Interview with John Moljo – Don’t Tell Him He Can’t

The first time John and I met was in 2012, and he broke my heart. I interviewed him for a position and hired him on the spot, something I almost never do. He got back to me and ended up turning down my offer. I wasn’t offended, I could tell John wanted to take charge of his own systems and create his own community. I could tell he had a strong drive.

Later in 2015 John noticed my name on the participants list of a Strength Matters Summit and reached out. After I gave him a hard time about hanging me out to dry years ago (all in good fun), we became good friends. The good thing about John is that I frequently see him out there continuing his education. The great thing about John is that he brings his clients and employees out as well.

Throughout this interview I enjoy how much we get into John’s past as he makes his way through his fitness career. Its very similar to a lot of stories and challanges that I hear and I believe it will resonate well with the personal trainers in our audience.

Don’t forget to check out the video below where John answers, “What’s New Coach?”

Let’s get started!

Why did you choose this profession?

It is all I have known for the past 10 years. I have a gift to help others become stronger, smarter and more successful and I find that the more I help others the more I help myself. It is fun, and my success or failure is in my own hands!

What did your last 10 years look like before you opened your own gym?

It was January 2006 and I just finished my senior year of football at Putnam Valley High school and was planning to play football at Iona College. I spent most of pre-season playing lacrosse and a lot of pick up football games. This one particular day, my left ACL decided it was a good idea to rupture which quickly put me into the doctor’s office. The doctor’s visit went like this, “If you have surgery you will miss your last season of lacrosse. At 293 pounds you are also to “big” to be fitted for a brace so you won’t be able to play. You can “try” to lose about 20 lbs in 6 weeks and we can “try” to fit you for a brace and hopefully get you back on the field”.

I lost 38 pounds.

At  that point in life I learned, you either do things or you don’t. There is no trying. I spent every day of those six weeks watching what I ate and training vigorously with challenging workouts alongside the man who introduced to weight lifting, Dan Girolamo. I played my senior year of lacrosse, but over that 6 week period I fell in love with something more. I fell in love with how I felt, how I started to look, and I learned that the doubt of others motivates me to do more than I thought I could. I graduated high school at 240 pounds, a 53 pound weight loss.

Football was out of the question because I still had a torn ACL and I was now too small to play defensive line at the division 1 level. However this did not bother me much, as I was thoroughly enjoying my business classes. I became a regular at the gym and was offered a job at the physical therapy office I had gone to for treatment. I had found my passion; business and fitness, and improving at them both daily.

My junior year of college I transferred to SUNY Plattsburgh. I heard the fitness center was hiring and that they paid for all of your necessary certifications. I was also told it wasn’t worth it to apply because they never hire students going into their senior year since they would rather make the investment in students who they can employ for 2 or more years. Well I interviewed, and I got the job and had become an AFAA certified personal trainer. I also interned as a co-director my last semester. I left Plattsburgh as a certified trainer along with a B.S. in Business Management.

At that point in life I learned, you either do things or you don’t.

Post college life I was offered my first “real” Personal Training position at Club Fit. After 3 months I was offered a position as a Parisi Speed School Performance Coach. This is where I fell even more in love with business and fitness as a whole. I spent fifteen months working for Parisi and I loved every single day of it. I worked part time hours, made a full time income, and was able to have personal workouts in an incredible facility. All this while having the pleasure of working with some great people, especially one of my biggest influences, Jason Needle. While working in Parisi I became a certified kettlbell instructor and started a business called Kettlebell Inferno with a very good friend and role model, Pat McMahon. The plan was to design a program and then license our program to Club Fit. We ran exclusive workouts for Club Fit staff only and received incredible feedback about our program. It was a great program but we were unsuccessful at marketing it. Soon after, I left Club Fit and was told I did not work well with kids, and that I was not a good trainer. I was left with a great program that needed to be instructed somewhere and a hand full of clients who demonstrated the utmost loyalty and were willing to follow me wherever I went… FDR Park, Putnam Valley Town Park, Reis Park, Grace Lutheran Church, Chung Ma’s Tae Kwon Do, Anytime Fitness, The Kombine Sports Performance and Fitness Center, Bad Mikey’s. Not to mention the dozens of living rooms, garages, basements, driveways and even kitchens was home to thousands of Kettlebell Inferno classes, Boot Camps, and Sports Performance workouts, Bikini Competition prep and all sorts of private training sessions I delivered from 2012-2015. Over this time I had interviewed at several corporate gyms such as Crunch Fitness and Equinox and denied offers from all of them.

In addition to the sessions I invested an incredible amount of time and money into continuing education, new certifications, reading, and studying. I then took a giant leap forward and became a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist.

In September of 2014 I received a Facebook message from a man named Joe Bellino looking for help to achieve his fitness goals. That message was the beginning of a friendship that would change my life. Joe is an all-around incredible guy with an incredible amount of business expertise. During our sessions we constantly spoke about the idea of finally opening my own location. With his motivation and support I had decided in October 2014 it was time to start looking. Within two months after that, I had found a location in my home town of Putnam Valley and signed my first lease on December 9th 2014.

As my business was shifting to Putnam Valley, I realized it was time transition from an independent trainer to a business owner. This meant that I needed to find and develop staff to take part on this journey with me. I needed to find a team of people who would be willing to buy in to my vision, but more importantly be able to work side by side with me on a daily basis.

Luckily, I had 4 incredible clients and friends who were perfect fits, and a brother who sacrificed a lot of his own time to help me get started. Early on I had reached out to two friends who were also in the industry and they too, were perfect fits for the Team Moljo Vision. I was now in business and it was time to develop a culture, have an impact on a community, and establish myself as a respected professional among my staff, the community, and the fitness industry as a whole.

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How did your ideas of marrying fitness and business change between the time you graduated college and by the time you had been in business for yourself for a year? Were there any ideals that you had to abandon or embrace that you didn’t expect?

The idea of marrying the two has not necessarily changed. I enjoy both fields of work, however the work within each respective field is always changing. In regard to the fitness industry, it changes what seems to be every single day with new workouts, supplements, diet plans, newly discovered science so on and so forth. The people you work with also have access to all of this information so having the constant role of “filtering” out the bad and incorporating the good into the business can be a challenge at times.

In regards to business, for me it is a sport. A sport that is always “in-season”. There is no off-season, there is no pre-season, its 24/7/365. Once you establish yourself as a business there will not be a day that you are not involved in some type of business oriented role. Whether it is bookkeeping, reading emails, staff development, coaching, budgeting, making phone calls, personal workouts, or media updates; there is always something to be done.

The one ideal I have embraced since opening my facility is patience. Having trained independently for 3 years I was a team of 1 and never had to worry about moving parts. With a team of 6 and over 130 members, there are MANY moving parts. Some move slower than others, some do not move at all, while some are way further ahead than they should be. Being patient with the chaos and being patient and responsible enough to get all of these parts synchronized at times is my biggest challenge.

Reflecting back, what would you have done differently now to market your Kettlebell Inferno class in Club Fit to improve the chances of success?

I would have been more vocal in our final business meeting and I would have allowed Club Fit to demand from us rather than us demanding from Club Fit. In hindsight, the power of having a corporate gym behind building your business is just that, powerful.

I also clearly understand the hesitancies of a corporate gym not just on-boarding a new program as well.

What excites you right now?

The opportunity to help other fitness professionals with the business and human relations side of things is incredibly exciting for me. With social media encouraging people that they can have their own 6 or 7 figure fitness business with these easy steps is mind blowing to me. There are no easy steps but there are basic steps that are being neglected by a lot of new professionals. There is no such thing as an overnight success in this industry and with the craze of online programming, marketing and so forth. It’s no longer becoming a way to differentiate yourself. Skin to skin contact has no substitute and human relationships lay the foundation for success, period.

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Who are you helping right now, your staff or have you extended out to helping others who wish to open their own gym?

I am mostly helping my staff and friends who are in the industry. I have set up an alumni event at SUNY Plattsburgh to speak to those in the fitness major about entering this industry.  I am hoping to gain some interest in a mentorship program from those students.

What was an obstacle that you faced and how did you overcome it?

When I was terminated from my first out of college performance coach role, I was told that I did not work well with kids and that I was not a great trainer. I was also told that “I would not be a good person to have around for the future plans of the business and team”. Of course all of this stung, but I knew I was not any of those things. I was young, I was hungry and I had some ego that I should have tamed a bit more. I continued to better myself, invest into the clients who still decided to invest in me and I immediately purchased Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. My goal everyday was to be the type of person people want to be around and work with. By putting others first my life had changed. My business had continued to grow, and within 3 years I had opened my first facility.

What is something in the fitness industry that you wish everyone knew?

HUMAN RELATIONS ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN YOUR BUSINESS!

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Any recommended resources on how to up your interaction game with humans? It’s probably one of if the most important quality a personal trainer needs.

Read How to Win Friends & Influence People. The one thing I took away is that people come first. Be the type of person people want to spend time with and invest in.

That’s the second time you mentioned that book, it obviously made a big impact on you so I suggest everyone to check it out. Besides your CSCS, what have been your most memorable continuing education what would you recommend to other trainers? Must haves?

Anything offered by Strength Matters, period.

What has been your biggest impact?

I feel I have taken a community who found fitness as something that was impossible and changed their mindset that fitness is possible and is FUN!

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What’s one example of fun you have with your clients at Team Moljo?

ROUNDS CLASS! Rounds class is a camaraderie based class where the group works together to finish the allotted rounds for the 10 selected exercises of the day. Rounds comes with some principles:

Be the hardest working person in the room.

Commit to DONE.

We also add varieties to the class such as finishers after an exercise is closed out as well as “unlocking” certain exercises at certain points.
If you were to meet someone that you admire: who is it and what are the top 3 questions you would ask them?

I have already met this person, he was the first man who turned me on to fitness but he has passed away.

His name is Dan Girolamo and I would ask him:

How did you get so many young people around you to want to love exercise?

What were some of your biggest struggles in life?

If you could give me any piece of advice right now what would it be?

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Dan Girolamo (center)

Dan sounds like a true role model, let me ask you this; “How did Dan get YOU to love exercise?”

He was just a cool dude and incredibly motivational. He was a no bullshit kind of guy who demanded from you, this is a coaching style I work very well with.  Plus lifting heavy shit is the pinnacle for all male high school athletes and we did just that!

What do you wish people knew about you but probably don’t?

I wish people knew that I am not as scary or intimidating as they may think and I mean well!

Hah! I never got that impression. What’s something that you did that you were really proud of?

When my family and I cut the ribbon at my grand opening ceremony May 2 2015.

What would your advice be to someone who is scared to take the next step of opening their own gym? Maybe because they are afraid of the process of finding and leasing a building?

This is a big decision I encourage them to have a detailed conversation with others who have done it. Try and find a gym that closely resembles their vision and see how they did things.  Also, get used to making scary decisions, if you want to be respected as a business person, you will have to make hundreds of them.

I think successful people make scary decisions quite frequently. A lot of us may not realize that. Any more parting advice for the new wave of professionals entering the industry and trying to make fitness a career?

You are not entitled to anything or anyone. Your success in this industry will be a direct reflection of what you have put into it. Do not be afraid to ask for help, be the first to lend a helping hand and take extreme ownership over everything!!!

Watch John go over exercise, principles, business ideas, and advice for those looking to get into a fitness career!

How do we get in contact with you?
jmoljo@teammoljo.com
Facebook: John Moljo
Instagram: Team Moljo

Resources Mentioned:

Books:
How to Win Friends & Influence People
Continuing Education:

Strength Matters Kettlebell Certification