Hear some insight into being a Navy Seal trained by the eventual CrossFit Games Director, Dave Castro… what it’s like being on the floor of the CrossFit Games, how he’s trying to help gym owners do better, and more!
Zach Forrest is a man of many talents. He’s been a Navy Seal, a CrossFit games athlete, and the owner of multiple gyms, not to mention he’s currently on the CrossFit seminar staff.
Now, Zach is taking his knowledge and experience and bringing it to gym owners with Push Start, a new initiative from PushPress that offers free mentoring to gym owners.
“There are certain things that all brick and mortar, service-based businesses need to implement in order to have a strong foundation from which to be successful, and that’s what I want business owners to learn and become proficient at.”
— Zach Forrest
Dan Uyemura: Welcome to The gymOS Podcast. Helping fitness professionals become better business owners, one episode at a time. All right. Zach Forest, my guest here today, we’re going to start with a real simple one that I pretty much start everyone with. So why don’t you just give everyone listening a quick backstory about you.
Zach Forrest: Yeah, totally ::dog barks:: Oh..what is going on outside…oh, Amazon. Can we start over?
Dan Uyemura: When your podcast starts off like that, you know, it’s gonna be a good one. In his past life as a Navy SEAL and a CrossFit Games competitor where the margin for error was razor thin, it was uniquely refreshing to start our podcast like that.
Today on The gymOS Podcast from PushPress, we have Zach Forrest, a long time gym owner himself. Zach joined the PushPress team to help us with Push Start, our initiative to help smaller and new gyms become more profitable. He’s also on the CrossFit certification staff traveling around the world, teaching others how to move better. I’ve been talking off and on with Zach about the gym business for years, and when we were able to snag him as a resource for other gym owners, I thought it was a huge win for PushPress. So now kick back, relax, and welcome to Episode 05 of The gymOS Podcast from PushPress where we talk to Zach Forest about the business of fitness.
All right, cool. Welcome back to The gymOS Podcast from PushPress. I’m your host, Dan Uyemura, and we got with us a cool guest today in Zach Forrest. A lot of you maybe already know who Zach is, but I’m gonna let him take it away and introduce himself for you all.
Zach Forrest: Yeah, nice. Thanks for having me, Dan. Let’s start when I found CrossFit back in 2005 while I was in the Navy. Dave Castro introduced me to this wonderful training methodology, and I’ve been doing it for a couple of years, got out of the military, and I didn’t really know what to do with my life, so I decided to open up an affiliate. This is back in 2008. I bootstrapped opening up the first affiliate in Las Vegas with another partner, and we grew it, and it was doing pretty well, we split off, we opened up multiple locations. Well, I did. He didn’t. Eventually it was five different gyms over the course of what is that…10 years that I had part in opening or owning, and it’s been a crazy ride. At a couple points, I went to the Games as a competitor, so I have that perspective and then also work on CrossFit headquarters seminar staff, teaching Level 1 and Level 2, so that’s basically a general overview of my experience within the CrossFit realm.
Dan Uyemura: Super cool. So many things I want to dive into, the first of which is, Dave Castro. What? Did you meet him in the military? Did you know him from all that?
Zach Forrest: Yeah, he was one of my instructors going through some training in the Navy. He didn’t really teach me about CrossFit as far as how to do the movements or how to coach or anything. He more or less exposed me and some of the other guys to CrossFit by, in the military, we say, “Hey, you’re getting volun-told to do this.” We had to give up one of our weekends and go through a course seminar on fitness, and we’re all looking around like what are people gonna teach us about fitness? We were super arrogant. And here comes Greg Glassman and Nicole Carroll. Nicole being a very, I mean, she’s definitely a fit looking human, but she’s a small female, and we’re all, I’m a small guy at 5’8 180 in this group, and here she is like kicking our asses in weightlifting movements like overhead squatting more than what we could. And we’re just like, “Okay, there might be something to this.” So after that weekend, Dave would continuously just throw these CrossFit workouts at us and they would wreck us. They would totally destroy us and his part in my development came from basically not being good enough in his eyes. At any point in time, he was just like “I mean why are you so tired during workouts.” “Well, I guess I need more fitness,” so that was his role in exposing me to CrossFit. Then, I got sent to another team across the country to the East Coast, and when I got there, they were doing CrossFit style stuff, and I would go back to Dave every now and ask him for advice or ask him, you know, “Hey, what do you think about doing this workout versus this? Or what about getting the guys to do something like that?” And he was kind of like a long distance mentor for me at that.
Dan Uyemura: Sorry, sorry about that. Around what year was this when he was volun-telling you to do CrossFit workouts?
Zach Forrest: That was around 2005. And I think they were doing Level 1 seminars, and that’s essentially what it was when we went through the seminar. We had no idea what it was, they didn’t call it a Level 1 course. It was more or less Greg, Nicole and Dave just teaching us about the fundamental movements, the foundational movements, and the concepts of work capacity across broad time and modal domains, how to eat, and then destroy us with these very, very simple workouts. And then I think when I got sent across country, that was, I think, around 2006 or 2007, I can’t remember, and then I got out in 2008. So yeah, that’s the time frame,very early on before the big boom.
Dan Uyemura: Ya know there’s this story, I’m curious if you know, that I’ve never heard. How did it sounds like Glassman and Castro hooked up pretty early in all this, but it also sounds like Castro is still working in the military. Do you know the story of that, and how that genesis happened?
Zach Forrest: Um, yeah, it’s like I mean, I’ve heard secondhand and Dave touched on a couple of times, but basically, I’m not exactly sure how Dave found it, but I know he reached out to Greg, and it grew very organically, Dave started helping with courses and then wanted to introduce it to the military on a larger scale. I know Greg had already had some sort of dealings with courses with the Marines, and Dave brought it to Naval Special Warfare, I’m pretty sure on the West Coast, and the details I don’t know, but I think it just kind of happened very organically. Dave wanted to help out and become more and more involved, I guess. I’m not sure if he was looking at it as a full time job or what? I can’t speak to that, but, I think it was his idea to do the Games while he was still in, and I think he just saw the potential for it, so when he got out, I think he just went with it. But again, this is all secondhand.
Dan Uyemura: Wow, so Dave’s vision for the Games might have been while he was still in the military, training people.
Zach Forrest: I’m pretty sure it was. Yeah.
Dan Uyemura: All right. I’m gonna put you on the hot seat with a question here that I’m sure you’re not prepped for, and hopefully you can answer. You’ve been to the CrossFit games, how many times?
Zach Forrest: Three times.
Dan Uyemura: Okay. What is a funny backstage moment at the Games that you probably had to be an athlete to witness or see? That’s something that I mean, hopefully you’re allowed to retail, but I’m just curious. There’s got to be some backstage shenanigans going on. I’m curious. Like, what’s something you can share with us?
Zach Forrest: There’s nothing, you know, it’s weird because there’s nothing that stands out as a single “oh my gosh that was hysterical.” I had a lot of fun on the demo team, but as an athlete you’re just trying to survive backstage. There’s, and it doesn’t really matter who you are if you’re Rich or Khalipa, it doesn’t matter who you are, but you’re back there playing your game in your head, and you’re having a good time and people joke around to alleviate stress or maybe some anxiety about upcoming workouts, but it’s a very, a very odd atmosphere behind the scenes. Everybody is very, very friendly, and in a competition like that where you’re about to go out and try to beat other people, it’s like there’s a switch. A lot of people, I don’t think, see that switch occur, they just see the athletes out on the floor dying or trying to go hard and Bridges’ trademark scream at the end of his heat win, they see aggressive, assertive behavior especially from the guys, but behind the scenes, behind the curtain everybody is joking with each other, smiling, high-fives, hugs, it’s very contrast to what you see on the field. That’s the thing I remember the most about the games.
Dan Uyemura: Yeah, you know, it’s interesting, as a spectator because I just barely missed the cut of making regionals and games myself, but it’s funny you say that because as a spectator my opinion of it is exactly what you just said. I don’t really see people being cutthroat, and I’ve always, now that you mention it, it’s a good question, I’ve always been curious, how do you go out there and want to just annihilate other people in competition because I know that’s what it’s like in sport, you wanna win, but then the minute you’re done, you’re picking someone else up off the ground. You’re giving them high fives and hugs your smiles, and it’s like the competition just ends the second you cross the finish line. Is there anything to that? I don’t get it? If I was on the floor…
Zach Forrest: It’s wasted brain space. To be honest, it’s 100% wasted brain space and wasted energy if you retain that aggression and assertion when the timer’s not going, that’s what I’ve always told myself, hey, when 3-2-1, go hits, yeah, you’re looking to your left, you’re looking to your right, you’re running your own race, but you want that race to beat everyone else out there. It’s like you have to use that drive and that emotion to give you that a little extra push, but that extra push drains your spirit, drains your mentality for a lot of people. I’m sure they’re people out there that this doesn’t pertain to, but when the heat is over, when the race is over, you don’t want to keep that in your mind, in your brain space. You want to let that go and kind of recover from the bout that just happened. So I see it is kind of like a switch, when it’s time, you flip the switch, and then when it’s not time, you turn it off, so you’re not wasting that mental energy.
Dan Uyemura: Yeah, I guess now that you mention it, I used to always question it, but now that you say that, like you watch an NBA game and at the end of the game, they’re hugging each other and hanging out, and it’s the same thing.
Zach Forrest: But you see that during the game?
Dan Uyemura: No, absolutely not.
Zach Forrest: Maybe for some players, but for the majority, I think that drive to win brings focus.
Dan Uyemura: Yeah, I could see it now. I guess I would always look at football, and I would think like they’re always on, but it’s probably the same. You just don’t see it. They don’t highlight it. Like after games, they’re hanging out and chilling.
Okay, cool. Now, let’s change gears really quick and talk about being on the L1 staff. I think that’s a pretty cool experience, unique, Not a lot of people have. Is there anything from the L1 coaching or L2 coaching experience that you can speak to that resonates with gym ownership? What it’s like going down the path of owning a gym, maybe stuff you see from people coming through the certification process that is similar or unique or something like that.
Zach Forrest: I mean, I enjoy this job tremendously. It’s allowed so much fulfillment in my life, and it’s allowed me to develop on many different levels. Anything from public speaking all the way to interpersonal skills we’re learning with different personality types. It’s very similar to coaching an affiliate in that sense, but on a broader sense. The one thing that I think most people should take away from the Level 1 and Level 2 is to hone your mastery of the basics, and I see this with gym owners more than any other demographic probably is that because they’re trying to make money, they’re always looking for the newest trend or the newest fad or the “shiny new object” when it comes to coaching, like here’s the quick fix, look at this mobility tool or look at this drill yada yada and while it’s good that you want to always be educating yourself, don’t lose sight of the fact that your ability to coach people through the basics really, really well, I’m not talking like good enough, I’m talking like mastery level air squat and the coaching of it, that is going to determine your effectiveness for 99% of people out there. It’s like learning a proper Wendler Cycle or how to marry small off squad cycles with CrossFit conditioning, which isn’t a thing by the way, learning how to do that stuff is not going to bring money in through your door, and that’s what I wish more people would not only understand but be able to follow through on executing. So I really appreciate it when affiliate owners, and this is happening more recently because of the time period, but affiliate owners are coming back through and they’re re-taking their Level 1 and retaking the Level 2, and at the end of the course, they’re like, “You know what, taking this course a second time, you guys have absolutely changed it for the better, and I think I’ve learned so much more, I’ve gained so much more insight having been in the game for as long as I have,” that makes me feel good when people that have been around for years come back to the courses, and they still take away more than what they took away at the initial course. That’s cool.
Dan Uyemura: Yeah. I mean, it’s always about getting better, right? I’m sure you guys in the course are improving your course. One thing you said that I think is important, this is a podcast about the business of fitness, not necessary fitness, and I think a good segue away from that is, as trainers, we hate it when people come to our gym saying, “Hey, I just wanna lose 20 pounds for my wedding next month. I don’t really want to do all the work, but I need the quick fix.” A quick fix doesn’t exist. It doesn’t matter what we’re talking about, there is no quick fix for it, and I think it’s an interesting segue to talk about, like mastering an air squat and and putting in the work to do the long tail fix is something that is a message of mine in terms of business, the business of fitness, and you’ve owned five gyms, you said?
Zach Forrest: Yeah, I opened and owned in some way or form, five gyms. We’re managing three. We’re running three affiliates at the end when we decided to close down and sell off everything. So over the course of 10 years, it was five gyms, five different gyms.
Dan Uyemura: So in light of that, in the light that there’s no quick fix, and there’s a lot of hard work in the consistent stuff that has to get done, what do you think is the number one thing gym owners should focus on in order to run a better business? From your experience.
Zach Forrest: My experience, again this goes back to what I was saying and there’s no one thing, but I would say you got to be good at the basics of business. I mean, you talk about this all the time when I’ve had conversations with you on these things, that’s the core values, your mission, what your vision is for your business. That’s the foundation of everything. You have to start there. But then what I think a lot of people skip is like basic financial management, you have to understand what money does for your business, and how it interacts inside your business. If you don’t, you’re gonna rely on the luck of your product, and the luck of your market, which is too much, the market is something you can’t control. You can control how money flows in and out of your business, and that’s something that you need to exert control over if you want to be successful.
So if a business owner came up to me and said, “Hey, here’s my problem, we’re not making enough money or I feel overwhelmed and all this other stuff, what should I do?” I would say, “Well, let’s take a look at your books, and if they were to tell me that, they didn’t have or they were to show me their books and they weren’t organized and they weren’t clear, and they weren’t presented in a way that gave us the information that we need, that’s the first order of business. If you can’t measure something, you can’t change it. So if you’re not recording and measuring money within your business, it’s not gonna get better. So that’s what I would say on that.
Dan Uyemura: Yeah, I think that’s really important. It’s something I believe a lot of people in general, gym owners specifically, basically do the “can I afford it” accounting method where it’s like I want to buy something, can I afford it yet? Okay, I got $300 in my bank account, I can afford it. If they can’t afford it, they don’t buy it. But the budgeting doesn’t happen. Forecasting doesn’t happen. Projecting doesn’t happen. These are all things that I do think gym owners need to start paying attention to and worrying about. Did you have a bookkeeper and accountant when you ran the gym?
Zach Forrest: Yeah, it was me. So I did, eventually, when we got to the point where I understood the rhythm of cash flow inside the business on a monthly basis, outsource the basic accounting and tax recording needs. So I would pay someone monthly and quarterly to do the basic accounting, the line by line, but then I would have access to the books, so if I ever want to go in and manually edit something or look at a PNL or a cash flow statement right then and there, obviously, I could. And I understood their accounting system, so it wasn’t foreign to me, I could interpret all the data that was in front of me. Literally, I have been doing that for all the businesses up until the last year, so 9 out of 10 years, one of my major roles inside the business was, CFO. I needed to understand what was happening with the money so I could dictate where the money needed to go, and it’s very hard to do that unless you have a good handle on, as a small business owner, in my opinion, a good handle on the day to day, week to week, month, to month transactions that are going on. So one of the easiest fixes for this is literally to spend 10 to 15 minutes at the end of every day, categorizing your income and expenses for that day into a good chart of accounts, and if you’re doing that at the end of the month, it should be crystal clear to you. The financial picture anyway.
Dan Uyemura: Right. I was just gonna ask you what a gym owner could do to get on the right path, but it sounds like you’ve just given that answer. So there’s probably a lot of gym owners right now listening, a book just came out recently, it’s called Profit First for Microgyms (John Briggs). We’re gonna have him on the podcast, the author, but outside of that book, is there another book or resource or website you can point people to that can help them start to go down this path of understanding their finances and taking control of that.
Zach Forrest: Profit First is great. It’s an accounting system and a way of managing, it’s a cash flow management system, and I definitely would back that, it’s phenomenal. But if you don’t understand some basic accounting and financial management terminology or concepts, it’s going to be less effective. So the first thing I would do is, there’s a book out there called Management By the Numbers (Chuck Kremer). It basically breaks down the big three, the scoreboard they call it, the profit and loss cash flow, the balance statement and some basic concepts between like cash and accrual counting, and makes it very, very simple. It makes it very, very easy to understand. It teaches someone how all three of those statements interact with each other, and how they paint a picture for the financial health of your business. I would recommend starting with that book. It’s very easy to read. It’s relatively short. You get it done over the course of a week, and if you if you understand it, you’re gonna walk away with a very sound grasp of everything that you need to in order to manage the basics. So that’s where I would I would recommend starting
Dan Uyemura: Very cool. I’m actually really, really glad that you’re so passionate about the concepts of business because most of the time when I talk to gym owners, they they want to be better business people, but then they keep gravitating back to coaching, and they keep gravitating back to the fitness and community end of things and I get it because that’s fun, but the concept of cash flow, if you don’t have your finances under control, and your cash flow under control, there will be no community or gym to coach at.
Zach Forrest: 100%. And I think, excuse me, affiliate owners need to be honest with themselves, and this goes back to the core values, and this goes back to before you even get into the financial systems is what you and I talk about all the time, the core values, your mission, your vision. If you’re an affiliate owner, you’re opening up on a business an affiliate business. The purpose of the business is to make money. It may not be the purpose of the affiliate, but the purpose of business is to make money. If you have no interest in making money, you should either be a nonprofit affiliate or you should just be a coach in someone else’s affiliate. It’s as simple as that, and, in my opinion, you can open up a hobby gym and be an affiliate nonprofit and that’s fine, and this doesn’t pertain to you, but if you open up an affiliate as a business, then you need to understand money. If all you want to do is coach, then go be a coach. That’s different.
Dan Uyemura: Yeah, it’s funny. Like how much stress would alleviate from so many owners if they just were a coach somewhere, ya know.
Zach Forrest: Absolutely. If you were able to make a living as a coach, that was me for my first 5 years. I didn’t want to do any of that stuff, I grew to enjoy it. But it’s like, man, why do I have to do all this stuff? All I wanna do is coach and help people. Well, in order to keep the doors open, I have to do this stuff really, really well. Otherwise, I’m not gonna be able to coach and help people. So yeah.
Dan Uyemura: Yeah. Some huge concepts, man. I had something I wanted to ask you, and I forgot, so let me try and think real quick. I can’t remember, it had something to do with what you were just talking about, but that’s fine. We’re gonna move on.
So one thing I like to ask people, I’m, as I’ve said in previous podcasts, I’m a big believer in failures, and I’ve had my fair share of failures, and it really made me a better person. Are there any standout moments in your life where you thought it was all ruined. It was all over. You screwed it all up, and looking back on it now, you learned something from it. You grew from it. Is there? Is there any moment of life for you like that?
Zach Forrest: Oh, absolutely. Many of those moments have occurred in the past 10 years of owning and running gyms. The biggest, it’s almost like you’re asking me if I have any regrets or like…lessons learned?
Dan Uyemura: No, no, not necessarily, not regrets. Yeah, more like, so I think I talked about this with Nick. There’s moments in your life where in the moment you’re like, “that’s it,” you know, when you get fired from a job, you’re like I’m never gonna find another job as good as this one, and then you ask someone 18 months later, and they’re like that was the best thing ever happened to me. I like to exemplify that because a lot of like, right now, somebody might be listening to this and like this is the worst situation I’ve ever been in, but there’s light at the end of the corner. Have you had a moment like that where in the moment, it was the worst thing ever, and now you look back and you learned a lot from it. That was a good experience, actually, and I’m glad it happened.
Zach Forrest: Oh, yeah. So, for example, firing people, both employees, staff members and members…unfortunately, I am a people pleaser, and I don’t like confrontation that’s going to make someone feel inadequate or upset. I don’t know, I don’t avoid confrontation because I’ll argue with someone else, I’ll point out when I feel like someone’s wrong or I’ll voice my opinion, but I always want to give people a second chance. There was this time where I had a fire an employee because I had given him too many second chances, and after the fact, I realized I should have given him the one second chance and had this conversation with him a lot sooner and as soon as I had the final conversation with that employee, it was like a weight lifted off my shoulders… like, oh, yeah, that was definitely the right thing to do. Okay, lesson learned. Slow to hire, quick to fire. I get it. People have told me that, and it took a long time for me to actually understand it, and I think it’s probably one of the most important lessons an affiliate owner that’s trying to grow their business can learn because your team is gonna make your product. Your team is going to be what it is that you’re selling, aside from your facility. But your ability to choose good coaches and then get one of the ones that you made a mistake about, that needs to be learned quick.
Dan Uyemura: Yeah, and for sure there’s probably people listening right now who are totally personalizing that and saying like, “Oh, there’s a conversation I need to have with a coach.” One antidote to that I will make. I’m a huge believer in what you just said, but one thing I’ve noticed, too, is there’s a saying, “You gotta have the right butts in the right seats and a lot of times that doesn’t necessarily mean that, well, first of all, every human being on this planet means to do well and is good, right? Maybe not every human being, but let’s just assume if you’ve hired them, they’re probably not a sinister, evil person. Right? And so letting someone go could be putting them into a situation where they can take what they’re good at somewhere else and actually succeed. And they might be non confrontational and not want to quit, they might feel like they’re gonna put you out.
Zach Forrest: And that was my issue, going back to what you said about having the right butts in the right seats, that was 100% my mentality. I was like, “Okay, I have the right people on the bus, now I need to put them in the right seats.” I couldn’t get past the fact that I had hired people that weren’t right for the bus. You know what I mean? There were two people that I can think of readily that shouldn’t have been on the bus to begin with, and my mistake came in trying to move them around to different seats way too much when I should have just fired them from the beginning and right. And I know there are affiliate owners out there, saying “this person, they worked their butts off, they’re a good coach, but I can’t get them to do this or they kind of have this habit of doing that.” If they don’t fit culturally or if when it comes to work ethic or maybe views on how to implement programming or interaction with members, it doesn’t really matter, you’re not gonna find a good seat for that person. You may, but it’s not gonna be worth the effort.
Dan Uyemura: Yeah. The point I was gonna make is there’s been instances where I had the right butts and I had them in the wrong seat, and the minute we moved the seats around, they flourished. But from my experience running a gym, you’re actually right, there’s not a lot of seats on the bus in a gym. You don’t have the economics to hire a marketing team or sales. It’s coaches and owners and maybe some janitors or whatever, but there’s not a lot of seats on the bus in a gym. So there’s not really that many places you can move them around to make them work.
Zach Forrest: Yeah, I totally understand that.
Dan Uyemura: All right, cool. So, in the spirit of helping gym owners learn more, my big thing right now is learn, learn, learn, education, education, education. I believe as long as your mind is tuned into learning, I listen to as many podcasts as I can because even if it applies to me or doesn’t or if I actually take away anything. I think it’s just turning my brain on and making my brain just learn, just soaked more up. Do you have any other podcasts or books that you would recommend that gym owners to listen to, read or otherwise consume?
Zach Forrest: It’s funny that you say that because I was just thinking about for Push Start putting out a list of must reads or something like that. I’m not a big podcast guy. I don’t really listen to podcasts. I find I don’t retain the information that well, but I’m a huge reader, I love reading. Recently, I’ve been doing the CrossFit.com book club books. So it’s one book a month, and it’s forced me to back off the business and personal development stuff because the information has been about science in the health industry. So this month is Good Calories, Bad Calories. That’s what I’m reading. And that’s proving to be a solid read. Last month it was Rigor Mortis (Richard Harris). So those are a couple books that if you’re into the health side of things and you wanna learn about science or bad science in our industry and even some bigger industries, then go ahead and read that, but as far as podcasts go, I have nothing. I don’t really listen to them.
Dan Uyemura: Alright, I’m the exact opposite. I love podcasts.
Zach Forrest: I want to like them…but when do you listen to them?
Dan Uyemura: So for me, I’ve actually taken up some monostructural, solo type fitness endeavors like running, biking and stuff like that, and the reason I do it is because it gives me a half an hour to an hour where there’s nothing around me that could distract me, and I can focus on learning, so it’s kind of a double whammy for me. Also, while I’m driving, I listen to podcasts every time I get in the car.
Zach Forrest: So I tried that, Monday I was driving and I started thinking about what the podcast was saying and I got distracted, and I ran a red light. So I was like, “okay, I’m not gonna do that anymore.”
Dan Uyemura: So you just reminded me of what I brain farted on earlier, I wanted to talk about Push Start. I know it’s kind of an amorphous thing. So we’re big on experimenting and trying to figure out how to make things better for people, and that requires testing and learning and these kinds of things with the product, and Push Start has been a learning experience. We brought you on to help new gym owners or smaller gym owners grow and succeed. I’m just curious, do you want to speak to the audience about what your vision is in terms of how you can help gyms, what PushPress is trying to do to help gyms, where were positioned, and all that.
Zach Forrest: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, my vision is to come up with some sort of curriculum, if you will, or learning module for gym owners, be it the experienced veteran affiliate owners that have been around, the salty ones, for years and years, 5+ years, to the brand new affiliate that’s just starting out. I want to squash those foundations like I was talking earlier. I want to get them all in front of people, the topics that they need to learn, so that they can start down the path of proficiency and the mastery in the basics. So Push Start, it kind of flows as a pyramid, with the foundation learning about your core values, your mission, your vision, stuff like that flowing into financial systems, flowing into onboarding new members, and your service. But it’s all basic stuff. So Push Start centers around learning the basics that an affiliate could use to get a really, really sound foundation, and send the affiliate off to success. That’s what I’m looking to do.
Dan Uyemura: Now running a gym, depending on your region, depending on the modality of the gym that you’re operating, be it yoga or CrossFit or whatever. I mean, it’s not one single thing, right? There’s different ways to be successful in owning a gym.
Zach Forrest: Oh, there’s many different ways to be successful in a gym. Absolutely.
Dan Uyemura: Do you find that, given that, what percentage of running a gym do you think is the same across all of these different gym types and regions?
Zach Forrest: That’s a hard question to answer. A percentage? It’s very hard to do that. While there are many different ways to run a successful gym, there are fewer ways, let’s say, there are fewer ways to run a successful brick and mortar service based business.
Dan Uyemura: That’s a great answer.
Zach Forrest: That’s what Push Start is really aimed at doing. I don’t care if you do yoga or spin class or HIIT training or boxing or CrossFit. There are certain things that all brick and mortar, service-based businesses need to implement in order to have a strong foundation from which to be successful, and that’s what I want business or specifically affiliate owners to learn and become proficient at. Does that makes sense?
Dan Uyemura: That makes total sense. I know the percentage is hard to do, in my mind, it’s like, I think the way you phrased it is perfect I’m gonna start using that, any brick and mortar service-based business, in my mind is like 70% the same.
Zach Forrest: Right. You know what, I would go with that. That makes sense.
Dan Uyemura: Yeah. That’s totally unscientific. That’s just me kind of just putting it together in my brain. But yeah, there’s certain things you have to do and doesn’t matter what you’re doing, as long as it’s a service business, the concepts and the philosophies and the procedures around them stay the same, it’s just the execution differs.
Zach Forrest: Right and until there’s like a major market shift, a major market shift or a big change to how service-based businesses deliver their service, those things are going to stay the same. And when those big changes happen, those businesses will have to adapt or not and do poorly based off that. But until then, it’s like you all need the same thing, you all need a clear cut vision and mission for what you want to do, you all need sound financial systems for managing the cash, the expenses and the revenues, you all need to have a good way of delivering the service, a consistent way of delivering the service, not just one person that can do it well, but like a consistent way to train other people to deliver the service. I mean, there’s a good amount of things that need to be shared across businesses. However, like you said, the execution of those things will be different. And that’s the best thing about the affiliate community is that you’re allowed to be different. You’re allowed to explore your curiosity when it comes to doing those things and prove that your way works better or just as good as someone else’s way, and in doing so, hopefully keep it open source so that everybody can learn.
Dan Uyemura: Yeah, open source, I love that concept. Maybe another topic for another day. But, one last thing, this is kind of one that I know is dear to your heart, and you’re very passionate about, so I want to dive into this. One of my predictions for this year moving forward in our community is barbells will be going away more and more. The concept that Stuart Brauer and them are pushing, and I personally believe in, of operational efficiency, is going to be taking either barbells off the floor or shortening them or moving more to dumbbells and kettlebells or whatever. You don’t feel that way. Give me your one or two minute pitch on why, why that’s wrong, why that won’t happen, or why that shouldn’t happen.
Zach Forrest: I think barbells aren’t gonna go away for a CrossFit affiliate. I think, in order to be a strength and conditioning program true to CrossFit, you’ll want barbells just because they’re so centric to the programming and the efficacy of the program. I mean, you can get results and you can increase your fitness, and you can increase your work capacity across broad time and modal domains without barbells, just to a less effective extent, in my opinion as a coach. I understand Stuart’s place and stance on how much real estate they take up and the stigma, the social stigma of training with the barbell, I understand those things, but I think it’s our responsibility as trainers and as business owners and as the proprietors of the service basically that we need to change that stigma. We’re probably never gonna change the cost. I understand that. so you’re gonna have to come up with different ways to circumvent that, and I think that just takes more creative people. But the efficacy of the barbell is something that I don’t think is ever gonna go away. I mean, look at how long that tool has been around. It’s like saying to a carpenter, “you know what? I don’t think hammers are gonna stick around too long” in my opinion, you know. So I think you could be successful without using barbells as a gym, but as a CrossFit affiliate, putting on a solid CrossFit program, barbells will be centric to it.
Dan Uyemura: Got it? So then, yeah, I don’t think there’s ever gonna be an argument on how efficient barbells are in terms of the training methodology, it’s more the business and financial aspect of it all, but your your argument is a a wildly profitable gym, CrossFit gym, can be built around barbells 100%
Zach Forrest: I don’t think they could be built around them. I think they will be involved in just because people will want them.
Dan Uyemura: Rather, I should say you don’t have to remove barbells from a program in order to become profitable.
Zach Forrest: Correct, 100%. I think you can absolutely be profitable, and it might even be slightly easier to be profitable if you’re going out after that demographic. Stu has proven that it seems or at least shown that it is possible. So yeah, either way.
Dan Uyemura: I mean, that’s the great thing about all this, right? Like you can decide what you want to do, and you can figure out how you want to do it best, and you’ll see if it works.
Zach Forrest: I want to see how strong someone can get without using a barbell. I want to see the upper end of strength limit without barbell training.
Dan Uyemura: No, you win there for sure. Absolutely, it’s more, it’s that sliding scale between the results you bring your clients, what they want their results to be like, what your clientele want, and then the business, right? Can you make enough money? And that’s kind of the sliding scale of everything we’re trying to figure out here and help our clients explore.
Zach Forrest: Yeah, absolutely.
Dan Uyemura: Well, hopefully we’ll get a chance to maybe prove your methodology in real life, soon.
Zach Forrest: I’m hoping. That’s another conversation though.
Dan Uyemura: Alright, so there you have it, another episode of The gymOS Podcast from PushPress in the books. That was Zach Forrest, ex Navy Seal, gym owner, CrossFit games competitor, and currently heading up our Push Start initiative here at PushPress, which is aimed at helping smaller and underperforming gyms become more profitable.
If you have any interest or questions about the Push Start program, make sure you head on over to PushPress.com and find the link for Push Start in the footer. Zack is here to answer your questions and help get you on the right track, and the resource is free, our gift to you guys in the gym community doing great work.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode of The gymOS Podcast. If you have, make sure you give us a like, write a review for us, it would help other gym owners find us as they continue down their journey of trying to become better business owners, also. If you haven’t already done so, you can subscribe to us on Apple podcasts, on Spotify or wherever you happen to be listening to this podcast right now, I would super appreciate it, and I would love to bring more information to you week after week.
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