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Dragon Door Interviews Sean Greeley, RKCII, President & CEO of NPE

July 18, 2012 02:00 PM

Sean wakeboarding

"When I faced death and didn’t die, I thought,

"What else can be done to me? BRING IT!"

It really changed my perspective on fear to where I’m no longer afraid to fail."

Dragon Door:  When did you first discover kettlebells?
Sean Greeley:  I first discovered kettlebells through Dragon Door and John Du Cane. I met John and Nicole in Cleveland at Dan Kennedy's Influential Writing workshop in 2007. It was a small group of 15 primaries for a three-day event. I’d heard of Dragon Door and Pavel Tsatsouline, but didn't know much about the company. After being paired up with John and Nicole for parts of the workshop, they told me about Dragon Door. I'm a wakeboarder and they were telling me about the RKC, and I thought, "no problem, I can do your little RKC workshop." They said the next one would be in a couple months, so I signed up. But, I was very busy and hardly trained for it at all.
Meeting John and Nicole for the first time 
I was living in North Carolina at the time and went to see Master RKC, Geoff Neupert once or twice. He showed me a couple things, but I was still smashing and slamming the kettlebell on my forearm. I didn't know what I was doing, but because of my athletic background, I thought I'd have no problems at the workshop. I didn't understand or have an appreciation for the skill or conditioning involved.
So I went to the RKC workshop with hardly any training. As soon as I started learning some technique, I started to put it all together. I tried the snatch test on the first day and failed it, so I planned to retest on the last day. But, this was summer in St. Paul and we were outside with no shoes. The back of my legs and the top of my feet got really sunburned. I woke up on the last day so sunburned that I couldn't get out of bed. I literally could barely walk, so I hobbled down late to John Du Cane’s marketing lecture on Sunday morning, then tried to get out to the community center for testing. By the time I arrived, testing was half over. I tried to test, but I was totally wrecked. I didn’t pass, I just couldn't handle the snatch test.
So I failed the RKC. It left a very strong impression on me because I learned that this was a serious certification, and a serious community. It is the most stringent certification I’ve ever seen in the fitness industry bar none, and demands tremendous respect. I’m not accustomed to failure, I kept saying that I had to go back and pass. But my company was exploding and I was extremely busy at the time. It weighed on me for a year or two before I finally got life in order after moving back to Florida. We soon had a new office, hired more staff, and then I trained for the RKC. I attended the October 2010 RKC in Orlando where we met and I killed it. [Sean Greeley and Adrienne Harvey have been on the same teams for RKC and RKCII workshops] I completed the snatch test in 4:20. I came to the workshop in good shape and it felt good to do a great job.
Dragon Door:   You had a rocky road to the RKC, but that's a great story!
Sean Greeley:   The best stories always have a rocky road.
RKCI the second time
Dragon Door:   Agreed! One of the ideas that I like from your American Dream DVD is the importance of coaching. Is that idea one of the reasons you created NPE?
Sean Greeley:   When it comes to coaching, if I sell it but I don’t buy it, I'm a hypocrite. I really believe in the value of investing in coaching. I always want to learn from the best people and I give them top dollar. It's a fun, enjoyable experience and I leverage that to get to the next step of where I want to go. Brett Jones has become a very good friend, and I'm meeting with him again next week about the CK-FMS. I play the guitar, so I have a guitar teacher. I also invest a lot of money in business coaching and have been a private client of Dan Kennedy for the last couple years. I've literally paid him a fortune! I absolutely believe in coaching, and I see the power it’s had on our clients. Knowledge alone isn't power, applied knowledge is power. Providing somebody with guidance, support, accountability, and holding their feet to the fire, is critical to their evolution and growth.
Dragon Door:   I agree, coaching is a great investment, no matter the subject. In addition to wakeboarding, what other athletic pursuits have you enjoyed over the years?
Sean Greeley:   I was the captain of my high school track and field team and a 400 meter runner. I came in 6th in the New England Championships. I've been a downhill skier since age three. My mom was a ski instructor so I grew up racing, downhill skiing, slalom, GS. I left all that behind when I came to Florida in 1996 to go to Rollins and to pursue my goal of making the pro wakeboard tour. I trained all through college, and by the time I graduated, I was good enough to be compete professionally. After participating in some big events, I was asked to be on the US team. I competed in the world championships in 2001 in Germany and the European championships in 2002 in Hungary. I had a great few years traveling the world with my friends and being a pro wake boarder. It was awesome.
Dragon Door:   Very cool. How did you go from pro wake boarder to creating NPE?
Sean Greeley:   When I was in college, I coached wakeboarding as well as gymnastics. Soon, I started coaching a few adults with fitness and conditioning. My first client was a senior named Bob, and after helping him, I knew this was for me. It was almost a surreal experience where I knew I had taken the right step on my life path. I had a great time coaching and helping people, seeing the impact I could help someone make in their life. I coached part time while I was still wakeboarding. When I finished my wakeboarding career, my parents wanted me to get serious and get a real job. They encouraged me to go to graduate school.
I signed up for the MBA program at UCF, and on the first day of class, I listened to a professor who was teaching for $50,000 a year because he couldn’t own a business. I looked around at the kids in the classroom who just wanted to keep partying instead of working. This wasn’t for me. After traveling, competing in sports and recognizing the passion I had for coaching and fitness, I bailed out of there and committed to make my own business successful. I walked out the first day of class. I left six months of tuition I had paid myself on the table. I started building my business, was incorporated, and built it up over three years. I soon had locations in Orlando and Clermont with 10 coaches working for me. We coached 650+ clients in 3 years between the two locations, things were rocking and rolling.
Dragon Door:   It sounds like it, wow!
Sean Greeley:   Then I went for a checkup. I had a freckle that had turned dark on my forehead, and the doctor wanted to check it out. He called back a week later and said that it was stage 4 melanoma and that I needed to go into immediate surgery. They cut a chunk out of my forehead, pulled down my scalp, cut out lymph nodes in my neck, behind my ear and had all of it tested. There was one they weren’t sure about so they sent it around to three pathology labs. I just barely passed on having to have chemotherapy, and was able to just have surgery. Now I’ve been cancer free for eight years. I have a check-up every six months with blood work, a chest x-ray, and a trip to the dermatologist, but I am healthy.
That was a life-changing event for me, it really forced me to reevaluate where I was. I sold the facilities, took some time to regroup, and to work on my health. I transitioned into coaching and consulting with different people in my industry. I was trying to teach some advanced nutrition consulting concepts that had been successful in building my businesses, but the gyms who hired us were struggling because their foundation was a disaster. They didn’t know how to sell, they didn’t know how to market, they didn’t know how to manage staff or grow a team.
These gyms had tremendous problems and couldn’t extract much value from what I was offering at the time. We had the choice of shutting down or switching gears. So we started to help people where they were at and it just took off. In 2006, we made $60,000 in revenue. In 2007, $850,000. In 2008, it was $2.3 million and it just kept going. We’ve been on the Inc. 500 twice, and in 2008 we won Information Marketers of the Year from GKIC. We did a little over $5 million in revenue last year.
Dragon Door:   That’s incredible, those are exponential leaps and accomplishments.
Sean Greeley:  Oh yeah, it’s been a ride!
Pistols in Moab
Dragon Door:   That’s really awesome. Something else I really liked about your American Dream DVD is the part when someone says, "Don’t be afraid." How did you get past the fear of taking your business in a new direction and moving ahead?
Sean Greeley:  That’s a great question. For me, it was a number of things. Going through a near death experience with cancer changed my life completely. When I faced death and didn’t die, I thought, "What else can be done to me? BRING IT!" It really changed my perspective on fear to where I’m no longer afraid to fail. I’m not afraid to get my butt kicked, or afraid I'll run out of money. I’m not afraid to challenge myself, my team, or my clients. I’m just full on, baby. The more I can embrace and command that feeling the better. People respect that kind of leadership. They want it, look for it, and I’m able to deliver. Fear and challenges have to be faced. I build my internal belief system by conquering physical, mental, and emotional challenges. It grows and evolves, building on itself and becoming stronger. I’m passionate and skilled at building companies and businesses. At its heart, building business is really about developing people and entrepreneurs with coaching.
I want to reengage people, inspire them to dream. I want them to pursue their dreams without being afraid to face the obstacles in their path and along the journey because that's all part of the experience. I hope with the American Dream film, and the work I do, that we are able to help people on their path and shine a light on the road ahead.
Dragon Door:   How do you define the American dream?
Sean Greeley:   It’s interesting. While I was on the road trip, my understanding of the American Dream evolved. It's really about our search to become something more and to grow with opportunities. That’s what brought immigrants here to America and what continues to inspire people today. To me, the American dream isn't necessarily a house with a white picket fence, two kids and one dog. It’s about pursuing your goals and dreams to become more and have the opportunity to do it. Even with the economic and political challenges today, America still is the land of opportunity. It’s still the beacon of hope for everyone in the world. As many have said before, "If you can’t make it here, you can’t make it anywhere."

Sean Greeley "Mr. Systems"
Sean is all about making the most from of all you’ve got. As a professional wakeboarder he rose to the very highest level, representing team USA at the World Championships in Germany. As a fitness business owner, again, he far surpassed what many of his peers in the industry dreamed of accomplishing, creating a 653-strong client base in just 3 years, starting from nothing. Now with NPE, Sean has started a business from scratch and turned it into a multi-million dollar, industry leading company recognized for helping coaches learn and master the "business" of fitness. NPE has been recognized 3x (2010, 2011, 2012) on the Inc. 500 list of fastest growing privately owned US Corporations (including #131 in 2010) and now has offices in the US, UK, and Australia.