Athletic Startup Blog

Roller Coaster Week: Downgrading Employees While Upgrading Output + The Importance of Email Lists

Apr 21, 2023
Hello EntreprenAthletes!
I have a private WhatsApp group of some hyper intelligent entrepreneurs. Any time I really, enjoy someone's presence and learn that they've crushed it in business, finance or real estate, I ask them if they want to be in this group to share ideas, wins and questions.
This group is comprised of people from all different sectors which is a huge advantage because they come up with unique solutions. Often, when you are in the same industry, there is a dangerous echo-chamber of advice and tactics.
If you're starting or growing your own business, START GETTING PHONE NUMBERS!!!
Build your own group.
Or join ours :) 
When you build that group of colleagues and mentors, definitely get people from your industry because there are some hard and fast rules that work ONLY within certain circles of clients.
BUT! Make sure you get an eclectic mix of outsiders (reminder: smart, successful, proven outsiders) so that you can hear some original thoughts and practices.
The rest of this post is going to be an edited version of what I sent to my crew. I send messages to friends to tell them what I'm up to, but also to help them generate their own ideas. 
I hope this does that for you. I hope you hear my story and relate it to your own. I hope you use some of my lessons to create your own success. If any of the writing below confuses you because of my jargon or the simple fact that you don't have the full back story, just send me a message! @markburik or @entreprenathlete on instagram.
My week was a roller coaster so I wanted to share some of my worries and wins.
First of all, big congrats to my friend, Anne Mahlum who just had a multi-million dollar exit from Solid Core!!! Way to go Anne! She's a serial entrepreneur and does things BIG! She's also a money-raising beast and I hope I can get to her level one day.
Nick Fusili, part owner of The Highline Beach Volleyball Facility in New Jersey, is another guy who seems to start a new business every month. He's unbelievably smart with money and can crush a spreadsheet. He actually gave me a massive head start creating detailed financial projections for indoor volleyball facilities. Anyway, he took the first steps towards creating a Fractional CFO company! I will probably be his first client. Essentially, he has a knack for financial choices and foresight. He wants to help small business owners who need that skillset but don't have the money to pay for the full time role! 
I thought that was genius and he made me realize what EntreprenAthlete and Athletic StartUp could become. Nick loves spreadsheets. I hate them. I love marketing! Not ads and numbers and flipping switches but more finding and connecting with an audience and converting them to customers. I like seeing something that's already built and making adjustments to the marketing and re-marketing process. Essentially, I'm thinking this will become a version of business consulting that focuses on the lead and customer experience through the marketing and sales process. If you are in need of that, shoot me a message. I'm already doing a version of that for my brother at Tradition Coffee Roasters and I really enjoy it so maybe you and me could work together!
Now... Let's talk about my roller coaster week.
For Better at Beach, Brandon, my best friend and partner in everything, started a program to give clubs and club coaches access to our online training systems. He had been adamant on the idea that THIS is our future. It means ONE sale can introduce 100 people to us and our systems so it's future proofing our company.
It has taken us a long time to get our subscriptions up to speed and we really still aren't where I thought I would be by now. Part of the problem comes from the fact that for adults, beach volleyball is a passion but it's a hobby. It's not financially or occupationally crucial for someone to excel. We have also marketed mainly to adults because long ago, I realized that NO ONE was helping them get better. So I took up that mission. Our camps crush it. Our classes do OK. But our online subscriptions still have a lot of growth potential.
There is a lot of money to be made in the juniors world because parents are desperate to make their kids happy and to get them into colleges for volleyball and other sports. There are massive emotional and financial implications built in and it's why club sports for youth have become a money pit for parents and a pit of despair for coaches. The inflation of college tuitions is a miserable topic that I don't want to get into and parents become unreasonable because they will do anything for their child and they all think their child is in the .0001 percent of athletic ability and passion.
I digress.
Anyway, it's hard to be a juniors coach nowadays. AND, with so many parents who THINK their kids are so awesome...
There's got to be a few out there who's kids will actually and voluntarily put in the EXTRA WORK required to be among the best... Right?
Well BAB is on a mission to make extra training accessible for hungry players and coaches. We want to give passionate Club Directors and Coaches our systems to implement with their teams so that their players can get better on their own. We also help out the coaches and directors in our Private Facebook Group so that they have some experts to lean on when they have questions or need ideas.
Anyway, Brandon got a few thousand dollar sales in the last month signing up 2 clubs!
He also did this while qualifying for another AVP (professional volleyball tour) and prepping for an international event in Mexico where he gets to put the USA letters on his chest and rep our country.
Good Luck B!
I'm glad he's still competing and I want him to and it was the agreement I had with myself and with him when he joined up... Better at Beach would support our athletic careers to the fullest. Problem is, the company has become our obsession more so than competing. I'm done competing now but two full time passions really means you can't do either at 100%. If the company had a personality it would be torn between wanting our main representative to go full time at competing and crush it on the national/international stage... and... wanting our COO to be full time making phone calls to clubs and coaches every day. Now that I'm not playing pro, I see how much more creative energy and joy I have just doing ONE thing. Despite all that and being full time for so long without full energy, I'm proud of where we've gotten Better at Beach. It's going to be insanely awesome once we are all full time AND full energy. I now realize the difference between those things.
This week was an uncomfortable week. Our 7-day camp season brings in a lot of money and lets us pay for certain roles. We are SO busy planning those camps, selling those camps AND trying to maintain and build all of the other programs that we need a lot of hands on deck for the fall and winter. 
3 years ago I thought I learned a lesson about hiring new people. But it turns out, I'm still haven't quite grasped it. I trained up 4 coaches in Salt Lake City and prepared them all to take over the classes at SandBar. I went there to establish a program when California was shut down. The promise was that one of those coaches would take over the program and earn a massive split based on it's success when I left. All 4 of them dropped in the last weeks. Even with the promise of the extra income... One wanted to dedicate more time to family. One got a promotion in their other part time job. One got a new job thinking profit share was too uncertain for her. And, one was just happy where he was with his life. 
So the adult program in SLC that I spend 8 months building up... DIED.
I thought the problem was how I groomed the Manager/Coaches. I thought that from that point forward, I needed to hire and pay for the full time role, give two weeks of training and then watch them grow into or take over the role knowing they had a stable salary. So that's how I hired this year. I paid a few people hoping they would grow into roles and eventually achieve in contributions and results, what the salaries were worth.  
Like so many business owners, I paid for people based on what was coming in without KNOWING what was GOING to come in down the road. Without our camp season, the company can't afford to keep all of us for what we are getting paid. Instead of immediately firing, I've just laid a gauntlet for everyone."You can stay, but no matter what your position is, you are all now in sales." If our people can't each generate 3x their monthly salary in sales in the next few weeks, the company will literally go below zero so we have to cut hours and pay before that happens. 
Perhaps I'm learning now that we are a seasonal company and we need seasonal contracts. 
It's really a sucky feeling, but I was clear early that I was paying them in a way that they had to create results that justified their pay and not everyone’s doing that. 
I hate the feeling that I've failed as a leader. I always want to help people earn their spot and perform but not everyone is an A+ player. Some people need to ride the bench for most of the year. Some players need to go back down to AAA or AA and work until they can perform at a higher level or generate a new, more impactful skill set. The team, the company has to survive and thrive so the best players will play.
So that was the crappy part of the week.
On the upside, I’ve been able to connect with the coaches on our email list thru some really genuine emails that offered a buttload of high level value! Weeks ago, I sent an email to our entire list simply asking in the subject line, "Are You A Coach?". I wrote that I would be creating an emails series specifically for coaches and that all they had to do was fill out a form which would tag them as a coach in our email system. I took the body of that email and also distributed it to all of my social media, including about 15 Facebook groups that had to do with volleyball.
I got 1700 people tagged as coaches! They all got the series of emails. Like I said, these were genuine. As if these were my employees and I needed and wanted them to succeed. I love writing when I have energy and this took me a total of 14 hours of writing and adding pictures and links over 2 weeks. I gave them lots of lessons and showed them where they could reach out to me and how they could access all of them through our membership. Tons of value. Sprinkle in some buying opportunities.
These emails have generated some sales, a lot of hot leads, and conversations that are helping me design my next products!!!! I’m proud of the writing and the communication with the PEOPLE on the email list. Writers and marketers sometimes forget that they are writing to a person, not a list. That's an important distinction.
Next week I'll just send a couple that are more to the point. Some simple, "Here's this program. Here's the problem it solves. Buy it here" type emails.
Here’s the most important part of all that which I'm doing now. I never did this when I was a Rookie CEO/Marketer...
As soon as I wrote something I was proud of, I saved it and scheduled it so that the people who are not on my email list RIGHT NOW, will be able to get it when they join.  I organized it chronologically as an email template. This is now a complete template for my podcasts and social media posts. Yesterday on my weekly YouTube Livestream, I literally read all the lessons from the first email I sent and I got a coach/customer from my livestream. But really I got a sale because I was able to re-use and recycle the work I put in.
Those 14 hours will market for us forever! HOORAH!
If you write, film or create an ad, email, blog post, product description, video. Save it somewhere! Organize it and label it. I promise it will save you hundreds and thousands of hours down the road. If you sent something to your email list, decide if this should be something you can post directly on Facebook or LinkedIn. See if you can hire someone or use ChatGPT to convert it into slides on Instagram. Read from it to make a video. Do the hard creative work ONCE and re-purpose it for life.
Have you given lots of useful tools and information to your email list lately? Have you even emailed ANYONE?! During one of our coaching sessions, I asked my brother about his email list and he said he had never written a message to them. A few thousand people have bought from him and given their emails to him in some way and he never even said "Hi! Thanks. Do you need or want anything else from me." He's an excellent writer! So I put him on this task immediately. I said to him verbatim "Do you realize that the only communication most of these people have had from you and your company is a bill and a receipt? Your emails are only a reminder that they'd spent more money." Yes, of course I actually enjoy seeing that my coffee is on the way and when it will be at my house but I had to make a hard point. 
Last week I got my first email from Tradition Coffee Roasters with my brother's insanely talented writing, describing the lifecycle and flavor profiles of one of his new roasts. :) I'm feel fulfilled that I could help him and proud that he upgraded his business and relationship with his customers and potential customers.

Get actionable business advice for your fitness, sport or coaching business.

Owning a business is a marathon, not a sprint. Either way, you have to start the race!

We’ll give you easy, actionable steps with weekly bite-sized steps.

You're safe with me. I'll never spam you or sell your contact info.