In The Trenches catches up with Joey Powell,owner of CrossFit Prescott,to discuss leadership, principles,values, planning, staff development, and a “before, during, and after” look at “readiness and resiliency” through this crisis
“Be a constant presence in their head because you’ve helped changed their life.”
Joey Powell is the owner of CrossFit Prescott and Praxis Athletics in Prescott, Arizona. In this episode Eric sits down with Joey 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 representing PushPress, and this is our next In the Trenches series with one of the baddest dudes from the OG days of CrossFit, this is Joey Powell. Originally known as CCT. Joey is a great, fantastic coach, operates CrossFit Prescott and Praxis Athletics. Joey, man, for those that don’t know you, for those that weren’t on the early days in the blog, share with me, talk to me about your family and your gym.
Joey Powell: Okay, well, back in the day, you know, the CrossFit website was a lot different, and there was way more engagement on the blog site because that CrossFit page was really a blog back then, it wasn’t like it is now with a website where you could make comments. It was literally a blog page, it was blogger something I don’t remember, blog spot or something is what was the behind the scenes of it, and, you know, there’s plenty of stuff out there about that. But what happened was every fourth day there would be a discussion about whatever topic that coach would post, coach Greg Glassman would post, and when he would post that a lot of us were just main stays, that was a big deal. The discussion would sometimes last three or four days, even though it was only every fourth day they posted it, you know. So we talked for days and opinions were getting thrown around, and that was really just how I more or less got involved in the community. I had been doing CrossFit mostly because I was doing combat control stuff, and I really hated running. I can do it, but it’s just not my gig man. It’s just, you know, I don’t know that I have a gig, to be honest, physically, I’m really good in the water. But you know, that’s about as boring as it gets. And, um, I just hated running, so I was like, I’ll do anything to be able to keep running as fast as I run now and not have to run. And that’s how I came about CrossFit was sort of like the kettlebell movement, sort of even that really wasn’t a kettlebell douchebag did it, and it helped me stay in shape, and that’s how I sort of fell into CrossFit.
Eric LeClair: What years? 2003? 2004?
Joey Powell: That was their earliest part, and then I became an affiliate in 07. So, you know, in the Army, I was in the Army first, I was actually an Army infantry officer then an armor officer. And then I got out in 03 and entered the CCT pipeline in I want to say January 04, and then became an affiliate in 07, and I met you, probably about a month before I became an affiliate in 07 and that woulda been October 07 I met you, if I remember right. And it was at a CrossFit San Diego cert under Eddie and Lisa Lugo
Eric LeClair: Man, talk about 100 years ago.
Joey Powell: And, you know, all of us were at the time, this is my opinion, and I got to be honest, I’ve never really been part of the CrossFit community, like most of you guys were. I’m sort of a fringe character, I guess. But, even though I was close to coach for a little while, to me, it was just a different deal. I’m not a fitness guy. I just came to beat you. Does that make sense? Like I have never enjoyed fitness. I’ve never ran and got an endorphin rush or anything like that, so I only exercise to win, so it’s a competitive thing to me, but what’s funny is my affiliate is not built on that completely. I mean, we’re not even remotely interested in competing, but that was kind of the deal, and then, you know, from there, that was the big thing that drew me into competing, and that’s actually CrossFit, and that’s what Greg saw in me was the posts and that’s how actually ended up at the cert search was just some coincidences and him reaching out to me and…
Eric LeClair: Extended the invite right?
Joey Powell: Yeah, exactly, and next thing I know I’m like, and I’m like, a honored guest. And I’m like, I’m just a guy that writes on the internet on your site, man, I didn’t realize, like anyone gave a shit who I was, but it was really cool.
Eric LeClair: Yeah. No, I mean, I think back to those days, and that’s unique to that time to those people, and to that experience, that’s never gonna be replicated again, ever. It was really a special time to be involved, and, you know, trust me, same as you, I cut my teeth on the learnings, the certifications, the seminars, the weekends, sometimes an impromptu at Santa Cruz, like wild, wild days.
Joey Powell: Yeah, it was a wild West and what was funny about it was that we were a counterculture. But most of us that were, I would say the people I liked anyway, we weren’t looking for a counterculture. We were just looking for anything that was more effective than what we were doing. We were just like, fuck man, how many push ups do I got to do, how many damn miles do I have to run? You know anything else besides the same shit you know.
Eric LeClair: So talking about, obviously you’ve got a rich history steeped in leadership, organizational structure, developing junior enlisted, now you obviously have a pipeline, I believe it’s a pipeline for a soft community for Embry Riddle.
Joey Powell: Yeah, and I’m trying to show the banner and I’m fucking this up, but totally the backward camera thing is freaking out. Um, SOP CP Special Operations Pre candidate program. And yeah, we help, particularly these guys, most of them want to do the Air Force gig CCT PJ now, special reconnaissance or the officer counterparts. Some guys have gone Seal or something like that, of course, I always try to disturb and encourage them not to do that, and then we’ve had guys go Ranger, Green Beret and stuff like that too.
Eric LeClair: So give me, not just necessarily me, but you know, those that are watching those that are listening and you’re gonna get a chance to kind of tune into this, talk to things that you can pull from your time and in your military leadership learnings that you’ve applied to your business that stood the test of time because you’ve been around 14-15 years. Clearly, you’re doing something correct, and you’re now battling this epidemic, pandemic. and you’re charging through it.
Joey Powell: Yeah. Adapt, adapt, adapt, and go with your instincts. Like, um, when I’m mull shit over too long, I’ve wasted opportunity in time and so I look, I’m all about I’m gonna say it my way about me. I know I am a clutch player. I know, point blank there is no one more than me in a tight spot that I want than me point blank. I want me in that tight spot if I’m you. So if you need something done, I want you to know that I’m the guy in the tight spot. I love being the guy in the tight spot, right? So I trust me there. Any time I’ve not taken my own advice, it’s kicked me right in the junk. So for me, my instincts are good, and, you know, and that goes all the way back into early CrossFit it goes back to implementing methods that were originally poo pooed that now are mainstay, even in CrossFit, and and definitely when I was in, you know, in the service in the Army and the Air Force, it was like, OK, who can make this happen? I don’t know, but I’ll do it and I will find a way. So to me, that’s the biggest thing, so if you’re like me, trust your instincts and be ready to fucking turn on a dime.
Eric LeClair: Now talk me through the development of your brand like relative, so obviously in Prescott, there’s got to be other affiliates, and some are struggling, maybe some are doing well, but how have you developed to stay this long out? Like, what sets you apart?
Joey Powell: Okay, so we were the first ones, and when we came to town, we had, you know, I moved to town with a Uhaul truck, a squat rack, a bench, a reverse hyper, and some bumper plates, the old school Craig Berg ones and three bars, right, and maybe two or three kettlebells. Um, and then we were inside a gym there, so there was a gym like, you know, a globo gym, we were in there, and we just were just fighting to stay alive. Now, I started this here, I’m not talking about the Kentucky affiliate that I was in the service, and I ran for a year before I moved here, that’s irrelevant. But so when we got here, it was in the middle of the downturn, the financial downturn, 2008. Like we had at all times, four or five people that were with us that could not pay, like they couldn’t. They didn’t have jobs or whatever. We just always were under, like, hey man, you lost your job, just keep training, and you can start paying again whenever you have a job. That was just the norm. I’m sure it was for you too. Yeah, you like, dude, I’m not gonna tell you not to train, I mean, just do what you can, clean the fucking bathrooms or whatever, right? But here’s the problem, right? So I come, we, me and you both, come from a world where you just do it, right. It’s written. You do it. Yes. Back then you might scale it, and that’s there’s lots of terms for that, and it’s not just a use less weight or whatever, but, you know, we were in that wild, wild West back then, and here’s a problem. I live in a community that’s based off of retirees, I didn’t understand that when I moved here, so my average age client is probably 47. That’s my average, right? I mean, most classes, particularly the mid mornings. Dude, if I was in the class, I’d be the youngest person in the class. And I’m 46, so that’s real, that changes everything, and so we’re really struggling. And so the gym we were in hired us to be personal trainers, and work for the silver and fit program to help raise revenue. And they didn’t have the right trainers to work with him anyway, so I started working with all these people, like, 70-80 years old. Well, they got five free personal trainings a year through the silver and fit program, right? And the gym got paid, and then they gave me a big cut of that, and that’s where we really cut our teeth and that’s what we really understood. Okay, the CrossFit way that we understood it as just people doing it or working with other people that were, I don’t know that I’m elite ever, but I’ve been involved with elite and in the speed skating world, in the military, and so this doesn’t work. This not only doesn’t work, it’s damn right dangerous, right? I mean, it’s like, ok, this isn’t it what we do with this, right? And so we chased the whole efficacy thing, you know, through virtuosity, always, but at the same time, it’s like in your mind, you’re like a dog salivating. You’re like, okay, I want I want to show you what you can be and is like, hold the fuck up before you hurt somebody, and, you know, because I remember the first time I had a lady, we’re just doing squats, and it wasn’t even his deep squad, we literally had a box under, I don’t know, it must have been 20 inches and just trying to teach her to sit back on the box, we must have done 25 total squats, like sets of 5 or 6, just teaching. She was so sore she couldn’t get off the toilet the next day, and she wasn’t really old, maybe in her sixties, and I was like, I’m not sure where to go with this, it wasn’t even as low as her couch, right? And I’m like, I’m not sure where to go with this, except even slower. I was like, can we do that? I mean, is that something we can even do? You know how to do this? Is that even CrossFit at this point? And that’s a valid argument, and I was like, I don’t know, it doesn’t matter, I’ve got my flag up, I’ve got my shingle on the wall, that’s what we’re going to do. And so we learned things different than most CrossFit locations from that, you know, it’s just, that’s who we are. And, you know, so the special operations work we do with prep work is totally separate from that, that’s just a whole different deal…
Eric LeClair: That’s almost two businesses in one.
Joey Powell: Yeah it is, it really is. And so it’s just, which is good because it separates my mind from doing the same thing all the time, but at the same time, it really is two different training protocols, even if largely reusing the same gear. It’s a different deal and that’s the biggest thing I think the community has had to learn to deal with is that training for. and not to be cliche, but training for life versus training for mission, you know, a police officer, in the military, firefighter, like all the stuff that we were used to back in 04 through 08, 09 or whenever the Games started and all that Reebok thing happened, so it’s just different, you know.
Eric LeClair: I’m glad, I’m not saying I’m glad, but I know that you would see that need in both ends of your spectrum and be able to satisfy it.
Joey Powell: It was imperative, I mean, we had no other income. I mean, that was we had to learn. I mean, I moved across the country, moved my family across the country and had no money. I mean, it was just like that, there was no choice. There was no cushion. And I didn’t leave the military with a pension. I just left the military, it was frightening times, man. I mean, it was desperate times call for desperate measures, and so we started looking at other practitioners and methods to integrate into our facility. Get better complimented, than what we were kind of taught from the main site. It’s not that it’s bad. It’s just that it wasn’t going to work in this case, right? So it was just different. Yeah, I’ll tell you what, this is side note, but I think it’s huge. I want to give huge props out to CrossFit.com. A little over a year ago, I believe it was January 1st last year, they changed the site
Eric LeClair: Totally different. Total tangent.
Joey Powell: That’s what it was for us! It’s way more like what it was for us, except more content. And I’m like, finally, the Reebok shit is out of there, and this thing is better.
Eric LeClair: Did you ever think they would ever push the sideshow of the Games away and come back towards the health component?
Joey Powell: I hoped for years, and this is my opinion I know that people are watching this and a lot of people are gonna poo poo what I’m about to say, but I think the Games, personally, can fucking suck it, I mean, I just do. I think it’s a fucking sideshow Bob bullshit.
Eric LeClair: Look, there are a ton of affiliate owners that feel that exact same way.
Joey Powell: I will not, I have never supported the Open. If somebody wanted to do it, I would judge, I went and judged two different games, and I was just like, dude, I can’t be involved in thisIt’s just crazy. I was just like, this is this is now This was early on. It was like 10 and 11 or 11 and 12 or something like that, but I was just like…
Eric LeClair: Big difference, huh?
Joey Powell: It was like, bro, this doesn’t even remotely reflect my gym, and where it was taking CrossFit as a movement, it was sailing away from me. But then, a little over a year ago, when they redid the website, I’m like holy crap, CrossFit just turned the hell around. I was just like, on a dime, and I was like, It’s back to health and wellness again and performance of the individual in life, not about the performance of the sport of fitness. This is a breath of fresh air, man. And then the Level Method, which is, you know, we can talk about later, but the Level Method is huge. We don’t use it, probably the way they’d like us to, but, man, talk about a great product and then Brand X, and that’s, I know that’s forbidden in the CrossFit world, but those guys, man, I hope those two companies can get together someday, Level Method and Brand X, that would be a shit.
Eric LeClair: Oh dude, they’re solid. I mean, we recognize that Jeff and Mikki are just really, really solid…mentors and role models for their own kids and obviously excellent coaches in their own right. You know, Jeff was one of the first ones to call and say congratulations after he knew we offloaded the gym, you know, those of us who have known each other since those early days we’re still very close and care about each other’s well being, and it’s been great to watch as they develop their kids, who are now young leaders as strengthen conditioning, which has been great.
Joey Powell: And they’re bold, the family is bold, man, that’s refreshing. I mean, they’re not afraid to just take it and turn it a whole damn different direction in that man. That’s cool to see, Jeff, Mikki, the kids.
Eric LeClair: We got a tiny bit of time left, but I, you know, in a few seconds just share with me about what are you doing with your community now that most gyms or shut down? What did you have to pivot to?
Joey Powell: Okay, so Arizona came down and said, ok, you guys got to shut down because you’re a gym, right? Well, I’m like, am I? That’s up for debate, and so my mind goes like this, so, technically, this building is shut down, right? But I’m like I’m not a gym and I was like, I would argue that even though this facility isn’t a gym, technically, it’s a training center. But because I’m in control of the gear, I’m in control of the people, I’m in control of, what all of that does, a gym like what most people think, there’s a bunch of stuff and then people randomly milling around, touching everything and doing stuff that no one’s really watching, but whatever, so we have we just happened to a put a gate in the fence that separates us from a beautiful park in the backyard of this building, so we trained with proper social distancing and sanitizing measures in the park.
Eric LeClair: Outside.
Joey Powell: Yeah, it’s not necessarily warm all the time. Not necessarily great weather. We go from there, but, you know, it’s what we’re doing. I haven’t had anyone yet, that is a personal client, meaning they’re not a business, quit. I’m sure it will happen, but I haven’t had anyone quit yet, and that’s been huge because we’re still able to function even if they can’t afford to pay it, just that’s fine. But it’s like we’ve got to keep going. I’m coming in like we’re gonna work, you know, like, we’re gonna get this stuff done. So that’s what we’ve been doing. We just we’re like, I’m not flouting the law per se, not that I necessarily even care about it. But I’m like the governor said he wants people to exercise. Come on, let’s do this, right? I mean, it’s not just about walking and hiking and riding your bike.
Eric LeClair: Dig it.
Joey Powell: So I got a big cart. I roll the cart out there. Hose everything off before and after with the sanitizer. Call it good, man. Spread it out. Let’s go.
Eric LeClair: I dig it, man. So you are delivering zero product digitally. It’s 100% in person still for you and your staff. Correct?
Joey Powell: Yes. Well, what we do post on our Facebook page workouts for people that for whatever reason, maybe that day or something like that they need to do at home. We wouldn’t normally do that, I haven’t done that since probably 2009 or something like that because people were cherry picking, and I’m just not interested in watching all that, but yeah, right now, some people would prefer to train from home, so we did loan out dumbbells and stuff like that for people if they needed them because I’ve got a shit ton of them.
Eric LeClair: I remember. Okay, so if you, in your mind, right, and I know I will never ask for sensitivity ever, give me a nugget for gym owners right now that are struggling. Share with them your most professional opinion for those that are wondering.
Joey Powell: My most professional opinion is you’ve got to just remain flexible, man. I mean, that’s the key. This is going to change. This is gonna change again. I’ve got my own opinions about the nature of the government and things like that. It would have to do with the Covid run around and the Covid itself. That’s aside from that. What’s really happening here, though, is that life in general is going to change, and people are going to look at their health a lot different after this. When we find out that what the real problem here is all the underlying issues and all the underlying issues are based off of inflammation and what you’re doing to yourself to inflame yourself for not taking care of yourself. And so there’s going to be huge opportunity, and so you have to be willing to throw stuff out of your mind to let other stuff get in right that you might not have wanted to do six weeks ago. You are going to have to see things just differently. And that means other clients are gonna be coming to your doorstep that might not have ever walked in a place like this.
Eric LeClair: Could be a new market segment for you.
Joey Powell: Yes, and then they’ll probably be older. There’s gonna be probably a ton of people for a while, a year, year and half that are gonna be unemployed or very touchy with their incomes.
Eric LeClair: Or very defensive.
Joey Powell: So you better provide a value, like we had to back in 08 that looked way bigger and presented way bigger and reflected, hell man, for what we were charging back then versus now, I wouldn’t even say we charged much more, but the value for people that were struggling in the economy back in 08-09 and 10 was off the chart, go back to that, figure out a way to be somebody that these people talk about at their dinner table.
Eric LeClair: Agreed. All the time, man. Be a constant presence in their head because you’ve helped change their life.
Joey Powell: And that’s the key, that’s how you’re gonna get out of this is that you’re gonna have this cadre of clients who know that no matter how hard times get that them staying attached…
Eric LeClair: …is absolutely necessary.
Joey Powell: The great stuff you do is one of the most important things they do outside of their family and their God. And I know that sounds incredibly cocky and bold, but that has to be the case because we are disposable, become indisposable.
Eric LeClair: And that’s the title of today, “become indisposable.” I love it. I love it, man. Well, I sincerely appreciate not only your time, your wisdom, this story, it’s gonna be impressive for folks to connect and watch this episode.
Joey Powell: We’d love to get some feedback. Hell, I don’t even mind negative feedback, you know, don’t be surprised if I got something to say if I disagree, but if I’m off base man, I’d love to hear about it. You know, reach out to us on our Facebook and let’s hear these things, let’s get these ideas out there again, like we had the forums on CrossFit.com back in the day, those were hugely valuable.
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