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The Leader's Mindset Podcast EP 2: Michael Trollan (Laser Tag Fitness)

To see the episode on YouTube - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YMPgQrjjsSs


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Here is the transcript from this episode:


Jason LeDuc (08:14):

So that’s fantastic. It’s a perfect lead in what’s the, there, where are we taking Laser Tag Fitness?

Michael Trollan (08:19):

Right.

Jason LeDuc (08:20):

Over the next 12 months, 24 months, five years. What is the plan for world domination?

Michael Trollan (08:26):

Yeah. Nice. So I’m following the kind of standard startup entrepreneurial model. Right. First thing I did was an MVP. I just wanted to see if this would even work. I got some equipment we went out to, I made a deal with the city of Las Vegas, used their outdoor football fields, and, uh, just proved that it’s a workout. Right. Uh, measured heart rate. We counted, uh, 12 calories per minute, which is, you know, right up there with, with rowing and some of the most intense workouts that you can do. So the MVP was a success. Then I went for the minimally marketable product. So people just to prove people are willing to pay. Uh, and yeah. People are wanting to throw money at me.


Jason LeDuc (10:31):

So that’s the plan to world domination. That’s the goal. What are the challenges you see yourself having to face to get there?


Michael Trollan (10:37):

Sure. I mean, this is a classic entrepreneurial and leadership challenge, which is figuring out what are my strengths and what are the areas that I need help. Right. And like a lot of entrepreneurs, I am a little bit broad in my knowledge.


Michael Trollan (10:51):

I’ve got a lot of depth in technology. That’s my primary background. Um, but I notice that when I try to do marketing, I can do it, but I’m not thrilled about it.

Jason LeDuc (11:00):

Yeah.

Michael Trollan (11:00):

Right. I’m thinking, oh, I gotta get enough participants for today’s workout. And it, it, you know, I’m stressed about it. I think for some people that would be fun. Like, for me, the tech is fun. I’m not stressed at all.


Jason LeDuc (11:11):

Yeah.


Michael Trollan (11:11):

Figuring out how can I incorporate heart rate monitors into the taggers? How can I build these scoreboards and have, you know, achievements players can unlock as they play more and more. Setting up leagues, all that sounds so easy and fun to me. I’m not stressed at all, but marketing, I’m finding myself a little bit stressed by. And, uh, the other one that gets me, uh, I can do finance, I can do tech, it’s marketing and Oh, operations. Setting up the field every time. Right. Uh, dealing with all the, I can do tech bugs, but just dealing with staffing, things like that, those are the sort of near term challenges that I’m facing


Jason LeDuc (13:29):

That’s the person you want. Okay. Well if, uh, if you’re good at marketing and operations, contact Michael. So, um, so what is, and I think a lot of entrepreneurs go through this cause you come from a corporate background working in tech. Now you’re an entrepreneur, you are building your team for the first time. What is your approach to building your team? What is your approach to leading your team at Laser Tag Fitness?


Michael Trollan (13:55):

Hmm. I’m glad you asked that. One of the people I had working for me when I ran my first ever technology website building business. He was a guy I hired to be my project manager. And he had various other projects of his own, very entrepreneurial minded. What I noticed he did is he roped everyone around him into what he was doing.


Michael Trollan (14:14):

And ever since I met him, I’ve been doing the same thing. Everyone I meet, I invite them to get involved. You know, I try to build my team that way because you tell somebody an idea like Laser Tag Fitness and everybody says, oh, let’s talk about that.

Jason LeDuc (14:26):

Yeah.

Michael Trollan (14:26):

I’m excited. Right. And if you miss that opportunity and I feel like you’ve missed it, um, but if you grab that opportunity every time and try to get them involved in what you’re doing, then you could build a big team faster.

Michael Trollan (15:11):

I started about 10 years ago. There’s one called F-45 that that’s very popular right now. Those are all at about the thousand, maybe 1500 location stage right now. Uh, they all have about a billion dollar valuation. Orange theory last I looked at a billion dollar valuation. Um, but what they struggle with, if you listen to their founders talk about the fitness space, is you have to avoid becoming a fad. Right. How many times have you heard about various workouts that now you never hear about them again?


Jason LeDuc (15:37):

Yeah.


Michael Trollan (15:37):

Right. And that’s very common because people want to do something new, but if they’re not getting results, if they’re not, um, and really it comes down to that, if they’re not getting results, then they end up sort of abandoning it, moving back to what they know. Going back to traditional stuff. So you’ll see the, the meteoric rise of a new fitness concept and then the steady decline down to nothing. Uh, so the trick is to avoid becoming a fad.


Jason LeDuc (16:00):

Alright. So what’s Michael Trollan gonna do? And his team? Cause it’s gonna take a team. What is the Laser Tag Fitness team gonna do to make sure Laser Tag Fitness isn’t a fad?


Michael Trollan (16:09):

Right. And I actually hinted at a second ago, uh, it’s a great question. Is the question for fitness business to answer it is to give people results. If they feel like they are in fact seeing results, they’ll keep coming back. Like Cross Fit, uh, their growth has slowed a little bit, but it’s still increasing.


Michael Trollan (16:26):

And the reason is, if you go to a Cross Fit workout, everybody’s got a six pack, everybody, you know, they, they’ll show up to their workout feeling like they’ve had an awful day, excited for their workout because they know afterward they’re gonna feel like a million bucks. Those kind of short-term and long-term results are what keep that cult like is what people describe. Uh, Cross Fit, it’s what keeps people coming back. Uh, and community actually, which is, uh, one of the great things about Laser Tag Fitness with leagues and tournaments and teams. There’s a built in community that you just don’t get at a normal gym.


Jason LeDuc (20:28):

And so you are perfectly capable as an entrepreneur of learning some of these things, the marketing, but is that the best use of your time? And a lot of entrepreneurs go through that of having to, to go through the growing pains a little bit of, well, I’m a smart guy or gal, I can learn how to do this. And then saying, you know what, not the best use of my time. And it sounds like you’ve already crossed that bridge, so


Michael Trollan (20:49):

Oh, yeah. Absolutely. In fact, I have a few thoughts on that, that I found very useful. Um, one of them is I did management, uh, I I, I studied management at Harvard, and one of the things they teach about Harvard is that it’s all about process. Uh, don’t think about management is having to figure out people’s personalities and being responsible for their, you know, uh, limitations or, or concerns or challenges. No, no. They teach that if you set up a, a bunch of processes through which they’re set up to succeed.


Jason LeDuc (21:18):

mm-hmm.


Michael Trollan (21:18):

then you’ve done your job. Right. And so to me, being an entrepreneur, it’s a process of

setting up each department, each piece of your business. If you sort of do a deep dive in each thing, like marketing, I did a deep dive into marketing, came up with a whole plan, what are all the places we can market?


Michael Trollan (21:36):

Uh, how can we set up each one? I started setting up each one, and then I hired somebody who’s an expert at it, got them set up and equipped so that they’re starting to, to run with it. Once, once I feel like that is off and running, that one system, now I can move my focus to the next system.


Jason LeDuc (21:52):

Yeah.


Michael Trollan (21:52):

Right. So it’s just basically setting up processes for each thing rather than, than going nuts, doing all these thousands of things. I can dive into one at a time.

Jason LeDuc (22:00):

That’s awesome.

Michael Trollan (22:01):

Which I find to be useful.

Jason LeDuc (22:02):

It’s very similar to how we approach things in the, in the United States Air Force. Um, we’re always looking to set people up for success, right. Have that, whether it’s a process, whether it’s inputs, whether it’s a team around them, whatever it’s set, set that person up for success. And not just for the task they’re gonna do or their job they’re doing today, but how are we setting them up for success in their career later on? How are we giving them leadership development, career development, personal development, so that they will, they will be able to set other people up for success in the future.


Michael Trollan (22:32):

Nice. Oh, that’s great. It reminds me of my absolute favorite, uh, quote about delegation. They say set. Oh, they say give your people as much freedom as possible without setting them up to fail. And for, I I just, that to me encapsulates delegation in one sentence.


Jason LeDuc (22:49):

Have you found, as an entrepreneur, have you found delegation to your team hard? You, you come from a, a background with a little more leadership development than some already have when they get into entrepreneurship. So maybe you’ve got that locked down, but I have found that a lot of entrepreneurs struggle with delegation.


Michael Trollan (23:02):

Yeah. I mean, the first thing is you always feel like you could do it better. Right. And that to me is the absolute, you know, that’s the impulse that you absolutely have to try to avoid.


Jason LeDuc (23:12):

Yeah.


Michael Trollan (23:12):

I like to think that my job is to get the results through my team rather than to do it myself. Right. Because I absolutely have that urge to just dive in. I can do it better, let me just do it.


Jason LeDuc (23:25):

But you’ve gotta stay focused on 1000 locations,


Michael Trollan (23:28):

Right? Exactly. Yeah. The big picture, right? If I get lost in the weeds of doing little things, then I’m not building those systems, those processes.


Jason LeDuc (23:34):

mm-hmm.


Michael Trollan (23:35):

I’m not setting other people up to succeed. All the things we just talked about. I’m not getting in the way of that if I’m not delegating and trying to achieve results through people.


Jason LeDuc (23:44):

So what’s your approach to delegation? Any advice for entrepreneurs out there?

Michael Trollan (23:48):

That quote I just said is the biggest one. Right. Give people as much freedom as possible without setting them up to fail. And that second part I think is worth unpacking a bit without setting them up to fail. You have to have a bit of an instinct to know, if I just let them run with this, are they gonna succeed at it or not? And if not, what can I do to help them succeed at it?


Jason LeDuc (24:08):

Yeah.


Michael Trollan (24:09):

Right. Um, like one little simple practical technique is when somebody’s struggling, I try not to take on their problems. I try not to say, oh, I’ll make that phone call, or, or I’ll take care of that for you. I try instead first ask them what do they think is the solution? Cause nine times outta 10, the thing they say that they think is the solution is very clearly the solution.


Jason LeDuc (24:30):

Mm-hmm.


Michael Trollan (24:31):

They just need somebody to say, that’s right. You’re on it. Go do that.


Jason LeDuc (24:35):

Sounds, sounds great to me. Go, go forth and do great things.

Michael Trollan (24:38):

Right.


Jason LeDuc (24:38):

And those, we call them vector checks in the Air Force of, you know, Hey, how are things going? And you find out things aren’t going maybe as, as well as you’d hope they were, but well, let’s talk through it. Let them work their way through the problem, talk through and then say, yeah, that sounds great. Go forth and go forth and do great things. And now, now they don’t feel like they’re alone and unafraid and, and running away with things. And also it gives us a chance as leaders to, to check in without being overbearing about it.

Jason LeDuc (25:18):

Yeah. So who is someone, uh, either as a leader or someone in business that you admire?


Michael Trollan (25:24):

Oh, that’s interesting. A leader or someone in business that I admire. Of course I watch Shark Tank all the time, right. So


Jason LeDuc (25:31):

I think everyone in this room does.


Michael Trollan (25:32):

Yeah. Yeah. All the sharks always, you know, there’s always things that they say or do that really inspire. One that always sticks with me is, uh, Mark Cuban saying that business is a game and how much money you made is how you keep score.

Jason LeDuc (25:45):

Mm-hmm.


Michael Trollan (25:46):

I love that one. It’s, to me, it takes sort of the seriousness out of it, uh, but also keeps you focused on the measurement point, which is money. Which reminds me actually of another great maxim. I don’t know if I got this from one of the sharks or somewhere else, but in leadership, you get what you measure.


Jason LeDuc (26:02):

Yeah.


Michael Trollan (26:02):

Right. And which is both good and bad. If you’re measuring for something and people are sort of adapting for in a way that’s not productive to your business in order to, to, uh, put out those numbers, then you can actually hurt the business.


Jason LeDuc (27:17):

Right. All that kind of stuff. And it’s, so it’s very carefully chosen to help you understand if you’ve got a healthy club or a club that needs some help. That’s what I love about using financials in any business as a way of measuring the success and health of the business. And this isn’t something I understood until I did my MBA and then it clicked with me right away of, oh, I can, I can see how healthy the business is by what’s going on with the financials, by comparing the revenue.


Michael Trollan (27:46):

right.

Jason LeDuc (27:46):

to the, to the gross margin by comparing that to the expenses.

Michael Trollan (27:50):

Right.

Jason LeDuc (27:50):

And looking at just looking at those things. And if you, if you approach it the right way, if you, if you look at those in a certain way, those financials in a certain way, it tells you a lot about how your company’s running. More so than maybe your personnel metrics are telling you or telling you if your personnel metrics aren’t telling you the whole story. And maybe you need to adjust your personnel or admin or operational metrics so that they’re a consistent story with your, with your financials.

Jason LeDuc (29:30):

You are thinking like an investor when you were looking at Toastmasters clubs, because that’s what investors are looking for when they’re looking at your business plan and your financials and your pitch deck. They’re looking, looking for that. How healthy, how healthy is this business I may be investing in now?


Michael Trollan (29:46):

Right.


Jason LeDuc (29:46):

And where, you know, how far can we blow this up?


Michael Trollan (29:49):

Right. Right. And probably the same thing when they get there and they meet the founders. What do they find? A great leadership, great team.


Jason LeDuc (29:55):

You hope so, right?

Michael Trollan (29:56):

Yeah. Well, I mean, my goodness, if it’s an idea that’s taking off with an awful team, then you’ve got an idea that’s gold. Right.

Jason LeDuc (30:05):

But investors can even fix that. Right. You can, if you’ve got founders who aren’t up to the challenge, you can keep the founders but bring in a great team around them to really shore them up.


Michael Trollan (30:16):

Nice.

Michael Trollan (30:16):

And then when you exit later on, everybody makes a good bit of money. Right, So

Jason LeDuc (30:50):

I believe the same thing. And, uh, I’m glad you brought up managing up cause it’s not something we talk a lot about with our, with our guests when we interview them. But it’s so important, um, either as an entrepreneur as a founder, to make sure that your people, the people on your team know they can manage up a little bit. One of the things I learned in the Air Force, and it didn’t always make me popular with my bosses, but it, I think it helped my bosses out, my commanders out in the long run is have you heard the saying Bad news doesn’t get better with age?


Michael Trollan (31:22):

I don’t think I have heard that.


Jason LeDuc (31:24):

Okay. We’ll put that on the whiteboard.


Michael Trollan (31:25):

Makes sense. You wanna tell them real fast immediately


Jason LeDuc (31:27):

That Yeah. Uh, and that, that was always my philosophy is I owe it to my commander, I owe it to my boss to tell them what’s going on and how I’m trying to fix it. Not just pointing out problems.


Michael Trollan (31:37):

Right.

Jason LeDuc (31:37):

But if we have a problem, I owe it to them to either tell them we’ve got this problem and I can’t fix it on my own, or we have this problem and I did fix it and here’s how, or buckle up here it comes.

Michael Trollan (31:48):

Right.

Jason LeDuc (31:48):

So that they’re prepared and they can do things at their level back to setting everybody up for success.

Michael Trollan (31:54):

Right.

Jason LeDuc (31:54):

Later on Didn’t make me very popular all the time, but in the end, in the end, I think it was the right thing to do.

Michael Trollan (32:21):

Right. That’s my number one focus. Myself is second. Right. Team succeeding is number one. And managing up is definitely a key part of that. Um, you actually just gave me a new idea, which I’ve never really thought about. How do you manage up and work with your manager to be managing down so that it’s sort of a cycle between the two of you if you’re, you know, transparent and, and authentic about the fact that you’re managing up.


Jason LeDuc (32:47):

mm-hmm.


Michael Trollan (32:47):

it might actually open up some dialogue where the two of you are actually working together at that.


Jason LeDuc (32:51):

Actually building a relationship of trust between two people, What a concept


Michael Trollan (32:55):

Can you imagine?

Jason LeDuc (32:57):

Can you imagine And, and that’s exactly the, the, the answer I think to your, to your self-imposed question is, you know, as either as the boss come, come in and talk to me. Let’s talk, what’s going on?


Michael Trollan (33:09):

Right.

Jason LeDuc (33:10):

What are you struggling with? How can I help you? Have you thought about this Good talk. Let’s do this again in about a week or two weeks.


Michael Trollan (33:16):

Right?


Jason LeDuc (33:16):

Right. And as a, as an employee, as a subordinate, it’s a little harder. But if you’ve got a, a boss that you need to build that relationship of trust with, Hey, can I come in and talk to you about some things?

Right.


Michael Trollan (33:30):

Yeah.


Jason LeDuc (33:31):

Nice. Good talk. Can we do this again in about a week?


Michael Trollan (33:32):

That’s the key, right? That’s coming back to process I mentioned earlier, right there, you’re setting up a process where we just know every week or two that we’re gonna have a, a heart to heart conversation.


Jason LeDuc (37:28):

Maybe, maybe you, uh, have the, the world championship of Laser Tag Fitness in Allegiant Stadium one year.


Michael Trollan (37:35):

That’s an idea that, uh, a number of people have brought up. They say if, you know, if you look at some of the successful brands, including, uh, the NFL, right? They have the, the Super Bowl, right? Nobody, all the other competitors of the NFL have struggled because people are watching the Super Bowl. They’re not watching anything else. Um, Cross Fit has Cross Fit games, right?

Jason LeDuc (37:53):

Mm-hmm.

Michael Trollan (37:54):

um, a number of these organizations have these big national competitions and there’s no reason Toastmasters too Right.

Jason LeDuc (38:01):

World Championship of Public Speaking.


Michael Trollan (38:02):

That’s right. So we could have the world champion laser tag player. I think that’d be a lot of fun. People would love to do it. Uh, and you’d come from all around to see that happen. So if it’s established as the championship, then uh, that could be a great way to have a defensible business. Uh, because people recognize that brand, they don’t recognize the other, uh, competitions.

Jason LeDuc (38:37):

So, uh, we all have bad days sometimes. What do you do to stay calm and centered? What do you do to stay motivated on the days you don’t really feel like getting up and doing Laser Tag Fitness?


Michael Trollan (38:48):

Yeah, that’s a good question. There’s a number of things I do. One of my biggest lessons lately is to pay attention to the systems and the foundations that you build in your own life, right? If I spend a bunch of time, what’s a good example of this? I mean, right now my fiance, my fiance and I are working on, uh, getting our personal assistant to be able to help us out with more and more things, right? Because if I’m trying to build Laser Tag Fitness, but I’m stopping to unload the dishwasher or go pick up our packages or things like that, that’s something that somebody can help us out with. And when we get them trained and they’re just doing it automatically, now I’ve got another layer to my foundation that I don’t have to think about these things, right? Or when I move into a new apartment as I did here in Las Vegas.

Jason LeDuc (39:33):

mm-hmm.

Michael Trollan (39:33):

have a new condo right by the strip, actually, funny enough. And I get, we spend all this effort getting it all furnished and getting the layout just right so that it flows nicely when, when the evening mode hits and we want to switch to evening mode and know the lights literally change temperature to a much

warmer temperature in the, in the space. And we just hit one button, all the lights change, all these little things, these little systems that you put into your life if you pay attention, it was actually a lot of work to do. Uh, but if you don’t appreciate that those systems build up and pay attention to how they all combine, so that over time you’ve built up more and more of a foundation, then I think you’ll find yourself running in circles.


Jason LeDuc (40:16):

You have brought up a really excellent point, is that the people on your team are not necessarily just the paid employees in your company, your personal assistant, the folks who you rely on to get your packages to you, the folks who you rely on to do the maintenance in your apartment, all that tech that goes along with it, that’s part of your tech stack that makes your life, uh, not just workable, but enjoyable.


Michael Trollan (40:59):

All those sorts of things. Uh, your accountant, your, you know, all these advisors, financial advisors, this whole team, everybody. Um, it takes time to find somebody good. Takes time to build a working relationship. And if you, um, you know, if you’re, if you’re too quick to start over, that was sort of my thing, right?


Jason LeDuc (41:18):

Mm-hmm.

Michael Trollan (41:18):

I love starting over. I love learning new things. I love


Jason LeDuc (41:21):

Clean slates are fun, aren’t they?


Michael Trollan (41:22):

Yes. Clean slates are so much fun, but I’ve started to learn that over time that you, you’re taking two steps back every time you have a clean slate. So I’ve started to appreciate keeping the team that I’ve got and building upon what they’re doing.


Jason LeDuc (41:35):

Yeah. Everybody’s got a team around them. Whether you are an entrepreneur and a founder, or you’re just living your life, you’ve got a team around you. So be the leader of that team.


Jason LeDuc (44:46):

That’s great. So who or what is something or someone you are grateful for along your journey through life?

Michael Trollan (44:57):

You know, I’ll go with the classic, my fiance. Right. Having somebody right there that I can throw an idea by and, uh, she’ll be extremely blunt with me.


Jason LeDuc (45:07):

Mm-hmm.


Michael Trollan (45:08):

about it. Right. Uh, in fact, she was, uh, there was an idea I was telling her recently about Laser Tag Fitness that was gonna increase the expenses. And, uh, the look she was giving me was all I needed to hear to think maybe I should just make sure I’m really confident that this is the right way to go spending money on this item. Um, so my fiance has been by far the biggest person for me. She’s my best friend. She’s always there supporting me. She has all her own businesses, which we keep separate so that, uh, we’re, it’s never messing with the relationship and it allows us both to have that totally outside view on each other’s business.


Jason LeDuc (46:00):

Last question before we say goodbye. Thank you by the way for being here. Is there any advice you have for young entrepreneurs, young leaders, or even if you could go back in time and give your younger self some advice, what would it be?


Michael Trollan (46:15):

The first thing that comes to mind is the idea of always be growing. Right. Um, one of my coaches, he calls it student of the game, whatever it is you’re specializing in whatever it is that you’re focusing on. You always want to be a student of the game, making sure you literally carve out time, figuratively, carve out time every week to make sure that you are growing in your depth of knowledge, right? It’s too easy to get caught up in just doing the work and dealing with the issues and putting out the fires, et cetera, all day, every day. But if you don’t take time to grow, read the latest articles, read the latest thinking, maybe give talks, right? See if you have an opportunity to be on a panel, be on a podcast, right? It’s a great way to step back.


Jason LeDuc (46:56):

Please be on our podcast,


Michael Trollan (46:57):

It’s a great way to step back and be thinking about the way you’re doing things rather than just doing them nonstop.

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