Fitness Leaders Need Someone to Lean On

I distinctly remember sitting on the grass outside one of our gyms last year when our governor announced that fitness facilities — among dozens of other businesses — would have to shut down operations immediately due to the COVID-19 pandemic. My head was spinning. The business I had built from the ground up over the last six years — a service-based, brick-and-mortar business — was about to be shut down due to forces outside of my control. With my stomach churning and my head pounding, I took a few deep breaths and braced myself for what I knew would inevitably be the most difficult challenge I had ever faced as a CEO. My one comfort was that I didn’t have to face this challenge alone. 

There’s a long-standing fallacy in business that the only person you can rely on is yourself. I’m all for taking ultimate accountability for yourself and your actions, and as a matter of fact that’s one of our core values at Sasquatch Strength. We call it “profound ownership.” But deciding to take full responsibility for your situation and its outcome doesn’t mean you need to go it alone. Actually, the most successful people in the world know that it is critical to build a strong team around you in your business, as well as outside of your business. Entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker Jim Rohn put this concept pretty succinctly as, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most amount of time with.”

That is why inside and outside of your business, you need to surround yourself with people who understand you and your goals, support you and your goals, and have either achieved or are trying to achieve similar success. 

The first thing I did when the mandatory shutdown was announced — after my stomach had settled — was call an executive meeting. Complex problems are seldomly solved on your own. Different perspectives, desired outcomes and experiences allow teams to weed through the bad ideas and come to actionable plans. Amy, our director of marketing, was focused on member retention and viewed our entire discussion through that lens. Jason, our chief technology officer, saw this as an opportunity to expand our virtual offerings. Troy, our director of program and coach development, focused on keeping our people employed and preparing them for when we re-opened. It took all four of us in the C-suite about six hours in a boardroom to come up with a plan of attack to survive the pandemic. The result was not only survival, but also an increase in trust from both our members and our staff that has propelled our business forward in ways I could not have predicted. None of that could have or would have happened if I had tackled these issues alone. 

Setting up our plan of attack was one thing, but executing it was a different matter. We had to renegotiate leases, close facilities, figure out how to train and manage employees remotely, scale our fitness services online, and solve a thousand other problems as they surfaced during the grueling months we fought to survive and thrive as a business during the pandemic.

The pressure of all of our employees relying on us to keep them employed, our members depending on our programs to keep them healthy and sane, and our own families to keep food on the table added up. It was my peer group outside of the office that allowed me to keep a level head and continue to fight for our survival, one day at a time. I’m lucky enough to have found a group of CEOs through a mentoring group. We meet once a month for a full day offsite and discuss topics relevant to the group, troubleshoot problems inside of our own businesses and provide each other a sense of comfort knowing that we all understand what it’s like to have an entire organization on our shoulders. That support is what kept me going.

Whether you are a CEO or an employee, an executive or a manager, an entrepreneur or a student, establishing a strong support system for yourself is the single most important thing you can do to ensure your success. Find people you can lean on. Like-minded people will propel you forward, give you great ideas, call you out when you are wrong, and hold you to a higher standard. Most importantly, they will be there with open arms when life and business inevitably throw you a curveball. Support is phenomenal when all engines are working at full throttle and you are actively pushing yourself and your business harder and further. But it is critical when your decisions over the next few days or weeks will dictate the quality of your business, your relationship or your life. Who is supporting you and your success right now?


Isaac Vaisberg is founder of Sasquatch Strength, a unique fitness concept created in 2014 with a mission to create the best version of ourselves and our community through fitness and education. Sasquatch Strength thrives on taking anyone from where they are to where they want to be both physically and mentally. Today, the company has four open locations in Washington: Redmond, Sammamish, Issaquah and Bridle Trails, along with a location in Kirkland opening in September 2021.