Today we have the man, the myth, the legend, Dr. John Berardi on the Healthpreneur Podcast! This is a really exciting episode for me because I’ve known John for a while now and he is just a really special person. Not only he is a super caring, awesome guy, but he has years of experience and a ton of wisdom to share. He’s also Canadian, and we all know how I feel about fellow Canadians.
John is the founder of the Precision Nutrition Certification Program. With Precision Nutrition (PN) he has grown the company to over 100 employees and 40 million dollars in revenue, in addition to helping 50,000 students become elite health and fitness coaches. Outside of PN, John is also an advisor to Apple, Equinox, Nike and Titleist. He was recently selected as one of the 20 smartest coaches and 100 most influential fitness professionals in the world.
But going beyond the accolades, I love sitting down to talk with John because we always have amazing conversations. During our conversation, we talked a lot about growing pains and the journey of building a business like PN. We also discussed the remote nature of his company and how that works. Regardless of where you are in your business, there are a lot of things that John has learned over the years that you will benefit from in this episode. Grab a pen and paper, because this is a big one.
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In this episode, John and I discuss:
- The humble beginnings of Precision Nutrition
- The “vendor lock-in” strategy
- What goes over the wall vs. what happens behind the wall
- How to run a remote company
- Why sometimes it needs to hurt
- Stepping into an appropriate role as the founder
4:00 – 10:00 – The start of PN and their new business model
10:00 – 17:00 – Growing pains and the holacracy system
17:00 – 21:30 – Your unique ability and how to find your perfect role as a founder
21:30 – 29:30 – Hiring A+ players vs. “mold-able” players
29:30 – 36:00 – Keeping culture in a remote workplace
36:00 – 39:00 – Using personality quizzes and test projects for hiring
39:00 – 42:30 – The number one skill entrepreneurs must possess for lasting success
42:30 – 50:00 – The Rapid-Five Questions
What You Missed:
In the last Healthpreneur Podcast I spoke about polygamous entrepreneurship. If you’re confused as to what the heck this means, I’ll explain.
Polygamous entrepreneurship is something that almost every entrepreneur deals with, and it’s often referred to as the shiny objecy syndrome. As entrepreneurs, we tend to be creative people, we like to get stuff going and create new things. And while that is an inherently good trait, it can often stab us in the back.
Tune into this episode to find out how you can learn to take a step back, avoid the rabbit holes, and focus on your business.
Healhpreneurs, how is it going? Yuri here. Welcome back to the Healthpreneur podcast.
It’s none other than Mr. John Berardi.
Dr. John Berardi, to be specific, because he’s got a PhD. John is one of the most knowledgeable dudes you’ll ever have a chance to speak with, plus he’s just one of the nicest guys around.
He lives about an hour-and-a-half away from me in Toronto. We see each other maybe once or twice a year, but nonetheless, we have been connected for a long time. John is the co-founder of Precision Nutrition, and the stuff that they’ve been able to do is truly remarkable. So I’m really excited to bring John onto this podcast. We’re going to have a great interview.
We actually started talking before I hit the record button. I’m like, dude, we’ve got to start recording this because it’s so good.
We’re going to talk about the growing pains. We’re going to talk about the journey of building a behemoth type of business, and a lot of the lessons and learnings that happen on that journey. If you’re just starting out and you’re thinking, “How does this apply to me?” … Well, it applies to you because there’s a lot of things that John has recognized in the growing of his business that have allowed him to come back to his roots.
So, the things that you’re doing now, ironically enough, might also be the things that you love doing as your company grows. And the further you move away from them, the more disheartened you might feel. So, there’s some really interesting insights that we’ll go over in this interview.
So let me give you a more formal introduction for John Berardi. As I said, he’s the co-founder of Precision Nutrition, which is the world’s largest online nutrition coaching and certification company.
He is an adviser to Apple, Equinox, Nike and Titleist. He was recently selected as one of the 20 smartest coaches and 100 most influential fitness professionals in the world. In the last 10 years, he and his team have helped nearly 150,000 people get in the best shape of their lives through their renowned Precision coaching program.
They’ve also helped nearly 50,000 students become and Elite health and fitness coach through their Precision Nutrition certification program. They’ve grown their company to more than 100 employees and they’re doing about 40 million in revenue. Just incredible stuff that they’ve been able to do with this company.
I’m really excited to have this conversation with John. I know you’re going to get a lot of great value out of this, so don’t go anywhere. Grab a pen and pape—assuming you’re sitting down—and if you’re walking, come back to this afterwards.
If you want to learn more about what they’re up to, you can go to precisionnutrition.com. With that said, let’s welcome John Berardi onto the show.
Yuri: Mr. John Berardi, how’s it going, my friend? Welcome to the Healthpreneur podcast.
John: Great. Thank you for having me. I really appreciate it. Any chance that we get to connect, either in person or on a podcast like this is always exciting for me. Where we can talk about our shared passions, from health and fitness, the work we do there to the business side of things, which also has become something very exciting to me over the last few years.
Yuri: Absolutely. You guys have built a small company called Precision Nutrition, which I’m sure no one’s heard about … No, in all honesty, I think everyone listening to this knows who you are. I think they know who Precision Nutrition is.
But I don’t think they know all of it. Some of the things we’ll talk about here, I think will be really insightful and illuminating. And I love having conversations with you because A) you’re just a great person. B) you’re Canadian, which is always good. And C) you’ve been at this for a long time and there’s a lot of wisdom that you’ve accumulated over that time with respect to your professional development, your personal development, and how you’ve built PN. I think our listeners will get a lot of value out of some of the stuff we’ll talk about here.
So, I know that before I hit the record button we had some really cool nuggets, and I just didn’t want to miss any more of that.
So, we were talking about this evolution—at least for our business—where we climbed one mountain, realized that we didn’t want to be up there, made some changes, went back to our roots a little bit.
Precision Nutrition, for people who might not know, just give people some context of where the company is now and then we’ll work backwards from there.
The start of PN and their new business model
John: Sure. PN started with Phil Caravaggio and myself. You know Phil.
Phil was going to University of Toronto at the time, and I was at University of Western Ontario. I was renting a house, and he would come out to my house and we set up the basement as a makeshift office.
He would come out Fridays and Saturdays. So that’s where we started it, in the basement of this house, Fridays and Saturdays, two days a week. We were both full time students.
And today, we have about 100 full time, full benefits people working with the team, plus a whole host of really awesome contractors we work with. Our products and services go into 100 different countries.
To date, through our coaching program, we’ve coached upwards of 50,000 people online. Through our certification and education program, that’s another 50,000 professionals. With our recent ProCoach offering, which we launched last year—which is a chance for the people who go through our education programs to use our software and curriculum to coach their clients—we’ve coached another 100,000 people in the last year through that program alone.
So, it’s been really, really exciting to start out coaching 20 or 25 people, and now having the kind of impact where we’ve touched 150,000 people, plus the 50,000 professionals who are out amplifying that all over the world in their spaces. So that’s what we’re doing nowadays.
Yuri: That’s awesome. And I remember when Phil was initially talking about the development of ProCoach, I went “Dude! This is a game changer.”
John: Yeah, it is, and on all the right levels for us.
Number one, obviously it’s a way to really amplify the reach we can have in the world. We started this thing to do good, to help people live better, to take care of themselves better.
So it’s good for the people who get reached. It’s also good for all these professionals who maybe don’t have a system in place, or are looking for system to be able to coach reliably, consistently and effectively.
And then, it’s great for our business because it’s our first ever continuity model, where the coaches who work with us to use ProCoach pay a monthly fee. And we’ve had ProCoach around now for close to a year-and-a-half, and the drop off rate is almost nothing.
We’ve retained something like 85% of the pro coaches who signed up last June, so that’s almost a year-and-a-half.
It’s the first time ever, from a business perspective, where we didn’t have to replace clients every six months. And it’s because we have this launch model.
So, we take new certification students every spring and fall, new coaching clients every January and July. And so, whenever a program ends, you have to replace all those clients. They stop paying. This is the first opportunity we’ve had to actually be in a situation where people don’t stop paying—which actually is a great prospect for our business, and it’s allowed it to really scale exponentially.
Yuri: And it’s such a smart offering too, because there’s a pain of disconnect with the person. It’s not like a newsletter. It’s like, “I’m not going to cancel my e-mail service provider because then I can’t send e-mails anymore.”
John: That’s right, yes.
Yuri: It’s the same type of platform you guys have built where there’s massive value to the fitness professional who’s using it. Why would they want to cancel? Which is very smart.
John: And on two levels, right? Because if they cancel, then they actually have to stop the program of their client as well.
John: So now their client’s pissed at them too.
Some people call it, in business circles, vendor lock-in. We hate using that language at PN. The last thing we want to do is make someone feel like they’re held prisoner or captive of our business.
But again, it’s a model that works on a whole bunch of different levels. And we like to think of it more as, it provides so much value for the client and the coach that leaving would be a pain because of the value they’d lose.
Yuri: Absolutely. It really is a no brainer. It’s a smart technology for sure.
You guys have grown to a fairly large size—100 employees plus contractors and all that great stuff. What are some of the growing pains that you’ve had to deal with and learn from as you guys have grown over the last couple of years?
Growing pains and the holacracy system
John: I’d say the first one, and the biggest one also, has been one of our biggest successes. And it was born out of a problem—which was that when we got to between 20 and 25 team members, Phil and I really started to dislike our work.
It wasn’t the core mechanics of the stuff we did, like creating products and teaching and education. It was actually what I often call “playing business.” And it’s not that charitable of a thing, but now we have people on our team who love to do that work. They don’t call it playing business. I think I minimized my use of that phrase because it might be patronizing to people who love that aspect—they love planning and forecasting and modeling, they love coming up with systems and structures for how we are together as a team inside the company.
But for Phil and I, we were always really passionate about what goes over the wall; not necessarily how the people inside the wall are playing together, but the quality of the work that goes over the wall.
And you can basically become two companies within one. And you have to, at a certain size. It’s where one group of people just worries about in the wall—how we are together, how we work together, can we get things done effectively and efficiently in a way we all enjoy? Can we grow together as a team?
But then the other group inside the company has to worry about what’s happening outside of this little group. Are we doing great work? What do those people out there think of what we’re doing? Because they don’t see inside. They don’t even care about the inside.
Oh, does person A from HR and person B from client care and person C from marketing get along? Or, is there effective communication between them?
No, they don’t care. They only care if that effective communication produces better products that bring value into the world.
So, it started to get really tricky because Phil and I were responsible for most things in the beginning, and everyone turned to us for advice. We essentially hired a bunch of really nice, cool people to help us. They were all working for Phil and I.
And then it just gets to the point where you can’t communicate effectively with 25 people. All of a sudden, I had no time to produce anything. I just had to be meeting with people all the time, and it became a major stressor—even to the point where Phil and I sat down and were like, “Do we want to keep doing this?”
PN was continuing to grow like crazy, but we were both sad. Me more so than him, in all fairness.
That’s when we started getting some advice from people who have been down this road before. And I know you’ve done a lot of personal and professional development coaching, so you know the value in this.
And we’re really smart guys. Phil studied engineering at the top engineering school in the country—like the MIT of Canada—and I have a PhD and graduate training and a bunch of undergrads.
Objectively, we’re pretty smart people, so we could try and figure this out. But there’s a whole bunch of people–—even within our circle—who’ve already figured this out. Can we just tap their knowledge?
And so, what we found was a different way of organizing our company. It’s called holacracy, and it got a lot of attention in the media because Zappos has been applying it to their company over the last couple of years. And they’re obviously much bigger than we are. We were one of the first adopters of it, and they even hired us to come down and consult on that project.
Yuri: That’s awesome.
John: But, the idea was that it was a different way of organizing. It gave us a structure and framework for organizing a company, but it was also a different form or organization than the top down, militaristic hierarchies.
It’s probably something more suited to knowledge workers, remotely distributed knowledge workers like we are. Everyone works remotely. We don’t have a central office.
When we want to work together, let’s say, for example, we’re building a new piece of software, and we need to be in each other’s presence for a short period of time, we’ll just take two weeks and meet up in Costa Rica instead of everyone having to live in Toronto or wherever.
Yuri: That’s awesome.
John: So that was our first major learning. You get to certain point—and this is written about in the business literature, so it’s not ground breaking—but there’s these multiples. You get from zero to 30 employees, things have to change, 30 to 100, things have to change. 100 to 300 (or whatever it is), things have to change.
And in our experience, that’s been true. When we hit 30, and as we’re getting to around 100, different systems have to come in place. The old systems just become obsolete, and if you keep trying to work them, everyone just gets sad.
So that was pretty much it, and that was an organizational learning thing I guess. This need for a different system, and maybe even two different groups within PN—one looking after how we are together, and the other looking after what we put out into the world.
But that also was a really personally gratifying experience, going through that, for Phil and I. I often say that in the beginning my unofficial job title was “Director of worry about everything.” It was just like, “Who’s doing what? What are they doing? I’ve got to worry about that. Okay, now the launch is coming. Okay, now this product’s going out.”
I had to be involved with everything, or at least I felt like I had to.
And when we reorganized, all the roles became clear. So there was actually someone who was accountable for looking after these things that we had to make very explicit. And then, I only had to worry about my own accountabilities. Other people—competent, talented people hired for that specific thing—had to worry about those accountabilities.
And it was really freeing. I could take a vacation without worrying about stuff. All I had to do was make sure the accountabilities I’m supposed to look after—someone was looking after those in my absence.
So it became really freeing. Phil said for him, it was the first time he’s ever allowed himself a real vacation since we started the company because he just knew, “I’m going to hand my accountabilities off to this person for two or three weeks. I’m going to go away and then not worry about it.”
Yuri: Amazing. It’s funny because at our Healthpreneur live event I was talking about this growth curve which basically mirrors what you just said.
Which is, we all start off in the business as a technician. We’re a great trainer, nutritionist, expert. And we eventually get to the point where we’re like, “Okay, we need to build this a little bit.”
We become operators. We start doing everything. And then we put on the hat of the CEO, and then we hit this existential crisis, which is like what you just said. You guys were really unhappy with what you were doing, and it was like, how do we get back to doing what we love to do? Which is creating great products and putting it out to the marketplace.
So it’s really cool to see how you guys have gone through that, and how you’ve restructured to really build a business that you love, which is tremendous.
Your unique ability and how to find your perfect role as a founder
John: Yeah, and the result of all this learning is that you need to be really clear about what your unique abilities and values are, and you need to hire the things that aren’t that.
John: I would be a terrible CEO. Most of the things that CEOs value and are good at, I don’t.
I certainly don’t have the skill—although I could probably learn it. But I would never be as good as someone who actually values the very things that make for good CEO-ing. I don’t value those in my own life. So I could learn the skills by memorization and practice, but I never really energize that work very well.
So if the advice then becomes, get really clear on who you are and what you do and then hire out the other things, most people wouldn’t take it.
But there’s a reason for that. It’s because I’m in the position now where I’m past it. And quite frankly, our revenue is high enough that we can hire out for those things. But there are certain points where you just simply don’t have the money to hire a CEO. And that’s why I think some people fall into that role where they’re like, “I’m a technician who’s now a manager of managers? I hate that.”
But you don’t have the money yet to do anything else.
And our current CEO—whose name is Tim Jones—often says, “You hire when it hurts, and not before.”
I think that really speaks to what I just brought up. The idea that, it’s probably going to have to hurt you or the organization for a while, because you need talent or you need new roles filled but you can’t afford it. And it hurts for a bit.
But then as you either grow or change your organization to accommodate it, that’s when you start doing the hiring.
And that, to me, is the key lesson. You can’t ever make it not hurt. You’re actually looking for the hurt in some respects. People say growth comes along with pain, and I think it’s become such a cliché we don’t actually understand it.
But this is what we talk about at PN all the time. Let’s say, for example, our customer base is growing and we don’t have enough client care to support it yet. Well, you don’t hire when there’s one more customer than your ability to handle customers.
You have to hire well beyond that point, because you need infrastructure and management and all that stuff.
So, instead of being like, “Oh, it hurts a little bit. We gotta fix it right away, make the pain go away!” We actually look for that kind of discomfort now. We appreciate it as part of a growing business, and then we now know not to try and make it stop.
It’s just like in counseling or in most aspects of life. When things hurt, most people’s response is to make it go away. Most coaches think it’s their job to make the hurt go away for their clients.
But it’s actually not. It’s to actually appreciate that life does hurt sometimes, and that’s okay, and what strategies do we have for dealing with that?
Hiring A+ players vs. “mold-able” players
Yuri: Yeah, and that’s such good wisdom. And we talked a little bit about A+ players versus B players before we started recording.
This is always an interesting conversation I have with different entrepreneurs. What’s your view on hiring people who are seasoned? They’re going to come in, they know exactly what to do. They know more than you in that specific role. Versus hiring someone who you mold and grow into that role?
John: Yeah, I don’t know if we’ve ever figured it out yet. We have some best practices at PN, but for me to sit here and pretend, “Oh yeah, we’ve got this nailed down,” would be just a bit of a stretch of the truth if not an outright lie.
This is one of the things we were talking about before. I feel like this is a life practice. It’s not like a handbook you get and now you’re done. Just follow the rules and then you’re going to be able to hire A+ players all the time and you’re never going to have any problems in hiring.
No, it’s just like you need to brush your teeth or meditate. You need to do these things over and over again because every day your teeth get dirty again. Every day your thoughts get unfocused again.
And every day, you either think about hiring or make hiring decisions wrong again. You know what I mean?
John: But with that said, we’ve done some things that I think are really positive. One of the great inflection points for us was when we actually brought on an HR team. We’re like “Hey, let’s actually have people who are responsible for recruiting, screening recruits, and then doing continuing development with people on the team.”
So there’s a whole group of people who think about that all day, every day at work, and work towards that. But when it comes to hiring, Phil and I have gone back and forth over the years, as we have with our CEO and leadership team and HR team.
I don’t think there’s a good hard and fast rule here.
We work in a business where generally people have to understand the business and be passionate about it. And you’ve seen this I’m sure, many, many times.
One of the famous failed experiments in the nutritional supplement business, for example, was when a nutritional supplement company gets big enough that they can actually start hiring from outside the supplement world. And they bring in the former CEO of Pepsi or something, you know what I mean?
John: They’re like “Hey, we just brought in someones legit, not just some upstart from this little niche, but this person was the leader of one of the largest organizations in the world.”
And the company fails inside of like 18 months. You know what I mean?
John: I’ve just seen this over and over again. And the reason is because you have someone who’s really, really talented, vetted and proven … in a non niche industry.
And we work in a niche, where the people in that niche have their own tribe, code and values and morals—and someone from outside of it doesn’t understand any of that. Then they make decisions based on that.
And all of a sudden, the audience dissipates. They’re like “Oh, this isn’t our tribe anymore, obviously.”
So when hiring, you have to do this fine dance between the two. You don’t have five years to train someone who’s really passionate about your business, but has no skills in doing that work.
And you don’t want to bring someone in who has all the experience, but is going to ruin the business because they don’t understand the tribe.
So it become this real tension. What takes longer? To learn the culture, or to learn the work skills?
So what we found—and this is probably the only useful piece of advice that’s not loosely philosophical here—if you hire someone with all the skills and experience without the industry experience or understanding, you need to pair them up with someone who does. And they need to make decisions together.
And if you hire someone without the skills who knows the tribe really well, then they need a consultant who’s working with them side by side—either outside the company or inside—who can fast track them on the skills.
But this is something Phil and I learned early on. If you pair people up based on unique abilities, skills and knowledge, you end up getting more than one plus one.
Yuri: Yeah, totally. That’s awesome. That’s funny. I was actually walking my kids to school this morning, and there was this older kid, maybe grade six, who came flying by in a scooter. And my son Luke is like, “Hey, that’s my reading buddy!”
And I was like, “That’s so cool.” So I was asking him, “does everybody in kindergarten and first grade have a reading buddy?” And they do.
That is such a great parallel to what you’re talking about here. The kids learn how to read, and then they give back by mentoring younger kids on how to read. And then as our kids grow up, they’ll be the mentors to other kids.
That’s actually never something I’ve considered implementing in our business. But it makes total sense.
Keeping culture in a remote workplace
John: Yeah. And Phil and I lucked into this. Our whole business started with a pairing—him plus me. We were co-founders, we started this thing together.
His technician background is in systems design, interfaces and stuff like that, so he built websites. And I understood nutrition and science and physiology. So that was our pairing early on.
We didn’t have the same skill set, and we had different ways of seeing the world. But we had a shared passion.
And then when we started hiring, we just naturally started doing that—who could pair with who?
We don’t hire necessarily in pairs, but we look for how people can work together. And aside from the skill sharing and blind spot checking, there’s also just the communal aspect. We work virtually, so everyone essentially works alone sitting in their home office, or whether they go to a shared work space or whatever it is.
But you’re working at your computer alone. Even if you worked in an office building somewhere in cubicles, you still do most of your work alone if you’re a knowledge worker sitting at your computer.
So that can be isolating and boring and crappy and times, because you hold the accountability for doing a particular piece of work. It’s up to you, and if it goes badly, you are held accountable to that.
But one of the problems with holding a sole accountability is sometimes you forget that the best way to make a decision is to have resources to go to that can help increase your confidence in making a decision.
If you give people—I often call it at arm’s length—if you give people someone who’s at arm’s length, so really close, it’s not hard to get access to that feedback that they need. The chance that they’ll use it is way better than if it’s far away. Like if it’s a consultant outside the company, or if it’s someone who works in another department who they don’t work with regularly.
The chance that they’ll actually reach out and get that feedback that they need is low.
So for us, it’s like how can we put complementary skills at arm’s length from each other so that they will use each other as a resource regularly?
Yuri: Yeah. That’s awesome. So, do you guys have the Toronto office anymore, or that’s no longer?
John: It’s pretty much a slow erosion. As you know, we used to have the fifth floor of a shared work space in Toronto and we had a whole bunch of people who worked there every day—maybe eight or ten people.
And then slowly, people just started migrating back to their home offices as their lives changed.
Maybe they had kids or they decided to move out of the city. So we have like one lone person hanging on, still going to the office—Robert, who’s our CFO. And it’s because he lives nearby and he likes riding his bike to work. So he’s basically the lonely remaining person who goes to the office.
And we’re a few millimeters from just closing it down, and then everyone works from home.
Yuri: Yeah. But how do you maintain culture when everyone’s virtually remote around the world, around the country? What are some of the best practices that have worked for you guys?
John: Yeah, it’s funny because whenever I get this question, it always blindsides me. I’m like, “Oh, I didn’t even think it was a thing that people would suspect this would be difficult,” because we’ve always worked this way from essentially day one.
You just need to be in contact, and it needs to be easy to be in contact.
One of the great things about holacracy is that it already has an out-of-the-box set of meeting structures. So we don’t have to invent how we communicate, how we work together, how we collaborate. It already has a way of doing that built into the system.
Now, we’ve improved on it over the years for our own way of working. But yeah, for example, if there’s a top priority project… And for everything at PN, whenever we have our annual strategy meetings, we determine what our three priorities are for the year. My belief is that if you’ve got a list of 10 priorities, anything after three might as well not even be on the list.
Yuri: Can I just stop you there for a second?
Yuri: I just want to make sure the listeners get that, because this is something you’re not going to find from novice entrepreneurs. And this is maybe from trial and error, but this is something I’ve recognized too.
Four priorities for me, over the year, is even too many. We’ve realized, even with a team far smaller than yours, there’s no way you can accomplish four or five big rocks in a quarter.
So that’s just really, really important. I just want our listeners to really make a note of that.
John: Yeah, it might be the most important thing I’ve ever learned. And no one loves this realization. This is like that brushing your teeth thing.
Everyone at the organization can level set on an understanding that we can only do three big things a year. And then every single day, teeth get dirty again, and you’ve got to brush them again and remind yourself that we only do three things.
Because four is a zero, five is a zero, and if you’re even thinking about it, it distracts you from one, two and three. I think the way that we’ve been able to get comfortable with it is realizing that we plan on doing this for a long time.
We plan on having this business for a long time. We have big, ambitious goals, but we realize it’s going to take time to achieve them. So if we only do three things a year, that’s fine.
And now, after practicing this discipline for multiple years, people get it. They’re like oh, wow! I know you’re familiar with the Strategic Coach stuff where you actually do the retrospectives…
Yuri: Phil and I were in the same group.
John: Yeah, that’s what I thought.
And where you actually look back every 30, 60 or 90 days, whatever you choose, and say, what are we proud of having accomplished? What are we excited about today, and what are we looking forward to for the future?
When you do that exercise, it makes three priorities okay. And it makes it okay, because when you check back in 90 days, you’re like, “Whoa! We actually did a lot of stuff we’re proud of,” even though the list said three priorities.
So I get how having a short list still allows you to grow, and thrive, and be great and achieve your goals.
Anyway, this one’s super important one to me and it’s something I try and exercise in my personal and professional life.
Yuri: That’s awesome.
John: But with that said, getting back to the original point, working virtually.
We have our strategy meeting each year. We decide on our three priorities. We write down all the things we’re not going to do. Even through they’re great ideas and people are passionate about them, but we’re not doing it.
And when we’re working very diligently in the creation phase of some of these things, we have a daily standing meeting. So everyone shows up for a 15 minutes meeting. It’s virtual, so we use Zoom or something like that, and everyone says what they did since the last meeting and what they’re planning on doing until the next meeting. It just takes like 15 minutes if the group’s not too big.
So “Hey, since yesterday I worked on this.” Now everyone knows, cover any clarifying questions or whatever, and then, “for tomorrow, I’m going to work on this.”
And then you get back to your work.
Sometimes that work involves you alone, sometimes that work involves you pairing, so you may go on another Zoom and do screen shares. And we have Slack, which is a collaboration tool. Basically you can have all these multiple channels where you can live chat with your team, and we’re on Slack every single day.
Slack is 50% work, 50% jokes generally at PN, and funny GIFs and stuff like that. So that’s how we keep in touch.
And then, when we really have to work on something that requires intensive concentration and collaboration, we all just go somewhere. Our annual strategy meetings are in person. If the programming team is building something, usually the last few weeks we’ll do in person. And again, it could be in California or Costa Rica. If it’s the winter in Canada, you better be sure we’re going somewhere warm.
And then the team just rents a house together. We all stay in the same house and work together collaboratively together that way.
Or if our content team is going to create the content calendar for the next six months or one year, we’ll get together for that. So it’s this combination of in person when in person is required, regular check ins, and keep the meetings short. No one loves going to long meetings unless they like hiding from their work. And then regular communication on Slack.
And it doesn’t take people very long. If you are the right personality type for virtual or remote work, then it doesn’t take you very long to acclimate to this. The people it takes the longest are people who are the wrong personality type.
There’s a certain kind of introversion/extroversion. Gregariousness. There’s a bunch of traits we screen for, and some people just don’t do well with remote work if they’re this certain combination of extroversion and gregariousness.
They just don’t feel good sitting at their computer all day, so they can’t do this. It’s in everyone’s best interests that they don’t.
Using personality quizzes and test projects for hiring
Yuri: No kidding. That’s very cool. Are you guys using Kolbe, Myers-Briggs, a bunch of, a combination of things?
John: Yeah. We do. Depending on the roles, we’ll use different things. For example, the Caliper profile is one we’ve long used that we really love. That one, we actually picked up when doing some work with some elite sports teams.
I was fascinated—and so was Phil—with learning about how they were using these trait identification tools, which were originally validated in executive formats with drafting NBA players or major league baseball players to figure out how they stacked up. At that level, they’re all talented. All round one picks are super talented.
The idea then, is how will they fit into our team dynamic? And will they help or hurt in this context?
So we started using Caliper early on, and then we’ll use a combination of Kolbes and Myers-Briggs and other tools based on the role to figure out how someone might fit in. And interviews.
And then usually what we do beyond that is we give people trial work to do. Almost no one has ever been hired at PN without doing a project with us. Just to see if they like working this way, if we like working with them, etc.
We pay them more than the project was worth, as a reward for actually doing this in the first place. Most of them are talented and have other jobs, to start with. So we’ll over pay them for the work, but it’ll give us a real great sense, in combination with these other tools, as to whether this is the right thing for them.
Yuri: Yeah, that’s huge. People can talk all they want and put whatever they want in their resume, but when they actually have to do the work and you can see if they’re getting stuff done in a time efficient manner at the performance levels you want, that’s all the proof you need.
So I think that’s a cool strategy.
John: Yeah, and then embracing the truth and the reality of how people are is also helpful there. Because the truth is, if someone wants to work at your company and you give them a trial project, they know that’s a trial project, they’ll over perform compared to regular performance.
So you just have to factor that in. It’s like Chris Rock used to say, “When you go on a first date, you’re not meeting the person, you’re meeting their representative.”
So that’s the same. We’re like “Oh, this is cool. All right, this person, we just met their representative. They did great work, we liked working with them, but this is the best we’re ever going to see. So let’s factor that in too.”
The number one skill entrepreneurs must possess for lasting success
Yuri: That’s great. I’ve got one more question for you before we jump into the rapid five. What do think is the number one skill entrepreneurs must possess for lasting success?
John: Oh, wow. This might as well be part of the rapid five. I don’t know. You’ve met so many entrepreneurs, and they all share different talents and skills and stuff like that.
Some people may say passion or whatever. I feel like that’s too nebulous to be useful. I feel like there’s a certain amount of patience that’s required. But if you were to look at my Caliper test for example, I’m in the 99.9% percentile of urgency—which means I’m not patient.
So I would say, if we’re talking about true entrepreneurship, probably high on the list is a certain adaptability, a flexibility. Can you deal with constantly changing conditions? Micro changes and macro changes to your work structure, to your day, to your personal life?
When I started this business, I was not married and had no children. Now, I’m married and have four children. So, can you adapt? You might not even have to like it. But can you do it? Continually adapt, continually re-invent?
So I don’t know. There’s probably a set of traits that makes for great entrepreneurship. But I would say this one would be part of the core matrix of what would be required.
Yuri: I agree. I thinks there’s definitely a Darwinian thing there, which makes a lot of sense. I think it’s important, especially nowadays, where stuff is changing so rapidly compared to when we started almost two decades ago. So that adaptability is huge.
John: I even wonder if that’s true, though. I’ve asked myself that same question, because it does feel like things are changing, but I remember our first website was built with Phil teaching me how to code HTML.
And then very shortly after, it wasn’t like that at all, and everyone could have a website. So I’m like, “Has the change even been that rapid in our business terms?” I think it’s always been changing fast.
Yuri: Yeah, well it’s true. I think our generation, we’ve seen everything. We’ve seen the cassette tapes to the CDs etc.
I think our parents’ generation would be like, “Okay, this is happening a little bit too quick,” but for us, we’ve grown up with that, so I think that’s to our advantage.
The Rapid-Five Questions
Yuri: All right John, you ready for the rapid five?
John: Yeah, let’s do it.
Yuri: All right, buddy, so you’ve got no knowledge of these questions. I’m just going to fire them at you. Whatever comes top of mind is the right answer. All right, here we go. Number one, what is your biggest weakness?
Yuri: And number two, what is your biggest strength?
Yuri: That is probably the most common answer that we’ve seen on this podcast—this emotional intelligence, communication, that’s a big one. So everyone listening, make a note of that.
Number three, one skill you’ve become dangerously good at in order to grow your business.
John: One skill I’ve become dangerously good at… Understanding our customers.
Yuri: So it wouldn’t be HTML coding?
John: (Laughter) There’s some danger in my HTML coding. You wouldn’t describe it as dangerously good.
Yuri: Oh, that’s funny. Cool. That’s a big one, though. Understanding the customers is huge.
Just a tangential question, as the company grows, do you feel it’s more important to stay more connected to your customers? Because I think a lot of people at the top of their organizations end up being so disconnected from their customers they almost lose a sense of what they’re doing.
John: Yeah, absolutely, totally. And there has to actually be someone with an explicit role to do that. Without that, everyone will just be busy playing office politics or doing their role.
And this is the thing I’ve moved to after I had my short tenure of pretending I was going to be the CEO. After I became liberated from that, I was like, “Here’s what I’m good at, going out and giving talks.” Being on Facebook or forums or wherever people are congregating online to talk about stuff—just being there, answering questions, helping out, listening. And then surveying and doing interviews of our clients and customers. Things like that.
So that really became my primary focus after my CEO days. Now, I actually have a role in a bunch of circles—which are work groups at PN—to be the voice of the customer. That’s actually what I’m representing.
And I think it’s really critical. Not just like “Oh, isn’t that cute that they do that?” I really like that PN does that. It’s essential.
In our product development team, there is a bunch of really smart, talented amazing coders and product people. But they don’t know much about the customer.
Now, they have interview processes and surveys that they do. But those are at best, a triangulation of the truth. There always needs to be a role in every work group that does this. So that is something that’s really my primary job at PN, is to spend most of my time outside the wall, figuring out what of that needs to come inside so that we can continue to do great work.
Yuri: Yeah, I think that’s really good advice. Because I think nowadays, especially in the online space, there’s so much talk about “automate this and systemize that, remove yourself from everything.”
And the real magic is connecting with people, especially our customers. So that’s really good advice.
John: It also makes me look like a rock star because often I’ll post on Facebook, and people are like “Oh, my God, that’s so amazing! The founder and leader of the company is answering my questions.”
And that’s like my dirty little secret. I don’t have to do anything else but this.
Yuri: Yeah. Awesome. All right. So number four, what do you do first thing in the morning.
John: First thing in the morning. I have a little bit of a routine. I can tell you about it real quickly.
So I wake up and do my skin care and go to the bathroom and all that stuff, and then I go out and I cook breakfast for the family. I usually just beat them by a few minutes into the kitchen. And so I cook breakfast for them, send them off to school.
As they’re leaving, I cook breakfast for myself. Once it’s all ready, I boil a pot of water for tea—which maybe you’ve been hearing me sip as we talk here—and I sit on the counter while the water’s boiling. I just sit quietly, breathe and clear my head for the five minutes it takes to boil a kettle.
And then I bring my food and my drink to my office, and I start work.
Yuri: Awesome. And finally, complete this sentence. I know I’m being successful when ____.
John: Early on, when we started considering having a family, I realized that there are three things—and it’s consistent with that theme for work too—that were really super important to me.
One was having quality relationships with my partner and our children. Two was doing great work that makes me proud, and that other people are happy to be a part of at PN. And three is taking care of my own self, my physical wellbeing.
And so I know I’m being successful when I have, over a given period of time, devoted equal resource to all three of them.
Yuri: That’s awesome. Really nice answer. That’s actually an answer we haven’t heard, so that’s a really nice perspective.
John Berardi, thank you so much, buddy. It’s always great connecting with you, and thanks for sharing the behind-the-curtain stuff at PN, and what you’re up to.
What’s the best place for people to stay in touch with you, PN, follow your work?
John: Yeah, absolutely. Thanks for the opportunity to share that. People can find me on Facebook, I post every day there. So Dr. John Berardi is my Facebook page.
And then our website is at precisionnutrition.com. We have a blog with 1200, 1300 articles now, so lots of free stuff. And we even write about our business from time to time. So everything from coaching and change to nutrition and fitness to business and entrepreneurship.
So yeah, if people want to follow the business, check out precisionnutrition.com, and if you want to hear my random thoughts on family, work, like, eating better, living better, check me out at Dr. John Berardi on Facebook.
Yuri: Awesome. There you go, guys. Check it out. We’ll also link up to all that stuff in the show notes on the blog, so you can check that out afterwards.
John, once again man, I want to thank you so much for your friendship, for everything you’ve done for our industry, for raising the bar for really being the guy to elevate a lot of amazing fitness professionals to higher levels to serve more and more people.
And just want to commend what you and Phil and your entire team have done for so many years now, to just continue transforming people’s lives and also being a great beacon for what an awesome business looks like.
So thank you so much for all that.
John: Oh, thank you, Yuri. And also, I’d just like say it’s really awesome and inspiring seeing your growth as well.
We’ve known of each other and then known each other for a lot of years now, a scary number in fact. And so it’s really cool seeing your own evolution of your business, transformation of yourself—and from very much the same situation. Single dudes and married, children, multiple businesses, very successful, making a difference in the world.
So kudos to you as well, and thanks for having me, and thanks everyone who’s listening. We’ve spent more than our 30 minutes we originally intended to spend and so I appreciate your time listening, and hopefully some of what we said today was of value to you.
Yuri: I bet it will be. Thanks so much, John.
So talk about a really inspiring interview, right? John is such a great guy, if you haven’t been able to tell that from our conversation.
Really caring, really present, and just such a great human who’s doing great things in this world. Such a pleasure to connect with him.
If you ever have the chance to meet him I person, you’ll experience the same person as you just heard on this interview. He’s really, really a special person. So I’m excited that we were able to have this conversation and bring these insights to you.
The other reason I love speaking with entrepreneurs who have been in the space for so long is because of all the wisdom that is acquired on this journey. There’s things that you don’t even know you don’t know until you’ve been in business for 10, 15, 20 years. And that’s something that is very tough to learn in a book.
And yes, you can have mentors that can help you speed up the process and help you avoid mistakes, which is totally recommended. But you also have to understand that you have to put in the time.
There’s power in longevity. There is power in being at this for a long period of time. And that’s why it’s really important to always come back to your why.
What is your big reason for doing what you do?
And that’s the little exercise, the little thought provoking exercise I want to leave you with today. Figuring out your why. Why is it so important that you do what you do? Because if you can really get to the core of why it is this business, this product, this service you’re offering is a must—it’s going to really help you move beyond a lot of the obstacles and the potholes that are going to happen.
I’m telling you, they’re going to happen. Crap is going to hit the fan, there’ll be times when you want to give up, there’ll be times when you’re thinking to yourself, “why am I even doing this?”
But you always have to go back to the bigger reason why. And that reason should not be logical. It should not be in the brain. It should be something you experience viscerally in your heart, in your soul. Like, “I know that I’m doing this for the right reason.”
With Healthpreneur, I feel so passionate about what we do here that this is something that I don’t ever see myself leaving in the foreseeable future, because I really believe that if I can help you—the health, fitness or wellness entrepreneur—take your message and share that with more people … those people that you touch are all going to be transformed in some way, shape or form.
And the sad part about our industry is that we’re amazing technicians for the most part. We’re great trainers, doctors, functional medicine, all that stuff. But how do we build a business? How do we market?
And I use market in a way that hopefully you’re not feeling it as slimy and yucky. It’s how do you get your message out to more people? How do you get people to know about what it is you have to offer?
Because if you can get in front of them, that’s how you can transform their lives. And if you don’t know how to get in front of them, you’re not serving anybody.
And that’s why I do what I do. Because I’ve had to figure the stuff out for myself, and I’ve had a lot of success, had a lot of failures. Probably 10 times more failure than successes.
And as Michael Jordan said, that’s why I’m successful—because I’ve continued to fail, and continued to do so every single week, learning from those mistakes, bringing back from the trenches what I’ve learned, how it can help you, so that if you can move your business forward to help even one more person, or 100 or 1000 or a million more people … then I know that this is good. This is the work I want to do.
And that’s my why. That’s my why with Healthpreneur.
So for you, what is your why? Why is it so important? I want to end suffering. I want to end suffering for the average consumer, and I want to end suffering for the business owner who doesn’t quite have the clarity, confidence and capabilities to move to the next level to impact more people.
So for you, I want to challenge you and encourage you to figure out your reason why if you haven’t already. Okay?
So, that’s all for today. And just a couple of housekeeping things before we finish off. Remember, number one is to subscribe to the Healthpreneur Podcast if you haven’t already done so on iTunes. Just click the little subscribe button and you’ll be all set.
That way you don’t miss any upcoming episodes or any of the previous ones, and we’ve had lot of amazing interviews and many more to come with inspiring, remarkable entrepreneurs in the health and wellness and fitness space.
Number two is I would greatly appreciate if you left a rating or review on iTunes, because it helps us get more visibility and more people can find out about this and obviously we can serve more people.
And number three is, I’ve got a free gift for you if you haven’t grabbed it already.
It’s called Health profit Secrets. It’s a physical book that I would love to ship to you, and I’m actually covering the cost of the book. I’m just asking you to meet me about halfway and cover the cost of shipping, which is only a couple of bucks.
In that book, you’ll discover the four underlying secrets of all successful health companies and how you can really harness those into your business. And there’s also a score card at the end of the book that will help you score yourself on those four different parameters. And then obviously what you can do next to fill those gaps.
So that’s over at healthpreneurbook.com. You can grab your copy today.
And with that said, I want to thank you once again, and as John had mentioned before both of us really appreciate you taking the time out of your day, out of your lives to be with us, to listen to this podcast. And hopefully it inspires you to take things to the next level.
So continue to get out there, be great, do great, and I look forward to seeing you in our next episode.
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