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12/09/18

A Wrap-up From The First Annual Stronger U Staff Summit

So as we head back into our first normal week since the first annual Stronger U Staff Summit, I wanted to put together a big post detailing so many of the things that we did, that we’ve done in 2018, and what we plan on doing in 2019.

I had been kicking around doing this from before our Summit even started, and then I saw that Mike had put together an awesome little wrap-up of what went on in the group, and had one of those awesome eureka moments. I could use Mike’s post as the basis for this blog, and then add in some comments of my own. Which means I only have to do like half the work. Because #efficiency. I hope Jodi and Ariana are proud of me for this.

I really wanted to work on something like this because I think end of the year recap posts are always fun reads. I know that I’m not alone there, either. People want to know what other people are doing, what they’re planning on doing, and more. I think the same goes for all of you. But more than that, I think you deserve to hear what we worked on, what we’re working on, and more.

I think sharing a little insight about what we did this past week, what we talked about, and how we’re looking to refine our approach in the coming year is an important thing. It’s important because it’s transparent and it’s open communication. This is something that we ask of you, our members, all the time. We speak constantly about the importance of opening up to your Coach, involving your Coach in what you’re doing, and well, who are we to ask that of you if we won’t give you the same?

From this point forward, some of what you’re going to read is kind of like an annotated version of Mike’s post in the group with the goal of bringing you back behind the curtain a little bit. So much of what we do at Stronger U is built through you. Your involvement, your support of us, and your unending enthusiasm in all of the things we work to do for you, our members.

So we just got back from the first annual Stronger U  Staff Summit, and I figured it would be a good idea to give you some info about the Summit. A fun idea turned into an amazing time. We bonded, learned, ate lots of tacos and I believe we’re all going to be better off thanks to these few days together.

Here’s an overview of what went down:

Monday everyone was trickling in so we planned a Meet and Greet Dinner featuring Billy Dutton and his family.

The entire team went out to dinner and we bs’d, ate some food, and hung out. Longtime member Billy Dutton was passing through town so we wanted to make sure we got to hang. Then we all went back to the resort, may have had (we definitely had) some (a lot) drinks we tell you to avoid, played some games, and talked. Trust us when we say it’s mostly work and fitness related. Because that’s what happens when you get a bunch of Coaches in a room. Even if they’re drinking and hanging out, they wind up talking about things like carbs and squats. It’s weird. We’re weird.
Tuesday was our busy development/meeting day

First was a Stronger U Fitness Seminar lead by Anthony Harder & Dean Guedo. They went over movement efficiencies and training strategies. And talked about our new SU endeavor SU Fitness (https://strongeru.fitness) These dudes can get deep! But unfortunately, there were a few of us (like myself) who completely missed this seminar. I’d like to say that’s because I was up at the crack of dawn, doing my gratitude journaling, and meditating on all the ways Stronger U will change in 2019.

But really I was fighting off a hangover because a few of us sat up until 3am talking about the secrets of the Universe.

Next, we had 4 round tables where we broke into groups to discuss various topics. These groups were lead by coaches who we thought were particularly strong in these areas who could share their knowledge.

We had:

Diet and lifestyle discussions lead by Joshua Citron & David A. Schneider.

This was about much more than macros and true habit building. What matters, what doesn’t and helping each of you realize what we’re really doing. It’s not about perfection, it’s about consistently doing what’s needed to become who you want. We talked about not being motivated all the time but being doers instead.

A topic like this is always one of the most important things for Coaches to touch on, especially when it’s a room of Coaches talking with each other. These are those kinds of lessons that we implicitly “understand” and see playing out in our own lives all the time, but at times in the Coaching world, it’s a bit easy to get “into the weeds”, if you will. To become so focused on the numbers, the metrics, or what have you. We all need those reminders that sometimes talking about the broader lifestyle changes that can happen through working on food.

Motivational interviewing/Coaching conversations lead by Tanner Baze & Josette Angela.

I could go on and on about this one since this was my roundtable. But to keep it simple, this roundtable was about being a better coach and communicator. I’m by no means a master communicator, but I’m definitely someone who likes to ask questions, and I’m DEFINITELY someone that likes to ask lots of questions that make people think.

For example: my icebreaker for this roundtable was always one simple question:

“Do you think a hot dog is a sandwich?”

Not exactly an open-ended question, but not exactly a question that people just answer “yes” or “no” to. It’s one of those fun questions where you get all kinds of insights into how people think, and that turns into a great teaching moment to talk about beliefs, biases, and use open-ended questions to highlight that.

The way that I like to think about using open-ended questions to help you, our clients, is by using an analogy. Because of course, it is. This is Stronger U. We use analogies for everything.

Every time a Coach gets a client we start to develop a picture of who that person is based off of their intake form. More often than not, the picture we develop right off the bat for that person is kind of like looking at a stick figure drawing. It’s not a complete understanding because there just hasn’t been much communication or time to develop a real and complete understanding. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s just a reality of working online. But over time, through the process of asking open-ended questions and trying to learn about who that person is we should hopefully be able to turn that stick figure drawing into a high-resolution picture that tells us who this person is. Which then sets us up to help that person as much as we can.

Asking open-ended questions and really diving deep to see how we can be more effective. This is something I think we do well at SU and why people really do see success when nothing else worked. It was great to see all the examples shared by the team, and it’s even better to see the ways that we can continue adopting and refining this approach.

Organization & Time management lead by Jodi Bainbridge & Ariana Scalfo.

This talk was a lot about how a busy coach can structure their days, deliver excellent service, and still have time for life. We went over processes of waking up, when to jump in emails, how to handle your client load, and to be an efficiency machine.

I think there are a lot of different ways that all of us can improve how we approach this area, and both Ariana and Jodi are prime examples as people who have an immense amount of structure and routine built into their day. I’m also a major time management and organization nerd and I’m kind of bummed that I didn’t get to sit in on this one. But that’s okay! That’s why I can bother them with endless messages to ask them what they talked about 🙂

Retention & Referral tips lead by Derek Stanley & Denise Colmenares Schumann.

This was more about the business side of things and how we can keep working with our amazing members longer. This may sound like it was a ploy to keep you on but it was more about us doing a good job at showing you why this program is exactly where you need to be.

Obviously, we are a business and we want people to stay around Stronger U for longer, but we don’t want to coerce them into that. Instead, we work to approach this from a place of knowing that if we’re able to show you why we belong in your corner, no matter if you’re in a cut, bulk, or maintenance, then chances are you’re going to have a better shot at reaching your goal and making that goal a part of your new lifestyle. And be on the lookout because we may be coming out with something that may make your decision to stay even easier 😉

The end of the night was saved for dinner, presentations, and awards.

Michael Alessi presented on the journey of SU so far. Growth, plans, and execution. I’m not gonna give you specific numbers on this (sorry!) but we’ll just say this: Whoa. This is the presentation I wished that I could show you. It’s really insane to see how much we’ve actually grown over the past 4 years from a little mom and pop nutrition shop (LOL I picture Mike and Alessi as Mom and Pop) to a very legitimate and highly functioning organization.

It was at this point that we actually got to introduce our newest addition to the Stronger U Management team, and I’d like to take a moment to let her introduce herself to you all in this blog! Starting in 2019, we’ll be joined by Jamee Lubkemann, who is coming on board as our Head of Marketing and Strategy. Here’s a bit from Jamee herself:

“Hi All

I am Jamee Lubkemann – the newest member of the SU management team.  So excited to be part of this amazing company and cannot wait to get started.  I hail from New Jersey, dirty Jersey as I fondly refer to it, with my three kids – well, two daughters and my husband.  I have had an almost 20-year career working in corporate America, where I grew up in marketing and strategy, but have held several other functions as well.  I spent most of my time at American Express, and most recently, I was the Executive Vice President, Head of Consumer Banking for Amalgamated Bank. I was introduced to Stronger U back in March of this year, and immediately fell in love with the program, and even more so, this amazing community.  There are days when I felt down or ready to throw in the towel, and this strong group of awesome people, along with my fabulous coach (Kenny Barber), kept me going, day in and day out. I realized the rarity in this company pretty early on, and had an itch to get myself onboard. After months of begging Mike and Mike to listen to my ideas, they finally folded (this is a slight exaggeration of the truth) and to shut me up, offered me a job.  

In all seriousness, I bring a foundation of business development and management, and a network that I hope can help us bring Stronger U to the next level, that and some humor.  I can assure you, I have never been excited about starting a job, and this one, I started before I was hired. I am responsible for strategy and business development. What this means will often be fluid, but I am going to help short, medium and long-term business planning, marketing, and business growth.  I will partner with the team to build a strong foundation and infrastructure to help prepare Strong U for the next level. In addition, I am still working on my own journey with Kenny. Am excited to embark on a larger journey with this amazing Stronger U coach and management team and of course, this unparalleled community.  Can’t wait to hear from you all!!!”

Mike covered how we go from good to great. Talking about member satisfaction being excellent but still wanting more. Mike’s talk could be summed up best by saying that it’s the little things that really do make all the difference. An extra 1% improvement in one area might not seem like much, but 1% improvements in 40-50-60 different areas suddenly starts compounding pretty quickly. And no matter who we are, we can all find somewhere to pick up 1% improvement.

Jessica Bachman covered her plans for educating the team and all the things involved. You already see the result of some this stuff, like our journal clubs for example. That’s been a passion project of Jess’s, and it’s something we’ll continue doing. But we won’t stop there.

Starting in 2019, Jess will be leading weekly research reviews for the Coaching staff, so that we can continue finding new ways to level up the quality of coaching that we offer, but also stay up to date with what the latest research says when it comes to helping you, our members.

Along with that, something that Jess talked about is a project a few of us have been working on, an internal SU cert in order to improve efficiencies and help continue building the most well-rounded team imaginable. Our goal isn’t to open this to the public, and this won’t be a cert that someone can just go buy. Instead, when someone comes into Stronger U we want to be able to walk them through everything they need to know. Why certain numbers may or may not get adjusted, how to structure a day, what various standard-operating-procedures look like, and everything in between. We have some fun stuff coming for you guys.

I talked about all things content. Shocker, right? Facebook, Instagram, blogs, & emails. I went over the growth of our platforms and the importance of quality content, which was really cool. For example: over 700,000(!!!) people visited the Stronger U website in 2018. That’s over a 100% jump compared to 2017.

Along with that, I got to point out a lot of lessons in the numbers that come from a year of examining how our platforms like our email list, Instagram, and Facebook have grown — and some of the surprising insights that come from looking at those platforms. Who knew that people actually liked clicking a link in the bio on Instagram so much?

(And for any of our peers reading this: don’t neglect email for social media. Facebook and Instagram may be the cool kids on the block, but email vastly outperforms the both of them. It’s kind of like macros and changing your behavior. The new and sexy things might sound great, but nothing beats consistently hammering on the basics.)

The overall big message here was how these things help our members, serve as a way to help us grow closer to you, our members, and make everyone better. In 2019, we’ll continually work on upping the production quality of what we’re doing while doubling down on the value that we try to provide you, the people who matter most.

Ariana Scalfo went over all things involved in the day to day and future of super team admin. This is another area where I’m not gonna give you too many specifics, but I thought it was so fascinating to hear about all of the ways that the admin process has been systemized and improved in 2018, and how it will continue to be refined in 2019.

Ariana talked about how they’re the first line in the SU experience and what their roles and goals are, and it was a great reminder for all of us that anytime we speak, whether we know it or not, we’re reflecting back on Stronger U — so we better try to reflect well.

Awards:

  • Jeb Stuart Johnston got the award for community contributor for his participation in the group. Seriously, his videos are the best.
  • Dru Madrid for the most improved player for really putting in that effort to go above and beyond and show initiative in always getting better.
  • Tracie Haines Landram for the highest rated coach on the latest SU survey (omg don’t ask to swap. They’re all great!)
  • Jason Falcon for Coach of the year for being an overall stud. Coaching, participation, survey’s, helping others.

Enjoy the prizes 😉

Wednesday we packed a full-size bus and went to the Grand Canyon. Which means that the entire Stronger U team got to have a 2-hour road trip together. You’ve got NO idea how much fun this was. I really do think there’s something special that happens when you spend a few hours in a car with someone, and this was that effect amplified by 50.

Then we got to the Grand Canyon.

What a scene. It’s mind-blowing and it was most of our first times seeing it, myself included. It’s not at all fair to say that it was breath-taking, because that phrase is so worn out, but it’s the only thing that accurately describes how I felt. Seeing something of that magnitude that manages to remind you of how small you are, but how special this world is, was my favorite experience of this whole trip.

We hung out for the day, hiked around, and went back to the resort. Some people (like Ariana, Martin, and Alessi) ran all the way down to the bottom of that gigantic pit and all the way back up. I work with people who are certifiably insane.

Others of us walked around, took entirely too many pictures, and then talked about how many bodies might be hidden in the Grand Canyon. Whereas others took their shirt off and took pictures, surprising absolutely nobody. This was a sad night because we knew an awesome time was over.

The entire theme of this trip was ‘relationships’. Both in the theme of our learning and in our interaction with one another. A group of people who kinda know each other get thrown into a “work trip” and it seems like everyone has known each other for years. I’ve been to entirely too many fitness conferences and networking events by this point in my life, and I can confidently say that most of them are not fun.

Maybe this won’t be a surprise to any of you reading it, but this event was nothing like a fitness or a nutrition event I’ve been to before. Everyone was down to share tips, tricks, and best practices and just known everyone. There was never a hint of ego or the typical chest-thumping that comes from getting a bunch of Coaches who think they’re the best at what they do in a room together.

People were connecting in a way I’ve never seen. So many times people came up to Mike and said how everyone is so cool and easy going and how much they love the team. This isn’t hyperbole. I think we can confidently say that everyone liked and connected with everyone else, which is one hell of an accomplishment.

I remember looking around seeing all the interactions and saying how the hell did this happen. It makes us proud to be the ones you are choosing to help on your journey and we cannot wait to do this again next year.

Tanner Baze
Director of Content