This is a fun episode because Dan and Chris get to rap about their early years of gym ownership as well as their journey to starting PushPress.
Chris is a co-founder and the Chief Product Officer at PushPress. He’s the man responsible for making sure everything looks good and functions to the highest standard.
This is a fun episode because Dan and Chris get a chance to rap about their early years of gym ownership as well as their journey to starting PushPress. Chris also dives into why, as a gym owner, you need to care about your brand, aesthetic, and the user experience you’re creating for your customers.
“It’s all about incremental improvement. Try and do one thing every day better than yesterday, and then you’ll look back at your gym in six months and be like, “Oh, actually, we have made some progress.” — Chris McConachie
Chris McConachie: And then I walked, you know, 20 steps towards the front door, and I stopped in front of a little garden there, and I’m like, “What do you see?” You know, they mentioned a few things, right? And I was like, “What about that deuce that’s growing fur in the front garden that’s been there for a month, right?
Dan Uyemura: Welcome to The gymOS Podcast, helping fitness professionals become better business owners, one episode at a time. So one thing I see going around all kinds of business ownership forms is this age old debate about “Do you take a business partner or not?” I am a founder who, I pretty much firmly believe you should take a partner, but I do understand why people say not to. And the main reason for that is these crazy business fallouts that happen. I weathered one myself at my first gym. We had a pretty crazy business fallout, and it took a few friendships with it, and so I totally understand that argument. On the flip side of that, however, is today’s story.
Today we’re bringing in Chris McConachie. He’s a co-founder here at PushPress and he was actually a co-founder at my first gym, the one that completely imploded. As it turns out, I did something in my ignorance in this time that I would never recommend anyone do, and I would never do again myself. And that was, I took a business partner that I had never met until he was part of the business, and that was Chris. We had a mutual friend, somebody that I had wanted to open the gym with, and Chris was the best friend of this guy, and it turns out that this guy was the one that we had a kind of a falling out over. Actually it was me that caused the fall out, and I will own it. This person got really upset with me, and he wanted me out of the gym, and through that fall out, Chris and him kind of fell out too. It was hard for all of us at the time, literally Chris married this guy, it was one of his best friends. Through that fall out, Chris and I kind of survived, and we kept working on PushPress and here we are today. So in some weird way, it reaffirms everything a lot of people that don’t want business partners are saying. But on the other hand, I ended up with one of my best friends, a business partner who is rock solid, and honestly, if I didn’t create LAX with this random new person, PushPress would be a completely different experience because I was a programmer and I didn’t understand what aesthetic and beauty and ease of use and user experience meant. I just cared about getting stuff done, and I would have built a crappy product to be honest. So today’s episode we bring in Chris, he’s gonna talk about why brand matters, why aesthetics matters, why your user experience and the user interface of your gym matter, and what the hell is the user interface of your gym, so we’re gonna let Chris dive deep into that right now.
Alright and we’re live in the next episode of The gymOS Podcast from PushPress, I’ve got with us today co-founder of PushPress and a partner in opening a gym with me at LAX CrossFit, Chris McConachie. Chris, you want to say hi to everyone?
Chris McConachie: Hello, everyone.
Dan Uyemura: Nice and simple. I like it. Cool. So Chris has been with us from the get go here. He actually helped me open LAX CrossFit way back in the day. What was that, like, 2010?
Chris McConachie: Yeah, right at the end of 2010.
Dan Uyemura: Yep. So we’re kind of getting in the middle of the boom of the early days of CrossFit. It was pretty fun, and we did open LAX with the intent of trying to check out if we wanted to do PushPress, right?
Chris McConachie: Yeah. There was always that kind of underlying idea that the gym was one thing, brick and mortar, and then there’s this software side to it as well.
Dan Uyemura: Yeah. So let’s quickly back on up and let’s talk about your background. Like, tell us where you came from. You got this weird Australian accent or what not?
Chris McConachie: Yeah. First point of clarity. It’s not Australian. So I grew up in New Zealand and went to school there. Just graduated from university, so it was in my early twenties, and I decided I needed a break. And it was going into what was it November, so going into New Zealand summer, and I just wanted to go snowboarding. So the opportunity was that America was going into a winter, so I figured I’d just come over here and go snowboarding for six months and that would be a good break before I kind of get back into finding a job.
Dan Uyemura: Right on. And how did that go? Obviously you’re still here.
Chris McConachie: It was a pretty good snowboarding season, but then, you know, the snow melted, and I was kind of looking at going back, and so I had my options, which was travel around a little bit or go back to New Zealand and get a job, like a real job or since LA was so close because we actually went to Mammoth Mountain, which is in California, about five hours north of LA I guess, just go back to LA and see what’s going on there because it was kind of the start of the of the first dot com booms, right?
Dan Uyemura: Early 2000…
Chris McConachie: Yeah about 2000. Yeah, so I was like, I don’t really have too much to lose, so I was like I’ll just go to LA.
Dan Uyemura: Right on, so why don’t you set the stage for that? What was that experience? Like moving to LA, you come over to go snowboarding and just stuck. Did you find a job? Where did you live? Like, how’d it all that work?
Chris McConachie: Yeah, didn’t 100% go to plan, so I learned a few things along the way. I’ve never had a problem like getting a job before, like in college or whatever, but then coming to LA I didn’t actually know, well, I had one friend that I moved down from Mammoth with because she wanted to come down too. But other than that, I had no contacts here, and so getting a job or any advice or anything is a little difficult if you move to a place and you don’t know anyone there, so that was the first problem. And then the second problem was getting someone to live, like if you don’t have, at that point, I didn’t have a credit history. And so the landlords don’t really want to rent to you, so there’s that problem. And in the third problem was cash flow, which I’m sure gym owners would appreciate, but I just ran out of money. I miscalculated how much money you needed to live here.
Dan Uyemura: So luckily, you were walking the streets of sunset making some money.
Chris McConachie: Oh, yeah, Yeah. I had to do a few…
Dan Uyemura: Dastardly deeds?
Chris McConachie: Yeah, weird things to get some money in some clutch times, but, you know, there was days where I think at one point, we were kind of really rationing out, we started pulling out what little money we had left and we had to walk, like, a couple of hours to a taco bell to split a bean cheese burrito.
Dan Uyemura: Is this in the day when they were still 59 cents?
Chris McConachie: Yeah, it was like we can make this last for two days here.
Dan Uyemura: I lived on those in college. Yeah. All right, cool. So for all the listeners out there, Chris comes from a design? UX? UI? Why, what would you classify this as?
Chris McConachie: Yeah, I just call it design background. I have a degree in industrial design, which is more product, furniture, transportation type stuff like physical objects. But the concept of design, I think, transcend a lot of different areas like that. So everything I’ve been traditionally trained on applies to anything digital.
Dan Uyemura: So, I mean, I guess, how could you sum up your role here in terms of what you do at PushPress for the listeners?
Chris McConachie: So official title is, depends on the day, Head of Product, Chief Product Officer, something along those lines, but it’s in charge of the vision and the direction of the product. So what that means is, I will take inputs from the business unit, what we need to accomplish is a business, talk with engineering on a daily basis, figure out limitations on that side and opportunities on that side, also with sales to figure out what the customers are wanting, and also customer service, which is feedback from an existing product. It’s a delicate balance between trying to keep all those departments happy, and move the product forward.
Dan Uyemura: Right. So I’ll be the first admit in the early days of PushPress, we, I wouldn’t say fought, but we disagreed quite a bit.
Chris McConachie: Spirited debates.
Dan Uyemura: Yeah, and I come from a developer background, and developers are trained to hate designers because they basically make us do a whole bunch of work we don’t want to do for reasons that don’t make any sense to us. And that’s like moving buttons from left to right, changing the color of things. It’s just useless stuff because developers like making stuff work. I’ve learned now that designers come from this other angle of things, form, and programmers come from the angle of things of function. And there’s this intersection of form and function that’s super important to make anything work, right. I mean, not even just software, but a gym or even a coffee shop, right? What’s your feeling on form over function, function over form?
Chris McConachie: So, yeah, we talked about a lot of that in design school, actually, but for me, it’s, you have to find that delicate balance because if you swing too far in one direction, you lose sight of the other direction and you don’t have a cohesive product that works, right? So when we sort of talk about the gym, you can have the flashest looking building and colors and logo and brand, but if you’re coaching sucks, then you’re probably probably only gonna be so effective in business.
Dan Uyemura: And vice versa. I was actually, that was my follow-up question, like for people who aren’t, like form and function are pretty industry words, in a gym, what would form be in this equation? Not form, like movement form.
Chris McConachie: Yeah, it is funny, because movement form would be more function, I think, and form would be more of the aesthetic, I think. Right. So you walk into the front, you see the front desk rap, you walk into the gym floor, how does it look?
Dan Uyemura: So the way I try to personally classify it and I don’t know if this is right, but form would be like more of an emotional, more of a feeling, it could be physical, but it’s usually generates back to like how you end up kind of feeling or seeing things. I don’t know if that makes any sense.
Chris McConachie: Yeah, it’s really hard to put a value on it, too. Yeah, because how do you know how you value those feelings? But ultimately, that’s what you’re trying to do is get people to come back when they don’t even know why they’re coming back.
Dan Uyemura: Yeah, and then so, again, in the lens of a gym, what would function be in the form over function? Function or form equation?
Chris McConachie: Yeah. Function, I think, would be more along the lines of your coaching and that product that you’re gonna deliver. Like, are you gonna deliver the fitness goals of what that client is looking for?
Dan Uyemura: Okay, so to make this very blatantly clear, Like when we’re talking form, we’re talking brand, colors, how your website might be, the feeling I get when I see your gym in your marketing materials. It could be your front desk aesthetic, the way equipment is laid out in your gym.
Chris McConachie: Yeah. I mean, I think it’s even, I mean, there’s more pieces to it than that which I think a lot of people don’t realize. Yeah, but it’s like you know, like, do you have a front desk person that greets you? And what is the tone of voice that they’re using? You know, how do they talk? What’s the consistency of classes and how they’re run and things like that. Yeah, it’s kind of all brand.
Dan Uyemura: And then function would be, I think, what most gym owners relate to and love doing, and that’s gonna be quality of coaching, programming, the class types you’re offering. Like the actual product. So, let’s relate that to kind of the software world for a second. I like talking, when we have this form over function function of reform discussion, it’s pretty well known and understood in our industry that beautiful websites or beautiful web apps do better than non beautiful ones, and there’s many aspects to what beautiful is. But when we talk about this balance in the middle, I like to look at, I’d like to discuss things like Craigslist and Google, which both started completely function over form, and ended up being to the biggest web applications in whatever genre they’re in. Can you explain how a product can take off function over form and how it can buck the trends? And can they buck the trend forever? Or does a shift have to get made? Because Google was, in the early days, Google was horrific, but it worked.
Chris McConachie: Yeah, I think times are changing a little bit on that. So we did see some product, Craigslist is an awesome example of just complete function, but you have to remember that back in the day, people weren’t on mobile so much and download speeds were crazy slow, so they stripped off all the styling to make it load fast and make it super practical, and put everything you needed on there.
Dan Uyemura: That was Google’s stance, too.
Chris McConachie: Yep. And that worked for a while. But now Craigslist is being overtaken in many different areas, like, if you look at how Airbnb got started, they took a lot of the clientele from Craigslist, they were offering the same or similar service, but everyone started going to Airbnb, one reason was because it was just a much nicer experience
Dan Uyemura: Yeah, if I’m looking for a rental. Cruising through Craigslist looking for a place to rent is pretty terrible compared to Airbnb.
Chris McConachie: But it was interesting seeing how Google turned the corner. At some point, I forget what year, but I was always like, “Oh they don’t value design at all.” They’re completely function, and even speaking to designers there back in the day and they were leaving and that really good designers and I got the impression that it wasn’t in their DNA, and then at some point, they launched that material design guidelines. And that was when, in my opinion, they surpassed Apple in terms of design, and just like, you know, like a kit you can use to build your web apps and things like that.
Dan Uyemura: Let’s actually dive into that. That’s an interesting concept, it’s something you’ve done here, and I know you’ve put out there for gyms, most gym owners probably haven’t seen this or found this. If you haven’t, search…you have a logo design kit or something for gyms?
Chris McConachie: Oh, yeah. Just PushPress, one word, logo one sheet.
Dan Uyemura: Yep. So let’s talk about this, I like giving gym owners something actionable they can do or tidbits they can take away from this podcast and actually start thinking about how to make their gym better. How can a gym and why would a gym put together some type of brand identity kit for their own gym? Like, why would they take the time to do that? Should they take the time to do that?
Chris McConachie: Ah, yes, it serves, I think, two purposes. So the first one, is when you open your gym, you’re like, all right, I need a logo because I need to put it on, well I don’t know if people still use business cats, but I need to put it on the outside of the building. I need to put it on a T-shirt, and I need to put it on my website.
Dan Uyemura: And Facebook page and Instagram.
Chris McConachie: Yeah, but they don’t think a lot more beyond that, and then, but once you’ve been in business for a couple of years, you realize, ‘Oh, so and so asked me for logo because I did some promotional product with a logo on it.” And just there’s just a 1,000,000 different use cases for your logo and your brand and your color and all that kind of stuff. And so for me, because I was the go to point when we opened LAX , I just got kind of sick of everyone asking me for this stuff, and I’d have to dig through my files every time.
Dan Uyemura: For the same logo in a different format.
Chris McConachie: Yeah. So that was one reason, so you could just point someone to an area and they could go and grab it themselves, and then the other one is when you actually go through that process, you actually really stopped challenging yourself and thinking about all the different use cases.
Dan Uyemura: I think that’s the valuable end of it. The first part of it, understandable, because you’re the one getting harassed all the time for a logo. But really, what it is, is having to go through the process of actually thinking through what you wanna do, how you wanna represent yourself, why you want to represent yourself that way. What your tone is, all that kind of stuff.
Chris McConachie: Yeah, Yeah, and you can, for a gym, you can go fairly basic. You could just look at your different logo variants, your colors, tone of voice, maybe a typeface.
Dan Uyemura: And in my opinion, this is probably something a lot of gym owners don’t do the exploration of, but like, it kind of starts with how you want to be seen. I’m sure there’s a technical word for that, but you could probably write down like, three or five words of how you want your gym to be seen…friendly, competitive, you know, words like that…compassionate, helping. And then I think there’s colors that probably represent those things and typefaces and the way you draw up your logo. We used to make fun of gyms way back when we opened our first gym because this is the time when everyone’s website had, like, rotating flaming kettlebells on it for their “email us” logos and stuff like that. But I remember when we opened LAX, the idea was that it was a friendly, welcoming family gym, and the last thing we wanted was a flaming kettlebell.
Chris McConachie: Yeah, I just didn’t want to really work out with 95% other dudes with gray walls with a red stripe on it, so I was very conscious of it.
Dan Uyemura: I remember when we opened LAX, I was pretty pissed off you didn’t want to have black walls with a red stripe or red walls with a black stripe. Chris picked this, it was like Seattle Seahawks blue. I don’t know how to explain it, it was like this super bright blue, actually it was Seattle Seahawks and super bright green color for LAX, and I remember thinking it was the most hideous thing ever, and I didn’t really know Chris well enough to say anything at the time, that would be our first argument over design, but ultimately, I think he won because once it went up on the walls. I was like, “This is fucking amazing. It looks great.” And it looks like no other gym around us.
Chris McConachie: Yeah…thanks. ::laughter::
Dan Uyemura: So let’s dive into the idea of your role here and how that can translate into a gym. The three words I kind of want to focus in on are brand, UI, and UX. Can you define those three things for people who might not know the technical jargon there?
Chris McConachie: Yeah. So a brand is fairly all encompassing. It’s, like I mentioned earlier, it’s a lot more than your logo and your colors. It’s your tone and voice. It also goes into feeling like, how do you want people to feel about you? For example, like, what you were just saying is, when we talk about emotions and how you describe the gym, so imagine if you had a new member come in and they do your intro workout, or however they get started, then they go home and they tell their family or friends like ow do you want them to describe your gym to people that have never been there before? So think about that, try and run through some drills if you’re gym owner, and maybe get feedback from people on how they described it, so that’s brand. It’s really big. Then UI, in the software world, that’s user interface. So that’s things like, is this gonna be a button or a drop down? How do you interact with the actual page? Like the elements on the page. There’s right ways to do it, there’s proven methods.
Dan Uyemura: Ok, so UI, it’s the interaction of a user with whatever interface you have. And don’t worry gym owners, we’re gonna relate this back to a gym in a second. So, in the software world, that’s how they interact with the software, the web page or the app. Yeah, okay, and then UX.
Chris McConachie: Then UX, UX is the user experience, so that’s more how they feel as they went through it, and there will be more to do with your imagery, colors and things like that. And then also, how easy was it, if you’re doing a sign up flow, do you have to do, you know, 20 clicks and 45 inputs to get into the system? Or can you get that completed in under a minute? And that’s the user experience, they’ll walk away going, like to relate to a gym, “Oh, this gym is simple, easy, straightforward.”
Dan Uyemura: Right. So in the software end, because a lot of times UI and UX are blended so close together that it’s easy to lose track of it. I wanna give an example, and tell me if I’m on point here, but, like, you know, sometimes you go through, like you’re signing up for an event and it asks for your address, city, state, zip and all that, even phone number, UI would be the form fields you’re entering the data into, but UX might be like it asked for the zip code first, and from that, it automatically knows your city, state, zip. It might know your country code, so it already puts a little US flag next to it or whatever, and that’s the experience of taking the elements on the page and arranging them in such a way that the experience is more…better, more better.
Chris McConachie: More better, that’s a total technical term.
Dan Uyemura: Is that design term? ::laugher::
Chris McConachie: Yep.
Dan Uyemura: More better. Is that right?
Chris McConachie: Yeah. You nailed it.
Dan Uyemura: Okay, so they do blend, UI and UX blend, and that’s why usually people are called UI/UX professionals together? Because it’s, you can’t really do one without the other, I’m assuming.
Chris McConachie: Yeah. I mean, I would even go so far as, to do it well, you need to even understand a bigger picture in that as well. Like, I think you need to have a solid grasp of engineering and capabilities on that front.
Dan Uyemura: Yeah, absolutely. Like, you need to know how the implementation works, if it’s even possible, but I would say you also have to be kind of a psychologist because you got to be able to get in the user’s brains and understand, like, what do they expect to see? How will this make them feel, you know, and be able to evaluate that, and judge on it. So anyway, let’s relate that to the gym because no gym owner here gives a shit about building software, I think. So in a gym, let’s do the easy one first, brand. How can a gym owner, how should they see their brand, how should they work on their brand, how should they approach that?
Chris McConachie: Yeah, so, first of all, I’d recommend that you get a professional. I see too many gym owners do it themselves because they can.
Dan Uyemura: Okay, so let’s pause right there. Professionals are bank, we know that. How do you get a professional brand put in place in your gym without spending a professional amount of money? $10,000 plus?
Chris McConachie: Yeah. There’s such a range.
Dan Uyemura: Fiverr?
Chris McConachie: So Fiverr is one resource that I don’t hate. I would really look in your community. Like you have to, the odds are in a gym of, say, just 100 members, you’ve got one or two competent designers.
Dan Uyemura: At least one that thinks they are. Well, what if you’re a new gym?
Chris McConachie: Yeah, if you’re a new gym, then you have to use your existing network. Like everyone knows 150 people, there has to be someone that you know, right? And fortunately, in the early days, at least you have a service to trade.
Dan Uyemura: Yeah, you can probably get away with that if that cousin or friend of yours does not already belong to a CrossFit or another type of gym. You can probably trade some personal training and some guidance for design work. Okay, that’s a good, good piece of advice. You could probably barter that out or barter it and pay them a cut rate if they’re really good. Ok, so User Interaction (UI). What is that in the gym and what can a gym owner do to start thinking about improving?
Chris McConachie: The UI is you need to take a good look around of, mostly how it looks and what pieces people interact with, right? Like, is it functional? There was one exercise I did with the Hagiyas, I made them, well, I took them out to the car park and told them to get out of the car. We got in the car, told them to get out of the car, and…
Dan Uyemura: So you drove into the parking lot like you’re a customer. Okay?
Chris McConachie: I wanted them to see their gym through the lens of a potential new customer.
Dan Uyemura: And what, they have like a notepad, pen and paper?
Chris McConachie: We didn’t get that technical, but it was a pretty good conversation. And so it was, you get out the car, right? What do you see? And they mentioned a few things, “Oh there’s a bit of trash over there, right?” But they wouldn’t have seen that if I didn’t ask them. What do you see? And then I walked, you know, 20 steps towards the front door, and I stopped them in front of a little garden there, and I’m like, “What do you see?” They mentioned a few things, right? And I was like, “What about that deuce that’s growing fur in the front garden, that’s been there for a month, you know? ::laughter::
Dan Uyemura: It’s funny how you overlook, and I guarantee you whatever gym owners are listening to us right now, that there’s something in their gym like this. There’s chipped off paint on the wall, trash in the corner and an old tire that’s been disintegrating in the back. Like you just overlook it cause it’s been there. It’s a fixture like that piece of crap that was in front of the door of Torrance Training Lab. You just walked past it for so many times that you don’t notice it, but your clients and potential clients.
Chris McConachie: Yeah, well, probably your existing clients that’ve been there for a while, they’ll stop noticing it, too. But you gotta think about the first time experience, that was what I was trying to get across to them, right? Yeah. And then, you know, so each time we took, you know, five or ten more steps and I stopped and said, “What do you see,” and then they say some stuff. Then I’ll tell them what I saw right, from my lens, and so a good exercise is to grab someone that hasn’t been to your gym before and do that.
Dan Uyemura: Yeah or or even, yeah, I guess it would have to be like, bring a friend that hasn’t been to the gym and just say, like, “I want you to point out everything you see, good and bad, don’t try and candy coat it.” Otherwise you might get candy coated results, and write it all down so you can actually take care of those things because that’s what people are seeing, right?
Chris McConachie: Tons of them with little things that you could fix right, and every little thing kind of contributes to the bigger picture.
Dan Uyemura: So we’re gonna go, we’ll full circle that back to, like software and what we’re doing, because this is kind of important to me, it’s something I didn’t realize before as a developer, you know how I mentioned that we hate designers because they push pixels around and try and change colors of buttons. But it’s all of those little tiny things, it’s that little gum wrapper that’s by your front door that’s been there for five years is all of the things that detract from people’s experiences interactions with your gym or with your software product, and I’m going to say it like, I think that’s what makes PushPress different, having you on the founding team because you made us pay attention, to all the details that I would have just walked right past 100 times, and using other software from every other, you know, walk of life. I see it when developers do that. I know now when they’re just trying to get as much functionality out the doors, they can. They’re walking past all of the gum wrappers and, you know, stale pieces of crap that are sitting on the door. So anyway, user experience, how is that something a gym owner can address and fix in their gym?
Chris McConachie: So user experience is, I think about what they’re gonna sort of walk away with after they have a session, right? What’s gonna be this sort of lasting memory that sticks with them? They’re obviously gonna have many experiences during that sign-up for the first class even when they remember, but what is it that’s going to stick? Right, So in because it’s largely a service business. Right? So a lot of it is gonna come down to your staff and how they interact with your clients, you know, obviously we’re trying to be pleasant, but, you know, is there consistency amongst the classes, are you the type of gym where the coach knows everyone’s name or not. You need to kind that figure out, and I think that kind of goes back to brand values.
Dan Uyemura: You know what? I would walk that back a second even because there’s some gyms that, like, you know, maybe they’re big enough where they aren’t community based gym and a coach isn’t expected to know everyone’s name right. But it doesn’t matter because no matter where you are, if somebody you’re doing business with knows your name, you feel better. Like I walked into my coffee shop the other day and they just know my name from my credit card. But they said, “Good morning, Dan.” And you know what, they do business with 1000 people a day, so even if you do run a gym that’s so big or so whatever in the DNA and not to know someone’s name, like if your coaches can know their name, it’s even better, especially if they don’t expect you to, you know?
Yeah, so what I want to touch on what that is like, I talk a lot in this podcast about manufacturing experience and manufacturing your product, and like you said, consistency is a manufactured thing. Consistency doesn’t happen by accident, so a lot of this goes back to setting up your process, setting up your guidelines, setting up your rules, getting your coaches on the same page so that they’re willing, ready and able to do consistent things. And like, if it comes to knowing someone’s name, maybe you need a system that shows the coach everyone who’s in class, you know, or on the floor with the picture next to their face so they can sneak attack them with the name drop or something, you know?
Chris McConachie: Yeah, I think PushPress has a few things to help that. ::laughter::
Dan Uyemura: I mean year, these are things we focus on, right? Like birthday cakes next to their name if it’s your birthday and stuff like that. These are all things that we have put in place to help our gym’s manufacture a better experience for their clients, but I mean, I would be willing to say most gym owners don’t leverage it even, you know, like the tools that we put in place for them. It’s something they need to think about.
Chris McConachie: Yeah, for sure. Yeah, I think it comes down to kind of personalization, right? Even like when you’re saying that even if you’re a big gym and your coach doesn’t know everyone’s name, you probably have a front desk person, and you know, during that the check-in process, even if they actually just read your name off a screen is a lot better than just not reading your name off a screen.
Dan Uyemura: Yeah, and it could be so simple as like, “Hey, Dan, how’s your day?” You know, like just don’t make it a transaction. And I mean, I haven’t thought through how to run like a big global gym or a big gym where it’s like open gym, like personal trainers walking around, but imagine if we’re over at this gym across the way and trainer walks up, it’s like, “Oh, hey, Chris, how’s how’s your workout today?” And you’ve never even worked with them before, you’d be like, “Whoa, shit.” You know, this gym has got it together, right?
Chris McConachie: There’s been some good examples of that, do you remember the Zappos example?
Dan Uyremura: Which one?
Chris McConachie: They started growing like crazy, Zappos.com, and then you get to work every day and you’re presented with the log-in screen, and they made a custom screen where it would show a random employees headshot, and you had to guess what the employee’s name was. Then this sort of became kind of a game for people and every now and again, they kind of get it. But what they were trying to do is foster this community amongst a big scaling startup.
Dan Uyemura: And what does that do immediately? It turns it into a game. And then what you’re gonna do is when you’re walking around to go get water, you’re gonna be actually trying to meet people, so the next time you get presented with that face, hopefully you’ve talked to them and you remember their name, or at least have a clue. Right? And so, in the end, it’s not just about logging in and trying to guess the name. It’s about trying to get people to talk. How do you make people talk to each other outside of the logging in process all day long? And these, again, the things you can architect in your gym to make your gym a better experience for everybody.
Alright, cool. There’s one more thing I want to talk about. Oh, yes. So in our talking before, you meant you would mention that a lot of times, people present solutions to problems, kind of inherently just knowing what the problem is, but never really thinking through the problem. Can you kind of just describe your process of solving problems and, like, again, how that relates to your work here at PushPress? But more importantly, how that might impact someone in a gym and how they’re, you know, building products or solving problems for people in their gym.
Chris McConachie: Yeah. So when it comes to PushPress, people can’t, and I’ll get an approach from existing customers, our customer service team, our sales team.
Dan Uyemura: Me.
Chis McConachie: Yeah…Dan, everyday. People usually come with a, “Hey, you should do this,” which is giving me a solution like implement x-y-z feature or change this to that, and usually they are good ideas, no bad ideas, but usually what I have to do is a take a step back and figure out what the actual problem is because they just think about it from their perspective. And now that we service many, many different types of gyms every day, even if you take CrossFit, for example, it just seems like every CrossFit gym owner runs a gym a completely different way. So the solution for them, which is what they’re presenting to me, is not necessarily gonna be appropriate for every other gym on the system.
Dan Uyemura: And I’m gonna put you on the spot here, but can you give me an example of that where someone came to you with a solution and they thought that they had a problem, but when you peel back the onion a few layers, maybe there you realized the problem was a little deeper than even what they thought it might be because I could see that happening all the time.
Chris McConachie: Yeah, so there’s some, oh we had one the other day, someone was like I can’t get my members to check-in, and I think he presented something like, can you just if they’ve reserved, just auto check them in? And I was like, well, this really kind of defeats the whole purpose because the check-in is for validating that they’re actually there, and it just turned out that he wasn’t set up correctly operationally, like he didn’t have the tablet on the front desk, he didn’t have the screens u.
Dan Uyemura: When I hear that, that’s an operational or cultural problem, not a system software problem. Okay, so that got resolved?
Chris McConachie: He’s okay. Yeah. So a lot of it is when they come with that solution, you gotta ask questions.
Dan Uyemura: And you know what? This is great because we just talked to Greg Mack, and this actually follows up on that, I don’t think he went over it too much. But he called it the “Seven Why’s” game or something like that. Where if I’m like, “Hey, Chris, I want this feature,” you’re like, “Well, why do you want that feature,” and I’ll be like, “Well, because I think it’ll be cool,” “But why do you think it will be cool?” “Because, like, I need to check in people faster.” “Well, why do you need to check people faster?” “Because you know what they reserve, but they don’t check in.” “Why don’t they check in when they reserve?” “Because I don’t have a tablet up, there’s no way for them to do it.” “Well, why is there no way for them to do it?” You see, I’m saying you keep asking why, until they’re like, “Oh, I don’t have a tablet. I don’t have any system up front for them to check in.” And then you’re like, well, there’s the problem.
Chris McConachie: This the same technique, it’s getting down to the problem, his is from a sales angle.
Dan Uyemura: So, yeah, Greg did not go over this in the podcast, but I’m gonna spill one more of his secrets. It’s that “Why” game? And when someone comes in, they said they want to join your gym, you keep asking them “why” politely and empathetically because they’re going to say, I want to join the gym. Why? I wanna lose weight. Why? Oh, because I wanna look better for the summer. Why? Oh, because I’m single now, I just got a divorce…you know, like there’s gonna be a reason that comes out that actually speaks true value to what you’re gonna bring to them. So instead of like, the true values, not I want to join the gym or I want to lose weight. The true value is I’m recently single, and summer’s coming, and I want to look good on the beach, and there’s your value problem, right? So same. Same idea, a different game, I guess or different angle.
All right, Cool. So we’re gonna end with a couple things that I do randomly with different guests. We’re gonna start with fitness trends. You’re dealing with a lot of gyms in the fitness space. What do you think in 2020 might be an emerging trend or something that would carry over into 2021 that people should, gym owners should be looking into now.
Chris McConachie: I have two. The first thing, I think, we’re going to see is more variety and offerings, and I think this is gonna be more prevalent with the sort of franchise play. So we’re already starting to see just weird concepts that may or may not stick around, right. So there used to be just, you know, OrangeTheory started doing rowing, right, and then spin, and then there’s gonna be, like, combinations of things and the Platefit thing that we saw recently and other people inventing other equipment, there’s gonna be a lot of people opening a studio with one type of equipment and then doing that.
Dan Uyemura: Yeah. Do you think, pause on your second one, I want to follow upon this. Do you think all of these fitness franchise trends, like, have a leg in the game? Do you think that this is gonna have, like, what’s gonna happen there? I can’t. Are people just gonna bounce between Platefit and Row House and the aerobic treadmill running studio?
Chris McConachie: I think that’s another trend that we’re going to see is people bouncing around a little bit for variety, like our attention spans getting shorter and shorter, so there will be, so I don’t know if that’s enough to make them all sustainable.
Dan Uyemura: I’m just curious how the economic model works if, like, okay, so because I feel that that’s gonna be the case, like, I’m gonna try this treadmill studio for three months, and then I’m gonna do stretching for three months, and I’m gonna do, how does that work when you’re franchising and you’re paying like half a million for a franchise, and I’m curious to see how that all that plays out.
Chris McConachie: Oh, I want to get in a time machine and go into the future and just see how it all works out for everyone. I just don’t, I don’t know.
Dan Uyemura: Yeah, on one hand, it seems a little scary. And maybe maybe it’ll just lead everyone back to just your core, you know, conditioning, strength and conditioning, HIIT gyms and stuff like that. All right, number two?
Chris McConachie: Number two, I think we’re going to see technology be a lot more pervasive. in fitness. I mean I don’t know if that’s a groundbreaking prediction.
Dan Uyemura: For us, that’s pretty obvious, but I don’t think gym owners understand how technology is about to, here’s the deal, like fitness is a brick and mortar business, and this business is like gonna be one of the last two to be changed by tech. But look at how tech is changing everything. Even your local coffee shop, right? Like look at how tech is working over there, right? Yeah, it’s definitely gonna start coming in the gym.
Chris McConachie: Like I think back to, when did they make that first Rocky movie where the…
Dan Uyemura: ‘84. If I’m right, that’s the first number that came in my head. I get a prize.
Chris McConachie: Didn’t like a big Russian, dude have all the tech and Rocky had like no tech and he beat him or something like that? That’s a cute story.
Dan Uyemura: Rocky was hitting frozen cows and stuff.
Chris McConachie: Yeah frozen cows and stuff. That is a cute story, and it was an awesome movie for its time, but in today’s day and age, like if you don’t have data to back up your stuff you can’t expect to claim that you’re gonna get people the fittest if you’re not using technology to measure stuff.
Dan Uyemura: Customers are going to be more and more wanting data to back up the results. But I will say this, my opinion is a boutique gym, who really gives a shit about their clients who cares about their product and has data and like some technological stuff behind them, will beat these franchises every day of the week. That’s my opinion.
Chris McConachie: Yeah, I would agree with that because I think, we’ll here’s the thing, the challenge for the small boutique is having the tech, right, because you can’t build your own. Yeah, you cannot afford OrangeTheory level technology budget, so you can’t build your own, you can integrate with third parties, right? So there is a chance there.
Dan Uyemura: If you have the technical chops to do that.
Chris McConachie: Yeah, but where you can win out as a small boutique that’s not a franchise, is your relationship building.
Dan Uyemura: It’s all relationships. So yeah, if you can acquire the tech, which is what we’re trying to do here at PushPress, if you can acquire the tech to compete, not even 100% with an OrangeTheory. But, I mean, maybe even better, I don’t know, and you focus on doing what you do best, which is the relationship building the results that you’re getting your clients, putting coaches who know people’s names on the floor as opposed to just cheerleaders on the floor.
Chris McConachie: Because I think the franchises will, they are trying to figure out that angle, but they have been struggling with it.
Dan Uyemura: I think building community is tough if you’re not in the community. I mean, like, I could be wrong, but I think most of these franchise owners are not on the ground floor of their gyms that they’re owning, part of the community. Like most people probably don’t know who that owner is, so it’s a tough thing. It’s one of those, I think people can sniff out fake communities and fake community building. It’s, you know, like everyone has to be kind of bought into it for it to work. So oh okay, so those are your two trends.
Last question, this is a show about learning, a show about education. We want our gym owners to grow and learn as much as they can, and that’s not only gonna come from this podcast, although a crap ton will…what podcast, books, audiobooks or any other resource you have out there that you pay attention to that you think other gym owner should be listening to or watching?
Chris McConachie: Yeah I have a list of things, I would go, if you want to learn more about brand, I’d listen to Stu Brauer, the “WTF thing” (WTF?! Gym Talk) if you can get past his “F” bombs, I think he’s the only one, I shouldn’t say the only one, but he seems like he gets it.
Dan Uyemura: Someone should make a “Stu filter” where it auto filters out his foul language if you don’t want to listen to it. My rule of that I try and drop 1/100 of the “F bombs” in my podcast that Stu does, so I think I’ve done about five. We’re about there.
Chris McConachie: So podcasts, I’ll listen to select versions of Joe Rogan’s, more for entertainment purposes.
Dan Uyemura: Joe’s an interesting podcast.
Chris McConachie: Well. I mean, I skip all the MMA ones, but he has an amazing ability to pull in like A-level guests that no one else does and have that in the long format.
Dan Uyemura: That’s the weird thing about his podcast, like as I’m skipping through them because I skip through them, too. It’s like a bunch of MMA people, I’m not in the MMA scene, so I don’t know them and then some random people. I’ve never heard of, and then, like Bernie Sanders, you know, just some, like crazy A-lister, and he’s really good at asking them questions, too.
Chris McConachie: Yeah, he’s good…Below the Line.
Dan Uyemura: Oh, my favorite.
Chris McConachie: Yeah. I just listened to a few of those recently, that’s like my new favorite one. I think that guy James Bashar, he’s a pretty good interviewer.
Dan Uyemura: So for those who don’t listen to Below the Line, it’s one of my favorite podcasts. The reason I like it is because he talks about, so in the Silicon Valley world, it’s all like unicorns and rainbows and someone sold for a $1,000,000,000 you don’t know about the struggles they went through and the below, it’s analogous to an iceberg, so you see the top of the iceberg with 90% of the icebergs below water and his his broadcast about, like all of the shit that happens that you don’t see in order to get to this final outcome that you you did see, which is kind of a cool story.
Chris McConachie: Yeah, and then I like my feel good ones like, How I Built This with Guy Raz. It’s a classic, but that’s kind of big scale, and it’s harder to relate to it because those are just joint companies that just made it, made it, and so then there’s this other one that I like called The Pitch, which is smaller companies pitching investors, but then they circle back after six months and see how it went, and there’s some really interesting stories that come about that.
Dan Uyemura: Yep, so for gym owners, for both of those, what I like is you’re not really gonna be relating to it on a 1-to-1 level because you’re not trying to pitch your business to somebody, and you’re definitely not like building like Method soap or whatever, although Zumba was on How I Built This, but there’s tidbits of the grind of like how hard you have to work, of like something going wrong and then pivoting to make it that will relate to your gym when you launch this, you know, the Silver Fox Senior Club, and no one showed up and you had to pivot it to something else, you know.
Chris McConachie: Yep. and then in terms of books, it’s more along the business side of things, StoryBrand is probably the one that’s most relevant to gym owners, it’s not, I wouldn’t use it as gospel, but you’ll pull some great nuggets out of it. It’s been helpful for us at least. And then Blitzscaling by Reid Hoffman (and Chris Yeh), that’s probably not really relevant to gym owners too much, just trying to think how, like always, trying to relate things like that to gyms.
Dan Uyemura: God, we could probably do an episode on this later. There probably is some relation you could make the gym owners, but it’s not gonna be on the same scale. It’s just about like if you want to grow your gym from 50 to 200 members, you’ve got to do things a lot differently than growing from 0 to 50, and that’s going to be the concept there.
Chris McConachie: Yep. Traction from Geo Wickman is another good book on that side, because that’s all about team culture and how you run your business from a management perspective. And that, I think, is very applicable.
Dan Uyemura: Yeah, I think that applies at any level of business, just depending on how organized you wanna be as management.
Chris McConachie: There’s a bit of a time commitment to implementing this stuff, that’s probably the biggest struggle for a small business.
Dan Uyemura: Everything is risk, reward, right? Like how much time you put in and how much results you get out of that?
Chris McConachie: Yeah, those are my sort of hot ones that have listened to recently.
Dan Uyemura: Very good. I mean, it’s no wonder we’re business partners. Those are all on my list. Every single one of those, good stuff. All right. All right, Chris. Well, any parting shots you want to give any nuggets or tips you want to get to these gym owners out there?
Chris McConachie: It’s all about incremental improvement. Try and do, you know, one thing every day better than yesterday, and then you’ll kind of look back at your gym in six months and be like, oh, actually, we have made some progress.
Dan Uyemura: I think that’s one of my favorite core values of ours because it works for everybody. It works for you on a personal level, as a husband or wife. It works for you, you know, as a business owner. It works for your clients in the gym, like you could go to them with that, like, “Hey, man, you can’t snatch 200 today, it’s fine just snatch a little bit more than yesterday.” Works for us. It works for everybody. I love that one.
All right, cool. Well, thank you for your time. Another great gymOS Podcast wrapping up here, and this was Chris McConachie, Chief, his official title is Chief Product Officer. He rattled off, like, 18 things that he does, but it’s officially Chief Product Officer here at PushPress. We’re signing off, and until next time we talk again, keep on grinding guys.
So there it was, guys. Hopefully you found that very interesting. I think I really think everything that Chris talked about in this episode are things that get overlooked by too many gym owners. And I really, firmly believe that it’s something that you should pay attention to. A lot of these things are details that we’re not trained to see, but once you decide that you want to try to pay attention to them, you will start seeing them, I promise it will come to you. I mentioned in the beginning I didn’t understand any of the value of these things when I started working on LAX CrossFit, and when I started working on PushPress. But nowadays, I’m just as picky as he is when it comes to how the user feels using our product, how the user interacts with things, what it leaves people feeling with. And I think that’s so important for our gym owners because it’s not just our gym owners who are working with it, but it’s the clients of our gym owners that are working with it. And that’s even more important because it’s your reflection as a gym owner on your potential community. So hopefully you guys got a lot out of that. Maybe there’s some insights you got. If there’s any questions lob them our way and we will work on fielding them for you. This is definitely a topic that could be expanded on 10 times over, and it would be of immense value to the gym owner. So hopefully you enjoyed that.
As always, if you enjoyed this podcast, I encourage you to subscribe to it wherever you’re listening to it now, you can find us on Apple podcast, Spotify is my personal favorite to listen to podcasts on, and anywhere you’re listening to it right now. Give this one a like if it helped you, let Chris know that you appreciate his thoughts, and maybe we’ll get him back on again soon.
All right, guys, Thank you so much for listening. As always, it’s a pleasure talking to you on The gymOS Podcast. I hope we’re making a dent in trying to turn fitness owners into better business owners. And until next time we talk.