Life is an amazing journey. A journey that at times can overwhelm us with joy, and even nearly break us with heartache. It is a giant classroom and if we’re open to the learning it offers, it can provide everything we need to experience joy and fulfillment.
Today I’m full of joy and loving life with my beautiful wife, Jennifer and my rambunctious daughter, Harper.
We mostly enjoy hanging out at home and watching movies together. In fact, on the weekends we rarely get out of our Pj’s and will binge watch Disney movies for 48 straight hours.
I love to cook and try my hand at many new dishes, but my favorites are slow cooker carnitas and Cajun chicken fettuccine Alfredo. I’m also a Waffle fanatic. I absolutely love waffles, and I went as far as buying my own Belgium waffle maker so I can make waffles whenever I want. Mmm, mmm, mmm.
But I wouldn’t understand and know the feeling of joy and fulfillment I now have if I never experienced heartache and pain.
I owned and operated my personal training studio, Raising The Barr Fitness, from July 2008 to May 2014.
Nearly 6 full years of learning, celebrating, overcoming, refining, and growing as well as stressing, feeling defeated, desperate, struggling, and contemplating quitting on a regular basis. Running a business is hard.
At first, I was like most in the fitness industry. I got fed up working for someone and realized that I could continue doing what I love all on my own and under my own terms. So, I started my own studio and rapidly grew my client base to a point that I was training clients upwards of 15-17 hours per day within the first 6 months.
The money was flowing in and I just put my head down and worked… a lot… for the next twelve months!
(Yes, I had short hair and kept my face clean shaven. Hard to believe I was 34 years of age going on 13 in that picture.)
Unfortunately, the time commitment of working 16 hours per day started to take its toll. The change at first was subtle, but eventually led to a complete sense of burnout. Not only that, but my relationship with my wife had become virtually non-existent. Again, entirely by my doing.
Each of us pursuing our careers looked more like 2 ships passing in the night. She was usually asleep when I got home due to the rigors of her residency program, and I was always up and out the door to train clients early before she ever woke up for the start of her day.
We eventually separated and things became very dark between us. But I still kept chugging along trying to make sure my business remained successful in the eyes of others in the industry–exhausting in its own right.
Eventually the pain of my situation engulfed me and I cracked. My ego could no longer maintain the front. I knew I needed to make changes. I knew I needed to do some growing up.
My wife and I finally began reconciling and I realized that I could no longer put myself in a position where I was placing the needs of my clients above my own and my family’s. This is when I got connected to a Christian men’s community that pushed me to grow and mature into the man I am today.
I began to see that I was not free. My business, something that I nurtured and loved, had become a prison. All because I was unwilling to relinquish control and take on a more appropriate business owner role.
The transition from trainer to full blown business owner typically requires a significant amount of time to get all the moving parts and pieces in place that comprise a team of individuals that do what you once did by yourself.
In my case, the sense of urgency was much greater and I needed to be completely removed from operations within 9 months because my wife had decided that she was going to accept a fellowship position 1900 miles away in a different state and I was moving with her. I also decided to keep the biz and manage it from afar.
So I invested in the only staffing program I knew about at the time and busted my tail to fully implement it as quickly as possible. Within 6 months I had 2 trainers and an admin assistant. The program was great for the hiring of staff, but lacked tremendously in how to lead and manage a team.
But still, I packed up our dogs and our vehicle and off we went to the Pacific Northwest.
The first month I was away, everything went smooth. And my new “position” in my business suited me. I enjoyed working on the planning, finance, and marketing components of the business.
And I really enjoyed the freedom I had to complete my work on my time, not to mention the increased amount of time I had to spend doing more of what I loved to do, like writing, going to movies, and snowboarding.
Things were great until about Oct/Nov when I started noticing a decline in sales and a decline in our recurring revenue. I shouldn’t have been surprised at the result since all I gave my new admin and trainers were some daily checklists for them to complete.
I literally had no management system in place. I basically paid thousands of dollars for a program that taught me about W2’s and I9 forms in addition to a staff marketing campaign and how to build an application process.
Long story short, the year that I was supposed to spend supporting my wife during fellowship was spent traveling back to the studio for weeks at a time working to save my struggling business that had been thriving before I left.
I went through 3 admins before I finally found the one that became my client ambassador and virtual studio manager. I also had to revamp the trainers by replacing the two that I had with 2 brand new ones.
It was a clean slate, but I had to work twice as hard as before to make things work.
Here’s the good news…
The situation forced me to come up with a management system and leadership approach that made my business 10x greater than it was when it was just me. I literally built an amazing team during this time and instituted some core principles that helped my business grow 274% and forced me into a bigger studio where I eventually had to bring on 3 additional personal trainers to handle the demand.
And I did all this with virtually little to no marketing for new clients. When you have the right systems in place and your team executes, your clients get great results and in turn start sending all their friends to your business.
By the time I sold my business in 2014, I had a staff of 6 that was servicing over 150 private clients.
My team became the #1 Fitness provider in my area in just a few short years following the systems and processes I had installed.
This is a picture of my team and I in 2013 with Pushups For Charity Ambassador, SSgt.(Ret) Johnny “Joey” Jones (USMC).
You might be asking yourself right now, “why sell?”
Fair question. And one that all business owners will eventually ask themselves when their business sees consistent success that provides them with great income and loads of personal freedom.
For me it was two-fold. I spent countless hours investing in my development as a business owner, and even more as a leader. I made the connection between my abilities as a coach and what I had developed for my management system and leadership processes.
So for several years I continued to invest in coaching related education eventually seeking an Executive Coach Certification so I could be more effective as a leader. This led to me to recognize that Coaching is what I really enjoyed and wanted to do more of, but not in the fitness related way I had in the past.
I wanted to make a bigger impact and to have a bigger footprint from which to leave my legacy. The opportunity to join a company that provided coaching to fitness businesses was presented to me and I leaped at it.
It wasn’t long before I was promoted to lead a team of coaches globally with that company. So a decision was made to sell my fitness business to pursue my new coaching endeavor.
My skills sharpened and my understanding of the fitness industry (and a variety of other types of businesses) deepened during the next 18 months coaching fitness business owners. I helped 100’s of fit pros improve their staffing, management, and leadership systems.
But I never got the opportunity to package my knowledge in a way that could help 1000’s, possibly even 10’s of thousands of fitness professionals all around the globe. Even in a senior leadership role I was limited.
Which brings me to Reason #2 for Selling my Fit Biz…
I poured myself into my role as a Fit Biz coach and Global Coaching Manager. The role itself was a dream job. But there were also issues.
My success as a business owner was unequivocally due to my ability to lead and manage my team. It’s what made me a good coaching manager as well.
But my values in regards to leadership didn’t mesh well with the leadership of the company for which I was working.
So, in late August of 2014 I left the corporate coaching world and started my new venture as a Stay-at-Home Dad after the birth of my daughter that July.
The picture here of us together basically sums up the past three years of my life.
She has been my greatest “coaching” challenge to date. And by “coaching” I mean raising a daughter in a broken world to be better than the world around her, and make it better than it was before she arrived.
Being a dad (or mom) is by far the best form of “coaching” any coach can undertake in their lifetime.
The past three years have afforded me loads of time to commit to my own personal growth as well. Helping me to grow more as a leader within my own family framework, and learn the importance that relationship skills play in one’s leadership ability.
As you can see from my story, there was a lot of pain and heartache leading up to where I am today.
And today accompanied with my joy is the feeling of fulfillment, because I’ve been able to do what I love and create something that I believe will help others achieve more balance in their own businesses and lives.
I want others who are currently wearing the shoes I once wore to have the ability to climb out of the prison they call a business and build something new with a team they can be proud of and whom they have confidence in.
I want others to experience the FREEDOM I’ve experienced.
And my mission goes deeper… much, much deeper.
I know that my life could be a lot different than the joy and fulfillment I experience today. My marriage was a wreck back then and the thought of having a family was a distant and considerably blurry vision.
Yes… I want fitness business owners to improve their profitability by scaling a team of awesome trainers, and experience immense amounts of personal freedom as a result.
But this picture of my happy family walking on our pool deck is what I most desire for those that go through F3 Academy… JOY & laughter with those you love. It’s a picture that almost didn’t happen because I couldn’t break free from my ego and hire on the help I desperately needed.
So, if through my work I can save just one marriage, or one father/son relationship, or one mother/daughter relationship, or bring a family back together because there is more quality time invested with each other…
Well, that is the greatest reward I could possibly imagine from doing the work that I so much love doing.