In The Trenches catches up with Caleb Homer,owner of NarroWay Fitness to discuss leadership, principles, values, planning, staff development, and a “before, during, and after” look at “readiness and resiliency” through this crisis
Caleb Homer is the owner of NarroWay Fitness in Nacogdoches, TX. In this episode Eric sits down with Caleb to discuss leadership, principles, values, planning, staff development, and a “before, during, and after” look at “readiness and resiliency” through this crisis.
Eric LeClair: 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 over at PushPress, and I am honored to have Caleb here today. We got a chance to meet through our EventX program. And I was, of course, impressed with Caleb’s leadership and his organizational structure and his creativity and initiative. And so I wanted to reach out and grab a bit of his time to share some things about his personality and his leadership style. So, Caleb, if you don’t mind, go ahead and give us a little background for the folks that are watching. Where are you from? Talk to us about your affiliate and maybe your background of your gym.
Caleb Homer: Yeah, I’d love to Eric. Thank you, guys, thank you all for having me on. I’m honored to be on this thing. So we’re in Texas, we’re in Eastern rural Texas. Our affiliate offers specifically rowing, a rowing studio, obviously CrossFit classes, you know, your standard morning, afternoon, and mid morning class, and then we do nutrition coaching as well. So we have a registered dietitian on staff to walk people through nutrition coaching as well. We opened, we’re brand new. We opened this past December. So we’re just a few months into this.
Eric LeClair: Talk about first year challenges, huh?
Caleb Homer: Yeah, yeah, yeah, for sure.
Eric LeClair: Wild, wild, man. So, from an organizational standpoint, you’re the owner, correct?
Caleb Homer: That’s true. Yep.
Eric LeClair: Talk to me about any staff, coaches. You do have a RD, right, so they work for you as well.
Caleb Homer: And then we’ve got three L1’s, we’ve got a morning, an early morning, mid morning and in the late afternoon as well as myself. So I coach a rowing studio, two rowing studio classes, CrossFit kids, and then they’re coaching CrossFit, and I coach CrossFit classes in the morning and afternoon as well. So we’ve got about six or seven classes a day.
Eric LeClair: Wow. Okay, so we got a chance to see this from a national standpoint, we’ve watched almost like certain states start closing down before other states. And so leading up to this, do you have a leadership model that you have been developing your coaches on when you opened? I know it’s been very brief, but from when you opened and certainly stuff here about what’s going on, were you working on their organizational structure, their sales pipeline. Walk me through how you’re developing your coaches.
Caleb Homer: Sure. So, man, my approach in terms of leadership with our coaches is one just remain authentic, two, know your story, and three, just ask for feedback and thrive in feedback. So whether you’re faced with the challenge of Covid-19 or a loss in the family or a ton of success or really anything if you know who you are, you know your identity, and you’re always asking for feedback, trying to be sharpened, it doesn’t matter on what spectrum you’re at, you’re always going to be one chipping away at becoming a better person so that you can serve as a coach better. Then, second, you’re not gonna get lost, right? You’re not gonna get lost in the madness of depravity, and you’re also not going to get lost in the madness of uber success. So, yeah, trying to lead in that way, you know.
Eric LeClair: How did you find your coaches? Did you develop them out of older clientele that you knew, or did you solicit from the CrossFit community?
Caleb Homer: Yeah, definitely personal relationships. Um, you know, people that I knew outside of owning an affiliate, because again, we’re brand new. So, yeah, just going to the people that I knew, one that would be great people to have around, you know, that’s really the number one thing, culture, I mean, is key. So making sure that character check box is is always checked first and are they capable of coaching a class? Um, you know, can they lead people safely, do they understand the direction that we’re going on? And are they on board for, you know, what the future could look like and what we want it to look like.
Eric LeClair: Dig it. Totally dig. We recognize, obviously, in time of strife or struggle, obviously now a time of crisis, people look to leaders both for morale or for purpose or for direction. And you have to fill those shoes not only for your staff, for your clients. So when you saw it start to become real, how did you personally reflect on your willingness and readiness to take this on as now, the infant affiliate owner, but yet in charge of all these people?
Caleb Homer: Sure. Yeah. I mean, that’s a great question and a great point to make so I’m glad that you asked that. I think as leaders, we have to remember to take the time to step back and reflect before we move forward. Like in order to be as successful as we can be in this next phase, if we’re not taking time for ourselves to process how I’m gonna take this on as the leader, we won’t be as successful as we could be. How do we take in that time? Um so for some, maybe it’s 30 minutes. Step back. You know, I’m gonna write something down, I’m gonna process some thoughts. For others, it might be a full weekend out of the lake. For others, it might be man, I just need to have an evening where I sit and process this with my wife. But if we’re not taking that time to take a step back and process that again, I don’t think we will be successful. For me personally, it was one of those, you know, day, day and 1/2 things over the weekend where I was kind of afforded some time the way that things laid out with our executive order in our government. You know, our governor came out and said on a Thursday, hey, effective Friday at midnight, Everything is shut down, you’re done until April 3rd, which is today. And then it got extended to the 30th right? Um so for me, it was yeah, yeah, taking that day and a half, that weekend, you know, I think this is a good time to kind of insert a quote that I have found incredibly helpful from earlier, that I highly value. He said, there’s people that make things happen, there’s people that let things happen, and there’s people that asked what happened, and I think we have to choose to be the leaders that say, hey, I got punched in the mouth and I’m gonna get up and I’m gonna make something happen. You know, I’m not gonna let this thing get me down.
Eric LeClair: I dig it, man. I dig it. I’m so impressed that that is some, a quality piece to really put in front of owners right now and say, you’ve got to make this choice. You have to do something. You know, sadly, we’re looking at some affiliate owners and micro gym owners that are struggling, and you want to be able to lend a hand, whether it’s academic hand or support hand or something. It’s exceptional that you can see that and understand that as the leader of your community that you’ve got to take action immediately. How did you communicate to your staff? Hey, we’ve got a pivot, we’ve got to get something moving here by then. Let’s say that next Monday, did you have a meeting with them?
Caleb Homer: Yeah. Yeah, So I mean, I called a staff meeting that, you know, immediate Friday. Um, so within a day it was, hey, we need to get together, we need to talk about what are the next steps, from what are we gonna roll out to our members to continue providing value for them? Um, because this is, you know, for a lot of people, you know, your second home, and so as things are deteriorating. You don’t want this to be one of those things. So that was, you know, a lot of the same things that people are doing online. Zoom classes, morning afternoon, nutrition, nutrition challenges, getting together with our nutrition team, putting together a series of nutrition challenges that people can get engaged with daily at at home workout that open up our doors to the greater community saying, hey, you don’t even need a membership to be on this fitness journey. And, hey, there’s an introduction to some of the things that we do allowing people to invite friends and family in during a hard time and that’s what we’re all about, right? Move your body, be healthier, you don’t have a membership to be healthier, you know.
Eric LeClair: Awesome. Now, did you happen to go down the direction of offering any kids programs? Are you doing anything for those kids that are now stuck at home at school.
Caleb Homer: That’s a great question. It’s on the radar for sure, and actually, I’m a PE teacher on the side as well at a private school here in town, So yeah, kicking around some ideaS with our leadership staff on how can we engage kids to keep them moving too.
Eric LeClair: Excellent. So now we’re at a spot where there’s constantly shifting goal posts on how long folks are going to stay closed for, obviously you were gonna return on the 3rd, now not until the 30th. What kind of conversations are you having with your staff or even with some of your close clients that this might go May June, July, something, have you guys talk down that road at all?
Caleb Homer: Man it’s impossible to, right? I mean, it’s hard to try to hit a moving target. And so, if, you know, right now, I feel like we’re treating it as if we’re on a sailboat in the middle of the ocean, and we know that way is north. We don’t see any dry land, really, we’re looking for it. We know that it’s that direction, but we’re all in it together.
Eric LeClair: I dig it. How did your community receive that message early on? That this was your pivot, you were gonna go line. They were happy with it? Anybody struggling with it?
Caleb Homer: Man, I cannot. say enough about our people, our community, our folks, they have been incredibly supportive of what we’re going through right now, and I think that yeah, I think that, a lot of that hinges on just the way things are presented whether or not you’re authentic with your people. And I think at the end of the day, it boils down to, this is the pressure cooker for your gym’s culture, period. As an affiliate, this is putting downward pressure on your culture, and if things are fracturing, just take it as an opportunity to learn and grow from what your culture is like, I, again, like to see the way that our people in our community have stepped up and supported us. And, man just engagement with our at home workouts and email supportive emails that I’ve gotten. It’s just a testament to the authenticity of the fact that, man, we’re in this together like they are supporting me and they see man, you’re doing everything you can to keep us engaged. Yeah. And so, I don’t say that to affiliate owners to be like, hey, if things are falling apart, you’re no good. That’s not what I’m saying, all I’m saying is allow this to be a teachable moment. So if things aren’t where you thought that they were, hey, it’s just an opportunity that that’s why we’re talking, right? It’s an opportunity to step up and and to improve some stuff.
Eric LeClair: I dig it, man.
Caleb Homer: Just because we’re in a place that I’m proud of, it doesn’t mean we don’t have things that we need to improve on for sure.
Eric LeClair: I guarantee every affiliate owner has got a list, and they’re walking down each day trying to look at items that they can improve upon. I mean, obviously no one is in a gym right now. And so there are some affiliate owners that are overhauling your facility. Not just cleaning the rowers, cleaning the assault bites, but they are, they’re painting, they’re improving their bathrooms and improving their office space. They’re getting new logos on the door. I mean, some people are going to town.
Caleb Homer: Well, that’s the point I wanted to make, you know, this is an opportunity for you to catch up. Sure, it sucks. It sucks. Your doors aren’t open, okay, but this is an opportunity for you to do that project you’ve been putting off because you haven’t had time. It’s an opportunity to do that deep clean. It’s an opportunity to dig into your financials and know your numbers. It’s an opportunity to increase your web presence and improve your website. See it as an opportunity that you can control versus a downfall that is all out of your control, you know, and ask yourself, if they got on the TV tomorrow and said that you can open your doors in 12 hours. Would your business be better or worse than when your doors closed? And if the answer is not better than what are you doing?
Eric LeClair: Right. This isn’t a vacation time for affiliate owners right now.
Caleb Homer: Sure, sure. Yeah, Exactly.
Eric LeClair: So to that point because we recognize all gym owners are existing on this spectrum, those that are thriving and those that are learning. But then we’ve got a chunk of affiliate owners that are falling apart. If you had a chance to deliver a message through this opportunity, what would you encourage them to do? Or what would you say to them? The non thriving ones?
Caleb Homer: Sure, sure. I mean, I think the first thing you have to do is like a triage situation and figure out where’s the bleeding, and it’s probably something along the lines of non renewals or people putting their accounts on pause or something to that effect. You know, they’re defining their…
Eric LeClair: Their worth.
Caleb Homer: Yeah, they’re like they’re defining it at, okay, I’m failing because everyone’s pausing their account. Okay, then I need to address, one, how do I keep people from pausing like, come up with some sort of strategy for keeping people from pausing their accounts, communicating the value of the pause, but then also offer alternative solutions, get creative around what can you do? Right? What can you control? Um, man, it’s been called to see some of the ideas people have come up with, you know, around how they can keep some revenue streams going.
Eric LeClair: Nutrition alone seems to be a pretty powerful one.
Caleb Homer: Yeah. Yeah, for sure. And I mean, the nutrition side of things you know, is a great example of, like, the value of those personal relationships. Because there’s so many, as we know, go spend, you know, $60 a month and get this templated, personalized nutrition plan, that’s not personal. It all. And yeah, maybe you contest the human being whenever you want or whatever, but it’s not a person that is qualified, that lives in the town. Yeah, and I know that that’s a resource, and it may be not may not be a viable option for some people. They’re just they don’t have that in place, but, hey, let’s work towards getting that in place.
Eric LeClair: Awesome. I totally dig it. I’m really I’m really impressed with the ability for you to communicate to your staff like we’ve gotta have flexibility. We’ve gotta drive innovation, we gotta think about, you know, facing forward community first and the fact that you said authentic human to human relationships are first you’re set up for long term success that way, guaranteed, guaranteed. Anything you want to leave with, any questions or any reflections now, on this first journey into owning a gym?
Caleb Homer: Sure. Yeah. I mean, I’ve been a part of CrossFit for a long time now. I mean, I think 14 was my first intro to, like, the open and the games and all that. So, I mean, not as long as a lot of people, but, seeing this community go through this together is really, really kind of neat. I think that, you know, we put the big names and the big people up on a pedestal sometimes, the Rich Fronings, and, you know, the winners of the games and the, talking elite fitness guy, and one thing that’s like been really kind of eye opening was like I heard Froning saying in his podcast the other day and he was like, yeah, man, like we’re wondering some of the same things, you know, people cancelling and and we’re trying to support staff, and, you know, we’re trying to figure some things out. Yeah, it’s the real deal. I mean, you’re watching Elijah Mohammed, like lead a zoom class, you know, and you’re like, man, this guy’s going through, he’s doing the same thing that I’m doing at 6 o’clock in the morning at 530. He’s a multi-time games athlete, and we’re all in this boat together, you know, so to see like it’s not the, you know, guy that worked at the factory and George Clooney, you know, or Tom Cruise and the person checking out at the grocery, so you might have seen them on TV, but they can relate, and that it’s really cool. It’s really cool, and you never know man, like reach out to the people that you think won’t answer your messages like reach out to Dan, you know, just cause he’s the CEO of PushPress, man that doesn’t mean he won’t answer your questions, you know, reach out to the big name people that you think won’t give you the time of day. You’ll be surprised.
Eric LeClair: Yeah, I agree. Totally agree, man. Well, I appreciate your time. I know as a gym owner it’s stretched thin right now. So from all of us at PushPress and myself, getting to know you has been a great honor, and I know that you’re gonna lead your team through this.