?

And they were like, we don’t have any standing one on ones because all we talk about is the gym. Yeah, we just talk about the gym all day, every day. And we talk about it at breakfast. We talk about it in the car. We talk about it when we are driving our kids to and from school. We eat, sleep and drink the gym.

And I say, that’s great. Do less of that. Stop it, please. What I would like you to do is during business hours. I want you to talk about the gym, talk about the gym a lot. There’s no such thing as too much meeting as it relates to the gym, but I don’t want you to do it at your dining room table. I don’t want you to do it at your his and her sinks [00:06:00] in the master bathroom.

I want you to have two different lives. Because it just, it makes more sense for the two of you sitting in front of me. It makes more sense for the gym as a whole. It’s better for your employees. It’s better for your kids. It’s better for all of these things. So my advice is a moratorium on work talk, if that’s doable outside of work.

Yeah, I think it’s so critical, Pete. It’s a perfect example of how powerful just boundary setting is in our lives. Cause we lose so much energy kind of. Code switching from being a dad versus being in your case, like if you were going home to a spouse at home, you want to be a dad and a husband and work.

You want to be a leader and a manager, right? And if you are constantly trying to do all of those things at the same time, always, you’re losing a lot of efficiency. Right, you’re probably not doing any one of them as good as you could because you’re trying to do them all at the same time. So that idea of setting boundaries and saying this is the space and time for conversations about strategy, this is the [00:07:00] space and time for conversations about the kids, I think is really useful.

I’ll give you a quick example. It’s not spousal, though many of you who followed Mark and I for a while know that Mark and I have often referred to each other as our non sexual life partner. So in many ways, I feel like I’ve been married to Mark Fisher for 13 years, and we lived together above Mark Fisher Fitness for many years.

We lived above the gym, physically in the apartment above, with our back then boyfriends and girlfriends, who are now our spouses. And we actually had a rule that in our apartment, in the front of the apartment, was like work. It was like our offices and you could talk about whatever you want in there. The minute we crossed this threshold, which was basically past our kitchen, you had to get someone’s permission to talk about work.

That was like being home. And so if I wanted to have a quote, I’m doing air quotes sick day and be back on that couch because I genuinely was sick and needed a day to rest. Someone couldn’t just barge in and start talking to me about work. If they pass that threshold, they had to say, Hey, Michael, can I ask you a question about work?

And he’d be like, actually, I’m having a sick day. [00:08:00] Pretend like I’m not here. Or sometimes they’d be like, yeah, actually I’m just eating my lunch, what do you got? But we got to set a boundary that like, this is where we talk about, this is where we don’t talk about this. And, you know, it goes directly to the advice you’ve been giving, which I think is so smart.

I want to call bullshit on the footprint of your apartment because I’ve seen that apartment and the day that you gave me a tour of it, I distinctly remember you walked me through the kitchen. We walked down the hall and we made a little bit of a turn and there was an office on the other side. And you knocked on the door and Fisher and BPM were in there and the two of them were crying and they were having a meeting doing a pre mortem on what would happen if MFF died.

And they both got up and gave me a hug. And I was so uncomfortable because I’m like, what am I walking into? But it was at the bark of the back of the apartment. Keeler, you’re a liar. Oh, no, sure. Sorry. We do have a separate office, but it was a living room space we have in there. That was like the off the off what’s the off.

Bounds, out of bounds, the out of bounds space. Fair enough. I’ll give you one more side note on this [00:09:00] concept. The two that I spoke with today were two different kinds of married couples in the sense that one had kids and one didn’t. And if you don’t have kids yet, you have a business, your business is your baby, and it’s even harder for them to shut it off.

So they need to get more deliberate about drawing that line, because once you have kids, or you start adding pets, I’m sure you and Andrew are talking about pippin way more than anyone could imagine. We go out to dinner, my wife and I sometimes need to put a moratorium on kids talk. Because we’ll sit down for our first date night and God knows how long.

And then we debate what summer camps we’re going to sign up for 120 days from now. And we get to the halfway point where meal on our meal. And we’re like, what are we doing? This is about, but that’s our babies. It’s a little easier for us to separate from work, but the people with no kids and a gym and the inability to turn it off are in a dangerous place because work is every.

Waking hour. Yeah, 100%. I’ll give you mine. The biggest piece [00:10:00] of advice and kind of guidance that I’ve given folks in Unicorn Society or anyone I’ve worked with that are spousal business partners is to have separate roles and responsibilities. So often when we talk to them, I say, okay, who does this? We both do.

Who does this? We both do. Who does this? We decide together. Who does this? We do it together. That’s insane. That’s insane. All the respect. Just that’s it. That’s nuts. The fact that you’re trying to do everything together. This is not parenting. I get you want to be on the same page and really be co parenting and make a lot of parenting decisions together and weigh in together.

That’s not running a business in the business world. Sure. There’d be some high level ownership decisions you make together, but those should be few and far between. Those are big decisions about maybe hiring and firing or spending large sums of money, but on a day to day basis, ideally, you devise your roles.

You have separate roles and responsibilities. Each have separate parallel lanes you can run in. So you don’t always have to be [00:11:00] checking in on each other about, should I do this? Should I do that? You can use each other for Thought partnership, but if you don’t have separate roles and responsibilities and you’re all doing everything together, you’re just, you’re losing so much efficiency by getting in each other’s way, stepping on each other’s toes, debating every decision.

You really have to draw a line in the sand. And the hardest thing I see happen when people try to do that. Is they don’t want to let go. They don’t want to let go. Yeah, I’m, I, I know that I should let Pete make all the decisions about the programming, but I just have so many opinions about programming. I don’t want him to do it in a way that I’m not going to like.

Okay, suck it up. Let him try, right? And if once in a while you need to have a quarterly meeting to make sure that you’re both still on the same page, do that. But you gotta build separate lanes you can run in. Is that making sense, Pete? Yeah, because the bigger the thing gets. The more bandwidth you are making inefficient.

It’s just an inefficient use of time and mental energy. So I, [00:12:00] I find myself echoing that insight regularly. And you know what, I had that conversation earlier today and I suggested an exercise that I think would be really good for listeners. And that is that when you find yourself in one of those relationships, and this can apply to people who are.

non sexual life partner, business owners, when you find yourself in a business partnership and the answer is we both do that. What I suggest people do is an exercise where they both go into separate places and they agree on what the format is. And they write down their job description. Here’s what I do here.

Here’s what you do here. And then, it’s important that they not do it in the same room, and they not compare notes. Cause then when they come back to the table, and they say, okay, let’s slide this sheet of paper over here. This is what I do here, Michael. Why don’t you slide yours over here and tell Pete what you do at Unicorn Society.

And we look at it and we realize, okay, some of it makes sense, but [00:13:00] there are a lot of things that we both unknowingly believe ourselves to be the gatekeeper on. Yep, exactly. And that is where the work needs to be, the energy needs to be allocated. that issue. But if you put everyone in the same room and you workshop this list together, you both get each other to where you think the other person wants to be and you don’t identify the concerning overlaps.

So I always, I mean, that came into an accountability. List today. What do you want to be held accountable to? They said we want to do that exercise inside of the next 10 days and bring it back to our next coaching call. And I always find it refreshing when people come back and they’re like, I had no idea that we both thought we owned social media and it just, it helps us get efficient faster.

Yeah. Just getting in each other’s way. I love that Pete. And I think the real. Most important part about that exercise is that you both do it separately first, right? That you really say, okay, what is my current understanding as of today about what I own and what my job is? And then when you come together, I, every time I’ve done exercise like that, there’s [00:14:00] always so much that they learn, Oh, I did not realize we were both trying to do this thing or no one is owning this thing because no one really likes doing it.

Neither of us really think of it’s our job, so it’s just not happening at all. It’s very common. I’ll just plus one that and say another tool that I use from time to time with partners whether Spousal partners or not is something called a racy chart. I think you’ve probably seen or heard this before Pete But it’s a spelled RACI for you listeners who want to Google it but a racy chart is basically just a decision making Matrix, and it stands for responsible, accountable, consulted, informed, RACI.

And they basically just go through all the major parts of your business and say, okay, who’s responsible for this. Who’s accountable for making the decision who gets consulted on this sort of thing, and who just gets informed. Right. And those four buckets really help you, whether it’s with partners or your whole team, honestly, get clear on how this information flow through the organization.

For those of you who just have, you know, just the two of you, it will take you [00:15:00] no time to fill this out. It shouldn’t be that many things you all are having to decide, but it really helps you get clear about when does your opinion count? When do you make the decision? When do you just get informed about the decision?

And that kind of differentiation can really help clarify how information flows between partners or, like I said, whole teams. Do you suggest that business owners publish that internally so that the whole team understands where they fall? Because it could be a little bit disheartening to be the entry level coach who falls almost exclusively under the informed segment.

Yeah, yeah. But you’re just not accountable. Yeah, I think, listen, there might need to be some, like, sort of internal marketing and maybe changing of words for what that is. But honestly, we don’t want that many people in the organization who are consulted on every decision. We want people who are just told what’s happening next.

We would include them in maybe some ideation early on or some brainstorming, but we don’t want to promise that everyone on our team gets consulted [00:16:00] on every single decision we make. A big example I hear all the time is with Unicorn Society members is when it comes to a gym’s exercise library. Every trainer who works in that facility has an opinion about what exercises belong in the library and what exercises don’t belong in the library.

And if you let everyone get the sense that everyone gets to weigh in every single time, every change, any possible changes made to that library, it’s going to be slow moving friends, especially as your team grows. 15 or more trainers, that is a three hour debate. Every time you want to add or remove an exercise to a library and shop at three.

Yeah, I know it’s being very generous, very optimistic, right? So the whole point here is to just, you can get away with anything. Anything can work. As long as the expectations are clear, this is part of your job. This is not part of your job. You get to weigh in here. You don’t really get to weigh in here because listen, no matter what, where you land on the racy chart, everyone’s got opinions.

It’s just, is it part of our process for [00:17:00] your opinion to count here? Right? And that can’t the answer can’t always be yes for everyone as much as I’m like a kumbaya culture first kind of person. It just businesses can’t function if everyone’s opinion matters equally on every topic. I’m with you on it. Do we have time for one more suggestion?

We do go for it. All right. My last tip is if you the people who are married and they don’t separate and work in their home life tend to run their gym in a very reactive way as opposed to proactive. Yeah, because their attitude is if we’re never off then things aren’t going to fall through the cracks because we’re always locked in I suggest that people who don’t do so already Not only look at a really structured quarterly planning process, but look at bringing in someone from outside the team to facilitate it And one of my favorite experiences we’ve had, or I’ve had with Unicorn Society so far was our recent annual planning.

Cause we brought someone in who wasn’t named Ben or Michael to [00:18:00] run the quarterly planning process. And that person basically gets carte blanche to call us on our bullshit and, and hit the timeout button or the tangent button when we’re getting off track. And when I talk to spouses either together or separately, sometimes they’re like, he won’t do that.

Or she’s going to push back on that. And one of the best ways to break that mindset of, yeah, we’re both flawed, we’re not gonna fix it, is just to bring someone else into the room who doesn’t really care about your feelings on that front and say, that’s broken, please fix it. 100%. I think that’s so smart, Pete.

Just having another opinion in the room who can, who feels comfortable helping Call you all out when you’re going down a rabbit hole to help get you back on track when you’re off on a tangent. I think that it’s worth its weight in gold. If to pay someone to do it, pay them. If you join Unicorn Society, we’ll help you be that voice.

In fact, we do quarterly planning with everyone together on zoom every quarter. And so I [00:19:00] think it’s a really great tip. Pete, let’s wrap it up there. I think this is a really fun one. I think we could probably keep going for another hour on this topic because there’s so much to talk about. But at the end of the day, one takeaway I’ll share that I’ve had from this conversation is that there’s really no right or wrong answer when it comes with.

Comes to the question. Should I own a gym with my spouse? The answer is maybe, if you’re willing to put in the work to create good boundaries and clear roles and responsibilities and have the separation of church and state, then like, it can really work. It can really work and maybe even be a lifestyle boost.

We didn’t talk about all the possible upside. And if you’re not willing to put in some of, do all that work, some of it is hard. Then it can really be tough , and it can really blur the lines between life and work in a way that is not sustainable. Somehow we buried your credibility on the topic and didn’t mention that you and Andrew did work together.

Oh, that’s true. In your operation for a period of time, the listener out there who’s I’m calling bullshit on these two idiots who hasn’t done this. It’s been work, married to someone who is married [00:20:00] to. Basically his business partner in Florida and Michael has worked with his spouse. Yeah, and my husband Andrew worked at Mark Fisher Fitness for years and that’s why I said we keep doing talking about this I have all kinds of stories and not only did he work in my life, but we lived above the gym together that Point two.

It was, I have all kinds of incestual relationships. That’s a perfect place to leave this. I’ll leave it there. I left your mind wander, but, but yeah, this is a great conversation and maybe we’ll follow up again at some point into another part. So I think there’s more to say, but yeah, we bring Andrew on for that interview.

Oh yeah, that’d be fun. I actually, has he ever been on this podcast in all these years? I don’t know if my husband’s ever been on it. It might be time. We can let Andrew and Katie just have the microphones and let them interview each other about being married to us. Can you imagine? I’d want edit approval, if I’m being honest.

Yeah, you gotta roll the dice. Awesome. Well, thanks so much for this great conversation. And dear listeners, if you want to work with us, go to businessfunerals. com, click on Apply Now on Unicorn Society page, and let us [00:21:00] know if you want to come work with us. We’d love to have you. See you on the next one, Pete.

Have a good day. Sounds good. See ya.