15 Fitness Business And Life Lessons From My Time With Richard Branson

I just got back from Necker Island and spending a day with Richard Branson and the Maverick DNA crew. The invitation came from Yanik Silver after being awarded the trip for running an Evolved Enterprise business.

Even though it was inconvenient with the things I had going on, I wasn’t going to miss this opportunity to meet someone I have looked up to since I was young and have followed this whole time – a true game changer and inspiration in the world of business, adventure (living life to the fullest) and philanthropy.

Richard Branson

But first let me ask you something because it will bring context to what I’m writing about.

Can we all agree business as usual sucks?

If you don’t think so here’s the numbers….

Out of 28 million small businesses, 97% don’t make more than $250k a year in revenue. More than 50% of those make only around $25k, some of which are hobbies and many, which fail.

We’ve all heard the numbers of how many small businesses fail in the first 3 years – pretty much over 80%, and very few last past 5 years.

Fitness businesses more or less fall into that category.

Why does this happen?

There is many reasons, one of which is that over 70% of the time the owner doesn’t take it up on themselves to become better at business (marketing, sales, fulfillment, automation) and team leadership.

I believe small business can change America, I truly do, which is why we’re committed to helping fitness business professionals succeed as small business operators. But it can’t be done doing business as usual.

So if business as usual sucks then we should Screw Business As Usual.

screw business

With that said, I wanted to share my lessons from the time I spent around Richard Branson and his insights, as well as things I have learned from studying the way he does business for over the last decade of my life. These lessons are from business and life and one’s that are in no particular order as I was taking notes and voice recording (along with doing research on the back end and taking some powerful lessons from his books).


1. How To Build The Foundation Of Your Brand

Ultimately the brand is only as good as the product/service behind it. The business’ top priority is to get the product/service right, then wrap the brand around it. “You can’t kid people,” Branson said.

How many times does a fitness business try to create a marketing campaign and cool branding before having an exceptional service that deliver value, results, experience and great customer service?

Sit down to and really write out what you’re doing right now and whether the branding and marketing for your business has more resources going into it then the result, experience of the client.

“Outstanding brands are built around great people who deliver consistently great customer service every single day.”

Can you say that above quote for your business?

I know I’ll be digging deeper and making things better at Vigor Ground Fitness and Performance and The Pack Fitness Business.


2. Challenge The Status Quo

I just shared the numbers what business as usual means statistically. Not good. But this is the average. This is the status quo.

You must challenge the accepted wisdom and also get your team to do the same. Look at things through your customer’s eyes and what they want (and sometimes what they don’t even know they want because they can’t think of it yet).

Here are just two examples you may not have heard yet where Virgin took a different perspective on things:

Virgin Money is a bank in Britain where the branches look more like living rooms than banks. There are work table’s with wi-fi, comfortable seating, newspapers, etc. and it eliminates lines and teller windows. How is that for looking at it through a customer’s perspective?

Virgin Airlines Terminal 2

Then there is Virgin America terminal 2, which has a yoga room, a wide variety of foods and just about everything to make the customer comfortable.

Are you having in-staff and team meetings to discuss what you can improve in your gym to stand out and deliver and incredible experience for your client?

When your team is empowered they can also have great ideas that improve the business.

P.S. This week Virgin America sold to Alaska Airlines for $1 billion. Richard Branson was upset with the deal, as he didn’t have enough say to keep it, and is hoping that they continue with the high standards for customer service that built the brand up.


3. Create Value In The World

Richard Branson will only start a business if it improves people’s lives.

We start companies to create income for ourselves and take care of our families, create the lifestyle’s we want and work hard for; but the truth is if there is no higher purpose behind the business you start, you’ll eventually (sooner rather than later) lose touch with it – and if you don’t focus on it, it won’t grow.

The best way to have longevity is to connect passion and purpose to your business(es). If you’re not fired up about it then you won’t go through the risk, investments and years and years of hard work to build something that matters.

Richard Branson was unhappy about the customer service he got from British airways, so he started a new airline, Virgin Atlantic, which was built around and focuses on customer service.

How can you create value and solve a problem someone else is missing?

Or how can you make something better than anyone else, make yourself “the only one” in that category?


4. Create An Environment That Allows You To Do Your Best

Necker Island was created with a purpose to be the most optimal environment for Richard Branson to enjoy time with the people he loves, stay in great physical shape and also be inspired to create and grow his businesses. Essentially to support everything that is important to him.

Maybe we can’t buy and island (yet), but what environments are you in that are supporting what matters to you and building your dream, and what environments are derailing it?

From the office you work in, to the people you spend time with, to the foods you eat, the training you do – does it support your dreams or does it hinder them?

Make a serious honest breakdown of where you are right now and where you want it to be in a perfect world.

I know you can move the dial more towards a better environment in many areas of your life.

For me it’s the new building I bought and creating a team lounge area for them to have a better environment (including a TV for studying videos and course, books, fridge with shakes, healthy food, etc.) along with an office for me that will be made to fit exactly what I want. We also will have massage, chiro/ART, dry needling, meditation room, so that the team can get relax and recovery time in.

I signed up for boxing and BJJ with coaches to never skip training, nutrition meals so that I can stay more focused and eat in line with my goals.

Just some examples of shifting to a more optimal environment that will deliver better results for our team, our clients, and myself.

How are you going to change your environment to help lead you closer to your goals?

Where do you need to go?

Who do you need to surround yourself with (team members, masterminds, coaching programs, groups)?

To have a conversation about being part of The Pack Family Mastermind click HERE.

Necker Island


5. Skip The PowerPoint And Have A Conversation

A quote I read somewhere about Richard Branson saying “I believe in conversation and eye to eye contact” and that he prefers conversation over PP presentations.

I found this out while at Necker seeing how personable he was with everyone, down to earth and genuinely interested in people.

In the world of social media and feeling like we are connected all the time, we forget to truly spend time with people and connect and meet up. Sending a message on Facebook is not the same as sitting down with someone and being present and finding out more about them, where they’re at, what are their goals, dream, aspirations – and why.

Technology can be great and it’s also got you stuck to your seat and when I talk to fit pro’s they have significantly dropped (if not completely eliminated) lunch and learns, live seminars, workshops, spending time meeting people.

I’d say the majority of great relationships I have built have been based on spending time together with people and making the extra effort to find out more about them, have breakfast/lunch/dinner, invite them to train with you, go out after an event and buy a round of drinks, take a group of people you respect and want to connect to and organize a small get together that’s fun (on your dime).

Don’t do it for “something”, do it because you want to and you’re curious about other people and genuinely want to ad value to their life.

Getting leads through Facebook ads is great and all but we should spend some more time being human, have more conversations while looking people in the eye.

What do you commit to doing weekly or monthly that gets you out and around people?


6. You Can’t Innovate When You’re Trying To Copy And Follow

I’m a fan of mirroring success and learning from it, being around it and modelling it. But…

…..the context of everything Richard Branson does is that life is always fresh and new. The way of the future won’t rely on the old way of doing things, I’d have you consider that letting of even following or copying others will open up new possibilities for you.

Thinking outside of the box, embracing change, and innovating, taking risks – these are the hallmarks of success in all facets of life.


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Imagine if you had a group of coaches and other successful fitness business entrepreneurs helping you where you’re stuck and providing action steps and accountability with what works in the real world with gyms that say “screw business as usual” and dominate.



7. You Must Take Care Of Your Body And Health

I can’t count how many times Richard would mention the importance in staying physically fit. It’s one of the reasons at age 65, he’s still able to go at the pace and temp that he does.

He plays tennis daily as well as works out and takes care of his nutrition. Now you may say he has the resources to do whatever he wants, but it’s how he has lived his life, period.

Getting wisdom from someone that has not only accomplished what few will do when it comes to building businesses but also conquering Guinness World Records when it comes to daring adventures, while changing the world with his charitable efforts – and having him consistently hammer home the importance of keeping yourself healthy and in great shape.

It’s hard to think clear and have abundant ideas and actions when your body is broken and in scarcity.

You body is the vehicle that gets you from where you are to where you want to go. It gives you the energy and capacity to work hard and produce – consistently.

The Branson family sets up challenges every year from climbing the Matterhorn and trekking the Alps, to cycling through France, etc. No small feat. But it makes them train for it and they do it together as a family.

Running a business and taking care of yourself is hard but it has to be a priority, especially if we’re coaching others to take care of themselves while having jobs, families, hobbies, etc. – be what you coach, be an example.



8. A Question Entrepreneurs Should Ask Themselves

Continually ask yourself,

Is this how I would want to be treated if I was a client?

Every time I have dropped the ball (and I’ve done it quite a bit), it was because I didn’t keep that question in the forefront.

We are there to serve our clients and get them a result and build a community that support the. It’s hard juggling all the things we must do as coaches and business owners, and yet we MUST keep that question at the core of all that we do.


9. Learn To Delegate

An entrepreneur must learn the art of delegation.

I have a fantastic team who run Virgin companies who have a lot of freedom to run the companies as if they were their own companies, I give them freedom to make mistakes…”

I’ve made more mistakes on this end than I can count and learned valuable lessons.

You must some find someone better than you to do the day-to-day running of your business so you can think about the big picture and do the things you’re best at.

There’s a number of things that can get in the way:

  1. Ego, letting go of tasks thinking that you can do them best
  2. Thinking its an expense

When you bring the RIGHT person on board it will change your world. And in all honesty, if you’re working to build a predictable and sustainable business with a vision that helps change people you have to take actions in line with that and not just “how can I make more right now.”

The key is getting the RIGHT people in the right positions and this is where a lot of focus should be centered.

When I went to Traffic and Conversion Summit this year I finally realized I’m doing way too much and need more help.

And if you’re asking for some tips on hiring I’ll share what Richard Branson recommends.

Hire people who are:

  • Smarter than you
  • In agreement with your vision, goals, and values
  • Friendly and eager to have fun
  • Motivated to be successful
  • Able to see their work as a mission

^^^ Yes, smarter than you in the areas you need help with!

Even if you’re a solo-preneur right now, there are things you can hand of to people that love doing that task more than you and are better at it – its worth the investment, trust me.

Where can and must you delegate right now?

Go ahead, write it before you move on.


10. Everything Trickles Down From Your Team/Staff

Put your team first, clients second, and shareholders third.

If the person works at your company is 100% proud of the job they’re doing, if you give them the tools to do a good job, [if] they’re proud of the brand, if they’re well looked after, [and] they’re treated well, then they’re going to be smiling, they’re going to be happy, and therefore the customer will have a great experience.

“If the person whose working for your company is not given the right tools, is not looked after, is not appreciated, they’re not going to do things with a smile, and therefore the customer will be treated in a way in which they don’t want to come back for more. So my philosophy has always been, if you can put staff first, your customers second, and your shareholders third, effectively in the end the shareholders do well, the customers do better, and your staff is happy.”

When I was on Necker Island I couldn’t help but notice the energy and cheerfulness of all the staff. I talked to one of them and they said that they work hard but they love the brand, the way they are treated and that they are blessed to be able to do this.

The Boss

I take the same approach with our Vigor Ground Fitness and Performance team. I’ve made quite a few mistakes along the way but always come back to this.

The pre-requisite is that you have the right people and that brings us back to hiring and internships – put a lot of time, effort and focus into this or the result will be having to constantly find new people – and have turnover like the rest of the industry (what you water, grows!).


11. On Partying And Spending Time With Employees

“We encourage as much partying as possible” are some of Richard Branson’s words. The main reason is that the team gets to know each other on a personal level. The other thing he mentioned was that “You’ll get honest feedback at the bar.”

If a big company like Virgin can employ this type of thinking there is certainly room to ad components of this to your small business.

I have partied with my team many times and try to do a lot of things together and work on building a unified team where everyone is looking in the same direction and understands that growth for us is growth of each individual.

I’ll ad that team building and educational events are great ways to grow as a team.

I’m always looking to be first improve myself as a human being so I can be, and provide more for my team and understand where they are, what they want and how we can get to our vision together.


12. On Hiring

This builds on what I mentioned earlier but delves a little deeper. It’s some of the best advice I’ve heard on hiring (after many, many years of experience in messing up).

What To Look For

Hire people who are:

  • Smarter than you
  • In agreement with your vision, goals, and values
  • Friendly and eager to have fun
  • Motivated to be successful
  • Able to see their work as a mission

Great Employees Like To Learn

Hire people who want to learn. Branson says, “The day you stop learning is the day you stop living.” When you hire people who want to learn, you are getting a competitive edge over your competition. As a team you start creating fresh approaches in how to help people and as a collective you’re that much more powerful.

The question I ask before my internship is what books have you read and what courses have you gone through in the last 6 months? 

Take Care Of People

Take care of employees and let them grow in their job.

“If your best people aren’t growing in their careers as your business gains traction and expands, they will quickly lose enthusiasm for their work. And before you know it, you’ll be dealing with unsatisfied customers as well as unsatisfied employees.”

One of the values at Vigor Ground Fitness and Performance is Constant Expansion and it shows with having had over 20 seminars and in-staffs in just the last 25 months (that is not including the seminars, courses we attend, mastermind we do or the in-staffs and meeting I take the team through – this is external presenters, the best of the best, coming to Vigor). I want to make sure that we have best environment for growth in every area of life and take care of my people.

I know I can still improve a lot here. What more could you be doing to take care of your people? 

Don’t Hire People Looking For Money

“For more than 40 years, I have felt that one of my most important jobs is to attract and motivate great people who genuinely feel their job is more important than just money.”

To do this, people need to know the mission of the company. They also need to be fully onboard with making the company a success.

How much time have you spent on your mission, values, vision and communicating it with your team (and people you want to bring on board)?

After going through the Evolved Enterprise book from Yanik Silver, the Coalition program and listening to Richard Branson – I’ve been spending weeks re-doing the clarity of our mission.

Create A Culture Of Opportunity

Let people run with their ideas. Let people know that they can move up within the company. Once they see this, they’ll work that much harder to master their current job so they will be considered for promotion or further development.

When I see someone has a passion for something and is willing to build that skill-set, I want to help them develop it and show them the possibility of “what’s next.”

If your team constantly see people from the outside taking top jobs in the company, they’ll become discouraged and work will suffer. You’re also more likely to have high turnover. Why work at a place if you’ll always have the same amount of responsibility and never be promoted?

When you know you have the right team, help them, support them, and guide them to the next level.

A rising tide raises all boats.


13. Dream Big Then Catch Up With Them

In Losing my Virginity Branson says:

Because I sometimes think in life you’ve got to dream big by setting yourself seemingly impossible challenges. You then have to catch up with them. You can make what people believe is impossible possible if you set big enough targets. Flying from New York to Australia in, say, two hours. Can we do it in our lifetimes? I’m determined to try. If you don’t dream, nothing happens. And we like to dream big.

How big are you dreaming?

Most people dream small and then achieve it. I’d rather dream insanely big and miss it but achieve more than I ever would without those huge goals.

The best part of life is the chase, the pursuit, the process of becoming. Setting small goals and achieving them because they’re easy is not living (they do come into play when we break down big dreams into small achievable goals – but that’s a story/blog for another day).


14. Keep A Notepad With You

Anyone who aspires to lead a company must develop a habit of taking notes. I carry a notebook everywhere I go.”

Richard Branson is an avid note taker and list maker. He recommends it to keep you focused and productive. It can be done for day-to-day or monthly goals.

I have multiple notebooks for things such as study, to-do lists, and a small one I carry with me everywhere just for ideas or conversations with clients, team members, that give me insight on things to improve.

Just remember, all the notes don’t mean anything if you don’t take action on them.

And feel free to get a cool notepad like this…



15. Keep Things Fun

Branson advises to do activities outside of the office. Companies need to bring a sense of play to the office. This pays off long term since the team enjoys what they do, they’re more likely to perform better and stay with the company.

If people feel trapped and stuck in their job, performance suffers and clients don’t get the best.

Work hard but have fun.

I know I must put more play into what we do at Vigor Ground Fitness and Performance – this was a big lesson, seeing how much people at Virgin make it fun. They get results and they have fun doing it.

I had pages of notes but these were some that resonated with me in the moment and ones that I went back to from all the books I’ve read from Richard Branson.

Being around him inspired me to push the boundaries and continue to change the way fitness business is done and lead the new fitness entrepreneur into a future that is full of abundance rather than scarcity and one where you work in your passion while helping others and making the profits you deserve.

If you are committed to that future, join other entrepreneurs that are changing their fitness businesses through The Pack Syndicate. Find out how you can change your year and your life by running with people that are saying “Screw fitness business as usual” and helping clients transform, helping their communities and being a beacon while making serious profits (not revenue, but profit)!

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