First Impressions, Trust Employees & Build People Up— Sarah Rochniak (E9)

Nov 25, 2019

Sarah Rochniak joins the podcast to discuss her role as Easton Training Center Boulder's Director of First Impressions, how to navigate employee relationships, and her experience as an extrovert in position of power. Sarah emphasizes the importance of not taking things personally, working for "the team," and taking the time to train people (even when this does not appear on your job description).

Listen:

Transcript:

- Welcome to the Easton Online Podcast. I am your host, Elliot Marshall. And what this podcast is here to do, it's here to help you gain strategies and tactics and tools that are going to help you grow in your martial arts business, if you have a martial arts school, a gym. This is one of my passions, is how we spread the message of how to really grow culture and business and some ways that we do it the best with our people, with our staff, with our clients. So, I hope you enjoy. Give a listen. Hi, Sarah.

- Hello.

- How are you?

- I'm good, how are you?

- [Eliot] How you doing?

- Oh, good. Just drinking my coffee over here.

- I scared the shit out of you yesterday.

- A little bit. Seems to be a common theme. No notice on the podcast.

- [Eliot] No notice.

- Yeah, Jordan and I were talking. I'm getting ready to go on vacation and he does such a great job editing and stuff that when, he was like yesterday we were doing some work for Easton Online project and he said, yo, as soon as you get back like that Monday, we've got to get on it. We have to do a podcast, so that I can rush and hurry up. And that just sounded terrible to me.

- [Sarah] Yeah, no.

- So, I said, hey, I didn't give anybody any notice. I got you first and said, hey, podcast tomorrow. Oh god, you were, oh, no. You know? And then I told Jordan, hey, cancel your morning. You guys were doing a podcast.

- [Sarah] Well, here we are.

- Here we are. How's your day going?

- So far so good. I listened to some of the other podcasts this morning. Drank coffee at home. Hung out with the animals.

- [Eliot] Which ones did you listen to?

- Mike's, Sachi's, the beginning of Peter's. I ran out of time. And Amal's.

- [Eliot] And Amal's. What'd you think so far?

- They're good. I like that they are businessy but they're not boring. It still has the people piece.

- Right. It's just conversation, right?

- [Sarah] Yeah.

- It's just, that's how I see it. We'll just talk about what it is that we do. So, you are similar to Sachi. I think you guys got hired right around the same time. Correct?

- Yes. Right when the new academy, or the Boulder Academy was moving into the new space. She was a little bit before me and then Sachi was full-time and I worked for awhile because I was in college.

- Okay, hold on. What do you mean she was a little bit before you? Explain it. She started before you?

- She started a little bit before me.

- Okay, got it.

- I was I interviewed and then I didn't get hired right away. They called me like a month later.

- Oh, no.

- [Sarah] Yep.

- You were a shitty interview.

- No, I had a great interview.

- [Eliot] Well, how can you say that? We didn't hire you.

- So, I was told, and who knows if it's true or not, that you guys had found someone from within the Academy that you wanted to go with and you guys always try to hire within first.

- We do always try to hire within first. That's very true. So, I know Sachi worked in Old Boulder. You never worked in Old Boulder.

- I had my interview in Old Boulder. That's it.

- [Eliot] Sounds good.

- That's the only time I walked in the building.

- It's a dance studio now. Have you seen that?

- Uh-huh. We actually do a trade with them. I've done some dance classes there.

- Oh really?

- Uh-huh, yeah. They're good people.

- Okay, nice. Hell yeah. So then, you came on board. Were you at the big meeting in that office when everyone trained on Pearl Street? Were you there for that?

- No, I wasn't there for that.

- [Eliot] Okay, so, you were past that even.

- Mm-hm. Yeah, it was the end of January. So, you guys were already in the space. UMC was rolling. I came in. And it was like, oh, we have all these leads.

- Yeah, we fucked up. We needed more employees. Yeah. So, that was me.

- What was it like for you? Because again, super heavy male, super heavy Jiu Jitsu, a good culture. I liked our culture. I've always liked our culture. I mean, I've liked it at every stage. But probably not some, probably not what the culture is now. So, what was that like for you in the beginning?

- It was inviting and intimidating at the same time. You have this really tight knit group of people who all get along, love each other, everyone likes to hang out and you're coming in as an outsider. And I've never really done martial arts before either. I was, I don't think I did a class for three months because I was scared. And then I did it and I was like, what was I afraid of?

- So, you were working for us and scared.

- [Sarah] Yes.

- Fuck yeah.

- Afraid to step on the mat. You hear the yelling and people kicking the bags and it can be intimidating to walk in the door there. So, I think that that experience definitely has helped me in selling memberships, knowing what it's like to walk in as a complete outsider.

- Right. Because I would say you're probably not intimidated anymore

- [Sarah] No.

- but I would say the same you, take you not working for us, walk in the door now, you would be intimidated.

- [Sarah] Yeah, definitely.

- Because it's just, it's loud. It's chaos in there. You Googled us and Shane Carwin punching Frank Mir in the face, with a bloody skull, pops up, right?

- Yeah, you're like, cool.

- And we talk about this a lot. Talk more about that experience. You were in the building but yet still intimidated.

- Yes. So, I come in. I was working a little bit in the evenings just for the rush. And they were like, hey, you're a front desk person. If you want to sell, if you want to work for us, you have to take some classes. And I was like, okay, yeah, I'll do it. But just kept putting it off. And it was even getting to know the people, I still was just a little hesitant to step on the mat because of, like you said, that chaos, people are loud. But then you do it and you're like, oh, this is so fun. Everyone's so welcoming. Everyone wants to help you out. They're excited for you to step on the mat and take part in this thing that everybody loves so much. So, the tables turned rather quickly as soon as you take that first step. I guess.

- It's such a good lesson, right, just in your life because we're always so scared of things.

- [Sarah] Yeah. Just,

- Like our whole lives.

- [Sarah] the unknown.

- The unknown, yeah. And then as soon as it becomes known, it just, it's like, what was wrong with me.

- Yeah, like, huh,

- What was wrong with me?

- I wish I hadn't waited three months. I could have been already on my way.

- For sure. So, talk about your work experience a little bit. What, when you first got hired and we were, we didn't have everything down so pat, like we have everything down so pat now. What was it like then?

- So, I started working pretty young. I got a job busing tables at the restaurant my dad worked at when I was 13, so I worked,

- Where'd you grow up?

- Crested Butte, Colorado.

- [Eliot] Oh, so you're from Colorado?

- Mm-hm, yeah. Didn't make it too far but just far enough away for college, yeah. So, I'd worked in restaurants a lot. I bused, I'd hostessed. So, I understood that front of house kind of feel, being welcoming and just kind of giving that good vibe to someone who's coming in. You don't know what their day's been like. So, I understood that a lot but I'd never done sales before. And I'm a pretty extroverted person. I can talk. I can learn names. So, that part wasn't challenging for me but not having the systems like we do now, there was kind of the Eliot and Mike approach to selling, where it was like, okay, sounds good, yes, come sign up. Where that didn't work for me as well.

- [Eliot] Did she just shit on me?

- [Man Off Camera] No, I think she built on the foundation you created.

- Mm-hm.

- But it's just learning about, you guys weren't aggressive or being sleazy but it was just different to how I would approach something. And I remember sitting in meeting with Jake Bell later on just in the little Boulder office and being like, I don't know how to turn it up to that level in a sale.

- What do you mean, Jake Bell level?

- To you and Mike. You were just always,

- Oh, okay. Well, I think part of it, for me and Mike, was we're expressing our passion for what we do and you might not have had any passion for it yet. You were still kind of scared.

- [Sarah] Yeah, absolutely.

- So, how can you sell the membership and really believe in it but not, it didn't change your life yet.

- No.

- Easton hadn't changed your life, where Easton had changed mine and Mike's life, so I'm like, how the fuck are you, when a little bit in my head there's no fucking way you can't sign up.

- So, I think the answer to that, not having had the martial art changed my life, it was passion for the community that helped me sell. Knowing that, even now, I don't do classes everyday. I'm not super advanced in any of the disciplines. But I have a passion for the community and the people and what this job has given me and that's what helped me with sales.

- What has the job given you?

- So much.

- Yeah, go ahead.

- I started just part-time. I expected this to be just like a college job. I had my, I was lucky, I had tuition and rent taken care of for me in school, but if I wanted a phone, if I wanted gas in my car, insurance, I had to work on top of going to school. So, I had it good but had to get a job and I was like, ah. I actually had interviewed at The Downer as well and I was like, well, I could be a cocktail waitress at The Downer

- So, you would have known, you would have known Andrew early.

- Would have known Andrew early, yeah. Or I could go and work at a gym and I figured that was healthier for me. So, But you know, I just expected it to be a part-time job. And then it turned out being something here we are six years later and this is a career and it's because of the people that I stayed, Mike especially. And I know Sachi has said the same thing. Just one of those people that you want to get behind them and you believe in what we're doing and you've seen what this community has done for so many different people and that's why I wanted to stay.

- [Eliot] What has it done for you?

- I mean, I was kind of a bit of a mess in college. I was drinking a lot and you know, I'm an argumentative person.

- No, we got along so great. All the time. We agree on every issue, Sarah.

- Everything, yeah. That's sarcasm.

- Yeah, we can talk about Antonio Brown.

- Yeah.

- But we won't.

- Right. And so, just finding someone like Mike, and I know Sachi mentioned this as well, so at the risk of being repetitive, but who cares about your development and wants you to grow. He doesn't want you to be stuck in the same thing and even if I decided next year to leave Easton, which I won't, but he would be like, man,

- No, you might. It's okay.

- He would be like, man, I'm so glad everything that we've taught you and I want to send you out with just the best experience possible and all the skills that you need to take on the world. And I think that's rare to find a place that doesn't want to just help you to help themselves. They want to help you so that you can grow and whether you end up sticking with them or not, it's that stewardship that we talk about in our core values. And it doesn't have to be that you're staying with Easton. And I think that's very unique.

- God, it's so important. Because I, so, I think this is super important because that is how I feel about the people close to me. And I know that's not you. It's not like we're, we're friends.

- Yeah.

- You come to my house on my birthday but we're not super tight. We're not sending each other memes

- [Sarah] No.

- and any of that, right?

- [Sarah] No.

- Or even any of it and that's okay. It doesn't have to be like that with everyone. I think this is a great example with the work environment and how we do it a little bit is like, look, I have my people a little bit. My people have their people. You have your people. I'm sure there are people that are like, damn, how Sarah makes me feel is amazing.

- [Sarah] I hope so.

- Right? Like she wants what's best for me. Like maybe Tosh or, or Tatiana. I don't know, you know? How she makes me feel, I just feel so fucking good that she wants the best for me. But then you have somebody like that.

- [Sarah] Absolutely.

- And I have somebody like that for me. There's people that I look up to, maybe not in the Easton organization but I'm like, god damn, that person is so fucking busy and they help me. Renzo's that for me.

- [Sarah] Right.

- He sat down, man, he sat down and did a podcast with me.

- [Sarah] That's, yeah.

- He was on his way to the UAE because the Prince called him and said, Renzo, you have to come tomorrow. You know? And Renzo was like, okay, but I've got to do this podcast with Eliot.

- Mm-hm. Yeah. I mean, I don't know if I'm great at that yet but it's something that I'm always striving for. I look at how the people who are that person to me have done stuff and I'm trying to start to emulate that for Tosh or Andrew and it's difficult.

- What's difficult about it?

- Being a leader,

- What's difficult? Tell me, where do you find it to be so difficult?

- [Sarah] So, I guess,

- I'm not trying to say that it's not but it's super difficult.

- Oh yeah, no it is.

- I agree with you. I want to know where you find it difficult.

- I think for me, it's kind of finding the difference between being bossy as a leadership and actually developing people. Growing up in school, I would be the person leading the group project and be like, okay, this is what we're going to do. This is what we're going to do. Okay, we got an A on it. But that doesn't necessarily make you a great leader just because you're bossy.

- Yeah, anybody can do, I mean, some people can just do the work.

- Yeah. So, for me, it's learning to have the little conversations, really care about what people are doing and then start to teach. And as a person who's not an instructor, it's new for me. To get into that teaching mentality. It's easy for me to just sit in the office in Boulder and do my work. I'm doing a good job. Mike knows I'm doing a good job but I'm not doing a service to everyone else if I just sit back there and I don't share what I'm doing.

- Because you're the AOD, right?

- [Sarah] Mm-hm.

- Which again, means?

- [Sarah] Academy Operations Director.

- And then underneath you is the DFI Director First Impressions, right?

- Mm-hm, yep.

- And that's Andrew.

- Yep.

- Okay. I try to go over this every time. I think that I sound dumb that I go over it every time like I don't know. But I've learned

- You might have people who haven't listened yet.

- Right, people haven't listened. So, Mike and I were talking about this this morning, and some of the ways that we messed up as an organization, it's on this topic here, is we've gone, we've taken people that have just been, and it's worked out so far. It's worked out but when we're looking, excuse me, at growing, we've taken people that were a good teacher, could do the front desk work, and could do this job and that job and then we move them into a GM.

- [Sarah] Right.

- That is, I mean, it's gone okay. But that's just somebody who can work. That's just somebody who can do tasks. And I think young Jamie over here has taken a little bit of a different path.

- [Sarah] Yeah. A little bit.

- Right. And your path. Right now, you said, I know you said you created your own job in the front desk manager.

- [Sarah] Yeah.

- So, that's not a task oriented job.

- [Sarah] Uh-uh.

- Tell us a little bit about how you did that and what you did to become the front desk manager.

- So, it was kind of a joke at first. Denise had left. Sachi was working as the assistant manager and I was kind of the person who'd been working at the front desk the longest. I was good at sales. I could do all of the tasks but I can,

- You were good at sales despite me, right?

- [Sarah] Despite.

- Despite when I came in on like your second day and said, yo, bitch, sell me.

- Yeah, that was terrifying.

- Because we were bored.

- I just started working there and here's this large, over six foot,

- I didn't say the B word.

- He didn't say the B word, no.

- [Eliot] Okay.

- But just sat down, sell me. And I'm brand new and I was like, duh, ah, join Easton. And you looked at Mike and you're like, this girl's working for us? And Mike's like, no, she's better than that, I swear.

- Right. I think I remember. I was like, Mike, really man?

- So, it was, I had been working the desk the longest. I started jokingly being like, well, I'm the front desk manager now because that's my personality and I like to joke around and push buttons and kind of see what I can get away with sometimes. And then they kind of were like, yeah.

- I have another one of you. She lives with me.

- Lucky you, then. So, lost my train of thought, but yeah so, I kind of was like seeing what was going on. I wanted to, I'd like Easton at that point. I could see myself sticking around maybe for like a year or two after college. Still wasn't looking at this as a long-term thing but I enjoyed it. I didn't want to do anything with my degree, necessarily. I didn't want to keep going to school.

- What was your degree?

- Psychology.

- [Eliot] Whew.

- Yeah. Good with sales, it's helpful. Was seeing what was going on and then it really turned into, I was working with people like Austin, Emily, Shea who, Austin was younger than me.

- Oh Emily Howrey.

- Emily Howrey but they were older than me. And that was interesting. Austin's younger than me. Emily, Shea, there all older than me, so it was interesting to learn how to work with people who are older than me because I'm one of the younger people in the organization as well.

- [Eliot] How old are you?

- 26.

- Oh, you millennial.

- Yep.

- No, when were you born?

- [Sarah] 1993.

- Oh yeah, you just make millennial. You're not I Gen yet.

- I remember before the internet.

- [Eliot] Yeah, I know. No, you don't.

- I do.

- You can't remember before the internet. The internet came out in 1995, girl.

- Okay, I remember before, like dial up. And it was a big thing. No one had computers in their house. I remember the Nokia brick cell phones.

- [Eliot] Yes, yes.

- I remember all that, so you know, I've got a little pre, pre-knowledge in there.

- [Eliot] Just a touch,

- Yeah, like that.

- Just a touch.

- Just a little. But it was the leadership piece and not just the tasks. Trying to figure out how to make sure that everybody was happy with what they were doing and enjoying it as much as I did. Because the front desk gets a lot of turn-over. It's one of those things

- Not anymore.

- It's getting better, yeah but there was awhile there. Hiring from within, people who were upset working the desk because they wanted to train. Dealing with things like that and that kind of like,

- Oo, let's touch on this for a second. I'm going to pause on you right there.

- That's okay.

- Because this is such a big thing. I got you Jamie. Don't you fucking worry. This is such a big thing that I think we blow in our academy sometimes, is you hire someone who wants, who doesn't understand that this is a dedicated front desk job.

- [Sarah] Mm-hm, yeah.

- This is a dedicated job right now. There is no, oh, I'm bored. Hey, hey, you want to train?

- [Sarah] Yeah. It's just going to take some,

- And that's what was going on a little bit. That's what goes on a ton in a lot of Jiu Jitsu schools. Why does that not work?

- Well, I think it puts what's so important about the desk position on the back burner.

- [Eliot] Okay what's so important?

- So, it's doing the followups. It's doing the grind of really reaching out to those people. That's something that I noticed that Easton did really well right off the bat is, man, we're not just going to have you reach out to us, like hey, you want to come take a class. We don't hear from you, we followup maybe one more time and you fall off the mat. We're reaching out to these people over and over and over again. And that is, I think, really different from a lot of schools and having that dedicated front desk to do that is, I think, one of the things that helped Boulder double in size in a couple of years. We moved to the new academy. We had the space to expand but you needed the people to fill that space. And it's that dedicated front desk doing those calls. And that doesn't end just because you want to take a break and go train.

- Right. I think both schools doubled in size when we open new schools, like Denver.

- [Sarah] Denver, yeah.

- Denver doubled as well. So, because we had to get dedicated front desk.

- [Sarah] Yes.

- There's no more, you don't read your book. Because before the front desk, what the front desk use to look like was you would just sit there to answer the phone.

- [Sarah] Mm-hm. Check people in.

- Check people in. But a lot of down time.

- [Sarah] Yeah.

- A lot of down time. But when you came on, when you and Sachi, who else was there in the beginning?

- Shawn Co, who I got hired with.

- Yeah, Shawn. I remember Shawn.

- Like Shawn a lot still.

- I think she's still around.

- She's still around.

- She still trains.

- She's mentioned coming back in actually.

- Yeah.

- And then it was Shea. Precious, Heaven, Emily Howrey, Austin, Dawson.

- Right, yeah, okay. And now a little different.

- [Sarah] A little different.

- A little different. It's moved. But I think a lot because we learned.

- [Sarah] We did.

- We learned that sometimes hiring your Jiu Jitsu instructor that needs a little more money doesn't quite work.

- No. I think one of the biggest things that Sachi and I went through with the hiring process for the front desk was, and Mike mentions this, I don't know if in the podcast or if I've just heard him say it, but hiring for attitude. You can teach the skills, for the most part. Not everyone's going to be a great salesman, or salesperson. But if that person comes in, has a great attitude, you can teach them those tasks. They start doing classes. They believe in the community and then, you kind of have a me, I guess.

- [Eliot] Right.

- So, someone who has the right attitude can be taught everything else.

- What is the right attitude?

- I think it's being open to everything. Not being like, this is my job. I'm not going to do anything else. You know, like being willing to grind. I would get, have been frustrated in the past. Someone saying like, oh, I've been on the weekend shifts for this long. I was like, I worked the weekend shifts for two years. And having that attitude of the whatever it takes. And being there for the team.

- All of our jobs at Easton, I would say, are to make somebody else's job, while working together, easier. So, if you as the front desk person could go help the instructor, you do it.

- [Sarah] Yeah, absolutely.

- Even if it's not your job. And vice versa. If the instructor's on the mat. He's like, ah, you know what? I've got a little down time. I bet you this would help the front desk person. Then they have to go do it.

- [Sarah] Yeah, they go do laundry. Fold hand towels.

- Right. Whatever it is, you know? No one's job is laundry, except it is. No one's job is cleaning the mat, except it is. And that's one of the big things that happens with Easton is there's no, and I think it's because we're a community. Because we like each other and we get along with each other and we appreciate each other.

- I'm not going to resent you because I know who you are as a person. I know you're not asking me to do something just because like, ah, she's less than me and she can do that job that sucks.

- I asked you guys to buy a trash can the other day.

- Uh-huh, I did it.

- I know you did. You know, I appreciate it.

- Still smaller than the other ones.

- It's still smaller. I know.

- [Sarah] Bigger.

- But like that, is that, I don't know if that's, is that your job or not your job? How does that,

- I mean,

- I don't know. I felt like we needed a trash can.

- Yeah, you asked and it was my job.

- [Eliot] Right. We joked about it a little bit.

- We did a little bit.

- It was fun. So, let's move on to what it is that we are doing here with Easton Online. The three of us are the creators of the first Easton Online course. First Impressions Specialists. And I would like to say that you really made this, this First Impressions Specialist idea that we don't even call it front desk anymore. The DFI, Director of First Impressions.

- [Sarah] Right.

- Because that's what we're doing. We're making a first impression. Explain how you cultivated it to that.

- Yeah. So, you're coming into the Academy. You want to do classes. You've already signed up for your membership. We not even talking about sales. But you've had a bad day at work. You were sitting in traffic. You just want to go train. You walk in and it's, hey, Eliot. Here for advance tonight? And you go, I've walked in the door. That's what we're trying to embody with the front desk. It's the community that we've been talking about this whole podcast. And I think a lot in the last few months is we're really figuring out what our systems are. So, cultivating that mentality at the front desk where it's learning everybody's names, knowing what they're here for. It goes beyond being able to sell a membership. It's making everyone feel welcome and being that place where people come when they're having a bad day and they're like, ah, I'm here.

- But you're the first person, the front desk, quote unquote, are the first people they see.

- Yes. And they're the first, literally they open the door and it's our lovely faces. Welcome to Easton. And then someone walks in. They have their kid training at ABC Climbing across the street or they're just walking down and they're like, oh, I've seen this and I want to walk in. It's awesome. What's your name? I'm Sarah. Let me show you around. What made you walk in, just because you wanted to see it? Have you done martial arts before? Just really caring about why someone stepped in the door.

- That's all these things and yes, the goal is to make them become a member but we don't go about it by making them become a member. We go about it by learning the person.

- [Sarah] Yes. And then everything follows.

- Right. Build rapport.

- Mm-hm. Exactly.

- Building rapport. And you've cultivated a system for building rapport.

- Yes.

- [Eliot] Talk about that a little bit.

- So, building rapport, it's really just asking questions and listening to the answers. People get in the habit of saying, oh, I'm sorry, what's your name. And then you immediately forget their name. So, you're asking questions. You're listening to it. You're keeping notes on that. We have our systemized followup. But you are building rapport, asking them the big why is what you're trying to get to. So, some say, oh, I came in because I want to get in shape. Could be a lot behind that.

- Right. You don't just stop right there.

- No. And you're like, oh, what are you doing in your workout now? Have you don't sports in the past? Asking those open ended questions where they have to give you some answers. And there could be reasons why people want to come in that they don't want to talk about and building rapport is going to help you get to that. I might not want to come in be all like, oh, I was attacked.

- And you're not telling somebody that right away.

- No.

- Not even close.

- No, absolutely not. So, building rapport, figuring out really the why for why someone wants to come in.

- You might never figure out that why though.

- [Sarah] You might not. They might be very secretive about it.

- They might not tell you that.

- But in the community and you just showing that you actually care, it's going to do the same thing for them whether they feel open with sharing.

- So, I know from doing this podcast that a lot of times this listening thing you're talking about, a lot of times we just want to shut up just for a small enough amount of time so that we can make our next point.

- [Sarah] Yes.

- Like, okay, I have to give a space for them to talk, so I won't listen to a word they fucking say because my next point is going to be this. I've gone on other people's podcasts and it's god awful. I'm like, how the fuck do you have a podcast? You can't listen for shit. And I do that sometimes, so this is something that I'm working on.

- I can't remember what it's from. It was an email Mike Versace sent out from a blog and something that they talked about was listening to react verses listening to understand. So, when you're listening to react, it's all about what your next point is going to be. And me being an argumentative person, someone who always has an opinion, I'm always like, ah, what am I going to say to respond to this? And so, that's something that I've tried to work on a lot too is instead of thinking how am I going to respond to this, what are you actually saying?

- You've brought it up a couple times now, so let's talk about it. You being an argumentative person. And I think a little bit you fall on the opposite side of the spectrum of me and Mike.

- A little bit.

- On some things. How do you deal with us?

- [Sarah] Um,

- I guess, so, let's talk about you first. How do you deal with us? And then how do people get along in the workplace when we have such vastly, we're not that vastly different, you're just a millennial.

- On some things.

- It's not your fault. When you have such vastly different viewpoints. So, how can you actually work together?

- Well, I think the comfort is a big thing because for awhile I wouldn't have dared to disagree with you because we just weren't on that same space. We didn't know each other. I hadn't really interacted with you that much except, hey, Eliot.

- How'd you get comfortable with me then? Because I fucking loud. I'm brash. I scream. Obviously, most a lot of maybe what I screamed about you disagreed with, especially some of my banter.

- [Sarah] A little bit.

- Which I don't even believe in, 90% of the time. But that can be super intimidating. So, how did you get good with me?

- I think working with you more has been helpful. Working on Easton Online, the First Impressions Specialist, when it was like, hey, you want to come over? And I was like, oh, okay. We had, I'd come over for the birthday party before but that was a big Easton, there was a lot of Easton people there and it was kind of like, oh, Sarah knows Mike and them, maybe I'll invite her. I don't know what you're viewpoint was. We hadn't really interacted that much. So, I think coming and actually working with you and kind of hearing other people's stories like, oh, the fire marshal verses Eliot, I guess. And Mike saying, ah, Eliot is actually this really nice guy who's understanding and listens. I guess hearing that a little bit made me feel a little more comfortable. And I guess it has to just be interacting more together.

- I think man, one of my students just came up to me and we were talking and he's like, sometimes when you don't know someone, and it's like what you just said about Mike there. When you don't know somebody and you're unsure they're a solid person or not a solid person, remove one step. Look at the five people they surround themselves with and do you love those five people? Do you trust those people? And if that answer's yes, like for you it's Mike, so you probably gave me a chance because you're like, god damn, Mike really loves him.

- [Sarah] Yeah.

- Okay, there's got to be something about that asshole then.

- Right. He can't be as loud and abrasive actually. I mean, he is but not,

- I am.

- Yeah, you are. But yeah, and so I guess just getting more comfortable, just voicing my opinion and feeling like, oh, it's okay if I have a differing opinion than you. I'm not going to get fired for that.

- [Eliot] Right, oh, god no.

- So, knowing that I'm comfortable with that and I guess, for me, with you guys having differing viewpoints, it's trying to, I like to debate. I guess argumentative can be a negative connotation. I like to debate.

- [Eliot] You like to debate. As do I. I love it.

- Yeah, I would love to sit down, have a calm conversation where nobody raises their voices.

- No, no. That ain't east coast, girl. That ain't east coast. Whoever's loudest is the rightest.

- And I'm going to present my ideas and I'm going to try and change your mind. And I really enjoy that. Some of my close friends from college, we will talk politics and we have very differing viewpoints. I'm fairly liberal. They're a libertarian, no government anything.

- I just beat Foster's ass.

- And we have,

- I beat Foster's ass and then I tell him what the truth is.

- But it's fun. I enjoy that. So, I guess with you and Mike having those differing viewpoints, for me, I think of it kind of as a challenge. How can I intellectually lay out my viewpoints and try to change your mind?

- God, it's so crazy

- It's king of a game.

- because I don't think we're that different. I think,

- No. No, we're not.

- I bet you we have never voted differently.

- [Sarah] Probably not, no.

- We have never voted differently. So, when we talk about different viewpoints that we have but we still have these,

- We like to play devil's advocate.

- We like to play devil's advocate. Sometimes I just argue for argument's sake.

- Exactly.

- I think you do too.

- I do too. Mike's like, okay, Sarah, stop. We're on the same page. I'm like, but someone else might say this and we have to think about it from this viewpoint. He's like, nope, we're done.

- Let's talk about a workplace thing where we did disagree and how we all moved through that. I, the sensitivity training.

- [Sarah] Right.

- I did not like the beginning. I really didn't like the beginning and you kind of liked it. I'll be super honest here. I thought it was awful. I thought it was really, really terrible. And I felt like we needed to have a meeting.

- [Sarah] Yes.

- And we did.

- We did, we had a meeting.

- How did it go for you?

- I think it went well. Something that I try to work on with my liking to debate is letting other people voice their viewpoints and not just jumping in and being like, no, this is why this is this. So, I enjoyed that we had Tosh from the front desk in there, Ian, as the calm presence there, you and Mike, strong opinions on it. I had strong opinions on it. Sachi and I were probably on the same page. So, it was a bunch of different personalities from all different levels in the organization, Tosh being front desk, you being one of the owners, Mike being president, kind of just sitting there and having a rational conversation about what we wanted from it and that was where we were able to come together I think.

- I think this was, here, a super great point that we have to talk about. So, you're the one who did the work to set it up?

- [Sarah] I did.

- And I'm the one, Mike and I were the ones that didn't like it. So, we had to come in with some understanding of your point of view. And you had to come in with some understanding of our point of view.

- [Sarah] Yeah, I had to not take it personally.

- You had to not take it personally. And then Mike and I had to not be like, yo, you fucked this up.

- [Sarah] Right, mm-hm.

- Because it wasn't a fuck up. It was just a good learning point. And that's how I think we have to approach a lot of things in our business when we're doing things with people that we do disagree with sometimes. It doesn't have to be a you fucked this up. It can be like a, hey, I didn't quite like how this went down. Can we talk about what you were thinking in the beginning?

- Yeah. So, we were having some things in the Academies that we thought we needed this. We changed it from sensitivity to core values and responsibility training.

- [Eliot] Is that what we called it right away?

- No, we called it sensitivity training first.

- [Eliot] In Boulder.

- In Boulder. And then we changed it because sensitivity training, you guys were like, oh, that sounds like, oh, let's be sensitive.

- [Eliot] Well, I want to make people anti-fragile.

- Yes.

- [Eliot] So, you can't be sensitive if you're anti-fragile.

- Nope. So, our core values and responsibility training, which is what we needed, everyone to be on the same page about in the organization was the core values and what those meant.

- [Eliot] Explain to everybody what a core value is again.

- So, it's the things that you're willing to lose friends and money over. And we had lost some friends and maybe some money over these core values and it was creating tension in the academy. I know, especially in Boulder. It was right after the individual that you and Mike and everyone were all friends with was asked to leave.

- [Eliot] Right. That sucked.

- He was someone who'd been in the community three times as long as I had and was kind of an integral part of a lot of people's journey in martial arts. And so, there was tension about that among the staff, among the students. And so, we wanted to have a training to kind of talk about what Easton was trying to really, I guess lay the gauntlet down about. The things that we thought were super important and how we were going to grow. And so, that was not necessarily expressed 100% in the first training that we all had. It was more of like a general, I think micro-aggressions were the things that, one of the big topics, the hot button one that everyone hated. And for me, I was like, okay, yeah, micro-aggressions, sure but what's the bigger message that they're trying to put out there is that what you say can have an impact on people that you don't intent. And that's where we, I think, kind of came together and were like, yeah, screw micro-aggressions. Impact verses intent.

- Right. Yes. They talked like, for me in that meeting, they talked way to much about micro-aggressions and less about, hey, let's try to have, this is some Huddleston right here, more skillful conversations so that we can get to the results that we want to have.

- [Sarah] It's beautifully said.

- And that's what we want to do. I'm not, yeah, I don't believe in micro-aggressions. And I believe that we macro-aggress.

- You macro-aggress.

- [Eliot] The whole school macro-aggresses.

- I probably do too.

- We do. No, we do. We are a macro-aggressing community. And I think, personally, that that is very, very good for individuals. I don't believe that macro-aggress emotionally is necessarily right. Like the pressure that we apply to people is super important. And the idea of micro-aggressing, like me asking you where you're from. And these are some of the things that I got hung up on.

- Right. Because their coach, when someone comes in and that, like, oh, where you from? It's a very easy first question.

- It's a way to lead into a god damn question to find out more about the person. Like, okay, so, this is where you're from. You've probably never, you are from East Egypt. You have never seen Jiu Jitsu before in your life. It helps gain information. So, we had to move on from that. And everyone starts out sometimes so defensive. And I think that was the good thing and you brought it up about bringing Tosh into the room. Bringing, who else was in the room? Ian into the room, who didn't even hear the,

- [Sarah] He wasn't in the training.

- He wasn't even in the training. You have to sometimes bring your other people in, who, so everyone can feel comfortable. Mike and I, and I think you were in the room too, weren't you Jamie? Mike and I, I get him to laugh every time. Mike and I and Jordan, because I think Jordan disagreed with it too, we couldn't just sit down with you and be like, hey. We knew we needed some Sarah team. So, that's a really important thing and I would like to say that probably helped the room feel more comfortable.

- Absolutely. And we got good results from it. We hammered out what we wanted from the training.

- [Eliot] Exactly.

- We were able to be calm and rational about it and I think the training's moving forward. I didn't go to any other Academies but I heard that they were good.

- I heard they were good. Yeah. And now here's a great point. I had to trust you that you were going to handle your shit and do what I asked and not just sit there and like, well, that's. I didn't go to anymore trainings. I just trusted you.

- [Sarah] Yep.

- Even though we might have disagreed on the issue, we still might disagree on the issue a little bit.

- [Sarah] Maybe.

- That's fine. But a point of leadership and just what you have to do with your employees, you give them a task and you can't be up their ass.

- [Sarah] No. That's been hard for me.

- [Eliot] Yeah, me too.

- Andrew and I have definitely had some tension there.

- Because why? Because Andrew's the DFI.

- Yep and I was in his position. So, he's Director of First Impressions, what use to be the front desk manager. And stepping back from that and having him do things not the way that I would do them

- [Eliot] Oh, god.

- doesn't mean they're bad.

- Oh, no.

- But it's hard. That's your baby. I was working the front desk for four years. That's a long time to go from working part-time on the weekends to running that and having my expectation of how things are going to go and how things are going to work well to letting someone else do their own thing.

- Whew. My wife and I, so this is a perfect example of right and wrong. Your way, my way. If you stood on this end of the table and I stood on this end of the table and we needed to move the table. You would move left. I would move right and nothing would move. We'd be fighting against each other. My wife likes to tell me I'm wrong. And I'm like, well, no, I'm just moving the opposite way of you. We have to move the same way. And look, then I start getting mad and it goes terrible between the both of us but we've learned. We've learned, hey, which way are you going to move? And then, the other person can counter. So, you sometimes just have to ask Andrew, hey man, how are you going to do this?

- Right. And that's that communication piece that I could definitely be better at.

- Yeah, me too. Well, because you just expect the person to do it like you. But it's what makes, the truth, Alex Huddleston, from your perspective is the truth. It's your truth. It's not necessarily somebody else's.

- Uh-huh. So, it's one of those difficult things about leading that I'm still figuring out.

- [Eliot] How are you working on it?

- Trying, so, Mike gave me a task I have yet to succeed, I don't think.

- Sarah.

- Is to not give my opinion for 24 hours.

- [Eliot] Oh god.

- Yeah. I've been pretty good. I've been, and as the AOD,

- [Eliot] What's that?

- [Man Off Camera] I said, I don't think I could do that.

- It's hard.

- To not give your opinion?

- [Sarah] For 24 hours.

- What if somebody asked what you wanted to eat for dinner?

- Well, I think that's different.

- [Eliot] Okay.

- So, maybe the spirit of the task isn't necessarily to be so literal but to be, okay, let everyone figure out their own thing for 24 hours and realize that nothing burns down. So, I turned to Matt afterwards, Matt the GM in Boulder and I said, hey, can you help me?

- We haven't don't Matty B. yet, have we?

- [Sarah] We haven't don't Matty, nope.

- God damn, we gotta do Matty B. Because Matty B has the hardest job.

- [Man Off Camera] Amen. That's why I sent him to Boulder.

- [Sarah] Oh, yeah. So, turned to him and I said, hey, can you, if you hear me, give me a look. Because it's something, you don't even think about it.

- It's so natural to you.

- Mm-hm. So, working on that. Trying to, even if I think someone's making a mistake, not swoop in. I'm trying to, like I said, come out of the office and teach. Take five minutes every hour to go walk around because it's easy in the office in the Boulder Academy to just stay back there. And I'll get people like, oh, I didn't know you worked here anymore. I'm like, yep.

- In Boulder and Denver it's so easy because the office is separate.

- But you get people like, oh, I didn't know you worked here anymore. And you're like, oo, that's not great.

- That's not good. It's okay if you're the DFI maybe but it's not okay, especially not if you're the AOD.

- No, no. And it's easy because it's all admin. And then, I guess, as the AOD, taking the step back from managing people to doing admin. It's hard. Because Mike, with the AOD and the GM positions, when you're at a school the size of Boulder and you have both a DFI and an AOD. AOD is admin, so you're doing all those things. It's not necessarily my job to go in and handle hard conversations. That's Matt's job. And I want to do it because I was in that DFI position and I want to be good at that because I want to further my development but it's a hard line to walk.

- And as far as giving your opinion and correcting people all the time thing, how did you learn the best?

- Like learn the best growing up in school or how did I learn not to do that?

- Just in general, how do humans learn the best, do you think?

- Well, for me personally, it's repetition.

- And in those repetitions, do you do it well at first or do you do it poorly?

- No, oh, fail first.

- So, you fail first. And I think everyone learns like that. You need these repetitions where you just fuck it up and fuck it up and we stop they're failing a lot. And I think we do that sometimes. We go in, especially you and I, who are super type A, think we're fucking right all the time, as we've already discussed, we go and we go, nope, this is the way to do it. This is how it's done. And we're stopping that person from learning the tasks that they need,

- Absolutely.

- the little things of what not to say.

- [Sarah] Not being a good steward.

- Not being a good steward. The steward of Gondor. That's how the "Lord of the Rings".

- That's what I think of every time.

- Me too. That's what I think of everytime now. We just, two days ago we just did it, right? The Steward. So, we'll tell the story real fast on the podcast too. The Steward of Gondor. So, you "Lord of the Rings" nerds,

- [Sarah] Oh, yeah.

- Oh, yeah. The Steward of Gondor was suppose to just hold the position in time for the King but he wanted to be the King.

- [Sarah] He did.

- And so, he was not the steward. He was acting as King, even though he wasn't the rightful King. And things just fell apart.

- [Sarah] Bad steward

- Bad steward. We always want to take somebody to the next level.

- [Sarah] Yeah, trying to replace yourself.

- Yes, well, I can't, if you're an amazing AOD, and just such a good AOD, and you want to move to a GM because that's the next position up, possibly, well, shit, I can't do that if you haven't made somebody ready to take your spot.

- Yeah, and I think that's something that we're all focusing a lot on right now is that bench strength.

- [Eliot] Right, everywhere, right?

- Everywhere, every position.

- Everywhere. I mean, shit, what are we going to do if Mike gets hit by a bus tomorrow?

- [Sarah] Woo.

- Close the schools?

- [Sarah] That's not what he would want.

- That's not what he would want. But that's not my job. That's his job. That's Mike's job. That is not my job to create another CEO or president. That's Mike's job. You have to replace yourself. But that's so scary.

- It is. You want to feel valued. You want to feel like you're, I go on vacation, like, oh, things fell apart when you weren't there. That feels good but that's not what we want. You want people to be able to function without you. And that's how the business is going to grow. It can be a little bit of a hit to your ego but it's maybe what you need to do.

- [Eliot] Oh, that you're not needed.

- Yeah, that you're not needed.

- Right. That you could just leave.

- Yeah. I mean, it's satisfying to be like, oh, we needed you. It makes you feel good. It makes you feel important but it's not productive in the long run.

- They should want you. You don't want someone to need you, even in a personal relationship. I don't want my wife to need me. That sucks.

- Some serious co-dependency issues.

- Yeah, that's awful. I don't, I call Mike and Ian now when I'm going to Hawaii in a couple hours. Well, tomorrow I'm going to Hawaii but today we leave to California. I don't want, I don't call the school to be like, yo, how's it going? What are the numbers? How many people did we sign up? I don't do that.

- [Sarah] Talk about that sales funnel.

- Yeah, I don't do that. I call Mike and Ian when I'm on vacation as my homies. Yo, what you guys doing? We probably won't talk.

- [Sarah] Nope.

- We don't call each other like that. I'll probably call Jordan, talk about some coffee.

- There you go. Hawaii has good coffee.

- Kona.

- Kona.

- Kona has, because it's got the mountain right there, it's such delicious coffee. It's fucking expensive. $20 a pound. Whew. $20 a pound and man, it goes fast too. But that's a huge thing. You want, like you were saying, you want things to fall apart, you ego does. But you've got to get rid of that.

- [Sarah] Yes. It's hard.

- Why is it hard?

- I think everybody wants to feel wanted and needed, regardless of whether it's healthy for you. I mean, you can get into psychology here and wanting to feel like you're important, it validates yourself and it makes you feel good and you can walk with a higher head in the world knowing that you're needed and you're wanted. And so, I think separating that a little bit from, oh, I can still be important, if they can still function without me.

- Oh, that's such a good point there. I can be important but I'm not needed.

- [Sarah] Yes.

- That's a huge distinction you just made. I can be important but I'm not needed. They don't need me here but I am in integral and important part to the team. I really like that. I think we're going to cut it right there.

- [Sarah] There you go.

- That was a great place to stop. So, thanks, Sarah.

- Wisdom.

- [Eliot] Was it as bad as you thought?

- No, it was fine. I was like, oh, should I wear a seater. I might sweat but I'm good.

- Nah, you're good. Nobody will see it. I mean, you could be sweating like a pig right now and we wouldn't even know.

- Nope. Composed.

- Composed. What was so, let me ask you. Is it me that's nervous? Because I know for Peter it was me.

- No, it wasn't you. Like I said, I feel like I've gotten pretty comfortable with you in the last year. We're good. I think more it was, so you talk about feeling important, feeling needed, I didn't know if I had anything to contribute. I was, what I have to say is not going to be useful for other people out there.

- I think everyone's story is useful.

- So, it was that. It was, I don't know what I'm going to talk about.

- I didn't know what we were going to talk about either. But I think, this is the Joe Rogan effect. This is what Rogan's done so well is that he's just told people stories. He's let them tell their story. Just like we like to be needed, I think we think that we're unique a lot or different than everyone else. And we're not. There's somebody out there that's exactly like us. And maybe not our DNA but they're dealing with the same issues. They're struggling with the same things. There's another Jiu Jitsu school that's struggling just how Boulder's struggling. They're struggling just how Centennial is struggling or Littleton or Denver. Maybe not all of them but one of them.

- [Sarah] Absolutely.

- So, when they can hear the stories about what it's like to, how one person mitigates their suffering and struggle. Then we can see that like, damn. And that's all I like to do, personally.

- Totally. And it's all the unique perspectives, being a woman, being younger.

- [Eliot] Being younger.

- There's someone out there like that.

- Someone out there, there's another Sarah just like you, maybe not with your name, who's trying to do the same thing.

- Sarah's pretty common, so there's a good chance. There's a good chance.

- There's a good chance

- There's a good chance

- There's a good chance there's another Sarah, S-R. How do you say, I always fuck up your last name.

- [Sarah] Rochniak.

- Rochniak. I always say Rozniak. I don't know why I think there's a fuckin Z in it.

- [Sarah] C-H.

- C-H. All right, Sarah. Thank you.

- [Sarah] Yep, thank you

- I appreciate you making this happen short notice.

- [Sarah] Yeah, we're good.

- We're good. She's like fuck you.

- No, it was good. It was good experience. It was a growing experience.

- Yes. Yes and I'm a little flustered. I don't know if this was the best one. You'll tell me, Jordan. Because I'm, my life's been all over the place trying to get stuff done before I leave. So, we shall see what the people say.

- [Sarah] Absolutely.

- The market determines your success.

- [Sarah] That's true.

- [Eliot] All right, guys, that's it. Thanks.

- Thank you.

 

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