Episode 8 - What's Your 'Why'? Create a Purpose with Matthew Becker
Today on the show we have the owner of Industrial Athletics, Matthew Becker. Matt was a long time fitness buff who became an attorney by profession. When a CrossFit box he attended began having troubles, Matt saw an opportunity to help people by creating his own. Matt is going to share the importance of purpose, specifically when running a business in the fitness industry.
Dan - Host: Hello everyone and welcome to the fitDEGREE podcast. I'm Dan, your host. And co-hosting with me, as always, is Nick. Today on the show we have the owner of Industrial Athletics, Matthew Becker. Matt was a long time fitness buff who is an attorney by profession. When a gym he attended began having troubles, Matt saw an opportunity to help people by creating his own. Matt is going to share the importance of purpose when running a business in the fitness industry. Welcome to the show Matt. Glad you could join us.
Matthew - Guest: Hey what's up, guys? Thanks for having me.
Dan - Host: Yeah, of course. Certainly not something we hear often, an attorney by day, Batman by night. No, I'm just kidding. A gym owner by night. Certainly the two didn't coincide by nature. You had to go out of your way to make that happen. Give us a little bit of background. The story of how you went from courtroom to barbells.
Matthew - Guest: I think every studio owner, fitness owner, yoga studio, whatever it is, you're always going to walk in and meet somebody who says, I've always been into X, right? I've always been into fitness. I remember back when I started into doing a step class program when I was in middle school. And that blossomed into your body building, high schoolers I got to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger. In undergrad and then into law school and then my brother introduced me to CrossFit, and I got really into that right after law school.
Nick - Co-host: So, about what year was that just for people just wondering. What year was that when you got into that?
Matthew - Guest: So, I graduated law school in 2009, and I was doing CrossFit for probably about six months to eight months, right before I graduated.
Nick - Co-host: Okay cool. So you got in early. Because I didn't get involved til like 2013, 2015 maybe.
Matthew - Guest: Oh, okay.
Dan - Host: So, you really came in like ... what I really respected at that time it was a whole new thing back then.
Matthew - Guest: Yeah, my brother was doing it with an ex-football player on his college campus, and he said, "You got to checkout this CrossFit thing." So, I went to the dot com and looked it up. "That's all I'm doing today" No.
Nick - Co-host: Yeah, yeah.
Matthew - Guest: It took me a while to buy in. So, I always say I started in 2008 but where really it was I don't remember my first workout or the date or anything like that. But anyway I never had any intention of owning an affiliate or doing much more than just using it as a fitness program. When I graduated law school in '09, I came out and took the bar. Started working for a solo practitioner and at that time was doing CrossFit at the local YMCA. Then my now wife, girlfriend at the time, she started doing it with me. Studied, took the bar, passed the bar, started working. She was a year behind me in law school. She got out. Moved up with me in Pittsburgh and the summer that she took her bar exam, I just decided for no real reason other than just to gain in general knowledge that I would go get the Level 1 Trainer Certificate because it came to Pittsburgh. It was like a first time it was hosted in Pittsburgh.
Dan - Host: Because you just can't stop studying.
Matthew - Guest: Yeah, right. They kind of do that to you. Like I got to do something. I got to read something. I've got to test myself, right?
Nick - Co-host: I gotta test myself. I have to test my new knowledge.
Matthew - Guest: So, I'm like, it's here. It's local. I'll go take it. I don't plan on doing anything with it, it's just I got $1,000 burning a hole I guess, in my pocket.
Nick - Co-host: Yeah, it's not cheap. I did the same thing. A little bit more intentions to start working with it. But I was like, "Let me just check it out from these guys, what they think of it and what they're going to teach me."
Matthew - Guest: Yeah. Everybody, it sounds so cultish, everybody who goes and takes the L1 comes out and they're like, "Oh my God, Crossfit!"
Nick - Co-host: Yeah, yeah.
Matthew - Guest: People are super excited about Crossfit before they attend the L1, and you're like, "Dude, just wait. Talk to me on Monday, when you get back." And every time, they're like, "Oh my God, it's Crossfit! The L1!" I'm like "I know. I've done it twice now."
Matthew - Guest: So I went, did my L1, and I even remember, when I was there I was talking to one of the level 1 trainers on one of the breaks, lunch break or whatever. She was like, "What do you want to do with this?" I was like, "Nothing. I'm just getting it for the general knowledge. I just want to know about Crossfit. It's cool, I like fitness and I like this thing, Crossfit, and I'm going to an affiliate." She was like, "You don't have any intention of opening your own affiliate, do you?" And I was like, "Nah, I'm not going to do that. I just started as an attorney. I'm going to build my practice, I'm going to be a litigator."
Matthew - Guest: Well, so, took my L1 about a year later. So I want to say around like 2011 ish, the gym where I was attending the owner started to have some personal issues and it was starting to be like he wouldn't show up for classes or he would cancel classes at the last minute. And he started asking me to cover a couple of the classes and then it was like I was coming up with programming and then I was covering classes just make sure that they weren't getting canceled.
Dan - Host: So it was other than just a once in a while help out.
Matthew - Guest: Yeah, exactly. So eventually my wife and I were just talking about it and she was like, well, "If you're going to do this, like this, basically you're, you're doing this part time practically right now. Why don't you just go open up your own and then at least it's yours.
Nick - Co-host: Yeah, I was going to say, you're running this with no control. You're just filling in and that's gotta be painful too. Especially the lawyer, the overachiever in you, it was just like, "This is me. I'd be doing this but it's not mine."
Matthew - Guest: There had to be so many better ways I could do it.
Nick - Co-host: Now a quick question. Was your wife also doing crossfit at the time? Like she was also sipping the Kool-Aid, so she was like "Lemme give you an idea?"
Matthew - Guest: Yeah. She got into it ... I mean this is getting very specific, but it's kind of weird that when you finish law school, you take your finals and then before there's like this two week period between the end of finals and the time that you graduate. There's like nothing that you can do. Well my wife was down-
Nick - Co-host: Besides sleep.
Matthew - Guest: Yeah. Sleep, go work out and get drunk. So we had like this two week period and we couldn't go to the campus rec center because once I graduate, my rec center card dies. So we found another gym in the area. This was down in Morgan town, West Virginia. And they had this brand new facility and they have platforms and bumper plates and rings. We're like, "What is this stuff? Wait I've seen this on [inaudible 00:07:33] .com. No way." So I got her into it, that kind of spring and between my graduation and then on my finals and my graduation. So she continued to do it her final year of law school, I continued to do it up here in Pittsburgh at the YMCA. And then, so she's been into it, you know, just about a year less than I than I am. She still does it today.
Nick - Co-host: Yeah. Because that would definitely make, I would think, would favor her decision making. It'd be like, "Hey, maybe we should just do this ourselves. Or maybe you should just try to take a stab at it yourself."
Matthew - Guest: Oh yeah. Definitely.
Nick - Co-host: I couldn't even imagine coming home to your wife that you go to the gym to every day and then you're just like, "You know what? I was thinking, start with my own gym." She's like, "Oh God!" So she was involved in this, so it was a little bit more educated, you know, opinion to say, okay, maybe we should do this ourselves. So you're in this position now where you know, you're doing most of the heavy lifting for this guy and now you're weighing the decision to, should I just open up my own affiliate?
Matthew - Guest: So I searched around for probably a good year trying to find a location. I was still trying to keep the affiliate where we were attending going. We a eventually left and we were working out in like a basement apartment gym from one of the members at that affiliate who had also left. And it was just really hard to find a location, something that was affordable. You know, back then, I say back then, that's just five and half years ago crossfit really was still kind of not really well known. So it was like, "What? You want to do what in my space?" [crosstalk 00:09:25]-
Dan - Host: I just need a big empty box to throw weights.
Matthew - Guest: Yeah. They were like, you need like this or this is like. No, I need a flat floor, high walls, a big ceiling and a bathroom. Because even then it was like super rustic, right? So I eventually found the spot. So that was, that ended up being around 2013. So April, April one of 2013 was when we opened. So I think I got everything going. And the late fall of 2012 and then into, you know, the, the winter was sort of the build out. You know, we opened in the spring of 2013 and originally it was like, I'm just going to do this as a hobby. I'll continue to run my law practice. I am a full time coach running the gym. As long as I don't lose money and I got a space to work out, I'm good to go. And that quickly sort of flipped on end. Like yeah, that's not going to happen.
Nick - Co-host: How does your brain ... like so we noticed this in the office too, like if we're working on critical thinking, if we're working on creativity, if we're working on customers, so like how does your brain hold up jumping back and forth between reading legal documents, you know, being completely unemotional, making unbiased logical decisions, and then you got to go and switch to happy go lucky, ultimate motivational, you know, bringing these people, defining purpose, which we're going to dive into next. How does your brain handle that? Your emotional levels handle that every day.
Matthew - Guest: You just have to keep the two of them separate and very separate. You know, if for a long time my structure was go to the gym, go to the legal practice, I do nothing but legal from eight o'clock in the morning until one o'clock in the afternoon. I then do about a half hour lunch just to decompress and then from 1:30 to 3:30 or four o'clock if there's nothing emergency at the legal practice, I sit in some of the gym stuff and that was sort of like my couple of hours to really dial in and do a lot on the gym. So I would focus only on bookkeeping, website development, blogging whatever else it was. Promotion, what kind of social media we were trying to do at the time.
Nick - Co-host: There's a lot more than coaching and programming I think. We talk about this a lot with yoga studio owners as well. They just love teaching, coming up with flows and they don't realize that it's a whole business. And same thing with [crosstalk 00:12:06].
Dan - Host: You're running a business.
Nick - Co-host: People love the programming, people exercise, motivating. And it's just like that. It's just like one small part of the business at the end of the day.
Matthew - Guest: Yeah and some studios are big enough that they can outsource and pay everybody to do that stuff for a long time. And I'm still more this way then than not. But for a long time I had the mentality of if I can figure out how to do it on my own, I'm not paying somebody else to do it for me. And that worked for me for about the last seven years and now I've gotten to the point where it's like, I don't want to continue to work on my SEO anymore for my website. I can afford to pay somebody every, you know, a dollar value every month to do that for me.
Dan - Host: And I want to-
Nick - Co-host: The CEO mindset is just figure it out yourself, make a dummy proof and then delegate it.
Dan - Host: I want to ask what was stopping you from ... you're clearly putting in tons of time. And, you know, it seems to me that you do enjoy it, but what's stopping you from getting some help in certain areas? Having someone else do, you know, having a manager that part of your job is you're in charge of payroll and these things just to take, you know, two or three hours of your day off of your plate.
Matthew - Guest: One shoestring budget.
Dan - Host: Sure. I understand that.
Matthew - Guest: The legal practice was the primary supporter for probably four years of the gym being open. So, you know, I couldn't afford to pay anybody to do it. And there was one point where we were pretty stagnant at the gym about three years in and we weren't growing, we weren't losing, we were pretty much at a zero sum growth. And I had to look at it and I was like, well, we're not losing money, but I'm not making any money off of this thing.
Dan - Host: And that's sleeping.
Matthew - Guest: And I'm putting in a whole heck of a lot more work than I'm making any money from either business. I've either got to be comfortable with where I am or I need to start paying somebody for help. And that is what I ended up doing. It was sort of at that point where it's like, all right, I've done everything I can do on my own. I've maxed out my hours and my days and as much as I want to read about whatever business topic that I'm reading about, I've maxed it out. It's either sink or swim at this point. I'm either going to continue to trudge along as I'm doing or I'm going to get somebody to help me do it.
Dan - Host: Speaking of moving the business along and figuring out what you need and what the proper steps are, you came on the show today to talk about the importance of purpose, the purpose of what you do. And remind me, you and I had spoken before, I'm drawing a blank on the name of the guy was Simon Sinek.
Matthew - Guest: Simon Sinek.
Dan - Host: Simon Sinek is largely where you got a lot of your inspiration from. So walk us through, you know, what you believe the importance of having that purpose is.
Matthew - Guest: I have been working on this whole purpose based process of how to run a business for probably about two years. When I started with Barbell Logic slash now Gymwright, they hooked me up with a business coach who was the guy who finally sat me down and was like, "Why are you doing this? Why do you get up at four o'clock every morning to go to a gym to run a couple of classes, to go to law practice, to practice law, have to go back to a gym and you maybe take some money home from the gym at the end of the month, but right now you're not. So why do you continue to do this?" And yeah, I just kept thinking about it, kept thinking about it and I went to my coach and she and I sort of sat down and drafted up some things and then I finally read, start with why and it's brought in back in entirely new focus on starting with our purpose. Then moving into how we carry out that purpose and then what we specifically offer.
Dan - Host: Okay. Now you had mentioned that your coach had to sit you down and come up with that and in a strange sense, that's like some advice I had gotten a while ago. One of the hardest things you'll ever have to do is be honest with yourself because if you ask yourself a question, you'll give yourself an answer and you go, "No, no, no, no. Why do that?" Why do that until you get to the root of it. What was the process like trying to figure out, you know, what is my why? What is the why of Industrial Athletics? You know, are they the same as my why? The same why that I want everyone to feel when they walk in the door or is Industrial Athletics? Is that his own person in a sense? I want people to know Industrial Athletics' why. Take us a little bit through what it was like personally having to be introspective and kind of go down this mental rabbit hole that many of us don't actually really like going down.
Matthew - Guest: You got to shut out some outside stuff. Turn off your phone. If you're on your computer, don't have the email open and just start typing. Or if you're like me and you love the old school stuff, sit down with a paper and pen and just start writing-
Dan - Host: I'm with you on that one.
Matthew - Guest: Yes. Thank you. God just stop typing, just start writing.
Dan - Host: I've got a pen and paper notebooks schedule. I have to go in January of this year. I've got to write all the dates in. If I write something it's happening cause I am fighting with myself. I cannot cross that off until it's done.
Matthew - Guest: Yep.
Dan - Host: Nick goes, your phone will flash and give you a reminder.
Matthew - Guest: No, no.
Dan - Host: Yeah, we'll there's a snooze button. There's a go away button. too easy.
Matthew - Guest: So you got to sit down, you got to start writing this stuff out. And somebody else once described it to me as like the five steps of why or the five why's that you have to go through. So when you mentioned like, you know, why do you do this? And then, okay, you got that. Now why do you do that? Okay, good. That's great. So why do you do that? And that was where I think the mistake that we made in our original purpose that we sat down and looked at was it was very surface and to have a really good why of why you do anything, your purpose, it has to be very broad, has to be very general. And it has to be very high level because if you go around to any crossfit gym in Pittsburgh any crossfit gym in the world, right? And you say, you know why you guys do what you do and assuming they haven't gone through this process, they're probably going to say something about I love fitness and I want to get people in the best shape of their life.
Matthew - Guest: Okay. Like and that's what I'll tell new members who walk into my gym. I'm like, look, you're not coming here for crossfit, right? You can come here for crossfit, but you could also go to any of the other dozen crossfit gyms that are in a 10 mile radius of me and you can do crossfit there. And you're going to do constantly varied functional fitness, performed at high intensity and it's going to get you in the best shape of your life. So why are you going to come pay me chi-ching on my crossfit? Like so why are you going to come pay me the amount of money that I'm charging versus going to somewhere else? Right? So you need a purpose. Cause it's product differentiation. We make people better. Like that doesn't tell you at all what I do.
Dan - Host: And it's still marketing with like flirting. It's like, how do you make people better? It's like I want to know more now. Like how are you going to make it? What are you going to make better about me?
Matthew - Guest: Yes, exactly. But again, you can go, if somebody just walks in and says, I want to get in better shape, okay, fine. Like I'll charge you to do that, but you can go anywhere you want. And in the long run I'm going to lose out because if that's all that I'm providing, that is what I'm providing. Then I'm going to have to start offering deals. I'm going to have to start manipulating individuals into buying my product versus buying somebody else's product because that's all they're doing. They're here for what I do.
Matthew - Guest: But again, back to my purpose. If I can convince people that I'm here to make them better, and that doesn't just mean physical. You think you're coming in here for physical training, but that's not it. Okay. I'm going to give you physical training. I'm going to give you mental strength training and I'm going to give you a community, a tribe, if you will. And those are my three how's, I'm going to make better people and then I'm going to go and I'm going to sell you on what exactly it is that we do. Then they're done.
Dan - Host: It's just, "What am I paying for?"
Nick - Co-host: The product is still crossfit. It's still that one hour of class, but now you've packaged it in a way of you're getting so much more than this one hour class. And that's what I was going to ask this; How do you make them better people? You just said the workouts, obviously now the mental strength, is that through the workouts as well or do you do something different?
Matthew - Guest: Yeah, so there are two primary ways that we sell mental strength. One is through the workouts. All right? And we emphasize this within our workouts, right? Like you come up against a 20 minute long workout, that's a really long grueling type of workout. We're going to talk, the coaches are going to talk to you during the workout about refocusing your mind, focused on the present, focused on the task at hand. Don't worry about what's to come. Only overcome what it is that you can do right now. You know, sort of tips like that seems kind of hokey, but when you're working out, they can start to sink and a little bit and then it starts to sink in and affect people elsewhere.
Matthew - Guest: Now they're at work, they're like, "Shoot, I got this big project." That's okay. This is like an Mwrap. All you gotta do is I just have to start on this task and on this task I can delegate this one and before I know it, the task is completed.
Nick - Co-host: Right. Okay. So what's the second one?
Matthew - Guest: The second one is we have another service called the coach's corner. It's an add on to the regular membership, but it's one on one consultations with me and people will come into the coach's corner as primarily looking for like I wanted to get a muscle up or I want to increase my back squat weight or I want help with my diet, you know? Dial in their diet and lose some weight or whatever. But then I always add in and make them go through some of the steps for them themselves. And, you know, we're talking about what, how, or I'm sorry, why, how, what, in business sense. Part of what I do in the stronger revolution podcast is I take this and put it into your own personal life. So now you can have a why, how, what for yourself and one IF you asked about, you know, does your purpose for your gym mirror the purpose for you as an individual or are they two separate things? And we will get to that in a moment. But you know, I help people with their mental strength by forcing them to go through some of these exercises and looking at their own personal why. Their own personal purpose.
Nick - Co-host: Okay. Tribe, we talk a lot of, everyone wants to talk about community that we got this brand term, tribe or squad or you know, depending on the industry it's a little different.What do you do at Industrial Athletics to create this strong tribe?
Matthew - Guest: There are two primary things that we focus on as our what in order to increase our community. One is the internal for the gym. So we do a lot of internal activities, whether that means that we're doing a special event within the gym once a month where it may be special workout, like for December, we did the 12 days of Christmas and cookie exchange. We're not just bringing people. I know it's like the most counterproductive thing I've ever programmed, but it is the most popular event.
Dan - Host: Yeah, bulking season.
Matthew - Guest: Right, yeah. So it's more than just bringing people in for a special workout, which is great for building community and everybody loves that kind of stuff. But then at the same time, your admission to the workout is cookies. So you have to bring, and I make it homemade cookies. Like it's none of those store bought crap. Like it's homemade cookies.
Nick - Co-host: Well that's real killer man.
Dan - Host: Everyone has to work for it. Everyone's putting a little bit of their soul themselves in some way. It's all personally made for better or for worse. But everyone there did the same thing and they're part of a tribe. They did the same thing for each other.
Matthew - Guest: Right. And then after the workout, everybody's hanging out, everybody's chatting, everybody's getting to know each other, they develop those friendships. Everybody's eating cookies. Great bonding. You know, or we go outside of the gym and we do things like in January we'll go climbing at one of the local climbing clubs. Indoor bouldering or whatever it's called. February we'll go axe throwing. March, we have a cooking school. One of our members owns a cooking school. So we get a bunch of people together. We go and we learn how to cook.
Nick - Co-host: That's a neat one.
Matthew - Guest: So yeah we do a lot of these community things just so that people are doing more than just coming and working out.
Nick - Co-host: So you set aside something once that you plan, once a month we're going to have some type of event. That's good. Okay, cool. So thanks for coming on the show today Matt. If you want to leave a message for how anyone listening here can keep the conversation going with you, go right ahead.
Matthew - Guest: Sure. So I mentioned if you want to learn more about all this stuff, it's through my podcast, The Stronger Revolution. It's on iTunes as well as Spotify and I think Stitcher. I only know of one guy who listens to anything through Stitcher. And then if you want to email me, I'll throw that out there. I don't imagine I'm going to get a bunch of spam, but you can send it to firstname.lastname@example.org following us on Instagram is Industrial Athletics. Those are probably the primary ways to get ahold of me if you've got any questions or want to dive into any of the other further topics of what we've been talking about.
Dan - Host: All right, so everyone, that was Matt Becker, esquire. Owner of Industrial Athletics. Matt, thanks so much for coming on the show today.
Matthew - Guest: Thanks for having me guys it was a lot of fun.