Building Employees Up— Van Tran (E11)

Dec 23, 2019

Van Tran is the Creative Director of Easton Training Center and Easton Denver's Academy Operations Director. She began working for Easton in 2012 and has experienced the company's transformation first hand.

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Transcript:

- Welcome to the Easton Online Podcast. I'm your host, Eliot Marshall, and what this podcast is here to do, it's here to help you gain strategies and tactics and tools that are gonna 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 there.

- Hi, Eliot.

- [Eliot] How are you?

- I'm well, how about you?

- You fucked up today, girl.

- What do you mean? What do you mean?

- You brought Starbucks in my house!

- I didn't know.

- [Eliot] I know.

- I was so tired, and you know, I went to make that turn. I saw that Starbucks, I couldn't resist.

- [Eliot] You couldn't resist it, right?

- I was like, I gotta get that vanilla chai.

- Oh, okay. You brought vanilla chai? Oh, that's fine, you should have just told me that.

- Oh, I don't know, it seemed like you were pretty intense about it, so I was like, I guess no type of coffee from Starbucks is okay.

- Whoa, whoa, whoa. I'm not intense, man. No one would describe me as intense. Vanilla chai is okay, because I can't make you a better vanilla chai. I don't even know how to make a vanilla chai.

- Okay, so I'm safe.

- [Eliot] You're safe, you're good.

- I still had a little bit of coffee in that little cup, and you took it, and you were like, shh. You didn't even ask me. I was just sipping on it. You were like, yoink, tada. Oh, shit.

- I was like, all right.

- I suck, I'm sorry.

- [Van] You're okay.

- It's a good thing you love me. That's what I say about everybody. This whole thing would fall apart. That's why people complain about me, though, right, is they don't know me yet, and then they're like, that fucking asshole.

- I know, I'm always like, Eliot's great. You just gotta know him. You just gotta get to know him.

- You just gotta get to know him. So, how did we get to know each other? When was it? No, I wanna start with you first actually.

- [Van] Sure.

- Did you grow up in Colorado?

- Yeah, born and raised.

- [Eliot] Where'd you grow up, born and raised?

- Denver.

- [Eliot] Denver.

- Native, yep.

- [Eliot] Native. And you have a huge family, right?

- Yeah, I have a very big family, yeah.

- [Eliot] And what's your nationality, Vietnamese?

- I'm Vietnamese. You want me to go through my history?

- Yeah, why don't you talk about you a little bit? Talk about you a little bit, and then we'll tie that into Easton and where that went.

- Sure, sure, okay. So I'll start with my grandparents. So, my family immigrated here during the Vietnam War, and my grandma had nine kids. I think two of 'em were born, two or three were born here, but my mom is an immigrant.

- [Eliot] Your mom's Vietnamese?

- Mmhmm.

- [Eliot] Like, from Vietnam, sorry.

- Yeah, yeah.

- [Eliot] Of course she's Vietnamese.

- And then my dad came here by himself. He was 14, and he came here by himself during the Vietnam War as well. So his grandparents didn't immigrate here. He did it himself. My mom came here with my grandma.

- [Eliot] With your grandma.

- Mmhmm, during the war.

- [Eliot] Where's your grandpa?

- My grandpa did too, sorry. And then my grandparents on my dad's side stayed in Vietnam. Grandparents on my mom's side came here with the family.

- Makes sense. I'm intense and I'm slow, sorry.

- You're fine. But basically, you know, they came here poor, built a life for themselves, and then my mom had me. And at that point, she was pretty established. She works for the government, and yeah, now I'm here.

- [Eliot] Now you're here, okay.

- That's basically it, yeah. I have a pretty big family, like you said. My grandma had nine kids, and then out of those nine kids, they all have children, and they all live here. So then when we all gather up, it's this huge, huge gathering.

- Your cousin worked for us for a minute, right? Kim?

- Yeah, yeah, Kim, mmhmm, yep.

- [Eliot] How's Kim?

- Kim's great. She just got married, like, I wanna say a couple years ago. Yeah, a couple years ago.

- [Eliot] Nice.

- So she's doing really good, and yeah.

- It's crazy, but she doesn't look Vietnamese at all.

- No, that's another thing. A lot of my family is mixed.

- [Eliot] Okay, 'cause they married white people.

- Yeah.

- [Eliot] Like, the children married white people.

- Yeah, yeah, all my cousins are half, except for maybe a handful, just on my mom's side. I don't really know my dad's side very well. A lot of them are in Vietnam still. I have some cousins that are here on my dad's side, but I hardly ever see them.

- [Eliot] You've never gone back to Vietnam as long as I've known you, I don't think, have you?

- No, last I went when I was seven, and it was kind of a traumatic experience for me. I went for my grandfather's funeral, and I didn't really know him at that point. So, my dad's family lives in the countryside. So there's no plumbing, and it's just very, I don't know, very basic over there. So, it was hard to revert from coming from the US, going to Vietnam, and living in this countryside for, I think it was like a month that we were there.

- [Eliot] Oh, wow.

- Yeah, I got really sick, too. I got some sort of food poisoning. I just remember being really sick. I remember knowing that half the animals that I met there were gonna get killed and eaten. So, that was very traumatizing as a child. But you know, it's a different life out there. They're poor. They go out and they grind by selling, I think was scrunchies at the time, and I would go with them. I don't know, the culture was just very different, and then all I remember, coming from that experience, was how much it kind of traumatized me. So I haven't been back since. Not saying it's a bad country at all or anything or it's a bad place to visit, but I just haven't had any desire.

- You had a very bad experience.

- Yeah, I had a very bad experience, but I don't think as a whole it would be fair for me to be like, it's a bad place to visit.

- Well, I'm like this with, like, I've gotten over this. My therapist has helped me with this, but I used to totally associate the result of a fight with wherever we went.

- [Van] Yeah, sure.

- So like, Japan, the whole country sucks to me.

- [Van] Really, I love Japan! I know. I'm sure it's amazing, but in my mind, we went for a fight, Dwayne got his fucking forehead split open.

- [Van] I think I remember this, yep.

- Right? And the only other thing that I remember is that I wanted a Coca Cola at breakfast, because your time's all off. I wanted a Coke, and I could see the Coke right over there, but it wasn't Coca Cola time. So they had to ask all these people, like, to the next supervisor and the next, if I could have this Coke. And I'm like, oh my God, you guys know the answer's gonna be yes. Just give me the fucking Coke. So those are the only two things I really remember.

- [Van] Uh-huh.

- Which both sucked. And I'm sure Japan was amazing. Okay, no, there was this ramen place.

- Okay.

- There was this ramen place around the corner from our hotel, ridiculously good. But that's not on the forefront of my mind. But on the forefront of my mind was the fight.

- [Van] Sure, yeah, that makes sense, that makes sense.

- But my therapist has worked on this with me. So I'm not allowed to, I shouldn't say I'm not allowed. I try not to associate the one negative experience with the entire place.

- Right, right. I am planning on going back to Vietnam someday. I mean, that's where my culture is, so I am planning eventually to go back there. I just really haven't, I'm not really, this is mean to say, but I'm not really keen on going back to the countryside and experiencing that again, which, a good amount of my family does live out there.

- Right, right.

- So if I went it would have to be strictly for leisure and for fun.

- Simon asked me the other day if he could, he's like, Daddy, can we leave the country? Just randomly, and I was like, okay. I was like, why? And he goes, I wanna see what it's like. I was like, all right, cool, we can leave the country. I thought it was pretty cool.

- Are you guys planning something?

- No, I didn't talk to Renee about it yet. Shit's too hard with kids, man.

- [Van] Yeah, sure.

- No, it's not too hard, but we'll do it. We'll do it. So, you go through high school and all that, right, and then even when you met me, when I interviewed you on the steps of the cage back there I think.

- [Van] Yeah, yeah.

- You had already been in this whole martial arts thing. You liked martial arts already, right?

- Mmhmm, yep.

- [Eliot] Talk about that.

- So, I was, it's actually kind of funny, because I actually interviewed at your place before, 'cause somebody called me, and it was a phone interview. I won't say any names.

- [Eliot] Me?

- No, it wasn't you, but there was somebody who called me. And at the time, I mean, even now, I still feel like I'm a pretty big MMA fan, but back then, I was really hardcore, really into it, because the person I was dating at the time was fighting, and he kind of introduced me to the scene, and I was really into it. So, I saw, no, wait. One of my friends was training at Easton at the time.

- [Eliot] Oh, I remember this.

- Yeah, Tan, she's awesome. So she put a good word for me to get a job there, 'cause I was looking for something part-time, and if I could work at any type of MMA anything, I was like, down, you know? 'Cause at the time, when Grudge was still big, I always wanted to work at Grudge.

- [Eliot] Grudge was the spot for a minute.

- Yeah, Grudge was the shit, man. Yeah, so then she put in a good word for me, and then I did get a phone interview, and I wasn't expecting it, and the person who gave me the phone interview was just like, so, tell me about yourself. And I really did not know where to go from there. At the time, I was really excited that I got this interview, but at the same time, I'm like, I hope I don't say the wrong thing. And I just word vomited, I don't even know what. It was not a good interview. I just remember getting off the phone and being like, I didn't get the job, 'cause it was such a bad interview. So I actually interviewed that before, and I was like, okay, I did not get this job. There was no way, and I didn't. And then fast forward to a couple years. I graduated college.

- [Eliot] What'd you go to college for?

- I went to UCD and I went to college for drawing.

- University of Colorado Denver.

- Yeah. I went to school for drawing. So, a degree that is not exactly the most coveted thing.

- Whatever, man, every time I need a posture, you make it, crush it.

- Oh, thank you, thank you. I learned something.

- Every time I need a poster, Jamie, I'm like, yo, Van, I'm doing this seminar. Can you make me a flyer? She makes me a flyer, and then wherever I go, they're like, yo, who's your flyer person?

- Nice, thank you. I didn't know that. That's the only thing I've ever wanted in life. To be the flyer person?

- Yeah, to get props on that.

- And it's probably not even that good by your standards, 'cause I'm like, yeah.

- No, I mean, I will say, I went to a school with a lot of talented people, and in comparison, I look at my work, and I'm like, God, they can probably do this a million times better.

- Yeah, maybe, but I'm saying, it's probably not even good for your standards, 'cause I'm like, yo, I need this in like 20 minutes. Like, I give you no time.

- Yeah, if I'm creatively driven that day, I can get it done.

- So you went to school, you graduated.

- Yes, so I graduated, and then I was working at a feed store for dogs. So I was doing dog wash.

- [Eliot] Very MMA-related.

- Yeah. Another thing I love is dogs.

- [Eliot] This is true.

- So, yeah, I got a part-time job here, and I was baking dog goodies, so like birthday cakes and all that. And it was fun, but obviously, it wasn't something that I wanted to continue doing. I was just kind of doing it part-time. And I was like, I gotta get out of this. I gotta really find something that I really love, something different. Then I saw an ad on Craigslist for an MMA gym looking for a front desk person. I was like, oh my God, I wonder if that's Easton again, because there wasn't really any gyms out there that would do posting for jobs, except for Easton. And that was one thing I did recognize at that point, was that this is the only gym that ever puts out ads for actual jobs, like front desk administrative. So then, I was like, I bet you this is Easton again. So I put in a resume, and then I think I actually got a call from you, and you left a message on my phone. Then, I don't know what I was thinking, but I listened to the message, and then I deleted it. I don't know what I was thinking. I deleted it, and then the person I was dating at the time was like, so, when is the interview? I was like, I don't know, I just frickin' deleted the message, and I didn't even write down anything. So I had to just remember what you had to say, and I think you said something like, if you can call us and we can meet on Monday or something, and I was able to somehow get that interview and come in that day. I was super, super nervous, 'cause at the time, I had customer service experience, but I was still pretty shy, especially when it came around this type of environment, where there's like, fighters everywhere, and everybody's really into this.

- Did you know who I was already?

- I did, I did, because at the time, it's like, now, in your division, you were a light heavyweight, right? I feel like back in the day, light heavyweight, heavyweight, there weren't that many fighters. So I do remember.

- Yeah, and I cracked the top 15 after one win. One win, and you're in the fucking top 15.

- And then it was crazy, because back in the day, we had a lot of, two UFC fighters in Denver? That was crazy, 'cause I think it was, no, it was actually three.

- No, it was me, it was Shane, it was Nate.

- [Van] Yeah, Brendan.

- Brendan, Dwayne, right? We were a fucking hotbed.

- Yeah, yeah, and I remember, it was like, and then even Rashad and GSP, I remember they would drop in here and there.

- Yeah, they would come into town.

- Yeah, and I just remember, oh my God, I was like, this is so cool. I'm gonna be part of the scene hopefully. So then when I had that interview with you, I was super nervous, but you do have a way of relaxing somebody when you start talking to them. You kinda calmed me down a little bit. So when I was having this interview with you, it seemed like it went really well. But I was still a little bit nervous. But I remember walking in and being like, this gym is huge. 'Cause back on the day, it was like T's KO, a sweaty, sweaty sauna room, stinky, and it's like, the couches are gross. So I wasn't used to an actual professional, almost clean setting for a gym. So that was the first impression, walking through the doors, and then I met you, I was super intimidated, and we had our interview, but I felt like it went really well. And you were like, we'll call you if we're interested, and I was like, okay. So I remember walking out the door and being like, oh, man, I don't know if I got this job. I really thought I did well, but it really didn't seem like he was that interested after the interview. And then you called me literally like 30 seconds later. You're like, you got the job!

- I thought you were great.

- Oh, yeah, thank you, thank you. I wasn't sure at first.

- I just wanted to go tell Larry. I was like, yo, I'm gonna hire this girl.

- [Van] Oh, nice.

- I didn't wanna just like, make the decision on the spot, and I wanted to see how you handled, I remember, I wanted to see how you handled that. Like, okay, I'll let you know, and you handled it really well. So, that was good.

- Yeah, and I remember the first, like, day coming in, you made me pick up the phone, and I had no idea what I was even supposed to say. And I remember picking up the phone, and you were mouthing the words to me, and I was repeating what you were saying.

- On the job training, motherfuckers! I eventually just had to give the phone to you, because I was just like, hi, this is Van from Easton. It was just not good.

- Exactly what not to do.

- Yeah, those were the good ol' days, where it was like, we were all trying to figure shit out.

- Yeah, you've been with us from the beginning of trying to figure out this big thing.

- Yes, yes.

- Because Denver, so everyone can understand, I don't know if we're gone over this or not yet, have we, that Denver was the first one? I don't know, Denver was the first big school that opened.

- I feel like yes, it was, because Boulder was still at the old place.

- Yeah, no, for sure, yeah, no. And I mean, man, we just blew it. We made every mistake you could make.

- Oh, yeah, for sure, especially when it comes to the front desk.

- Oh my God.

- We've had some fun people at the desk.

- Yeah, we've had some fun people. What did we do, $69 memberships?

- Yeah, it's like, oh, God.

- And dude, the memberships went way up, but oh my God, the turnover.

- Oh, it was crazy. We did old-school cancellations, too, remember that, where it was just like, everything by paper, fax, and half the time the fax would be working, and most of the time, it wouldn't be. That was not a fun time.

- And we were still the best around.

- Yes, I know!

- We were the best around.

- [Van] It was true, it's true.

- We were the best around by light years, not even by a little bit. So you have seen every single part of this.

- Pretty much, yeah.

- When did you start working, when was it?

- Oh, God, what was is it?

- [Eliot] It had to be '12.

- I think it was '11, actually.

- [Eliot] No, it wasn't 11, we weren't open in '11.

- No, it wasn't, it was the year after, because I had Rambo in '11, and then he was about a year old when I started. That's funny, that that's the only way I know time-wise, is Rambo. But yeah, yeah, it was 2012. So this is my eighth year, this is my eighth year.

- So we opened, yeah, we opened in May of '12.

- And then you hired me October of '12.

- So yeah, we'd only been open like, five months.

- Yeah, and then I remember being like, wow, this place is pristine. There's treadmills here, what the F?

- You can say fuck.

- [Van] Yeah, sorry.

- You think I have it edited, clean? You don't think the E is on a podcast with me on it?

- But yeah, I was there through it all. I was there when we were like, CrossFit for a little bit. We had that little, itty bitty mat for kickboxing at the time.

- [Eliot] Oh, God, oh, God.

- Those business ventures, I was there through it all.

- We did this thing where we were like, oh, CrossFit. Then we shrunk the kickboxing mat down in Denver to half the size and expanded the CrossFit. And we sucked at CrossFit. We fucking sucked. We hired Georgia, but she didn't suck at CrossFit. But yeah, we were awful. We tried to go, this was such a huge mistake. We tried to go away from who we are, right? We broke a core value. We did something for money.

- Yeah, but you know, I felt like we reversed that mistake. We figured it out pretty quickly, I felt like. At least, I don't know, in my opinion. I mean, there are some good things that came from it too.

- [Eliot] Oh, of course.

- I feel like we've had some great members come through the door because of CrossFit that just stuck around, even afterwards.

- Now they do jujitsu. Our real estate agent, Chad Kennedy. He's a CrossFit guy.

- Oh, that's true, that's true, that's true.

- He's a CrossFit member, and now he's a purple belt.

- Yeah, and then we know Park, of course. Park is awesome.

- Park's been amazing. Park was an amazing part of our community, helped grow it and everything, right? Now Park's doing his own thing. I think he was just on. Yeah, he's the podcast before you. I don't believe in regret, right?

- [Van] Yeah, definitely not.

- You make mistakes, you know, and you have been around for every single one of them.

- [Van] It's true, it's true.

- What was that time period like for you? 'Cause we were figuring it out, right? So things were changing here and there, and you just kind of rode through it. You have been such a rock-solid employee.

- Yeah, well, yeah. I think that, you know, I attributed that to just having a good staff to be around. 'Cause when you go into work, 'cause the work that we did wasn't fun. It was like, contact logs and following up with people. You would get an angry call twice a day or something, dealing with that type of stuff. But at the end of the day, I had Ian. I had, at the time, Kelsey, and just really, really awesome people.

- Do you still talk to Kelsey at all?

- Oh, yeah, occasionally, you know. She's doing great. And I saw her recently for Bianca's baby shower, and she seems like she's doing really well. She's still Kelsey, I love her to death. So props to her, she's great at what she does. I follow her blog, and it seems like she's doing exactly what she's supposed to be doing.

- She's still working for Wag, right?

- I don't think so, actually. Well, she might be. I think she's still doing the nutritional thing, but as far as it being with Wag, I'm not quite sure. I just know that she's doing really well for herself, yeah.

- Nice, good for her. I'm gonna text her when we're done. Does she still have the same phone number?

- I think so, yeah. Yeah, she's doing awesome. When you work with really good people, work is like, the thing that you just get done and over with, but you look forward to just being around the people that you get to work with, because they're just that enjoyable to be around, which is pretty rare, I would say. I think it's safe to say it's pretty rare to find a workplace where you enjoy all the people there. And I confidently say that. There's a lot of people at Easton that just make me feel happy and just make my day feel so much better. So when I go in, it's like it doesn't even feel like work. It just feels like I'm hanging out with my friends, and I'm just doing whatever. So, I think that's the biggest reason why I stayed around. But as far as the growth and everything, things were crazy. Things were a rollercoaster at a point.

- Did you think, oh, I'm sorry, go ahead.

- No, no, you're fine. I was just saying, things would be difficult sometimes. We would just get over it. I think about it now, and I'm like, it wasn't that bad. At the time, I was like, oh my God, I'm panicking. Like the CrossFit stuff, for example. I would say that was a pretty crazy time to be a front desk person, because at the time, I think, when we started doing CrossFit, we just got this huge influx of kickboxing members, but we just decreased the kickboxing mat. So it was just this crazy wave of people who were interested in kickboxing, but we didn't have the space. We would have all this space for CrossFit, but only five people were in there. But yeah, it's like all learning experience. I think I learned a lot, just trying to figure stuff out, especially in high-pressure, intense situations. But I don't know, I think about it now and it doesn't even seem like it was that bad, because there's a lot of people there to support me, and a lot of people there that working with just made it seem like it wasn't even that big of a deal. So, yeah.

- Yeah, it makes sense. When you first started, right, what did you think you wanted to do with your life?

- [Van] Oh, God.

- What was your career? What were you like, I'm getting this part-time job at this MMA gym 'cause I like MMA?

- I actually remember this answer. I remember you asking me the same thing when we had our interview.

- [Eliot] Damn.

- Yeah, I have a good memory.

- [Eliot] Obviously.

- The last question that you asked me, you said, what do you want to do with your life, and what do you wanna do with this job? And I was like, hopefully open my own gym, and that's definitely not my goal anymore, after seeing what you have to go through. And now that I'm in it, I'm like, F this. I don't wanna freaking do this.

- [Eliot] Oh, fuck yeah! 'Cause you know what people do when they come in this school and they're like, oh, I wanna do this? They count members, they multiply by price, and they take 20 grand off. They go, oh, you charge $200 a month, you have 500 students. That's $100,000 of revenue. Take 20 grand off, you make 80 grand a month. I have a very distinct memory of this. Brandon Thatch, one of my fighters, came in, and it was, I don't know, like, a busy night, and he's like, damn, coach, you killin' it! He's like, you're rolling. And I was like, oh yeah? He goes, yeah, man, look at this. And I was like, okay, why don't you guess what my yearly expenses are? And this was four years ago, right? I mean, we blow this out of the water now, right, as far as expenses. He goes, I don't know, 200 grand? I was like, 1.5 million. He was like, what? I was like, 1.5 million dollars. So I can't make a dollar until we cover 1.5 million dollars. So yeah, exactly. I am so happy you see that point.

- [Van] Oh, yeah.

- So yes, for everyone that's thinking about a martial arts school, now, don't get me wrong. I agree with you, I don't work.

- Yeah.

- I don't work, I don't work. I haven't worked since 2012. Actually, I've never worked. But I agree with every sentiment that you just said.

- Mmhmm, yeah. I remember thinking initially, when I wanted to open up a gym, not how easy it was gonna be, but how fun it would be, just to own your own gym and just be able to have your own space and have your own curriculum. And then just working behind the scenes and putting my input in for all these different aspects of the gym, I'm like, I don't wanna do want of this, plan any of this. I'll do it, I'll do this work that you already have planned out for me, but the idea of opening up your own gym, starting from the bottom, getting members, advertising, there's a lot of aspects that go into it. And then the hardest thing is having a legit team, and I feel like that is something that Easton has that most other gyms, I would even say all types of gyms, don't have. And it took us a long time to get here. Like I said, I've been here since the beginning, and we've had so much staff that come in, it just doesn't work out, go out.

- I don't think we have a lot of turnover now, though.

- No, not now, definitely not now. But in the beginning, it was just like, us trying to figure out what we wanted, too.

- I remember Natalie, right? Remember Natalie?

- Oh, gosh, you know, I actually really liked Natalie.

- I did too, I did too.

- I did see her.

- [Eliot] How's she doing?

- You know, when I saw her, it was a long time ago. I wanna say it was four years ago I saw her, and she was with her, I think it was her fiance at the time. She seemed like she was doing well. She looks great.

- [Eliot] Good.

- But yeah, and I thought she was a great person. I just think she just, you know, she had a baby.

- She was in a rough spot.

- [Van] Yeah, she had a baby.

- She was in a rough fucking spot, yeah, man.

- But yeah, she was working at a vet, I think, or a pharmacy or something like that. So she seemed like she was doing well. But yeah, I mean, there was a lot of people.

- But even then, we tried to take care of Natalie.

- Yeah, and that's one thing I'll say. I'll give props to Easton in general. I feel like it feels like even when you guys didn't have the means to do so, I felt like you guys always made sure that your staff was happy. I felt like you didn't have to buy all these things for Natalie and try to help her out with the baby and everything, but you guys understood her position, just as a human being, and you helped her out. I remember that being, the impression that gave me, I think that might have been another reason why I stayed, is that these people care. These people aren't gonna look at you like some sort of number, as some sort of employee. This seems like an actual environment where you won't get paid the most, obviously, because it's a starter job, it's administrative, but they want you to be happy, and I think that was one of the first impressions I got from that situation. So remove the whole Natalie not being the greatest employee, but her just being in a tough situation and just being a single mom, pretty young at that point.

- Oh, she was super young. And she didn't even tell us. She was hiding the pregnancy.

- Oh, I remember that too. She was hiding it.

- She was hiding the pregnancy, you know? I could never understand how somebody could hide a pregnancy until she did it.

- Yeah, yeah, I mean, she's petite. When I saw her, she's in good shape. So I remember, because when you hired me on, I think she was working for you guys for like a month at that point. So she was already showing at that point.

- [Eliot] Gotcha, gotcha.

- But even then, I was like, I don't wanna ask her if she's pregnant, because it could very well be that she's just.

- She's just gained weight, right?

- [Van] She just gained weight.

- Yeah, no, yeah, for sure.

- It was hard to even tell at that point. But yeah, I mean, she stuck around through it all. You guys had to eventually let her go because she just didn't show up.

- She couldn't do it, yeah. She basically stopped coming to work.

- Yeah, yeah. But I think that despite that, you guys did the best you could, and I think that left a really good impression, on me, anyways, in regards to how you guys take care of your staff. And I feel, I should actually say, I feel very well taken care of here, throughout the years I've been here. And like you said, I started off as a front desk person, minimum wage, and at the time, I think it was just me, Kelsey, occasionally James, occasionally Chris Green.

- Oh, James Bollinger, yeah.

- [Van] And it was rough for all of us.

- Dude, Chris Green, I love that motherfucker.

- I love Chris, I love Chris.

- God, he got arrested twice at work. No way!

- [Eliot] Yeah.

- It's so funny, 'cause now you would never guess that, because he's in such a good spot.

- He's in such a good spot, yeah, but oh my God. At work, working the front desk, cops roll up.

- [Van] Oh my God.

- Get me one of the times, hey man, we gotta arrest one of your employees. Fuck.

- [Van] Oh my God.

- And didn't get fired either time.

- [Jordan] People first.

- Me and Chris got into a really big fight.

- [Eliot] Recently?

- No.

- [Eliot] Oh, then.

- At the desk. I think I remember this.

- I was crying, I was pretty upset with him. I wonder if he remembers this.

- He couldn't do shit. He couldn't do shit, I don't know how. God, I'm a shitty boss, 'cause like, man, he should have so been fired. Contact logs, right? Dude, I opened his contact logs once. He had 100 overdue contact logs. 100, and I was like, bro, what are you doing? He's like, man, I'm talking to people. I'm like, yeah, that's amazing, man, but you gotta work, bro. Like, we need to sign people up, and to sign people up, they have to get called and come in the door, you know? And it wasn't once that we had this contact log problem.

- [Van] No, my gosh.

- [Eliot] Fuck me.

- My gosh, Chris Green was a...

- [Eliot] It was a disaster.

- It was a funny time in my life.

- [Eliot] It was a disaster.

- I think fondly about those times.

- I forgot about Chris Green.

- Dude, you kept Chris for a long time.

- I didn't even fire him!

- I don't even remember what happened with him.

- He moved on, he quit. No, he quit.

- I think he was just like, I'm an adult now, and I'm gonna finish with school. Now he seems like he's doing really well. He just got married.

- Yeah, he's doing great.

- [Van] Yeah, so, I love Chris.

- Me too, he's doing great, man, holy fuck. But man.

- Those were some good times. Those were some crazy times. We had, what was it, we had BB too for a while, and that was when we had 5:30 a.m. shifts.

- [Eliot] Yeah.

- Back in the day.

- I liked BB though, right? She was okay.

- You know, I like BB, but I think she just had bigger plans. Like, she was going to school full-time. I just remember we had that 5:30 shift, and she could not make it all the time. It was just like, a really hard shift to work.

- And she liked to party.

- Did she? I don't remember that.

- I found out she liked to party.

- [Van] Oh, I wouldn't be surprised, actually.

- When Thatch, okay, so if Thatch knows you, it's bad.

- I was about to say, 'cause I remember, she had the biggest crush on Thatch at the time, and I was like, I was like, I don't know. It's Thatch.

- Fighters would come to town to train, and then Brandon would take them out, and they'd be done for the week.

- [Van] Oh my goodness, that's hilarious.

- They couldn't train for the week from one night out with Thatch. And he'd show up the next day. Like, if you think you can party, you should come hang out with Brandon Thatch.

- I feel like the fighters don't do that anymore. Is that just me?

- [Eliot] No, they don't do it.

- Like, the fighters that we have now are just so, not straight-laced, that's a terrible word to say, but just on top of it. They're just very serious about their training. So I always feel like, 'cause we did have a party one time, and the fighters were there, and none of them were drinking. All of them were so good. They were like still fun to hang around, but they were all just really good about it, whereas before, I felt like, back in the day.

- [Eliot] Thatch bro.

- Even you, you would party sometimes all crazy too.

- You've never seen me party.

- I remember when you, I can't remember which fight it was, but I remember you wanted to go party, and then Renee's like, I don't want to, and then you're like, all right, drop me off.

- Oh, oh, oh, oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. But that wasn't when, that's when I was a fighter.

- [Van] Oh, okay.

- Oh, yeah, I had to party after I fought, yeah. But you've never seen me party.

- Oh, no, I haven't.

- [Eliot] No, no way.

- I've known you after you had Canaan, so.

- No, not even that. You've known me in a different role.

- That's true. I've just only heard stories from you and Mr. Peter.

- Stories, yeah. There's stories, but there's no witnessing. Yeah, there's no witnessing.

- But yeah, it's just kind of funny. I just think that we have more fighters here than we had before, and they're all really professional, very on top of it. Not saying that Thatch isn't professional, but.

- No, he wasn't. I love him.

- I'll try to give him some credit.

- No, I love him, I love him, but no way. Look, I think this is an important thing sometimes, like that we're talking about. For me, that brought up, when you said even me sometimes, I love you guys, right? I love all of the employees, but there's a level to this. And it's not like I'm your sensei or anything like that, but you guys can't see me getting hammered.

- Yeah, that's true, I haven't seen you get hammered. I just only have heard stories.

- Yeah, around certain people at certain times in my life. But now, nobody gets to see it, nobody.

- Oh yeah, for sure.

- I think Amal gets to see it, Mike gets to see it, and Ian.

- I've yet to see Ian party hard. I don't think I'll ever see that day.

- No, that doesn't happen, that doesn't happen. But even like yeah, sure, I'll partake in some things, but under a very small, right, because yeah, that's not the role, right? That's not the role.

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

- Look what happened when Elon Musk smoked weed on Joe Rogan. The stock dropped, and like, significantly.

- [Van] Really?

- Oh, yeah.

- I just see memes, I just see a bunch of memes.

- Yeah, well, it dropped very bigly because of that. And so, I don't, you know, Elon Musk can do whatever the fuck he wants. It didn't matter. I think as a leader, when you're in leadership roles, you have to be very careful about who you allow to see you do what.

- [Van] Yeah, that's very true.

- I do think a lot of martial arts instructors, especially in the jujitsu and Muay Thai world, fuck this up. Like, after fights or after tournaments, they get hammered with their students, and this is just not cool. You look like you wanted to say something. You were laughing.

- 'Cause I'm like, I've definitely partied with my staff.

- What's that, with your staff?

- With my staff. Is that different though? Because I feel like I don't get hammered to the point where I make an embarrassment out of myself, but I do, like, my front desk staff especially, all of them are like, my best friends.

- Yeah, it gets tricky. Okay, so like I party, I hang out with my staff, but that's Ian and Mike. They're my best friends, you know? But I won't go farther than that. But it's different. They're my homies. So yeah, if they're your homies, that's one thing. But you're not partying with the first day front desk employee.

- Yeah, yeah, that's true. I was like, I don't know if that one's not allowed, but I should disclose that information.

- It's not written in stone. There's no rules, you know? I'm not going out with the jujitsu instructors.

- [Van] And getting smashed?

- Getting smashed. I'm not at the holiday party. I'll have a drink, maybe, but that will be the end. That's for you guys. You guys can do whatever you want there.

- I know, I'm the one going over there like, you want that drink ticket? Are you gonna use that drink ticket? I'm that person.

- So, what's it like for you now? 'Cause you are the AOD, right?

- Yeah, it's kind of crazy.

- So you're not even front desk anymore.

- I don't do front desk anymore. I do occasionally, if they desperately need somebody and there's really no one else. I'm like, okay, I'll do it.

- Right, I think the same thing for Sarah. Every once in a while, she has to jump in.

- Yeah, and actually, it's kind of funny now, because I was like, I wanna get off the front desk. I've been doing this for, I think I got the AOD position last year. So I was like, I do not wanna do this. I've been doing this for seven years. I wanna move on and do something bigger.

- So again, for everyone, real fast, for everyone that's listening that might be, this is their first podcast, there's me and Amal, right, we're the shareholders, the main shareholders, and then there's Mike at the CEO, and then we have Ian and Velour, who I think are vice presidents, yes, they're vice presidents, and then we have the GMs, and then we have Logan, who's the CFO. What's Sachi?

- Director of marketing?

- Director of marketing? For the whole company, right? That's all support team stuff. Then we have the GMs at each of the locations, and after each location, if you have a 500 person school?

- I think it is 500 right now, yes.

- 500, right, then you get an AOD. If you have a 300-person school?

- [Van] You get a front desk manager.

- You get a DFI.

- Oh, yeah, sorry, they changed it.

- You get a DFI, and then you have program directors. It all depends on the size of your school, is how we base all of these things, on what school gets what. At first, Jordan was about to open a school, and he's about to be everything.

- Yep.

- 'Cause right now, we have 38 members, right? Guys, look, I think it's pretty good. We have 38 pre-sales, and we're not even open yet.

- [Jordan] Yeah, we're six weeks out.

- Yeah, we're six weeks out from opening. We have 38 members ready to go, paid, correct?

- [Jordan] Uh-huh.

- Paid and ready to rock and roll along with 'em. So you are the AOD, back to it.

- Yeah, so, how I got this position. So, I was working the front desk for a while, and I think at the time, I was, it was the front desk manager, which would be the DFI now, because it wasn't really an established role yet. I think at the time, Ian was just like, so overwhelmed with how much he was getting that he needed help, so he gave me a lot of his duties, and then I got a weird little promotion, but it wasn't official yet, because there wasn't really a position like that yet. And then, we were at a point where we got Mike announced as the CEO. I think this is what happened.

- [Eliot] This is last year, yeah.

- Yeah, yeah. Then, along with Mike, that's when you guys started establishing more corporate positions, and then that's when I got offered the AOD. At the time, I actually was thinking about leaving Easton.

- Oh, really? Talk to me.

- Yeah, I think I only told Ian this.

- Don't be nervous, please don't be.

- No, I'm not nervous at all, no, no, no. Because at the time, I was still working the front desk. So I was like, I can't make a living just being at Easton. I have to be realistic. And this was before I even knew that you guys were going corporate.

- Right, no, don't say that, we are not corporate.

- I shouldn't say that. Sorry, sorry, I shouldn't say that. I misspoke.

- It's okay, you can say whatever you want. Does it feel corporate to you?

- No, not at all. But I guess I should say corporate positions. This was before you guys announced that there was gonna be a CEO, and this and that, and that we were a company that you can actually make a living out of. Because at the time, I felt like this was still almost like I was lucky. I was working a part-time job, not part-time. I was still working full-time for you. But this was the first time, I mean, this is a job I can actually stay with and do this for the rest of my life. At the time, I still felt like I was living in a fantasy, where I was like, I'll just work here until.

- [Eliot] Until I wanna be a big girl.

- Yeah, exactly, you know? 'Cause I was still having fun. I wasn't making the greatest money that I could possibly be making at the time.

- What was it, like 15 to 20 an hour, right? Somewhere in there?

- After commissions, yeah, on average, yes. So it wasn't bad money at all.

- So that's what, if you came in right now as a front desk, you'd make somewhere between 15 a and 20 an hour.

- [Van] Around, yes.

- Is that your phone?

- Yeah, sorry. Should I toss this out the door?

- [Eliot] No, just put it on silent. I did. It's just my boxer, and boxer messages is the only thing that's on, sorry.

- [Eliot] It's okay.

- But, where was I?

- [Eliot] So you weren't making the greatest money. You were about to quit.

- Yeah, it's kinda unfair saying I wasn't making the greatest money.

- You were not making money that you could live a life on.

- Exactly.

- You were making fine money for a 20-year-old at an entry-level front desk position.

- Yeah, and then I felt like I had this moment where I was like, I need to grow up. I need to be a big girl now. So I was actually looking to become a flight attendant. I was like, I went up to Ian, I told him this idea, and then he's all like, don't jump the gun yet, 'cause I really would like for you to stay. And then that's when I got offered the AOD position. So, I still feel really lucky that I stuck around, 'cause there were a lot of times where I felt like I could have just stepped out, or there were a lot of times where I thought about doing it. I just never did it, because I was just enjoying myself so much. But yeah, I mean, it just kind of shows, because this job, I put my all in it. I worked so hard, and it wasn't just because that is personally what I do for anything that I'm committed to, but also because I just didn't wanna let anybody down. This team works so hard and everybody works so hard, and I see everybody committing so much time and love and care for this job. I wanted to put the same amount of effort, and I think that with that attitude, it just came with all these awesome thing along with it. Because along with an AOD position, I got offered the creative director job as well. So I get to design flyers sometimes. And I'm designing our apparel, and it's really cool, and I get to actually use my art degree.

- [Eliot] Which you like as well.

- I love art, you know? It's kind of funny with art.

- [Jordan] And our logo for the podcast.

- Yeah, yeah.

- [Eliot] Nice.

- So, it's kind of funny, because I got this art degree, and I just was like, what the fuck am I doing? This is a waste of money.

- Did you feel that forced fuck? She was about to say F. But then she said fuck!

- Sorry, I feel like I need to censor myself, because I'm like, I have caught myself in front of the kids about to say that word. So it's habit now. But yeah, I remember getting, because I went to school initially to get a computer science degree, something that was useful.

- [Eliot] Very useful.

- And at the time, I was the only one going to college, so my mom was paying for it, thanks mom, and she was actually a lot more supportive about me changing my major than I thought, because I think it's kind of like, every parent's want that you want your kids to be successful, so they're like go into accounting, go into a medical degree, you know? And I was like, I'm going in for art. And my mom wasn't particularly keen on the idea, but she didn't push me to change it or anything. So, when I graduated, I didn't really have a job lined up, and I just assumed that I would never touch art again. That is not something that's in my future anymore, 'cause I chose the worst degree to possibly go into. And then of course, I go to Easton, and I'm like, yeah, definitely not doing art again, and now here I am. I'm here on my computer making apparel that's really fucking cool. There's a lot of good things that came with the hard work, so I'm just really grateful for where I am right now. Yeah, it's interesting.

- Thanks for sticking it out.

- Yeah, I mean, thanks for taking care of me. Honestly, like I say, I say it all the time. I wouldn't have stuck around if it wasn't for the people, because it's easy to get into the jist of things and just start hating it right away, especially the repetitiveness of doing it. But here, I never felt that, because the people were just so enjoyable to be around that you didn't even think about it. You just were looking forward to seeing your friend the next day. So, that's why I kind of stood for eight years. Even now to this day, I love going in and just saying hi to everyone. The members are great, too, just seeing the students be happy and just enjoy themselves and really be passionate about the same thing you're passionate about, and it doesn't have to strictly be with martial arts. I met so many people here that play video games, that watch anime, all the nerdy stuff that I love to do, and we just talk about it, and then we go and we train, and it's always fun. So I made lots of good friends, not with just the staff, but with the members too, and it's a great community. It's fun. It's really cool to see where we are now, 'cause I feel like a lot of the fun, the loving culture and the friendliness hasn't changed. The only thing that's really changed is us getting our shit together and being more organized as a company. So, yeah.

- [Eliot] We're gonna end right there.

- [Jordan] Yeah, that was great.

- That was a really good podcast. That was really good.

- [Van] Thank you.

- You made me really happy.

- [Van] Aww.

- You made my day.

- I'm glad, I'm glad.

- You really made my day. I really enjoyed, just because you have seen it from where it started, and you weren't here in '99 when Amal opened, but you were here at this change point for us when we started going, okay, we gotta get our shit together, you know? And just hearing about how just the people, just the people. I was talking with Mike about it the other day or yesterday, and he was like, man, I tried to read all these books to try to disprove myself that you can do it without worrying about the people, that it's the numbers and the systems and the this. If you just do that right, you know, and you just quadruple down on it.

- Yeah, that's true.

- You just quadruple down. It made me so happy right there at the end when you said you get to do what you love, which is art. You really love art, and here you are working for us, and you're doing art again, and man.

- It's cool.

- [Eliot] Thanks.

- You would never think it, right?

- [Eliot] Yeah, you would never think it.

- But you know, you find people who care about you, and they know that you're passionate about something, and they really wanna nurture it, that says a lot about the people that you work with. You don't walk into a company expecting them to care about you. You walk into them being like, I gotta prove something, I gotta work for this promotion. But for this, it never felt like I had to prove anything. I just had to work hard and work as hard as everybody else, and then you just get there.

- If you ever do quit I will say that it will make me so happy, because I truly feel that whatever it is that will be next for you if you quit will be so amazing for you that, that we were part of that. That we were part of that God damn, look at what she's doing now. Fuck yeah. It's like your kid.

- [Van] Aww, thank you.

- Not that I want you to, right? I don't want you to. I don't want you to ever leave. But if you do, it will be the coolest thing ever.

- [Van] Yeah, yeah. Well, thank you, thank you.

- I appreciate you.

- [Van] Well, I appreciate all you've done for me. I'm so happy. I'm on this podcast too, it's so weird.

- It wasn't that bad, was it?

- No, no.

- [Eliot] All right, good.

- Thanks, Eliot.

- [Eliot] No worries. I try to make it as painless as possible for people.

- It was very painless. There was no pain at all.

- The biggest pain was when I took your coffee.

- Oh yeah, that was hard. I was like, that was like, two dollars worth of Starbucks Coffee chai.

- All right, guys, that's it. Thanks for listening. Don't forget, go to easton.online to subscribe for all of our content. It's coming, right Jordan? The first course? We are so close. Beginning of the year, we are so close for the first course, First Impression Specialists. We've put a lot of work in. We've put a lot of work in, especially Jordan over there. Jordan has crushed it, while trying to open and get ready for Longmont. So, thank you very much, Jordan. Van, thank you very much.

- Thank you!

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