Airing of Grievances – 2014 Edition

2014One of my favorite TV shows of all time was Seinfeld.

In particular, the Festivus episode was one of those episodes that lives in our brains for years after it’s gone, simply because it was so damn funny.

In the Festivus episode, Festivus replaces Christmas because George’s dad, Frank, no longer wants to believe in or celebrate Christmas.

grievancesOne of the Festivus traditions (outside of the Festivus pole and “Feats of Strength”), is called the “Airing of Grievances,” where everyone gets negative stuff off their chest at the dinner table prior to Festivus dinner.

I actually recommended this to our family this year, but for some reason, the idea didn’t come to fruition.

In life, I do my best to stay really positive and upbeat whenever possible. In general, I think I’m a pretty darn pleasant human being to be around on a day-to-day basis.

However, there is that 1-3% of the time where I reach critical mass and need to vent. Today, I’m going to do it via my blog – kind of like another great Seinfeld episode, the Serenity Now episode.

You see, every now and then I get an email that just seems so rude, so ludicrous, it’s hard to believe that someone actually wrote it.

And part of that is simply due to the Internet. after all, there are really no repercussions on the Internet, so you can say anything your little heart desires.

While I typically write quite a bit about training, this post is going to look a bit more in-depth to the business side of what I do. The first two answers are definitely more rant-like, and the third is just a bit of solid advice.

It’s a change from the norm, but I hope you enjoy it!

Mike, I love the blog and really wish you would write more free blog posts. I appreciate you have products to sell, but I’m not really interested in those. Thanks!

Yes, I really get questions like this in my inbox.

Let’s start with a bit of education here. First of all, I don’t consider what I do “blogging.”

A blog is a random quip or thought, maybe a short video, and it’s typically no more than a few hundred words.

I’d like to think that what I provide are articles. There are pictures, graphics, some semblance of formatting and proof-reading, and typically, numerous points of support for my thoughts.

But that’s just the starting point – let’s talk about what RTS really is.

Robertson Training Systems is not a blog – RTS is a business.

This is a critical distinction.

I write because I enjoy educating people, but also as a means to help grow my business. I know that if I provide something of value to people, hopefully a handful will in turn buy a product, hire me as their coach, or bring me in to speak (more on this below).

But first, I have to demonstrate a certain degree of competence, and that’s where creating an article or video can help. It’s 21st Century marketing, to some degree.

Furthermore, remember that writing articles for RTS is just one aspect of my business.

I also write articles for other websites, create and deliver seminars, develop continuing education products, etc.

And that’s just RTS – that doesn’t even include IFAST, or my work with the Indy Eleven, into the equation.

So I appreciate the fact that you enjoy my writing, and I sincerely hope that everyone who reads gets something out of it.

However, it’s also a consistent and ongoing leap of faith, as there isn’t necessarily an immediate return on investment (other than perhaps ego, if people share it on social media).

But I hope you also appreciate that writing for the website is just one aspect of what I do, and that cranking up content creation there leads to a natural decline in productivity in other areas.

Mike, I was looking to hire you on as a coach/speaker but I simply can’t afford your fees. Why do you charge so much?

Ah yes, the question of price.

Let’s look at this from two different perspectives – one from the speaking perspective, and the second from the coaching perspective.

When it comes to travel, let me be frank: I hate it.

And I don’t use the word “hate” lightly. It’s a strong word.

But I hate travel.

Not the speaking, working or interacting with people, mind you.

But the travel is one of my least favorite things in the world to do.

Let me give you a bullet point breakdown of how travel looks for me nowadays.

  • I have to drive 45 minutes to the airport (or hire an intern to do it).
  • I have to deal with security and all of that madness.
  • I have to take multiple flights to get to my destination (Indianapolis flies almost nowhere direct these days).
  • Once there I have to collect my stuff and get to the hotel for what typically amounts to a short night of sleep.
  • On top of all this, I’m typically only in the given city 1 or 2 nights (at best). So I really don’t see much of anything in that city other than the inside of a hotel ballroom or gym!
  • Travel also puts a kink in my eating habits, and it forces me to modify or miss planned training sessions.
  • Arguably the worst part of all of this, though, is leaving my family. I relish my weekends because it’s time to chill out, relax, and really enjoy time with family. But if I travel for work, this time is taken away.

Now I realize this probably sounds a bit overly dramatic, and maybe it is. But in my case I’ve been speaking for a while now, and the allure has kind of worn off, especially with regards to the travel side it all.

So part of the fee is losing a half or full-day each way for travel, as well as my utter disdain for it in general. Keep in mind during that time I could be writing, coaching, working on my businesses, etc., all from the comfort of my home, IFAST, or local coffee shop.

Next, my fees for speaking reflect not only a certain degree of competence, but the time it takes to collect any/all necessary information, put it into a cohesive presentation, and last but not least, rehearse.

And that last one is a biggie – I still rehearse for every presentation I give.

Want to know the strangest part of all this, though? I really, truly enjoy speaking and working with people at seminars.

It’s a huge honor for people to spend their hard-earned money and come out of their way to learn from you.

And I don’t take that lightly.

So while I imagine I will always travel to speak at seminars, I’m not going to be speaking nearly as much in coming years, and I will definitely be more selective in the events I do choose to speak at.

Now on to the topic of coaching…

When I first started doing 1-on-1 training back in 2002, I think we charged $60 an hour for my services.

And at that point in time, it seemed like pretty damn good money. After all, I was just a broke college kid so $60 for an hour seemed awesome!

In the interest of full-disclosure, I now charge $199 for a private session, or $99 for a semi-private session. We also charge a fee for the assessment process, and the program design process.

Part of this is due to time in the trenches, but more importantly, it’s based on competence and the results we deliver at IFAST. I’ve been training athletes of all shapes and sizes for 15 years now, and I’d like to think our results speak for themselves.

Another piece of our pricing strategy also involves who I want to train, as well as their level of commitment.

Guys like Roy Hibbert, Chad Marshall, Danny O’Rourke, Eriq Zavaleta –  they’re committed to the process.

They know what they want to get out of their off-season training, and they know that a well executed off-season will reap dividends many times over during the regular season.

This is not a cost for these guys – this is an investment.

An investment in their body, as well as their career. What does a few extra years in the league add to their bottom line?

On the flip side, there have absolutely been a few times where I discount my rates to “try and help a guy out.”

After all, I know what minor league athletes make, and my fees aren’t always a good fit for them.

It’s worked out ok a few times, but I’ve also been burned more times than not when I discount my rates or try to help someone out.

They put in half-assed efforts, skip workouts, or flat-out don’t care about the training. It’s infuriating to me as a coach, because I truly care about every client or athlete I coach, and I sincerely want them to succeed.

I want them to get better.

But at the same time, I can’t want it for an athlete.

I can’t put the fire in their belly that I have as a coach.

Every day I invest in myself to get better. Whether it’s watching DVD’s, attending courses, or simply reading books, I want to be the best I can possibly be.

So for all of these reasons, I’m no longer in the business of discounting rates.

I only want athletes who are totally committed to myself and the training process working with me, and charging a higher price is one way to help ensure that.

And if you just want to go somewhere cheap just to save money, as my good friend Charlie Weingroff likes to say, “The JV plays on Thursdays.”

Mike – what is one key piece of business advice you could give us up and coming coaches?

I read a ton of business books these days, because I’m doing my best to make both RTS and IFAST successful.

However, back in the day I was actually a business minor at Ball State, and one of the few things I actually took away from my time there was the idea of opportunity costs.

Here’s a textbook definition:

Opportunity Costs – the loss of potential gain from other alternatives when one alternative is chosen
(New Oxford American Dictionary)

I’m always considering the idea of opportunity costs when it comes to my business, and more importantly, my life.

Quite simply, by choosing to do one thing, I’m choosing not to do another. This is, unfortunately, how time works.

And these days the biggest opportunity cost for me has absolutely nothing to do with money.

The biggest opportunity cost for me is time I could be spending with my family.

My wife and children are the most important things in my life, and while I obviously have to work to make a living, I’m at a point where there are certain things that I’d rather fore go in lieu of time with family.

From 1999 to 2008, I worked ridiculous hours in an effort to get ahead.

When I left my in-home training gig in 2008, I actually eased off the gas for a few months.

And we all know how that ended up – 5 months later I’m working even longer hours in an effort to kick start IFAST with Bill.

So here, 15 years after I got started in this amazing industry, I’m searching for some semblance of balance.

And while it sounds odd, I think I’m finally close. I’m not all the way there, mind you, but I’m close.

I’m lucky to have a job and work that I genuinely love. I walk away from each day feeling like I made a difference in someone’s life.

And on the flip side, I’m now able to go home at a decent hour and have time with my family. So that’s pretty darn cool, too.

As a young coach or trainer, always consider opportunity costs. I’m not saying you have to have the same values as a grumpy old man such as myself, but realize that there are “costs” to everything you do, and I guarantee you’ll make better decisions as a result.


Now with all that off my chest, I feel ready to get back in action and dominate 2015.

Coming soon, I’m going to do a “State of the RTS Union” post, and we’ll discuss all the cool stuff I’ll be working on in the upcoming year.

Last but certainly not least, thank you so much for your support over the years. RTS and IFAST have grown beyond my wildest imagination, and I know that people such as yourselves are the real reason for this.

So again, thanks for your support and I’ll see you in 2015!

All the best



Leave Comment

  1. Interesting post, Mike. Just so you don’t think all your fan base is quite so rude as those notes, let me add my perspective.

    Firstly, I appreciate your very helpful articles, for which I pay nothing. You offer them for your reasons, and I accept them with gratitude for mine.

    I do buy products on occasion, but not too often. When I buy, it’s always because I think that product will scratch an itch I happen to have, and think the price is appropriate for the benefit I expect. When I do buy, I’m always glad the money goes to someone whose free content has been very helpful, but I don’t buy on that basis alone.

    As to coaching fees, $199 feels expensive to a guy like me. But I’m well aware that as improvements in manufacturing make widgets cheaper, personal service becomes proportionally a larger part of my budget, be it for coaching, PT, docs, teachers, lawyers, car repair, or any other service where it’s really hard to get both quality and economy of scale.

    And if I ever get a chance to visit Indy, I would gladly invest your fee for an assessment and some education (provided you do one-off sessions like that).

    Enjoy your family, and thanks for your online presence.

  2. Mike,
    I am a few years older than you. I have been in this business for over 20 years. For many years I have taken my knowledge and experience for granted. Today, I am learning to appreciate what I know, and my ability for help many people with some challenging issues. I appreciate your knowledge and willingness to share it with us. I have paid multiple times to see you. Every time it was worth the investment. Thank you for your dedication and experience. Sounds like you have your priorities in the right place. Continued success, I hope to see you at the EADS 2.0 Seminar.
    David Egan, CSCS

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