If the answer is “yes”, then you’re not alone! While CrossFit gyms exploded in the years 2011 through 2015, the once massively popular, cult-like, gritty exercise regimen has slowed down in popularity and appears to be in a consolidation phase, likely due to a confluence of events.Continue Reading → View full article →
Many, if not most CrossFit gyms are started by fitness professionals who have that entrepreneurial gene in their DNA. Typically, before starting their gym, they have been personal trainers or coaches and have decided that the CrossFit philosophy and potential for business success is worth their investment – in time and money. Then, the pressure begins for expansion.
After a start-up period, the owner of the box often realizes that running a business requires more time and energy than someone who is also in charge of leading several classes each day has. The owner/trainer has to then decide if they want to spend their entire day training members or use some of that time to build the gym’s membership, plan promotions, scope out new locations, plan the sales and marketing for the gym and about a hundred other critical tasks for growing the business.
It’s at this time when the owner has to make the most important decision he will make as a CrossFit entrepreneur – hiring another trainer.
What to Look for in a CrossFit Trainer
Great fitness trainers, even those who have owned their own gym, are not always great judges of potential employees. There’s a reason why big companies have HR departments. It is very difficult to pre-judge talent and employees can make or break any company of any size. More importantly, in a CrossFit environment, a trainer (s) is the pretty much the heart and soul of the gym.
Finding an trainer who will (1) show up for work every day with a great attitude, (2) has the training and certification required to properly and safely teach newbees and veterans who are throwing heavy weights around, running, pulling and struggling (potentially hurting themselves and their fellow CrossFitters), and (3) has the personality to actually LEAD a group is a challenge. However, there are a few considerations that can help an owner find a trainer who can help the business continue to grow.
Are They Certified?
The first criterion that every trainer must have is a Level 1 Certification from CrossFit. This is common knowledge for gym owners who started out as trainers or coaches. However, for investors or owners of gyms with no background in training, this is very important.
According to the CrossFit.com training page, the Level 1 certificate course is “an introduction to CrossFit’s methodology and foundational movements. The course includes classroom instruction on these topics, as well as hands-on small-group training for the movements. These group sessions are conducted under low intensity with a focus on improving mechanics. Students’ movements are observed and Students’ movements are observed and corrected, and they engage in dialogue concerning effective coaching techniques. Large group CrossFit workouts are conducted as an example of bridging the gap from theory to practice. These workouts provide examples of how to:
The Level 1 provides introductory education on the fundamental principles and movements of CrossFit. It is structured to meet two goals: 1) Provide attendees with the knowledge to better use CrossFit methods for themselves; and 2) Provide attendees with an initial and foundational education to begin training others using CrossFit.”
This training and certification is not cheap. The prices for this two-day training and certification are:
These two-day training and testing sessions are conducted around the United States and other countries. For locations and dates, just click on the training page.
Where to Find Your New Trainer?
This question has two choices. The new trainer will either come from within your gym or outside your gym and there are advantages and disadvantages of both.
According to Journal Menu, “When you hire from within you will already know if your potential hire has the right personality and fit for your gym, since you will have observed them in numerous classes under a wide variety of situations. However, it’s important to realize that a cool person, one-on-one, may not have the chops for full class responsibility, you'll have to throw them into the mix before you can make that determination.”
The article noted other benefits from hiring within, including:
The article advised putting this new hire through an internship for several months, in return for no membership dues, to see how they handle the leadership role. As noted earlier, before they take on the full-time trainer role, they must go through the Level 1 certification, and depending on how great of a prospective trainer they are, the owner can opt to pay for this training and testing.
The other choice is to hire the new trainer externally. The Journal Menu notes, “Hiring externally will require some more footwork, but will also allow you to find specialized coaches to fill in a void you currently have. You could require all applicants to already have their Level 1 as well as other specific certs, like gymnastics or Olympic lifting.
“Hiring externally might allow you to get one of the best skills related coaches around, something that your internal prospects might not have been able to put on the table. This would allow you to make a few strategic hires that would drastically increase the potency of your program.
“When you externally hire, you will not need to worry about the transition from member to coach. This transition can be very tricky since members might not view an internally hired coach as a ‘real’ coach for as long as a year or two.
“If you hire externally you will need to advertise the slot. You can advertise through a blog post, a Facebook post or even a post on the CrossFit boards.
There are many job boards where CrossFit trainers and wannabe trainers share the thoughts about their profession. This one from “Thomas” is an interesting insight into how he got his job as a trainer and what he thinks is important.
“How I got my job was pretty much like an open tryout. My resume impressed them then I had to go in for two weeks, non-paid and prove myself as a leader and my ability to program and coach every movement and exercise I claimed to be proficient in. I like the format of hiring as an open tryout (because) you find out who really wants it. I like the Idea of finding someone you trust and grooming them too, if you have relevant knowledge to pass on and instruct people on giving instruction. Don't hire anyone based on a resume and pay them until they are proven.
In our box we don't shy away from heavy lifting so peoples’ lives are literally in our hands and it has to be treated that way. Safety is #1 period, and knowledge is key. I feel like you are robbing people of their money if you aren't giving them the whole enchilada of CrossFit in which I see as including heavy lifting. I’ve had people threaten to walk out of the box when I introduced heavy lifting. They said that didn't want to be football players. Month down the road, these people are thanking me for their new strength gains and notice in power output in there other activities, especially the few cyclists I have at the box."
What is the Pay Scale for a Great Trainer?
Many trainer/entrepreneurs who have run one-man-band in the beginning, will have many questions about what to pay these new hires. As with every business, it’s all over the road and depends on many factors, including: experience, range of teaching skills (i.e. can they deal with weight training, gymnastics, nutrition counseling, etc.) and the city where the box is located.
Fortunately, there are several online resources for helping an owner to determine a competitive compensation package for a new trainer. One excellent resource is PayScale Human Capital. This site also offers a cool compensation calculator which will help an owner get a better starting point for this subject. Unfortunately, CrossFit trainers are like any other employee in that their personality is very important for the job and a trainer with interpersonal gifts is worth more (in the long run) to the growth of the gym than someone who is a just great athlete or coach.
There’s Paperwork…Lots of Paperwork!
Running a business and hiring more people can be worse that tire flipping in July! In order to do this right – meaning the avoidance of state and federal taxes violations and employment commission violations – it is important to get good legal and accounting advice. Anyone who is serious about growing a business should get competent help in both of these areas. Don’t make the mistake of thinking these tasks can be done by a high school intern or your cousin Vinny who went to junior college for one year!
There are also reams of paperwork to deal with! This blog post is a good place to start your hand-to-hand combat against the forces of bureaucratic evil. There are also a couple of helpful sites from IRS and The Small Business Administration.
Go for It!Sure there are challenges to expanding your CrossFit enterprise, but if this more than a hobby for you, hiring GREAT trainers along with other talented staff members is worth the grief. Go for it and let us know how you’re doing.
Fitness entrepreneurs are drawn to the CrossFit business model because the outward appearance of a typical CF gym or “box” is decidedly industrial-looking (i.e. cheap) and the antithesis of the fancy schmancy chrome and glass franchises (i.e. expensive) such as “LA Fitness” and other well-known brands. It looks like a great business opportunity and it is!
The affiliate fees are modest ($3,000) as is the training certification cost ($1,000) and there is no revenue sharing required. Of course, there are expenses for rent, insurance, utilities, legal and accounting, but when an entrepreneur sees these converted warehouses, packed with die hard fitness fanatics who are paying $150 per month he/she thinks: “Hey. I can make some money doing what I love to do - helping clients get fit – with a CrossFit gym!”
It’s true about the modest accommodations of a typical CF box. However, all of those CrossFitters who show up at 6 a.m. ready for the workout of the day (WOD), demand great trainers and commercial quality equipment, both of which require initial capital investment and in the case of equipment, ongoing replacement.
When starting up a CrossFit gym, nothing is more important than the investment in excellent trainers. Finding these professionals is a very challenging task and this subject will be treated in greater detail in an upcoming post. However, this post will deal with what equipment is needed to open the doors on a CrossFit gym.
Location, Location, Location
Choosing appropriate equipment for a gym is partially dictated by the location of the workout facility and the clientele an owner wants to work with. A box on the Upper East Side Manhattan might require more modern and brand name equipment than one found in the warehouse district of New Orleans or Dallas. Plus, a smaller town may have fewer competing CrossFit programs and can survive and even flourish with very basic equipment.
According to this planner, “CrossFit is an ever-changing field in fitness, meaning there will be times when every affiliate box will need to include new equipment to keep up with the latest workouts. For example, the Assault Bike is an up and coming affiliate gym trend that not every fitness equipment company has available. Choose companies that are aware of and are able to accommodate these trends.”
It further noted that many boxes follow what they call the “Rule of Three,” meaning that a class should be able to be broken into three groups. For example, a class of fifteen individuals can be broken into three separate groups, therefore you would only need enough equipment for five individuals for each WOD. If the decision is to hold larger group sessions, each member of the group will require the same piece of equipment. Needless to say, this can be very expensive for a startup venture.
Equipment Investment Costs
According to many websites on the subject, outfitting a new CrossFit box with commercial equipment can run from $5,000 to $100,000 dollars. The types of workouts that are planned, the number of people in each session, the training strategies contemplated, location of the gym and other factors will dictate how much investment in equipment is required.
Some equipment, such as used truck tires which are used in workouts geared toward building explosive lower and upper body strength are cheap and readily available at any tire store. While the state of the art commercial grade, “Big Grip Kettlebells” from Rally Fitness cost about $85 each. If the plan is to use these Big Grip Kettlebells in a group of 15, the investment will be $1,275 (and change) plus tax for this equipment.
Most gym owners benefit from researching “package” deals from equipment manufacturers. Each company offers a little different package, composed of different pieces of equipment. Rally Fitness has a competitively priced package it calls “The Captain.” This includes:
The price for this package is $2,399.00 and most gyms would want to purchase at least three and perhaps five of these packages in order to accommodate the “groups of three” noted above.
It is tempting for an owner of a startup box to save money by purchasing cheaper equipment from a big-box retailer. This is certainly an option but it is a bad option.
CrossFit athletes are much more serious about their workouts than any other, more casual, fitness enthusiasts. Because of their average income and professional standing they expect quality training and safe equipment. This is part of the reason they are not hesitant to pay upwards of $150 per month in fees.
Don’t skimp on the quality of the gym’s equipment just to save a few bucks in the beginning. Buy quality and build confidence in the staying power of the box.If you have questions about the type of equipment you need for your CrossFit gym, contact us and we will be happy to share ideas and financing options
There’s good news and bad news about marketing your CrossFit gym and both are based on the same fact. In 2005 there were 13 CrossFit affiliates and as of the writing of this blog, there are more than 13,000 in 120 countries. This means two things: (1) this is a wildly popular exercise program – in fact, THE most popular – on the planet (good news) and (2) this is a hyper-competitive landscape for any gym operator (bad news).
On any given day, a potential CrossFit member will likely pass 2 or 3 gyms on her way to work. Plus, current CrossFitters are like any other consumer in that they are always looking for a better, cheaper, more rewarding experience, which might be down the road only a few blocks away.
In a very real sense, success in building a sustainable CrossFit business involves the survival of the fittest. This is made more challenging by the fact that the people who decide to start their own affiliate are most likely fitness experts, but not business or marketing experts. Both skills are critical to success. Hopefully, this post will begin the process of connecting those marketing/business synapses.
Here are five ways to attract new members while keeping existing members happy.
This seems pretty simple. You want hundreds of fitness fanatics, who are also paying customers, to show up every day and then tell their friends about the cool box where they sweat their guts out. Simple. Right? Not so fast Sparky!
This identity decision is the one factor that many unsuccessful CrossFit affiliates failed to think through. As Webris founder/contributor Ryan Stewart noted in his piece on marketing CrossFit gyms, “This can be simplified by two choices: catering to experienced CrossFit athletes or newbies.
“Having experienced CrossFitter’s work out at your gym is great for building a brand for your gym – the better your athletes, the higher you place in competitions, the greater the association between your gym and quality training.
“However, this can have a negative impact on training new athletes. New athletes need a lot of attention before and during the workout – advanced athletes don’t.”
It is certainly possible to have a box with both of these groups, but the marketing focus will be different depending on the target population.
Again, this seems pretty straight-forward but the devil is indeed in the details. The types of incentives that are used to attract experienced CrossFitters are much different than those used for people new to the CrossFit experience. However, everyone wants a chance to check out the facility with little or no risk.
The most important consideration on any marketing tactic is its relevancy to your target market. According to Vanessa Rodriguez in her post on this subject, “Reaching your ideal audience has never been easier but you do need to know what to market to them once you’re in front of them. You need to make sure your “offer” is something your target finds interesting.”
Whatever incentives are used for getting new members – coupons that are good for one free workout, two-for-one memberships, free workouts in return for writing and posting online reviews – are best delivered via social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or other, more targeted social media such as Pinterest, which caters to a more female audience.
The prime CrossFit member lives on social media. They read almost no newspapers, watch almost no network TV, listen to very little commercial radio and wouldn’t think of going anywhere without their phone. Since most prospective and existing members are on social media, this is where a smart gym operator should focus his/her marketing efforts.
It’s true what your mama said. You never get a second chance to make a first impression. In case you’ve been living in a cave for the past decade, that first impression for your gym starts with a website. In many cases, this website is poorly designed and difficult to navigate. Unfortunately, when you hire someone to design your website you either get MORE or you get LESS but never what you pay for. Here are some suggestions for getting more.
Thousands of books have been written on the subject of building a company website and there is not enough space in this post to do this topic justice. However, hiring someone (please resist the temptation to hire your brother-in-law or cousin who lives in the basement of their parent’s home!) to design your CrossFit gyms site is pretty much a crap-shoot.
Before hiring anyone for this make-or-break business tool, ask for examples of other sites they have created/designed in the “fitness” or “self-help” categories. Then ask them what they were trying to accomplish with the design and elements of content for these sites. If what they were trying to do comes close to what they actually did with the site, they should at least be on your list of possible contractors.
Vanity can be a powerful motivational tool and it can get otherwise lazy couch potatoes off their butts and into your gym. The best time to start these types of promotions is immediately after January 1st when men and especially women are thinking about how they are going to look in a swimsuit, come spring.
Any variation on the “Summer Slim Down” promotion, suggested by Rodriguez, is a good approach for this time period. The basic promo involves using Facebook to attract new members. “This involves marketing this as a special 6-month high-intensity program that is different from the regular class workouts. New members would sign up for six months at a special price and once they are hooked and love the results they see they would sign up for a long-term commitment to your gym.”
As we noted in an earlier post on the demographics and psychographics of CrossFit members, most of these folks bring home a decent income, which means they work hard in their chosen profession. Plus, they are extremely competitive. A corporate wellness challenge promotion is a great way to channel these factors into new memberships for your gym. A variation of this idea was proposed by Rodriguez in her post.
“Get local businesses to compete against each other. Give the winning business either a free membership for 6 months, products (such as vitamins, protein powder, etc.) or a trophy (because everyone loves to brag with a trophy).
The competition could be whatever suits your gym. It could be weight loss, the total time devoted to working out, increasing in strength, or training for a triathlon or something like Tough Mudder.”
The great thing about this promotion is that it appeals to both existing members and potential members. Plus, many companies would consider paying for the membership costs for their employees as a part of a corporate wellness program.
Start Slow and Go for It!
The number of marketing ideas for your gym is only limited by your imagination. Since every business has a constant turn-over of customers, a year-round marketing schedule it critical to the success of your box. Don’t wait. Start this process now.In the coming months, we will offer more marketing suggestions for CrossFit boxes in this space. In the meantime, if you have any killer ideas, send them our way. Post a comment below.
A couple of years ago, we shared some market research data related to CrossFit facilities. Since 2014, there have been BIG changes and its growth graph now looks like a hockey stick!
According to a recent report from CNBC, “By the numbers, CrossFit is possibly the biggest fitness trend in the world. CrossFit has 13,000 gyms in more than 120 countries, up from just 13 in 2005. That's more than the 12,521 Starbucks locations in the United States. Its direct rival, Planet Fitness, has just 1,124 locations.
With 4 million CrossFit devotees, roughly the population of Los Angeles, it is crystal clear that this fitness program – which some liken to a cult – has tapped into something that was missing in the fitness industry. What was this missing ingredient? That’s hard to pinpoint.
Is it the shared pain of a CrossFit group? Perhaps it is the camaraderie that results from this pain? Most likely, many factors have led to this explosion of popularity, but the basic premise is just as simple as it was when Greg Glassman started it.
CrossFit workouts change daily and contain variety to keep its membership on its toes. The regimen consists of functional movements that aim to increase individual work capacity and is applicable to other sports activities. CrossFit also encourages its members to follow a Paleo diet.
By the Numbers
As noted in a Quantcast Analytics report, the vast majority of CrossFit members are between 24 and 34. The breakdown of CrossFitters is as follows:
Under 18: 18 %
18 – 24: 6%
25 – 34: 42%
35 – 44 19%
45 – 54 8%
55 – 64: Less than 3%
65+: Less than 3%
Men and women are represented equally as CrossFit participants
The percentage of CrossFit athletes who list their ethnicity as “white” is 86%
Over half of CrossFit participants have an annual income of greater than $150,000
The percentage of CrossFitters with children is 59%
The percentage of CrossFit participants with post-graduate degrees is 40%
Business is Good for CrossFit Affiliates!
A report from Channel Signal, a business analytics service, notes that the failure rate of CrossFit facilities is less than 2%. This is a remarkably low failure rate.
According several media sources “affiliates pay a fee to use the name CrossFit, but then that's basically it. Affiliates are also locked in at the fee they paid when they joined the network. CrossFit founder, Greg Glassman said he has some early affiliates who still only pay $500 a year. The current licensing fee sits at $3,000, and Glassman doesn't plan on raising it anytime soon.
“The Reebok CrossFit Games aren't a major source of income, even though the event draws 15,000 people through its gates daily. The Games attract sponsorships from fitness companies, but the vast majority of those deals fund the prize money. Last year the Games doled out $2 million in prizes.
Another huge part of CrossFit’s appeal has been its ability to scale. According to a report, “Once a prospective box owner has completed his or her certification, the barriers to entry are quite low. CrossFit gyms are called “boxes” to emphasize their low-tech bias. Many are opened in former industrial settings, within garage or loading-bay doors for example, offering access to fresh air.
Start-up costs are so low and most boxes offer monthly memberships for somewhere around $200 per month with additional discounts for long-term commitments and for active military, police, fire personnel, and teachers.
Early Adoption of Social Media has paid off Big!
The small but dedicated management team of CrossFit has shown amazing insights about how their members consume media. CrossFitters don’t watch a lot of TV, listen to a lot of radio or read a lot of newspapers. They do, however, consume a boatload of social media such as Twitter, Facebook and others.
Quartz noted, “In the beginning, CrossFit gained converts by posting daily workouts on a no-frills website. It still does, but now those daily workouts are also mobile-friendly and broadcast to CrossFit’s 864,000 followers on Instagram.
“CrossFit has also launched several Instagram stars. Two winners of last year’s games—Camille LeBlanc-Bazinet (Facebook profile) and Rich Froning —have 600,000 followers and over 450,000 followers, respectively. And Instagram has also made stars of some of the sport’s more photogenic but perhaps less accomplished athletes like Lauren Fisher (398,000 followers) and Brooke Ence (154,000 followers).It has been noted that CrossFit has followed the lead of Uber, where affiliate assume the costs of capital while the lean and mean corporate management team led by Glassman manage the image and innovations. “Whether purposefully or through a fortuitous accident, Glassman’s diffuse, no-frills business model has transformed a bunch of fitness nuts lifting tires in their garages into a brand Forbes estimated is now worth $4 billion. And the juggernaut shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.”