How to Keep Your Clients and Make an Extra $80,000 with Chris Cooper

In this episode, Chris discusses keeping your clients and how that can turn into an extra $80,000 per year.

“The average client, if you can keep them, is worth like an extra $80,000 a year to you.”

“The average client, if you can keep them, is worth like an extra $80,000 a year to you.”


Chris Cooper

Chris Cooper is a name many of you have heard before in the fitness space. He’s a business mentor, the founder of Two-Brain Business, and the author of four industry-changing books (his first book, Two Brain Business, has become the bestselling fitness business book of all time).

Chris believes his superpower is the ability to make mistakes faster than anyone else, and  he uses these lessons to help OTHER gym owners build happier lives.

Show Notes

  • Chris Cooper: Founder of Two-Brain Business and so much more. [3:41]
  • The “teach it to learn it” technique. [4:50]
  • If you don’t know enough to write, you need to write. [8:26]
  • Help First: Why it’s so important to put your customers’ needs first. [9:57]
  • Ask how you can help to understand what you’re actually selling. [12:32]
  • Founder, Farmer, Tinker, Thief…what does it mean?! [ 16:04]
  • Why you need objective eyes to get you unstuck. [18:59]
  • The Two-Brain Roadmap. [22:24]
  • Gamifying the entrepreneurial journey and building the biggest data set in the industry. [25:40]
  • Why would a gym owner want an operating system with a client facing scheduler? [28:36]
  • The importance of accurate member retention lifespan data. [30:10]
  • Concepts are great, but what do we do with them? [32:36]
  • Stop reacting and start being proactive! [33:33]
  • Sometimes gym owners forget that they’re really good at solving problems. [38:55]
  • Chris’ favorite business model in a gym. [39:40]
  • The books and podcasts that Chris is stoked about. [40:39]
  • What the hell is a flywheel? [45:14]
  • The most important KPI’s a gym should be paying attention to and why. [49:19]
  • You don’t want to accidentally end up in Kansas City. [51:48]

Full Episode Transcript

Dan Uyemura: Welcome to The gymOS Podcast, helping fitness professionals become better business owners, one episode at a time. Hey, what’s up, everybody? Dan Uyemura here, CEO at PushPress. I think we did it again. We got another good episode of The gymOS Podcast coming at you, where we’re working on making you a better business owner, one episode at a time. In today’s episode, we’ve got Chris Cooper here. He is a long standing rock in our community, both as a gym owner and now as a mentor to gym owners. He’s out there on the front lines alongside us and some other good folk working on helping gyms become better businesses, helping them understand what they need to work on and pushing them across the finish line in that quest. Chris is, like I said, Chris has been around forever. He’s pretty much coined the term “help first” in our community, and it is a philosophy and a motto that we follow here at PushPress largely due to the influence that Chris has had on us, and some of the other team members here at PushPress, ourselves. He has published a book or two, he’s also built a framework around running a business that I’ve had the pleasure of looking at this morning, it’s pretty dope. It kind of gives you, as a gym owner, a step by step instruction on how to improve your business. It’s gamified, so you kind of have incentive to get things done, and it’s kind of simplified in a way that at least makes sense to me. I think it’s pretty cool. He is the developer of a concept called Founder Farmer Tinker Thief, which is the different stages that you go on as an entrepreneur, and he’s writing a book about that one as well. So much good stuff that Chris has brought to this community and so many good things that he’s thinking about and working on that I am very pleased and honored to have him as a guest on the podcast today. So without any further ado, we’re gonna let Chris take it away, okay?

Alright guys, and we’re live. Welcome to another episode of The gymOS Podcast with Chris Cooper. We’re doing something a little differently, this is kind of crazy, we’re actually recording this on Chris Cooper’s line. So this is a little weird for me. I’m trying a little new tech, I normally use one tech stack and Chris is like, “Mine’s better, and I’m like, prove it,” and so far he is winning this battle. I can actually see him, all my other podcasts I don’t get to see the people and this makes it much more interesting to be able to see if I make someone make a sour face or something, I can react to it myself.

So anyway, we got Chris Cooper here. For those of you don’t know Chris Cooper, I don’t know what rock you just crawled out from underneath, but he is one of the foremost business mentors in the gym space and I wouldn’t even say the CrossFit space, definitely probably works outside the CrossFit space, but I’ll let him speak to that. Chris is here to talk about a lot of things key to your business. I mean, this is his world that he lives in, this is the world that we live in, and there is no better or more perfect guest than Chris to be on the podcast today. So let me just give Chris a few minutes here to introduce himself and what he does.

Chris Cooper: Thanks to Dan, you set the bar kind of high here. So number one, I’m not better at tech than anybody, especially you. Usually my mentors are giving me tips on what technical terms mean, like, I didn’t know what “slide into DMs” meant until about a week ago, and one of the mentors on the Two-Brain team told me, you know.

Dan Uyemura: Probably a good thing.

Chris Cooper: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. So anyway, yeah. My name is Chris Cooper, I’ve owned a few gyms. I own one gym now, and I’m the founder of Two-Brain Business and the author of Two-Brain Business, Two-Brain Business 2.0, Help First and my new book is Founder, Farmer, Tinker, Thief. I started doing this, I opened a gym in 2005, by 2008 it was practically bankrupt. That’s kind of a story unto itself, but as I was fixing that, I had a mentor, I was recording everything that he was teaching me online for other gym owners who might want help. I wrote a blog for about three and a half years called Don’tBuyAds.com that turned into a book which is the best selling fitness business book of all time, Two-Brain Business and several years later I founded a mentorship practice. After trying to sell courses or like individual mentoring calls, I realized the only thing that actually works is mentorship, and we do build courses, we do build a lot of learning materials, we spend about $20,000 every single month building media that we give away for free to gym owners to help them grow, but what we sell is mentorship.

Dan Uyemura: Right on.

Chris Cooper: That’s it, yeah.

Dan Uyemura: Yeah, I was actually jotting down some notes because there’s quite a few things I want to dig into here. One of the interesting things that you just talked about that I find fascinating is this arc of learning. You, you just kind of went through your arc for us, but what I feel like a lot of people out there don’t realize is like you always have to be pushing the boundaries and putting yourself out there, and in my opinion, I think producing content makes you learn faster, and what you basically just told me is you just produced a ton of content from a blog to a book to, you know, all this content you’re producing like what is your advice to a gym owner in terms of do you believe in “fake it till you make it,” do you think gym owners need to be putting out content. What are your thoughts on that?

Chris Cooper: Yeah 100% and I mean this is one of the hardest lessons to get across to gym owners is that you are on stage the second you open a business, and so number one, everybody’s going to see everything that you do. But number two, what you do up on that stage is up to you, and if you don’t do anything, then you’re still on the stage, you’re just doing nothing. In my case I learned the technique of “teach it to learn it” when I was studying for my CSCS exam back in college. A teacher told me, if you’re having trouble not falling asleep over this textbook, what you should do is take a study break every hour and teach back what you’ve just learned to an imaginary audience. And I took that into when I got my first mentor. I started writing down everything that he was telling me, but it wasn’t sticking. And so I said, well, I’m going to pretend that I’m teaching it to somebody else, and I was a Seth Godin fan already in 2008, and he had a TypePad blog and that’s what I did.

Dan Uyemura: I still read that blog almost every day. I don’t know if it’s still TypePad, but I just read this morning, in fact.

Chris Cooper: It still is. Yep, he’s still TypePad. And so, you know, he’s been a guide for me, I wouldn’t call them a mentor, because I’ve only ever had one email from him in my entire life, but yeah, I do publish content every day. And that lesson has been reinforced through, you know, I used to write for testosterone.net now it’s called TNation. I got hired by CrossFit, Inc in 2012 to write for them, and I met Tony Budding in San Diego, and the first thing he said to us was we publish every day, no matter what. CrossFit, Inc. used to call themselves, it wasn’t a content creation company, but a media company, not a fitness company back when they had a Facebook page. And recently, actually, when they pivoted to cut out most of their media team we hired a bunch of them, including all the top ones, because I still believe in the mission of producing content.

We also have a “help first” ethos and so it’s really effective for building trust in our audience and that trust is actually what leads to growth and sales for us, and so every single month we publish a blog post every day, we publish a podcast twice a week, and we publish a new downloadable guide every single month. The sum total of that is about $20,000, that’s what it cost me to do it. And there’s never a promise of reward, but over time, like this is the only thing that works. If you look at Facebook now, when they bring in the people who spend over a million dollars a year and Facebook ads. What they’ll tell them is you need to be producing content, you know, in other words, the number one thing that you can do on Facebook is get people the hell off Facebook and onto your website.

Dan Uyemura: You mentioned that concept “teach it to learn it,” in my life, I’ve always said “fake it to make it,” and I’m actually going to use yours because it’s a little more positive and a little less… ::laughter:: “Teach it to learn it” is the same concept, when I first opened LAX CrossFit every night, I would write a blog, and I didn’t even know why I just did it because my last gym owner, the one that I came from did it every night. So, you know, I just did what I knew, and every night, I would spend an hour and a half researching things to make sure I didn’t look stupid in what I was writing because I didn’t really know it all yet, and within a year, I felt like I learned so much, just because I forced myself to write blogs every night, so there’s an interesting paradigm. A lot of times I meet people and they’re like, I don’t know enough to write, and I’m like, well, then you need to write. That’s the whole point.

Another crazy concept that you just mentioned was like you say Seth Godin wasn’t your mentor, I say maybe he is because you know like in a lot of ways, like for you, for instance, we don’t talk but maybe once a year, twice a year, three times a year, but in some ways, you are my mentor, because I pay attention to everything you say everything you do. Help First has become an ecosystem here. Yeah, you might not realize, like Seth doesn’t realize it, but he is the mentor of probably thousands of people so wrap this all back in, if you’re a gym owner and you’re afraid of blogging, do it because there’s people in your community who you’re gonna become a mentor to without even knowing it. You know, like whether they see it as a guide or a mentor or whatever, you’re helping them in their quest.

Let’s dive into Help First because it’s one of, I still remember I went to a seminar that you did back near San Diego, I can’t remember the city. I went with my co-founder here at PushPress, Chris, and we went because we were opening a gym, to learn, and the biggest sticking point I had was Help First, and it kind of just resonated with me. Let’s talk about that. Why is that so important for a gym to worry about their customers and their customers’ needs before theirs?

Chris Cooper: Well, there’s a couple reasons. Number one, nobody opens a gym or any service business because they want to sell things, they want to help people, absolutely, and they want to just be the best coach, and so a lot of us, we have this belief, which is erroneous, that if we’re the best coach, we’re going to have the biggest, best business, and that belief gets reinforced by certifying bodies mostly, they’ll say, “If you are the best coach then clients will refer to you and you’ll just grow,” and that’s not true, so you actually have to sell. The term “help first” puts selling for a lot of gym owners in the proper light and makes it palatable. It’s also, it’s my ethos because it’s the question that I ask whenever I encounter somebody on the street who obviously needs some help with their health and fitness. My question is not, “How am I going to sell this guy a gym membership or a diet,” it’s, “How can I help this person?” And so when I approach a conversation, I don’t have to think, what’s my sales pitch going to be, you know, I don’t build it up in my mind. Instead, what I do is I just ask them, “How can I help you get healthier?” or “What’s the one thing that I can do today that will help you?” And often that does lead to like a gym membership or maybe down the line, it does.

Dan Uyemura: Right. It’s such an easy and approachable concept because even if, right now, I said, “Hey Chris, how can I help you?” You’re going to internalize that to what you need and how you see the lens of your current needs and you’re going to reply back and it might be, “I don’t need anything right now,” but it’s so non obtrusive instead of, “Let’s get you in the gym and let me get you training,” that becomes you immediately put a wall up when that comes up so if you’re listening to this right now and you have kind of a weirdness about selling, literally that’s all you have to ask, this such great advice. Just “how can I help you,” it could be a number of things, and it might not have anything to do with your gym, but if you ask that enough times, you’re going to make connections and it will help your business.

Chris Cooper: It’s really, it’s an important question to ask too, Dan, because a lot of gym owners are first time entrepreneurs and they don’t really know what they’re selling or what they could be selling. And so when you ask, “How can I help you?” enough times, and you hear the same answers over and over, “I need to lose weight,” “I need to clean up my diet,” “I need to just get active,” you start to think a little bit more about, like, “Wait a minute, do people really want to buy a coach that is going to take them to the CrossFit games?” I really believe it’s that resounding echo of “We want to lose weight,” “We want to save our bad back,” that’s led to this move away from focusing on the CrossFit games by HQ. It’s like, you know, “Hey, when we listen to our clients they tell us, that’s not what they want.”

Dan Uyemura: And you know, you know what’s even more interesting about this, which again, you just sparked, you connected the dots for me. I have a mentor, which I think you had the same mentor, Dan Martell. But what I realized is he asked us all the time, “How can I help?” and what I realized he’s doing, now that you’ve made this connection in my brain, he’s actually, because we’re already clients of his, but he’s like, “What pain points do you have?” “How can I help?” because some other person like me, has the same pain points and now he starts generating content around that. So if you’re wondering, “Great, I need to write this content, I need to fake it till you make it or teach it, to learn it, but I don’t want to write about,” if you go out in the community and you start asking people, “How can I help you?” and you take the eight answers you get back, there’s your pillars of things that you start writing, making videos about, and talking about because most people are going to have the same problems and you’re gonna hear the same answers over and over again.

Chris Cooper: That’s right. And it’s also a great check for you to make sure that you’re aligned with your real audience, instead of thinking that your audience is like you. So, for example, If you go on Quora.com and you look for the 31 top questions that people ask about CrossFit, you will not find, “How do I lift more weight overhead?” “How do I cycle the barbell faster?”. What you’ll find is, “Will CrossFit make me bulky?” and that’s the content that you need to produce.

Dan Uyemura: Or “Will I get injured doing CrossFit?”

Chris Cooper: It’s one of the 31, definitely Dan. Yeah, I mean that’s actually a secret, we’re going to talk about the Two-Brain Roadmap later, but that’s a secret on that map is once you’ve created the first easy pieces of content, the first client-driven content that you create are those 31 questions that are asked on Quora. It’s great SEO, but it’s also just amazing content.

Dan Uyemura: What I really dig about the stuff that you do, having been a Two-Brain client at one point and having just been around your world for a while is you’ve taken, this is a great example, you take this concept of core, which probably a lot of people don’t know about, you figured out a framework of figuring out what people are looking for, and you take all the work out of it. I remember like the one of the first things we did when we came to Two- Brain is like who are your best clients and what do they think about you, and it’s just come up with a list of your top revenue generating clients and then talk to them, and I was like, “Well, that’s so obvious, I feel stupid for not thinking about that, but okay, there we go.” So one of the cool things you’re doing is you’re putting these, I’m a big framework guy, you’re putting these frameworks in front of people and saying you don’t have to reinvent the wheel and ask 100 people 31 questions, you can just go to Quora and get 31 questions. Super cool.

Let’s switch gears real quick and talk about Founder, Farmer, Tinker, Thief. This is something, admittedly, I haven’t read, but the title is genius because every time I hear it, I’m like, I need to know what this means. Can you tell me, this is strictly for my own engagement right now, can you explain Founder, Farmer, Tinker, Thief to me.

Chris Cooper: Yeah, so I am all about stories and math, so I use math to determine like, here’s the right answer, and then I use stories to explain the answer. So the story that we’re trying to tell with Founder, Farmer, Tinker, Thief is that there’s a lot of information out there for entrepreneurs in the gym space, especially, there’s a lot of advice, can I swear on this podcast or not?

Dan Uyemura: Hell yeah.

Chris Cooper: Okay, a lot of advice for gym owners is bullshit. And it’s put out there by people who haven’t tested it, they’ve never become successful themselves, they’ve never done anything wrong, they haven’t made any mistakes, so they haven’t actually learned anything, and that’s unfortunate that doesn’t happen in most other industries, but fitness, that’s just how it goes. So Founder, Farmer, Tinker, Thief was my attempt to sort all of the big ideas, all of the steps, through the lens of data and say, this works, that doesn’t, but what I found when I’d been doing that for the last decade is like some stuff works when you’re a founder and it doesn’t work later or vice versa, you know, this is great advice, but you’re not ready for it yet because you don’t have the bandwidth to be producing content every single day. So as we started to amass more and more data, we started to ask ourselves, “When is this idea most relevant?” We discovered that there are really four phases to the entrepreneurs journey. There’s the founder phase which is startup, you’re working all the hours, you’re doing everything by yourself and you’re just trying to break even. Then there’s the farmer phase, which is where most businesses actually get stuck and you have a couple of employees but they don’t do what you need them to do, and you still don’t have any more time and you’re not really more profitable, even though your business is growing. And then the third stage is the tinker phase which is like your business is successful enough to to give you financial freedom, and you have 50 other ideas and suddenly you’re managing people and you need leadership skills now that you’ve never needed before and you can really screw up your life because you have a bit of money to screw it up with, so you can chase bad ideas now. And then the thief phase is basically how do you transition from owning these successful businesses into leaving a meaningful legacy for your community.

Dan Uyemura: That’s a very good explanation. Let me ask you something here because now that I understand this framework, what I see personally is, like you said, a lot of gyms get stuck in farmer phase, but they don’t want to be, they absolutely don’t want to be, but they do. What do you think is the biggest challenge that is stopping people from getting past farmer into tinker?

Chris Cooper: Yeah, so it’s basically the inability to break down everything that they possibly could be doing right, so farmer phase, you’ve got this gym, you’ve been open for about a year, you’re at breakeven, you’ve got two years left on your lease, you’ve got some staff, whatever you pay them or if they’re volunteer that doesn’t matter. You’ve got to be a manager for the first time, and all you wanted to do is buy yourself a job as a CrossFit coach, that’s all you wanted to do, and so you’re throwing your hands up in the air and you’re like, “God, I wish somebody would just make the money problems go away, so I could just coach,” or “I wish I could just take a vacation,” or “How come we’re making way more money, but the only person that’s profiting from this is the government and my landlord?

Dan Uyemura: Yeah.

Chris Cooper: And the problem is that nobody is looking at your business objectively and breaking the problems down into steps for you, and that’s what I spent my career doing as a mentor and that’s what most people lack. So for example, when I went to a mentor for the first time I was in the farmer phase, and he said, “Chris, you gotta hire some staff, you’re working literally from 5am until nine at night, you’re driving home, and you don’t see your kids, you’re exhausted and you’re broke, you gotta hire some staff.” I said, “Dennis, I can’t hire staff, there’s no money.” And so, what he said was, well, here’s what we’re gonna do. We’re gonna first you’re going to break down all the roles in your business, all the hats that you wear, then you’re going to assign $1 value to each one, and you’re going to pick the cheapest role and we’re going to hire that. So in my case, that was the cleaner and at the time I could hire a cleaner for about $8.50 an hour, and so he said, okay, now you hire this cleaner, what you’re going to do while that cleaner is mopping is you’re going to stay at the gym and you’re going to work on something that drives revenue or whatever the next step was for me 10 years ago. And so, under his mentorship, that’s what we did. We hired a cleaner, I worked on a retention system. We sold more, I made more money. But then, that wasn’t enough, he said, okay, well now you’ve got to replace yourself at this next role, and so the next lowest value role on my list was I forget what it was, maybe it was group class coach. That terrified me because I thought if I put another coach in front of my clients, they’re not going to see me as the big expert anymore, but that’s what I did, and guess what, at 6am she was a hell of a lot friendlier than I was, people loved her, and that class started to grow, but I still showed up at the gym at 6am and I worked on sales now. And then you start climbing that ladder and we teach this process, but it really requires mentorship, but the whole key, Dan, is there’s so much overwhelm in farmer phase, there’s so many things that you could do, there’s so many ideas that are actually good. Somebody has to break them down and say this thing first, this thing second, and this thing three months from now.

Dan Uyemura: So this is an excellent segue into the roadmap, which you’ve just released recently. And let me tell you, I’ve been in this phase personally, I’ve worn these shoes a couple times as a gym owner and now with PushPress. There comes a point and this is probably exactly why you’re laying this out and what you’re talking about, where you look at everything and you’re like, I’ve got 84 things I need to work on, and there’s one of me and I need to change. I need to change all of this and hire everybody and you look at that you get overwhelmed and you just go play a video game or something, that’s me, but the point is, like you’re saying, you can’t do everything at once. You have to systematically pick things off one by one, which I believe is one of the things that stops people from becoming a better gym is they look at everything they have to do and they get overwhelmed. You just showed me this roadmap and I’ve seen it in passing, but I just had it explained to me and I got a peek behind the curtains and I’m blown away, this solves that problem, in my opinion, because you don’t even get to see what you have to do later on down the road, until you do what you have to do now, and it breaks it all down into, here we go with the word again, framework so that you can systematically and objectively, just go through these things and get things done and not feel overwhelmed by, what is the grid, 13 by 10?

Chris Cooper: 13 by 40.

Dan Uyemura: Okay, so there’s like 500 things or something off the top of my head that you got to do, that’s super overwhelming, but if you can only see one at a time or 13 at a time. I don’t know how it works.

Chris Cooper: One at a time.

Dan Uyemura: Only one at a time. Yep. Can you see one in every column at a time or is it just one column?

Chris Cooper: Yeah, technically, you could. It’s really up to the mentor to say Dan needs more focus, so one of the first things that we do is we do an exercise to determine what your bandwidth is, everybody’s a little bit different. Here, for me, if I’m focusing on one thing I get bored if I’m focusing on two things I’m optimized. If I’m focusing on three things I’m distracted.

Dan Uyemura: Me and you are the same. Yeah.

Chris Cooper: Okay, so I need a side project to stay creative and energized, but I don’t need three things, and that’s different for everyone, so when somebody is in the incubator or like our first stage of mentorship, they’re getting exposed to one thing at a time. Do this thing today. Tomorrow we’ll build on this. Later, when they get into the second stage of mentorship, the mentor will probably reveal three to five things that they should be working on and then check in with them to make sure that they’re getting those things done, but no, we never reveal all 500 things at once because it’s just overwhelming.

Dan Uyemura: You know, yeah.

Chris Cooper: We actually even tell people to quit all of your other Facebook groups when you start with Two-Brain now because you’re going to hear this thing and it’s a great idea, and you’re going to want to do that where you need to be focused on the steps.

Dan Uyemura: Don’t tell them to quit the PushPress User Group, please.

Chris Cooper: Never. I’ve never done that.

Dan Uyemura: No, just kidding. Ok, cool. So, do you think, included with this podcast episode, we like to do downloads and like show notes and all that kind of stuff. Can I offer any type of downloads people can get a peek at what this looks like a PDF or a JPEG or some. Sure, yeah.

Chris Cooper: Sure, yeah. I can give you a little video or something. I mean, it’s very visual.

Dan Uyemura: Yeah.

Chris Cooper: It’s something to look at on purpose, and so here’s the truth. Dan, we created this visual game. It really does gamify the entrepreneurial journey, we created it because we were trying to trick people into giving us data. I don’t mean trick people. What I mean is, encourage people to give us data, so I just showed you one of the highways on the roadmap. There are 13 different milestones on the highway, but the first one is track your expenses for the last three months. Well, that’s boring as hell, nobody ever wants to do that. So even when they’re paying a mentor and the mentor says track your expenses for the last three months, they don’t always do it. But if you make it a game and you say, as soon as you’re done, click “approve” and you unlock the next level and at level four, we’re going to send you this cool prize, then you do it.

Dan Uyemura: Yep.

Chris Cooper: And so what that means is that now I’m rapidly building the biggest data set in the fitness industry and people are enthusiastic about providing it.

Dan Uyemura: And with that data, you have the opportunity of improving your product and helping more gym owners, obviously.

Chris Cooper: Yeah, thousand percent. So, for example, until recently we had a strong empirical belief that an on ramp program increases the overall lifetime that you would keep a client, their length of engagement and also their ARM, their average revenue per month. And we had data scattered around, but it wasn’t comprehensive, we couldn’t point at it and say this increases your average length of engagement from 9 months to 13, now we can say that, and so we can say running an on-ramp program increases the average client value to your gym by about $1800 to $2100. We can also say like if you have to raise rates from X to Y, you can expect to drop off of this, here’s what you should plan for and your new rate should be this, we can get really mathematical. The key is, if you want to collect that data, you have to wrap it in a really amazing story, and so that’s why the roadmap is the best story I’ve ever told.

Dan Uyemura: I think you touched on it earlier, you love data and stories, right.

Chris Cooper: Yeah stories and math, man. Stories about two brains, the left hemisphere of your brain is analytical, the right hemisphere is creative.

Dan Uyemura: You know, I knew that, but you so often in this podcast people explain things to me, and I’m like, I knew that, but you just made it clear. That’s cool, analytical and artistic, cool.  

So you started touching upon this in the roadmap, getting data is important for you, it helps you really analyze the industry, the people you’re helping, and how to make them better based on their results of what they’re doing, and I see that as super important. I actually posed it to our user group, I am talking to Chris today, anyone want me to ask any questions. I’ve got a few that people have asked me to bring along, and it kind of segues into this. Nick Habich…

Chris Cooper: Fantastic guy.

Dan Uyemura: I love him, he had a bunch of questions. I’m gonna try and kind of wrap them, they’re all kind of the same concept. First question is why would gym owners want the client management system to have a client facing scheduler. I think he’s teeing you up for some answers he knows you want to tell.

Chris Cooper: Oh yeah, I mean your business has to revolve around your client and not yourself, so if there’s a client facing scheduler that means the client can choose to pick an appointment to come and talk to you. That’s really important because a couple years ago, what we were trying to do was encourage clients to meet our schedule, come in and book a class time, but we weren’t doing a lot of one on one. Now, I think hopefully everybody is and so what that means is the client can determine when they want to come in, they can pick their appointment time, they can actually commit, they can make that mental commitment of “I have an appointment,” instead of, my attendance is required at this class. If you think about it, what do you show up for in life and what do you not, when you have an appointment, you show up. I have a dental appointment next Wednesday at 9:30am, I will be there. If I had a class, I would be more likely to skip if I had something else going on.

Dan Uyemura: Got it. That makes total sense. Okay. And then the other question he had, he had three, but one of them will touch on later as I already see where we’re going with it, but another question he had was, why would gym owners want accurate member retention lifespan data?

Chris Cooper: Oh, because lifespan is a multiplier of a client value. Okay, so let’s say that even if you’re selling a group class and you charge $150 per month. It probably costs you something to get that client, either in ad spend or in your time, so if you can keep a client for about three months longer then you don’t have to recruit as many more clients because you start to get this snowballing and overlapping effect, and in our data, this was really key for us, if the average gym kept every member for three more months their profit would be an extra $40,000 a year. And that’s based off a gym with 150 members charging $150 a month. Many Two-Brain gyms charge twice as much as that now. And so the average client, if you can keep them three months longer is worth like another $80,000 a year to you. That $80,000 doesn’t come with acquisition cost. It doesn’t come with further equipment costs, it doesn’t come with like time and energy cost of filtering out the right people. They are the right people. You should try and keep them.

Dan Uyemura: One thing that’s cool, and maybe you might do, I haven’t seen, but definitely what I feel like we should do better is putting these numbers in calculators in front of people a little faster because that’s really eye opening, that’s why you’ve calculated that stat $40,000 $80,0000 grand a year addition, if you just keep someone for three months longer, and really, how hard is to keep someone 3 months longer. Engage them, talk to them, know what’s going on in their lives, make them happy when they come in, and make them smile, make them laugh like there’s a lot of things you can do to make someone stay a little bit longer. It’s not that much longer. So that, that’s huge because when you actually tell a gym owner, “Oh, you’d like to get paid well this year, how would you like to make $40,000 more that could go right in your pocket that you’re not seeing well just do this right, do this, this and this for everyone, your clients every month and you’ll probably make $40,000 a year more.” I love it. Let’s kind of skip into a few more things. Is there anything else about the roadmap that you’d want to talk about? It’s a very complicated topic. I think you have to see it, like Chris said, to really see what’s going on here.

Chris Cooper: Well, I think what it does best, and this is something that I’ve had to learn after mentoring gym owners for a decade, is everybody gets the concepts. Right? Oh, if your clients are happy, they will stay longer. Everybody gets that, the key, though, is what exactly makes your clients happy, and that’s where the data comes in, and that’s what we’ve done in the roadmap, you know. So step one is have somebody that’s specifically in charge of retention. Step two is build these systems, send this card, text this often, call them, do a goal review this often, here are the actual steps that you need to do to capitalize on this concept that everybody understands, and I can’t remember where I read that, Dan, but the hallmark of genius is the ability to simplify something so everybody says, “Oh, I kind of knew that,” but make it actionable.

Dan Uyemura: Something that I see in a lot of gym owners and it was in my gym when we first started as well is a reactionary nature versus a proactive nature. And what I’m seeing in this roadmap is you’re laying out the framework to handle people ahead of time in the ways that you want to handle them. Again, like the framework, you’re not reacting all the time, like “Oh no Christmas is coming up and I need a holiday party and I forgot about it.” But if you’ve got it on a roadmap and you’ve got it on a calendar. Once November is hitting you’re already getting people geared up for it because you know it’s coming. What are some really quick tips that you can give people, outside of implementing your roadmap, becoming a Two-Brain mentor client, like if you’re listening to this right now and you’re a gym owner, raise your hand, I can’t see it, but, raise your hand if you feel like you’re just putting out fires all the time. That’s a reactionary business, what is some quick tip that somebody can do to start to systematize and be more proactive as opposed to reactive because the reactivity kills you.

Chris Cooper: Oh yeah, nobody can survive in a reactive state for long, and we know that as fitness coaches, when an organism is placed under stress, there’s a period of decline until that stress is removed and then they super compensate. Okay, so what we do every January with everybody is we draw an annual plan, and so we look back at last year’s revenues, profits, and stuff, and big occurrences, and we say what happened and when, and what worked, and so you could do this yourself without the benefit of a mentor or the roadmap. Absolutely. You pull up your financials from last year and you look at each month individually. You say, what did I do in that month. Why did we have a great month, that month? What could I have done better? What can I have done to prepare for that better? Okay. So, for example, back in 2013 we published a guide, called the intramural open and everybody loved it. It was way more fun than the CrossFit Open but it kind of piggybacked on it, and then we said, what if we had thought of this and published it in January, instead of March. Everybody could have said to their members, the CrossFit Open is coming, we have a specialty clinic coming up for six weeks where you can work on the skills that you’re going to see in the Open. And so the second year that we published that guide we included, here’s how to make money at this, you don’t need to charge for the Open. What you need to do is say we have a muscle up clinic, we have a doubleunder clinic, we have this and that coming up. If you want to do extra work, it’s available. And suddenly, every gym made an extra $2,000 and that’s what you’re doing with an annual plan is you’re saying, what are the peak moments in the year. Where should I be taking my holidays, where should I not, where should I be putting my foot on the gas pedal. So, for example, the first time that I did this was right after we had the worst month of my life. It was August probably 2008/2009, I can’t remember. And we couldn’t pay the rent and we couldn’t pay me and we couldn’t pay the land, our taxes and stuff. And I said, I’m never doing this again, so either next year I’m going to have a plan to make revenue in August or we’re going to close. Then I started planning for the next August and our plan was to start the Catalyst Games which, you know, was an event that made us some money and it got people training harder and it kept them in the gym through the hot month of August. So that’s the key is you’ve got to build this annual plan and I do it with a big circle. There’s a huge whiteboard in my office I can look at it right now and see Catalysts annual plan for the year. It looks like a clock face. The first thing that you’re going to draw are the big key events in your gym so you know the intramural open or whatever, that’s October now, used to be March. What else is going to happen in March? Well, maybe there’s a nutrition challenge or something. And you work backwards from that, you say, “Okay, how do I sell a program that optimizes people’s effect or how do I get personal training clients around this, how do I use this, and then you break down by role, who’s going to do it and then you finally say, how do I sell it or how do I market it. And so you’ve got these plans that overlap basically your operations for the year.

Dan Uyemura: So if you’re listening to this and you feel like you’ve been putting out fires all the time, and then you’re listening to Chris explain how he’s proactively planning his next year, putting things in order and then not only just figuring out what he wants to do, but who’s going to be involved, how he’s going to market it, how much it’s going to cost, who he’s going to sell it to, and does that feel comforting to feel that way, when I hear him explain that, I feel comfort for a lot of gym owners out there, and I assume you’re probably feeling the same. If you feel like that’s a transition you need to make, it’s kind of, again, this “fake it, to make it,” “teach it to learn it”  concept you got to just start doing it, and even if, my belief is, even if you screw up even if you don’t have the money to pay a mentor, even if you got to go it alone for a while, just do it, and if you do it wrong, learn from it and do it again tomorrow, just keep doing it. It will make you better in the long run. I mean, we tell our clients all the time, just come in and put yourself under stress and you’re going to get stronger and you’re going to learn new things and you’re gonna become better, you’ve got to follow that model too. You can’t just keep doing the same stuff and expecting different outcomes. Cool.

Chris Cooper: Yeah, I think, one thing that most gym owners forget, Dan, is that they’re really good at solving problems. And so when a client comes in and says, I need to lose 30 pounds, the first thing that you do is you weigh them. How much do you weigh now and then you say you minus 30 pounds is point B. Let’s work backwards from there. Okay, what are you going to have to do to get to Point B, and that’s the exact same thing that we do with business. What are the steps that you need to take from Point B backward to where you are right now. And what’s made me good at breaking those steps down into exactly this thing is not all the business books that I’ve read, it’s 25 years as a fitness coach.

Dan Uyemura: Right, right. Alright, cool. Let’s kind of shift gears here, we’re going to go back and forth and kind of wrap this up. This has been super mind blowing. We probably should do it again because I don’t want to give people too much stuff, it gets a little overwhelming. Let’s talk quickly, kind of like a lightning round, I guess. What do you feel your favorite business model in a gym is or is it completely variant on the gym itself?

Chris Cooper: Favorite business model in the gym is hard to define. But it’s client centric, which means you’re constantly, you have a one on one relationship with the client, even if they’re a class member. So that means you meet with the client at least every quarter. How are you doing? What are your goals? What do you want? How can I help you? Then you make a new prescription, and we call that the prescriptive model. It’s not an upsell but generally leads to a lot more revenue for a gym and a lot better retention and clients getting better results.

Dan Uyemura: Got it. Favorite book or podcast or book and podcast that you’re into right now?

Chris Cooper: I’m listening to all of Naval’s podcasts because my legacy project as I get ready to enter the “Thief” phase of my entrepreneurial journey is helping kids find an entrepreneurial path. I think that all of our kids are going to have six or seven different “careers,” and the things that they can learn from entrepreneurship will benefit them, even if they never own a business. So I own the website BusinessIsGood.com and that’s part of my mission. Naval’s podcast, really, as I said earlier, like genius is simplifying a concept to the point where the listener says, “Oh, I knew that already,” and he’s really good at that. My favorite book at the moment. Man, I usually have five or six on the go. I try to listen to John Maxwell book every single year about leadership. I listen to that while I’m skiing. I’ve also got a whole stack of Jim Collins books. This is kind of a crazy story, but the people at the tinker phase of our mentorship program we bring speakers to them, so instead of me just talking to them all the time this year they’re going to meet with Mike Michalowicz, the they’ve already met with Todd Herman, the author of The Alter Ego Effect, Chris Voss is coming to talk to them and have dinner with them, Linda Kaplan Thaler, we’re all going to New York to have breakfast with her next month, but one of the guys who was on that roster was Jim Collins and I’m a huge Jim Collins fan like Good to Great is a must read for everybody, Great by Choice is amazing, and he’s actually writing a new book and so in the way that Jim Collins is when I requested from his agent that he come and talk to our group, he’s like, I want to talk to Chris, so he gets on a call with me, talks for an hour, we wind up doing that a couple more times, and finally, he’s like, I can’t do it, I need to be buried in monk mode he calls it, and I need to finish this book, but I’ll tell you what, I’m going to send you like signed copies of all my stuff because he knows that I hand his book out all the time. So I’d say Jim Collins, Good to Great.

Dan Uyemura: That’s a good one.

Chris Cooper: Yeah.

Dan Uyemura: That’s a cool story. I’m going to have to pick your brain on that. I would love to get some really, my mission on this podcast is to introduce bigger business concepts to gym owners that I’m learning from the SaaS Academy. Yeah, these are all business concepts that people are solving in hundred million dollar businesses and as I’m listening to them, I’m like, this totally works for a gym. That’s kind of the direction I’m going here. Todd Herman actually just came to the last Dan Martell event, and it was pretty cool, watching him speak too.

Chris Cooper: He’s my personal mentor. So he and I will work one-on-one, and this is a crazy story, so I was in New York with him a few weeks ago, and we’re talking about this hierarchy of business knowledge and you’ve got these nerds, Jim Collins, and you got these researchers like Chip and Dan Heath and they’ll do research for 10 years and they’ll come up with this concept and they’ll publish the concept and the book will do okay, and then somebody will come along and they’ll wrap an amazing story around that concept and make $20 million. So I was saying, who are these top guys who have these concepts and so he was talking about these different names, and then the guys beneath them are the guys who can really wrap a story around it. And so he said one of these top guys for him would be Jim Collins. Jim Collins is not a good storyteller, but he’s an amazing researcher. And I said, that’s funny, I’ve got a voicemail from Jim Collins, on my phone right now and Todd was like fuck off, there’s no way and I pulled out my phone and I shared it with them. And it was, it was just awesome. It’s really hard to impress your mentor, and when you can do that, it’s an amazing feeling.

Dan Uyemura: Yeah, yeah. I think it just goes to show that each one of us has something in us that’s worthwhile, we’re all working towards something that’s so big. I look up to the people above me, and I’m like, well, one day I’ll be that, one day I’d like to be there, but in some ways,  we’re doing amazing things too, everyone’s doing their own amazing things in their own ways. I had in my show notes to talk to you about a flywheel, but what I realized is a lot of people don’t know what a flywheel is, you want to give us a quick definition of a flywheel and how it applies, how it could apply in a gym and why it’s so important?

Chris Cooper: Yeah so flywheels just a big giant disk, and if you’ve been around fitness for a while the place you’ve most likely seen a flywheel would be in the old monarch spin bikes, you know, they had like a 40 pound heavy wheel in the front and as you pedaled the flywheel would be really hard to turn it first and then as you got it going, it would gain its own momentum. And so when you watch like hockey dressing rooms or any other sport where people actually warm up before the game they’re riding these bikes that have a heavy flywheel in the front. If you think about a flywheel in non engineering terms, it helps to think about like a big stone and you know it’s in your path, you’ve got to move it. At first, to move the stone, it takes all the effort that you can. It’s like a max effort lift. But once it’s moving a little bit, the second push is slightly less hard, and then you keep pushing on it and it starts to gain its own momentum and roll itself, and that’s the flywheel concept. The thing is you can’t ever stop pushing on the flywheel, but when the flywheel is moving by itself, then you’re not using all of your energy to just get it going, you’re using it to move it faster and faster. Hopefully that helps.

Dan Uyemura: Yeah that’s a better analogy than the one I was trying to use, which is like a concept two rower, but it’s almost the opposite of flywheel because the minute you stop rowing, it just grinds to a halt immediately, it doesn’t keep spinning very fast, maybe if you put the setting to a one it’ll go for a while. So the key to the flywheel is, like Chris said, these are business systems in, think of it as a business system, so let’s talk about maybe a member retention journey, it might be hard to get your members to refer each other and setup process so that they have happy moments and they’re referring their friends to your gym but once you got that process defined and running, and people referring, and new members coming in, they’re experiencing happy moments and then the referring members, and then over and over and over again. That’s an example of a flywheel in your gym.

Chris Cooper: Yeah that’s a great example, Dan. Okay, so now that’s a concept everybody agrees that’s probably true, so what we say is, here’s exactly what you say to get that started. So a lot of gym owners, they’re not doing goal reviews with their clients, they never stop and say, “Hey, what do you want to accomplish and are you doing it?” But part of that process should be if a client says I’m having an amazing time, I love this place, you should say, “How can I help your husband get fit?” or “How can I help your coworkers reduce stress?” or whatever that is. The first time we tell the gym owner to do that, it is painful, that’s a max effort thruster, this sucks and they’re probably going to dump it. By the 30th time you’ve done that, it’s so natural that it’s easy, and you’ve got a referral engine that just kind of runs itself. Now, like people expect to share their spouses name.

Dan Uyemura: Yeah, and once you go down this route of creating this referral engine, you’re going to start opening your mind to the concept, the goal review is a perfect one because you’re actually manufacturing a process so that they get to tell you what they want, you get to get them to where they want to go, which makes them more likely to refer somebody, but as you’re doing this, you can probably put even more things in the process where it’s like, happy moment, great accomplishment, PR lift or  PR. Look out, they hit their goal then it’s like, is there anyone that you know that I can help, that you think would love this gym as much as you do. You tell me you love it, is there anyone else, so just opening your mind to the concept that these things, these frameworks can be put in place and they could be structured in such a way that lead to the outcome you want. That’s what starts to create these flywheels So, very good. Hopefully, you all took away from that maybe in future episodes I’ll refer to flywheels just as if you already knew, and I’ll refer back to this.

Alright, last question, and honestly, this is probably the most important one, it might lead to a 20 minute discussion, so it’s not necessarily the last one, and we’re done. What are your most important KPIs a gym should be paying attention to and why?

Chris Cooper: Oh, this actually is simple, because we do so much work on this so ARM (average revenue per member), LEG (length of engagement). There are different variations on that, some people measure churn, but you need to know how long the average person sticks around so that you can figure out how to improve that. Profit, a lot of people track gross revenue, they don’t actually track how much money they keep, profit is way more important. So we track ARM, LEG, revenue profit, we do an expense audit fairly frequently, but it’s not with the intent of what can you cut, it’s how can you improve the ROI from this thing. So for example, we just did this with the GM of my gym last month. We went through Uplaunch and said, we went through everything we weren’t picking on Uplaunch, I love those guys, but of course, we want to make sure that we’re getting a positive ROI out of the service so we said, how can we improve the ROI on this and Jamie, my GM said, “Oh, well, we could add this one thing to our Uplaunch,” and there you go. Boom. We doubled the ROI on Uplaunch, so that’s really what an expense audit is. Later on, as you get into the farmer stage and later you want to track some sales metrics, so that’s appointment set rate, appointments shown up for, your show rate, and appointments closed or your conversion rate.. Typically people want to try Facebook ads for example or other advertising now, they spend a few dollars on, and they say it’s not working. But what they’re not actually doing is diagnostic to figure out what’s not working, like is it really the ad or is it that people don’t show up for their appointment or you can’t convert them once they get in the door, and after we do that diagnostic the mentor can say, “Okay, here’s your next step you need to get better at conversions.” “You need to get more reps at sales,” or “Maybe you do need a better ad,” but we don’t know unless we break that all down right, so ARM, LEG, profit, set, show, close. And then the last one is effective hourly rate, we need to know what the entrepreneur is actually making for their time and improve that.

Dan Uyemura: Sounds good. So if you haven’t really been paying attention to your metrics. Again, this is another one of those snowballs where once you start, put it this way, you need to, it’s just like your lifts or if you’re trying to lose weight, if you don’t have a certain key set of numbers you’re looking at and measuring consistently and then evaluating against your behaviors, you’re really flying blind. The goal of all of us, Chris, us, everyone in this industry. is to help you gym owners improve your businesses and the analogy that someone gave me that really resonated with me was like when a plane takes off in LA, and it’s going to New York, it doesn’t just set its target to New York and then just go. Every minute it’s checking radar, and it’s checking positioning, it’s checking all of these indicators, which we’re calling KPIs, to make sure it’s on the right path, it’s going in the right direction, it’s going the right speed, everything is going correctly, to get it to where it needs to go at the right time, right place, etc, or else it might just end up in Kansas City, and what I see a lot of gym owners who aren’t dialed into tracking their numbers and paying attention to what’s going on is they end up in Kansas City when they’re trying to go to New York or God forbid they take off in LA and they end up in San Diego and don’t even get anywhere right, and, I mean, I’m going to tell you the truth, as an owner of a building and member management system, I don’t get asked enough from people to get data. So everyone in their business has to solve for the squeaky wheels, our end goal here is to be completely data driven, but I have way too many people who want other things. You can’t go, for the small minority of people who understand data, we’re going to build a data piece because all these other people want other things, so that’s the struggle we face because while we understand that’s the most important thing we also can’t build for the minority, so one thing, Nick brought up in the group, this is where I was alluding to, and what I want is to educate gym owners so much that they are demanding this, not just of us, but every other management system because I don’t think any management system knocks this out of the park yet, but gives them the data they need to be able to fly this plane correctly to where they want to go but that starts with the ownership level in my opinion. This is why you’re doing important stuff.

Chris Cooper: Thanks, man. The challenges, the same as what we see in the gyms, people know what they should do, they know that they should eat less, they know that they should cut out sugar, they know that they should touch their toes once in a while. But that doesn’t make them do it, it’s not enough, and it’s the same thing with tracking metrics. So after my first five years as a mentor, I was like, what the hell is it going to take, and then I realized, well, if I don’t make tracking metrics fun, I don’t want to do it, nobody wants to do it. So now when people give us their metrics, they see a graph and they see a trophy and we’re basically like using all these tools that behavioral sciences have learned and are most commonly applied in games like Candy Crush or, you and I are both on Strava, how awesome is Strava. That’s what we want to build for business. So yeah, you need to gamify things, you need to have a reward system in place because people are just not going to do meal prep on their own.

Dan Uyemura: Which I mean that could be another podcast in and of itself, like, how can you gamify your gym to get your clients better success. I think that needs to be talked about too. Yeah, so one way or another, PushPress as a company is going to go down this direction. I’m sure every other company also has this concept of direction. What we should do, Chris, is we should sync up and come up with some like industry standards. I actually have a list from your clients of stuff they need to see. I actually have a game plan to get implemented now we’re gonna start working on that soon. You know, like every other business, we all have 100 things in line that need to get done where we’re all working on, it’s going to get there. I’m gonna get your clients happy soon. It’s not going to be the perfect solution up front, but it’s going to be a solution, and we’re going to keep moving. Incremental perfection is one of our core values, and that’s the direction we’re going.

Chris Cooper: Fantastic. All right.

Dan Uyemura: Well, hey, this has been a great chat. I know if you, as a gym owner, have listened to this, you probably picked up, like with most of my guests, you probably picked up 10 things that have been actionable or very insightful. If you need the show notes are published there will be a transcript. A lot of times that helps to read through the transcript to get the pieces that you heard you know somewhere in the middle there, read through it. If you think this was super enjoyable, make sure you give this one a thumbs up or a five star rating, let us know. Like Chris was saying earlier, let me know who you loved, so I can make sure they come back and give you more. Everyone’s goal here is to help your business improve and that’s what Chris is here to do, and he’s more than welcome to come back anytime and share more of his knowledge with you guys. Until next time you guys keep grinding on your businesses and will be over here trying to help you become better business owners one episode at a time. See ya guys.

Alright, what’d you think? Did I lie? Or was I telling the truth? Good episode or no? I thought it was pretty good. Like I said, always stoked to be able to talk to Chris Cooper, his time is always welcome here on the podcast. He’s always got good stuff to say, and his genuine help first attitude and positive attitude is something that is a pure asset to our community as gym and fitness studio owners.  

What do you think? You guys take away anything important or actionable from that episode? Going over a few key concepts here, we talked about flywheels. I think that’s one of the biggest concepts, that as a business owner you need to get your head around, because It’s a growth stacking model, as you’re building upon the things you’ve done in the past, you’re creating an easier path to success as you keep stacking them. This flywheel concept is a very important concept to get your mind around, so you’re not continually recreating the wheel, but you’re stacking upon things that you’ve built in the past to make your job easier tomorrow. We went through KPI’s, I mean, that’s a no brainer. Chris has long been a very data driven and KPI focused mentor and gym owner, again, as are we here at PushPress, so I think that was pretty cool, digging into KPI’s with him. Then we journey down the road of Founder, Farmer, Tinker, Thief, which is a really cool framework that he’s built around the different stages that you are running as an entrepreneur. A bunch of other things we talked about, we talked about the framework that he’s building in terms of growing your gym or your business and the steps you need to take to do. So much cool stuff we discussed in this episode. I hope you took something away that was good.

Here comes the ask I make at the end of every episode. If you found something actionable or of quality in this episode, I would really appreciate it if you liked this episode. Make sure you share it with other gym owners so that they know that this content is out there, there are people out there really trying to help them push their business forward and help them through the business ownership experience. We all know you got into this game because you love fitness, and now you’re trying to figure out business, and that’s where people like Chris Cooper and the team here at PushPress come in. We’re here to help. Make sure you subscribe to this podcast too, we are working very hard here to bring on the best guests who can help you in the most impactful ways and subscribing to the podcast will help. Not only will it validate some of this work that we’re doing, but it will also give you earlier access to a lot of the content, and you don’t have to kind of search for it when it comes out, we’re releasing these early for our subscribers. So if you subscribe, you’re gonna get access to all the episodes a little bit earlier than the general public, so that’s one of the cool perks of subscribing as well. So make sure you subscribe, give us a thumbs up, review us if you have the opportunity to do so, but if not, just keep tuning back in. We’re always here for you. We’re gonna keep making these episodes of The gymOS Podcast, and we’re going to keep trying to help you make a better business. So until the next episode again, I’m Dan Uyemura, CEO of PushPress signing off. You guys keep grinding on your businesses and I’ll keep grinding on ours. See ya later.

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