One Coach’s Take: The Story of our Flagship Gym MadLab School of Fitness

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Long-time Madlab School of Fitness coach Emily Beers tells her story about why the Madlab system has worked for her for 11 years and counting.

Today, our flagship gym in Vancouver, B.C is a 3rd Seal facility with five full-time coaches, two part-time coaches and two apprentice coaches. Our top coach has 80-plus clients. He earned $112,000 last year and his client retention is above 90 percent. Meanwhile, the other four full-time have consistently earned a professional wage for the last five to 15 years. All of our coaches have been with us for eight years or more.

Why does our system work? For me, it comes down to four major pillars:

  1. Mentorship (i.e. coach development)
  2. The coach compensation model 
  3. The coach co-op
  4. The client development process 

I think of it this way: Math + relationships + integrity = love (aka long term success).

  • MATH (i.e the way our client development process, coach compensation and coach co-op are designed and executed) 
  • allows us to foster deep RELATIONSHIPS (through mentorship and taking care of our clients) 
  • + INTEGRITY (in all areas of the business, such as our sales process, how we communicate, how we develop clients and coaches) 
  • = LOVE and 

LONG-TERM FINANCIAL SUCCESS.

My story

I never intended on being a coach. Not only was coaching never my childhood dream, it wasn’t even really on my radar.

After finishing my master’s degree in journalism, I moved back home to Vancouver and found Madlab in 2009. Coming out of the recession, journalism jobs were hard to come by. I started freelance writing with varying degrees of success.

A couple months later, Madlab (then CrossFit Vancouver) owner Craig ‘Patty’ Patterson approached me about being an apprentice coach. Fully in love with functional fitness and the CrossFit community at this point, I thought I’d hear him out.

And so began my road to becoming a coach.

My transparent take home pay numbers in the next three years:

Year 1: $12,000

Year 2: $30,000

Year 3: $65,000

After my third year, I also started to have some more writing success, so I scaled back to being a part-time coach to accommodate my writing work, which I have continued to do for the last seven years. Since then, I have earned between $30,000 to $40,000 a year coaching part-time in the mornings five days a week, generally spending 10-15 hours each week on the floor.

I can say with certainty that I would not still be coaching if it weren’t for the mentorship I received from Patty in the early days (and even now to a certain degree), the percentage of revenue compensation model, the coach co-op team that I’m a part of, and our effective client development process.

Mentorship

While there are plenty of coaching programs available to develop coaches technically, never would have I risen through the ranks like I did had it not been for true, one-on-one mentorship.

In my case, this meant going for breakfast with Patty at least twice a week, and spending countless hands-on time together in the gym. From the technical side of coaching, to the sales and business side of running a gym business, to learning how to truly connect with clients, mentorship is one of the biggest, and often forgotten keys, to developing professional coaches. 

The old days circa 2010

Though the coach development system has changed today as the Madlab Group has grown, Madlab coaches and gym owners still receive one-on-one mentorship with a Madlab mentor.

Those in the Madlab Group today also attest the the importance of mentorship:

 “Having our coaches work with Derek (Mork, Madlab coach development mentor) helps us utilize our time better because they’re working with him and getting all this information and he’s giving them homework. It’s better than when we were just telling them to, ‘Look at these videos.’ There’s a format and the format seems to be working for our coaches,” said Tim Garland, the owner of CrossFit Austin in Texas.

Laura Franchini, the owner of Cornerstone Fitness in Ohio added: “Audrey (Patterson, Madlab mentor) meets me right where I’m at, right where my business is at, and where my coaches are at, and she helps me take the next small step to being better…It never feels like this massive change that’s overwhelming, because she gives me small pieces I can bite off one at a time.”

Coach Compensation

I would definitely not be coaching if I were getting paid in a dollars per hour model. 

I would not wake up at 5 a.m. and coach for two or three hours five days a week to earn $1,200 a month—assuming I’d be making around $25 an hour for 12 hours a week of on-floor coaching.

The percentage of revenue model, however, has encouraged me to truly get to know my clients, to care about them, to take care of them through their fitness journey for life, as I’m compensated for retaining them. This has made for a much fulfilling journey coaching in the last 11 years, one that has provided them more opportunities to succeed, and that also allows me to make a decent supplementary income.

Further, if I wanted to be a full-time career coach, as the other five coaches I work with are, I’d never get there in a dollars per hour model. Read more here about the 5 keys to earning a professional wage as a coach.

Coach Co-Op

The coach co-op works a little bit like being a partner in a law firm or an engineering firm. 

We effectively all run our own businesses within the business, and our success is intertwined. If coaches are successful, the business succeeds and vice versa. The co-op also provides us the freedom to make decisions collectively, and the freedom to set our own schedules.

If I want to go on vacation, for example, it’s up to me to find coverage for my clients and classes. It ends up being a bit of a barter system, one that allows each of us to take four to six weeks of paid vacation per year.

Read more details about the Coach co-op system here.

Client Development Process

Our client development process is built in a way that lets me build meaningful, long-term relationships with all my clients.

Clients begin with a 3-personal training session assessment to figure out the best plan of action for their wants, needs and goals. Then, they do another 15-20 personal training before moving into a hybrid membership, which means a combination of group classes and periodic personal training sessions or lifestyle consults. A handful of others also do personal training in combination with individual program design. 

The process means we’re constantly in touch with our clients, constantly building and maintaining the relationship, and constantly able to help them in an individualized way as their goals and needs change through the months and years.

Bottom line: No chance is this possible if I’m getting paid $25 to $30 an hour to coach a group class.

Two clients who have been with me for 9 and 10 years

The proof is in the pudding: We have one of the most successful gyms in the world, and I couldn’t be more proud to be part of Madlab School of Fitness. 

To put some tangible numbers to this notion of success, consider these 6 key performance indicators (KPIs) that any gym owner and coach strives for:

  • Client retention: Our client retention is consistently above 85 percent a year. On a personal note, the last three clients I lost were due to them moving out of the city or province. Even during COVID-19, I had only one client, who had paid for six months up front, defer her membership until September. 
  • AVC: Our average client value is $265 a month, with many clients paying well above $300 a month.
  • Dollars per coach hour: When considering all hours work, our coaches earn at least $50 an hour for every hour worked (when factoring in on-floor and off the floor hours)
  • Total Coach pay: Already addressed in the intro of this piece: Five coaches earned a professional wage that averaged $76,400 last year
  • Business profit (EBTIA): We consistently earn 19 to 21 percent business profit each year.
  • Sellable asset: Patty no longer works on the floor—he hasn’t since he finished raising me in 2010, and takes a full salary for him and his family. While he hasn’t sold the business yet, he will be able to sell to one or a group of us coaches one day (Madlab gyms typical sell at 5 X EBITA).

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