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Barbara Chancey: Cookie cutters are for baking, not branding
How to double down on design and long-term success with boutique fitness.
On this episode of the Escape Your Limits podcast, Barbara Chancey reveals the secrets of how to create an exciting and captivating fitness atmosphere, designed through the eyes of the instructor.
Since founding Barbara Chancey Design Group, she has innovated with passionate design and operational excellence in more then 200 successful studios across six continents. This is how the fitness industry gets stronger after a pandemic.
The Escape Your Limits podcast is brought to you by Escape Fitness – a global community of gym design and gym equipment specialists that are looking beyond exercise alone to escape mental, physical and professional limits.
Barbara Chancey on the Escape Your Limits podcast.
Who is Barbara Chancey?
Founder of her eponymous design group, Barbara Chancey has been creating extraordinary fitness spaces for over a decade, bringing philosophy, branding and vision to life. With hundreds of clients in highly competitive markets, she's worked all around the world, helping boutiques, start-ups and redesign projects for commercial or residential opportunities.
With her expertise in concept development and the design work itself, but also operational needs such as instructor training, equipment and amenities, there are few people better suited to explaining how we can recover stronger from a pandemic through full-scale understanding of the boutique business.
Based in Dallas, Texas, the Barbara Chancey Design Group creates some of the world's most beautiful and successful boutique fitness studios.
Through concept to completion work on business plans, pitch decks, floor plans, instructor training, operations, and design excellence, CDG specialises in gyms and boutiques, as well as expanding into luxury residential and exploring boutique hotels for fitness opportunities.
Barbara Chancey episode highlights.
- How a revolution in boutique spin studios was started from Barbara doubling down on her own ability and taking advantage of opportunity.
- What aspects of design had to be changed in order to motivate members and give them something they didn't realise they needed, long before the boom of brands such as SoulCycle came onto the scene.
- Why keeping the instructor happy keeps members happy, and what operators need to provide in order to improve classes and keep them selling out.
- How a studio is only as good as its worst instructor's worst playlist. Bring the creativity, bring the variety and you'll get the right attention.
- What themes instructors can run throughout their classes, and how they can make each session relevant and timely for engaging workouts.
- How lighting effects, magic and creativity mean that instructors can't wait to get up and teach, while members and clients can't wait to come back. Every single detail matters.
- What the key differences are between an inspirational studio, a competitive studio, a rebellious studio or any other niche approach to member attraction.
- How a gym, and particularly a boutique studio is taking its place as a community, a religion, and a passion that it needs to live up to every single time for members.
- Where the inspiration for incredible showmanship and lighting comes from, and how working with partners in other industries such as musicians on a world tour can massively impact the excitement.
- What pitfalls of service offerings you can avoid, and how you can protect your facility against as many pandemic risks as possible.
- Why it's important to train instructors for the day that it's not going to work, and how every good instructor can overcome any problem without any blame.
- How to price your business offering if it's a service by how much passion your client has and how easy it is to work with them, rather than entirely on how much money you get through affiliations and back-room deals.
- Why being remembered for your kindness can be so much more valuable for your business over the long term.
For more insights from fitness industry thought leaders and entrepreneurs, check out the blog homepage.
Full episode transcript.
Barbara Chancey 0:00
Cookie cutters are for baking not not branding.
Matthew Januszek 0:03
Our guest today creates the world's most coveted fitness studios with more than 200 successful studios under her belt, we hear the secrets about how to create a dramatic and captivating atmosphere designed through the eyes of the instructor. Please join me in welcoming Barbara Chancey from the Chancey Design Group to the Escape Your Limits podcast.
We're here virtual podcast with Barbara Chancey. And I'm very excited about this, about this interview because it's a it's an area I'm extremely passionate about and something that I'm always keen to learn on. And and you quite kind of corrected me in the in the introduction that you're not a designer, you're not an architect, you've got a really interesting spin on the world of fitness and and you're not fazed by the COVID situation either is
Barbara Chancey 0:57
That's right. That's right. So
Matthew Januszek 0:59
So Barbara thank thank you very much for for joining us today and just for the for the people listening or watching here what would be good is to tell us a little bit about your story and and how you, you got into this exciting business that you're in at the moment.
Barbara Chancey 1:18
So yes, I'm Barbara Chancey owner of Barbie Chancey Design Group are based in Dallas, Texas, and we're a very small company that designs the world's most beautiful and successful boutique fitness studios. And this company started because of criticism. So in 1992, I was playing a lot of tennis and my tennis coach said, You're too slow. You don't have endurance. You're never gonna make it. You can't win. You need to go take one of these spinning classes. Well, Johnny g had just introduced spinning 1989. So I found a gym, disco ball, 10 bikes, you know, and I'm like, yeah, great, whatever. So it took a class. I was overwhelmed. First of all, it was incredibly hard, but the museum Just fuelled me. So I started burning CDs and given to the instructor like, hey, play this and of course she, she never heard the beat. She didn't get it. So one day, she didn't show up for class 10 people, one of the guys said, Hey, I mean, you've been doing this a year just can't be that difficult. But at the CD, and let me tell you, if you've never been on the other side, it's night and day, I was paralysed by fear. And after the class, the guy goes, that is the worst class I've ever had in my life. I thought you know what you're doing. You're frozen by fear, because you don't have knowledge. Like you should go get certified or do something, but don't ever teach again, You're horrible. So I marched down to Miami to the world spinning sport conference, and I said, Hey, I'm here to get certified at that moment. I was first time in a room with 500 people, the lights it was slightly I won't say spiritual, but like I had a tear. I was just moved. So I went back to this gym.
We should call it ghetto space. Right. Always if you're if you're working with a boss who doesn't care, take advantage of it. So I went back and I said, Look, I've got a deal for you. You have about 1200 square feet. It's just storage. Let me put in the first boutique, indoor cycling studio inside this gym, I'm gonna pay for it myself. And if you don't double your membership, I will not turn in invoices for reimbursement. That's like a win win, right? I was going to say no. So for three weeks, nights and weekends, I redesigned it and I did exact opposite of what all the gym architects were doing because I knew I could be a better instructor. If the shooting was designed differently. Little things when guests go to your home and you have a party, they don't leave out the back door. They leave out the front you say goodbye like a receiving line. But people were coming in going out late and it was just this just contradiction. I was also teaching yoga, right? A lot of respect. Nobody comes in late and I thought I'm going to create a sanctuary. So 10 bikes turned into 2020 turned into 4040 turned into 60. And for 10 years, we didn't have an empty seat. So I was on this mission, I started calling people like, Hey, you know, let me do this. I called all the big names in fitness that, you know, I call all the manufacturers that you know, and they said, you know, the boutique thing, it's just a fad. It's going to go away. And I thought, really, so every single door closed and then I started bartering. I went to the US Army, let me do it. I went to Jamaica to resort let me do it just I started paying people to let me design their studio. Right. And this was long before soulcycle. So I had a little website, put a few pictures. I got this one call from a group in Dallas, Texas that said, we're going to put in the first indoor cycling a yoga studio, and you're like the only person who knows how to do it. Can you help us with that? Absolutely. So I met them for dinner. One question, Is this a hobby or business and just like pause for one second and they said you know what? grow it up. Look like that. And we had dinner with you got all this knowledge and call us when you want to do business. Have a good day. And I was like You jerk. So I marched down to the bank and I got a $2,000 loan grew up the website, call them back in three months. And they said, it's great. So you should have been all along. But you know, change your mind. Have a good day. So I have the worst website is not a business. I'm a terrible tennis player and the worst disrupter you could possibly imagine. And here's the deal. When someone criticises you, it's because they believe in you. Those were the people that saw something that the big boxes and the manufacturers they didn't see anything that these people did. So a couple of days later, I got an email. We're opening the first cycling studio in California. your website's amazing. You know how to do this. Can you help us? And that studio was gripped Marissa Wayne, john Wayne's daughter, of course, I had no idea who it was. I never Google clients. I just want to Who are you I want to understand the relationship. I don't want to know your background. I don't want Want to know your family? Just tell me the why. So fast forward and as the boutique industry took off, so then my business and today, we have launched over, gosh, close to 300 Studios on six continents. I don't advertise, people just find me. And I have a team of the smartest people in the industry. We design studios through the eyes of instructors, because when they're happy, you're happy. And I've been that instructor. And so we give them tools so they continually improve new improve improving the classes, their studio just gets better and better. And now we've expanded and we're opening everything up to 9000 square feet, repurposing, boxing, head, yoga, luxury, you name it. But it all goes back to what do you believe? And that's where we Excel, because we hit those clients hard and we want to know, what do you really believe? And then we design a studio that reflects that belief. So that's the long story and here I am. And there you go.
Matthew Januszek 7:01
So with your business and what what are the core parts that you offer? Are you 300 Studios? that's a that's a lot of locations that you've that you've got around. Do you help them just with laying out creating the brand doing their website or all the above? What What do you do to the clients that find you?
Barbara Chancey 7:20
Well, all of the above because it's like a puzzle, right? a jigsaw puzzle, you can't just take one piece and expect to be successful. I have to control everything and I say that lightly. Not necessarily control but I want to know all the moving parts. So in the perfect world, we would have a turnkey studio that would say hey, we're starting from from the ground up in the case of Brunei shine ax and shine cycle the first in the country, okay. So we name it we branded I have lots of conversations with the client to understand the personality long before a transaction. Sometimes we even help with the with the securing the the lease and the location. And so in the perfect world, we start from the beginning. And we start writing the brand story and I do a lot of the writing I have wonderful people that I'm affiliated with. We write the story, the why because here's, here's what I noticed. I have a lot of common sense. And I have a lot of hustle. All right, I don't have a lot of letters behind my name. But these are the things that I asked, why would you use the same language and the same architectural plan and the same interiors to describe how different you are? your competitors are using the same word. So if I hear state of the art and like everyone's state of the art, you can't discern the art right? So I'm very, very particular and the language and the branding and work with some of the best in the world. David Brier rise above the noise. He's an affiliate we can go on and on with the best minds that are outside of fitness who help us so we offer everything from business plans, pitch decks, we can do full floorplans training operations, instructor training and Brunei. We did a hit studio I got some great people from London to come over and help. So I move people around. And then for grand opening, my team is there, we cut the ribbon, and we raise the champagne and we're with you. And we just don't let you fall. And so it I don't know that there's anyone out there who's actually taking every single aspect because if, for example, you know, if you come to me and say, Hey, I just need a refresher remodel. Absolutely. We've been getting a lot of questions lately. Some of the big boxes thing, can you refresh it? Of course we can. But tweaking something old is not new. I mean, just because you put some lights up, that doesn't mean you're going to feel classes that might for a little while, but you have to go deeper and deeper and understand. And so it's full service. We're also entering kind of the luxury residential and we're kind of exploring some of the boutique hotels to put boutique fitness in a hotel. But everything goes back to the instructor. The questions I always ask are Do you believe Your instructor should go to the bathroom with your clients just Jerry Seinfeld. Oh, he doesn't go to the restroom with his audience, why should an instructor so we give them green rooms and all my students because I've been that instructor where you just lose a little bit of your magic when you have to go in with everyone else. So when we treat our instructors like they're the rock stars, they're not going anywhere. And they will be your competitor. I get a lot of calls from former instructors who say, this is why I'm leaving, I'm going to open my own. So when we provide those tools, new, improved and proven so it gives them 10 years before they're bored. That's fun.
Matthew Januszek 10:37
Hmm. So you say that you start with the instructor and build the business model around how how would that relate to let's say I'm in I'm in the Maldives, for example, I've got a certain I'm in a certain location and there's there's a there's people around me. So this is a type of demographic around me but I want to hit you I've got a certain idea about what I like and what I want How do you fit that into the the target audience that you may be able to attract so is it over 40 females is it under 20s? How How do you sort of link the parts to you know, getting a passionate trainer that may be fantastic hit and link that into the to the type of clientele that you want to bring in or you can bring in based on on where you're located.
Barbara Chancey 11:28
Creativity and consistency are the two things that you need. So if you have an instructor I was categorised them in a B and C instructors your age are the rock stars and you have to keep them hungry and you have to keep them fed or they will leave your C's you know they're not that great age train the C's the B's are who you are. Always say you're only as good as your worst instructors worse playlist. That's who you are. Doesn't matter what you're teaching the worst instructors worse playlists to so you want so when we take the base because they show up on time I mean, they're loyal. We love to be instructors. But we give them tools to make them as an example, if you are teaching rowing, all right? Sometimes people say, Oh, that's boring. How can you have a rowing studio? No, it's really, really exciting if you can be creative. So if you're in a rowing studio, and you're that instructor, the same, the same, the same is getting boring. We have kind of a magical lighting and sound system. We prefer not to use a lot of tablets, because everybody can see you do it with technology we use kind of like a Braille system. So what if you're in a row in studio and all of a sudden you walk to the wall, push a button, boom, like thunder and lightning comes out, and then the floor turns into the ocean and you're coaching and saying, guys, we've got to get to the storms of life, you know, we've got covered if you've got bills to pay, you've got to get together to get through, that's fine. So if you have an opportunity to bring the creativity into it, for example, with cycling or head whatever Do you believe that you should have two instructors teaching on stage and I call stage coding whatever. Some do, some don't. I do, because then you can have 70s versus 90s, leather versus lace, you can have some themes, you can celebrate people. You know, I had a guy once who had been struck by lightning, he was paralysed for six months and the day he came back, you better believe he was next to me. But if you don't believe that, if you just believe it's all about the instructor, and it's just my world. And, you know, so those are the things if you take no matter what the demographic is, our studios are for ages 14 to 92. That's your demographic, because when the lights go down, and little things about what you believe, and I don't mean to ramble on this, but it's so so important for not only the instructor, but the brand, the belief system. And I'll touch on this for just a moment. If you believe for example, in cycling, that's a good example that if someone comes in late or leaves early that Light should come in and disrupt the instructor because it's like in a Broadway musical, you don't just randomly get up and down because you lose the connection. So if you're in a movie theatre, and you slip out to get popcorn, nobody saw it. But why in cycling studios does the door keep coming up and the instructor spent so much time working on that playlist, it's distracting. It's also distracting for the person sitting next to the door. So we eliminate that. I just said, You know what, it's not going to happen. So I use it all by design, sliding doors, and we can transform spaces, so you never know what's coming. When you also have that little secret room to protect the light from entering, you can hide all kinds of people. If it's a bachelorette party, let's just have a stripper come in. You never know. It's Mother's Day. Let's have Stevie Wonder saxophone player come in. It's magic. It's creativity and when structures have that, I mean, they can't wait to get up and teach year after year after year, whether it's head, whether it's cycling, whether it's boxing doesn't matter. It's creating the Studio my team goes in undercover constantly to decide Why are they struggling you know like a hot yoga we were there not long ago I'll lie in there and show Boston on my architect or like you know we're looking at the lighting the air everything and the teacher has to leave to get a chilled towel and I'm like you just lost my connection. Why would you not have a two way refrigerator so the teacher just opens the door janitors loaded on the bat that's so much better because then you don't leave the captain doesn't leave the show. So every single detail we create for 10 years before instructors get bored and most of us
Matthew Januszek 15:38
are chained when What do you mean by you created 10 years so you're thinking ahead 10 years do you mean oh it's
Barbara Chancey 15:45
oh he says he said I've been there and the same the same. Think about this marketing people understand this fitness people don't. Oreos all right next time you go to the market Oreo cookies 1910 was the very first Oreo cookie one and they're new 100 years later, they improved. Now the entire aisle. I mean, they're not even chocolate anymore, right? You can go through every single thing from goldfish to toothpaste or 27 brands of toothpaste. It just gets on and on new improve improving fitness is the same, the same the same and then they wonder why their classes are happening because your audience is inundated by this in the marketplace and then they come to your studio when it's the same at the instructors are smart. And sometimes owners don't respect that. And I do and so when you have an instructor that uses three syllable words and they're brilliant, that is great music, reward them example. Okay, back to cycling together. You could use it with any with anything if you rhythm rides, right? They don't want TVs, they don't want performance metrics. It's all about the experience. But what happens if you have some amazing instructor? I mean, if you're a good instructor, you can fill the class on a pogo stick, okay? It really doesn't matter but you You're that good. So why not put invisible TVs in the mirror so that you could use metrics when the day comes? Or think about this? What if you're having a graduation party or a cancer event or if you're having, again, a birthday celebration, and you're at the studio Bachelorette or your divorce parties, why not use those screens to show the footage, but we shouldn't want to see them in a random class because it's old school. I mean, we don't need technology in a rhythm class. Just like in yoga, you don't need TVs, right? So we hide things on the wall so that when that instructor does come to you, because if they don't come to you, they're going to go somewhere else. So if you have that studio, for example, we lined the walls with structure. So that support structure if you wanted to add TRX, if you wanted to use aerial yoga, whatever. We've already planned ahead for the future. We put outlets in the ceiling. Maybe I want to have a snow machine bubble. I don't know. It's just that the creativity and consistency consistency is why Most studios and gyms fail and why there's empty seats in any class or empty mats.
Think about Starbucks, all right? Same latte and Dubai, Denver, Dallas, it doesn't matter. Nobody makes up a new latte because they saw it on YouTube. It's the same the same but the creativity is in the location, the architectural design, the smile, but the same product. So in, in a studio if you're giving out chill towels, and that's part of your brand that you only do it once in a while. Well, that's inconsistent. And the minute you start having contradiction, whether your vocabulary, the front desk, every single detail, from the way you greet the client, I asked potential studio owners all the time, like what do you believe, do you believe? And everyone is the same? And there's go a course Do you believe in inclusive of course. Well, then why do you put labels on dr. john, what is he special because he's a doctor. I don't know. Just tell me ma'am, Mr. Doctor, so you're going to label based on status that you're inclusive. So we can Get into the head from the front desk. Again Are you are you inspirational, competitive rebellious. If you're an inspirational studio or gym or whatever, when you walk in the client sees his beautiful smile, you don't see clutter behind the desk, you don't see cables. You don't see their phone, you just see a smile. And if you're thinking about again cycling, and a lot of our gyms now are adding actually boutiques in which again, I did like, what, 20 years ago and there's they're starting to get this now. But the point is, if you're passing out shoes from behind the reception desk, I need to know all this not because I care, I don't care, but I need to know how to design this right? I need to know how many pairs of size 10 shoes you're going to put behind the reception desk. So it doesn't matter what you believe, but my architect and I need to know that so we can accommodate for that. So if you're an inspirational studio, again, the shoes you're behind how you doing I had something to you if you're competitive. There you go. cubbies I booked like 16 I have bad 16 whatever I booked it online, go to cubby. 16 I'm in locker 16 It's a number a number. I see Dallas the app. Well, I know you're a technical person. If you're rebellious that is with a good ass. You know what shoes are adventurous. I don't care if you're transgender. I mean, I just got a pair of shoes questions versus getting back in line. Let me pick a pair. Yes, you can. That's very simple, but that's just one of the hundreds and hundreds of points that we asked what do you believe? Do you believe that when people enter your gym or your studio they should look younger? I do. Been Why do your lights have shadows? I don't understand this. We put lights. in Brunei we put these backlit bathroom mirror lights people from all over are coming in going like makeup mirrors. This is incredible. That was the number one feature of that studio for Princess azima right for the soaps and the most beautiful feature worth the backlit lights because everyone looks so good. They're like I just want to They work out here. I just want I just love the lighting. So they'll
Matthew Januszek 21:05
just stop for a second. So when my earlier question in terms of target demographics, you you're, you sort of look at it differently to say, Well, you know, what is it? You know, what, what's, what's the word you looked at? What what's the, the sort of style, whether it was it's rebellious, whether it's competitive, or competitive? Yeah. Okay. So you your concept is focused on those kind of themes. So it's like, Look, we're inclusive, but we're inclusive for the rebellious people as an example, or they're two people and that's, that's the way that we is that kind of where you start your conversation on then, you know, who do you want to be or what do you believe in is,
Barbara Chancey 21:49
well, it's not the people we're looking for. It's the design and the name. So for example, if your name is inspirational, then your studio design should be inspiration of the colour selection. The palette, the logo, everything should blend together. All right, so what causes conflict is if you've got a an aggressive competitive name like Nitro, you know, and then suddenly you walk in and it's white, and it's like a cupcake place that doesn't, something's not right. If you're rebellious and then then obviously, the interiors a little more sultry, a little provocative. You don't know, you know, is it pain or pleasure? I'm not quite sure. And we take that and then my lighting team suddenly will put beams of light down. So the instructors in a cage, you know, it's got that maybe we're going to hang some chain link fence to make it very rebellious versus very virginal, very pure. Now we have some students that aren't that, but if the client doesn't know what they want in the beginning, then we can't design it to reflect that belief, right? It doesn't matter what you teach and it doesn't matter. The person who comes it all has to uniquely blend together the minute you walk in the door, you know, from the colour palettes to the background music, one of the first things we have clients do is tell us your house music like a restaurant? Is this 80s rock and roll? I don't know, but what's your house music is a jazz is a wall, because that reflects the brand. So
Matthew Januszek 23:13
where do you start with that then is it is that like, okay, so I'm Matthew, I'm thinking about opening a boutique I just want to get into boutique studio. I like hit training. Where Where would you start with me then would you ask me those questions and then build the brand around me? Or you would?
Barbara Chancey 23:31
Oh, yes. So let's just say Matthew calls and you want to open a studio. I'm like, that's great. So we would have a nice conversation and ask a few questions. Number one, are you willing to learn what you don't know? And there's a book out I give people before it long before we ever sign a contract, read the E myth revisited. Most people fail because they don't learn what they don't know. They want to obsess what they do. So I tell you to turn off your brain and so then yes, absolutely would guide you every time step of the way, the first thing I would do once we sign a contract, I'm like Uber, right? I don't have time for hourly, one flat fee, I'll get you there six years, six months, it doesn't matter. Let's just move on with things that count. And money's The last thing we really care about. So we have some clients to sign in 2016 and they won't be opening for 2022. And so we still talk to them every step of the way. They've got homework, but I would give you 100 items that you need to think about and answer those and then get in your head and then we start exploring things you know, why do you like this and, and then I have them step out of what they know and explore what they don't become together and help them create a name if they don't have one already the case so let's just use an example of turn studio in Atlanta. All right, this gorgeous studio, one of the first in the first in Georgia and I have a non compete there. So I'm not working in Atlanta, I try to you know, try to keep distance between our clients. So I walked with the owners and we're trying to find a location and I saw this beautiful new development called city springs, retail residential fountains everything and I was like, Oh, this is that this is going to be at North of Atlanta. There was nothing fitness oriented there. And so we didn't have a name. And I asked the developer said, Would you mind if we had some bikes? yoga mats? kettlebells at midnight, would you let us do that for charity? And the guy said, Yes, we wrote it into the lease. Right. So my architect and I are already looking around what this is goldmine. So suddenly, nocturnal rides for charity. My mind is turning. Turn is part of nocturnal. turn heads for the right reason. Every time the seasons turn, the bikes, the kettlebells go out at midnight under the stars. That's cool. So we took that concept, then the name, the location and we started building it. We also want the space 3200 square feet and we're both looking up at this 29 foot ceiling. I thought we could get a mezzanine in here. So Sure enough soaring staircase up to the top for hip party to dance, you never know what's coming. So we create it or what will come not today. Today we already know. We don't know the future. So we try to create the studios again for that instructor who will cross your path one day. So that's an example and then the branding came of is just very walnut and black and gold and decadent. It was just luxury. And that all started from looking at the location and that's where we created turn, shine cycle in Brunei. Again, when I get a request for information I never researched or said I don't want to know. I had no idea it was the princess right. So it was just able Kaia. We'd like to open the first in Brunei. I didn't know where Brunei was. So of course, we wrote back and when she did sign a contract, that's when I realised who it was and I called her immediately I said, your princess, nobody will know. So I've covered her name and we never ever mentioned it until after she had opened kept her very, very quiet. So when we had some conversations and I said, Tell me what you believe what do you believe about people what is your thought in general and she said, I'll never forget she said, I believe everyone has a little, a little light inside of them a little flicker, a little flame, maybe it's fireworks, but everyone has a light. And at that moment, shine cycle was born. So I bought the domain clip in rock out shine on and we made it very Art Deco, very light. But it was just so inspirational. And then they decided to open a hit studio and they wanted it very rebellious, provocative. The next door space came available so shine X was born, captivating atmospheres, we tucked away little conversation areas, dark. It was kind of the yin and the yang, if you will. And so that's an example then and once we understand because if you don't believe it, again, you have to believe it or you can't hurt people who believe it cycles a good example. So it doesn't matter what It doesn't matter if it's right or wrong it matters Do you believe and so many owners really don't and I always ask them would you get a tattoo of this logo on your arm? And if they say no, you don't leave it so what is
Matthew Januszek 28:14
what what's what is your belief about fitness because you know we've been speaking for about 20 minutes now and we've not really you know if you if you ask someone in the street what's fitness it's about sweating working out losing weight building muscle etc but we've not covered that yet. Maybe we won't but what what what is the fitness Bureau? Is it are you in so if you didn't know what we're talking about, you think we're you know, we're in the entertainment business or you're, you're building nightclubs, but obviously you're not so is his fitness for you a form of entertainment and fun and sort of escapism or something else? Well, how old were you and Barbara
Barbara Chancey 28:55
it's like the story of this great basketball coach, the very first day of practice, they learned How to tie their shoes. Alright, because if you have your shoe on tie right when the buzzer rings and you trip we're going to lose the game. So it starts with a foundation fitness, absolutely layers and layers of certification, you've got to know your stuff. And now I am a stickler for that you must know the foundation and that's one of the concerns sometimes is that instructors maybe don't have a certification. So I require all of my clients to get layers and layers and layers once you have the foundation because remember, I told you the story when I taught, I had didn't have knowledge I had just copied what I had seen. When you know it, you know it and you know, have fear you can actually teach with confidence. And so that is essential that you understand fitness inside and out. And then the layers come and the layers and the layers and the layers again, it's like an actress. You probably should learn how to be a dancer before you're on stage. Once you add all of the elements that's just icing on the cake, but I all comes down to do you really know your stuff? So the answer is yes, of course, it's about fitness first. But what happens is, you've got all these different layers. So everybody comes in at a different place. You know, I've taught rides for drug and alcohol recovery. I even talked to President Carter I got a call one day from he's 92. And he wanted me to come and give him a little classes and so we put a little studio in his in his home in planes. It doesn't matter your age, it matters in your head, and the music can take you away, as everyone knows, as I experienced in you as well. At the same time, if you're a really good instructor, you don't need music. Really then instructor when we do some of the interviews or auditions you cannot teach without music. And that tells me if you really know what
Matthew Januszek 30:47
so what do you when you when your your clients are selling, what they've got, how, how are they selling that business? are they selling it as a fitness product? Or are they again are they are they selling it something different, like they Break sighing and I'd love to go in one not not to work out.
Barbara Chancey 31:09
like we have like a 12 week marketing plan, right? Because it's all you've got to have marketing perception. So we start off about three months before you open. This is when that momentum starts to build. We start working with our early adopters or influencers and yes, it's fitness, but it's more than that. So it's a lot of community. Usually the first thing we'll do is have a charity event. I go back to term studio again, three months before we open and we're in the parking lot of Whole Foods. Absolutely constant. We're on top of the Spanx building for women's you know, we're always getting back taking those bikes, those kettlebells wherever. And so that builds that cult following. Yes, you're having a good time the endorphins are released, but it's more than fitness. It's that community. So what I've learned is that some of the boutiques and the big boxes who do it well, right, because that's where I started it a subset if you will with inside sider studio. But if you if you can actually convince people that you're taking the place of the Church of a family of a social organisation, you're taking the place of things that don't exist where everyone feels welcome. And so it's much more than just fitness. It's fitness with icing on the cake where you come in, they know your name, you know, like the bar Cheers. Everybody knows your name. It's also a place where you can let go and be vulnerable. And that's why it's so important that the lighting it's not this disco ball lighting, that's the worst thing ever don't want to do that. It's lighting for a specific reason. It's for example, we have rice 31 in Delray, Florida, that was one of my favourite studios. We named it rise 31. We rise by lifting others three studios under one roof. It was a full coffee cafe, a movement studio, which could be anything from yoga, to to bar, just a movement in general and then a cycling Studio. So we rise by lifting others. We believe that about 30 minutes into the class, there's this rising moment. And so we created the back wall of the cycling studio, the lights go down. And this is your moment to just shut off and disappear. And this rising comes from above, where these beautiful colours are eliminated, and they just fill the entire back wall for three minutes and then go down. If you want to sprint, flames come out of the walls just for that sprint. It's not push a button and just have this party because that's insulting. And so it's a respect, as I said in the very, very beginning, the Why is so much more important. Now, yes, you're getting the best shape of your life. You're having this an endorphin filled hour of your life and it's like a ripple effect. And so if our studios can change one hour of your day to make you a better person, then you can be a better partner. You can be a better employee a better you can be a better friend, and maybe your day turns into a week and a week a year right So there's this gradual Oops, sorry there's this gradual especially in our international clients and we're in Nigeria right now and Qatar we put the ball rain and to see in Bahrain right nation citizens for change. So beautiful to see them on the rooftop for charity. Right is we got a phenomenal instructor from Scotland to go over. It's like Mel Gibson, you know, Braveheart. It's like bright, you know, citizens rise up and, and it's something very special. I think music is the vessel that joins us. And when you dim down the lights for the inhibition to go away, you're stripped down, you're vulnerable. And it's not about competing, and that's kind of like I know, technology's big, and I'm all about technology, but sometimes you just need a digital detox. And so we have studios, if you want technology, absolutely Bring it on. We've got it hidden in the walls, all kinds of things we can do, but there's a time to be loud and there's time to be soft. There's just time to push down the company. And so we try to create that in all of our studios. And then again, we stay in touch with instructors. And I just think these boutique studios in general are taking the place of what, at least people my age used to have, and it's gone now.
Matthew Januszek 35:18
So who does the who, choreographs that whole experience? So how do you? How do you I guess design it and then implement it because there's, there's sounds like there's a big part for the trainer and instructor to create that experience whilst you're in there. But you also spoke about a lot of things that go on before, during and after behind the scenes. That obviously none of that happens by accident. How is there a standard plan that you have that works with all these studios in terms of kind of more the general operation or do you also customise that dependent on on what each brand is about?
Barbara Chancey 35:57
Everyone is customised cookie cutters are for baking, not not branding. And so every single studio is unique because every client is and they each have a different request, right? So I have a phenomenal team. So the minute, let's just say again, Matthew, we're going to do your studio, I want you to meet my architect and my lighting designer because we all work in concert together. We need to understand the why again of what you want. And so we start creating this and, and the logo designer, we work with some really, really talented people and it's all a team approach. And so my my inner circle, we're constantly in conversation two to three times a week with with you at top of the list to understand where do you want to go? A good example of this? We have a project as a hit studio coming in Richmond, Virginia called square code. I think the Microsoft just launched square code and that will be several of these. And we wrote the brand store because when you first think square code, what is that that doesn't sound like a Fitness Studio. Oh, it's going to be so good squares are the foundation of everything. Fitness equality. See where I'm going squares care share the square where square. So we're taking the square and now the interiors will have squares up in the ceiling that could come alive as needed. You never know when or where, right? You've got to teach them if you give them too much. It's not it's I don't want to go there not enough. So there's that little sweet spot that you have to know. So when we get ready for grand opening my team and I will always show up a couple of weeks at a time and we practice with all the instructors and we are able to program all the light it shows the lighting designer that I have engaged. He's brilliant as from the UK, but he toured with Pink Floyd Rolling Stones Phil Collins did the mighty tour. So we take that showmanship ability into programmable lights that are hidden you never know when or where. So one of the best in the world for lighting again architect with a background in restaurants and luxury home and now he's my architect can tell you exactly how many cubbies you need precise shoes, boxing gloves, we know the weight bearing standards. We know Every single meticulous detail how much kettlebells way we need at home for everything. So one of the first things we do is tell us the equipment you think you're going to use, and then we will add more. And so we get down to a level that is unheard of. We have Forgive me for jumping ahead. Do you want me to talk about the COVID? In some of our studio designs,
Matthew Januszek 38:21
Yeah, cuz, yeah, cuz I think that's an interesting point. Because, you know, what, I asked you earlier about this. And you you mentioned that it wasn't really facing you, you know, the fact that you, you know, you've had 100% success rate with the businesses that you work on. And you're you're sort of explaining why is none of this is really a concern. So I think it'd be interested to talk about why you feel that this isn't gonna be a concern when most of the industry, I guess, is is very concerned about what's going to happen in
Barbara Chancey 38:52
Well, I think all of our studio designs, again, we think forward we think, not only what does the instruction Neat, but what do you need to I may have to we may have to edit some of this, I'm just trying to get my words together. Um, so in all of our studios, we're always thinking of sanitation and cleanliness. Because I've been that that member, if you will, who got shoes from a studio and they were wet when I put them on and I put a hand and gloves that are wet, I don't ever want to experience that again. So I design spaces that have very, very large sanitation areas. So for example, cycling shoes, we have a unique system where we can spray the shoes and get them 24 hours to completely dry. yoga mats, bags, every single piece of equipment we take to a separate room so that you're not spraying chemicals in front of people that we know they always been cleaned from day one that's not new to us. As far as, as the Nigeria project for example, we caught it and then Good time, we've decided to add windows above human height in male and female locker rooms, obviously fresh air, right. So the best thing you can do to pure profit. So most of our studios are having these sliding windows now on any exterior wall if it's possible to let the fresh air in. And so we think ahead. We're always thinking, how can how can we keep things super clean. So when I design spaces, I like the janitor to have a side panel where the sliding doors I mean walls that actually like a Rubik's Cube. Yeah. And so suddenly the janitors can come in the left, his clients go out the right. And so after the class is over, you're not stepping over the guy with a bucket to clean the room. He's coming in from the back. It just robs you of your joy. If you're at a restaurant and you write a check and you've had a wonderful bottle of wine and then the busboy comes, it's just some mood killer. So we like to have a lot of the circulation of the cleaning done behind the scenes. Yes, you know what's happening, but it's It's not a new thought for us. And I'm not saying that we're perfect. But we've often thought that if the equipment isn't clean, then I don't want to go to the studio. And so because my team as he said, we go in undercover constantly. We were in South Korea not long ago, just to see a new hotel that had a great Fitness Studio. We're always observing Why is the equipment not being used. And as I mentioned, we're going into some of the boutique hotels right now because you can put all the equipment in the world you want, but it's not used. You can put peloton bikes and I sit there and watch thinking no one's on it. And they're not on it. Because you're not in that safe space where it's dark and intimate where you can just let go. You're not gonna you're a stripper, you're not going to go to a club with the lights on right? So it's kind of like if you're, if it's, again, a hotel gym, and if there's a yoga space, you're not going to stretch out with weirdos looking at you, but they're on the treadmill. So when we create this little unique spaces, people let go and they actually use the equipment.
Matthew Januszek 41:58
How you gonna deal with the The distancing because I guess a lot of the models are based on a certain number of people and occupancy. Is that something that that's likely to be an issue? Or do you plan on having, you know, as your space is normally, you know, already giving you enough room to deal with that?
Barbara Chancey 42:19
Yeah, well, right now we have a studio that just opened in Fort Wayne, Indiana called tryout and so we're just taking off the seat post to the bikes, you know, every every fifth bike, that's an easy way, I don't know why people are rolling bikes in and out, just take the seat post off, that seems much easier instead of transporting them. But you know, they're starting small, and, and that's what the boutique model is all about. Anyway, you know, the nice thing is, is that when the lights go down, it's grip fitness for one person, no matter if it's boxing, it doesn't matter, so about one person. And so you don't even realise that the room isn't half full. And so that's not been a real problem for us. And of course, the classes you know, where maybe 30 minutes in between classes. So that you're not mingling so much in the lobby area, but we're very thoughtful in general with the design, we give instructors their own room to get ready and prepare, which I don't think instructors should ever have to go to the bathroom or to the washroom where their audience does, it's insulting, you just kind of lose your magic when they see you. You know, getting dressed, I've been there. And so because we have these unique spaces, we automatically kind of separate the crowds and it hasn't been a real problem.
Matthew Januszek 43:32
And what about the financial side though, because I suppose if you do take the seat posts off you're you're not bringing in the income you need. Or your your facilities very high end in terms of how much you're charging where they you know, you can make the you can balance the books.
Barbara Chancey 43:51
I think value and price are different things. You know value is getting more than you pay and people are not loyal to a price. But when you over deliver, they're willing to pay more. And so when they come in and they know your name and the front desk again calls you by the first name and your bike or your whatever is already set up for you because they already know the size and, and how you've been measured to for that correct fitting of the bike, and it's waiting for you. I've had some students that will even have your shoes clipped in all you have to do is walk in and socks and just slip in and you're ready. I believe that small groups, if you have 30 bucks to do, you can certainly be profitable with the team. All right, again, if you're, if you're a very, very good instructor you can you can fill seats in a cardboard box on a pogo stick. That's always been my philosophy. And so people will gravitate because they need to be in the presence of of that instructor. I think fitness is going to come back stronger than ever. You know, think about the Great Depression, right? 19 was in 1929 that's when Charles Atlas started the first fitness company, because he knew self esteem was at its all time lowest. And the Great Depression, people were losing their money jumping out of buildings, and he launched the very first fitness company, because when you don't have a job, and when you don't have self esteem, he knew that working out and the physical endorphin rush that you get from lifting weights replaces that. And it's where it all started in the worst economic times of the world is where the fitness industry started.
Matthew Januszek 45:31
That's interesting. I didn't know that. And I think that's a great point. You talk about beliefs earlier and I suppose at the moment a lot of people you know, you've got the half glass half empty or half full. And and certainly I've, I've been on a ton of interviews and webinars where they're, you know, talking about the doom and gloom, but I guess you're one of the one of the few that that are very excited about what's happening at the moment.
Barbara Chancey 45:57
I just can't wait. You know, it's just Again, the calls that we get, I got it I got a request the other day from like a monastery in Northern California, the monks want to workout and I'm like, sign me up. I will. It's just so exciting to think what this can do for in the case of go back to Brunei again the very first in the country. And so when you have an opportunity we put the first in Kenya, my clients, these young women are so I mean, I'm just up in the balcony. It's not about me. My my joy comes from watching these phenomenal pioneers in their own world who are overcoming all hurdles. We put the first indoor cycling studio in Saudi Arabia for women first, I've never ridden a bike. The team have a tooth. I mean, she just said Barbie if we can get them on a bike and find yourself driving a car week wait. And sure enough, to this day, she's got three students and these are the women that when I'm long gone, you know it will be Kenya Nigeria. These phenomenal, powerful I treat them like daughters and Sons I just feel like I'm leaving a little bit of a legacy, you know, all the success that I've had in my years and now it's passing that porch to them and they see hope. Because they know that fitness is changing not only the political landscape but the religious landscape we're putting men and women together. And it's pretty exciting. Oh my end to see what the future holds. Hmm.
Matthew Januszek 47:21
So just going back to the training side again, then so what with when you when you bring on people and you help them build the studio around trainers and instructors, let's use again, group cycling, spinning, whatever we call it as an example. What what, how much time do you need to work with, with the trainers that you bring on over and above what they already have? Because guess when you when you're working in countries like you know, Middle East and some of the countries in Asia that the base level of training is probably going to be a little bit different I guess. And then in Dallas, where there's probably a big part of it. talent, I guess first thing is is that is that correct? And and secondly, what do you do to build on those basic skills that they've got sort of two questions in one reading? Well,
Barbara Chancey 48:11
I discovered that the instructors in Brunei are probably more talented than anything on the eastern West Coast. And here's why. No alcohol, karaoke. So the minute dinner's over, the screens go down and they're singing, we're in the balance, right? They're singing and dancing, and the cord is spilled. And these are the most talented people I've ever seen in my life. So natural with a microphone because it's their culture. And so they were so easy to work with. But no, we typically like three months to train instructors, whether they're in Dallas or Dubai, doesn't matter. You need three months. So we will ship equipment over we try to get a small room where they can practice. And so we will send people to them and I, we really, really hit them hard on practicing and we do some video back and forth and we've got people who guide them and train them and so we're constantly we They've been hosted auditions. And so that's the technology aspect. I say, I'm not so much into the stats, and how many calories Did you burn and how much power I just want to see, I want to see the interaction in the music and helping them with playlist. And so by the time our instructors really, really take the stage, if you will, for the first time, they've been practicing for about three, four months. And so we, we have cues, we have articulation coaches, we bring in speech experts, and there's more to it. Because think about this, if you're really really talented, you're not going to be teaching a little studio, you're going to be on stage. So we need that same talent. And, and so we're able to train a lot of people just by working together and again, that network that we've got, we kind of move instructors around and so I still believe that instructors are the heart and soul of every successful program. We can have all the lights if you gave me $5 million. Matthew, I could build a beautiful studio but again, you're only as good as your worst instructors worst playlist. And they're the ones that fill seats and they're the ones that most people ignore and that's why I have a soft spot for them because go back to the original story you know, I was that person and I just said please You know, want to do it this design this and it's all for instructors, and the architects in the big box guys. They've never taught and when you've never taught it looks easy. And so that's why I'm super I like to shoot prepare instructors for the day it's not going to work because when all the equipment's working, life is good. All right, rarely does that happen. And so multiple microphones so that in case you're teaching and suddenly mic two goes out, you just pick up my three The show goes on. And that also stems from lighting designer right from these rock and roll shows that you don't stop the concert and start over they paid money. The show goes on So we create these tools, if you will, to help instructors. We've even put first aid kit inside the stage or the podium I taught were cut helping someone clip in or you know things happen. You just wrap it with tape and the show goes on but you don't refund their money and the good instructor can overcome obstacles. Sometimes when we're practicing before grand opening, you know, I'll have put on a playlist again, it doesn't matter what they're teaching the playlist and all the sudden it changes right in the middle. It's a song they've never heard it's a playlist. They don't know it's country music and like, it's gonna have you don't say, oh, what happened? You just roll with it. And you just said we practice for when things don't go well. And that's a true instructor and there's no blame, you know? So, that's just a little some some of what we do and why we're very quiet. We don't advertise I've, I've, I don't spend any money on PR and marketing and people just, you know, I started I wake up in the morning and there's check my inbox and you just never know when it's gonna be. And so it could be a remodel of a gym, it could be a hotel, it could be a startup and it has nothing to do with monetary value. And I before I take a client, I just want to know like why. And every client usually has a philanthropy of sorts. So whether it's donating a book for reading initiative, or whether it's helping a local charity like rice 31 every month that has 31 days in Delray, Florida, they give back to local charities, turn studio turn heads for the right reason, nocturnal charities, so all of our clients like to give back. And I think purpose and philanthropy. You know, it's it's much more than profit profit comes as a result of that. So the only clients they don't take is when the very first time they say how much am I going to make I only take and leave your heads in the wrong place and probably not going to work out for you
Matthew Januszek 52:58
as you screen the clients before you do you have a do you decide if you're going to take anybody on then because it sounds like you've, you've got very high standards in terms of what you expect as well.
Barbara Chancey 53:09
I, I purposefully do not screen them. Again, I don't Google anyone, I just take them from their email response. And I usually have a phone call a couple of chats with them first, and I can usually get a pretty good read. And the reason I don't screen them is because I don't want to ever as a consultant, I'm kind of air traffic controller, right. And, and so I had this crazy business model, again, common sense like Uber, right, just one flat fee to get you there. I also do not take commission. I don't want any money under the table for recommending a certain product because then that takes my judgment. And so I realised that to be true and honest and recommend what's right for the client, not me. I don't need commission money. And so because of that, I don't change the price of my service because it's the person for the case of Brunei of Princess azima She, she got a price lower than probably most people know us because she was so easy to work with I base the price on feel, are they going to follow directions? Do I have to be another? Did I remind them? Did you send that email? I mean, I don't want to be someone's mother. And so if you can work efficiently and respond to emails, yeah, the price goes down. So I'd much rather work with a high school dropout with hustle than a Wharton School of Business, who knows it all, you know, Now, granted, we can teach everyone but sometimes people don't want to learn and sometimes people don't want to be successful on the outside. So, you know, we have calls sometimes in the middle of the night, you know, they'll call me to am sometimes they're tearful, and they're worried they're scared, there's that moment of did I do the right thing and so we talk them off the edge, you know, and, and we just love on them a little bit. And so it's been a really, really joyful ride from the very beginning when no one believed me, you know, when I was banging on doors like, let me help And they just laughed and said, we're not in the interior design business. We're in the fitness business. Did you not know that? So, anyway, but again, it goes back to criticism. You know, it's, um, I wouldn't be here today, if I hadn't accepted criticism, most people would have gotten defensive about it. And so