Three Years of Cressey Performance: The Right Reasons and the Right Way
Written on July 14, 2010 at 7:16 am, by Eric Cressey
Though a somewhat “normal” day at the gym, yesterday marked Cressey Performance’s three-year anniversary.
While my business partner’s blog post yesterday did an excellent job of doling out “thank yous” to a lot of the important people who have been so involved in our success – from clients to parents, coaches, interns, and significant others – I wanted to add my own two cents on the matter today. More than anything, I really wanted to highlight a sentence that illustrates what makes me the most proud about where CP has been, where it is, and where it’s going.
We’ve done this for the right reasons, and we’ve done it the right way.
I read a business development blog post by Chris McCombs the other day where he wrote something that really hit home for me. When he was talking about how he decides to accept or reject a new project/opportunity, here is one of his guidelines:
“Only Take on Projects That Are In Line With My Current Values and Fulfill Me Beyond Just The Money – A project must fulfill me in some way BESIDE just money…too many people spend their life JUST chasing a buck; to me, that’s no way to live. For me, the money must be there, but it should fulfill me personally, be fun, help a lot of people, and build and be in line with my current brand and brand equity.”
Back in 2007, I had a tough decision to make. My online consulting business had really taken off, and the Maximum Strength book deal was in the works. My other products – Magnificent Mobility, The Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual, and Building the Efficient Athlete – were selling well and getting great reviews, and I’d just had a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. This website was growing exponentially in popularity, and I had just wrapped up my first year on the Perform Better tour – so lots of doors were opening for me on the seminar front to present all over the world – and I could have stayed home and just written all day, every day.
I was getting really crunched for time, as I was already training clients 8-13 hours per day, seven days per week, as my in-person clientele had rapidly grown. My phone rang off the hook for about three weeks after Lincoln-Sudbury won a baseball state championship after I’d trained several of their guys, and one of my athletes was named state player of the year. And, after being featured on the front page of the Boston Globe with a nipple so hard I could cut diamonds, I was in demand as a t-shirt model (okay, not really – but it made for an awesome blog post, The School of Hard Nipples).
I was exhausted and stressed – but absolutely, positively, “living the dream” that I’d always wanted.
To make matters a bit more interesting, I had just started dating a great girl (now my fiancee) who I really had a good feeling was “the one” after about three months. The work days, however, were insanely long and I was worried that I’d screw up a good thing by not spending enough time with her.
Every business development coach out there would have seen a “simple” answer to all my problems: stop training people in person. Just write, consult, make DVDs, and give seminars. It would have cut my hours by 80% and still allowed me to earn a pretty good living – and enjoy plenty of free time. There was a huge problem with that, though; as Chris wrote, it wouldn’t “fulfill me personally, be fun, help a lot of people, and build and be in line with my current brand and brand equity.” I like doing evaluations, writing programs, coaching, sweating, training with my guys, cranking up the music, helping people get to where they want to be, collaborating with and learning from other professionals, and watching my athletes compete – whether it’s at some high school field or at Fenway Park. Giving that up wasn’t an option; I guess I’d have just been a crappy business coaching client, as I would have been stubborn as an ass on giving that up.
Fortunately for me, Pete Dupuis, my roommate from my freshman year of college, had just finished his MBA and was in the midst of a job search. And, during that MBA, he’d started to train with me and packed on a ton of strength and muscle mass – making him realize and truly appreciate the value in what I was doing (especially since he was and is a goalie in a very competitive soccer league). Pete had also met and become friends with a ton of my clients – and taken a genuine interest in my baseball focus, as a lifelong Red Sox fan. Almost daily, Pete would encourage me to do my own thing and let him handle all the business stuff for me.
Simultaneously, Tony Gentilcore was ready for a change of scenery on the work front. Having been Tony’s roommate and training partner for almost two years at that point, I knew he was a genuinely great guy, that he’d read everything on my bookshelf, and that he could coach his butt off and “walk the walk.” He, too, had met a lot of my clients – so there was continuity from the get-go.
So, on July 13, 2007, Cressey Performance was born. Here is what we started with.
Boatloads of renovations and equipment additions later, it wound up looking like this.
Of course, we outgrew and demolished this space after about nine months and moved three miles east to a facility twice the size. And, we’ve continued to grow right up to this day; June was our busiest month ever, and July should be busier. We’ve got regular weekly clients who come from four states (MA, NH, CT, RI), and in the baseball off-season, I have college and pro guys who come from the likes of OH, AZ, CA, SC, NC, GA, FL, and VA. And, we had 33 applicants for this summer’s internships.
To be very candid, though, I don’t consider myself a very good “businessman.” No offense to Pete or Tony, either, but I don’t think they even come close to the textbook definition of the word, either. We just try to be good dudes. “We’ve done this for the right reasons, and we’ve done it the right way.”
We don’t allocate a certain percentage of our monthly revenues to advertising. In fact, we haven’t spent a single penny on advertising – unless you count charitable donations to causes that are of significance to us.
We don’t search high and low for new revenue streams to push on our clients. In fact, if I get one more MonaVie sales pitch, I’m going to suplex whoever delivered it right off our loading dock. Rather, we bust our butts to set clients up for success in any way possible – and trust that those efforts will lead to referrals and “allegiance” to Cressey Performance. We ask what they want from us and modify our plans accordingly. It’s what led to us bringing in manual therapy, a pitching cage, and, of course, pitching coach/court jester Matt Blake’s timeless antics.
Along those same lines, we don’t measure our success based on revenue numbers; we measure it based on client results. In three years of seeing LOADS of baseball players non-stop, we’ve only had three arm surgeries: one shoulder and two elbow. All three were athletes who came to us with existing injuries, and in each case, we kept them afloat as long as we could and trained them through their entire rehabilitation. I don’t want to toot our own horn, but this is a remarkable statistic in a population where over 57% of pitchers suffer some form of shoulder injury during each competitive season – and that doesn’t even include elbows! And, our statistics don’t even count literally dozens of players who have come to us after a doctor has told them they needed surgery, but we’ve helped them avoid these procedures. The college scholarships, draft picks, state titles, individual honors, and personal bests in the gym are all fantastic, but I’m most proud of saying that we’ve dedicated ourselves to keeping athletes healthy so that they can enjoy the sports they love.
The same goes for our non-competitive athlete clients. The fat loss and strength gains they experience are awesome and quantifiable, but beyond that (and more qualitatively), I love knowing that they’re training pain-free and are going to be able to enjoy exercise and reap the benefits of training for a long time.
We don’t penny-pinch during our slowest times of the month (late March through mid-May – the high school baseball season). We see it as an opportunity to do more staff continuing education, renovate the facilities, and get out to watch a lot of baseball and support our athletes. And, we adjust our hours to open up on Sundays and stay later on weeknights during the baseball season to make it easier for athletes to get in-season training in whenever they can. If a pitcher wants to come in and get his arm stretched out before or after an outing, he stops by and we do it for him – but don’t charge him a penny for it. It’s about setting people up for success.
We don’t try to just “factory line” as many clients through our facility as possible with everyone on the same program. You might walk into CP and see 20 different clients on 20 different programs – because a 16-year old pitcher with crazy congenital laxity is going to have a markedly different set of needs than a 16-year-old linebacker with shoulder mobility so bad that he needs help putting a jacket on. One program on one dry erase board for hundreds of athletes isn’t training; it’s babysitting.
Taking this a step further, we don’t boot clients out after a certain amount of time. Clients take as long as needed to complete the day’s program. And, when they’re done (or before they even begin), loads of our clients spend time hanging out in the office just shooting the breeze and enjoying the environment. As an example, Toronto Blue Jays Organizational Pitcher of the Year Tim Collins spends a minimum of five hours a day at CP all off-season.
Tim has sold girl scout cookies for the daughter of one of our clients, and he’s been our back-up front desk guy when Pete is out of town. Yesterday, he was back to visit on his all-star break – and he said hello to every client he saw – and remembered them by name. If you’re a 15-year-old up-and-coming baseball pitcher, how cool is it to get that kind of greeting when you walk into the office? Well, at CP, kids get that greeting from 10-15 pro guys all the time. And, if they’re lucky, they might even get to throw on a bobsled helmet and join these pro guys in a rave to Miley Cyrus, apparently.
At least once a week, I get an email from an up-and-coming coach asking for advice about starting a facility. When I get these emails, I now think about how Rachel Cosgrove recently mentioned that more than 80% of fitness coaches leave the industry within the first year. In most cases, this happens because these people never should have entered the fitness industry in the first place – because their intentions (money) were all wrong. They usually leave under the assumption that they could never make a living training people, but in reality, these folks are going to have a hard time making a living in any occupation that requires genuinely caring about what you do and the people with whom you work, and being willing to hang your hat on the results you produce.
As such, the first advice, in a general sense, is obvious: do it for the right reasons, and do it the right way. Sure, making a living is essential, but only open a facility because it would fulfill you “personally, be fun, help a lot of people, and build and be in line” with who you are and what your values are – which together constitute your “brand.” Making the move to start up this business was one of the most daunting decisions I have ever had to make, and all the efforts toward actually getting the business started were equally challenging. However, in the end, it has been more rewarding both personally and professionally than I could have ever possibly imagined.
Thank you very much to all of you – clients/customers, parents, EricCressey.com readers, seminar attendees, and professional colleagues – for all your support over the past three years. We couldn’t have done it without you – and look forward to many more years of doing things for the right reasons and in the right way.
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