Community Trumps Marketing: How Luka Hocevar Built a 7-figure Gym

This interview with Luka Hocevar was absolutely epic.

Luka owns Vigor Ground fitness, a 12,000 square foot facility just outside of Seattle in a town called Renton. It’s the best gym I have ever walked into, so I invited Luka on to talk about his journey to opening that, from being a regular LA Fitness trainer.

The interview ended up being SO much more than that, we discuss building a fitness business yourself and how Luka has run charity boot camps for the last 10 years every Saturday, which is not only something he loves doing but has helped him seal a solid reputation in the community and earned him heaps of clients along the way.

We dig into how you can leverage ideas such as this to build trust, empower people to make a change, and build a business out of something you love doing.

Here’s Luka Hocevar….

Show notes

  • Andy was impressed with Luka’s gym. Space is an open concept at Vigor Ground Fitness. Luka mentions it was years of planning and following his vision. “Tomorrowland” whiteboard was a place where Luka visualized his gym of the future about six years ago. The staircase became a feature to the gym with art from local artists. “That’s so you,” is a compliment to your business because it is authentic to you. Luka really wanted his gym to be the third home for his clients. Luka mentions that the virtues of the business owner need to be there before anything else can happen. [5:00]

  • How much money did Luka spend inside the Vigor Ground Fitness? About one million between cash on hand and loans. [11:00]

  • Why did Luka spend so much? The final figure was about $400,000 – $500,000 more than the original number. Luka mentions the importance of understanding numbers with a business understanding because being a dreamer is not enough. Luka also doesn’t think going “all in” is the best way to start a business; he thinks putting in the hours on the side is a better method. Luka wanted people to walk into Vigor Ground Fitness and feel something because people are a product of their environment. “An environment triggers behavior” are one the phrases that Luka lives by. Luka sees coaching and business as art, which sometimes comes at the cost of profit. However, people see these sacrifices in the community over the long-term. [12:00]

  • Luka speaks to his drive and goals. Instead of being so focused on the increases in profit, Luka finds himself motivated by getting new and exciting projects off the ground. Luka has lost the anxiety of the race and has become more focused on the continued journey. [19:00]

  • Luka speaks to being a service business. A huge amount of what you do in the service business is people. Communication and dream achievement never goes out of business. Businesses can shift to a “one-click buy” mentality, but Luka feels like the focus should be on the results for people. Luka thinks people should build an environment they themselves would want to be in. [21:00]

  • Luka describes Vigour Ground Fitness. The building has a 40-foot domed roof, which stands out in Renton, WA. It has an all-glass storefront and glass garage doors. Everything is custom made in the space. The Fit Bar is a full-blown cafe, not just a smoothie bar. The gym is fully-equipped and even includes a black-turfed area. Luka is building a symbiotic space with doctors, recovery rooms and training space. Instead of trying to be the best at everything, Luka prefers to work with like-minded businesses that focus on areas that help people. For example, Luka works with Fit Bar instead of trying to open his own cafe. Ego should not get in the way of serving clients at the highest level. [24:00]

  • Luka’s story of coming to the USA. At 18 years old, Luka came on a scholarship to play basketball. He then went back overseas to play pro. Luka came back for a marriage (now divorced) and has been in Seattle for over 10 years. Although his first gym was started 12 years ago, he started fresh in the USA. Luka turned down an interview for a lucrative position at Boeing when he was barely getting by working a personal training job at L.A. Fitness. [35:00]

  • How Vigor Ground Fitness started. The first start of Vigor Ground Fitness was during the recent recession. It was in a moldy 1,000 square-foot garage/car shop with no windows. [39:00]

  • The transition from a garage to the new facility. The foundation of your business is the competence, experience, and community, even without an understanding marketing and sales. Luka believes you need to take care of the foundation of your business. The transition of the gym was based on a solid foundation Luka’s competence and experience. [42:00]

  • The polarizing factor. People either loved the art on the walls or they hated it. Andy agrees that you can’t be everything to everyone. Luka mentions there is a difference between being a mean person and sticking to your values when it comes to polar extremes. [46:00]

  • Your training is marketing. When you put on a show, they can’t not talk about. Luka opened up with a live DJ and created an experience with boot camp. Luka would treat group training sessions as if they were one-on-one sessions. [48:00]

  • Video content of boot camp. Luka is going to put something together of the boot camp footage. Luka wants everyone to steal his ideas. [52:00]

  • Charity boot camps. Luka runs charity boot camps with a minimum $10 donations on Saturdays for the last decade. Luka feels like the charity events give you more than what you give. [53:00]

  • Camps for inner-city kids. Luka has started a strength and conditioning program to help kids. [57:00]

  • The value of money. Luka asks if you can make more of a difference making a million dollars a year or a thousand dollars a week? The smart rich realize that getting another car will not add value to their life, but helping others does add value. Luka wants to leave a legacy of human capital. [59:00]

  • Andy proposes an idea to get off the hamster wheel. Instead of exchanging coaching services at a piecemeal of gyms, Andy suggests using something like a charity boot camp to build leads for online coaching. Luka talks about how his charity events builds and convert leads. [1:02:00]

  • Luka on HIIT, Dieting, and Obesity. Today’s trends are obviously not working, according to Luka, because obesity continues to be a prevalent issue. More people are dieting and training than ever before, but it doesn’t seem to be fixing the societal problems. [1:05:00]

  • Honest sales. Andy talks about having good intentions for people makes sales, not a sleazy thing. Luka agrees and thinks sales is your duty and you must get great at it. Selling is persuasion and influence. [1:07:00]

  • “People need to go deeper instead of wider.” Luka means that people need to stop going wider with online programs like Beachbody which may lead to multiple failures. Instead, going deeper on a personal level with a person and really selling them on something that will work for them. Luke feels that if you want to become great at something, you need to actively read and learn about that thing. [1:10:00]

  • The non-salesy approach. Andy points out taking a straightforward approach of providing information of what you do to potential clients in a positive environment would help lead to business growth. Luka talks about relational equity – getting something from someone for nothing helps to build trust. [1:14:00]

  • Building confidence in clients. While trust is important, Luka talks about how getting clients to trust themselves is half the battle. When people get results from something that was provided for free, it builds relationship equity but, just as important, it builds confidence in themselves. [1:18:00]

  • Strategic Deduction. Luka talks about changing people’s worldview. It’s possible to shatter someone’s worldview or you can slowly nibble away at the worldview. [1:23:00]

  • The power of story. Andy mentions how people read his content because of the connection to a story they can identify with. Luka speaks to using a framework of storytelling. Luka mentions is that information is less valuable because it is freely available. However, implementation and integration add value. [1:27:00]

  • Luka’s passion about helping youth. Luka is trying to change worldviews of inner-city youth. He shows them how a phone is a gateway to unlimited free learning and opportunities. He talks to them about the advantage of building grit and courage. People are drowning in information but are seeking transformation. [1:32:00]

Show Links

Thank you for listening! – Andy 


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