Here’s Some Timeless Business Advice: Be the Best and Charge Accordingly

by Madeleine Somerville

6 min read

Jason Grubb owns two businesses that seem strikingly different on paper, but he’s applied the same bold approach to each one with great results. His strategy? Be the best, charge accordingly.

Jason Grubb and his wife, Gina, began by building a thriving wedding photography business. At one point there was enough demand for their services that they hired additional photographers to work with them, splitting into teams on summer weekends to shoot two or three weddings simultaneously. Although this expansion seemed like an indicator of success—isn’t growth always better?—Grubb started to feel the pressure of this widespread reach.

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“It got complicated,” he admits of the three teams being scheduled to photograph three different weddings on one day. “If there were any hiccups in that system—if anyone got sick, if someone couldn’t make it or anything like that—we felt tremendous risk. It wasn’t worth that risk for us to keep going at that pace.”

Rather than just scale back, Grubb took a different approach, one he readily admits absolutely terrified him. He nixed the extra photographers, began aggressively filtering the type of clients he would accept, and then raised his prices 25%.

“The scariest thing in the world was when I went from accepting anyone who would pay me to shoot a wedding, to saying on our website, ‘We only shoot outdoor weddings for active couples planning to get married in the mountains,’” Grubb says, but that risk paid off.

“By turning away 99% of the weddings in Colorado, we increased our prices very dramatically, from $5,000 for a wedding to $7,500 or $8,500. We did both of those things at the same time and I was scared to death until it started working.”

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The reason it worked is that Grubb implicitly understood the value of his work and the value of his time, and after pricing his services accordingly, his clients did too. It’s the same approach he’s taken with his second business, 5280 CrossFit.

After discovering CrossFit himself in his late thirties, Grubb decided to start his own gym in Golden, Colorado—a location he chose for its close-knit community and active lifestyle.

During his off-season in 2015, he worked hard to get the gym up and running before he had to begin shoot weddings again in the spring and summer. It was overwhelming initially, but as time went on, his business grew and he was able to step back and take a more managerial role.

“I’m now able to devote all of my time to working on the business, not in the business.”

“My ultimate goal is that I don’t want to have to be there,” he laughs. “By the end of the first year, I had two coaches and a part-time general manager. Last year, in the first quarter of 2016, I had a full-time general manager and three coaches. Summer of 2016 I wasn’t on the schedule to coach anymore….I’m now able to devote all of my time to working on the business, not in the business.”

And although CrossFit is pretty much as far from wedding photography as you can get, Grubb insists that it isn’t a way to escape his other job, but instead actually serves to enrich it. “5280 is not a departure from wedding photography,” he explains, adding that having another business allows some pressure to be taken off of wedding photography being his main source of income. This, in turn, allows him the freedom to pursue his passion more fully and be choosy about the weddings he wants to shoot and the wedding planners he wants to work with.

There’s also striking overlap in the way Grubb does business, whether it’s taking pictures of happy couples or helping individuals reach their fitness goals. “There’s so many similarities in our approach, our pricing, our thought process and general fears of doing crazy sh-t in a business” he laughs.

His pricing strategy is a perfect example. “As much as I’d like to fill the gym with 200 people right now, I’m not looking for price-sensitive shoppers,” he explains. “We’re the most expensive gym in Golden…our base price is more expensive than the top price at any other gym”.

Rather than see that as a downside or lower his rates to compete with his competitors, however, Grubb understands the value in being the best.

“I had the same fears I had when I went from an average price in the wedding market as a photographer to way above and beyond that, but it worked,” he says simply. “The same thing is happening with our CrossFit gym. With any higher-priced brand or service, people attribute value to it because of its cost. And we deliver.”

One way the two businesses do differ, however, is how they reach and retain customers. While Grubb was turning away clients as a wedding photographer, with 5280 CrossFit he says that customer acquisition is the number one objective on his mind these days.

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Grubb relies on a handful of different forms of advertising to get the word out. “We have a sign on Highway 93 that gets 30,000 cars driving past but we know that they need more than that, they need to interact with our brand in multiple ways,” he says. “We do primarily Facebook advertising, and word of mouth by delivering top-notch service.”

“With any higher-priced brand or service, people attribute value to it because of its cost. And we deliver.”

It’s not just getting the clients, either, but keeping them. When you’re in the wedding business, crossing your fingers for repeat business from the same client might be seen in bad taste, but with a gym creating an ongoing relationship with customers is vital. To do so, Grubb employs a handful of different strategies.

First, to keep the business side of things running smoothly, Grubb uses the QuickBooks app. “The ability to look at snapshots of my business on the fly and see what we’re at, it’s worth it.” he says, “You can’t do it otherwise…how would you run a small business without QuickBooks?”

With the administrative tasks taken care off, Grubb can then focus more time where it’s needed most, his customers.

“I could not live without our membership software,” he says. “We currently use MindBody, it’s the most robust…it has so many options we can use within it and we could not live without that. Recurring payments, member attendance, trends, tracking our retail, it manages all of that.” Grubb also uses Asana to keep track of each and every client for both businesses, making sure they’re each being followed up with and getting the attention they deserve.

It’s this attention to detail and personalized approach that makes it possible for Grubb to accurately value his work and for his clients to feel confident that it is worth every penny of their investment.

Take a page from Jason Grubb’s book. Know your worth and charge accordingly.

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