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There are many ways you can use to get ahead of your competition – one of which is to offer a superior service than your competitors.

While you should always strive to offer a high-quality service to your clients, being the best can be more challenging than just being the first to arrive in a new niche.

My guest today is J.P Crawford, owner of Diverge Fitness – somebody who definitely fits the profile of an uncommon life!

J.P has successfully carved out a very specific niche within the ever growing fitness industry and created a unique ‘white-glove’ experience for his clients.

Today J.P is here to show you how to carve out and establish your niche – no matter what industry you’re in.

Show Highlights:

  • What people actually want and are willing to pay for (3:30)
  • Is traditional marketing dead? (4:45)
  • The biggest part of creating an unforgettable client experience that most business owners neglect (5:30)
  • One of the greatest personality traits you should look for when hiring staff (6:20)
  • How J.P creates a ‘white-glove’ service for his clients, and how to do the same in your business (14:30)
  • The most important yet overlooked coaching skill (18:00)

The easiest way to get in touch with J.P Crawford is via email at jpcrawford@divergefitness.com

If you want to recession-proof your business and thrive in any area of life, go to www.uncommonlifepodcast.com and grab your free report today. I share with you the 5 key principles that have transformed and elevated my life – and they can do the same for you too if consistently applied.

Read Full Transcript

You're listening to “The Uncommon Life Podcast.” Whether you're a startup or you've been in business for 10 years, this show is for you. Each week, you'll get mentored by business leaders who deliver valuable strategies, tactics and tips on how you can pursue your passion without compromise. We’ll show you how to achieve balance while sticking to your core values, so you can have an uncommon life.
Now, here's your host, Jimmy Fullerton.
Jimmy Fullerton: Hello, and welcome to The Uncommon Life Podcast whose mission is to seek out uncommon people to help you grow both your business and your life.

Today, I'm talking with J.P. Crawford, the owner of DiVerge Fitness. Now, J.P. definitely fits the profile for an uncommon lifer. He's carved out a very specific niche in the ever-growing fitness industry, and he has created a really unique experience for his guests. He's done this—really, three key ways he's done this:
- By knowing his target market.

- And by listening to his clients. And this is not just surfacey listening; he goes deep into questioning to finding out what their needs are.

- And then, from that, he creates a uniquely specialized plan tailored for them.
So, it's a really fun interview. It’s part one of two interviews with J.P. I think you'll like it. But without further ado, here is Part 1 of my interview with J.P. Crawford.

Jimmy: J.P., appreciate you coming on the show.

J.P. Crawford: Thank you for having me.

Jimmy: You're welcome. Let's start by talking about DiVerge Fitness. Tell us about your business, what your purpose is and who you serve.

J.P.: So, DiVerge Fitness has been around since 2004. I started personal training and anti-aging fitness—in September, it’ll be—24 years ago. So, DiVerge Fitness is …

Jimmy: Twenty-four years ago?

J.P.: Twenty-four years ago.

Jimmy: How could you be old enough to have …?

J.P.: At age 12.

Jimmy: Shit …

J.P.: Practice what I preach, right?

Jimmy: That’s right.

J.P.: So, in 2004, went from personal training just with clients one-on-one to actually forming a location. At that time, it was a 6,000-square-foot location. Now it's a 10,000-square-foot location, located on North Veterans, not far from you here at Launch.

Jimmy: Right.

J.P.: Perfect location, yes.

J.P.: Yes. So, DiVerge Fitness formed from a desire to provide, not just the best quality of training for a client, but the best quality experience overall in a gym. So, instead of a crowded location that it's very hard to keep clean because you have so many people coming in, instead, it was catering to a niche clientele, very clean, upper echelon, best equipment possible, and the best staff possible. So, since 2004, we've been [03:00] doing that.

Jimmy: Yeah, one thing I will definitely say about DiVerge, I've been working out for a long time. I've been in different gyms and a lot of them, I leave feeling like, it's like, I think I'm doing them, doing me, a favor by letting me work out there, and it's not like that. I was always impressed from the very beginning with your gym, how you really treat your clients like they're valued and just make them feel special. So, that kind of makes you set up, here kind of helps you set above the crowd.

So, go back to your days as training. What did you notice about or what spurred you to decide you wanted to make that move? And, finally, I mean, there was, you had to have a moment where you thought, Okay, I'm going to start my own business. I've had enough of this. I'm going to go and do my own thing. So, what was that aha moment you had?

J.P.: The aha moment was probably in seeing clients come in and come into big box gyms. I’ve had offices in Atlanta, Columbus through the years. So, the aha whole moment was, basically, seeing the client uncomfortable in the atmosphere, and wanting to provide a better experience. I mean, that's really the industry. You're in the industry I'm in. We really don't sell a product, a widget. We sell an experience.

Jimmy: Experience, absolutely.

J.P.: And I think in sales, these days, that's become more and more what it's about. We've seen the rise of Airbnb. You still have your traditional hotels out there, but people now really, what they want, what they're willing to pay for is an experience. And it's an experience where, just as you and I were discussing earlier, why does traditional marketing no longer work?

Well, it no longer works, because people don't want that flash in the pan. If I want to have a great meal, I'm not going to look at something on TV. I'm going to ask Jimmy Fullerton, Tell me what's the best meal you've had in the past two years? That's an experience. You may not remember what that food tasted like, but you'll remember that experience.

Jimmy: It’s word-of-mouth, yeah.

J.P.: Exactly.

Jimmy: Yeah, we're a big believer in creating the right kind of experience, making sure that when people come in, that they feel… Like when we have a birthday party, we make sure that a member of our staff will greet them at the door; go outside to help the mom or whoever is doing the birthday party; carry the cake; carry the presents; make sure it's as hassle free as possible. So, when they come in here, they can wash their hands of the matter, just enjoy the experience; record the kids jump in; just kind of relax and let them have a good time. So, yeah, the experience is a big part of it, as what life is, really.

J.P.: So, you're eliminating that stress?

Jimmy: Yeah.

J.P.: And I think that's such a big aspect of it. When you talk to people, you say, How do you feel? What's the top things? We all hear them: I'm tired. I'm [06:00] stressed. I've got this, this and this to do.
A children's birthday party? For you guys to be able to handle that from beginning to end? That's awesome.

Jimmy: You’ve got to have a certain kind of person that does it. They definitely have to be outgoing. But, yeah, just definitely takes a special person to create that environment. And, like I said, that's all part of it.
So, when you were going through this process, I guess, starting your business, what were some of the biggest challenges that you faced in starting your business?

J.P.: I mean, the biggest thing is just as you have here, when you build a gym, not a studio, but an actual full-size gym, from the ground up, you're talking about half a million dollars or more to get it going. So, the barrier to entry is pretty, pretty high there. And then, when you're doing that, and you don't have partners and you don't have a group of investors when you're doing it yourself, you want to make sure every purchase counts.
See, it's not one of those things where you go, Well, we'll purchase 200 grand of cardio equipment, and if it only lasts a couple of years, that's fine. We'll just buy more—because you're securing that loan with your house, you know?

Jimmy: Right, yes, understand.

J.P.: It's a little different. And then, I would say, the biggest challenge the financing, was building a great staff. I feel like when you're first starting out, and, of course, now when I hire just as when you hire now, it's completely different than the way we did it in the beginning. I would say, now I hire based upon, instead of what the person knows, how teachable they are. If someone is teachable and they're humble, and they're willing to say, Hey, I don't know this, this and this, but I will learn and I'll do it exactly how you say it's to be done, that's the person you want to hire.

Jimmy: It's funny, because I was just talking to somebody about this. When we hire, you know, I was just a little bit different. We have two different levels that we hire for. We hire our management staff, and then we are part-time workers who do the…court monitors, cashiers, that kind of stuff. But the main thing I look at is kind of what you were talking about, the emotional intelligence over the… If they have the right kind of attitude, if they're humble, and they're willing to listen and be taught, even management, as well, then the other stuff I can work with. You can usually train them up on it, but it’s lot harder and it takes a lot longer to teach somebody emotional skills.

J.P.: I don't even know if you can.

Jimmy: You can. You can. If you're married. Just think about it. I’ve been married…

J.P.: Yeah.

Jimmy: I mean, if you’ve been married for a while, you can learn those skills and might be able to teach.

J.P.: We are all teachable.

Jimmy: It takes longer. It takes much longer than it does to just teach somebody skills through repetition, so…

J.P.: So, how do you…? I mean, here, you, obviously, unlike my business where it's primarily adults, here you have kids that are just going wild.

Jimmy: Yeah.

J.P.: So, how do you find that special staff member where they [09:00] can be professional towards the parent?

Jimmy: It's hard. What we do…in the past, we did one-on-one interviews with the part-timers, and we have switched recently to, what we call, “auditions”. We’ll have a group of kids come in here, maybe anywhere from 6 to 10, and we'll put them through a series of games where they’ll interact with each other. Through those drills or games, they’re fun; it's a fun time, but we get to see how they interact. Who's a natural leader? Who's naturally outgoing? Because we want people here, they need to be outgoing, because they need to be able to interact with our guests and make them… It's all part of creating the experience, make them feel like they know Launch. So, we do auditions now to kind of help weed those out, because people in an interview, you can tell…

J.P.: You can look good in one-on-one.

Jimmy: Yeah, you can sometimes get a good idea, but it's not foolproof, yeah, and they can tell you what they think you want to hear. But, yeah, so it's a learning process.

What we try to do now is we hire slow and fire fast. If we feel like, Okay, I have to just tell this is not working. I used to be a lot… I don't actually do any of the… I'm involved in most of the firings, if it's the management staff, but if it's like the part-timers, our GM or office manager handles that. But we try to, if we know we have a problem, we just try to eliminate it quickly.

J.P.: Smart.

Jimmy: But yours is different. You have… What is it you look for?

J.P.: So, the biggest thing that I would say I look for would be discipline.

Jimmy: What does that mean to you?

J.P.: Discipline means to me that you're going to hold yourself accountable for your actions. So, if you make a mistake, to me, the number one thing, if you make a mistake, tell me immediately. I'm not going to come down hard on you for that. To me, by saying that you made a mistake quickly, that tells me that you're willing to learn from your mistakes. So, that I would say would be probably the number one skill I look for, basically, just taking responsibility for your actions immediately. To me, anytime somebody says, Tis happened; this happened; this happened because of so-and-so or because of this circumstance.

Jimmy: Yeah.

J.P.: Yeah, it's in the past; it happened. Instead, just say, This happened; this happened; this happened. I understand they happened. This is how I'm going to learn forwards and move forwards. It won't happen again. That, you know…

And you can tell in a five-minute conversation with someone, just asking. To me, a big thing is just ask them how their day is going. They come in. Hey, how's your day going? Oh, you know, I didn't wake up until this time. Well, there's one red flag. They can't even wake up on time on their own?

Jimmy: Yeah.

J.P.: How are they going to do when you're asking them to be at work at a 05:45 a.m.?
If they say they're having a bad day, [12:00] why is it a bad day? Oh, you know, my sandwich was cold.

Jimmy: Yeah.

J.P.: So, you get thrown off that quickly by your sandwich?

Jimmy: Yeah, that’s true. So, you're not very resilient.

J.P.: Right. So, that I would…and it, really, I think it starts with that, because once you get past that hurdle, whether it be their education, I mean, we can send them to courses. We’ve had, how many? Three or four employees where we paid for their education at CSU. So, those things you can get past and there are countless correspondence courses, practical courses you can send them to. But that, I would say, is step one.

Jimmy: Step one being, I guess what we're talking about is emotional intelligence -

J.P.: Right.

Jimmy: - the willingness to kind of self-recognition as far as when you make a mistake. Can you learn from it? And are you going to try to cover it up or make excuses, or blame somebody else?
And then, the other thing is resilience. Can you bounce back from something? What do you think if there’s something bad happening? How do you bounce back from that?

J.P.: Exactly.

Jimmy: That’s something I'm trying to teach my daughter who's seven years old now. It’s resilience that when she's initially…people, I guess people in general, but kids especially hate to fail.

J.P.: Oh, yes. Yes.

Jimmy: Yeah, I’m trying to teach her that failure is not a bad thing. I feel like it's falling on deaf ears sometimes, but -

J.P.: Yeah.

Jimmy: - over time, my goal is I drill this into her that she’ll, at the right moment, it'll come back into her brain and she'll remember that, You know, I need to learn from this. What can I learn from this failure? So, that's all part of emotional, the emotional intelligence factor as I look for when I'm looking for people to come to work for us.

J.P.: Okay.

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Jimmy: So, in your situation, the way you're set up, you have… How many employees do you have there?

J.P.: So, we have a small group, smaller than we've ever been, really.

Jimmy: Lean and mean.

J.P.: Lean and mean. So, we're down now to four. So, the way we're set up is, let's say, somebody comes in and they say, Hey, I'm a friend of Jimmy Fullerton’s at Launch. Met him. He was telling me great things about guys.

So, the first thing we're going to ask is “Are you coming into work out on your own or do you need assistance?” If they need assistance, then the next step is we take them through a barrage of medical tests, blood glucose, blood pressure;, get labs from their latest physical body fat percentage, body weight, and then a functional movement screening, as well as their entire medical history.

So, we're going to ask them, like with yourself, I would say, Jimmy, tell me about your grandparents. Are they alive? How is their health? If they’ve passed, what did they pass away from? Tell me about your siblings. All of these. The more we can learn about you in the beginning, the more we can help you accomplish your goals.

We do a lot of personal training, and then, basically, on the personal training side, it's what direction. So, we have a big golf fitness branch. We work with PGA players. We work with previous Masters winners. So, are you going towards the golf side? Are you going towards the general health and weight loss side? Are you going towards the anti-aging side of fitness?
And then, it's just guiding them through what course and teaming them up with their correct trainer.

Jimmy: That’s a full service. White glove sort of treatment -

J.P.: Exactly.

Jimmy: - for your clients.

J.P.: And we love... We love what we do. You have people where they come in and, let's say, they're going towards the anti-aging side of it, and they've had back pain for 10, 15 years. And you train them. You train them how to exercise properly. You alter their lifestyle a bit. And for the first time in 15 years, they have little to no back pain at all. I mean, that's great.

Same thing with the golfers. If you've got a golfer where you take them from…where they're always consistently 30 to 40 yards from the hole, you give them an additional 30 to 40 yards on their drive. They're ecstatic, you know? And it's those little things, general fitness with people that have lost anywhere from 120 or 130 pounds to 15 to 20 pounds. And each level is, if you've got somebody where their ultimate goal has been to weigh X and to be able to see their abs, it's just as important to them getting off that 15 to 20 pounds as it is for the person that lost 100 pounds, because then both of them accomplish their goal.

Jimmy: It’s about listening to your clients and knowing what they l want.

J.P.: Exactly.

Jimmy: And once you can identify that, then you can figure out what's going to give them the most fulfillment.

J.P.: When we take people in now, you'll see many people where their initial appointment at a gym is 30 minutes. I do an hour and a half, and probably 60 to 70 percent of it is just sitting and listening. I'll ask questions, and then we'll go forward from those questions.

So, the question—many times, I'll ask the question “Why?” four or five times just to get deeper and deeper into something. Why do you do that? [18:00] Okay, tell me again. Why do you think you do that? You get deeper and deeper. It's like peeling layers of an onion. Because if somebody has had a problem with their weight or with just their general dedication to fitness, you're not going to figure that out in a five-minute conversation. They've been dealing with this for possibly 20 to 30 years. So, you solve the problem by listening and asking better questions.

Jimmy: Yeah, I think asking questions is an underestimated skill.

J.P.: It is.

Jimmy: I wouldn't know what questions to ask. Because sometimes, here, with my general manager, sometimes…he's a smart guy, but he’ll sometimes come to me and bring an idea, and I have learned that if I ask the right questions, I’ll at least find out if he's thought through the process. But asking questions is, also, a way to get them to arrive at the conclusion, instead of you having to say. No, that's not right. This is wrong and this is why. If you’re asking the right questions, a lot of times, they'll arrive at the right conclusion and you won't have to say… You can make it a lot more constructive that way. So, yeah, asking questions, whether you're managing or whether you're dealing with customers or clients, whoever, that's, I think, an overlooked and underestimated skill.

J.P.: I would agree.

Jimmy: Yeah. So, who does the onboarding for your clients? I mean, as far as does the screening—I know you do it—is it just you or…?

J.P.: No, no, it's every member of the staff. So, we take them through all of those medical tests. Everything is scripted.
And then, we have grading systems for each aspect of that test. So, if we get some red flags—let's say, we get somebody in. We take their blood pressure and their blood pressure is 165/98. That's high blood pressure. So, we're going to tell them, Look, you know, you have high blood pressure. Have you discussed this with your physician? So many people, they say, No, I haven't had a physical in three or four years. So, that's one thing. We say, You need to speak to your physician. We need to develop a plan for this.

Another red flag would be, let's say, we do their blood glucose. Their blood glucose comes back a fasting blood glucose of 127. Well, you're pre-diabetic, if not Type 2 diabetic.
All of those things.

So, the biggest thing, and that comes back to what you were just saying of the proper questions: those are not verbal questions, but there are questions of your body. How is your body doing?

Jimmy: Right.

J.P.: If you're wanting to come in and you're wanting to transform your body, lose X number of pounds, do whatever it might be, and you have all of these preexisting things, we need to address those first.

If somebody has a circulating blood glucose level that's high, it's going to be very difficult for them to lose body fat, because their body can just use the circulating blood glucose for energy. So, you address those things first.

Let's say somebody comes in on the functional movement [21:00] screening and they can't do a bodyweight squat. Well, how can I ask you to do a squat with 85 pounds, 135, whatever it might be? I understand that might be one of your goals, but if you can't sit up and down out of a chair without assistance -

Jimmy: Yeah.

J.P.: - well, that's not a realistic goal.

Jimmy: Right.

J.P.: So, it's, again, as you were alluding to earlier, it's just the questions and how we assess that person from there. Then, for all of the trainers, I'm the one that writes a program for the client. So, in writing that program, that program is based upon what they scored in the functional movement screening, what movements they could do, what movements they can do, and then guiding them to accomplish their goals from there.
You're a young guy; you're super strong; you're very healthy. Writing--

Jimmy: What are you talking, dude?

J.P.: Yeah!

Jimmy: I’m not a young guy.

J.P.: Writing a program for you, it should look completely different than it would for a 68-year-old with bilateral knee replacement or a bad back, just as it should look different compared to the high school running back. So, each of those programs, it needs to be customized for that person.

Jimmy: So, this is one thing I like about your overall philosophy. It’s more of a…you're more about the total wellness thing, not just one element.

J.P.: No.

Jimmy: So, a lot of it is tied together, and so, you're all about the whole package. So, who is the majority of your clients? I mean, is there a specific target, a niche?

J.P.: Yeah. So, target niche for us would be normally age, I would say, 40 to 70. We take the young people in. But, as you've seen, we don't have a lot of spandex; we don't have a lot of meatheads.

Jimmy: Yeah, I'm one of the meathead, too…

J.P.: You…

Jimmy: But, uh, yeah…yo, I get it. You don’t want it to turn into another…

J.P.: And I think there's a need for that. There's a niche for that. I mean, we still, if you look at most gyms in the United States, most gyms—and I think it will always be this way—are going to be occupied by the late-teen to late-20s male, and then you have female, some females there as well. But, statistically, we're still looking at a much higher population of exercising males to females within that age range, as far as the weightlifting is concerned. If you bring in aerobics classes, things of that nature, you get a different skew to it. But that's that majority niche.

And then, ours is the much smaller niche of the adult executive or retired person that wants to work out at the gym and has very specific goals, [24:00] really isn't going there for social hour, doesn't care how much they bench, what they squat, things of that nature.

Jimmy: Right.

J.P.: And those are important things, but those are different measurements. To me, a good measurement is—can you keep up with your kids? And can you complete your day of work, whatever that might be, at the highest level of efficiency possible? [crosstalk]

Jimmy: Those are kind of tying into the whole functional fitness things -

J.P.: Exactly.

Jimmy: - which is really, it makes a lot of sense. I think the military is going into more of a functional fitness thing. I have a nephew that was going through basic training, RASP, you know the ranger training.

J.P.: Yeah.

Jimmy: And it was almost some of the stuff they do is they've changed to more of a CrossFit sort of functional fitness mentality in the way they train, which makes sense.

J.P.: The military in it will I can't remember if the debut date is October of 2020, 2021, but it's the standard PT testing. It is changing completely. There's still the run component to it, but now you know you have everything from sled push, which they've never had, to there's much more of a functional fitness, as you said. I mean, let's face it, what does the soldier need to be able to do? He needs to be able to carry ammo.

Jimmy: Carry the rucksack.

J.P.: Have them carry those things. You need to be able to pick up someone and move quickly.

Jimmy: Right.

J.P.: So, they're going to be using things, picking up kettle bells and doing a timed farmer’s walk with that lateral sprints. Those types of things, much more realistic battlefield scenario.

Jimmy: Yeah.

So, that's the end of Part 1 of my interview with J.P. Crawford, and that was a lot of good content. And coming up in Part 2 is more good content.
We talked about things like relationship-building and the importance of seeking out mentors in whatever field you're looking to grow in and some ways to do that.

We also talked about some of the keys to being happy, like just your morning routine—what are you doing in the morning to set yourself up for success?—and just taking time out for self-care. That's something that's so neglected by, not just entrepreneurs, but any high-level people. You really have to take time for self-care.

So, we go into a lot of different things, but it's good content. I think you'll like it. And thank you all for tuning in to The Uncommon Life Podcast. I'll see you next week.

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