E3: Ian Lieberman -- Culture of Investment

Sep 02, 2019

This episode’s featured guest is Ian Lieberman--General Manager of Easton Training Center Denver and BJJ Black Belt. Ian is a self-proclaimed introvert who connects with hundreds of students and has been able to lead a thriving community of people invested in each other. Through the stories of his tenure with Easton, this discussion is all about how anyone can employ simple strategies and tactics to build rapport and pack the mats in their school.

Listen:

Transcription:

- Hi, everybody. We are back. Another episode of the Easton Online podcast. Episode number three. Thank you all for the listens so far. Thank you for... We got some subscribers and some downloads and some views on YouTube. Look, this is all we're trying to do. We're trying to help people. We're trying to help you grow and really enjoy your martial arts school again. We're stoked that you are listening. And our guest today is one of my best friends. And just, I'd say the most empathetic dude I have ever met. Ian, what up, man? How are you?

- I'm doing well. How are you?

- How's your day?

- It's going great. And I'm super excited to be here. Thanks for having me.

- How's your coffee?

- It's amazing.

- It's a very important topic on the podcast. Jordan and I have greatly bonded over coffee. Ian, have you listened to the first couple... Have you listened to the Amal episode?

- I did, I did.

- What did you think?

- I thought it was awesome.

- You said you listened twice.

- I listened to it twice.

- Why did you listen to it twice?

- Well, I listened to it twice because I really enjoyed the first one the first time I listened to it. And I thought there was a lot of really interesting stuff that we might talk about this podcast.

- Like what?

- Just sort of how this all started and what his initial vision was. He talked a lot about developing martial artists. And I think what Easton does best is develop people. It was really cool to hear how that has always been part of the DNA of Easton.

- It's been like the only DNA, I think. So, we've done other things, I think. We've created jobs. But DNA is like the very, very particular one thing, the chain of what you're made of. And I think what we're made of is developing people.

- I would absolutely agree.

- What else did you like? What else did you listen to in the Amal podcast?

- I listened to the whole thing, several times. It's funny, there was one part where I got labeled as an introvert.

- We're gonna talk about that.

- I figured we'd probably talk about it.

- What do you mean, labeled as an introvert?

- That's fair. I'm not saying it was unfair.

- We didn't call you female, bro. You're an introvert.

- No, I think anytime you get to spend time with Amal you realize he's a very interesting... He's just an interesting person to listen to. He's an exciting guy to listen to.

- There's no one who has life experiences like him.

- Yeah, I walked in to a crazy story today.

- You walked in to a crazy story today?

- Yeah, you were telling a crazy story.

- Oh, yeah, yeah. Not on this podcast. Gospel of Fire, Gospel of Fire. If you want to hear the crazy Amal story, Gospel of Fire. Not this one. But yeah, he's an amazing dude, right. I don't know how he did what he did, but he did it.

- He's given me a lot of really poignant and timely life advice, too.

- And here we are sitting, sitting here. What are we, three days away, two days away from the 20-year anniversary party?

- Yeah. It's a timely time to talk about.

- Yeah, it's kind of cool. I was thinking about it, and I think about this a lot as far as with Easton. I mean, outside of like 10 people in my life, and none of them live in this state, I got nothing without jiu-jitsu, and without Easton. I got nothing. I don't have a single thing. Even my neighbor over there, who I love, I only live in this neighborhood because I can afford this house because, you know, like, made my life. I met my wife at a bar that I was working at that I got a job because of Easton. So, it's really an interesting thing. 20 years.

- Yeah, it's crazy.

- You're a Boulder kid.

- Well, sort of. So, I'm from New Jersey, but I started training jiu-jitsu in Boulder. So yeah.

- So you came up and visited. And this is why I wanted to have you on the podcast. So you came up in Boulder. And you were like this... God, I don't even know how to put it. You had the noon class. You had the noon class. And you crushed that noon class. Like, people absolutely loved you. First, how did you build that in Boulder? At the time it's not like you were great at jiu-jitsu. It's not like you were some phenom of jiu-jitsu. What did you do to build your class, first of all?

- So, I actually started with a Saturday morning. I think we had like an 8:00 o'clock, 8:00 AM Saturday class. This was the first class I ever taught. I did a decent job getting people to show up to that one.

- 8:00 on Saturday is hard.

- It was hard.

- I'm gonna cut you off. In my opinion, this is the epitome of a good instructor. Man, if I give you a class at 6:00 PM, no shit people are gonna come. Everyone comes at 6:00. Every gym, dojo, school, academy, anything related to fitness at 6:00 PM is packed. Go in to 24 Hour Fitness and try to get on a treadmill at 6:00. Like, of course you're gonna... It might not be you that's doing such a great job. Like, Meerswack for example. 7:30 at night, 35 people?

- He's wild.

- And now we're talking. So anyways. Again, Saturday morning, 8:00 AM.

- I was teaching the Saturday morning class. And I was able to build that a little bit. But as far as the noon class goes...

- Hold on, don't be shy. So what did you start with? How many people were coming at 8:00 AM?

- Oh, the 8:00 AM class? Probably two or three.

- And then what did you get it to.

- I probably had like 15.

- 15, that's a solid push. Six times the amount.

- Yeah, I think a lot of it is just being consistent. And I want to be... I think a lot of it is just showing up and being consistent. And not just showing up and be thinking about everything else going on in your life until the second you step on the mat. It's having a game plan and wanting to teach a great class. I think that's a big part of it, is really wanting... Not only did I want to teach a great class for the students, but I wanted to teach a great class for you guys.

- It wasn't me. It was just Amal at the time.

- Yeah, well I didn't look at it like that. I had a bunch of... I had you, and I had Nick, and Finny, and obviously Amal. I wanted to do the best I could. That carried over to the noon class. Look, I think the biggest thing is really showing... This is the biggest thing, you're right. My jiu-jitsu wasn't great.

- You're a blue belt.

- Yeah, I was a blue belt. It's not great now. What it really is is that I care. I really do care about the students. And I think if you really show up and you let them know you care and that you're invested in them, they're gonna invest back in you. I felt like that's why it grew.

- Yeah, let's talk... I'm gonna break it down a little more. How do you invest in the studentS? Let's talk about what that means. That's what everyone says, right? Everyone says, oh, invest in your customers and they will invest in you. What does investing in the student mean to you?

- That's a great question. First of all, it means, again, I can't stress this enough, not just showing up with two minutes to go and just stepping on the mat and just teaching and then leaving a minute after the class. It's showing up 15, 20 minutes, 30 minutes before your class. And this is a big thing. Every single class, and I still do this, I go up to each person that is about to step on the mat. And I say hello, I call them by their name, I give them a hug, and I let them know that I've acknowledged that they're there. I remember how much that meant to me. I remember sitting on the wall and having you guys come up and just say, Hey Ian, what's up? And that would change my day.

- And it's so crazy because I don't... You talk about all these instances. You're always talking about these stories about something I did. And I'm like, I don't even remember it.

- I think that's usually how it works.

- It's probably like that for the students too with us now.

- I'm sure.

- You're like, . You know? When it's on autopilot. It's not that you don't mean it. You know that you're gonna care about your students. And how much it means to them is so important. It's so important.

- No, it is. So, taking that time. And you have to really... It can't just be fake. That's the other thing. You really have to... To circle back, this is one thing that Easton does so well. Man, there is a culture of... And I actually spoke about this in my class last night. There's a culture of investment and it's investing in each other. I kind of said, I was like, from the moment I stepped on the mat at Easton... Because I started at Easton. I think I'm also fairly unique in the sense that I've been training for 14 years, and day one was at Easton in Boulder. I've said this before. Easton is... I love jiu-jitsu, I really do. But I don't love it as much as I love Easton. I mean that. I think the biggest thing is that you're making sure... So, Easton builds this culture of investment and it's making sure that you're always looking to invest in other people. So, showing up early, making sure you say hi to every single person that's about to take your class. And then say hi to everybody else. That's one thing.

- Going through the building and saying hello.

- Yeah, going through the building and saying hello. And I have to say, social media has made this easier. I'm not a huge fan of social media, but I'm on it. And the reason I'm on it is because I can very easily look up any students that I have in class, friend them on Facebook, and then I connect with them. And here's another way to connect with them, and you guys did this. I'd randomly get a text message from one of you guys being like, oh man, you're training like a beast, and that would make my whole week. Stuff like that. Just going out of your way to be communicative with your students.

- Yeah, it's so big, it's so big. People can't understand what the little things mean to people. Because I don't remember anything big. Like my story with Soneca. I mean, it's not the greatest story, but I remember it.

- I know it.

- I was a white belt. And he was a teaching a seminar. And he was like, man, Amal, and he said all in Portuguese, that fat kid over there is gonna be your best student. And then he came over and showed me something. And I didn't know that he called me the fat kid at first. Amal told me that later. But I remember him looking at me, pointing at me, and then coming over and helping me. The communication between instructor and student is huge.

- It's funny because I've actually heard that story from you probably 10 times. That's how much it means to you.

- Come on, I don't repeat that much. I don't repeat that much. I just, you know, every once in a while. And I probably embellished a little for effect. Don't worry, I'm just...

- Knowing Soneca, I don't know.

- Oh god, Soneca. You can never follow what he does. Like, if you follow what he does, you're fucked. His stories of how he connected with us? No way, man. We'd get sued. So anyway, we... What were you doing? Remind me I'm correct here. You were teaching the noon class and then going right away to valet.

- Yeah.

- Did you see that sigh, Jordan?

- So, I have to... One thing is, I really enjoyed, I used to work at the St. Julien Hotel & Spa in Boulder. I enjoyed working there. And the reason I can especially say I enjoyed it is because I feel like, and this will kind of tie into the whole introvert thing, is I am an introvert. I think what introverted means, and I've spoken about this with a lot of people, I don't think it necessarily is putting on a marker or a grade on how well you interact with people. But my battery, if I'm in, usually in situations where there's a lot of people, my battery depletes. And my battery recharges while I'm alone.

- Okay, so let's talk about introvert for a second. Because I need that too, I just don't need it often. You need it often.

- You're not an introvert.

- No, I know. But I'm just saying, so, I need recharge time. But I can stay on for a very long time.

- You have a better battery than mine.

- It's a different battery. But I do need recharge time. Man, like last week in California with my family? Oh my god, talk about recharge time. Loved it, loved it. I'm stoked. Jordan and I were on the phone yesterday, or on Voxer, and we were just like, he had recharge time a little too even though he was doing something. And we were like screaming at each other, like, No, mine's gonna be... Like, we're just going. Because we had a little recharge time. So I think everyone needs recharge time. It's just how often you need recharge time.

- Yeah, I need it more often. And look... I would say I need... My battery just depletes more quickly when I'm in large social pictures. But I still do love people and I love being around people. Usually I think I'm best in one-on-one situations. I spend a lot of one-on-one time with students too. I go get coffee with them.

- I have to hold you back on your coffee time. Ian, five coffees a week, bro.

- I would say that, though I am an introvert, I really do enjoy spending time with other people.

- I agree with you. And you do it phenomenally. Like, people come to you. When I fuck up, people are like, we'll go talk to Ian and he'll help us through this situation with Eliot. Because you are so good at connecting on a different level than me with people.

- Well, I don't even think that's true. I think a lot of it too is that I'm fairly quiet. I'm a decent listener, I think. But tying that back to the St. Julien, yeah, that job really gave me the skills, or the skill to be able to meet someone and make a personal connection quickly. I think that's very important. It taught me how to remember names. People have this idea that remembering names is just this skill you're born with, and it's not. It's something you acquire. And I can't stress the importance of this. I used to have a game where if I could remember someone after six months of not seeing them... Because I'd be able to do this, and I'd remember their name. They'd walk in. I'd say, hey Mr. So-and-so, and they would be just shocked that I remember their name.

- You're talking about repeat customers at the hotel.

- Repeat customers at the hotel, yeah. Repeat customers at the hotel. They haven't been in to the hotel for six months. Maybe they've only been here once. Again, I'm a valet so I'm the first person they'd see. They'd walk in, I'd remember their name, and they would rave about that. They'd be super stoked. It's always great to feel like you're recognized. St. Julien was great for that. I was working valet, and I was working a lot. And one thing I always say, that valet job, it really gave me a lot of perspective. I had this really interesting experience of, I'd be teaching class. I was a brown belt now. And I'd be teaching class, and everyone would be super respectful, calling me coach, and we'd be bowing on and off the mat. And I'd leave my class, and I would go to the locker room and I would take off my brown belt. And then I would replace that costume with my other costume. And it was I put on this, you know, my clown suit. And I would go park cars. So I'd walk out of people saying, bye coach, have a good day coach. And then I'd pull into the driveway and people would be snapping their fingers at me, clapping their hands. And then I knew what it was like to not be treated with respect. And I feel like that... It always gave me good perspective. I never started to think that... I never let my ego get out of control, I guess. I'd be helping someone with their bags and they'd be like, yeah, so what do you do outside of this? I'd be, oh yeah, I'm a brown belt in jiu-jitsu. And they'd be like, cool, my eight-year-old daughter, she's a black belt in karate, so you keep working at it dude. And I would be like, sweet. But honestly, it was...

- You gotta let us laugh right there for a second, bro. You can't just roll through that joke. Oh, you keep working at it, dude. My eight-year-old beat your ass.

- Like, quit laughing, this is my life.

- That's actually how this happened.

- And you had to be nice about it.

- I did, I did have to be nice. But in a weird way, I appreciated it. Anyway, yeah. I'd walk in, and I still have this experience, I'd walk in to Boulder, and man, I could take this big, deep breath before I walked into that school and be thankful that I was getting to walk in to a place where people respected me, and frankly, I respected them. There have been times when I've called you and I've called Amal randomly after teaching a class of 50 people in Denver, and I'm just, like, grateful. It's really cool that I get to step in the room with a bunch of people who we have all alike interests, and I'm invested in them and they're invested in me. It's a cool thing.

- Yeah, I'd agree. It's amazing. I don't know, I talk about this often with the whole 50 people in the class thing. It's insane. Because it's not a seminar, and we're not Renzo. And we're not John Danaher, and we're not Marcelo Garcia, and we're not in California where there's just such an abundance. This idea for me that 50 people are gonna show up to take my class, blows my mind.

- Yeah, it's crazy.

- It blows my mind. I couldn't get 10 people to come to a party when I was a kid.

- Yeah, I've never had a party.

- After my parents stopped inviting all family friends, like I had to invite friends to my birthday parties, we switched to like three-person sleepovers so I wouldn't get sad. You know?

- Totally.

- It's an interesting thing, right. Like man, the other night, bro, I think I sent you the picture. I had 35 in my intermediate and then 50 in my advanced. And then Meerswack at the same time had 35 people, and Junior had 30. I mean, like, between four classes we had like almost 200 people.

- There's 150 people training jiu-jitsu at once in our academy.

- It was insane. It was insane. And it just goes back to what you were saying. Treat everyone amazing. And I'm having trouble right now with 50. I don't know about you. I have trouble with 50 because you're like... Like, after I say hello to everyone. But going around and helping people, it's fucking hard.

- It is hard. No, it is difficult. And I've actually been thinking about maybe having some assistants. You know, it's at that point.

- Same thing. I think I might just have McClusky like, hey man, practice that a little bit if you want, and then let's walk around and help me.

- No, and he's the man.

- I'm a huge McClusky fan. I didn't like him at first. He broke my nose.

- Oh, is that what it was?

- Yeah, man. He didn't spaz out, it was just one of those things. Like, the first time you roll with somebody and you get kneed in the nose and break your nose. You're like, motherfucker.

- That's hilarious.

- And I didn't like him, and he's a little lawyerly. But I love him now.

- And that was what it was.

- It was a little both.

- I was just like, yeah, he's very lawyerly. But no, he's amazing. The students love him. And I think you did like him. That's too strong.

- No, for sure. Let's define lawyerly. Go ahead and try to pin him down on an answer for something. Try to pin a lawyer down on an answer to a question. Like, a definitive yes or no. Do you like chocolate? Well, it depends. No man, what does it depend on? Well, you know... No, no. It's a yes or a no question. We're talking the generalization of chocolate and tell me if you like it. You know? So you've built this class. And it was just noon that you were teaching, right? Every day at noon?

- Every day at noon. And then I started having... So, I was teaching every day at noon, and I had, I was teaching some at night on my days off. So I used to have... There was a while where I had a day off from valeting. I'd valet six days a week because we were understaffed. And then on that one day off, it was pretty consistent, I would teach that night. And then I got two days off and then I was teaching two nights a week, and all the new classes.

- Ian, you have this special ability, bro. I don't know if it's part of your introversion or what it is. But goddamn, you can follow directions.

- Glad to hear that. I've struggled with this mic, getting this mic adjusted.

- I just gave poor directions, obviously.

- Oh, okay.

- We're gonna diverge on the business end of things because jiu-jitsu is this weird culture. But how did you survive me? You talk about me in a very nice way. And it worked for you and Mike because you guys weren't... You guys were from the east coast so we're fine. We understand what's going on here. And I was a little difficult in the beginning. I wasn't the nicest. I wasn't easy right? I mean, you could tell that I cared and I loved you.

- I could.

- But...

- Well, you beat my ass.

- My ego wasn't as in check, though. Right?

- I never felt like you had an ego.

- Really?

- No, I didn't.

- That's just my... No. So, first of all...

- Even Jordan's eyes perked up there.

- My background probably matters a little bit. I played ice hockey pretty seriously growing up. I went and played in boarding school, did the juniors, did the whole thing. So I've had some rough coaches that expected a lot out of you. I always felt like it was more like that. I felt like you... I've always felt like you invested in me. You were just not... You weren't there to hold my hand. You invested in me. You'd invite me to your training sessions. But yeah, you'd beat my ass. There's a couple of my very close friends, like you, Nick, and Shawn, and Matt Jubera. You just beat us up. And it wasn't the kind of beat us up where after, you gave me a pat on the ass like, good job, buddy. There were bodies lying on the mat.

- No, we were terrible. You guys would be laying on the mat, and I'd look at you and say, hey man, your defense sucks. You need to work on that.

- Well, you do that, and then... It wasn't like this ass kicking with some positive feedback at the end of it. It was just like that's what it was. I was okay with it.

- I think I was still broke at the time. I couldn't even buy you lunch.

- You know, the other thing I have to say is, I had friends who were at the same level and we could commiserate in the car ride home.

- I think this is a big thing, right. The community, the peers. The peers. It was you, Mike, James. Was Carlson with you in that crew?

- Yeah, all of them were. We all started at roughly the same time, and we were friends before jiu-jitsu, and we all got our black belts on the same day. It was kind of a cool thing. It would be this thing where we would be driving home in the car, and it'd be like, how many? And we'd just be like, oh man, it was a good day. There was like 17 total. We were talking about how many times we got submitted. If we had four six-minute rounds and we could keep it under 15 submissions, if we got tapped out 15 times or less, it was a good day. That's a banner day right there. Because there were days when it'd be like 30. And it would just be like...

- If you guys were a little off, and Matt and I were a little on.

- Yeah, it was terrible.

- But you were amazing, bro. You were amazing. I could remember a time, I don't know if this is great. There's two instances that I really remember I was like, oh god, he really listened to me. The one is the Clorox story where you walked in with ringworm and you were like, what do I do with this? And I was like, well, you put Lamisil on it. And you were like, how long does it take? And I was like, eh, it's gonna take like a week. And you were like, is there anything shorter? And I was like, yeah man, you can take some Clorox to it and burn that thing off. And you came back the next day with this huge scar on your leg.

- Are we gonna edit this part of the... I was just gonna stand.

- I'll make a note.

- He's gonna make a note so that we specialize it. This is going out on Instagram.

- When this happened, by the way, this is all true. I went home and gave myself a chemical burn.

- So this is what I mean by you follow directions, bro.

- I followed those directions. I took Eliot's directions and I didn't read the directions on the bottle. When I showed up the next day with a gaping wound on the side of my leg...

- I kicked you out.

- You rushed to the door. You saw me coming up, out the window, and you sprinted to the door, and you cracked it. You didn't open the door and let me in. You cracked the door open and stuck your head out.

- And said what?

- You were like, let me see it. And I showed it to you. You were like, yo man, you gotta get out of here. And I was like, what's going on? I was like, you said I can train. He's like, you can't train.

- Because I think Amal was there, right?

- You were like, Amal is here. He's gonna kill me. So I was like, all right. I couldn't even train anyway for like two weeks.

- Because I heard about it, you know. I heard about it, and I was like, oh shit. And then Amal had already yelled at me for telling you to do that on the front end. And I was like, goddammit. And I saw you coming, and I was like, yo, yo, uh-uh, uh-uh. He's in the back right now so you can get out of here without me getting in more trouble. It was like brothers. When the big brother fucks up the little brother, you know?

- It wasn't one of my finer moments.

- I think your finest moment though... This is when I knew I really loved Nick too because he did the same thing. When Jubera had you mounted, and I was like, hey man, no tapping today, and you just went to sleep.

- Yeah, I remember that.

- You just went to sleep. I was like god damn, he's a soldier.

- I remember waking up. What I remember is waking up and seeing James laughing and being just livid. I was like, you think this is funny?

- We were all laughing.

- He was like a heat sink.

- Jordan, is this allowed to go in the podcast or do you have to edit this out?

- No, I think this is good.

- I think it's good. I think it's good too. So where have we evolved to? I mean, I don't know. Nick did it a couple years ago. He fucked up in a tournament. He was smashing this kid and then got all lazy. And I told him he wasn't allowed to tap because it was a choke. I was like, you either work your way out or you go to sleep.

- I remember. He was unconscious for like three minutes.

- It was in a weird position. I felt terrible. He was in a weird position where you couldn't tell that he was asleep. And then all of a sudden his foot started shaking. I was like, oh shit. I was like, ref, he's out! And then he was not okay. So yeah, this is what I'm talking about, how I fuck up sometimes and you have to come up and clean up that mess. Amal and I had this conversation. We went to Modmarket because we needed a new GM in Denver. And can Ian do it.

- The reason I'm laughing is because we had the same conversation with me. That's how I got the job. I will never forget this. I was teaching. And you and Amal showed up at the school. And you're like, hey, we need to talk to your when your class is over. I was like, I'm getting fired. I was like, I had no idea what I did. And you guys took me out to Smashburger or something like that. Or it was H Burger at the time.

- Oh yeah, H Burger. Yeah, yeah, yeah. And then you told me... You must have recited that exact conversation because you were like, look, we don't know if you could do this. The first conversation I had with you, you kind of gave me the heads up. You were like, yeah, you know, is this something you're interested in? And I obviously was super stoked about it.

- Because you're an introvert.

- Right, totally, yeah.

- And normally the leader of a school has to be an extrovert. Normally, right.

- I would totally agree. I think, to your credit, you figured out how to make this happen. I want to hear what that conversation was like from your end. When we were really bad at having conversations.

- So, you want to know what it was like from my end when you kind of offered me the position? Because you told me that was your concern. So in fairness to you guys, I was trying to make a joke, but in fairness, you guys were very much like, look, here are our concerns. We're concerned that you are an introvert and that this is going to be a job that requires someone who is gonna really be able to connect with people, and a lot of people at that. My response was I agreed. I totally was, I was scared. I will be honest, I was very afraid that I was going to fail. But I was at this point where I was like, failure just isn't an option here. This is gonna be a hurdle that I'm gonna jump. And not only am I gonna jump it, I'm gonna prove to Amal and to Eliot, and frankly to everybody, that I can do this. And to myself.

- So it's a hard thing to come to a new school, right, where there is, I mean, whether good culture, bad culture, doesn't matter. I wouldn't say we had a bad culture in Denver. We had a good culture, but it was a different culture. You were not part of it at all. No one even really knew you. Because it wasn't like... I mean, it was easier for me when I came down, a little bit. Everyone knew who I was. I fought in UFC, I did some seminars, you know what I mean? No one knew who you were. And now we're telling everyone that this is going to be the boss. And their last boss left, who they obviously were attached to. So, what the fuck? Goddamn.

- Yeah. So, first of all, all that was difficult. For people who know what I look like, I guess you can see, we were joking around, I look like a Dungeons & Dragons DM.

- What's the DM mean?

- They manage the game.

- Dungeon master.

- Dungeon master, yeah.

- Such nerds.

- Brian, do you play Dungeons & Dragons too?

- No, I don't play Dungeons & Dragons. I believe I just answered to Brian.

- You answered to Brian.

- I was confused.

- So look, I'm trying to be Rogan. Rogan's guy is Brian Redban.

- Well, it's Jamie.

- It's Jamie now, shit. It used to be Brian Redban. Jamie, do you play Dungeons & Dragons?

- No.

- Okay, he still answered to Jamie.

- So, I do play Dungeons & Dragons. So yeah, actually it's not that far off. The point is, I don't exactly walk in, I don't walk in and capture a room. That's not my strong suit, never has been. I'm an acquired taste.

- You're not Renzo.

- I'm not Renzo.

- No one is Renzo.

- It was difficult. It was difficult. I think the first thing I did when I showed up, I was like, look, I'm here to learn. I had that mentality. I'm here to learn from everybody else. I don't like this, like, I'm the new sheriff in town. I think that's a terrible mentality. I don't think that's a good way to lead at all. I just walked in and I was like, look, I'm here to learn from other people. And again, back to this investment piece, I'm here to let everybody know that I want to do this with everyone. I don't want to have everyone taking orders. That's not how I want to do things. And also I understood that they were very attached to the old GM. And he was a great guy. I was attached.

- He's a great guy, he's still our friend. He's coming this weekend. He'll be here.

- And I was attached to him.

- Larry, let's stop beating around the bush. Larry, what's up, Larry? Are you listening? Sup baby?

- Larry is the man. And he's still revered.

- He went and opened his own school.

- He went and opened his own school, and he's still revered in Denver, and people loved him. And I loved him. So I think just kind of letting everybody know that, hey, like, yeah, I love Larry too. Because I think there's a tendency to show up and have the fear of not being as good as the last guy or not being as accepted as the last guy. And it's just like, man, embrace the last guy. Because everybody else is. It was just showing up, having the mindset of, like, look, I'm here to learn from everybody else. I'm here to work with everyone else. I'm here to invest in you guys. That's the attitude I took, and it's worked out. And it didn't work out immediately.

- God, Denver was a hard nut to crack.

- It was.

- It was a really hard nut to crack, right?

- It was okay. So let's be clear. It wasn't bad. Like, we weren't doing poorly.

- Actually I think the school was doing quite well when I showed up. And I'll be honest, I think it actually dipped for a while for when I showed up. There was a period of time where there was... We were changing. We were going through some pretty serious internal changes and there was a moment where I felt like it wasn't as strong as when I got there. And that could have been because we had the grand opening. I showed up very shortly after the grand opening and there's a huge influx of people. But yeah, it was difficult.

- Let's talk about what we did in the grand opening. We fucked up. We signed up a lot of people on cheap rates.

- Right.

- We signed up a lot of people on cheap rates. We got a lot of unqualified... Because we wanted to boost. So we got a lot of unqualified customers. And cheap rates cause a lot of problems in a martial arts school.

- Because what you're basically doing is you're subscribing to this model where you're just trying to get as many people in the door as possible. Retention isn't a primary concern. It's almost like, look, 24 Hour Fitness, like a gym like that. The business model they work on is they charge cheap enough memberships to where they're banking on you not showing up.

- And we weren't banking on people not showing up. That's not what we wanted.

- No, that's not what we were doing. And that's the problem. We still wanted these people to show up. But the people who are willing to pay for really cheap memberships, that's not the clientele or the students that you're looking for.

- I said it the other day. I was like, man guys, this is my goal for you. I said it on Tuesday. I was like, I hope when that $199 hits your credit card, you're like, goddamn that's cheap. Goddamn that's cheap because I get so much more than $199. I want the 24 Hour Fitness mentality of, yeah, I'm gonna keep that rolling.

- Well that's how I was. I remember having this thought. I remember thinking, I was like, man, what if this raise... I don't know why this thought popped in my head.

- When you were a student, you're saying.

- Yeah, when I was a student. When I was like a blue belt I was like, if they raise their prices to $800 tomorrow, I would have to figure this the fuck out. There would be no way, no way that I'm not training.

- That's the goal.

- It wouldn't matter. I thought about that. I'd be like, I'd have to live on the street. And I would.

- I did, I remember. I remember doing that. I slept in the closet with Jay for a month. Because, you know, like the only place I could live. And I wasn't even paying for jiu-jitsu. But I knew I wasn't going to go work so that I couldn't do jiu-jitsu.

- Yeah, no, it's a crazy thing.

- I was like, well, I could go get another job, get this place for a month, and yada yada. I was like, no, fuck that, man. I was like, my student loan will come in in a month. I'm gonna sleep in the closet because I can't take a month off jiu-jitsu. Fuck that.

- That was how I was feeling. I was just like, I'd make this happen. There was nothing. There was nothing that was gonna get in my way from training.

- So what changed? What turned Denver around?

- I think what turned Denver around is the culture. I really do. I feel like this word just gets used a lot. And a lot of people don't really understand.

- Go ahead, explain more about it.

- What having a good culture means. And I've been using this word, investment, a lot. I'm gonna keep coming back to it because it's really going out of your way to invest in everyone that you come in contact with. It's not just the students. I take very seriously the progress... Here's what it means from an instructor. I'm gonna go through it in levels. So from an instructor standpoint, what it means is you have this serious commitment to having your students become better than you, from a skill standpoint. There was a time when I started when I was teaching, when I first got down to Denver, I could go through that advanced class training and not break a sweat.

- I mean, you'd sweat, but it would be easy. You could train with everyone.

- It would be easy.

- And now? I am just running for my life. I'm crawling off the mat.

- We're running from the blue belts.

- No, I am. I'm struggling with the blue belts, exactly right. I'm struggling with the blue belts. And the truth is, that's what I think it should be. That should be the goal, is to get everybody that you're training with and you are coming into contact with, better than you. What I love about Easton is, that also exists just from a staff standpoint. You guys have invested in me. You want me to live a good life. You want me to be better. You want me to be a better version of who I am, professionally and personally. And we take that approach with all of our staff. And I have to say, that's a huge thing. We look at it like this. Every single person who walks through our door has potential to one day play a huge role in the Easton community. Whether that means they want to be an instructor or they want to run a school. And I'm not saying that every single person has...

- You're not saying it's gonna happen for everyone.

- It's not gonna happen for everybody, of course. But the possibility and the opportunity is there, and we show it to them.

- That's how we see it.

- Yeah, that's how we see it. That's how we want it. That sort of feeling, the environment, that culture, it bleeds into everything else. And it could be cleaners. You were talking about Nick earlier. Nick's story is really cool. I don't know, if you're gonna have him on the podcast, he can tell it. But when he started...

- It saved his life.

- When Nick started, he shows up, and he's this quiet 14-year-old. Maybe he was 13, I don't remember.

- He was 14.

- Yeah, he was young. But his dad who could barely speak English.

- And his mom who can't.

- Mom who can't at all. Basically his dad was like, look, I'm worried about my son. Like, he's hanging around with the wrong kids. I'll come in and I'll clean the bathrooms on the weekends. He works a full-time job. And he said, I'll come in and I'll clean the bathroom on the weekends if I can just give him training. And I was like, no, you're not gonna do it. Nick will do it. And so we had Nick wash the bags. He started off just washing the bags. And I noticed one day, I was like, dude, that kid is washing those bags better than I think I've ever seen anyone do it. Like, he took it really seriously. And so I was like, okay.

- You pointed it out to me, I remember.

- Yeah, and so we were like, let's give him a little more.

- You pointed that out to me, and I think that was the first time that I went and talked to him. He was up there washing the bags like a fucking boss.

- Yeah, just getting after it.

- Like it really mattered.

- I guess you could say it did, because then we gave him a little bit more and he started assisting with the kid's program.

- I'm gonna cut you off for a second. This is a great... If you don't own a business, if you want to own a business, or if you want something in your life, you have to do everything like it really matters. Dude, washing the bags, it's a shit job. Like, that is a shit job. That sucks. I know, we all know. But when you see someone who... And I remember the conversation we had. You were like, Eliot, go watch that kid wash those bags. And he's like scrubbing the bag clean so it sparkled. Like, it looked brand new. And then it's like, dude, we gotta give him more.

- Yeah, people notice.

- We gotta give him more. Because if you can do the worst job at a high level, the job that no one wants to do, well then shit, man, what are you gonna do with the job that everyone wants to do? How good are you gonna take that? That was amazing.

- That's a really good way to put it.

- Whatever it is that you want in your life, be willing to do the worst part of it. Be willing to do the shit end of that job. And especially for you, for academy owners, if you can't clean the mats better than everyone else, well then how are you going to show someone how to clean those mats?

- I totally agree. Just to finish that, he ended up... He started assisting with the kids, and he did that really, really well. And then he is just like... I look at him sometimes...

- That's more than that. We told him there's no more failing.

- You definitely sort of took him under your wing.

- He had to come in. He had to do his homework in the school. He had to bring me his grades. And he couldn't get D's and F's. I allowed C's, because it's okay. But he was getting zeroes. And then he took it seriously. He never got another bad grade.

- Man, it's amazing. Like, I talk to Nick, and I consider Nick one of my best friends. And I'm sure you do too.

- No, I don't. He's not my friend. I can't have him be my friend. I mean, I love him. But they're like, it's different.

- But for me, I have a different relationship with Nick. But sometimes what's interesting is like, I talk to him like I speak to other 30-year-olds. And then I'm like, oh wait, he's 19. 20 now.

- He's 20 now.

- But it's like, it's just... He's an amazing, amazing dude. It's just really cool where he started. And I think the other thing is, this is the other thing, it kind of bleeds into this, but I think Easton has always done is there's a culture of accountability. There's a culture of being accountable for your actions. And I think that's something that also matters. If something goes wrong, blaming isn't an acceptable way to go about it. So the investing in each other, culture of accountability, these things are all... And I think from a business perspective, this is absolutely huge. I've been spoiled here. That's something I'm really starting to notice, is the amount that I have been spoiled in the sense that I don't think this is going on at other businesses. Or at least a lot of them it's not. It's not even about making money. It's just about how you feel when you walk in the doors. And Easton, it's like, from a business standpoint, when something is going wrong you've never come up to me and been like, you did this, you did that, and pointed your finger. Even when I've messed up and I know it's on me, you've come up to me and been like, hey look, I should have shown you this. And you've always taken accountability and you've always been vulnerable first. And then that makes it... I can't explain the impact that that has on making me want to do a better job. And then that accountability starting from the top, again, it trickles all the way down to the bottom. Take the first impression specialist, or the front desk staff. They take accountability. When you have your front desk staff taking as much accountability as some CEOs take in other companies, you're gonna have a successful company.

- Yeah, because they're not like the highest level employee.

- No, they're entry level.

- They're entry level. But they're so important. Because they're the first person everyone sees.

- And I have people come in, I get this question often. They're like, how do you get that kind of person working there? I want to know how it's done. I get this question a lot. It's like, how do you have such high quality people working at the front desk? And the truth is, man, well, because every single one of those people could probably do this job better than I can. I look at people in the front in the entry level positions, and I know. I'm like, man, they're smarter. They could probably do this better than I'm doing it. And that makes me... That's a good thing. I trust them. So I'm not afraid of talent. I know said this. You should always be training people to take your job otherwise there's nowhere for me to go.

- That's a big thing that we do, I think. Amazing, it's a big thing. If you're teaching the intro classes, I think Jamie over there, you started teaching the intro classes, right Jamie?

- I refuse.

- So like, you start teaching the intro classes. I'm bullying you, I should stop. You start teaching the intro classes.

- Poor Jamie, dude. Like the actual Jay. You start teaching the intro classes, and when you want to move up, if you want to teach a regular class, well shit, man, you gotta get someone to teach the intro class as well as you do. And the only way you're moving up is to show me how great you teach the intro class. So when you teach the intro class phenomenally, you teach the best intro class we've ever had, well, you want me to take you from that and get you... No. No, are you crazy? Unless you can show me, hey man, look, look at this person. Look, Dave does it better than me. He teaches a better intro class than me. You want Dave teaching it. And this is a little bit of a joke, right, but it's kind of true.

- I mean, sort of. It's like not hyperbole when I say that I look at these entry level staff at the front desk and I know for a fact that, if given the opportunity, they could do just as good of a job, if not better than I can. That's not just happenstance and luck. Look, the people who don't make, who aren't that, typically don't last. The other thing I think is, I heard you and Amal talking about this in the first podcast and it's true, we hire from within. I think this is a big thing too. We develop people as students. They love what we're doing. They actually believe in what we're doing. They get on board as employees and they believe in our cause and our vision. Another thing about Easton is, the way we run the business is completely in line with our ethics and our personal values. I get to wake up in the morning, and so does everybody else, and walk in the doors and know that I'm a part of something that is good.

- Well, you and Mike saved my life, man. I know we've talked about this before. You and Mike saved my life. So for me, when that happened to me I had to create that for other people, in my opinion.

- And it's happened. This is just all part of it. It's really having... And I'm not trying to sound like... I don't want to sound like, how do I put this. I don't want to sound like I'm white knighting it here, and I'm trying to be holier-than-thou or self-righteous because I think this can often come off that way and I don't intend it to. I'm just trying to point out that, like, having... If you're a person and you have moral values, like trust...

- And integrity.

- Integrity.

- Love.

- Love. Like, these should be in your business. They shouldn't just be a show. They really should be in your business. And you should treat your staff this way. You should treat your students this way. Another talk I often give at the end of my classes are like, I want you to treat the cleaners who are getting ready to show up... Because we finish class around 9:00 PM and we have a professional cleaning crew show up. It's a family. When they walk in those doors, you need to treat them better than you treat me. That's what I want to see. I want everybody who walks in these doors treated the same.

- That's a great point because it's so easy to treat me and you nice.

- Yeah, it is, and sometimes... It's true. There's a quote, and I'm gonna butcher it, but it's something to this effect. It's like, you can really tell the measure of a person by how well they treat people that can do nothing for them. That's a big deal. If you can look at every single person who walks in the doors of your business and really go out of your way to make sure that you treat them the same as you treat maybe other people in life who being friends with them is beneficial...

- So, let's get off the white knighting it, because I hear you. People are like, oh god, you know. You mess this up, right?

- What, this?

- Yeah.

- Of course.

- I mess this up too. I'm gonna tell the story, I'll leave the person out, but just so people can understand that we're not perfect. Like, we're not perfect at all. The other day, you had had enough that day. And you saw somebody coming, and you knew they were gonna want to talk, and you jumped in the closet because you just didn't have the bandwidth at that moment. And it upset that person. And then you had to go clean up your mess.

- Yeah, and like, when I cleaned it up, man, I felt terrible about it. It said nothing about this person. This is the other thing. It said nothing about this person. It was much more about how poorly I was handling my own problems.

- Your own bullshit which, look, we all have. And then we do dumb shit like this. Like for me, when I don't handle my... When I don't take enough recharge time. Because I am an extrovert. I'm highly extroverted. But I still need, like, Eliot, Renee, Cain, and Simon time. I need that, that's my recharge. Especially when we go away for a little trip. And when I'm not doing that, then I say dumb shit on the mat and I get myself in fucking trouble.

- Yeah, no, man, that's what I mean.

- So we blow it all the time. This is our vision. These are our goals. If you're actually hitting those things all the time, well then they're too small. These things, they're too small. You're saying, oh, all I want to do is walk. It's like a baby saying, oh, crawling is good enough. Of course the baby is gonna crawl. You want to get up and you want to be Usain Bolt, man. See if you can be Usain Bolt.

- A good saying is, like, wisdom is the ability to follow your own advice. And I'm not wise. I fuck up constantly, obviously. And that's a great example of it. Of completely going against the vision.

- Our core values. Everything, everything.

- And look, that person was really upset, and they had every right to be. And we're great now. That's a moment I'm not proud of, and I've had many of them. Like, you can always change, is the great thing. Look, you can always change. And I think that's one of the reasons we're doing this podcast, so people can learn from all... Because this has been an iterative process. And that's very important to make. Easton always had... When I said it was part of our DNA, this culture of investment, it was. But this place was a jungle. When I first started, I was just showing up after things were, I felt like there were rules...

- You were just showing up when we weren't begging to fight people in the intro class. Because that's how we started. We would show a rear naked choke, we would show the guard, we should show the mount, and we'd be like, you want to fight, you want to fight, you want to fight, you want to fight? And we wouldn't quite say it like that, but we would beg this question. Jay taught most of the intro classes. And then you had me and a bunch of other of the guys like salivating on the wall, ready to fight these people. Like, God, fuck yeah. We would look at the intro class list and be like, I wonder if that motherfucker wants to... And we would just beat people's ass.

- What was happening was it got to the point when you guys were like... So, when I was a blue belt, we were doing that. It'd be like this. You'd hand them off to me, or to Mike, or to James. You'd be like, this guy has got a little bit of an attitude. Roll with him. You know, the Gracie in action intro. I remember what it was called. And that doesn't happen anymore. If I looked over and I saw Carlos is beating the brakes off a new student, I'd be like, dude, What's going on?

- Man, he needed to have that happen. Well, then he's just not right for us, man.

- No, it's very different. So yeah, this has been an iterative process. It's been a shitton of mistakes. And my whole life has been one mistake after the other and trying to figure out and get the pieces.

- I think that's everyone who is reaching. Who is reaching for something more. And not in a bad way. Not like my life isn't good, not like your life isn't good. But always grinding for something more. You can't help but not make mistakes. If you're not out there failing in your business a little bit, if there's not like 10% of your business that's failing, 20% that's failing, well then, again, you're not trying to better the business. You're not trying to see how you can do it better. You're not trying to see what it is that you can do to make it better. I was so stoked the other day. Paige is teaching in Boulder. I was stoked when I saw that because I want more girls. I want more girls on the mat teaching. Jordan, I need her number. I want to call her.

- Me too.

- Like Ana, I'm trying to make Ana the very, very best teacher possible.

- She's amazing already.

- Ana is already amazing.

- She's an amazing teacher.

- She's already amazing, but I want her to be the absolute best teacher that's ever come out of any Easton school ever.

- She has all that potential.

- She has all the potential too because she's smarter than all of us. She's better than all of us. So yeah, that's the goal. That's the goal. Reach for the stars and hope you land on the moon.

- No, it is. And again, that's the point. And that's what I think we do best, honestly. We really look to people and try to develop them.

- You and I are a good team at that. Our yin and yang is solid.

- Yeah, well, it's interesting. And this is the crazy thing. And I agree with that. The crazy thing about this, right, is like... I think there's a lot of businesses where there's one person who runs it, and they make the money, and then everybody else comes in and they do all the dirty work. Let me rephrase this. So, there's one person at the helm. They make all the money, and everyone comes in and they teach, they run all the classes. And that's just sort of how it goes. And then what happens is you have these, ultimately, the people who maybe they start teaching as a blue belt. Well, once they're black belts, they start looking around. They're like, wait, I can do this. And then you have this weird thing where there's contention. They split off, they do their own thing. There's rivalries. What Easton is just doing so well, we have like, what, 90 black belts now. And what Easton does, they're all still on good terms. Everyone is on good terms with them all and they're all still training here. Some of them have to move out of the area but it's for, like, professional reasons. But what's interesting is that when you invest and develop your students, and then you invest and develop your staff, they don't want to leave you.

- You said it a little bit, you hinted at it, and you pay. You pay. Like Amal and I pay.

- Yeah, you pay. You do. You guys pay, you guys pay really well. And what's more is...

- Because you guys have to live. You have to make a living.

- You pay really well, and then you treat me well. And I've said this to you before, but I would lay in traffic for you guys. I'd lie in traffic. Lay is not the correct... I'd lie down in traffic for you guys.

- My mom's not listening.

- Well, my mom might be. She's actually given me shit about that word. And I know you'd do the same for me. I know that you guys would lie in traffic for me. There's that mutual thing there. But the point is, when you develop other people, and you invest in them, and you pay them well, they don't want to leave you. They want to open schools under Easton. This is what they want to do. They want to carry that torch. They want to carry your banner. And so what happens is you're actually making more money. You get to make more money because you reach so many more people. You are being altruistic, and you are trying to reach people and help people, and your morals and ethics are in the right place, and it actually does come back and benefit you in the end. I think this is a piece that a lot of people just don't see.

- Yeah, you have to. You have to do it. You have to take care of your people. And you have to treat them like your... I was posting about it the other day. I was like, you have to treat everyone in your school, and I posted as the owner of the school, like your child. Like, my job is to make you have the best life possible. That's my job. That is 100% what I'm trying to do, especially for you and Mike. And then what that has done, I think that's bled down.

- It absolutely has.

- You're like, okay, I gotta get this... And that's what we're trying to do. Thanks, Jordan. I saw you text me and I was like, ooh, did I fuck something up? And it just bleeds down. So, my goal for the business is that. I want to bleed that mentality down. You need to make someone's life, a couple people's lives better than yours.

- Yeah, you've certainly done that.

- Eh, not yet.

- Well, you're well on the way, I feel like. And look, that's the biggest thing I've taken. I think the biggest thing I've taken from you and from Amal is that it's like trying to make, I'm trying to make other people's lives better. And as long as I work my hardest at that, and again, like jumping in the closet... You know, I fuck it up, but as long as that's my goal and everyday I'm trying as hard as I can to do that, I think we're on the right track.

- I think we get that from Renzo. Because if you haven't been around that guy, man, you know? I put it on social media the other day. Every week I need to go see Gayle, my therapist. I think your therapist is named Gayle too. So I need Gayle or I need Renzo every week. And I can miss Gayle if I'm going to New York to see Renzo. Because he just makes you feel like you're the man. Every second of the day he's trying to make someone's life better. Put that in your business. Put that in your martial arts school and then, yeah, it will change people's lives. Thanks homie, thanks for coming.

- Thank you.

- Yeah man, how was the coffee?

- It was amazing.

- Yeah, it was good?

- Thanks for having me too.

- Yeah man, come on, bro. Jordan, how's the coffee?

- Delicious.

- Delicious.

- Yeah.

- Delicious.

- I need a to-go cup.

- Huh?

- I need a to-go cup.

- Easton Online. Easton.online. Go put your email in. Give us a subscription. We're coming out, the digital course is coming. On a joking matter, coffee sponsorships let's go. Coffee sponsorships let's go. Anyway guys, I appreciate it. Ian, I appreciate your time. Man, go out there and make someone's... Make your students, make the people that are in your day, make your business, make your members, make your clients, whoever that may be, make their day better. Make their day better. Have no care about your day. Don't worry about your day. Going out and giving is going to make your day. And I think that's what you do best, Ian. You go out and you give, almost to a fault, bro. I have to pull you back sometimes.

- Thank you for having me. This has been a lot of fun. I appreciate it. I was nervous. I was thinking on my way here, it's like, fun and exciting is not words I'm usually described by. So I'm glad we were... I hope it was good.

- We go through it. Did we get through it, Jordan?

- Yeah, it was great.

- Yeah, we got through it. All right, guys. All right, thanks everyone. And that's it.

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