We had the good fortune of connecting with JD Shipley and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi JD, what role has risk played in your life or career?
My base reaction to risk is to perceive it as being greater than it likely is. I often have to remind myself that people will tend to overestimate a risk and underestimate their likelihood of success in mitigating it or benefiting from it. Forcing one’s self out of a comfort zone is imperative in order to grow. Have a plan and be weary but know that it will probably change along the way; the only way to experience this is to start.
Taking risks have played a huge role both my life and career. Rugby taught me that aggressive pursuit of a goal is the only way to achieve it, despite the risk of bruises and broken bones. Going up and talking to that beautiful girl across the way netted me an amazing wife that understands me, supports my goals, and has been a primary contributor to past success despite the risk of rejection and embarrassment. Quitting my corporate job to pursue a career as a gym owner and strength coach has resulted in a positive impact on my staff and clients, a truly rewarding career, and financial success despite the risk of losing money and negatively impacting my family.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Starting Strength answers the question – how do I get strong? And the answer includes how often to train, what exercises to perform, how to perform them, how many times to perform them, and everything in between. It makes the complex simple.
Measurable results are what sets us apart in this crowded space. First, the Starting Strength method utilizes the body’s natural tendency to adapt to a stress imposed on it. Quite simply, if a person squats 100lbs on Monday, by Wednesday he’s a different person because his body has adapted to that stress by becoming more resistant (ie. stronger). So we add 5lb and repeat the process. The more unaccustomed to this type of stress a person is, the longer this process works. It is not uncommon for our members (normal folks like you and me) to add 100-300lbs of weight on the bar over time.
Secondly, the value to gym provides is in the coaching. Access to a squat rack, barbell and plates is cheap and plentiful. But often where people fail is in figuring out how to squat, deadlift and press with correct form. Here’s where a coach comes into play. And the Starting Strength Coach credential is the industry’s most sought after certification because of the difficulty in achieving it. More than just a weekend certification course, it requires the applicant to demonstrate the ability to coach – diagnose form errors, prioritize those errors, and correct the highest priority ones with simple, concise instruction all in the span of a couple reps – something that takes a couple years because the process involves thousands of reps by scores of trainees. Most applicants for the Starting Strength Coach’s credential fail the first time around because the standard of success is so high. But because it’s so high, it is also very valuable and highly sought after by our clients. As such, the gym is actually a means to an end – to facilitate access to a Starting Strength Coach to help our members lift with correct form and progress in the most efficient way possible.
I’m most excited about the opportunity to open more locations across the Greater Houston area. We’ve had such a good response with our first location that I can’t help but be optimistic about the success of more locations. More locations mean more opportunities for current staff, more opportunities for our coaching apprentices to hone their skills and become Starting Strength Coaches, and more people that we get to help improve their quality of life by becoming stronger.
There are a lot of factors that have influenced how Starting Strength Houston has made it to where it is. But the most important have been the support of the franchise team, the quality people that work here, and the amazing members that have stuck through the hard work of getting stronger.
The franchise team has approached its business much in the same way Starting Strength has approached its credential – with the expectation for the highest standards of quality. High standards in operations of the gym, the member’s experience, gym start up, and franchisee selection. My understanding of franchising is that the franchisor’s primary concern isn’t the operations of it franchisees but the sale of as many franchises as possible. That’s all well and good if you’re a Subway or a McDonalds. But when you have a credential that’s so hard to get, selling as many franchises as possible is actually counterproductive because of the risk of watering down the quality of those who will ultimately bring the Starting Strength method to the broader market. So the franchise company has opted to exchange short-term gain for the ability to maintain it’s standards high.
The quality of our staff is the second reason we’ve made it this far. Again, because the standard of quality is so high, becoming a Starting Strength Coach is actually a self-selecting process. The process involves lengthy period of intense learning, personal growth, and limited compensation that the people who make it through the end are here because they deeply and truly want to be. They understand the value of being stronger goes beyond big muscles and aesthetics. They understand that strength is health, both physically and mentally. They’ve been through the process of refinement that comes with pushing through hard tasks and they derive joy out of helping others do the same.
And finally, where would we be without our members? Before we opened, right after we signed our lease we were about to launch pre-opening sales to reserve spots in the gym. Being a new business owner in my first entrepreneurial endeavor I was wringing my hands as it was getting real now. We had signed a lease and committed a bunch of money. We planned to announce the pre-opening sales on a Monday but made the site live that Sunday afternoon before. I can remember the feeling of glee when we had our first sign up that Sunday night, prior to announcement. It was confirmation that I was right where I needed to be! Other successes of our members include adding 20 yards to their golf drive, lowering their A1C to 6.2% from over 14%, losing 25lbs, or simply getting stronger in order to keep up with the grandkids. Or consider the handful of members that asked me if we needed any help financially to make it through the response to the pandemic. Our members understand that strength is health and that Starting Strength is the best way to achieve that. They’ve become personally vested in our success.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
The best thing about Houston is the food. Through your meal plan out the window and loosen your belt a couple notches. The best ones are the one-off restaurants and eateries that are found inside the Loop!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
As one of two Shoutouts, I’d like to highlight my wife, Amanda, who, despite being the more risk-adverse member of the family, has been amazingly supportive of my endeavor to establish Starting Strength Houston as the premier location for training and health in the Houston area.
Secondly, I’d like to Shoutout the Starting Strength franchise team. They’ve played a key role in success of the gym through both leadership and direct support. We definitely would not be able to do what we do without them.
Image Credit (all) – Nick Delgadillo