The pandemic has upended the fitness industry. Having no access to public gyms, millions of folks turned to at-home workouts. According to Matt Reynolds, the founder of Barbell Logic, an online strength coaching company, the shift is permanent.
“As the world has slowly opened back up,” he told me, “there’s been a change of mindset, a paradigm shift in personal fitness training.”
Reynolds and I first spoke on the podcast a year ago. He was facing unprecedented demand and the operational headaches of managing it. In our recent follow-up conversation, he addressed the challenges of hiring remote trainers and skilled staff while servicing clients worldwide.
The audio of our entire discussion is embedded below. The transcript that follows is edited for length and clarity.
Eric Bandholz: There’s now a huge demand from people exercising at home.
Matt Reynolds: We’re an online strength coaching company focused on barbells. At the time of the lockdowns, about 40% of our clients trained at public gyms. Those clients lost access to the barbells, and they couldn’t train.
Plus, folks joined Barbell Logic amid the lockdowns and had no access to gyms and no access to barbells. Some had access at home to sandbags, a kettlebell or two, dumbbells, even dog food bags.
We did what we could with what we had. So despite all the gyms being closed, 2021 has been a pretty good year for us.
We’re up about 24% in revenue over last year. As the world has slowly opened back up, there’s been a change of mindset, a paradigm shift in personal fitness training.
Traditional exercise training is you go to a big box gym and receive instruction from a 19-year-old fitness enthusiast. He’s not a professional. We’re connecting clients — no matter where they are — to professional, expert coaches who are right for them. If they have a cell phone, they’ve got access.
Plus, the price for online coaching is about 25% of the typical in-person rate.
We’ve met the demand. We have about 80 coaches — 60 are contractors. The other 20 are employees in leadership roles.
Bandholz: How do you find the right trainers and talent?
Reynolds: There are two parts to how we hire. First, our academy teaches people how to coach and become better barbell enthusiasts. If someone does a great job in the academy and is working towards our professional barbell coaching certification, we’ll bring them on as an associate coach. They get paid, but not much.
Then, we’ll monitor how they work with the team, coach clients, service customers. They’re an associate coach for six months, maximum. They have to earn their certification during that time, or they’re out.
We don’t typically hire, for example, a chief operating officer or a human resources person who hasn’t spent time in the company. They’ve worked their way up.
Bandholz: What do you do when someone is a good performer, and you promote him into a role where he’s unsuccessful?
Reynolds: We don’t have a lot of experience there. Sometimes we place people in a new role as a temporary position. We’ll say, “You’re doing great here. We’re going to hire you for a temporary three-month position to see how it works out.” It’s vital for me, as a founder and CEO, to be patient. It takes time for folks to learn a new role.
The goal is to give them control. You can have control, or you can have growth, but you don’t typically get both. So we want people to take ownership. If they’re still asking you about every detail after two or three months and seeking permission, they haven’t taken control. We assume they’re not able to handle the additional responsibilities.
Then we have a conversation. Sometimes we place them on a performance improvement plan with a list of what to improve. However, putting somebody on a performance improvement plan is usually foretelling — they’re not going to last long-term.
But most of the time, within the first month, we can tell if it’s going to work.
Bandholz: Have you moved someone into a prior position because the new role didn’t work out?
Reynolds: Yes. Or, we might divide a position among several folks. Again, we’re careful to avoid mistakes in hiring.
That’s why I like promoting people from the inside because they’re usually all in on the business. They know that I have a reputation for treating people fairly and paying well. So we figure out what the job looks like first. Then we give them an offer — pay and benefits. Somebody who is pushy about the compensation before discussing the role is probably not a good fit for us. That’s a pet peeve of mine.
Bandholz: How can listeners follow you, get in touch?
Reynolds: Our website is Barbell-Logic.com. We’re one of the largest online professional fitness coaching companies in the world. We have coaches for every demographic and situation.
We have a podcast on our site and a good YouTube channel. We put out a ton of free, helpful content.