We go through a rut in our careers, where we sometimes feel like we’re not going anywhere. We can feel like we’re stuck that we can’t help but ask if this is only as good as it can get. Paul Higgins interviews someone who has overcome that rut, got himself unstuck, and started growing his business. He brings over Eric Malzone, the co-founder of the Fitness Marketing Alliance, COO of Fitness Professional Online, and host of the “Future of Fitness” podcast. Here, Eric shares the story of how he has grown his gym into a series of gyms and eventually started running a virtual mentoring business in the mountains of Northwest America. He also reveals the simple action that helped him scale his business from $1 million to $3 million fast and what role did podcasting play throughout the process. Now, Eric considers himself as a consultant first and an entrepreneur second, lending his insights to people who want to get unstuck and move their careers or businesses to the next level. Follow along in this great conversation where he does just that!
Listen to the podcast here:
How To Get Unstuck And Scale Your Business With Eric Malzone
Build Live Give. Mentoring With Paul Higgins.
Our guest is someone who spent five years in corporate and had a similar thought to many of us on how I did. “Do I want to be like my peers in ten years? Is that as good as it gets in ten years?” He got a text message from a friend on the same day and started a gym. This turned into a series of gyms until the sameness led them to running a virtual mentoring business in the mountains of Northwest America. The simple action to scale of $1 million to $3 million business fast, what many people miss in setting up a podcast and how podcasting can be your best friend in selling. They’ve kindly given an entrepreneurial freedom assessment. Over to Eric Malzone from Level5Mentors.com.
Welcome, Eric Malzone.
Paul, thanks for having me. It’s going to be a lot of fun.
We’ve spoken a couple of times. We’re talking about Italian backgrounds. Maybe you might want to tell a little bit about why you have such an Italian name with the American pronunciation?
My dad’s side of the family is the Italian side, my mom is Polish. All my dad’s siblings, four of them were all born in Italy. They came over in the mid-1930s and a lot of turmoil in Europe at that time. My dad was born here. As he grew up, there was a lot of anti-Italian sentiment, especially in the East Coast, New Jersey and New York where they were. They decided to pull back a little bit on the Italian. My dad’s name is Gennaro Mario Malzone. He started going by Gerry. As time went on, they Americanized it to stay out of the crosshairs. Over time, as my dad became more successful in his dental practice and built up his business, he’s like, “I’m going back to Gennaro.” Everything’s became Gennaro Mario Malzone and we started messing with our pronunciation.
That’s something that we wouldn’t know about you, but what’s something else that your friends or family may know about you that we might not?
I started out every day with a nice cold shower. That’s most people find that to be a little bit shocking. My wife still thinks I’m crazy. It’s one of those things that I’ve worked in my routine over the last few years. I found it to be beneficial in so many different levels. It’s something that’s I enjoy. There’s no way to look forward to it, but I look forward to whether the way I feel in my mindset afterwards. It’s definitely something that I love to do and not too many people know about it.
That’s classic Ferriss’ of podcast. Tim Ferriss does an episode on cold showers and his friend that does them all the time and all of a sudden, we’re all doing them. I’m not as strong as you, so I’ll end every shower cold. What I do is I count and look at the detail of my fingers to take away the thought of the cold water. To be honest, I look forward to it now. Especially, I normally have a nap in the middle of the day and if I have a cold shower afterwards, I feel alive to then tackle the rest of the day. For you, is it a couple of minutes complete cold shower?
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It’s usually anywhere between 6 to 9 minutes. I also do a little bit of Wim Hof breathing that build some heat before I go in. What’s great is my wife and I went on a nine-day road trip in what we call our adventure van. Went through Wyoming and lots of parts of Montana where we live. A lot of times we didn’t have access to showers. I had no problem jumping in cold creek. She started to ironically warm up to the idea of cold water. It’s quite freeing too. We used to look at a body of water and be like, “I can jump in at any time and I’ll be okay.”
You started out as an account executive in the IT industry, and you transitioned to a fantastic business run from Montana but take us a little bit through that journey of working for somebody else and then setting up your own business.
I seem to work one crisis to the next. I graduated college in 1999, which was the dot-com bust. I originally wanted to get into international entrepreneurship and all kinds of big dreams. When I went back home, which is in the Bay Area in Silicon Valley, there wasn’t a lot of jobs. It’s a bad economy. I took the first job I could get, which happened to be a sales job. That led to about nine years of various forms of sales from SaaS, to real estate, to radio advertising, to a couple of different things. After the first couple of years of sales, I did fairly well in the positions I had, but I remember there was an exact moment right around 2008 when I was at a National Sales Conference. I was getting on the top three awards, but I was looking around the room and I was looking at people who are ten years ahead of me, where I would be at a VP level.
I was like, “I don’t think I want that life. This is not for me.” I was constantly trying to hack the system and status quo was my thing. When I got a text messaging right around 2008 from an old college teammate, he was a water polo teammate of mine. It was simple. He said, “Do you want to open a gym?” I remember it was Friday, summer, I was living in San Francisco and it was a happy hour when I got the text messages. I was like, “That’s weird. That’s an interesting question. I haven’t heard from Trevor in a while.” I had one beer and then I texted him back. I was like, “Yes, I do.” That was the decision. I’m like, “I always want to work for myself and why not open a gym?” It doesn’t matter to me which business I was going to start. That time, the gym business was CrossFit when we are getting started. I was into it. I saw some growth in the gym and I’m like, “I can definitely do this.”
Does that mean that you’re a “Two pot screamer,” that you have one beer and you make irrational decisions or all of a sudden that you wanted to do?
We call it liquid courage. You grease the wheels a little bit. I don’t know if it was irrational or not, but it got me to where I was. That was 2008. The economy crashed, but we’re committed already. I drove all of my belongings down from San Francisco down the coast of Santa Barbara, California, where we opened this little gym. The economy was in the toilet, CrossFit wasn’t well known yet, but we had a little bit of money.
We were bootstrapped and we started doing it the old-fashioned way, walking around town and introducing ourselves to people and offering people free week to join our gym. Surely enough, it started to grow and we started to get traction. It was definitely touch and go for about a year. The economy picked up, CrossFit started to get popular. We started to grow, we expanded once and expanded again. I bought shares into another gym and things went pretty well for about 9 or 10 years. My life changed and decided to go a different route into what I’m doing now.
What put around that change? What was the last change?
I do find that I was fairly good at the gym ownership business, but the problems never changed. It felt like even though I was pretty much removed from the business and the day to day operations, other than marketing and sales, it was repetitive to me. In 2016, my wife and I had a very challenging year. A series of loss about between a good friend suicide, loss of her father, a loss of a late pregnancy and then cherry on top was our dog died at the end of the year. Something just changed. I don’t know what it was. That’s when I went from, “We’ll do things someday,” to “Let’s do things today.” When I presented my wife in 2017, I said, “I don’t know what it was, but my chemistry was changed. I didn’t want to do the same thing. We always talk about living in some mountain town.” My wife’s Brazilian. I’m like, “You always talk about learning how to ski. What if we did it now? What if I sold the businesses and we picked up, we left and moved to a different town?”
Her response was great. She was like, “Do not F with me. Are you serious?” “Yes. Why don’t we live in a bunch of mountain towns?” I was like, “I love you. Let’s do it.” That’s what we did. I sold the gym and we rented our house. We pulled out a map of the Western United States and we put little pins and all the towns we want to go to, we hit the road, we started going. We would rent places for between 1 and 3 months in all these different locations and ended up here in Whitefish. We left and came back. Now, this is where we are. We’re building a home here. That’s a little bit of my journey.
You talk about Marcella, but who else has supported you through this journey and particularly the journey since you’ve decided to run a business?
I’ve always had mentors. You and I are both in the mentoring business and I don’t think you become a mentor without having a series of great mentors along the way. I have to give a credit to a lot of people. James Fitzgerald, from OPEX. He’s well known in the CrossFit community and was a big supporter of everything we did. Ken Andrukow is my business partner but was my mentor. I met him along my journey, which is another interesting story. When I just happen to be in British Columbia where his mountain home was, we got connected. We have similar values and now we run a business together. Everybody in my close proximity of my family, my sister, my brother and my dad who passed away was a huge boarder of everything. He was always the guy says, “Life’s short. Go for it.” It was his thing and he lived that way. I’m extremely grateful for so many people that have helped me and been supportive. There are countless people. I get support everywhere.
That’s a nice blend into the next section, which is the build section. When someone asked you, what do you do? How do you best describe that?
Ken Andrukow, who lives up in Canada, when we did a lot of meetings, we were initially starting the business. I was always going to Canada when the border was open. Every time I cross, I go through the border crossing. They ask, “What do you do?” I would pause and I’d be like, “I’m a podcast consultant.” They’re like, “Pull over. Let’s take a look.” I’ve always had a challenge doing that. Now, I just say consultant. At heart, I’m truly an entrepreneur because I’m always looking for new opportunities and changing consumer needs, how to meet them, solving problems and innovation. Consultant first, entrepreneur second.
Who do you love to consult to and what do you love doing?
There are two types of people. I have my one on one coaching clients who tend to be solopreneurs and mostly within the fitness and health industry, but also working with a select people in other industries that I find interesting and then, we have a secondary class that Ken and I work with together, which is usually companies in the $1 million to $3 million mark that we know we can help scale pretty quickly.
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If you look at the fitness industry, who knows what it will exactly look like out the other side of this, but I know you’ve been helping a lot of people change their model. What are you helping them, given COVID, and how do you think is it going to play out?
I think about this every day because I’m deeply invested in the fitness industry. I know many great people in it, but unfortunately, it’s going to be forever changed. Very few what we would know as normal gym models, business models are going to make it through. There are lots of leaning heavily on technology and how that relationship is evolving because ultimately, the biggest problem was everyone’s on Zoom, everyone’s doing live classes via technology. How do we improve that experience? How do we keep that sense of community that drives the successful fitness brands and how do we do all that? It’s a lot of tech. I don’t see that changing. When things get back to whatever the new normal will be, there will be a people who could have the financing or write it out. We’ll see probably a surge of people going back to channels. It was hard to get people in gyms in the first place. There are lots of reasons not to go to gyms. I can’t say I have a crystal ball for it. I wish I did, but it’s all about tech.
I’m a fairly avid golfer and golf’s had a huge surge particularly in Australia and almost in the US because of lots of things, but because a lot of other sports aren’t open, like gyms, children’s sport, etc. It’s like, “What do you do to get your outlet?” At the moment, golf’s got a whole new resurgence where, often golf’s been seen as well, you either do it before children, or you do it after children. You can’t do when you’ve got children. It’ll be interesting to see if that sticks or people do go back to the gym as an example. I know the other side for you is the $1 million to $3 million businesses scale. What are you know about scaling and $1 million to $3 million business that many of us don’t?
We like to work with the founder. Usually, 1 to 2 people of companies like this. All it means sometimes is a different perspective. They’re just stuck on something and it’s something they can’t see. Once you help them get unstuck, then the flood gates open and it’s just a matter of how you organize that change. Especially in the fitness industry where everybody has ten different offerings, but none of them make sense. Helping people realign their offerings or seeing the things that they can build off of that are huge opportunities off of what they currently already have, maybe an educational component to their software. There are multiple ways to do it, but it happens to come down to getting people unstuck with a unique perspective that is outside of their own, and then putting all the pieces together and helping them scale.
If you go into a business like that, how much comes from completely new revenue sources, or as you said, get more out of existing, how much what’s the mix you predominantly see when someone wants to grow a third or something like that?
Maybe I can do it anecdotally with a client because it’s tends to be the best because everyone’s different. Sean Pastuch of Active Life, which is an educational company within the fitness industry, which is very well poised to do extremely well. When we started working with him, his service offerings were all over the place. He had a $1,000 online course, had a $3,000 certification. The question that Ken ask him, which was very simple, was like, “If you’re going to put together, what’s the change that you want to see? What’s the end result that you want for your clients?” We marked that out. If the price wasn’t a thing, what would you do to help this type of client to put together this whole thing and pull all that together into 1 to 12-month program and slap the appropriate price of $20,000 on it.
Once that alignment happened because he couldn’t see it because he was so in the weeds, within the first couple weeks, he sold between 10 and 15 of these programs. Since then, his business has doubled on a monthly revenue basis. That’s a simple thing of like, “What do you want? Let’s create your best product, your best service. Let’s stop dilly-dallying around.” I don’t know if it’s highly relevant in the fitness industry. I see people like selling a fitness membership and nutrition on the side as a separate offering. Don’t put those two together because if you want results, you got to put those two together. What are you doing? “Let’s put it all together and we’ll create a great product what it’s valued at, charge appropriately, move forward and get the best results you can.”
How do you go about selecting the people you want to work with?
My podcast is how we drive a lot of business and one of the best ways to have relationships and learn about people and their business is to interview them. I’m actively looking for new interesting businesses to interview on my podcast. Through that interview process, I learned a lot. I’m able to get some insights into how we may be able to help them and that’s how the process starts. From there, it’s a series of meetings that we don’t charge any money for, because we’re selective of who we work with. We’re more qualifying them to make sure it’s a good fit and the vision is a universal and then we start going from there. It’s good old-fashioned outreach. There’s no big secret in what we do. It’s conversations.
I’ve worked with a lot of clients in our LinkedIn community. I call it The Bridge, where you post great content, people like and comment, you get into a conversation, but then what’s the bridge to having a call with them? One of the best bridges is to have an asset like that where you can add value. You give someone a podcast interview, it’s a brand asset that they can then use. It is a great way of doing it. If someone is reading and they think that, “I’ve got to go and launch a podcast, but it just seems all too difficult and hard.” I know you’ve got three of them. You must have it down to pat. What’s some advice on someone that wants to start a podcast?
I’ve developed a podcast sales system and I do run my clients through it. The first thing is the goal is the goal. You can get so hamstrung on all these different things. I do it myself. It took me forever to come up with a name of my newest podcast, which is The Black Diamond Podcast. I couldn’t come up with the name and it took me forever. I probably delayed the start on my show by 45 days because I couldn’t decide on a name. When I boil it down, the goal is the goal. What is the goal? It’s something of value that I can start outreach with and begin relationships within a point of value.
It doesn’t matter what the artwork looks like, what the name is. The most important thing is the conversation. Don’t get hung up on details. Remember what’s the goal of the show. Every person has a different goal for whatever show they want to do. Some people want to do non-interview based where they talk every so often, every few days or once a week or once a month on a particular topic to educate their clients. They want to create, use it as a content creation tool. Other people like me and it sounds like you also like to use it as an outreach tool and a content tool. Don’t get hamstrung on the details of all the things. Find someone, like a great virtual assistant. I have a virtual assistant that I use, I pay her $15 an hour and she knows how to set up a podcast. Don’t get stuck on the details, understand what the goal of your show is and get started. Don’t dilly-dally.
Get started and never listen to your first few episodes. I had someone design it for me, but my creative lead must have had my eyes closed or maybe in context, I had my face mask a little bit too high, but you’re right. For me, the big thing is consistency. It’s like that cold shower you spoke about before. Once you create that habit, like James Clear in his book Atomic Habits. He talks about creating 1% incremental increase in that habit, I think it’s worth it. A lot of people say, “It’s too saturated. There are too many podcasts.”
Ultimately, you’re not going to be a Tim Ferris or Joe Rogan. Don’t set goals up that are unrealistic. My downline is something I look at, but it’s building those relationships and working out how I can help someone. Whether it be listening to the podcast is helpful because you’ve given some great value here so people get that. If I can help them in other ways, whether it be LinkedIn or helping them scale a business like you do. I’ve firmly believed that every business owner should have a virtual assistant. Other than the podcast, are there other things that you get him or her to do for you?
I have one specific at The Black Diamond Podcast. The Future of Fitness Podcast is a little bit more mature. I have an agency, call for content that I use for that. They have a VA and then they also do placements. Ken and I are just hiring somebody internally to handle our social media, to handle our CRM. We are great at pushing forward. I look at it as we’re always like creating, starting relationships and working relationships, but behind us, we leave this mess of details that are not attended to. She’s coming in to help us fix all that. I’ve used VAs for many different things. It’s such a great thing. The most important thing too, is a lot of them are great people and people tend to lose sight of that. They don’t treat VA like people sometimes, and I’ve had great relationships with them. They’re very useful. There’s no reason not to, unless you’re in the negative and you may have to do some things on the start.
There are few ways you can get a virtual assistant. A lot of Americans not treating them as well as they should, as if they’re looking down on them. If you can get to know them, they’re very family orientated. If you can treat them in a way, no different in the way you treat your family, the loyalty and the results they give you can be absolutely amazing. I’d like to show you how to get 3 to 5 new clients a month on LinkedIn. That may be a good little way you can use a VA, by spending 30 minutes a day, even if you don’t know where to start and have limited marketing funds. Go to BLGClick.com and watch our prerecorded free masterclass.
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You will learn three key steps. One is the secret formula to 10X your views, two is seven killer elements to get 50 likes and 20 comments on every post, and the third is the script to get 80% response rates in your LinkedIn messages. As we’ve been talking about a virtual assistant, if you don’t have a virtual assistant and you’d like to learn more about getting one, just go to BuildLiveGive.com/VA. I did run a virtual assistant business for five years and know a lot of people in the space so I can direct you in the right way. The next section is the live section. What are some daily habits that help you be successful other than having that cold shower?
I generally like to start my day with a walk with my dog. My day starts around 6:00 to 6:30 in the morning and do something without my cell phone. I walk the dog, leave the cellphone in the house and enjoy. I get organized. I’m old fashioned. I have a notebook that I flip the page every day and I try to play a game I can win. What I mean by that is you’re mark three major blocks, stones that I need to move to the day. I don’t over clutter my day. I want to make sure that I feel successful and I’m scratching things off. The things I don’t finish, before the day closes, I move them onto the next page so that the next morning I’m organized and ready to go. I’m focusing my attention and intention every day is critical for what I do. Anybody who’s an entrepreneur has a lack of 9 to 5 structure because you make your own time. It’s important to set intention every day for what you want to do.
We talked about Marcella a couple of times previously. What would you love to say to her about the support she’s given you through this journey?
I don’t thank her enough. She’s always been supportive of my wacky ideas and she’s also not scared to let me know when I’ve gone too far and bring me down to earth. I appreciate her honesty, support and the patience that she has. I think as entrepreneurs, we tend to be unrelatable to a lot of people. It took me a while to realize that not everybody has ten ideas an hour, business ideas or entrepreneurial ideas. Her being patient with me has been critical and I appreciate it.
The next section is the give section. What’s a charity or community you’re passionate about and why?
When I had my gym at Santa Barbara, we had an annual event called Strength to Give. We would always support different things every year. One of our favorite partners was Girls Inc., and another one was a local police department. I did love the police department and the officers. I had the pleasure of working with and training when I was there. A colleague and friend of mine here in Whitefish, Montana, his name is Jake Bertelsen. He’s a world-famous tattoo artist. He started a charity group called Carry the Skull. You can check it, CarryTheSkull.com. The goal of that is they want to find people in different communities all over the world that if we impact one person, we can impact thousands, if not hundreds of thousands. We try to search those people out and giving them the funds they need to get on stuck in life and do great things. That’s the one I’m into.
I have a charity that I support as well, which all the proceeds of my book, Build Live Give, go to. It’s called The Purple House, and you can find out more at PurpleHouse.org.au. The last section is the rapid-fire section. The first is what are your top three personal effectiveness tips?
Setting intention, putting a constraint on your time and doing something that you love every day.
What tech is essential to running your business?
Zoom. My whole life is on Zoom and all the pieces that go into that. I wouldn’t be able to be a digital nomad if I didn’t have it.
What is your best source of new ideas and inspiration?
Podcasts and nature.
What impact do you want to leave on the world?
I’ve clearly defined what I want my life goals to be, and I’ve broken it down into different periods, 25, 50, 75 years. My goal is in my business lines up behind this, is I want to impact those who have the ability to impact many more. I do believe that all of the problems that we face as humanity are going to be solved and need to be solved by innovation. There are some philosophical crises that the human race has. My angle is to have a place physically in Montana or British Columbia where some of the world’s leading minds can get together and a place that is creatively inspiring to solve, look at the world’s problems and solve them with innovation.
It’s been an absolute pleasure having you on. You can tell that Eric is someone who gives first and there are couple of key things you can go and find out more about him. You can go to The Black Diamond Podcast and The Future of Fitness Podcast, and he’s also given us an entrepreneurial freedom assessment. You can go to Level5Mentors.com. I love the fact that you made that decision in 2017 to live this brilliant lifestyle, helping people around the world. You’re on the right track on how you want to leave the world. That’s the best way to sum it up. Eric, I’m happy having you on the show.
Thank you, Paul. I very much appreciate you having me on.
All of the problems that we face as humanity are going to be solved and need to be solved by innovation. Click To Tweet
I look forward to being on your show soon.
I enjoyed that interview with Eric. He was so humble, but you can tell he’s got so much life experience. I love the lifestyle that he and Marcella are living. I’d love to know what was your biggest takeaway from Eric. Please share on your socials mentioning Eric. If you believe someone you know who would benefit from the show, please share it with them. You can learn the three steps to find and convert your ideal clients on LinkedIn in a free prerecorded masterclass. Just go to BLGClick.com. Please take action to build profit to fund your lifestyle and stay well.
- The Black Diamond Podcast
- Atomic Habits
- The Future of Fitness Podcast
- Girls Inc.
- Build Live Give
About Eric Malzone
Eric Malzone, is the co-founder of the Fitness Marketing Alliance, COO of Fitness Professional Online, and host of the “Future of Fitness” podcast.
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