Episode #168 – Bedros Keuilian On How I Raised Myself Up From Dumpster To CEO. Founder Of World’s Fastest Growing Gym Chain Tells All
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His family escaped communist Russia in 1980 for America.
Between dumpster diving and gasoline showers, his father instilled the entreprenuerial spirit.
Even now, a can of Spam still makes him weak in the knees.
He kept going.
While working three jobs…
11 dollars an hour perrsonal training…
fry cook at Disneyland…
bouncer at a gay bar (it paid more than a straight bar)…
he landed a gym client that would pass on business and success knowledge as Bedros trained him.
(Shout out to Jim Franco!)
Before long he opened his first personal training studio.
When he had five, he started consulting and coaching with other trainers and gym owners.
He has lived what so many consider a mere cliché…
The American Dream.
Here’s what he did…
In this episode, you’ll discover:
- The simple little cassette tape product his client gave him that changed everything.
- The two startling and sleazy employee mistakes that told him it was time to sell his studios.
- The single, critical key angle Bedros used to rock the entire fitness industry! (While attracting business buyers at the same time).
- How did Bedros re-enter the gym business and found the fastest growing gym chain in the world?
- The “one year before prom” events that caused him to reinvent himself from the ground up. (Improving this will change everything in your life!).
Intro and outro backing music: Forever More by CREO
David Allan: Hey everybody it’s David Allan from Make Words Pay dot com back with another edition of the podcast. And I got a very exciting guest here today. His name is Bedros Keuilian and he is the most trusted consultant in the fitness industry. Now he started with a number of fitness gyms and you know much to our liking of course use direct response marketing and sales techniques to blow those businesses up. And then he became the founder of the Fit Body Boot Camp and fit body which is according to what I’ve read the fastest growing fitness chain in the world. Bedros, Welcome to the show.
Bedros Keuilian: Thank you sir and thank you for having me. What a great opportunity.
David Allan: Yeah it’s exciting to have you on the show. Now maybe we’ll just start you know maybe if people that don’t know much about you. And to be honest you know I’ve read a few things but I don’t know a ton about you. Take us back to the the very start and sort of give us you know the trajectory that your career has taken – a superhero origin story if you will.
Bedros Keuilian: Yes absolutely. My pleasure. I’ll encapsulate this and then you can take it you know in depth if you want. However it’s my story’s a little different than everybody else who has had a rags to riches story because mine was a dumpsters to riches story here. But you know it all worked out OK in the end but my dad decided that we’re going to escape communist Russia in 1980 and get to the United States. And I was six years old. I was the baby of the family we were or we were broke. We didn’t
understand the language but the greatest thing was that we were in a country that gave us opportunity and hope and make money as long as we paid it forward and serve the people in the communities that we were going to go into business.
I mean that was my dad’s whole philosophy he wants to come to America learn the language and then start a little tailor shop and then serve the community of Anaheim Anaheim California where he still lives today with my mom and I. That’s exactly what he did man and he taught me and my brother and sister These idea of being an entrepreneur of freedom that will allow you all the types of opportunities that you want but in the process you know we moved around a lot growing up different apartments got evicted a lot lived in apartments that were so dirty so filthy that as a child that eight years old I got lice and we were so broke. My mom couldn’t afford lice treatment and so
she literally had my dad siphon our gasoline from the car and she washed my hair with gasoline on the grass in front of me. Yeah. Wow.
So I kind of tell people listen I’ve eaten out of dumpsters because it was cheaper to just dive into the dumpster according to my dad behind the grocery stores and pick out take out food that’s been expired but necessarily hasn’t gone back yet. And she read that in to go and buy the food from the grocery stores.
And so at the end of the day all of those adversities that we faced I realized adversities that have helped me become a better entrepreneur because there is not a tough situation that I haven’t gone through from having my hair wash with gasoline to being yelled at and said hey you’re you’re a fucking foreigner. Get the fuck out of this country. Two to two eating out of dumpsters so any business adversity that I get today is like a walk in the park as far as I’m concerned.
Right. And what was your you know your father instilling this entrepreneur mindset on you. What was he started to do what sort of businesses will see delving into.
And so he was he worked as a tailor in Armenia which was looking for the role and he wanted to have his own little tailor shop rate and custom make shoes and stuff. And so we came to the United States and he and my mom and my older brother and older sister all were two or three jobs around the clock and they saved enough money where before we ever even bought a house my dad within three years of being in the country he had a tiny 900 square flight alteration shop a tailor shop in Anaheim and believe it or not and he did alterations for the CEO of Disney at the time.
He did alterations for the Backstreet Boys when they came to perform at the stadium. I mean my dad has done work for some make big wigs Red Orange County Zevon by getting a reputation. This old Warner dude. And it was that little tailor shop that helped him by three homes one of which he lives in and the other two ended up being his retirement nest.
That’s right. Well he’s very smart. Absolutely. And he put the business you know the the wealth generating thing first by getting the tailor shop.
Exactly and so growing up while I have this rags to riches story I resonate better with the whole. I’m the American dream but I have the immigrant edge and Grac you share with people these days.
So what point did you start delving into like fitness and stuff like that.
Oh man I was a fat kid growing up because when you’re eating out of dumpsters and when your parents were all for and cheese of the white bread and spam I still look I see it can of Spam grow.
I could bite through the can again I’m the was that was like You’re really making me. I don’t care about any of that. You show me a fan of mine. He’s going to be like. So it’s a problem. So by the time I was in high school I was like 40 pounds overweight. I was like a squishy fat kid having to go to prom with this girl named Kiah and prom was one your way because this was 11th grade now. And I go man she’s not going to want to go to prom with some fat dude. So that summer I started working out reading muscle magazines eating is clean and healthy as I could. And before you know it I lost 35 40 pounds went back to school
senior year. And I was a whole new man. Never mind the physical transformation. They was talking about like emotional strains. I’m talking about making eye contact with people and talking about confidence self-esteem self-awareness all of these things happen when you when you get fit and lose weight because you kind of come out from highly. And so while I never worked up enough nerve to ask the guy to the prom I just I never went to the prom which was OK the best gift ever God gave to myself was that good fitness and a rebirth if you will. So I decided that this is going to be my path. I want to help more people achieve this outcome of
self-awareness of discovery fitness. Developing your mindset and self-confidence and so on. And of madness. Nineteen ninety seven this is what I’ve been doing. It’s been a hell of a struggle and I ended up homeless a couple times I want to be older too. But that’s you know that’s the path that all entrepreneurs probably take.
So you went from there did you start just by personal training people at the local jammer and graduate or how did it work.
Yeah. So I you know in the back of those mount muscle magazines that I was reading it you know they had a little fractional ads. And one of the ads said become a certified personal trainer and make a hundred dollars an hour. Well listen I did that. I’m I’m I’m not. I’m not a mathematician but I did come back with a hundred dollars an hour. And if I can train eight people a day that’s $800 a day you multiply that by the number of days in a month. I’m going to be rich. Right. What I didn’t realize Dave is that you actually have to learn how to prospect and influence and write a period of branding and awareness and all that stuff. So I was
the personal trainer who was certified but instead of $100 an hour I was making $11 and 30 cents per hour at the local big box gym. And then I also worked as a fry cook at Disneyland and I worked as a bouncer at a gay bar on the weekend because the gay bar paid more than the straight bar. Again talk about the trajectory of the entrepreneur. I realized at the gym all I want to do is train people but I had three clients and most of the time I was spending my time racking up weights of people who just decided not to wreck their weight. Oh my God. Yes. Well a bumpy start you could say but thankfully thankfully one of my personal training clients His
name is Jim Frango and we’re still friends till this day. He’s in his 70s now. He was this wealthy entrepreneur without even realizing I was being mentored by him as I was training him in the gym man. He started to teach me how to become an entrepreneur how to think like a millionaire how to think scale. And before long for a few years later after getting sort of a i’d I opened up my first person training studio in San Diego so he was sort of like by osmosis he was sort of delivering these you know ideas into your head during your your sessions. Yeah exactly. Once I figured it out I started to kind of read the next 30 minutes after his session open.
So I would you know just start kind of tagging along. I was there nagging along and walking him to the front door and I stopped him at the juice bar and I’d ask more questions of you know now I was getting coaching and mentoring from him. Right.
Right. Now did you take that and build up a training business like within that establishment first and then take them elsewhere or what was the next step.
No. No. One thing I learned very quickly quite is this karmic justice. And I still teach that the person thing is right. Don’t go building up your clientele somewhere and then still those clients and go somewhere else because karmic justice will work your ass and the same thing will happen to you. Right. So I literally what I did though is I started putting lead boxes out in the community as my gym was being built out. And while I was still working at a gym in town pick up and do the you know at the time no Facebook no social media someone lead boxes in the community and then you’re getting all these people via e-mail letting them know what my gym is going to open up that work
out for the first two weeks. Absolutely free. And so I did create a lot of organic buzz the best I could and this was at the time I guess social media marketing very 1.0 sounds like it.
Now I would point to well you’ve got your first gym open and then you started. Now you’re in business and you’re in business for yourself you’re officially like you know I guess you were before an entrepreneur but now you’re really feeling it. At what point did you start learning about direct response.
You know I. So here’s here’s one thing that Jim Franco that client made for me. He turned me on to a sales set with rushing into this doesn’t know what a concept of the wax museum they probably have like a cassette tape artifact. But he gave me a cassette tape of Tom Hopkins who did real estate sales and he said he listen to this real estate sales audio cassette you just don’t know how to sell your in order take are you getting all these sales go by. I said great no problem. So Tom Hopkins leads the Brian Tracy. Tracy said Tony Robbins Tony Robbins is the banking and the Kennedy leads.
Gary Haubrich No no no no no. Yeah right. So I’m exposed to not only selling but personal growth and direct response. Man I remember Dan Kennedy talking and one of his audio cassettes about if you really want to learn direct response marketing which is accountable marketing and that’s the way he said it he said it’s just brand building it’s accountable marketing direct response is where you take a dollar and you know exactly how much money that dollar generated for you then you’re going to want to take the best performing direct response ads and hand write them in that audio cassette. He talked about and he said
for example like any high performing ad from Gary hopper. So again I’m not the sharpest guy in the world. But you’re smarter than we are wealthier than me says. This is what you do. I get my writing finding all these Gary Halpert letters in handwriting them and till this date I have two giant crates of Gary Hurlburt letters which actually shared with Kevin and bon Talbert a few years ago when they photocopied them.
So I had all their dads you know old yeah not so you just went and actually found those letters on your back then of course you know it wasn’t readily available like the Internet of course. So you just went and searched in papers and magazines and so forth to get those things.
Exactly. That’s great. That’s great. And as a result you probably value them a lot more.
Absolutely. And back then I had time on my hands just like the wire for starting out. You got we got time in your hands you can go do the search. These days that Google search the damn thing out and start handwriting it these days. Now I don’t have time on my hands. I pay people to go find me stuff. But man that time on your hands and people tell me I don’t have the resources I don’t have the time. I just want to slap them silly when they say that Jack.
I went through the same process too and I found out about all this. Gary Hulbert which people can go back and episodes listen about. Yeah that’s that’s interesting and actually it’s funny because I started in the fitness industry too. I had my own personal training and gym at one point in my early 20s and I didn’t know anything about I wish I’d learned about direct response then because I probably would still exist if I had. But one of my mentors was Arthur Jones. I started Novelis I guess. Yeah. So I met him so that was an interesting thing. But so you’d see you get your own and now you start to multiply your germs you start to open other ones you start to take you know start your own empires at the
Yeah yeah. So I was sort of a guy like this. I was a java owner when I had my own gym. I was a job and I went from having a job to owning a job which is much better than having a job and you’re pretty much working 24 hours a day is a job. And then I went and started figuring out that I can become an entrepreneur and have others work for me and run the systems and the systems can run the business. And for long I have five first on training studios throughout San Diego which I ultimately ended up selling and I went into coaching and consulting trainers after that.
Now when you decided to make that leap from owning the actual gyms into it like telling people what to do with their gyms essentially that Kennedy is still a big influence on that regard.
Tyler Yeah by that point that you know Kennedy E.J. Abraham Joe polish I mean and you name it. I was I was lying. It gets to events audio cassettes CDs memberships and newsletters. I had it all. I was spending money I didn’t have money myself because I had discovered that the more I was you the more I realized I didn’t know. So I had to learn it all so that I could be the best at my craft and money well invest.
And that’s I think a common theme for all the people we have on the show is that they attended live events which is a big part of their thing with the connections I made and the you know training and stuff they got. And just seeing other people doing what they want to do you know that sort of mindset stuff you talked about a bit earlier coming from such meager beginnings and also the knowledge you know you just availing yourself of the best of the best. Where are you where you want to go. Yeah exactly right.
I mean what could be more powerful than being at a gang Kennedy seminar as a young man and seeing exactly how he moves the audience. It’s into action what could be more powerful than hearing his agent person trying to you know reverse engineer it right for the hour. Then the environmental exposure that you’re going to get at a live event. I don’t know anything more.
All right so you decided to jump into the coaching and consulting business and at that point you know how are you finding people did you go to other gym owners and stuff you approached them or how did it go.
Yeah. Because by the time I had my five hours on training Germans people were trainers and the industry started to reach out to me you know of a couple of our industry publications have written about about the fact that I own personally. Here’s a weird thing as a fellow trainer you understand this. We already have been writing about the fact that I have my personal training gyms are kicking ass right about the fact that I was rocking the industry because I decided to do two things different than all of trainers which was I switched from 60 minutes to 30 minute training sessions right. Instead of selling 10 15 and 20 sessions at a time and then coming back and seeing you again I was going to sell you a 12 month membership to my program and actually
charge you 500 to $800 a month on a recurring basis. And they got the craziest most absurd thing right about me. This is crazy man doing wacky stuff in our industry. But a handful of trainers who were like you know maybe that’s not so crazy if the guy has five studios and is working these guys and gals who reach out to me. My only question to them was are you in San Diego. And they said no you’re not in San Diego you’re not competing with me I’ll help you for that. And so I think coaching and consulting even before I sold my gym I loved it so much that I kept them kind of in my circles. And then at this point you know the Internet started to rock n roll is 2003 2004
and I started doing the google search and I hate to admit this but I started scraping e-mail addresses. I mean honestly the pace is what it’s about right this is people want to know what works not what you know not some utopian approach for the record do not do not do not want to try to say I guess you can call them that Anyway I’m speaking to your listeners here but right back in 2003 2004 you’re going to go find Bob’s personal training website and then send them an email over and over again with no unsubscribe Reagan. And that was fine today.
So you are you are just using what was available and sort of it was kind of like the Wild Wild West too at that point. Yes sir. So then you built up this you know from helping these people for free and then they eventually. Now did you make that they just sell everything first and then do it or did you start taking pay clients for that consulting and then sold your gems or what was the order of events.
I actually didn’t have any plans to sell my gems. A kind of a big national brand came through and made me an offer from my gyms that I couldn’t refuse. And check this out. The only reason they wanted to buy my gym is that because I had a great grand or I had this awesome system. It wasn’t any of that they were that wacky idea that I had about putting people on a 12 month commitment contract and charging them monthly right. Well as it turns out they like the idea that I had clients who were committed for 12 months which means I had a business that had predictable recurring scheduled income prancing. We want to buy your future receivables and we’re going to open up bigger person training studios right around the
areas that you have your James. And so we’re going to disrupt those kinds over. So they made me an offer I couldn’t refuse I sold. And at that point I was kind of at a fork in the road why do I open up more gems or do I start coaching and consulting because I’ve gotten a taste of that and I like it. I chose the coaching.
How did you choose against the gems because you thought it was just a labor intensive and so forth or what was it what was the thinking.
Oh man I’m going to lay it on you straight in and you’ll appreciate this as a fellow trainer do it right around that time. It’s almost like the universe spoke to me right around that time. I had a trainer who had already we had just caught. It’s over seven seven thousand dollars training clients under the table. So $7000 for me and one of my jeans for head gets better gets better. Another trainer and impregnated a client right.
Yeah. They got what I got screwed.
The company that’s like it’s like one of these reality TV shows.
Yeah man. And so I realized all right.
I got 60 employees and there’s just no way I can get like fighter jet level employees when you have 60 and you can probably get your Ivrit fighter jets. But if you need a large number of team members you’re going to have to kind of get some lower level people unfortunately.
So I was tired of having that many employees who I was unable to manage am a better manager and hire of people today. So I don’t have those problems even though I’ve got more employees. But back then I would just done done done. So I just went the path of coaching and consulting.
So you started doing this coaching and consulting for the people that you know you already had in your inner circles. What did you do from that like where did you take it to do you sort of how did you decide to build that business.
Yes so I asked my brother in law I said hey look at what all this knowledge so create a course that we can give away for free in exchange for email addresses at that point when shopping cart had come around and I started using one shopping cart I was also known as marketers choice and which is just an email. So it’s like an archaic infusion of software on proport right for that. Long story short I said that I got this knowledge was create a digital course that we can give away in exchange for an email address. And then I will start following up these people on Ausstellung Coachy. We created the course before you know it you know Google started to rock and roll so we’re doing a we put up a blog and I started creating blogs and
P-T power and renegade and the marketing folks started to rank really high for all my key words like fitness marketing personal training marketing and started personal training business. And so I started creating a. By 2005 I had a product suite. So I did many did three or four different lead generators to sell personal training how to market personal training. Those were free those like two nine different information products courses and stuff CDs DVDs books that you would get. And those escalated into higher level coaching and consulting and around 2009 I realized I had more phone coaching clients that I know
to do with how I’m spending my too much time on my ass and not enough time working on my business and I need to again go back to group training. I like training so I started the masterminds. And today I have three different masterminds and over 400 mastermind coaching clients and of course we have. In 2012 I launched it by people who can’t franchise and we have over 500 locations worldwide there.
So those are actual gems.
Yeah those are actual gems I like the subway of kind.
So you already went full circle you went from having gyms or personal training to having jams to getting out of the gym business like doing coke and then getting that getting back into the gym business just like a sort of a logical extension of your sort of brand and everything.
Yeah it is. Man on a personal trainer my heart. Now we want to meet him anything. And so that to me is helping business professionals grow their business and then brooders his profession like helping people in the community who will never meet me graduate better lives. And so I figured what better way than to create a franchise where it’s the model that I envision all the training style and the way they’re going to teach it and how we’re going to coach them and we’re going to have them even though it’s got to come full circle.
And how do you find working with you know because obviously you’re working on the higher end of the business but when you’re setting up these new things like So people go to like I’ve never been to a fit body location what am what am I.
What’s the experience of experience next. So everybody comes in on a low barrier offer and the lowest barrier offer we have is 350 workouts the highest barrier offer is a six week transformation contest and anything in between to be a 21 day rabbit that I was program.
Well I’m a big believer in we’re not going to sell you a 12 month program without even trying it.
So I live on a low barrier program and it’s really cool man you’re doing you’re using equipment that is effectively functional equipment for fat loss like the suspension straps battle ropes kettlebells sleds flying boxes you know weighted balls dumbbells etc. but the truth of the matter is you’re working out in a group environment. And our model is called the forestation rotation.
So we put clients as much as 70 clients at a time through anywhere between four and six stations in 30 minutes. We rotate them with music. It’s a family community type of deal. We have Facebook private rooms for every single location but you can’t location so even when you’re not working out you’re not really your plug in your iPhone or whatever it may be that you have. And we focus on mindset and nutrition as much as the workouts again. As a trainer you know this without that we’re not going to get results and so we focus on mindset and nutrition. People realize that you know what. This is way cheaper than one on one
personal training because a set of four to eight hundred hours a month they’re now paying 147 for 197 a month. Really cool community. That’s competitive fun. And you actually get results of that.
Yeah that sounds really cool. So for people who have products and stuff too that people can access. Maybe don’t just pertain to the fitness industry.
Yes. Well no not not really the only product I have outside of the business industry is a direct coaching consulting. OK. The fitness industry has got a massive product line software resources et cetera which they can access people can access my free stuff and based on our dot com but on my blog I have a lot of free stuff. We’re all types of entrepreneur is bedrolls Humean dot com is my blog. I was actually interested in working with me so leave them with a tough job. Everyone wants to work with me and I’m very grateful for that. They would just click on a consulting tab and you just want to be followed by them and work with me.
Awesome. I want to thank you bedrolls for coming on the show and you’ve been really entertaining and giving a lot of knowledge to the audience and it’s been a real pleasure having you on the show. Well thank you so much David I really appreciate the opportunity man it’s been great. And for everybody else listening we’ll be back again with another addition of the podcast next week. All right we’ll see everybody then.