In The Trenches catches up with Jeremy Jones, owner of CrossFit Diablo and Thrivestry, to discuss leadership, principles, values, planning, staff development, and a “before, during, and after” look at “readiness and resiliency”
“The most important thing to realize is you have to build that bond first before you start asking for more from someone.”
Jeremy Jones is the owner of CrossFit Diablo and Thrivestry. In this episode Eric sits down with Jeremy to discuss leadership, principles, values, planning, staff development, and a “before, during, and after” look at “readiness and resiliency” through this crisis.
Eric LeClair [0:04]
Welcome to In The Trenches, a weekly podcast series dedicated to entrepreneurial leadership the principles and values that define and develop it as well as actionable steps that you can take to immediately lead your team to victory
Good afternoon guys. This is Eric LeClair representing PushPress and we are continuing our series on In The Trenches discussing the topic of both leadership and discipline and I am super privileged to have an old friend Jeremy Jones on and I just I’m so impressed to watch his evolution from coach and owner from the days of Diablo, CrossFit Diablo now into Thrivestry as Chief Programming Architect, is that right?Jeremy, go ahead, for those that are watching today who may not know you, well, I’d be surprised if they don’t, go ahead and introduce yourself.
Jeremy Jones [1:01]
So I started CrossFit in 2004. I was working as an engineer and competing in MMA and coaching martial arts. And I found this thing you know, and it hurt so bad when I first did it, I had to do more of it because when you’re when you’re a fighter, it’s like how, show me that again. And got sucked in. And and a few years ago, about a year or two later, I started an affiliate in my backyard was one of the first hundred affiliates. We used to go down to Santa Cruz and train with with Glassman and coach Glassman and Lauren and everybody, and then I started my own little gig went to the park went to a small gym eventually grew to multiple locations. Our biggest one had 1000 members, did that for a long time. Yeah, we had 28 classes a day that one location.
Eric LeClair [1:47]
Wow, that could be an entire other episode on leadership.
Jeremy Jones [1:52]
Yeah, and I had a great partner Craig Howard and and we went to the games and my you know, my team podiumed at the games, I had athletes you know, Alessandra Pichelli started at my gym I was her first her first competitive coach and, and other other people had masters get on the podium and, and was really plugged in to the, to the competition side. I was also the head coach for the fire team grid team, the grid league. And so just got really plugged into the competition side. And this whole time I was doing gym programming. And so I sort of built up a reputation for creating intelligent not total crush you workouts that actually worked for lots of diverse population of people. And people started asking me for it. So we started selling it, you know, back in like 2011. I never really intended on it. I was intended to just like, get it from our blog or whatever, but we wanted it. Fast forward to about 3-4 years ago, and my partner and I decided it was time to move on one of us was going to move on or the other one was going to stay. What I determined was, you know, he wanted to kind of stay in the fitness industry and he didn’t really have any other options if he sold. I wanted to stay in the fitness industry. I had this growing business of helping gyms and helping coaches be better. And so I took the clients that we had and that created Thrivestry and then that blew up. And for me personally, I like the the ability to help even more people, right? So that that the that using using the, you know, the internet I can reach far more people and help people with their programming. And so that that really motivates me.
Eric LeClair [3:25]
So is Thrivestry then programming only or do you do mentorship? Like gym owner mentorship?
Jeremy Jones [3:33]
So we do we, I don’t I see it as one in the same, right, so so one of the core things that I’ve realized in all these years of coaching thousands and thousands of classes I’ve coached, in fact, from a programming perspective, you know, I have been programming seven days a week since 2006. So we took turns in 2005. And I’ve never missed a day I’ve never copied and pasted programming and so that you know, what is that you know, 4000-5000 posts at least right or lesson plans. And, and one of the things I started to realize is, and I just did a social media post about this recently, it all we can argue all day long in about movements in the gym and biology in the lab and diet and all these things, it doesn’t matter what really the real work that needs to be done in the fitness world is between the ears, right? And that in that, that there’s so many people, you know, debating these topics, which may or may not be right or even important, not important if you’re not getting people to show up and do the do the work, right. That’s the most important thing. And so a lot of my education and mentoring is around psychology and habits and motivation and you know, interpersonal skills. And so, you know that so a lot of my private articles and content for subscribers only really, really drives that point home. And I think you know, like one of the things I put out recently is I had I had a, you know, subscriber only series of courses to help people get into the online coaching business because I’ve done some of that myself and I know some of the hurdles and some of the ways to implement it in a gym and I just decided because of everything that’s going on, I put it onto a PDF ended up being like 30 pages out over an hour videos all these other links and tools and you know forums you can use and I just put it out for free it was like look, just download this and hopefully you get something out of it, you know.
Eric LeClair [5:25]
Man that had to be, for coaches, gold mine to find in this right place and right time, I definitely don’t want to jump ahead but I would want to say you are lucky enough to have had a solid like set of SOPs of implementation on the structure to handle something like this now downturn because you’re fully digital now right? There’s no more brick and mortar for you. Correct?
Jeremy Jones [5:52]
Yeah, yeah. So I sold off the, the most of our locations and I kept one I did that for another year or two, just so I had the kind of one foot in the door and I still could experiment and you know, shoot videos and stuff. And then I sold that to another partner. I had a different partner at that gym. And then yeah, so I’m completely virtual now.
Eric LeClair [6:13]
Wow. So I mean, the pivot that all these gym owners are having to struggle with today, you have been seamless and being able to deliver value and content and support to your clients that are part of your culture today. Were there any principles or any like leadership principles, leadership values that you took from a different part of your life or that you’ve built over time with all the companies you’ve worked with and for that has helped form you as the guiding light of your company, or have you evolved over time?
Jeremy Jones [6:46]
I, you know, I have a unique kind of a unique history in the fact that that I was I went to a military academy, the Maritime Academy got a mechanical engineering degree. Then I was worked as a mechanical engineer all the same time. While doing martial arts and having that sort of Eastern philosophy combined with sort of the logical engineer mind, and also being being a follower of Jesus, I’m a Jesus dude. So, I have all these kind of moving parts and I’m, and people say I’m pretty artistic. And so I’m like, kind of like a man of many hats, so to speak. And, and so I what I like to do is look at the big bigger principles and bigger picture things, you know, and look at the, you know, the how they interrelate and the similarities and so that I think is really helped me you know, develop over time and I’m always developing that’s that’s what I you know, when you when you work toward getting your black belt or your you know, I remember having this specific moment I was sitting in differential equations 2, so you know, that’s after calculus, that’s after everything. You’re I’m sitting here and I had dawned on me I’m like, this is like, first grade math for a mathematician, right? Like I am just starting the journey of math, and I realized it was like a black belt like when you’re a white belt or an orange belt, you don’t have any idea how much farther you have, right? And then just realizing that everything in the world is like that. And just always be a student and always be learning, I think. And that’s something that I’m always trying to teach people constantly trying to help and teach people and get people in that mind that growth mindset.
Eric LeClair [8:19]
That obviously has been significantly powerful for the affiliates that you’ve helped or the the gym owners that you’ve helped or even the coaches that you’ve either groomed and I think that’s an impressive statement to look at the not only the rich history, that is your story, but the ability for you to create other amazing gym owners and coaches and trainees and you know, staff members or interns and so on. Obviously, who you are today, you built up over time and so if you were to think back to giving a brand new coach some advice in this moment in this time, think about the original Level 1 CrossFit coach or the original Level 1 weightlifting coach or even a personal trainer who’s trying to develop his or her brand. Any message for them or any thoughts to them on leadership discipline organization? What could you shed? What kind of light could you shed for them?
Jeremy Jones [9:18]
Well, I’m working on an article right now and I’ll summarize it here and involves Jesus and webcam girls.
Eric LeClair [9:25]
So awesome. I love it.
Jeremy Jones [9:30]
So we’re in a very, you know, unique time. The funny thing is, is all of this stuff could have happened this online training stuff could have happened and people were already moving into this space before this, but now we’re all having to do it. But this principle, I learned it, you know, from from a pastor friend of mine, and it’s relationship and challenge and I have a video on it, but it’s basically imagine a matrix, so up and down is the amount of relationship that you have with somebody and then horizontally is challenge. I wish I had my markers nearby so I could draw it but basically, you know what Jesus said, you know, follow me I will make you fishers of men and all throughout the Bible, he talks about you whenever he does things, he always engages with people on their level first and has that empathy. Empathy is one of the most important tools we have as coaches as being able to understand where people are at and then deliver things on their level, right, whether that’s more challenge or to back off. And so you build that relationship first. And then you can start issuing more and more challenge, you know, so what happens is, is if, if you don’t have the relationship high on the on the graph, and it’s low, and you start moving them into challenge, they’re going to be burned out or frustrated, right? If you have high relationship and you have no challenge, then people are bored. Right? They’re not being challenged
Eric LeClair [10:49]
They’re elsewhere for another, whatever. Yeah.
Jeremy Jones [10:52]
Yeah, yeah. And they’re not willing to necessarily pay for your services or whatever. But when you kind of hit that sweet spot, you have to start with the relationship. And then you can start challenging them, the more so this is, this is one of the things that that we talked about with, you know, gyms or doing MadLab and stuff and why I kind of got plugged in with them pretty early on, was because they found that by building the relationship with the clients, especially like on those initial one on one sessions that they do, clients are more, they can tolerate a lot more challenge, whether that’s challenging the gym, or challenge changing their habits outside of the gym, like diet, sleep, or or having to work out at home, and this is a huge challenge.
Eric LeClair [11:33]
Working out at home is just another variation of challenge now it’s just maybe less convenient or maybe it’s an inconvenience because kids are home. But if they’re wired to take on challenge, they just adapt, right?
Jeremy Jones [11:45]
Yeah. And they’re, they’re willing, they’re, exactly, they’re willing to do what their coach asks of them. And they’re willing to, you know, not put their membership on hold, because they have that relationship first. Right. And so, so that’s that, you know, that’s that’s probably the most important thing is to realize is that you have to kind of build this bond first before you start asking for more stuff, you know, for them to do more things like train by themselves or, you know, workout with less equipment or whatever. And so the coaches that have done that are doing fine right now, you know, especially coaches, you know, I know a lot of the MadLab coaches are, you know, their clients go on trips, and they just keep them motivated and give them programming and workouts…
Eric LeClair [12:25]
On the trip..yeah.
Jeremy Jones [12:25]
Yeah. And it’s just like, right now, their whole client book is on a trip now. They have to shift a lot of their interactions a lot more online, because they’re used to seeing people regularly. That’s that’s how you build a relationship. But now, so now they’re doing a lot all online, but that most of them have, they’ve lost, you know, a few, like, I think, I think the count was, like, less than 10% of like, all the gyms, you know, have people put stuff on hold, and usually that’s because someone lost a job, ya know.
Eric LeClair [12:54]
Right. Financial hardship.
Jeremy Jones [12:56]
Yeah, yeah. And so usually you work with them because you have a relationship with that person, right?
Eric LeClair [13:00]
I mean, if you’ve taken the time to develop the relationship, then you can empathize with the situation and obviously be creative, and not just be like, Alright, you’re out later.
Jeremy Jones [13:10]
Yeah. And how this ties in with the webcam girl so I don’t know if you guys know what webcam girls are, it’s what I used to do in a previous life. I’m just kidding. So there’s a name, by the way…
Eric LeClair [13:20]
Web cam girls and Jesus, that’s what it’s gonna be called.
Jeremy Jones [13:23]
Yeah, exactly. And so I saw like, he was a Vice documentary about this. I didn’t know any of this stuff existed. And and I found it fascinating. Well, like the, the adult industry has had a real problem right now the production studios because everything’s online, there’s pirating, and there’s always amateur stuff and they can’t compete. And one of the things that’s really really hammering them is that the live people can do live interactions with these people. And you gotta wonder, you know, like, Okay, well, why people willing to pay so much more money just to have a live interaction, you know, it’s the same thing with doing workout videos at home, you know, or, or working out by yourself. You know, we see those parallels. And the people who make the most money are the ones that engage and develop relationships. Right? So it’s like a virtual girlfriend experience. Um, and so, yeah, and they pay a lot of money to get into the private, you know, private rooms and have conversations. And from what I understand a lot of times, it’s not even like weird stuff. It’s like, these are just normal people and lots of they just want someone to talk to, and open up to, right. They feel close to.
Eric LeClair [14:38]
Good article by the way on this, it’s gonna be a great article.
Jeremy Jones [14:41]
Yeah, yeah. And it’s, it’s, you know, and so, but, but again, it goes back to that relationship piece. And it’s funny how, you know, myself and a lot of the other experts have been saying this for years and then people will argue, well, communities, you can’t sell community, communities not important in relation. You know, you don’t want your coaches to get too, you don’t want your clients get too attached to a particular coach, you know, and that can be bad if the coach leaves and things like that. It’s like Well, yeah, yeah and there there is drawbacks to that. But if you have the right systems in place, it makes it much less of an issue. And if you have the right you know, compensation structure, you’re taking care of that coach, they’re much less likely to leave and so so again, that minimizes the risk.
Eric LeClair [15:23]
Do you want to talk to that seeing is how we’re discussing like organizational leadership or you know, structural organization of you know, how gyms are going to survive and thrive? Can you speak to the efficacy briefly of MadLab and your role there?
Jeremy Jones [15:40]
Yeah, so I’ve actually taken a lesser role because Thrivestry got so big, but I came on as sort of the head of coach development and so really mentoring these coaches, and how to and how to administer that program. And for those of you guys who don’t know the MadLab model is, coach will have a, every client that comes to the gym is assigned a coach. And that person will usually do five to 20 personal training sessions before they’re allowed to class. And that’s partially for technical, and but mostly for relationship, right? So you really get to know that person. And they really, you can really bond with them. And then they start going to classes and then they have regular one on one meetings. Yeah, on top of the classes to kind of to tailor their programming, but really again, just to confirm that relationship. And so they call that a hybrid model where it’s one on one plus, you know, plus group all the classes so they can go to anyone else’s group classes, they come on their schedule, and really, it’s the it’s the job of the coach to just coach enough classes, so they can see all their people two or three times a week, and then and then all week long. They’re hitting all their people. The goal is to work up to where you have 40, 50, 60 clients. And then and then there’s a tiered pay structure, which is a, which is a percent of what the client pays. So just for easy math. Let’s say you know the person is paying $200 for a membership and that coach could make up to 50% depending on all those specific details, the coach would collect $100 and the gym would collect $100 and that motivates the coach to meet to retain the clients.
Eric LeClair [17:16]
Jeremy Jones [17:17]
And bring new clients in right and keep the gym healthy and growing.
Eric LeClair [17:23]
Then that’s a recruitment incentive, there’s a retention incentive and in the middle is the relationship.
Jeremy Jones [17:29]
Exactly and it takes away the requirement for floor hours. Right so now we can have coaches coaching, you know, personal training and classes combined, you know, 20 to 25 hours a week. More than that it’s leads to burnout and it can be hard to sustain for long term it can be done in short sprints but then they can spend the rest of their work time doing social media and following up with people remotely and all and all those sort of things. And so, yeah, and so so it’s a great model. It’s hard to implement right, it’s hard to shift the whole culture when you have 100 or 200 clients that came on just doing classes, and they’re like, I came to classes, I’m fine. Why do I need to do one on one training? Now? You know, you got to, you got to tell them, hey, look, for every one person here, right now, there’s five or six that tried it and couldn’t make it because they felt overwhelmed, right? They got challenged without the relationship they got checked in was challenge and they failed. And I feel bad as a coach not being able to help those people. You know, it wasn’t money, it wasn’t schedule, it was just, there was just too hard for them. And in order to help more people, we need to do that we need to do these one on ones. And and really, like you said, if people are coming to the gym three times a week, like that’s, that’s that’s great, you know, but the real work is what when they’re outside of the gym, well, how do you teach them that stuff and hold them accountable. And that’s what the coach for life does is they hold them accountable. They give them you know, goals and tasks and routines to work through and not just to make sure they’re showing up at the gym, which is which is kind of like Oh, of course you are the it’s also all those other lifestyle. habits that really make people have better lives.
Eric LeClair [19:02]
I love it. I totally love it. I mean, it’s been a been obviously in the same circles for such a long time. It’s so impressive to see these principles play out in real life and impact gym owners, impact coaches and most importantly impact clients and it’s a win all the way around…coach, client, and the company. I dig it. I totally dig it.
Jeremy Jones [19:24]
Well and one of the reasons why the light bulb went off when I started hearing about them and I met them was, in the martial arts world that I came from I happened to train at a studio that was the lineage of one of the first martial arts studio professional martial arts studios opening in the United States, the Tracy’s Karate Studios, and they were under someone named Ed Parker, but in like the 50s they started doing martial arts schools at their peak, I think they had 225 privately owned locations. So this is not a franchise. This is not an affiliate model. That’s like one person owning 250 affiliates and no single entity has done that in the time since they’re all franchises or whatever. And so they were able to grow all these and test all these different business models. And what they found was a half hour personal training once a week and unlimited group classes, which is, which is basically the MadLab model, right, but that doesn’t stop there. They got the idea from Arthur Murray Dance Studios. Arthur Murray has been around 100 years teaching people how to do Waltz, the Tango, and they do that so they do they do a half hour private session and it’s all about the relationship and in the story that that I was told was it when it dawned on them they were at his wife was went to Arthur Murray, and they went to a banquet and had all it was it was 1000 people or hundreds of people on this big banquet hall and had everyone stand up and they said okay, if you’ve been training with Arthur Murray for more than five years, stay standing up, everyone else sit down. And half the room sits down and then they say, okay, more than 10 years stay standing up. So more people sit down more than 15 years, 20 years, you know, and there was still people standing up, they’d been with the same instructor learning how to dance for 20 plus years. And that was when it just sort of dawned on them. It’s about that relationship side. And the reason why I bring that that story up was the 1973 oil embargo. So in 1973, there was an oil embargo and there was nothing there was none of gasoline and we were we were over consuming it like using it to heat our homes everything but people had to wait in line for hours to get gas there was where they could only go on certain days based upon your license plate number and, and at the time that that actually caused a huge economic problem obviously, and but for all these small gyms, all these martial arts studios, people had to decide do I drive to work? Where do I go drive to the gym, and so it caused all these a lot of gyms to shut down. But they were able to get through that Arthur Murray and the Tracy Studios because they had the relationship.
Eric LeClair [22:08]
Sure, that makes sense. So fast forward to 2020. Here we are facing our say generations first ever quarantine, mass shutdown, stay at home orders safer at home orders. And we’re gonna see gyms affected by this, we’re gonna see people that didn’t have quality relationships in place, they didn’t have good leadership characteristics or care and empathy in place, and the client is going to disappear.
Jeremy Jones [22:36]
Yeah, so if the client was only paying for using the equipment and having kind of a fun experience with other people, then they’re not going to see the benefit to keep paying when they can’t, when they don’t have access to that they’re gonna want to go on hold or cancel.
Eric LeClair [22:48]
So that I guess, could maybe be the exact same message because I mean, the last piece that we want to jump off on is always to the struggling gym owner today, the affiliate owner, the head coach, maybe even the program director in the gym space, for those people that are struggling for the individuals that are very close to either packing up and saying, I can’t do this anymore, what singular message to them would you drive home?
Jeremy Jones [23:14]
Well, I would say that, that you have to reach out to your people and build that relationship now, right? Or have your coaches do it, assign everyone a person, and they already have some sort of relationship with and start checking in on them, and just seeing how they’re doing. And then giving them workouts specific to them maybe a little bit, so they feel like they’re getting that value in that that customization and accountability. I talked a lot about that my, you know, mentoring program I put out online, but that’s really what we’re providing is that customization accountability that’s lacking in most CrossFit classes, you know, class, and so it’s and so if we can, if we can do that, then you will save a lot of clients right, and and even gain some and I think going forward, one of the the ways to look at this is that this is going to cause a huge enema. It’s going to clean out a lot of bad gyms or gyms that just the people were just doing it they were looking for an excuse to get out maybe, and they’re going to be like well, yeah, oh my Yeah, I had a gym it was that the Coronavirus thing happened and then you know, I had to shut down maybe because they were already looking for an out. And so if you can make it through this, you know, there’s gonna be a lot of people looking for gyms. And now you’re also going to have an online component to your business, which is dependent on your brick and mortar, which means you can have more memberships and help more people. And I think that’s what we should be looking forward to.
Eric LeClair [24:38]
And I I sincerely and wholeheartedly agree that there’s so many opportunities being presented for the coaches to just sit back either play the victim, the woe is me, Oh, it’s external reasons why I’m failing. No, no, it’s we got to turn the fingers back around. Man, but I sincerely appreciate both the time that you’ve spent, the education that you’ve shared and also of course the journey.
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