Big thank you to Mat Frankel, Owner of CrossFit City Line for his expert insight:
There are events in life that we’ll always remember as life-changing. Opening a CrossFit gym is one of those events.
Since opening CrossFit City Line in 2011, I’ve learned what to do and what not to do by making mistakes and having successes. These are the things I’d tell myself about if I could go back in time.
You need to have your level 1 certificate to be able to apply for affiliation.
If you don’t yet have your level 1 and you want to open a box, this can leave the issue of timing.
Should you find your space first and go down the lease and build out road before getting your level 1? Or do you wait, get your level 1 first and then find the location?
Pro Tip: Finding the right space can take time and there’s no harm in looking. If you find the right place, don’t get into lease talks, get your level 1 first. There’s no guarantee that space will still be there later, but if you sign a lease and are not able to take a level 1 for a few months you’ll be paying rent for months while you take the level 1, then past the test and go through the affiliation process.
Consider factors like:
- Age demographic – would the average age of the people around the location be likely to try your service?
- Pro Tip: We know CrossFit is universally scalable, anyone can do it and we are changing the public perception that it is “extreme”. With that said, people have their own ideas about it and opening a CrossFit gym in an area where the age is lower could lead to a group of people that are more likely to try a new fitness program and lifestyle.
- Income per capita - do they have discretionary income to spend and what could you realistically charge for your service?
- Pro Tip: Valuing your service is certainly based on the quality of it. However, the simple economics of business still matter and your pricing will also need to meet the markets ability to pay for it. You may be worth 300/month, but if the market you’re in doesn’t have that type of discretionary income you may want to rethink strategy/location.
- Building type, size, and rent – what type of building? How big? How much can we pay?
- Pro Tip: Recently new boxes are opening in bigger spaces in more costly real estate. This can be problematic. Office space and retail space is typically much more expensive than warehouse/industrial/flex space. You may get “exposure” from being in a strip mall location but could you get the same kind of “exposure” and buzz by creating a great service that people rave about in another location with a lower rent?
Also consider that when you’re getting started, a big space with only a few people in it can feel empty. Similar to a restaurant with lots of tables but only a few patrons, does that look like a place you’d like to eat? The food may even be great but the first impression carries a lot of weight. What draws a crowd is a crowd. Starting in a small space allows you to have a tighter community, more “buzz” and when someone new walks in and sees the space to be filled with people they may feel “that if all these people are here and this place is rockin’ full, I should probably give this a shot!”
And obviously, a bigger space will also most likely carry a higher monthly rent cost and potentially insurance.
- Other gyms in the area – who else is in my potential market? If there’s no one, is that good? If there are lots of boxes is that bad
- Pro Tip: this isn’t something to worry about as much as it’s something to just consider. If you’re the only gym in the area it doesn’t mean people will be flooding in just because you’re there. Likewise, if there is already a gym(s) in the area it doesn’t mean you won’t be successful. There are enough people that if you’re delivering a consistently good service, you can have the success you’re looking for no matter who’s around. You must believe this wholeheartedly.
- Schools in the area – if they are younger kids, there are likely younger parents who may fall into the average age of athletes who will come to your box.
- Pro Tip: If there are sports teams, you may be able to work out a training program for them.
CrossFit, Bootcamp/CF Lite/No Barbell, Competitors, Yoga, Women's Only, Strongman, Olympic Lifting, Endurance, Recovery, etc.
One of the current trends in affiliates is to offer multiple programs. If someone doesn’t want to do CrossFit, they can still do the program they want. Good in theory, however, there are some problems.
Pro Tip: When you’re a jack-of-all-trades (offer all these programs) you may be a master of none. That can be good for your health and fitness (that constantly varied part of our program) but not great for business.
How good would you expect the food to be at a restaurant that serves Italian, Mexican, Chinese, “American”, Middle Eastern and South American food? They might all be ok.
If you provide an ok CrossFit service, an ok Olympic lifting program, an ok endurance program etc. that won’t lead to the same business results as providing an excellent single service (think top tier steakhouse!)
You may be thinking “well they won’t just be an ok service, they will be awesome.” They certainly may but here are some of the issues and struggles you may face as a new box offering multiple different programs:
- You’ll have more staffing, management, space and payroll requirements to handle those other programs. Much riskier to have that many other expenses and overhead requirements without a “proven” demand.
- People may not commit to one program and bounce from program to program – if you do a metcon once every 3 weeks, are you actually going to get better?
- You won’t be serving your core competency and providing an excellent service that builds lasting trust and commitment by delivering a consistently exceptional experience and service.
Additional programs can be great value-adds for your members (and additional revenue streams for your business) but instead of introducing them as ongoing offerings from the very beginning, focus on your core competency. What are you really good at? If it’s teaching thrusters and pull-ups, be the best at that. If it’s cycling, do that. Find what you’re best at and create a service that people love and rave about.
From there start by offering your additional programs as “specialty programs” that last 4-8 weeks and are run 2-3x/year. If they are always full, then maybe consider an ongoing offering. But there’s a unique demand that is created from a program that starts and ends. People may look forward to it and be excited for it more than if it were always offered. When you tell your members that in 1 month your lifting program is coming back (marketing) there’ll be a buzz in the box.
“Live your life in couplets and triples. Go heavy at least once a week. Every now and then, go long.”
It doesn’t have to be complicated. When you’re starting to build your community keep it simple, fun and basic.
Pro Tip: If you’re going to program for your box go back a few months and follow CrossFit.com. A great way to increase your programming abilities is to look at the past 3 days of their programming and then try to program the next 3 on your own then compare to what they did.
If you’re not going to program for yourself, please, do not follow competition based programming for your general group classes.
Everyone in your group classes will get fitter by doing one workout with high intensity. They do not need to always have a lift or strength then Metcon. There’s nothing wrong with having it every once in a while but it is not part CrossFit programming theory.
The plus side may be that your members get more exposure to lifts. And in theory, they’d get stronger. But this may not be the case and there are more downsides to consider.
What is your job? Is it to tell someone what the workout of the day is or to coach them?
One of the most important times to coach is before the WOD starts. Teach them, make corrections, reinforce positions, and help them scale.
If you have to squeeze in a general warm-up, 5x5 back squats, 12-minute Metcon and cool down, oh and don’t forget about the coaching tasks mentioned above and getting equipment out and cleaning up, your class will turn into an assembly line more than a coached group class.
In addition, you may intend for them to do 5x5 back squats @ 80% but because of time constraints, you may not be able to give them enough warm up and actual working set time to accomplish the work. That can lead to athletes feeling like they didn’t get to do the whole workout and a feeling of frustration. It can also lead to your coaches feeling like they are rushed and just trying to group and timeline manage instead of giving quality a coaching service.
If a process in your box feels cumbersome or clunky and you think it should run smoother, often times, you’re right. It’s always worth looking at improving how you do things. After all, adapting is the best way to continue to grow and thrive, so why not make sure you streamline your back office with a gym software solution? If you already have a gym software for your box, why not audit it now and again to make sure you have the tools you need to be successful.
If you already have a gym software for your box, why not audit it now and again to make sure you have the tools you need to be successful.
With the right one, you can get out of the office and back onto the gym floor with your members.
Part 1 of 4 Part Gym Owner's Growth Guide Series. See the full guide: HERE
Choosing the right gym software
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