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Jonathan Lautermilch of Smart Shark: “You have to be grateful for where you are but hungry for where you want to go”

You have to be grateful for where you are but hungry for where you want to go. If you’re not grateful for where you are then you won’t be given new opportunities. It wasn’t until I started writing down 5 things I’m grateful for every day that my business truly took off. That exercise forced […]

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You have to be grateful for where you are but hungry for where you want to go. If you’re not grateful for where you are then you won’t be given new opportunities. It wasn’t until I started writing down 5 things I’m grateful for every day that my business truly took off. That exercise forced me to put myself in a grateful mindset which wired me to see more opportunities. Those opportunities took me to the next level.

You have to live within your means. So many business owners try to live above their means to look great on paper but they’re secretly broke. Trying to make sales and good business decisions while you’re broke leads to bad decisions. Get your overhead where it’s low and focus on letting the sales of the business pay for the business. That way the when the lows hit, you’re still in a good place.


Being a founder, entrepreneur, or business owner can have many exciting and thrilling moments. But it is also punctuated with periods of doubt, slump, and anxiety. So how does one successfully and healthily ride the highs and lows of Entrepreneurship? In this series, called “How To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur” we are talking to successful entrepreneurs who can share stories from their experience. I had the pleasure of interviewing Jonathan Lautermilch.

Jonathan Lautermilch is the Owner and Founder of Smart Shark and Co-Owner and Co-Founder of Fit Pro Collective. Jonathan’s mission in life is to help as many Fit Pros as possible get paid what they’re worth.

Jonathan has 13 years of fitness industry experience, has written 2 books, over one hundred blogs, and is a Co-Host on the Real Talk With Real Fit Pros Podcast. Throughout his career, Jonathan has helped thousands of Fit Pros create thriving careers and businesses within the fitness industry. He’s also a loving husband and lives in Dallas Texas.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started? What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?

The “Aha Moment” for me was more of a series of moments. It was at my third fitness company I was working for. I had implemented a sales funnel that resulted in generating an additional 10k dollars in monthly sales revenue for the gym I worked in. I realized most fitness companies were not only not using funnels, but even those that were had no clue how to execute on them.

This led me to the question, “I wonder how many other fitness professionals are struggling with the same thing?” This is what led to the creation of my company Smart Shark.

In your opinion, were you a natural born entrepreneur or did you develop that aptitude later on? Can you explain what you mean?

I believe you can learn the skills of being an entrepreneur but only a few are born with the mindset that’s required for business ownership. From a very young age, I always seemed to do things differently and I approached work the same way. I was always focused on what got the result I wanted and how to do that as efficiently as possible.

But mindset only takes you so far and that’s where skills come into play. Throughout the 10 years I spent working for other companies, I learned the skills required to be a successful entrepreneur. So I’d say it really comes down to a bit of natural-born talent paired with skills development.

Was there somebody in your life who inspired or helped you to start your journey with your business? Can you share a story with us?

I’d have to say the number one person in my life who has helped me in creating Smart Shark is my wife Renee. She was the first to believe in me and the first to get in the trenches with me to build this company. She serves as my right hand in executing the vision and bringing it to life. Without her who knows if Smart Shark would have even existed.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

What makes Smart Shark stand out is my personal story. We help Fit Pros get paid what they’re worth through building their online business. Part of the process is knowing what not to do. I like to say I’ve already made all the mistakes, so our clients don’t have to make the same mistakes I did. I spent my whole life savings hiring “gurus” for my first business. I had the wrong mindset and I lacked the actual skills I needed.

This quality is why the number one response I get from people is that they feel we’re genuine and authentic. I get the response because I don’t just share the wins with our clients and prospects, I share all the losses I had to go through to get here as well.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

The first character trait is the ability to embrace extreme ownership. Most people run away from ownership because it requires you to have tough, honest conversations with yourself. However, when you own everything you get back your control over everything. It’s how I’ve been able to succeed regardless of the bumps in the road that come my way and it’s the number one quality I look for in those who join our team.

The second character trait is the acknowledgment that how we do one thing is how we do everything. If you’re going to be a leader you have to lead by example, even in small things. People follow what you do far more than what you say. In business and life, the details matter.

The third character trait is integrity. Doing what you say you’re going to do is extremely important. It’s the foundation that builds relationships and business is all about relationships.

Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. Can you share a story about advice you’ve received that you now wish you never followed?

The worst piece of advice I followed and wish I hadn’t was, “You have to be everywhere when it comes to social media.” I remember my first business coach had me on every platform you could think of posting on. I was everywhere and nowhere at the same time. It was like trying to fill up 8 buckets of water while I only have one bucket. The best approach is to pick the platform you want to go “all-in” on, then do the work and build the momentum to expand to additional platforms from there.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them create a work culture in which employees thrive and do not “burn out” or get overwhelmed?

People get burned out for two reasons:

They either don’t feel like they are doing anything meaningful or they don’t feel like they are making progress. If there are two pieces of advice to make sure this doesn’t happen in your company it’s this:

  1. Make sure your team members are seeing how what they are doing is impacting people’s lives.
  2. Focus on the result your team members get, not on how long they worked.

It’s not about how long someone works that matters. It’s the quality of their work that matters.

What would you advise other business leaders to do in order to build trust, credibility, and Authority in their industry?

The single best piece of advice I can give is the same advice I received reading Frank Kerns’ book. “Help people buy by actually helping them first.” When you focus on helping people first you activate something called “the law of reciprocity”. The law of reciprocity states that people will naturally feel inclined to want to give back when you give something of value to them. So create free trainings, PDFs, or whatever you can give that’s of actual value to your potential customers. When you help enough people get what they want, you’ll eventually get what you want.

Can you help articulate why doing that is essential today?

Simple. Giving away value for free builds trust. Unfortunately, the few always ruin it for the many when it comes to screwing over people. If you want to separate yourself from the rest, then you must think outside the box and provide value to your marketplace. The amount of revenue you generate is in direct proportion to the amount of value you bring to your customers and potential customers.

What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?

The number one mistake I see is they don’t clearly define their role in the business. In the beginning, most founders and CEOs have to do everything, which comes with the territory of a start-up company. But there comes a point where you’re doing more harm than good by constantly stepping out of your genius zone. So my advice is to build the parts you need help with first, get the right people on the team to do run those aspects of the business, and stick to what you’re great at. From there you can take on the new challenges that come with each new level of growth.

Ok fantastic. Thank you for those excellent insights, Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview about How to Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur. The journey of an entrepreneur is never easy, and is filled with challenges, failures, setbacks, as well as joys, thrills and celebrations. This might be intuitive, but I think it will be very useful to specifically articulate it. Can you describe to our readers why no matter how successful you are as an entrepreneur, you will always have fairly dramatic highs and lows? Particularly, can you help explain why this is different from someone with a “regular job”?

The best way I know how to describe it is from what one of my mentors calls “the force of average”. Each time you get a win in life there is an event that tries to bring you back down. The universe likes to keep things in balance. Take the weather for example.

Once you understand the force of average then you know what to expect when life tries to throw you a curveball. The best part is, when you’re getting hammered, you know there’s a breakthrough on the other side. This is why I look forward to the challenges; I know a massive breakthrough is on the other side as long as I don’t quit and keep the right mindset about it.

When you’re an entrepreneur this is especially tough because you don’t get paid for your effort, you get paid for your results. On the other hand, when you’re an employee you get paid no matter what. There isn’t constant pressure, so those hurdles don’t hit employees as badly. Being an entrepreneur isn’t an easy life but it’s worth it.

Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually high and excited as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.

The highest moment for me was when we finally filled our service team and it was no longer just me doing everything in the business. It was a significant moment of our growth and I knew it was the next level for me. As the leader, I need to continue to grow so I can not only serve more clients but serve those on my team as well.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Five Things You Need To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur”? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. You have to be willing to burn the ships so you can storm the shore. There’s a reason they say, “If you have a plan B then plan A won’t ever happen”. For me, it was making the leap to quit my job as a fitness manager so I could have the time to create Smart Shark. It was one of the scariest decisions I ever made but it forced me to swim like and make it happen. Making that first commitment is what has led to all the other micro-commitments along the way. I aim for the results, no matter how long they take to achieve.
  2. You have to be grateful for where you are but hungry for where you want to go. If you’re not grateful for where you are then you won’t be given new opportunities. It wasn’t until I started writing down 5 things I’m grateful for every day that my business truly took off. That exercise forced me to put myself in a grateful mindset which wired me to see more opportunities. Those opportunities took me to the next level.
  3. You have to live within your means. So many business owners try to live above their means to look great on paper but they’re secretly broke. Trying to make sales and good business decisions while you’re broke leads to bad decisions. Get your overhead where it’s low and focus on letting the sales of the business pay for the business. That way the when the lows hit, you’re still in a good place.
  4. Embrace an abundance mindset. A scarcity mindset will kill a business faster than anything. The abundance mindset is a mindset I had to learn. I grew up being taught that money is something you horde and it’s hard to get. That’s part of what made me fall in love with sales. You can always make more money if you’re providing value to solve someone’s problem. We live in a global economy where everything you could ever need is at our fingertips. We just have to be willing to reach out for it.
  5. Understand there’s a reason for the season you’re in. Just like the weather, there are seasons in life. There’s going to be seasons where you’re in a proving season. Those are the low times in your business. And there’s going to be seasons where you reap the harvest from your hard work. Those are the high times in business. Understanding what season you’re in gives you clarity and helps you know how to act accordingly. The first year of my business was a proving season and the second year was reaping the harvest.

We are living during challenging times and resilience is critical during times like these. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

Resilience to me is being able to get back up after getting knocked down, no matter what. At the end of the day getting back up all comes down to making a choice. Resilient people all have one characteristic in common: they know they only have to get it right one time to be successful. You can fail 99 times but succeeding one time will move you to the next level.

Make the decision to never quit and that’s when you’ll win.

Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Would you mind sharing a story?

I’ve been called stubborn my whole life, and to be fair, the people who called me stubborn weren’t wrong. What I’ve learned is to be stubborn about the right things and flexible with the other things.

I’ve learned that you can either be right or you can win. I learned that lesson through the first business coach I ever hired. We were at odds with what I wanted versus what he recommended. This led to us going our separate ways.

I ended up getting what I “wanted” but I didn’t win. I was still struggling in my business and didn’t get the results I wanted and messed up that relationship. It’s a lesson I’ll never forget and I teach it to others as they navigate their working relationships.

In your opinion, do you tend to keep a positive attitude during difficult situations? What helps you to do so?

I naturally have a negative mindset. It’s why I have to work extra hard on my mindset to make sure I have a positive attitude. When I’m struggling with my mindset, I lean extra hard into my gratitude journal to rewire my mind to focus on what I’m grateful for.

When you’re focused on what you’re grateful for it’s impossible to focus on what you don’t have.

Can you help articulate why a leader’s positive attitude can have a positive impact both on their clients and their team? Please share a story or example if you can.

The speed of the pack will always be determined by the speed of the leader. If the leader doesn’t have a positive mindset then how can they expect their team to have one?

I’ll never forget one gym I took over. It was in complete shambles. The morale was nonexistent and there was zero culture there. As a result, their sales were in the gutter.

They actually had a great team, they just didn’t know it yet. After implementing a couple of systems and focusing on building a team and a family atmosphere, we the gym around in 90 days.

We all crave purpose and acknowledgment of our contribution to fulfilling that purpose. When the leader understands that and makes that a priority, you’ll be surprised to see how much the members of your team will step up.

Ok. Super. We are nearly done. What is your favorite inspirational quote that motivates you to pursue greatness? Can you share a story about how it was relevant to you in your own life?

My favorite quote is, “If it’s meant to be it’s up to me.” I find immense freedom in that statement because it gives me all the power in the world to create and do what I need to do.

I spent a large portion of my life running from accountability and ownership because I doubted myself in every way possible. After enough experiences succeeding when I put my mind to it, I learned that I have everything I need to create the results I want.

This statement is just a great reminder of that.

How can our readers further follow you online?

Check out our podcast and subscribe at Real Talk With Real Fit Pros. https://fitprocollective.com/podcast

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!

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