Today’s guest is Chandler Walker. Chandler is in the gym business. He’s taken a very competitive and looked at different ways of making his customers stick with his service. He’s taken his service and turned it from a regular run of the mill gym to a boutique gym.
You’re going to want to listen to this episode to find out how he did it and how you can apply the principles he uses to have his customers stick for a significantly longer time frame than the average gym.
Chandler is what I call a serial entrepreneur. He has three different businesses. Stone Age Fuel – a boutique gym, MadLab Business Group – a business consulting agency, and Out of the Cave Media – a relationship-based marketing organization.
Here are some of the thing you’ll learn in this episode of The Sustainable Business:
- How Chandler decided to make his gym into a boutique experience.
- The path that Chandler took to start his first business.
- Why it’s important to have your customers feel like they’re part of the story.
- The realization that you must map your customer experience to help give your customers what they want.
- Why culture is one of the keys to creating a customer experience that’s unique.
Narrator: Welcome to The Sustainable Business Radio Show podcast where you’ll learn not only how to create a sustainable business but you’ll also learn the secrets of creating extraordinary value within your business and your life. In The Sustainable Business, we focus on what it’s going to take for you to take your successful business and make it economically and personally successful.
Your host, Josh Patrick, is going to help us through finding great thought leaders as well as providing insights he’s learned through his 40 years of owning, running, planning and thinking about what it takes to make a successful business sustainable.
Josh: Hey, how are you today. This is Josh Patrick and you’re at The Sustainable Business.
Today, my guest is Chandler Walker. Chandler is a really interesting guy. We just spent about 15 minutes chatting, before we started the podcast today, about all the cool things he’s done. He’s built three different businesses: The pat I’d love to ask him what that’s all about. He has a podcast called ChansLogic. Maybe or maybe not, we’ll get into that because we only have about 23 minutes today. Instead of me blabbering on about all of these wonderful things about Chandler, we’ll let him talk for himself.
Hey, Chandler, how are you today?
Chandler: Yeah, thanks for having me on the podcast. I’m super excited to be here, talk about my journey and what everything looks like and why I feel as though the relationship is the key in with something with the audience that they care about.
Josh: Tell me something, Chandler, Stone Age Fuel was your first business, correct?
Josh: You call that a boutique gym. What is a boutique gym, first of all? And how did you decide to open a boutique gym versus a non-boutique gym?
Chandler: The funny thing is I went to school for biochemistry. I was on the med school track but kind of got a little bit off-put with prescribing medications and stuff like that. I wanted to figure out how I could do this in a holistic pathway.
During my undergrad and during my pre-med stuff, we started a blog we called Stone Age Fuel. And so, we put up information on what we thought about the current healthcare industry and what we thought about the supplement industry – what was basically lies and what was good information. That started to build a following just on our little blog. We got invited to do seminars all over the US with a bunch of gyms.
At one point, we decided, “Hey, we’ve been to about a dozen of these little microgyms. What we should do is open one because we’re talking. People like us. They are following.“ That turned into, “All right, now, what kind of gym should we open?” We looked at big Globo Gyms which wasn’t necessarily what we wanted because we wanted to have that connection with people. We wanted to actually work with people and not just be a warehouse to shove people in. And so, what that turned into was opening what a boutique gym is which is a small-scale gym, probably 10,000 square feet or less. It has personal training in our small group classes. Most of the stuff like that.
From there, what we did was, we opened Stone Age Fuel, filled up the gym. We realized, as we were motoring through that retention is always a problem in the fitness industry. Especially in the big gyms, people start and then they fall off the face of the Earth three months later, never to be seen from or heard from again. And so, what we realized, at one point was, “How do we stop people from falling off the face of the Earth and build that relationships so they feel like they’re part of our story and so they really feel it and care about what we’re doing. And if we can get people to care about us, that’s when we’re going to ultimately win. And that’s when they’re going to stick with us forever.”
Josh: How do you get people to care about you?
Chandler: What we realized was getting people to care is essentially getting them to feel like they’re part of your story and building a relationship with them. What we did, at Stone Age Fuel, was we turned our whole program around into– upfront, it was a personal training focus. And before that, there was an assessment focus where people come in. You sit down on the couch with them. We didn’t want an oak desk because we didn’t like chairs and stuff, like a salesman’s office because we didn’t people to feel like they’re being sold when they walked in. We wanted people to feel like we cared, almost like an interview process. We brought them in. A free session assessment. They sit on a couch with one of our coaches and they just talk about who they are, where they want to be, how they want to get there and how they see themselves fitting into the gym culture.
Josh: Chandler, just a new topic because I didn’t even know that this was going to come up but it’s something which I find really interesting, which is the physical layout of the conversation space that you have. Most gyms, you go into these really ugly little rooms with a little round table, where there’s a salesperson that tries to sell you way too much stuff. So instead, you built, what sounds to me, like a living room?
Chandler: Exactly. We looked at dozens of different consultation rooms. We looked at sales processes. We looked at the interactions people had when they walked in and before they walked in. What we found was, if you had this salesroom that was ugly with the guy in a suit and tie, before the people even walked in they had their guard set up and they didn’t really want to let any information out. They didn’t want to really have anything to do with it.
Basically, what we did was we took the concept of a therapy room. If if you walk into a therapist’s office, you have a couch and then they sit like off-center, away from you. There’s flowers in the gym and pictures. The walls are painted blue. That way, when people walk in, they feel like they’re in a place where they can actually talk about their feelings and talk about who they are and where they want to be. The ultimate goal of that was to establish a certain level of comfort because if you have comfort, people aren’t going to be on guard. They’re not going to feel like you are trying to sell them. They’re going to feel like you really care about them.
Josh: Yeah, we did the same thing. You can’t see that but behind me is a living room which is where we hold meetings. I did that by mistake, actually, when I was going through cancer treatment. The truth is I have found that, in a living room setting, we have much better conversations than in our formal conference room setting which we also have here. But I use the living room, literally, 100% of the time. Did you find that out by mistake or did you do that mindfully?
Chandler: We did that mindfully. Probably, because we looked at so many different consultation processes. We looked at how the Globo Gym, the big gyms do it? We looked at how other boutique gyms were doing it. We talked to people and said, “Hey, how do you feel with the big oak desk and a guy in a suit?” The overwhelming unanimous report that people gave us, or feedback, was “Well, I feel like I’m about to be sold so I feel like I have to hold back a little bit.”
And then we went in and we said, “Okay, how we can take this consultation-style sales process and turn it into more of a therapy let’s-get-to-know-you process? Then we started looking. “Oh, okay, what does it look like when you go to a psychiatrist’s office? What does it look like when you’re looking at the psychology of making people care and understand what you’re doing?” We took that concept and introduced that into the gym because that really isn’t available in those gyms. There is no process where you walk in and sit on a couch and feel comfortable. And so, we took the idea from psychiatry and introduced that into the gym world, in our consultation process, which created less of the persona of sales and more of that persona of caring.
Josh: What’s coming to mind for me right now is the term called “the buyer’s journey”. If any of our listeners are aware, they know what a buyer’s journey is online because that’s really well documented. You have a buyer’s journey that you’re taking people through in a brick and mortar business in your gym. The first step is the physical layout for how you want people to feel in a physical layout that lets people be more open with you. I’m assuming that’s correct with my assumption.
Chandler: Yeah, so you can call that probably first step section B. I would say first step, part A is we do have an online presence that’s organized around that specific culture inside the gym. And that we really use content and information that relates to build that with people before they walk in the door. They go to our social media. They interact with our staff and our videos. They watch our staff in their little mini-series. And then they go to the website and they see the same kind of stuff on the website. And then they go from the website and come into the gym. It’s this process that funnels them in but keeps the culture and identity of what’s going on the same so there’s no shock when they walk in.
Josh: After they walk into your living room and you start a conversation, what happens next as you help move them down the road of becoming a customer?
Chandler: And so, what happens is we do the consultation. It’s about 20 minutes. We sit down. We really get an idea. We do a soft assessment on them so we understand and they understand where they’re at. There’s a goal-setting segment so we understand more about their goal and where they want to be. And at the end of the segment, our coach makes a decisions as to whether or not they should invite them to move forward. If they do, they say, “Hey, I think you’re going to be a really good fit for this place. This is what the program looks like. These are what the specific costs are with the program. This is how it’s going to work. This is the structure. Does that make sense to you? Do you want to move forward?”
Josh: How many times do your coaches say, “We’re not the right fit for you.”
Chandler: Probably, because we have our process pretty well defined, maybe one out of every ten isn’t necessarily a good fit if someone who maybe comes in and we know that they’re not going to mesh well with the community. The way we get around that is we recommend another facility that we know is going to be a good fit. We’ll say, “Hey, I don’t think moving forward with us is going to be the best idea but let me call so and so at this place. We’ll get you in consultation with them because I think you’re really going to fit in over there.”
Josh: You see, that’s a really important thing to do. If you are not going to be the solution for somebody’s perceived issue, you better have some place for them to go or you’re going to create an enemy which you really don’t need in your business. At least, that’s my experience. I think you’re being really smart about that so I congratulate you on that.
Once they become a member and your industry is notorious for no-shows. In fact, I think, most of the gyms actually make their money on people who don’t show up. It sounds like that’s not what you want at all in your business?
Chandler: Yeah, that’s a great point. What we want in our business is, when someone signs up, we want them in at the minimum three times a week with us and in constant interaction and communication with their coach because what we found is we can charge a higher price point if we give immediate value, a value long term, and continuous high-level value to people and they actually get results out of that. It gets us out of the commodity gym market of the $10-a-month membership or the idea that you need to stack the gym with 3000 people who never show up but you still to make money.
For us, that wasn’t where we wanted to be. It wasn’t a good place for us because we didn’t feel like we were going to ultimately help people as much as we could. We weren’t going to be a able to build a moat around our industry and build an industry to where we owned what we were doing and no one else was replicating what we were doing. That’s the idea behind the relationship that we organized with this whole thing.
Josh: What do you specifically do to build the relationship, say, you build customers for years and not months?
Chandler: What we do is, after they get done with that 20-minute sit down in the consultation, we do what we call a three-session assessment. They’re introduced to their coach for life. The concept of the coach for life that we have is, this one coach is attached to a specific member for the lifetime of their membership. The coach is there to talk to them, help them with anything they need along the way, to introduce them to the programs, and then to be their check-in when they need help outside of the group classes.
What happens is, during the three-session assessment, the coach does a one-on-one meet with three sessions with them to find some outlines, who they are, where they’re at – a three-session assessment. They say, “Okay, based off of what we learned in your assessment, this is how many fundamental sessions you’re going to need with us before we can introduce you to group classes.” The average person probably does 12 to 21 one-on-one personal training sessions before they move into a group class format.
What that does for us is it gives you almost 21 straight days or 18 straight days with one specific person that that client is interacting with and builds that relationship. It builds a bond over time. They really develop that level of trust with that coach that keeps them wanting to be part of the gym because they feel like someone actually cares about them, someone’s actually checking in, someone’s actually giving feedback, and someone really does pay attention when they don’t show up because if someone doesn’t show up– they usually show up in fundamentals because they’re all actually scripted out and all set up for their appointments.
When they move into the group class phase, that coach is still meeting with them anywhere from once a month, once a quarter or twice a year. The least amount to meet is once a quarter.
If that coach doesn’t see that person in the gym for a week, they’ll call him and text him and e-mail him saying, “Hey, we noticed you weren’t in here. We miss you. What can I do to get you back on track and moving forward?”
Josh: I’m going to bet you have to do a fair amount of training with your coaches to get them to understand your system.
Chandler: Oh, yeah, 100%. The way our system works is we have an online school. We have a two-year coach apprenticeship program. We really turn these guys from– they’re not just fitness guys who walk around with tank tops. They’re true high-level fitness professionals. They understand body mechanics. They understand relationships. They understand culture. They understand interaction. And they understand the why.
And because we take so much time training them, we develop coaches that are people who actually care about what we’re doing. We don’t have a system to where we have trainers who are fumbling in and fumbling out and not necessarily part of the process long term. Because what you’ll notice in the gym industry as well is coaches tend to only last maybe eight months and then they fall through and fall apart.
Josh: How long do your coaches last for?
Chandler: The coaches I have right now have been with us longer than two years.
Josh: Interesting. I’m going to guess that you have systematized your business, your coaching process so a customer knows what to expect. Say, a customer stays with you for five or ten years, they’re likely to go through a couple of coaches during that period of time.
Chandler: Yeah, so everything, if we do lose a coach, there’s a system to re-introduce coaches. We do have interns who are on staff and on ready to step up when they need to. There’s an online school organized to train the coaches. And then we have a systematic way. We mentor them and meet with them once a week to make sure they’re getting the information they need. Everything is documented in staff manuals. We also have a customer relationship management system that has tasks and duties that assign coaches. They know what they’re completing. I know what they’re completing. And then if they’re not completing anything, you can go back and talk to them and see why things aren’t happening.
Josh: One of my favorite things is, there’s a guy named W. Edwards Deming who is the father of total quality control. He died several years ago. He used to always say, “Don’t blame the person, blame the system. And if you can’t blame the system, blame the managers but don’t blame the employees” which I find is basically pretty true most of the time.
It seems that you have like 10 Laws of marketing in a relationship business. We’ve got about five or six minutes left so let’s spend the last part of our time together today talking about what those might be.
Chandler: Basically the way the 10 Laws of marketing are organized and the way we organized the system was we had to learn and understand the way people function, what our long-term strategy should be, and how we build a connection with people over time. When we started to organize that, I realized that there’s a lot of things people don’t do. And so, in order to get people to do those things, we have to call them laws because if we call something a law, for some reason, people listen to it.
Josh: Except for me.
Chandler: Well, people too. They don’t pay attention. They go like, “All right. Now, we’ve got to talk.”
Josh: What are some of these laws?
Chandler: Basically, the first law is probably the most important law. It’s also a law that people fail to actually do.
The first law is you have to execute. When you organize a strategy, you have to organize strategic planning in phases. You have a discovery phase, a planning, and you have a natural planning phase, an execution phase and a post-planning analysis phase. Once all that’s together, you actually have to execute. That’s the first law. If you don’t do anything, nothing’s going to happen. And what I find more often than not in small businesses is they fail to execute on all 1 million of their ideas. And if they just executed on one, they would actually probably be pretty successful with that one idea.
Josh: It might make sense that if you’re going to execute on an idea, you try to focus on one idea and not seven?
Chandler: Exactly. That comes into my next law, which is law 2, which is, you have to actually be consistent after you execute. If you execute on seven ideas, chances are you’re probably not going to be consistent with any of them. But if you execute on one, you’re going to be consistent and you’re probably going to be successful with that one idea.
Josh: That makes particular sense. One of my favorite saying and it’s a really silly one. He didn’t invent it but a guy named Gino Wickman who wrote a book called Traction. One of his favorite sayings is, “less is more”. I completely buy into that particular statement.
What’s your third law?
Chandler: The third law, once we’re actually executing and we’re consistent with something, we have to listen to feedback because the way the culture is functioning, the way people function now, especially millennials, is they want to be heard. They want you to listen to what they’re saying. They want you involved and actually utilize that feedback.
The third law is you have to listen to your customers and listen to the people who are paying attention to your brand. That’s, “Are you getting the feedback? Great. Why? How do we make it better? Are you getting bad feedback? Okay, why? How do we adjust and modify to make it better?” If a brand doesn’t listen, they become omnibrand-centric. You can’t have that today’s day and age because it needs to be a two-way street. If you don’t listen, you can’t get anywhere.
Josh: Yeah, a conversation has to go two ways. I have a lot of dumb sayings. But you’ll probably say, “You have two ears and one mouth. You should use them in that proportion.”
Chandler: That’s right. Exactly. If you fail to use them, you fail to grow and thrive.
Josh: Yes, yes. There’s a fourth principle, I assume, you have?
Chandler: Yes. The fourth law stems into– they all build off each other. The fourth law is you have to build a culture of care so when you do get feedback, you do get information, you have to evolve with pivot shifts what your strategies are in order to accommodate what you’re hearing. And, at the same time, you have to make sure your customers [inaudible 00:17:43], especially your customers and your employees know that you do care about what they say, you do care about what they’re doing. And it’s not just something like, “Hey, thank you very much for your feedback, we’ll never do anything.” It’s, “Hey, thanks for your feedback, I’m going to personally call you and talk to you about this.” Or, “You told me that my podcast was amazing. Thank you so much.”
It’s the idea that people need to know you understand what they’re saying. They need to know that you’re going to react to what they’re saying. They need to know that you actually care about what they’re saying. This goes with your employees and your staff.
Josh: I’m going to bet, if I was [inaudible 00:18:13] that you’re a values-led organization, you would agree with me about that?
Chandler: Exactly. That’s a good point too just because your value just can’t be something that’s written on the wall and that’s it. It has to be encompassed in everything.
Josh: It has to be something that you live all the time.
When you hire people, do you hire for values or do you hire for skill?
Chandler: Generally, what I’ll do is, your ticket is your resume which I’m going to throw away because everybody’s resume is perfect. Once they come in, I’m going to really work to understand who they are, why they feel the way they feel, how high their level of critical thinking is, what their values are and then I want to make sure those values mesh well with the organization. I also like to have a little bit of fun with people in interviews because everybody’s going to set up the perfect interview but if you can trick them a little bit and play with them, you can really understand that critical thinking.
Josh: Yes, yes. Are your values clearly articulated so you talk about them all the time with your staff or all your stakeholders for that matter?
Chandler: Yes, they are. They know what they are. They know what they mean. They know what they’re encompassing. They know what they’re about.
When we talk about it, everybody knows that Stone Age Fuel is a high-level, professional organization that’s focused on building a relationship. We’re building a culture of caring for customers. When you call us on the phone, you can hear that. When we answer the phone, “Hey, thank you for calling Stone Age Fuel where the streets are paved with gold.” All the staff members know to say that. They know when someone walks in the door, they’ll say that. It puts a smile on your face.
Josh: It does. That’s sort of like the silly, “Welcome to Moe’s!’” if you go to Moe’s Mexican Restaurant. They do the same thing.
Chandler, unfortunately, we are out of time for this part of our recording. You’ve got a lot of really interesting stuff to do. You’ve made a brick and mortar business into something that is incredibly interesting. I know that you’re teaching people how to do that. I’m assuming some of our listeners will want to learn more. How would they go about getting more from you?
Chandler: Yeah, they can approach me a couple of ways. They can go to my Facebook page which is Facebook.com/ChansLogic. I put out a daily content and daily information, videos, blogs, and I have my podcast also there so they can consume it there.
If they’re interested in learning how to replicate this culture of caring and if they want someone to hold their hand along the way, then they can go to Out of the Cave Media which is ootcmedia.com. That’s where they can learn about building that, what we call the relationship marketing experience.
Josh: ChansLogic is C-H-A-N-S-L-O-G-I-C. That’ll be Facebook.com/ChansLogic.
I also have an offer for you. I have a one-hour audio CD. It’s really easy to get. It’s called Success to Sustainability: Five Things You Need to Do to Create a Personally and Economically Sustainable Business. All you have to do is take out your smartphone – if you’re driving to work or driving home, wait til you get there, and just text the word SUSTAINABLE to 44222. That’s SUSTAINABLE to 44222. We’re going to ask you for your name and your address. We mail you the physical CD. If you happen to have one of those newfangled cars that don’t have a CD player in it, just drop me an e-mail at email@example.com and ask me to send you the audio file and I’ll be glad to do so.
You’re at the Sustainable Business. This is Josh Patrick. Thanks a lot for spending some time with us today. I hope to see you back here really soon.
Narrator: You’ve been listening to The Sustainable Business podcast where we ask the question, “What would it take for your business to still be around 100 years from now?” If you like what you’ve heard and want more information, please contact Josh Patrick at 802‑846‑1264 ext 2, or visit us on our website at www.askjoshpatrick.com, or you can send Josh an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for listening. We hope to see you at The Sustainable Business in the near future.