Business Bites Episode 139: 4 Keys to Pivoting Your Business in Pandemic

4 Keys to Pivoting Your Business in Pandemic with Stuart Brauer

Episode 139 on the Business Bites Podcast

This year has brought about many new challenges and new ways of doing things.

Many businesses are having to make pivots to be able to stay open. Some have had to close their doors, and some are still trying to figure out what they need to do. Stu Brauer from WTF Gym Talk shared 4 keys things you need to know to make those pivots. 

  1. Online content creation needs to be both educational and entertaining. Capturing your audience’s attention span is valuable. 
  2. Keep educating yourself on things that you can use to improve your business or that shows you a new way of doing things. 
  3. How you are in real life to your family and friends is how you need to be online. Don’t put on an act because it will come back on you at some point. Create a crafted and authentic message.
  4. Think of different skillsets you have picked up and focus on that. Your online business doesn’t have to be exactly like your brick and mortar business was. You can make a new income stream from those other aspects.

A big takeaway from this episode is to start now to get an infrastructure in place that allows you to adapt to different situations. It doesn’t have to be perfect, and you don’t have to have everything to get started. Waiting for perfection or for getting all the tools you think you need will only prevent you from getting started in the first place. Once you get going, keep it simple and be consistent

Just be authentically you, whatever your isms are. Ask your 10 best friends. What are the things I say and do? What are isms? What are Stu isms? And they’re going to come up with a list of goofy sh** that make you almost like a caricature. But those are the things that make you real, and if those are the things that have attracted that ecosystem of people to you, I think there’d be a broader 10 degrees out that you could attract the people if you really double down on those actual real characteristics you already possess.

Stu Brauer

Learn how you can pivot your business: 

  • The 3 camps businesses have fallen into with the pandemic and the resulting shutdowns [4:10]
  • Why content creation needs to be both educational and entertaining [6:32]
  • Why you need to be cautious about new infopreneurs [12:06]
  • The importance of showing up online the same way you show up in real life to your friends and family [18:52]
  • How to use skillsets that you picked up from your brick and mortar business [26:32]
  • Why you should simplify and niche down and be consistent [30:42]

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN.

Read Episode Transcript

Rachel Brenke:
I think we can all agree that 2020 has been the year of the pivot for so many, whether it’s been physically, financially or emotionally. And especially in our businesses. I think of pivot, pivot from the episodes of Friends where they’re trying to take the couch down the stairs. And that is where we’re at. So many of you with existing businesses are having to make micro pivots, adding on products and services virtually or maybe you’re a brick and mortar and you had no choice but to do that. And many of you are also coming into the online sphere or entrepreneurship at this time. Well today I am joined with one of my friends, Stu Brauer. He is a wonderful speaker and educator in running of a business. He is a 15 plus year veteran of the fitness industry. Went from making like three figures running workouts in a park to a successful micro gym, commercial real estate and helps many, many businesses be very successful. So I think you’re really going to enjoy it for the blunt, real advice on running a business that you’ll get from him during this episode. Both of us together and I am just excited to bring this. I think this is some really good content to continue our series of the last few weeks of real business, real life and simplifying down so you can also scale up.

Speaker 2:
Welcome to the Business Bites Podcast, the podcast for busy entrepreneurs. Either you are an online entrepreneur or seeking after brick and mortar success, this podcast brings you quick bites of content so you can learn and grow anywhere you are. Now here’s your host Rachel Brenke.

Rachel Brenke:
Don’t forget as always you can get the show notes at RachelBrenke.com and while you’re there sign up for the free seven day real biz, real life challenge that’s coming out soon. The wait list is available. I know there’s many of you that keep thinking, “Ah, I’m going to do it but I haven’t,” because guess what? Once it happens it happens. It’s live. It’s going to be five full days worth of content. Lives with me, a lot of great information. You think you get a lot here on the podcast, you’re going to get even more there. So make sure you hit pause, head over to RachelBrenke.com, sign up for the wait list and then let’s get going on learning from Stu with real biz talk.

Hey guys welcome to another week of the Business Bites Podcast. I am joined with Stu Brauer this week. Just an FYI when he and I get together we have to put the explicit tag on the episode. As you heard in the bio he is the host of WTF Gym Talk and so that gives you a little insight. But I promise there’s a lot of great content. This man knows so much. We are so very similar in our approach and we want to talk a little bit about pivoting during the pandemic and just all the things that go with that. So Stu, welcome.

Stu Brauer:
Thank you so much. I’m glad to get out of here. We’ll throw a few F-bombs around, drop some knowledge bombs, have a good time.

Rachel Brenke:
Oh, it’ll be good. So just as an FYI Stu is in the fitness industry. He talks to al to of Crossfit style gyms, owns his own gyms. And so give us a little tidbit of what you’ve gone through in the pandemic, what you’ve seen and then we’ll just go from there.

Stu Brauer:
Sure. In the fitness industry, certainly is up in probably the top three to five industries that really got kicked in the nuts in this whole thing, in all honesty. And I don’t like to play victim mentality in anything, the industry as a whole definitely got held out a little bit longer than I think some of the others and the pivots were a little bit more difficult, right? A pivot for a gym owner is like this, what you can’t do in person and geographically weather-wise you might not be able to go outside or even sanction-wise, mandate-wise you might not be able to go outside. So you now need to become an online streaming entity relatively overnight. And that is a skillset that nobody was really, most people were not prepped for. Should they have been more prepped for it, had experience with a camera? 100,000%, but by and large they weren’t so everyone is scrambling. Myself, in 2015 I’ve had this business now for over 10 years. I was able to back out and walk away and I’ve got a great team. And in 2015 is when I started WTF Gym Talk and it was just me and an iPhone and that’s grown into an entire media content handle that I create now.

So my experience and skillset with a camera and editing and production was ready for this. We pivoted very quickly, very early at Urban and that led to our ability to survive during this thing. So, but from a fitness standpoint there’s three camps. There’s “Eh, fuck this I don’t want to be making digital content. I want to work with people in person. If my governor is not going to allow me, I’m just closing the doors I’m not going to want it.” There’s number two, people that just put the bandaid on it until the doors got back open and now they’re still struggling for growth. It’s not retention that’s the issue, it’s growth. They can’t get enough people in and then there’s people on the other side of it that are going pretty deep into this thing, are creating OTT products and having amazing live streaming efforts. However, they’re a brick and mortar business. Their unit economics and that whole economic etch is based around the margins of a brick and mortar and the efforts in a brick and mortar. And now you add in video production, editing, uploading distribution. You just add a little bit of a whole other thing. So that margin is going to go very low, even with the revenue you generate for your online thing, it’ll never be enough for the average single gym owner to ever be able to compete with that.

So, I think we have not yet seen the true fallout of COVID. I think it’s going to be 2021 where we see the big drop off of people shutting the doors because they tackled a separate business entity with this online thing. Their model was never set up to be that.

Rachel Brenke:
So before we get into the whole margin aspect of it, I want to talk, well first in those three subsets that you just brought out … and by the way if you’re listening and you’re not a fitness owner, you’re like, “How does this apply to me?” I’m visualizing this for lawyers. I’m visualizing this for financial planners. Those can more readily go online, but they didn’t have the infrastructure in place. Let me ask you this because I feel a little bit of this too. One of the things that attracted me to your channel besides the whole tough love and putting the information out there, was that you didn’t give a fuck about video quality. Not that it’s not quality content, but it wasn’t like it had to be perfect.

Stu Brauer:
Sure.

Rachel Brenke:
And for me with a photography background in everything, I’m struggling with when my reels are TikToks. The white balance is off. How would you, somebody that’s sitting here going, “Okay, I’m trying to make these little pivots.” How would you push them to get past that paralysis of that?

Stu Brauer:
Yeah, so I think everyone when they initially got shut down due to COVID and they go to online and video editing industry, whatever you’re in, you’re initially doing it to retain current customers and continue to provide value for that. Now if you’re going to use that as an ability to acquire new clients. I think that’s where quality comes in a little bit, but not as much as the context of the content. So content creation is simple. It has to be educational and entertaining. Sometimes it’s used more to one side than the other, but it’s got to be one of those two things, if not both. And if you don’t have something to say, and I believe every business owner does have something to say. But I don’t believe every business owner possesses the ability to be a presence either in written form via blogs. Blogs still work very, very well. A presence in audio, like a podcast like what you and me do or an online thing, they create a YouTube channel, right?

And it’s really interesting to see people have a hard time with that. I have a local friend here, he’s a video marketer and his thing he literally is like, “I go after the boring industries.” All he does is create YouTube channels and content for lawyers in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Rachel Brenke:
Go for the boring industries, I love it.

Stu Brauer:
Because why? Lawyers they can afford it and number two, they don’t give about, they don’t give a shit. They’ve never had to do that. However, the marketplace is bigger. Times are changing. They want to be the cool relative guy or maybe he gets a dentist. You’re going to be the cool dentist as the funny videos on Tiktok or on YouTube. And I think that’s the big thing is what most people are afraid of. It’s not really like are they really concerned about the quality because they don’t know how to use the iPhone or they don’t know what a mirrorless or DSLR is? I don’t think so. I think it’s people are afraid, “If I put it out there, am I going to get the volley back or is it just going to be one of those,” it’s can I deliver on this in an entertaining way? I’m sure everyone has something educational to say, but we all know what a talking head video looks like. It can be very boring. Can you spice it up, can you make it interesting?

It’s like keeping keynotes. You and me have shared stages. We’ve gone in and done this stuff. There’s some people that can get up and speak in front of groups and give plenty of education. But can you be entertaining and keep the attention of somebody. And as we all know attention is more valuable than oil right now. It is by far the most valuable asset because it’s the shortest lifespan. It is the most limited resource. And if you can capture someone’s attention span with your entertainment, whether it’s your delivery style and the way you talk, whatever it may be. Remember Steve Irwin? My favorite example of this. Steve Irwin boring, boring information. Like who gives a fuck how many toenails a crocodile has, nobody. But the dude’s Australian accent and crikey and the way how he got super excited made it entertaining until a stingray fucks you up and you’re done. But like RIPC.

But at the end of the day entertainment and education, if you can marriage those two, you don’t need really … you can go on YouTube and spend an hour and learn how to use your iPhone to make a video. I don’t really think it’s the technical aspect of this. I think it’s people concerned about can they marriage those two things and create a worthy product or worthy presence online.
Rachel Brenke:
And so when we’re looking at those that are either getting into business during the pandemic or they’re making these micro pivots, kind of like what you’re talking about doing online streaming of classes for fitness businesses and that stuff. What is that the big pullback? They’re just afraid to not be able to-

Well also if you’re getting into business right now, you’ve probably seen an opportunistic thing. I don’t see a lot of people opening up a brick and mortar who previously didn’t already sign the paperwork, right? Most people if you were about to pull that, you’re probably holding back. Most people I see getting into an online thing are what we talked about before you hit record. You’ll have business owners that their business shut down and that was a sad moment for them. But then they’re like, “Oh, my God I actually still have a good book of clients who will still work with me anyway and now I don’t have the overhead of my building and I don’t have any more of my employees. Holy shit, I think I can make this work. How can I do this online?” And then it all depends on your industry. There’s telehealth and I don’t know if eLaw, where that is. Obviously you do a lot of your work remotely with clients. So, there’s fitness is obviously pivoting online. Consulting has always been something you can do online. So it just becomes another thing.

I interviewed a guy for, my gym has a podcast. And my gym’s podcast I interviewed a guy he’s a chef. He is doing cooking lessons now online and hosting entire groups of women at one person’s house and he’s up there teaching them how to cook and making the cute funny little jokes and flirting. Again I think everyone can pivot there. Most people either have seen an opportunity or they realize, “Well all the overhead of my shit’s gone, but I really don’t know much else. This is really all I’ve ever done, so I need to keep going forward with this. I better step up my acumen in editing a video and figuring out how to create a YouTube live account.”

Rachel Brenke:
Let’s talk about the margin aspects because when I’m sitting back and you and I have gone through this. We’ve had brick and mortar businesses, online based businesses and even before we got on here we were talking about how we’re so lean with our educational content. It basically could be us and my laptop at the end of the day. I feel like that is an attractive part of this to many people making a pivot. It’s a really low barrier to entry, but is that almost causing some problems in that you’re looking at people that are investing in all these online courses. They’re trying to provide all these products and services and becoming overwhelmed and they’re not even laying the foundation simply because the margin is so big, low barrier to entry. Are they setting themselves up for failure?

Stu Brauer:
Yeah, so we’re talking about the rise of the infopreneur, right? And that infopreneur has been around forever. There were guys that would rent out the ballroom at a Marriott and they’d sit up there and talk about, “Buy my six CD’s that’ll take you in passive wealth.” Rich dad, poor dad stuff, right? So, there’s a lot of them now because especially in the realm of digital marketing. Facebook advertising, Instagram advertising, social media is such a new platform it’s easy for a charlatan to get up there and say, “Listen if you sign up for my course it’s $4,000. All the hocus pocus, I’ll pull back the cord and I’ll tell it all to you,” when really that guy is maybe one, maybe one is aggressive. A half a chapter ahead of everybody else because the whole nuance of digital platform advertising is a constantly changing monster. There’s nobody who is so amazing at it that they can be considered a true SME.

But yeah I see the attraction to what you and me have with the online presence is obviously it’s lean. It can be the unit economics are very, very good from a profitability standpoint. It’s high level of fulfillment and enjoyment. I’ve got a three year old daughter, she’s taking a nap right now. If I had a different … I would not be able to mingle my dad life and my WTF Gym Talk life like I do. And I see people wanting to pivot to that. Now what I think everyone needs to be aware of, there’s always going to be a supply and a demand ratio here. The demand for help in my business is always going to be high. There are way more people with businesses than there are charlatans on the internet selling bullshit eCourses. And it just takes an educated individual though to say, “Hey I don’t know, but we’ve got a mustache used car salesman and you keep talking about this eCourse that’s going to give me seven figures of passive income while I sit on the beach and a monkey puts fucking tanning lotion on me.” Maybe I need that.

But at the same time, how many, I’m going to put it into the fitness industry. How many over fat individuals in the country sit at their couch at 2:00 AM in the morning that are depressed. They’re not happy with their lifestyle, their body weight, their image and they buy the Fatblaster Gazelle 3000 for four easy payments of $49 online. If you looked at the video with clear eyes like you weren’t depressed and upset with your personal health and body-

Rachel Brenke:
At 2:00 AM.

Stu Brauer:
Yeah at 2:00 AM. You’d be like, “Who in the fuck would ever buy that thing?” But when you are over fat or under profitable or desperate, you’re always hoping, you are really hoping that that crock of bullshit you’re being fed is actually real. You’re really hoping that it’s, “Oh, my God really? Is it as easy as that? I need it to be as easy as that.

Rachel Brenke:
But I think it’s important to note here that you really are honing in on those that are jumping into this, selling and making these promises when they may not necessarily, even if they had a crappy product, where they’d never done it themselves.

Stu Brauer:
Sure, yeah.

Rachel Brenke:
That’s super huge right now.

Stu Brauer:
Yes.

Rachel Brenke:
I’m seeing people and it’s not to say they’re not smart individuals, doesn’t mean they’re not naturally inclined. But they had been working a nine to five. Then all of a sudden the pandemic hits. They get fired, laid off, whatever. And unemployment has run out, so all of a sudden they’re like, “Oh, I see Stu and Rachel and so and so doing this online.” They turn around and all of a sudden have a course on how to make seven figures. And I’m going, “You haven’t been doing this but a hot second.”

Stu Brauer:
You would love … So I started a new show during the pandemic out of boredom called “The WTF Show” and I literally have a section-

Rachel Brenke:
Of course you did.

Stu Brauer:
… a segment called Fuck face marketing gurus, where I call and get on discovery calls with these guys and it’s just as funny as you … it’s probably funnier than you probably think it is. It’s great. You got to watch it.

Rachel Brenke:
How did I miss that?

Stu Brauer:
It’s so good. It’s one of my new favorite things. But, here’s the other interesting thing too. Here’s how I look at it. You and me had our brick and mortar, our traditional business. And we had that going well and we started an online thing. We started an online thing when we didn’t need to. Honestly, I started an online thing and I got made fun of. All my fitness colleagues thought I was an idiot. They’re like, “Who do you think you are? You think you’re Simon Sinek? What are you trying to do?” And now an online thing is not only desirable, it’s celebrity status, right? Trying to do this online thing. You’re either looked at as a douche or a charlatan or you’re looked at as, “Man I would love to have that.” But now people are having to do it out of necessity because the brick and mortar is gone, right? And that is going to be a lot harder for people to pivot on. You and me sit here now and I started taking street photography courses during COVID because I love my camera. I like taking video, I like vlogging. But COVID happened I couldn’t travel. I couldn’t go with you out to Seattle and speak and stuff anymore.

So I needed to keep practicing my creativity, so I started taking street photography courses. And creativity for you and me and people online I think is something that we just constantly have in bold. Someone who’s just jumping into it, because, “I got kicked out of that party. I need to go to this party now. I need to get started here.” I think those guys are going to have a short lived amount of success, if any. And if you’re listening to this and you’ve got forced out and you want to go online and you truly are good at your thing, it’s not far away to either self educate yourself on YouTube. I mean YouTube You is all you need to do. Just get on there, google 2020, how to shoot a video, how to edit a video. Whatever it may be, lighting, audio and you can learn your way through there. Hire somebody you trust and you know knows the thing.

But, you do have to understand that this pivot of going online instantly it’s a crowded space, much more crowded than in my scenario, the gyms are. I mean gyms like, “Man there’s so many people. There’s so much competition.” Like bro, you got 12 other gyms within nine miles of you. 12 others, you think you’re going to go online? You think that’s crowded? Online where there’s 120,000 versions of you. Get out of here.

Rachel Brenke:
I think this is a good time for us to talk about and I have hammered this home extensively before, but it’s all about simplifying in your messaging. So let’s say you have a quality product, maybe you have owned a business in the past or you’ve been self educating. You pay someone quality like Stu or myself to teach you the mystery ways that we do everything, which isn’t so mystery it’s just all packaged for you and letting you know how it goes. But, you do this and you’re getting to a point that you’re wanting to push it out there. But, fuck I don’t know where I was going with that.

Stu Brauer:
So I mean where my head was going with this is so someone’s decided to go ahead and tackle this and they’re getting to the point where, “Okay now it’s time to distribute this.” Because again maybe that individual … Go ahead, you sound like you-

Rachel Brenke:
No, no. I completely, I got off. I was starting to get on one of my little Rachel’s rants. But no it’s all about who you’re talking to.

Stu Brauer:
Sure.

Rachel Brenke:
Because that’s one of the things like with you. Right off the bat, fitness, specifically Crossfit. And then even more niched down, because people are polarized by you, but you want them to be polarized and it also just as strongly attracts people. Because I’m attracted to the no bullshit talk.

Stu Brauer:
Yeah, yeah. When people ask, “What is WTF Gym Talk?” I’m like, “It’s a no bullshit approach to running a business in the fitness industry.” That’s all I do. That’s all I know, that’s all I’ve ever done and you’re right and being polarizing. I don’t think you and me, either of us use swear words or bombastic bravado for the purpose of being polarizing. I have literally said in a car with you as we’ve gotten picked up from the airport and that’s just how we talk. I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. I come from an Irish American family. My family watching Browns games when I was four years old just screaming the worst shit that you can imagine at a TV.

It’s just that and I think when people are getting out there and they’re wanting to craft their message, however you are naturally, however your friends would describe you, your family would describe you, the way you are is what you need to embrace online because God forbid you ever put on an act. A BS act and then someone in real life, IRL really bumps into you and you’re not that real person, that will get around. That will become locally viral in your online community of customers. He’s actually that Stu guy. Do you know he actually doesn’t drink whiskey while he works and he actually goes to church on Sundays and he doesn’t even like to swear. That’s all just an act that gets clicks. It’s click bait. Those individuals will get eaten alive because the internet doesn’t forget. It does not forget and you can go back and find the Facebook photos of them in college. Again, your history is there. We grew up in this era of … would you consider are you in an elder millennial era? You’re right on that-

Rachel Brenke:
You don’t call me an elder.

Stu Brauer:
I’m an elder millennial. I’m in this era where I remember what it was like when I first started documenting my life online and that was MySpace and Facebook early days and things like that. So I mean yeah, you can’t bullshit your way to whatever. Create a crafted and authentic message. And I think everyone’s a cool brand. FitLegally is a cool brand and me and a guy that I do a segment with we define cool brand as it’s being authentically you and just doing that consistently. McLovin on Superbad, he was a nerd, a complete virgin nerd, but he was cool because that’s who he was and his character was consistently that through the whole movie. We all have that one friend that’s on one end of the spectrum, but they’re always that way. It’s like, “Oh, it’s John. Yeah he’s a fucking Star Trek nerd.” Right? Or, “That’s Tina. Tina has got resting bitch face for days, but that’s just who she is.” But they’re still cool and that’s all a cool brand is. Someone who is authentic and consistently that.

And for anyone listening to this that is thinking of pivoting online and you’re like, “I’m worried about what I’m going to create in my message.” Just be authentically you. Whatever your isms are, ask your 10 best friends, “What are things I say and do? What are isms, what are Stuisms?” And they’re going to come up with a list of goofy shit that make you almost like a caricature, but those are the things that make you real. Those are the things that attracted that ecosystem of people to you. I think there’d be a broader 10 degrees out that you could attract people if you really doubled down on those actually real characteristics you already possess.

Rachel Brenke:
It’s funny you say that because right before we got on here I was planning a branding photo shoot because it’s been a year or two. I need an update, got to have fresh content. Tired of staring at the same old F’ing picture all the time.

Stu Brauer:
No, I love that photo of you with the American flag in the background or whatever that shit is.

Rachel Brenke:
Too bad that was like 30 pounds ago, so I can’t really share that authentically because that’s not me anymore because of the pandemic. No, yeah I love that photo. But I asked the team, I was like, “What are the key things about me?” It’s not what I teach. It’s not even what we necessarily want to put out as a brand. It’s who I am because when I talk I’m me. I don’t try to pretend to be anyone else. I mean now I worked out this morning and I didn’t get to shower and I threw on a sweater because I was getting on a podcast recording. My hair is in a messy bun. What you see is what you get and I even put that out on social media.

The other day, oh my God Stu, I did a video. I was inspired, I think that’s what’s really important. When you feel inspired and you’re unfiltered and I’m not saying you have to go out and have expletives and all this. But you have this gut feeling you want to ask or put something out to your audience, I did this because I was like, “I want to poll them about this topic.” I forgot I had acne patches on my face. I had the little dots all over. 36, I have acne it’s awesome. But my audience and I ended up polling them later waiting for that one asshole to say yes me wearing acne patches is going to make them trust me less. I had so many people that were like, “We just thought you didn’t give a fuck and we love that.” I’m like well, I didn’t intentionally do it but I didn’t take it down because I don’t give a fuck. I’m okay with that.

And the authenticity thing and this is what I think is really important when you’re sitting down looking to see who you want to help or just surveying some of the most popular successful people, often there’s overlapping characteristics. So in fitness I see oftentimes the fitness trainers that are out there are targeting people that they probably were in the past. They were that mom trying to lose that weight. They were that person trying to get out of depression or to improve their lives. So I think if you’re sitting there thinking, “Well I don’t know how to be authentic,” and by the way, being authentic online if you’re making this major pivot or just adding it on as a stopgap during pandemic, it doesn’t mean you have to tell all. I mean not everyone knows everything about me.

Stu Brauer:
Sure. Oh, yeah 100%. Yeah it doesn’t have to be an inside look.

So I look at the things that we’re most likely and I want everyone to think about this. The things that just like you used to talk about the patches there. The things that we would most likely be embarrassed about are sometimes the most magnetic things to our personal brand and our personality and who we are. Look at Michael Strahan, right? Very successful football player and now morning show host. That dude has all the money in the world to fix the field goal post of his fucking teeth, right? But he doesn’t because it makes him approachable. Because how else are you going to feel, like you can relate, to a multi-millionaire, seven foot 30 football player sitting there talking about whatever bullshit script they’ve got for him that day. You can’t relate to him, you can’t. But that little thing you can. It’s really interesting. I think it’s the things that we’re sometimes the most embarrassed of that we embrace and lean into and people 100% are magnetized to it because it gives them the permission to own their own flaws, their own embarrassing moments, things of that nature.

Rachel Brenke:
I think I would caution with this because to make sure that it’s truly, we keep using the word authentic and I almost cringe because that’s almost inauthentically-

Stu Brauer:
Sure yeah it’s got such a stereotype to it.

Rachel Brenke:
But we had this swing and you’re talking about the MySpace days. Oh, God what I wouldn’t give for MySpace over Facebook. But, the MySpace days of everything had to be perfect. You did not share anything negative online. Everything had to be polished. Then we had this swing, especially when all this premium information, social media took off to where yes, share your imperfections, which is what Stu and I are saying. But then it’s almost too far, they can’t see me because it’s audio podcast. But it’s almost too far to the other side of the spectrum in that it’s let me make up this story. Let me exaggerate the details of this story so I’m more relatable. Me, my position is everyone has a story. Everyone has something to connect about. It doesn’t have to be this extreme someone slid into my DM’s and talked crap about my body for you to share about body positivity. You don’t have to have such a hard hitting victim-like story. Just talk.

Stu Brauer:
Yeah and you don’t have to over share. You don’t have to cry on an Instagram video or story with everything like that. But again, just thinking about for anyone in your audience, let’s say there’s someone listening and they were again maybe they had a great little bakery in town. That bakery is now gone. The brick and mortar is gone. And again what do you have? If you can’t get those muffins to people you’re like, “Well eCommerce am I shipping muffins? Am I making stuff and sending it out?” But you have enough knowledge in your time as a bakery owner to just go ahead and daily go ahead and give a tip or a piece of the story. Here’s something I did that I learned from or here’s something. If you had something that you think you did very good in your business. Every brick and mortar owner has one skillset that they picked up that was not inherent to the technician skill that got them in there in the first place.

So that bakery owner she might be again making those muffin tops, crushing it, cakes all that. But there’s one point where she picked up a skillset, and maybe it was photography. She started seeing that Foodies on Instagram was a thing and she knew that was something she had to have and maybe she started taking some pictures. And maybe she really enjoyed that, almost to the point where she would miss her quota of how many cookies she should bake, because she was so busy editing in white room her photos. Now maybe that’s a skillset she can take outside there. I think every brick and mortar that has got to pivot right now doesn’t necessarily have to be on that one thing.

So fitness is mine and I’m blessed that I own the building that my gym is in right now. If I lease out my building, I’m going to lease it out a rental rate far beyond what I was renting it out to myself as. That would be a passive income business and what’s the thing I can do as a gym owner? Even if I didn’t have WTF, I would be like, “Well I don’t know I really like the Excel spreadsheets. I really like crunching the numbers. I really like moving the money around. Maybe I can start making content and helping people out who don’t understand the finances of their gym. They don’t understand EBITA.” All this other stuff. There’s elements of your current business that you probably enjoy doing more than the technician work that got you there. And if you lean into it enough and you really self taught yourself, you could possibly make a second or a new career stream remotely online and pivot to that thing.

Rachel Brenke:
What I love about this too is and I talked about this I think two episodes ago, is all about this niching down to scale up. We already talk about being authentic, yes. We’re talking to a very specific person. That is niching in this and I think if you just step back and go, “Okay well niching doesn’t even be just who you’re talking to, it’s what you’re offering.” So in that you’re saying I’m a landlord. I own a building. Well you could do a whole course on all the facets of that. How do I procure contractors to fix this? Who manages this? Who does that? But what you said was I like crunching the numbers it’d be the Excel sheet portion of it. Then teach just that. Simplify it and become known as the Excel numbers guy or whatever it is.

Stu Brauer:
100%.

Rachel Brenke:
These are things that you can teach. Well it doesn’t have to be teaching. When I say teaching, you can make it as free resource. Could be YouTube, you could do it as a download. Whatever it is in order to build this new business, but simplifying, because this is one of the big things that I am seeing from all, especially during pandemic. I’m getting, my heart rate’s going up a little bit because I’m seeing those that are in our space who teach other business owners, so business to business they have these huge conglomerates, these big names. They’re making seven to eight, nine figures, whatever. And they are like, “You must do it all. You have to offer all these products and services. You got to have a webinar. You got to have live streaming. You’ve got podcast, book this and that.” It’s like, that is overwhelming and as entrepreneurs or if you have just an inclination or if you’re forced to be an entrepreneur, we already have this mindset of fear. We’re afraid of failing. So we feel like we need to serve more people to make more money which is counterintuitive. That’s not necessarily the truth.

But, you don’t have to do all of it. You’re doing yourself a disservice by, so let’s go back to the fitness. I feel like there’s so many options available to brick and mortar fitness owners who can not only do retention of members like you talked about, but moving into growth during and after pandemic, but you don’t have to offer 1500 different things to do that.

Stu Brauer:
Yeah you don’t want to be a Swiss army knife. You just need to be a really good pocket knife in that scenario and for the online individual you’d say, “Okay so I’ll start my blog and then I got to name my podcast. What am I going to name my podcast? And then I guess I need to be doing some video. Maybe I’ll make a YouTube channel.” It’s like I would tell you pick the one media, because you have to put content out there. It has to be written word, audio or a video. And I would say pick the one that you could get with that has the fastest speed for you. So some people are really good, better writing. I would tell you go blog on it. Go blog on it all day. Get it out there, get some confidence under you. Get some of those good comments and good feedback. Get people like DM’ing you and all this and then think about where can I repurpose that? So Instagram is actually a great place to take long form content and post up a picture and put it in the comments. You can do that on Facebook as well. And then eventually I’ve even taken people on personal brands and taken them, “Okay, we’re literally just going to have you read. Read your blog into this microphone and we’re going to upload it to Anchor and start a podcast.”

And anyone listening to it is probably not going to be all the more wiser that you’re actually reading from a piece of something you already wrote. And then if you ever feel comfortable enough getting on video, then by all means go for it. But the evolution of not doing it all when you’re trying to get your message out there, I think it’s key. Stick to the one thing you’re good at that you can do the most of and you’ll enjoy doing it. Because you and me both know, creating content even for people who truly enjoy it, it is a job.

Before this I was literally going ahead and I was lining up. I have 17 podcasts in schedule right now. Get in the thumbnails for them. Making sure that all the tags and the description that’s on them are online because I want to make sure that the guests that come on get the props and all that shit. It is a very thorough gig like any other job out there. So pick the content platform, not Instagram and whatever. But the delivery; written word, audio or video that you are the easiest able to go into. Then I promise you that one form could turn into another. People are like I love video, I love video. So video is my fave and I can extract the audio out of the video and just slap that on a podcast if I don’t feel like recording the podcast. You can double dip it. But I tell people just start with one.

Rachel Brenke:
Yeah and I love that because I’ve been trying to push out this message to those listening of imperfect presence prevails over perfect procrastination. And I’m speaking this about me is and I shared at the beginning of the episode, I feel like because I get in front of creatives, my visual presentation needs to be better. But if I’m going to wait three to six months to finish my course on digital recording and having a perfect video, I’ve lost three to six months of putting content in the runway out there. So at least if it’s imperfect, put it out there, get it out there. The words are out because video and audio recording for me is better. I talk a lot, I talk very fast and then the team repurposes it for me into text. But getting that out there is a better connection. It’s funny I was even thinking about this on my run today because we have photo session coming up. We’re having a videographer do B-roll stuff and all of this because I want to get that visual presence. But I thought back to when I had the best authentic engagement and it was when I was putting up the shittiest photos of the most random things in my life.

Stu Brauer:
Yeah, yeah. And think about for you, the things that make people relate to Rachel is again, you’ve got the photography background. You’ve obviously got the lawyer background. But you’ve got the athlete background, right? You got that cancer background. You’ve got the, fuck even everything you went through with Archer background. You’ve got your kids background. You’ve got this busy woman, alpha female background. You’ve got all these different things that allow someone to be like, “Hey, I dig that sliver of her. I’m not into photography but I’ve got kids and I talk like this chick does. I’m picking up what she’s putting down.” And by putting that out there and that’s where the blending of your personal brand and your business it’s way easier when it’s an online thing in my opinion. WTF Gym Talk, people don’t realize WTF Gym Talk has a three year old daughter and loves riding an electric skateboard and bike and loves whiskey. They might not know all that from WTF Gym Talk and that’s okay because that brand serves a very specific purpose giving no bullshit content on how to run a successful business in the fitness industry.

But then Stuart Brauer, me myself I don’t have to delude to who I am to accommodate that and I think that’s another thing some people run into. Do they create, I don’t know if you ever get asked this because I know you do branding work too. “Rach, should I start a separate business name and do everything under that? Or do I do it under my own name?” And there’s pros and cons to both.

Rachel Brenke:
Yeah there are pros and cons and there’s even it’s funny, this is something we’re talking about you’re saying you learn something along the way about building brick and mortar, building your business and one thing is I did this last weekend. I sat down and said, “What are all the things that I’ve done?” Not what I’m putting out right now. So not like I help photographers legally protect their business. But what have I done and grown and learned in my business? I realize that I have done a really good job of creating a business in one niche and copying and pasting it into other niches. I was like, “Okay, so niching down to scale up, that’s a great little buzz phrase. That’s a good way to present it.” But the more I thought about it, we’ve already touched on it. I can do one industry and do really well with one to two products. Don’t have to do a lot. Or I can have one business and serve multiple consumer avatars and it all be under the same name. Whereas I have taken the approach where I have different names for my different brands.

Stu Brauer:
Sure.

Rachel Brenke:
But there are ways that you can do that and I know that’s probably over complicating it for those that are listening right now who aren’t even thinking that far. Just know, I think the point of what Stu and I are trying to tell you is there is freedom. As long as you are focused, authentic and you simplify in what you’re doing. You know what you’re going to be putting out there, this sounds so dumb. The world is your oyster. That’s one of the great things about entrepreneurship. If I just don’t want to do a podcast recording and I want to go law down and watch Law and Order SVU for four hours, I can do that, while I’m the one that pays the dues later because I didn’t do it. Or if I want to offer four services versus two, I’m the one that gets to choose that. I’m not the behest and boss.

Stu Brauer:
Yeah I mean that’s the thing is when people are in the beginning phases they ask those questions like [inaudible 00:37:06], “Should I have a brand name or do it under my name? Should I do podcast?” You’re overthinking it and that’s an internal mechanism that procrastination and because you’re fearful of getting started, right? In the fitness industry it’s like I’m going to get started going running. No I can’t get started going running, I got to get new shoes. All right I got new shoes, oh, but I got to break them in first. Okay, but now it’s cold, shit now I need some more. I don’t have the right clothes to run outside. I’m going to get an app so it tells me where to run and I need to know how much it is. How much is an iPhone or an Apple Watch? You can put one thing in front of the other to prevent you from getting started. I would tell people whatever way you’re considering doing it, I promise you there are thousands of people who did it that way with success and I promise you there’s thousands of people who did it a way that would suggest doing it another way. You can’t mess it up. You cannot mess this up as it comes to getting started.

Now once you get it started and it becomes a thing, plenty of ways to fuck that up, right? But, getting started there is no way to mess that up.

Rachel Brenke:
No and you know that’s the thing. Even I have sat here and hammered on the podcast of, “There’s a legal to do this. Legal to do that.” The reality is the majority of you all are not doing legal stuff in the beginning. I have plenty of clients that didn’t do the legal stuff in the beginning and they’re fine. Are there those that have issues and I wish they had, sure.

Stu Brauer:
Sure.

Rachel Brenke:
Like you said, you’re not going to fuck it up and I actually am sharing all this in that even that this last year I was getting distracted going because I had a little bit more time. I was like, “Oh, do I need to be on LinkedIn? Do I also need to be on YouTube?” No, simplify and I’ve been doing this for almost two decades.

Stu Brauer:
Yeah, yeah. LinkedIn, Twitter these are platforms. Like eh, I don’t know. I’m just not going to fuck … I mean I’m sure there’s benefits to being there. But it’s also if you’re a solo, like again this online space you run with much leaner staff that scenario, it’s just easier like you said, to niche in the platforms in areas. Services and products that you enjoy, that are working for you and that allow people to know which channel to go on to find you. It’s like someone’s like, “I’m trying to watch that show. Is that on Hulu or is that on Netflix? Or is it on Apple +?” Or whatever. Where is it at versus you know 100% you go to that one channel and find that one show all the time.

Consistency going back to that piece of it. But yeah I think for a lot of people pivoting right now, now is the time to pivot. You just also need to realize there’s 1,000 people, 100,000 people, a million people who have done this also. Do a little bit of spending, a little bit of time researching just seeing what some other people have done. Get an idea, steal. Good artists borrow, great artists steal. Steal some ideas, give credit to those that you steal from and then proceed. Just get moving. If you find yourself having a glass of wine with your girlfriends talking about how you’re going to do something, I promise you, you’re probably closer to not doing it than you ever are. People who actually do things don’t have wine with their girlfriends and say, “I’m going to do this.” They cancel plans with their girlfriends seven times and then on the eighth time show up and be like, “Where the fuck you been?” Like, “Oh, I did this thing.”

Rachel Brenke:
And you know it’s funny, I think also within that is understanding you’re not going to be able to serve everyone. You’re not going to be able to do everything. You’re not going to be able to meet everybody, make them happy. The other week, I have five kids and they’re addicted to YouTube, sorry pandemic learning from home it is what it is. But, they’re all about merch, I hate that word. Hate the word merch.

Stu Brauer:
Yeah like merch, oh yeah. The thing on YouTube.

Rachel Brenke:
But, yes. So they’re like, “I need Preston Style’s merch and I need this merch and this person has a podcast and isn’t that awesome? Podcasting’s cool.” And I was like, “Your mom has a podcast.” And they were like, “Ew that’s gross.” I’m like, “Oh my God.” I said, “Yeah and I’m on YouTube also.”

Stu Brauer:
Like Mom you’re not as cool as David Dobrik. Yeah, so here’s the thing though, I love the idea … so my three year old right? I think of her growing up in a world where she’s instantly given not only permission because others like you and me and all the other people before us have started content creators. Content creation is the industrial revolution of this generation. She’s going to see that if she has something to say and she can come up with an educational entertaining way to say it, she can speak it out into the world. The thing I fear is the tying their self worth and success with things like YouTube.

I’ve created this entire thesis and if I ever write a book it’ll be on it is you can have a $100,000 business off 1,000 followers on any given platform. You can have a $300,000 off 3,000 followers. That number, the vanity metric it’s the what do you bench of social media scenario. That’s my fear is that people that’ll judge themselves based on those vanity metrics. But I do, I love the idea that content creation is the coolest thing to do right now and that little kids are looking up to podcasters and they have that. And so if my kid grows up and she thinks she’s funny as shit and she thinks she can talk into a mic and make people laugh, then go for it baby girl. Make your paper boo-boo. And if nobody listens, be okay with that too. That’s part of the gig.

Rachel Brenke:
Yeah and it’s funny that you say that about the numbers is because I have consulting clients who fitness industry and they’ll have 500,000 a million followers, but they’re barely even clearing a couple thousand dollars a month.

Stu Brauer:
Yeah, yeah.

Rachel Brenke:
And then people could log on my Twitter and go, “Well you only have 5,000.” That’s because I ignored Twitter for 15 years or however long it’s been around.

Stu Brauer:
Yeah. But that depth verus width concept, right? I truly believe the micro influencer are under 100,000 units of followers on any of these platforms. That person if they were developed legitly and it’s not your Aunt Sally times 100 following you, if you actually really can, then that’s honestly your best niche is when you’re sitting that at under 100,000 because you can have true attention, true attention of under 100,000 six digit followers. What we see in social media once you get beyond that you have vanity attention. You have trend attention. You have all these different forms of attention that don’t result into really listening into what you say and possibly probably buying your services. But yeah, this entire new world that your kids will grow up in and my kids will grow up in that you and me and other people will be able to say that, “Hey we’re still early adopters to this thing.” It seems crazy, we really are. Creating an online business, we’re still all very early adopters.

Rachel Brenke:
I mean I remember when I first started this, I was looking for ways to, how do I run a business? My first business was an apparel store and but it was online. And you couldn’t find it. It was long form sales pages that you had to pay to get to. There was no framing information or you had to go sit in a ball room like you would talk about and hear from somebody. And that I thought I was the coolest. Like, “Oh, I’m going to put out this content.” As I learn it, I blogged about it and that’s how I grew into what I’m doing because I was like, “I want to share with others, so other moms specifically can do this as well.” And yeah it’s just crazy to think that yeah, early adopter. I never really thought about that. I mean I’ve looked at the transition. I miss the days when you can post on Facebook and everyone saw what you posted.

Stu Brauer:
Yeah.

Rachel Brenke:
There was no fighting for attention, no ad spend or any of that. But yeah it’ll be interesting to see where it goes. But I think my big message here for those if you’re a brick and mortar that’s looking to add online stuff and you’re leaving a job and trying to create your own business whether like product based, service based, online it really is all about just getting it out there, consistency and really simplifying it. Don’t over complicate it and I have to tell myself that still all the time, this many years later.

Stu Brauer:
Yeah, no keeping it simple, keeping it lean. It also makes for your workflow to be a lot easier and it also makes the job is a lot more fun. The one thing I’ve thought about with the pandemic, “Hey with my gym if I shut the gym down, right? The gym’s done what would I do?” I’m like, “Well once shit got back to normal I’d get back to traveling. I’d get back to speaking. I’d vlog and make podcasts and make videos all day long.” I’m never happier than when I’m making a video or fucking around on a camera somehow. That alone is just that one thing. Now could, should I write a book? I don’t know other guys have written books. They look [inaudible 00:45:19]. Maybe I should write a book. I would hate … I would have to hire a ghost writer and just do a dictation. There’s not a chance in hell I would sit down and ever write a book.

Rachel Brenke:
Actually that is an idea. I mean I know some people who have taken and put in their podcast recordings to a ghost writer who then takes the transcripts and shaped it.

Stu Brauer:
100% yeah. So it’s one of those things that I think you find the thing you really enjoy doing. It’s the thing you would do anyway, for everyone. That’s why most people started their business. I would probably do this thing for free. I remember telling people, my mom she hated the fact that I was not going to get my Master’s degree. I walked out of grad school and I didn’t go. I didn’t even show up on the first day. And I’m like, “Mom if I have to go get a job at McDonald’s today, I would take the broom stick and I would snap the head off it and in the parking lot during my lunch breaks, I would be teaching people how to properly deadlift and press overhead because I love teaching lifting and barbell movements more than anything in the world. And that would make me happy. I’d perfectly content with that.

and you know who you don’t want to go up against? Somebody who would do something for free anyway. You are a fucking dangerous person that would do that. And that’s I think the beginning of all of our businesses and unfortunately with so many people being displaced due to the pandemic, you now need to find what is that new thing I would do for free anyway? Or I have an abundance of information about and I could talk your ear off about it for hours and hours on end. Now how can I package that up, supply to people through a medium that I prefer and build a job out of that.

Rachel Brenke:
I love that and I think that’s a good way for us to end the episode, the culmination of everything is that is a wonderful … No one has ever phrased it to me that way because I have no problem sometimes when people ask me to speak to do it for free. Why? Because I love to teach. I love to speak. So Stu thank you so much for this.

Stu Brauer:
Anytime Rach.

Rachel Brenke:
You know, I greatly appreciate it. I have episodes over on Stu’s podcast if you’re in the fitness industry and you want to hear a bit more of me and him together. As always if you guys will jump into the Business Bites Facebook group we’ll have thread on this episode. I would love to hear what pivots, if any, that you’ve been doing during pandemic and I’ll talk to you all next week.

Speaker 2:
Thanks for joining Rachel on this episode of the Business Bites. For show notes, a list of recommended tools or referenced episodes, you can find them at businessbitespodcast.com. Until next time…

Stu Brauer headshot

Meet Stu

Stuart Brauer is a 15+ year veteran of the fitness industry. From humbly making three figures running workouts in a park to growing a successful microgym and venturing into commercial real estate, Stu has seen it all. With his gym running on auto-pilot, he turned to creating content that was entertaining, educational and cut through the bullshit. If you’re looking for blunt, real advice on running a business in the fitness industry, check out WTF Gym Talk.

Website | Instagram

Hi, I’m Rachel Brenke

Rachel Brenke

As a mom, team USA athlete and cancer-survivor, I want a real life while I have a real business.  This is why my resources don’t promote hustle-culture, rather tough-love and no-holds-barred tips to achieving both.  In addition to this website, I have a top-ranked business podcast, been featured in places like Forbes and work 1:1 with so many of you.

Enough about me though. I am proud of you for pursuing entrepreneurship. It is rewarding and amazing.  Keep at it!

Now enrolling: RealBiz Accelerator[GET INFO]
+ +