Interview with Alex Brown
Fitness Pro Alex Brown is a Fitness Trainer in Ohio. Her experience as a nurse turned fitness trainer makes her a great asset to the PocketSuite Pro community. Alex talks to CEO, Chinwe Onyeagoro, about why she became a nurse and shares the three self care tips that she focuses on with her caregiver clients.
What do you specialize in and how did you begin this journey?
We specialize in helping healthcare professionals, specifically nurses, gain their confidence back and lose weight. Overall, just being more healthy and being able to put themselves first for once. I’m actually a nurse myself. I used to work in a hospital as a nurse. I feel like as women, it’s so common that we’re always putting everyone else before ourselves. Our patients, and our family, and our kids, and everything. That’s super admirable, don’t get me wrong, but to continue showing up for those people, sometimes you have to show up for yourself. So, that’s what we empower those women to do.
Getting started in this field, I was a nurse for three years. I was a med surg nurse at Ohio State and an athlete my whole life. I swam through college. Coming out of college and going into nursing, I felt a little bit lost myself because I was always coached my whole life. So then I hired my own coach and got into that rhythm. I was like, “You know what? I already love helping people that are already sick. Maybe I can move my passion to helping people before they get to that point.” So, that’s where this all started. I began training at LA fitness, which nothing against them, but that was not the move and so I started my own business, and here we are today. So, it’s been great.
Wow, talk about entrepreneur-market fit! What made you initially go into healthcare as a specialization? Did you find what you were looking for or was it totally different than you expected?
So, what originally made me want to be a nurse is my grandma had a lot of health issues growing up. Seeing her go in and out of the hospital, she had three or four open heart surgeries. Seeing her go through that was crazy. Whenever I visited her in the hospital, nothing against the doctors because they’re awesome, but the people that were at the bedside and really, really showing up for the patients were the nurses. I was like, “I want to do that,” and I don’t mind blood, and guts, and gore so that does not bother me. That’s the route I went. So, I worked as a nurse and loved it. I was good at it and I loved it, but I always saw the complications of not living a healthy life. I was like, “What if I could help people instead of on this end of things, help people not even get to that point?” So, that’s kind of where my mind shifted.
It’s funny, because I’m the daughter of a nurse. My mom worked as a nurse when I was growing up, and in our community, most of the women go into nursing. So, I had a lot of nurses in my family. I’ve got to be honest, my mom would come home, she was basically on her feet all day, she’d come home with varicose veins because she was standing for such long periods of time. She would work from 11:00pm to 7:00am, 7:00am to 3:00pm, 3:00pm to 11:00pm. These were really long, tough hours. Is that standard practice that nurses have to just go to the wall or is there anyone doing it differently?
Honestly, I have not seen anything different than that. Nurses work their butts off. It is crazy. I was working day shift luckily, thank god, but I was working 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM, technically, but I’d get there around 6:30am and I probably wouldn’t leave until around 8:00pm at night, not getting home until 8:30pm. So doing that three days in a row, it’s really tiring on you and especially you’re going, going, going. So, eating even during your shift is difficult and you don’t even want to drink that much because you don’t have time to go to the bathroom. It’s crazy. It is like that unfortunately. Helping out nurses that are still in that situation, because I totally understand it, is definitely my passion.
I feel like as women, it’s so common that we’re always putting everyone else before ourselves. Our patients, and our family, and our kids, and everything. That’s super admirable, don’t get me wrong, but to continue showing up for those people, sometimes you have to show up for yourself. That’s what we empower those women to do.
We’ve talked to a number of fitness coaches (including the one and only Eddie Zhang) who have said they’re always talking to fitness trainers about finding a niche that’s authentic and true, and something that you can really help with and deliver results with. So, you’ve clearly found your niche. If you were to share, “Here are the top three things that I talk to nurses about to fundamentally change their life and improve their wellness, what would they be?”
That’s a really good question. So, the first thing I would say that is huge for nurses is recovery. Honestly, before even getting into workouts, getting into the increased intensity that that brings on your body, we have to first deal with the stress that you’re already putting on your body. So, looking at bio feedback is huge for us as far as appetite, digestion, water intake, sleep, and things like that. We want to make sure that they’re good as a human before we even start to do dieting phases and workouts. It’s super important. So, recovery is a huge part of that for nurses. With that, we like to look at sleep and protein intake, specifically. Those are the top two ones there I would say.
Then the other thing is time management because when you’re working 12, 13, 14 hour shifts, honestly, what is a 12 hour shift? It’s not real, so time management is huge for these ladies. I know that you guys have talked to Eddie Zhang before and he is one of my really good friends. He’s huge on Powerlisting. So am I. That’s what I teach my ladies to do. Write down your action items and physically put them on your calendar and time block them out so you can be prepared and not let other people’s goals in your life overtake yours. Like I said, as a giving person, it’s really easy to get caught up in other people’s things.
So recovery, time management, and accountability is the third one. Reaching out for help and having someone be able to be a third party, be objective about the situation, because it’s very hard to stay accountable to ourselves. Or even have a friend or a spouse keep us accountable, because you’re so emotionally involved in this situation. So, having a coach there to be objective and keep you on track and give you some tangible goals is super important, too. I would say those are the top three things that we focus on.
It’s interesting because the one thing about nurses that feels unique relative to folks in other occupations is that the opportunity to work overtime is limitless. You could be working overtime literally all the time. So there’s always an opportunity cost to whatever else you choose to spend your time on. It’s like, “Do I do this? Or I could make this much more if I work three more hours?” How do they make those trade offs? How do they time box even the potential income that they could be making?”
Yeah, absolutely! That is definitely a struggle especially with younger nurses and especially with night shift nurses. You see that very often, in that, it’s night shift or die kind of thing. They love it. They love the grind. Okay, where is the trade off there? We’ve seen that with a lot of our ladies, so what we like to do is make the most of their off days. Luckily, you do get four off days usually if you’re not picking up an extra shift, which is typical. You do get those four off days. So how can we optimize the off time that we have and make the most of that time and the recovery there?
So, that’s the trade off that we do. I don’t expect anyone to go home from their 12 hour shift and get in a hard workout. I’ve done that before, but it was not the best. I wouldn’t recommend it. So I don’t expect anyone else to do that. I think just prioritizing nutrition on those days and not really worrying too much about getting extra activity in and then prioritizing the activity part of things on the off days.
So, this is a bit of a weird question, but I was listening to NPR last night and they were sharing some stats about how women have been impacted by COVID in the workforce. There’s something like two to three X women who have had to literally leave the workforce because there’s just too much going on. I’ve also heard parallel news about support like childcare, transportation, and other resources that are available for first responders, which nurses fall into. Are you seeing anything from your clients or from nurses overall in terms of them being able to stay in the workforce during this time given that school reopenings are still tentative and they’ve taken on so many more responsibilities in the household?
Yeah, it’s been crazy. So, I actually took my coaching business full time back in June. I kind of saw the front end of COVID while in the hospital still. Luckily, I did get out of that situation. So many people are still going through that. So no, that’s a really good question. As far as our clients, a few of them actually had COVID and had to stay quarantined in the house. I, myself, when I was working in the hospital was exposed and I had to stay home for two weeks as well. I don’t think I ever got it. I’m not really 100% sure, but when I was still working in the hospital it was really, really cool. I’ve never seen anything like it because we all banded together as a whole entire hospital.
Usually, you have different units doing their own thing, but we came together as even different units and had to all figure out how to work together. Even surgery nurses whose clinics were shut down came to work on our med surg floor. They had to learn different skills. Even with kids being at home over the summer or even at the end of last school year with the kids having to be at home, we partnered up and obviously you want to pick someone you trust, but we watched each other’s kids.
Yeah, it was crazy, but we were like, “Okay, I’m going to work these days and you’ll watch my kids, and you work those days, I’ll watch your kids.” So, even to the point of not just teamwork in the hospital, but outside as well. It was really, really cool to see the support from each other and from management as well.
Wow – that is really exceptional! As you think about your own business, we’ve talked to a lot of coaches who basically have coaches, and you’ve talked about working with a business coach. What would you say are the biggest things that your business coach has really been helpful with as you grow?
I worked with Eddie Zhang for a while at the start of my business and now we’re really good friends. We literally hang out every single week, but now I have another coach as well. They both helped me with different aspects. When I was working with Eddie, he really helped me get my business off the ground and even know where the heck to start on anything. I’m a nurse. I’m not a business person, I’m not a saleswoman. I don’t know the first thing, now I do, but I did not know the first thing about that. So really figuring out where to start and giving me some direction in how to grow was super important. Now with my new business coach, I’m really focusing on scaling and growing. So, currently the biggest thing that my business coach helps me with is having a sense of direction, because I have all these ideas.
I have “shiny object syndrome” for sure. How do I ground my ideas and make these actually tangible goals? He’s also very, very, very about numbers, so we break them down. Okay, if I want to get to this point financially in my business, how many clients will I need? How many coaches will I need, assistant coaches? How many sales calls will I need to get on based on my closing rate, and how many blah, blah, blah. So, we really break it down for the numbers and truly figure out okay, if I wanted to get to X, Y, Z, what are my A, B, Cs? What do I need to get there? I’ve taken that away with my clients as well. It’s like, “Okay, if you want to get to this point, if you want to get to X, Y, Z, here are the building block steps, A, B, Cs on how to get to that point.” So, that’s definitely where I am at right now. How to scale; looking at numbers; and breaking down my data.
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Are you seeing a lot of demand? I think you probably have unlimited demand in this market. I imagine if people hear about you and they’re in nursing, they’re like, “Where can I find her?”
As far as the demand, yeah. I think it’s, like you said, unlimited. There are so many nurses, so many different types of nurses. You have LPNs, you have RNs, BSN, nurse practitioners, and then it even expands into nurse techs and even into PAs and then I don’t know, it just goes on and on in the healthcare field. So, I love working with nurses because they’re, I find, very, very hardworking and not afraid to get their hands dirty, literally and figuratively. They’re just very hardworking and down to earth, and just real. I love it.
What’s your most, “Oh my gosh, this is why I’m doing this,” story? A client experience that you had where you’re like, “Gosh, this is why I’m focusing in this area and this is what I want to do every day.”
That is a hard question, because we see so many people, but I’m trying to think of a specific time for you. I guess I just did a story on a girl today and she came to us in a similar situation as everyone, where you want to get to this place, but you just have no idea how to get there, and just need some extra direction. She was working her butt off, but just spinning her wheels. So, seeing her not only change physically, but the mindset changes that she’s had along the way and not being afraid of certain foods, or not being afraid of eating certain things, and being able to go on vacations and have fun with friends. Tailgating this past weekend with Big 10 football being back. All of these things, the mindset changes, I think are the coolest changes to watch.
Obviously, the wow factor comes from the physique changes, but as a coach, I think the most rewarding comes from the mental changes and seeing people be able to just have different mindsets around how to actually make healthy living a lifestyle, and not just another program that you do or another diet that you go on. Actually, truly being able to do this for the long run. I think the biggest compliment as a coach is seeing my clients go on from coaching and be able to continue their success. That’s my favorite thing to see.
Well, it’s rare to hear a trainer say that it’s actually really rewarding to have folks graduate and go on without them. Do you maintain any relationship with them after they’ve graduated and continue forward, or is it more Instagram, Facebook, just staying in touch and seeing their progress?
Oh, absolutely. I love keeping in touch with my girls afterwards. First of all, whenever anybody graduates, I like to send them a letter just about our time together. I feel like there’s just something about a handwritten letter that I love. I love getting mail, so I love when I send it to other people. Then of course I keep up with them on social media and I’m always their biggest cheerleader. If they ever want to come back, I’m like, “Please do. I’m still here.”
I feel like we give these women enough knowledge and empowerment to feel comfortable moving on, which is really, really cool to see. I don’t want anyone to ever feel like they need to rely on a coach for the rest of their life. I feel like we’re a stepping stone into that, so that’s my biggest goal. I love to keep up with everybody. We have actually a Friendsgiving coming up. I have clients all over the country, but the people that are in Columbus, Ohio, we have a Friendsgiving on the 14th and I’m super excited to see everyone in person. So, we like to do that every once in a while too.
That sounds like fun! A lot of companies will contract with wellness companies, fitness coaches, and they will bring them in to do classes or to do sessions with their team members. Does anything like that exist for hospitals or in the healthcare world for you to come in and just work with groups of nurses who are onsite?
That’s a good question. While I was working as a nurse, I was on our wellness committee. So, I got together once a month with everyone on the floors to figure out what we were doing wellness wise for our staff that month. As a coach, I haven’t gone down that route, but I know that hospitals are really trying to work on wellness with their staff. I know that we had yoga and some fun things. I’ve never seen them actually hire a personal trainer. I haven’t really gone that route, but I know they are trying to do some fun, engaging things like that for their staff.
I imagine I know the answer to this question, but how did you hear about PocketSuite? How has it had an impact on your business?
So, obviously, I don’t know, maybe not obvious, but Eddie put me on to you guys. Yes, as my first business coach, I literally remember meeting him. The very first day I met him and I was like, “Okay, maybe I’m going to start my own business,” and I walked into his gym and I was picking his brain, asking him questions like, “About payment?” He’s like, “You have to download this app. It’s the only app that makes sense.” I’m like, “Okay, great. Cool!” I don’t even know who this guy is and he’s making me download PocketSuite. Yes, and it’s been really good for the business because it’s confidential. You can put people’s card information in there. I can set up my contracts and set up subscriptions for my clients. It just makes everything super, super easy and streamlined.
Then when I hired my assistant coach, I reached out to you guys. I was like, “Okay. This is exactly what I need from this. I need her to have access, but not to everything. Just to be able to sign clients up and things like that.” You guys are always super, super responsive any time I reach out to you guys. So they were like, “Yeah, absolutely! You can do that.” So now I’m able to have my assistant coach even do it and I don’t have to be the bridge between our payment system and when she signs up clients. So, it’s just been really easy and makes my whole process really seamless.
We love to hear that! Here’s one final question for you and I’m sure that it’ll be a little tricky, but I think it’s really important for our Pros who are thinking about scaling to understand. As you bring on these assistant coaches and others, how do you train your clients to not always want you? How do you step back from the day to day with every client and create space for your assistant coaches to build those relationships and not have your clients feel like, “Oh gosh, I really want you.”
Yeah, I think that really, really depends. What route you go depends on how you are as a coach. I think you need to offload things that you’re not the best at and not the most passionate about and really go all in on the things that you love and you’re good at. So for me, I love my clients, but I’m most passionate about the sales part and managing the business. So I just keep a small roster. That’s the first type. Another type is, if you love coaching and you’re like, “I never want to give this part up.” Then maybe you find someone to run the business, if you want to scale. Hire a salesperson if you’re not that good at the sales side of things. So, if you want to scale, you really need to double down on what you’re good at and what you’re passionate about and then offload the other things. For me, that was when I brought on my assistant coach and gave her the majority of the clients. I think I still have six to myself, but she has 40. How I went about talking about that [transition] to my clients is I got on a Zoom call with everyone and I said, “Okay. Look, here’s the deal. You guys have already met Lydia.” That’s her name, Lydia.
So, I introduced her to all of them first. I was like, “You guys know how awesome she is,” and of course I hyped her up as much as possible because if I don’t trust her, they’re not going to trust her. I said, “Yo, she is an even better coach than me. You want to be with her.” So, I explained. I shared, “Okay, this is the situation, I love you guys and I want to continue giving my best to you guys. I’ll give you the option, but I want to go the route of running the business, growing the business, and focusing on sales. I will still absolutely hold true to our contract and coach you if you want, but I brought on this assistant coach who is solely focused on clients, and truly is going to be there for you every second. I will do my best to do that, absolutely, but my brain is also in a million different directions with the sales, marketing, and everything, whereas she is solely focused on you guys.”
So, I talked about that in a gentle way, but it made most clients feel like, “Okay, cool. I trust you, I trust your judgment about her, so that’s fine. I’ll go with her.” So, that’s how I made that transition and I feel like you don’t have to offload all of your clients at first. You can just build a roster from zero and give all the new clients to them if you want, but that’s how I did it. I feel like you kind of need to know what your personality is and how you’re going to scale before you just jump into it.