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Since Chris Dufey started listening to James’s podcast in Dubai, he’s gone from being a personal trainer to owning an online business to selling his business, and now lives life largely on his terms doing revenue share, in James’s own neighborhood of Sunshine Coast.
In this interview, Chris and James trace that journey and the lessons that came with it.
They talk about how Chris made the transition to coaching fitness trainers like himself to run their own businesses.
And they discuss what it really takes to live a life of no compromise.
Table of contents
1. From personal trainer to selling a business
2. Fitness trainers going into business
3. It’s a lot like going to the gym
4. How much should you know to help people?
5. Looking first at the offer
6. Chris’s first good offer
7. Should you give people your phone number?
8. Making the switch to business coach
9. Pulling out of the business
10. Making meaning versus making money
11. Replacing the face of the business
12. Was Chris concerned about poachers?
13. Wrapping up the episode
From personal trainer to selling a business
In Dubai, years ago, Chris burned out being a personal trainer. What he really wanted was an online fitness business, something he worked on from a home office when he and his wife moved to Bali.
Chris started to gain traction, and other trainers organically sought him out to help them do the same thing. Chris helped one, then another, and it grew from there.
At one point, Chris realized the business coaching lit him up much more inside than the fitness. He liked the impact he could have on people’s lives.
At the time, Chris also had a supplement business. And it was Taki Moore who told him, Dude, choose one. Stop trying to do three things – do one and go all in.
Chris went with the coaching business, grew it into a company, and at date of recording had just sold it 25 days before, something people said couldn’t be done.
Fitness trainers going into business
That’s amazing, says James. He wants to know: how did Chris bridge the gap between a trainer showing interest to them actually doing the online business thing?
When most of their time and energy is taken up making a living, how do they find the resources to move forward?
Chris thinks part of it is faith – you have to believe in something you can’t yet see.
And you have to accept it’s going to hurt. You’re going to have to do stuff that isn’t great at the time.
And you’re going to have to do hard work, but that’s okay because that faith means it will fruit one day for you, and it will be worth it.
For Chris, that meant waking at 4am so he could work on owning the racecourse, till 5:30am. Then he would head to the gym to meet his 6am client.
He’d be home in the afternoon, put his daughter to bed, have dinner with his wife, then maybe try to fit in something else before bed.
It needn’t be complex, either – it’s really much of a case of, can you at least start getting some momentum? And it might be doing little bits at a time, certainly not expecting to make millions of dollars online in 90 days.
It’s a lot like going to the gym
Does the metaphor of the gym apply, asks James? Where if someone in poor shape wanted a chiseled bod, you’d tell them there are things they’d have to eat and ways they’d have to move and things they’d have to show up for?
It does, says Chris. A guy said to him, Dude, I’d love to be in your shape. Don’t miss a workout for the next 10 years, Chris told him.
So it could be simple, says James. Where he does see people get stuck is the offer, finding that offer that converts.
It’s a case of, what value can you really bring to the marketplace, says Chris.
What is a pain point that you can solve for someone? And typically, it’s actually going to be a pain point that you solved for yourself.
It calls for reflection on your own history and the value you actually have.
How much should you know to help people?
But Chris doesn’t believe the adage that says you just need to be one step ahead of the people you’re helping. He knows he wouldn’t want his year two daughter being taught by a child in year three.
They actually do that in schools, says James, pairing older and younger kids. It teaches the older kids responsibility and leadership, while the younger ones benefit from having a more experienced buddy.
Classes like those have good outcomes, apparently, but of course brain surgery or rocket science require an expert somewhat more qualified.
The person Chris would want guiding him through a process would have a proven system, something replicatable, duplicatable, and predictable that would get results at the end of the day.
So to those looking to be coaches, he would suggest asking, what solutions can you bring to the table? What are the pain points that you can actually solve?
Then get people who have that pain point and help them solve it for free, gladly, and while doing so build up a process using pattern recognition as to what does and doesn’t work.
Looking first at the offer
If someone’s not getting traction in the market, not growing, one of the first things would be to look at the offer.
What’s the offer? How is that being communicated to the marketplace? Is there actual congruency? Are people wanting that? Are they believing that? Is there enough clout from you in the marketplace to say?
Another common thing is people making offers that are too outlandish, that people actually don’t believe. And it’s only right, because you have to consider the self-limiting beliefs of the prospect and their ability to believe that what’s being offered will get them to where they want to go.
Chris’s first good offer
What was Chris’s first offer to get traction?
For online fitness, it was physique prep, getting people ready for photoshoots and the competition stage. Chris had the advantage there of having done it face to face, and just needed to translate it into the online medium.
Chris had to consider, though: how do I actually communicate? How do I have accountability with my clients? How do I ensure they’re doing the things that they need to do properly?
It really meant digging deep.
And some things, it turned out, were not scalable. Chris would give someone WhatsApp access, and his phone would be blowing up.
Should you give people your phone number?
James remembers a friend of his speaking on platform, and giving his phone number to a room of 500 people.
That’s kind of crazy, said James. It doesn’t mean I have to answer it, said his friend, which James thought wasn’t good.
Giving people access can be very valuable. For the last seven or eight years, James has been coaching people privately, right up to where he’s now changed to a personal brand and transferred to a new platform.
He realized, though, looking through his packages, that he had about 240 people with access to private coaching. He’d built a muscle over seven or eight years that he still uses – though to a lesser degree now, for which his wife is happier.
Making the switch to business coach
What was the crossover point for Chris between getting people into competition shape and teaching business to fitness coaches?
Says Chris, he just hit a point where there were so many coaches asking for help, and he was giving them so much time and attention, and enjoying himself as he did so, that he thought it could very well be something he could do. It was really good.
Chris ran an event in Australia, at which he helped a group of coaches get their online coaching up and running. Within a couple of days, these coaches were getting very good results – signing up clients, making money, celebrating sales.
And it was interesting for Chris, who found it easier to work with these people in person, and either handhold or drag them across the line to get results. He’ll figure out, he says, how to build it bigger.
Chris wants to thank James for the concept of no compromise. It’s one of the most important lessons he’s applied in his life, and to date he is financially free and has a fantastic family – life, he says, is amazing.
He doesn’t want to have a big business and then be out of shape. He doesn’t want to make heaps of money but be a crappy dad.
It was the difference between building a personal brand and creating a sellable asset. Chris chose the latter, but wanted to still be in good shape, in great health, with great relationships, taking care of himself.
Which isn’t to say it’s been a dream run. Chris has had depression, severe anxiety, suicidal ideation.
But we have constitution, he says, and we have character.
Our constitution is like our essence – what we have at the end of the day. But we have our character, and our character is what we can actually build and what we can develop.
It was a case of, how do I train myself? How do I cultivate my character?
And Chris could pinpoint where James told him something, and he rationally, predictably, effectively, actually did the practices, did the things that would change his character, to get him to where he would achieve what he wanted.
Pulling out of the business
James is curious – how did Chris get to where he’d pulled himself out enough from his business to be able to sell it?
First, says Chris, it’s choosing a path. One is to be the face of the business, and that’s not a right or wrong answer.
Chris chose to promote the business and pull himself out. He wanted to sell, and he knew what he wanted to do moving forward.
On the sell date, Chris attended the last Zoom call and let them kick him off the platform – Slack, Asana, changing the passwords, all that. When it finished, he was 100 percent out of the business.
He met his wife at the beach, chilled for half an hour, got bored, and went straight into what he knew he wanted moving forward.
Today, Chris doesn’t have to work to pay for his lifestyle costs – that’s covered. And because he’s partnering with businesses like James does, he has nothing to sell to the public, but does have a great means of making money and asset building.
Making meaning versus making money
On the Christopher Dufey podcast, Chris talks about things he wants to talk about. It doesn’t create deal flow for his partnership.
The way he sees it, there’s a meaning-making machine that we have. And there’s a money-making machine we have.
Chris’s meaning-making machine is the Christopher Dufey podcast, the YouTube, him being able to solve the important questions in life, because that’s what he’s doing for himself.
The money-making machine is Chris with his partnerships.
Replacing the face of the business
The transition period for selling the business – building the team and the systems, Chris replacing himself as the face of the business – took over nine months.
Chris does remember it was cool, though, when he was off to a venue to shoot some ads, and decided he needn’t be in the videos anymore.
He told his head coach, you’re in front of all the cameras now. And he sat back and watched them shoot, almost crying from the emotion.
The transition was really happening. First, it was the face of the business; then there was the coaching element – he had to get out of the delivery side of things.
There was the point were people were signing on and didn’t know who Chris was. And it was a great feeling, says Chris, because then the sale could actually happen.
Was Chris concerned about poachers?
Did Chris worry at any point that his head coach might just go into business for himself and poach Chris’s customers? James had seen it happen so many times.
How did Chris protect against that?
Chris very frequently tries to think about incentives, especially when it comes to team members, deals, the like. He thinks it’s a Charlie Munger quote – show me the incentives and I’ll show you the results.
Reward what you want, says James.
As a personal trainer in Sydney, Chris had trainers working for him, and they could have easily left and taken the clients they had, because they had the relationships with them. So for Chris, it was a case of, what was the incentive for his coaches not to do that?
That’s where he structured the compensation to be so good for them, that they wouldn’t want to go and start their thing as well.
Chris thinks it’s actually coming from a place of compassion and empathy and putting yourself in that other person’s shoes. It’s a bit egotistical to think that someone is going to work for you forever, so how can you best set them up for their success, understanding that they’re going to want to go and do their own things later?
One of the questions Chris asks in an interviewing process is, you being your most selfish self, what is it that you want out of this position? Because he effectively wants to be able to match and marry what it is that person most wants to what Chris and the organization most want.
Wrapping up the episode
James wants to mention Chris’s show again, the Christopher Dufey podcast. Chris deserves congratulations on selling his business, and James is sure there’ll be something in his partnerships and stages to come that they can talk about.
Anyone interested in revenue shares, James has given away his training on the topic in some previous episodes. He thinks it’s the greatest business model going and is thrilled for Chris to be doing it.
And if he and Chris can catch a wave together sometime, that, says James, will be incredible.
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