Episode 343

The Secret Sauce to CSP’s Internship Success with Pete Dupuis

In this episode, Pete Dupuis joins me to talk about the secret sauce to CSP’s internship success.

[00:00:00] Hello, my friend on today’s episode, I am speaking with Pete and we are talking about the Cressy sports performance kind of world famous internship on today’s episode. We’ve talked about the Pete’s internship previous episodes, but we’re diving back in. And this time Pete is sharing a few things that have changed about how Cressy sports performance manages their internship.

And a few ways that they have found really adds kind of jet fuel To the internship experience. So if you’ve thought about having an internship for coaches or you have one and you want to improve it, this is a great episode for you, my friends. 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 [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. Before we jump into today’s conversation with Pete, I want to give a quick shout YouTube channel. We have some fantastic videos over on YouTube, really actionable, Practical tips and advice for running and growing your gym.

So click the link down in the show notes, head over to your YouTube app and subscribe, hit the bell button, because we’re going to keep putting out great content. We want to make sure that you’re seeing it and catching it and be able to use it and actually growing your gym. So go do that right now. Pause the podcast and go subscribe and hit the bell button, then come on back.

And we’re going to get the conversation started. Pete, how are you, my friend? I’m really great. How are you, Michael? So good to see you as always. So good to see you as always. This is one of the few times every week we actually get to sit and [00:02:00] talk. And today I’m excited because we’re going to cover a topic that we’ve covered this podcast, but it was like a long time ago.

And it’s something that you all are really known for at Cresce sports performance, which is your internship. And certainly since the last time we talked about your internship, I’m sure some things have changed. You’re thinking about internships might change. So before we dive into what you do and what you’re learning, can we start with a big picture of who should consider having an internship and who should definitely not consider having an internship, what are your thoughts on that?

I don’t know that I’d call this a who should and who shouldn’t, but more of a. What boxes should you have checked great before you should chase internships? And I say this because I’ve watched our intern candidate pool get smaller and smaller Honestly, probably every year for in excess of 10 consecutive years And I understand why it’s because just about [00:03:00] every gym on the market is declaring that they have some iteration of an internship or mentorship program and the competitive landscape has just become so bloody in this sense.

The end user, the, the student, or maybe someone early in their career, considering a career change, don’t really know how to identify the good from the bad. And I, I totally get it when they consider their options. And I also know that as the proliferation of Intern kind of solutions or providers, things like that, um, has led to a scenario where people don’t have to move to a different state or across the country to intern with us or Mike Boyle strength and conditioning or XOs or something along those lines.

So understanding that people like the simplicity of something close to home and they see internship tabs on half the gym web pages in our industry. We’ve just seen numbers drop. Now it’s funny because they dropped at the same time. [00:04:00] As our quality of our product increased, like it’s like disproportionately better now than it ever was.

By comparison, a candidate pool that might’ve been a hundred bodies in the past for an internship, that was like a D minus compared to an A plus today. Blows my mind, but that’s our reality. So to my early point that you need to check certain boxes, you need to have something to teach. This can’t just be an unpaid or underpaid help or someone collecting a small stipend.

You need to have something of value that is far in excess of reps coaching our athletes. You can’t just throw them into the fire anymore. And so, in our case, that is a thorough curriculum both before your internship and during your internship. And being able to outline exactly what the path looks like from starting our system to being theoretically a finished product that is employable.

And I don’t know that even more than [00:05:00] half of the intern service providers in our space are checking that box at this point in time. But unfortunately, there isn’t really any quality control on internships. It’s not like we answer to any sort of higher authority who says what’s good and what isn’t or any sort of ranking system.

So this is really if you want to do it right and do right by the candidates. You need to be able to look yourself in the mirror and say, you know what? I have a structured approach to teaching. And that is a significant facet of this internship opportunity that I’m proposing to deliver to the market.

Yeah, 100%. I think that’s so crucial because I think some people think of interns as just like free or cheap labor. And I think there’s some aspect of that, of course, right. You’re getting extra bodies in the building who can help, right. And then you add, can add a lot of value. They can add some hours, they can relieve, they can add to the capacity of your team.

All of that is true. And the thing they’re really getting paid with. Is career growth is knowledge. And so you have to have a solid like curriculum. [00:06:00] You’re taking them through. I think that’s a really important box to check. The other one that maybe I’ll add in my experience talking to folks is some folks really haven’t considered that, for example, that their market might not be the right market for a low paid or unpaid internship.

Right. In some cases, it’s illegal to have an unpaid internship. I think it’s very state by state, if I’m not mistaken. And in some cases, like in New York City, I can’t afford to have someone, no one can live in New York City on minimum wage for very long. Or if they do, they might need help with subsidizing housing, or they might need to commute in from New Jersey.

And so I think there’s something about making sure that you can provide, even interns, with some sort of a livable, um, Circumstances, right? You can provide some sort of living wage for them during the time that they’re with you. Uh, listen, no intern expects to be getting rich. Right. But the fact that some of us set the bar so low that it’s, it’s almost offensive, it’s almost inhumane, right?

So if you can’t provide them with an experience that lets them like have food and shelter, [00:07:00] you should rethink whether or not an internship is for you. And so, and especially I’ve watched this in your market, I knew you guys had a product that you could. Delivering unbelievable learning experience back in the day, but this is the biggest hurdle to get over 100%.

So we’re probably not speaking to the urban gym owner without some meaningful additional potential payroll dollars. Yeah. Yeah, the only time it ever really worked for us at MFF, I’m not saying it couldn’t have worked if we tried other things, but it was if it was like a real part time internship, that someone has a full time job and they’re making a career transition and they want to become a trainer and they’re gonna work maybe nights or weekends or first thing in the morning before their evening job.

A sort of part time thing can work, I think, in an urban market as long as someone else is paying their bills in some other way. So I think that’s the iteration that I would consider if you’re in a market like New York. But other than that, I think your point is well taken that even all that aside, you have to have something to teach them.[00:08:00]

So maybe walk through just for people who haven’t heard about your internship at CSP before. Let’s give like a 10, 000 foot view of what, how does it work? Sure. I want to touch something you just said before I lose the thought. And that is urban market or not. Part time is a beautiful place to start. Yeah.

And so when we started our internship program. I got an email or Eric got an email from a guy named Brian St. Pierre. Brian’s currently working at Precision Nutrition. She’s half of our listeners have probably engaged with this material. He’s the director of sports nutrition for them. In fact, he’s probably been a guest on this podcast.

I don’t know if not, I’m going to make the interview happen. But Brian emailed us while he was a student at the University of Maine. And he said, I’d like to come down and observe. I’m thinking of moving to the area to live with some family. And I’m wondering, um, If I might be able to consistently observe in a part time format and he took work at Boston Sports Club in the area He was personal training and we said why don’t you come out two afternoons a week during our busiest [00:09:00] slot?

So that at the time I don’t remember exactly but let’s say it was 3 to 7 p. m. On Mondays and Wednesdays Mm hmm pretty bumping hours in our weight room because we’re taking care of high school athletes. It’s after school Mondays are the day that fitness seems to start in everybody’s mind You outside of January 2nd or whatever that date is.

And we just knew we’d have a busy gym and a lot for him to see. And so we just started there. And it was him coming in for somewhere between six and eight hours a week. Seeing what we do in real time and then us talking about expanding little by little that went from observational to part time employment, which became going from two abbreviated shifts a week to two full time shifts a week to adding a third day to the point is the slow growth matters.

And it gave us the opportunity to figure out what this thing actually was. So, Instead of launching an internship and declaring that you have a 40 hour a [00:10:00] week opportunity with a curriculum that you haven’t prepared and just no baseline for comparison as far as what success looks like, start with an observational guest in a standing recurring format and plan on having interesting conversations on or off the training floor in and around those hours to figure out what it is that you have to share.

Because mimicking my program or Boyle’s program or anyone else’s. Isn’t going to put out a particularly authentic or useful product, especially because we’re still offering those programs and we’re still dying for applicants to come through the door. So why compete on that? Start small. Yeah, I think it’s a great suggestion to start small, figure out what the program is for you, figure out what people want from you, what you have to offer, what the structure is.

I’ll even add one more thing to that list before we talk more about your program specifically is figure out why you want to do it, right? So there’s a lot of reasons to have an internship. In some cases, it is providing labor. And if you want [00:11:00] it to consistently provide labor, it needs to be structured so that you always have interns when you need that labor.

If it’s meant to provide a funnel for possible jobs someday, right? It’s a bench to warm people up for, to get them more full time, long term jobs. Maybe that’s important to you. If it’s just like a non profit arm of your gym to give back to the industry or a sport you love, that’s another reason to do it.

But I think getting clear about what do you hope to get out of it, I think is really also critical in those early days because I can really inform the design and how much time and energy you spend on it. A lot of the things I’ve done in my business services we’ve created or things like our internship have been a function of me trying to find ways to keep good people around.

And so with Brian, The day that he came in, we were supposed to have taken delivery of all of our equipment and be fully up and running. And back then Rogue didn’t exist. You couldn’t just get a power rack in 24 hours. This was, I remember we ordered our collegiate power racks and we were [00:12:00] given a six week lead time and we were like, all right, so for six weeks we need to function with this crummy little York power rack that we bought for short money and just like hope that we can string this together until the three proper racks came.

And we scheduled, I think we deflected Brian once and we’re like, Hey, we don’t even have equipment. Like you should come in a couple of weeks. Let’s hit the pause button. And then the second time that he was about to come in, we were like, we’re not going to deflect them again, but the equipment still hasn’t shown up.

And that poor guy showed up on the day that all the pallets arrived. Of course. And what did he do? Brian grabbed the toolkit and with me put together three elite FTS collegiate power racks. And anyone who’s done that knows that it’s not a half hour project. Brian probably spent three to four hours with me, assembling heavy duty equipment and then breaking down pallets and bringing trash out to the dumpster as an observational guest.

And I couldn’t get him to stop if I wanted to. I didn’t say, hey, will you come do this thing with me? He’s like, I’m [00:13:00] pretty handy. I’m not afraid of a little hard work. Let’s just do this. I’m here to help. And at the end of the day, Eric and I looked at each other and we were like, holy shit, we need to figure out a way to hire that guy.

And then we were like, Oh yeah. And at the same time, we don’t have any cashflow because we opened seven weeks ago and we are definitely not at a point to expand. So we were like, what if we created an internship and that’s how it was born. It’s not like we drew up a business plan and we had this foresight and we were like, the internship wing of our program is going to manufacture our talent.

This was reactive. And that’s how it was, how it started. That was its inception. Yep. Yep. And that makes sense, right? You’re like, how do we attract great people and try and keep them around as long as possible? It’s critical, right? It’s an important role. So I know we’re not going to have a ton of time.

We’re a little short on time today, but maybe just do a quick overview of what your, how your internship is structured and maybe just a few thoughts on like how it’s changed over the recent years. So, from a structure standpoint, we ask that our interns work four or five of the [00:14:00] six days of the week that we’re open.

So, our interns are typically in the gym about 30 hours a week between classroom style learning and coaching on the training floor, getting meaningful reps and instructing the material. Our interns don’t evaluate athletes individually or write programs. But we always put an intern in the room for the assessment process so that they can observe and take notes and be a contributing voice in that process.

And we can also debrief on what we saw and talk about the approach to program design following the screening process. So it’s a pretty meaningful learning environment for them in real time. Uh, and we do thorough introduction to programming strategy and discussions about. Our philosophy on this topic throughout the internship, typically in the final third of a given internship period, but our internships are three different lengths.

We mirror the academic calendar, so we have a fall or semester one internship, and then we have a winter, [00:15:00] spring or semester two internship and then we have summer internship. And the summer is the shortest of the three. Which is typically like a rounded 12 to 14 week internship. And then it falls a little longer than the spring’s longest.

With this in mind, we have to build out a foundational curriculum that can be executed in 12 weeks. So we need to know that we can manufacture coaches out of our summer program who have checked all the boxes and the extra weeks on the back end of a semester one or a semester two program in relation to the summer.

Are beautiful. It’s like playing with house money, but they can’t convey knowledge that we otherwise have to have, but can’t deliver to the summer interns. Cause then we’re saying a third of our candidate pool just isn’t ready. And so we asked ourselves, what are the boxes that definitively need to be checked before we can make someone employable in our operation, and then we reverse engineer engineered curriculum design into that summer window to do [00:16:00] it.

And then we just get into the more the wants, not the needs during the end of the other two internships. So if you wanna get into like really taking deep dives down the rabbit holes of whatever the flavor of the month acronym is that we’re using as a programming strategy or assessment strategy, things like that.

Those things don’t typically make their way into a summer with us. And they’ll creep in at the back end of a spring internship when we’re a little quiet and waiting for the quiet period of the year to wrap up and the summer interns to arrive. I think it’s such a great roadmap for our listeners, Pete, right?

The idea that make a description of a checklist of all the things that you need a great trainer to have learned to be ready to be on your floor, right? And then create a curriculum to get them to learn that. you have for this internship, right? So you got 12 weeks. How do they learn that whole checklist of things they need to be ready to be employable or to be effective on the floor for you.

And then that is how you work backwards to create a [00:17:00] curriculum. Yeah. And I’m sure the program has probably changed over the years. So in just thinking the last few years, what are any meaningful changes you all have made to how the internship works? Yeah. The most significant change I’d say is the. Pace with which we deliver information before the internship, we created what we called our intern handbook, which was 10 weeks of material leading up to an internship where we would issue.

Between two and three hours of information to be consumed in a given week every same Monday for ten consecutive weeks until arrival Wow, and we realized there was just up until that point We realized there were a lot of foundational things that could be taught via YouTube or could be taught through meaningful recorded staff in service or maybe an e book that Eric has published or A resource that we already have access to and we could distribute and people could do on their own time, think great remote work for them to an extent, or taking a college course, basically like an online course, and that way [00:18:00] we don’t have to spend a half hour during the first day of orientation talking about how to read and interpret a CSP program or how to think about designing a warmup.

Like some of the kind of foundational basic introductory material. Has already hit their radar before they come and it just makes for a more comprehensive learning experience for them because they get into the good stuff faster when we do that beforehand. But I’d say it took us, it might have been close to 10 years before we realized there was so much wasted opportunity in advance of these internships to develop people.

And initially it was like, well, people are going to be annoyed if we’re giving them homework before they come in for this learning opportunity. Yeah. But then we realized people were thirsty for knowledge. The minute they got accepted and sometimes several months in advance, like we’re going to make a final decision on our fall interns in the next 10 days, the minute they got accepted, it’s like a strike with the iron tot opportunity because they’re already in a [00:19:00] growth mindset.

They want something, they’re itching for something. So I guess the message for the listener is if you do have an internship and you have a habit of accepting candidates and you’re not delivering some sort of learning opportunity beforehand, even if it’s just in an optional format, you’re missing an opportunity because these people are hungry for knowledge, otherwise why accept an internship?

I think that kind of was rocket fuel for increasing the productivity of interns and the potential for learning as far as like the biggest inflection point in how we prepare coaches. Because the eating potatoes of the internship, like what you learn while you’re with us, haven’t changed dramatically.

And the length, the duration of it, the size of our candidate, or I should say the size of our intern classes, they haven’t changed or been overhauled. There have been slight, subtle shifts in programming philosophy during that time, and maybe to the community that we serve. But nothing so extreme that I’d say it was a drastically different take away.

I think that’s [00:20:00] huge though, Pete. I can see how having even just a little bit of pre work before people come in to an internship or even a new job, let’s be real, is huge to serve as that kind of rocket fuel to get them started. Because so much can be learned by watching videos or listening to podcasts or sending them a book in advance to read.

Because none of that stuff often has to happen face to face, and it saves you and your team so much time from having to repeat over and over again with every new class that comes in some bit of material that could be recorded once and then shared with them in advance. That way they’re really getting up to speed and they can hit the ground running and be really so much more useful to you on day one by speaking your language, understanding your frameworks and how you do things.

So I think that’s really such a killer idea. And for our listeners out there, you don’t have to start with this. 10 weeks of pre intern curriculum, right? You can start with a checklist of three things, right? One video, right? But, and I think this applies to also just onboarding new actual staff members as well, not just interns, is give them some [00:21:00] information to do before they come in.

They’ll be excited to get started. That’s when they’re most hungry and it’ll save you all so much time. So I think that’s really a, a killer recommendation, Pete. And I can see how that would drastically change the kind of output you get from an intern. Well, there’s a hidden benefit as well. Beyond, so this is, this applies more to your intern than your recent hire.

We’re trying to manufacture coaches that we can add to our staff longterm. And in the circumstances that we can’t, maybe it’s an exceptional coach, but we don’t have a spot for them on the team. I want to be able to nudge them toward a unicorn sighting member and say, Hey, I got an intern who is employable and dying for work who wants to make a hire, but it’s hard to truly vet your people in an abbreviated window or maybe a short summer.

And the intern onboarding the intern handbook is a little bit of a trip wire. That reveals what we’ve got when they come on day one. Cause I always joke that John knows within the first 10 minutes of someone did the [00:22:00] homework and it’s, look, these people are putting a lot of time and energy and resources into being interns with us.

So showing up, not having done the homework is not a deal breaker. That’s going to get you sent home. We’re going to, we’re going to work with you and we appreciate the connection, like the commitment to the process. But at the same time, it is a note on your pros and cons list. That reflects where you stand in relation to the rest of the intern class.

And this like large candidate pool of future potential employees who categorize themselves as internal alums. And if you’re someone who shows up having taken shortcuts or just thinking, we’re not going to figure it out. That just further informs our decision when we’re trying to decide who you are. And if you’re a future.

fit for us, both as far as culture goes and competency. I think it’s a great note to end it on there, Pete. I think it’s a great takeaway. And I think our listeners probably have some really clear direction in terms of how to build the curriculum, how to think about [00:23:00] this advanced work is really being kind of rocket fueled to get it started.

And I think also the tips you gave early on about the boxes you want to check before you even start. Doing an internship, I think are really critical. So yeah, thanks for a great conversation. I’m sure we’ll come back to this topic again and again. I think that’s something y’all are so good at. So thank you for sharing your kind of wisdom on this topic.

Yeah. Let’s jump from that starting point of. What it should be and then do another recording where we talk about how to put it on radars to get some actual applicants. Yeah, totally. We will record another one about really filling your internship and finding people for this. I think that can be really useful.

I also know there’s a few other people in Unicorn Society who have. All different kinds of internships. So it’s gonna be a topic we circle back to, because I think there’s a fair number of people who really want to use internships to grow their team’s capacity, to get a great bench of talent. And I think this can, it serves as a really useful function for certain types of gyms.

So, yeah, thank you again, my friend, this is a great chat and listeners, if you haven’t yet. Go over to the link down below the show notes, click over to [00:24:00] our YouTube and subscribe and hit that bell because we’re going to have great content coming there for you on a regular basis. Thanks again, Pete. I’ll see you on the next one.

See you, Michael.