Episode 17 Transcript: Focus on Your Mission, and the Money Will Follow

Brett Fellows Andre Berenzon, welcome to The Retiring Entrepreneur Podcast. I’m happy to have you here today.

Andre Berenzon I am happy to be here, Brett. Thanks for inviting me.

Brett Fellows Well, absolutely, and I’m excited to have you here because you are by many means one of the truest entrepreneurs. I know I can probably say with confidence that you have never received a paycheck from anybody other than what you have produced. Is that a fair statement?

Andre Berenzon For the last 10 years of my life? Yes, that’s a fair statement.

Brett Fellows But where I was leading with that is you started as a professional athlete, and in theory, that’s a bit of an entrepreneur. 

Andre Berenzon Yes. That’s true. Yeah.

Brett Fellows Tell me about that. What was professional life like for you?

Andre Berenzon It’s always been my dream to play soccer and get paid for it. That’s basically, you know, growing up in Brazil, that’s all we think about. I think it’s probably 90% of the children that have that dream of growing up to become a professional soccer player and live off of that. 

Andre Berenzon So I started playing soccer at a very young age, and when I was about 14 years old, I got drafted to an academy. What that means is you’re already considered a professional player even though you don’t have a professional contract signed. You already get paid. They pay for your living, they pay for your training, for your education. So from a very young age, you know, I was already, let’s say, working. 

Andre Berenzon And luckily I was doing something that I liked, that I enjoyed. You know, and that led me to sign a professional contract and you know, play soccer. And so I think that because I started at such a young age where we were so structured, you know, wake up at this time, put the work in for this many hours, eat at this time. You know, put the work in again, go to school at this time, and go to bed at this time, and all over the next day. 

Andre Berenzon It’s almost like the military, you know. You see that sense of getting things done, making sure that you’re on time for this, make sure that this gets done on time. I got that since such a young age, you know, and I think that really helped me transition to opening my own business. You know, to have that time management capacity and you know, to have that urge to get things done. And it’s simply that mindset of there is no other way. I’m going to get this done, you know?

Brett Fellows And so that brings us to today and yeah, you are the owner of CrossFit Park West, which we’ll talk about how it’s not just CrossFit. There’s a lot of things that you do and offer in regards to services. So how many years were you a professional soccer player?

Andre Berenzon I played professional for nine years.

[07:02] How Andre Berenzon made the transition from professional soccer player to successful entrepreneur, and why he didn’t allow himself to have a Plan B

Brett Fellows Okay. And was that then the transition to starting your own business? Or was there a gap in between?

Andre Berenzon So when I retired from playing, I actually got into the fitness industry and worked for someone else for a couple months. And that was really me trying to get into the business, you know. I really had the idea, I had the business plan, I knew what I wanted to do. But I needed to network. I needed to have a view for the industry and get the ins and outs, and no better way than getting a job and working at a gym. And that’s what I did for a couple months actually.

Brett Fellows And tell me, so how did the idea of, in the back of your mind you’ve always wanted to own your own gym, and it worked out. How scary was that decision?

Andre Berenzon Because it’s always been the plan, you know, I was comfortable with it. I’m not gonna say that wasn’t scary because you know, there’s always doubt. What if it doesn’t work, you know? I mean, I was so confident that I was going to make it work. And it was almost like that mindset of “I don’t have a plan B.” 

Andre Berenzon Even though I knew I have skills enough to produce a plan B and C and D, I was so focused on Plan A to happen that there was no other way around. You know, I think that mindset helped me with moving forward with Plan A and overcoming the fears. And really the main fear of failure, right?

Brett Fellows Yeah. And when you started, was it just you manning the ship? Washing the dishes, cleaning the floors, doing everything?

Andre Berenzon Absolutely. And up into nowadays, I still have to do some of those things, you know? But yes, started solo, you know, and I like to say self-educated on how to run the business. A lot of Googling, a lot of YouTube videos and, you know, a lot of guidance from people that were close to me too, you know, that were successful.

Brett Fellows And so that the bring us up to today. So tell us about your CrossFit Park West, if you can. How many employees do you have? Or people, trainers? What type of services do you offer? Give us that commercial.

Andre Berenzon Yeah. So as you said, you know, we do a lot more than just CrossFit there, you know, to a point where we named our facility Park West Fitness. So we really give a little bit of a broader vision of where we are. We are a multi-sport complex facility. Our main business is CrossFit, is the fitness training. But we offer group classes, personal training. We also in our facility, we offer soccer training for youth. 

Andre Berenzon And there’s also other programs that run in our facility. They sublease our space to be able to run their programs, and those are volleyball, youth volleyball, and youth basketball programs as well. Today at CrossFit, we have nine employees. Three are full-time, and the rest are part-time. And we are lucky enough to have 100 members working out with us today that we take good care of.

[10:17] Why Andre believes when you positively impact the people in your community, the income naturally follows

Brett Fellows Yeah. And when I think of what a gym might be, and especially your facilities. You know, you are a trainer, and you enjoy CrossFit. And like you said, it’s not just CrossFit. You have a facility, and so at the same time you’re managing a facility, you have to book all those groups. You have to organize it, you have to get paid for it, you have to have Futsal come in or jujitsu, or whatever it might be. So to organize all of that, that’s can’t be easy.

Andre Berenzon It’s definitely not easy. And you know, the process for me has always been trial and error, right? And figure out what works, figure out what’s more profitable. For that amount of time and that amount of space I have, what can bring the most profit? And also thinking about what can I bring the most value to my community? 

Andre Berenzon You know, at the end of the day, we are a business and we live for the profit, right, so the business can survive. But I also realized that once you think about the community and really what you’re putting out there, and how can you positively affect the people around you? The income itself naturally just starts to generate, you know. 

Andre Berenzon But it’s been a lot of trial and error and you know, figuring out what services the people around us need and what they want. You know, a lot of listening to feedback from people. And that’s kind of how things started to build upon themselves.

Brett Fellows And I like too, from my experience with you, you’re not complacent. You will reinvent it, just to make sure that things keep getting better. Do you find that most of the people come to you from a referral or they’ve heard of the gym? Do you have to do a lot of marketing? Tell me how do people come to that facility?

Andre Berenzon So in the beginning there was a lot of marketing involved, you know. And again, I was just the captain you know, I was the only man on board, right?

Brett Fellows I like how your website says by Andre Berenzon.

Andre Berenzon I’m the one who does the website, right. But yeah, in the beginning, there was a lot of marketing. And there were so many things, such as you know, I bought email addresses so I could have a list to start blasting it out. It was also me building a little bit of a following on social media and LinkedIn and you know, YouTube or Facebook or Instagram. 

Andre Berenzon A lot of flyers you know, designing flyers and getting out there and putting them into cars and going out to events. And I think after the first two, three years, people that would come in and try would like what we offer to a point where it just became easier and kind of more like a word of mouth really, you know? So nowadays we do a lot of referral, we get our clients through referrals. A lot of social media marketing, but mainly referrals.

Brett Fellows And to preempt my next question, I should also note that you not only do all this, but you also are a coach. You coach football teams, is that correct? And you are also a soccer coach for one of the local high schools?

Andre Berenzon That is correct. Yeah, one of the services that we offer in our facility is the youth football program, which is indoor soccer. And I do coach at the program besides admin, doing all the administration and you know, nowadays, I actually do a lot more of that than actually coaching. The program grew to a point and we place the right people in the right spots. 

Andre Berenzon And we need to make sure that we have someone out there, you know, responding to the parents, responding to the information that they want to know. What’s the program about? How do I get my child registered, and all that. So a lot of my job, as you said, is more of the managing, right? And I hold the position of head coach for Oceanside High School. That’s really, you know, my good coaching job that I say that I enjoy the most right now is that part of coaching the high school.

[14:26] A typical day for an entrepreneur like Andre, whose businesses are diversified across several different income-generating activities

Brett Fellows So, that leads to my question. What is a typical day like for you? 

Andre Berenzon A typical day for me is crazy, you know. Because we wake up early, you know, 6 am, some days 5 am, depending on what day. But normally wake up at 6 am, and it’s like, onto emails right away. Then take a little break, go to the gym two hours for myself, you know. When my wife and I workout, take care of ourselves, you know, connect a little bit with our members in that morning portion. 

Andre Berenzon Then back home, and I am working on my computer from you know, 9 am to 3 pm, doing the administration work. You know, answering emails, connecting to people, taking care of billing, taking care of booking the space, making sure the current clients are happy. And also touching base with clients and all that. 

Andre Berenzon Then it’s almost like in the afternoon, I start my second shift or my second job, and that’s when the coaching starts for soccer, you know. So from 4 pm to 7:30 pm, I’m normally there at the facility, making sure the youth soccer program is running smoothly, and so on.

Brett Fellows Yeah, I’ve seen you there early in the morning. I’m seeing you there late at night. So I can imagine those are long days. 

Andre Berenzon Those are long days. But it’s so good to do what you like, you know what I mean? Like, it’s that expression that you know, do what you love, and never work in your life again. It’s true, you know, some days feel like work, of course. You know, we have the headaches, we have the issues, the problems. But most of the time, you know, 90% of the time, I’m just happy to be there. 

[16:10] The one thing Andre Berenzon wishes he’d know when he started his business 10 years ago

Brett Fellows Andre, what’s one thing you wish you’d known when you began your career as a business owner?

Andre Berenzon I think the main takeaway from the beginning is the fact that regardless of what service you’re providing, you’re in the business of people. That’s something that I’ve learned along the way, you know. And I wish I knew a little bit more about that in the beginning. But basically, you know, it’s that sense of, I have a mission, and that is to try to make everyone happy. It’s impossible, right? 

Andre Berenzon And we know that, but in the beginning, I used to get frustrated. Well, you know, I’ll take it personally, when, you know, someone decides to go for my competitor, you know, and I would take it personally. And that would affect me. It would affect me in a way that maybe now I’m not positively impacting someone else that stayed with me, because I’m still thinking about that person who left, right. 

Andre Berenzon When at the end of the day, you know, it is part of business, you know. It’s part of business. And, again, if you’re taking care of the people, they’re with you. And if you’re making sure that you’re positively affecting them, things are just gonna move in the direction you want, you know.

Brett Fellows Yeah, that’s true. That’s great. I’m curious, too, Andre, what about technology? Have you been able to leverage technology to help you from a business standpoint? I mean, like a scheduling type of software, and then does that communicate with your financials? How do you reconcile all that? 

Andre Berenzon Absolutely. You know, and I’ve done a lot of research these last couple of years on what can I do to make things more automated, you know, without the human touch. And definitely implementing a software for managing the gym. That’s the first thing that I did you know.  

Andre Berenzon Before, when I started, it used to be spreadsheets, you know. A spreadsheet for the members who are the active members, a spreadsheet for previous members, and so on. And I think three years into owning the gym, I implemented the software, where now I do everything through it, you know. 

Andre Berenzon We take care of registering new members, take care of the list of active members and previous members, the billing, you know. Making sure that nothing really is on papers anymore, it’s all into that. And the same software provides us with scheduling capabilities and bookings and all that. So.

Brett Fellows You’ve got summer camps coming up with all these kids getting out of school, which I don’t know how in the world you guys deal with that. So that’s a big part of your summer. Right?

Andre Berenzon It is, to a certain extent it is. Like I said, the two main services are CrossFit and Futsal. So we offer two weeks of CrossFit summer camps, then we offer two weeks of Futsal summer camps. They’re a little bit different, you know. The Futsal is more focused on building soccer skills for the kids. So it’s a half-day camp. I found that to be way more successful in the actual service that we provide when we do a half-day camp for soccer. 

Andre Berenzon You know, it’s very demanding on the children, and you know, trying to do a full day. Once you pass that three-hour mark, it becomes really hard to get something out of the kids. And I know that a lot of people like to have the full day just because the parents need to work or they need to make sure that the children are somewhere for the whole day, right? For my soccer camps, that doesn’t work just because of the product we offer. 

Andre Berenzon So for two soccer camps, we do a half-day. And then for CrossFit, it is a little bit more of that full-day summer camp type of camp, right. Where you drop off your child in the morning, and you only got to pick them up in the afternoon. And we will make sure that they’re running around all day.

[19:55] What Andre believes is the key to success for a small business owner

Brett Fellows And you mentioned your team, a lot. You know, the CrossFit coaches, and the soccer coaches. Finding good people, obviously, is very difficult. How have a lot of your people come to you to create your team? Has it been from your personal network? Did you advertise all the time? Are you looking for people? How has that occurred?

Andre Berenzon You know, a little bit of everything, you know. There have been some personal connections in the past, right? We have, two or three of our full-time employees are people that I’ve known for a long time. One of them, I actually brought him from Brazil. You know, someone that I knew from back home and had the opportunity to bring him to work with us, you know, to be a team member. 

Andre Berenzon But we also do the typical, you know, posting the ad online, looking for a coach kind of thing. And we’ve been successful with that as well. You know, we’ve been very lucky to find good people. So I find that you can’t just do one thing you know. You have to kind of diversify a little bit in order to find success. And that’s true for a lot of the things that we do, and finding the right people to work with you has been one of those that we have to diversify.

Brett Fellows Yeah, yeah. So as you look forward, Andre. Let’s say it’s 10 years from today, and you and I are looking back over the last 10 years. What has to have happened for you to feel happy with your success?

Andre Berenzon Well I’ve been in business for close to 10 years now. If I could just reproduce another 10, though the same way it went, I would be very happy with it. You know, I think we’re moving towards something good, you know, and honestly, I wouldn’t change anything. 

Andre Berenzon It’s always good to say, you know, I would like to make more money this next 10 years or so. But given the circumstances and you know, coming through such a turbulent time, right, with the Covid-19 pandemic. And being able to survive and being able to see how strong our community is, you know. I think, again, if I could just reproduce this next 10 years, hopefully without another pandemic, that would be great. 

[22:10] Why Andre Berenzon doesn’t let himself get distracted by business opportunities that aren’t aligned with his long-term vision

Brett Fellows Yeah. Which I didn’t even think about. But obviously, you survived the Covid-19 pandemic, and it was hard to get through it. Whether it was after that, or during that, or even before it, do you get opportunities presented to you to purchase other businesses? Other similar types of gyms or facilities? Is that something that you would ever consider, or not necessarily? If you scale and size, does that necessarily mean you scale in revenue or profit?

Andre Berenzon You know, I think as someone that has an entrepreneurial mind, we are always looking for the next challenge, you know. And I’ve thought many times about why don’t I just open another football place here? Look, there’s this building there. I’m driving on the highway, and I’m looking at billboards that say, you know, commercial space available. 

Andre Berenzon In my mind, are we starting to look at the demographics in the area, let me see if that works. But I have a very specific plan, you know, and I know that there’s so much that I can do with my current location. I want to make sure that everything is going according to plan before my mind starts to go elsewhere. 

Andre Berenzon But opportunities come all the time, all the time. I have people that approached me, you know, would you like to open a second location? Or, you know, what do you think about opening this or that. Like, always. Opportunities always come towards us. But I think I just have to stay focused and make sure that I continue to walk towards a direction I have been, you know. Continue to focus on that plan A and it will happen.

Brett Fellows Yeah. And I’m curious about that. You’ve talked about a plan a lot. You’ve mentioned that word. And obviously your history as an athlete, having a plan for the game, how we’re going to play the game. Do you write out goals? Do you strategically plan your life and your future?

Andre Berenzon I do.

Brett Fellows Is that what keeps you grounded when it comes to those types of decisions?

Andre Berenzon Yes. Because in the end, I’m always looking at that end goal, right. And it’s funny because I’m 36 years old, and I talk about retirement all the time. You know, and it’s always like that picture of retirement, it seems that is different for everyone, right? For me, it doesn’t mean I’m sitting on a trip not working anymore. It means maybe I don’t have to work as hard. 

Andre Berenzon But I still, I’m going to be involved in something. If it is the same thing I do now, maybe on a bigger scale, maybe on a smaller scale, who knows. But it’s really having, I guess, that financial freedom of like, I don’t need to work, you know. I want to continue to do it because I love it. And maybe I can step back a little bit at some time, you know. But really, that’s what the goal is, you know. It’s to get to a point where I don’t need to work. 

Andre Berenzon Right now I need to pay the bills, I need to make sure the mortgage on the building is paid, you know. Hopefully, in, you know, 10, 15 years, that building is paid off. Well, if I don’t have to pay that mortgage anymore. Maybe I’m close to what I always pictured as retirement, or maybe I don’t have to work as much now, but I’m going to be involved. 

Andre Berenzon Or maybe that’s just going to give me the freedom to actually be like, you know what, now is the time that I’m going to go open a second location. Or go up for a new challenge, you know. But really, financial freedom for me, it’s what I consider retirement.

Brett Fellows That’s great. And if all those things played out, do you think–or in your industry, do you think. I guess it’s maybe hard because you are very young, you have a long way to go. Businesses tend to shut down, or is it something you would like to sell? Obviously, you have a building so you’d have an actual asset that you try to sell? Or would you try to bundle it all together and create one asset and sell that, you know, to the next generation?

Andre Berenzon You know, that’s something that actually came across my mind when the pandemic hit, you know. I wanted to see what the outcomes will be if I actually sold the assets I have today. Which is the building and you know, and the businesses. 

Andre Berenzon But then when you look at the long term and what my original plan is, that doesn’t align with it. You know, maybe selling businesses will be something that I’ll consider in the future, you know, to collect the rent check. But the real estate itself, it’s something that I don’t plan on selling.

[26:32] Andre’s personal definition of success and financial freedom

Brett Fellows Yeah. Makes sense. Very cool. Well, Andre, this podcast we found is about obviously successful business owners and then talking a lot about what we just spoke about retiring. And we’ve used that word success a lot. So this is a podcast about success. But what I found over these podcasts is that success means different things to different people. So I’m curious, what would be your definition of success?

Andre Berenzon My definition of success would be a combination of a few things. I think, as I mentioned on the personal level, as an entrepreneur, you know, financial freedom, definitely. But I never want to go away from doing what I love to do and impacting people’s lives in a positive way. That’s success for me, you know, and if I can combine both doing what I love to do, impacting people’s lives in a positive way, and I’m still able to have the financial freedom that I’m looking for, that’s success for me.

Brett Fellows That’s great, love it. Well, thank you for sharing that. Andre, if people are interested in Futsal or the gym, what would be the best way to get in contact with you and/or find out your location?

Andre Berenzon The Internet. If you go to parkwestfitness.com, that’s our main website that will lead you to our facility website that has all the services that we offer. And you know, all the links as well for phone numbers and emails for CrossFit, for the jujitsu program that we have, for Futsal, to rent a facility, and so on. So parkwestfitness.com.

Brett Fellows Okay, great. We’ll be sure to have that listed below in the show notes. Well, Andre, I’m grateful for your time and I thank you for being on The Retiring Entrepreneur Podcast.

Andre Berenzon Absolutely. Thank you so much for the invite. It was awesome. Thank you.

Brett Fellows Great. Have a great day. 

Andre Berenzon Thank you. You too.

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