After being a coach at CrossFit South Brooklyn in NYC for 6 years I moved halfway across the country to open my own affiliate, CrossFit Lumos, in Austin, TX. This series will chronicle my experience opening the gym and what I am learning along the way. This article is Part 4 of the adventure. Part 1. Part 2. Part 3
So, it has become clear that my initial, rose-tinted prediction that my gym would open within 2 months of getting started was woefully inaccurate. My delusions of a frenzied build out, with late nights and excitement and explosions were just that- deluded. Instead, its been a slow process of getting an OK (inspection carried out, permit approved, etc.) then working up to the limits of that approval, before submitting the next one. If that doesn’t sound like the most compelling process ever, its because it isn’t.
Still, I’ve managed to find some things to keep me feeling productive, building clientele, meeting new people, etc. For sake of applicability, I’ll put them into some broad categories, as I’m sure there’s many different ways to approach them. Here’s what I’ve been up to:
Stay Sweaty, My Friends
First, my crew and I found a good setup at a local rock climbing gym that happened to have a bunch of awesome equipment- Rogue rigs, bars, plates, etc. e’ve been working out there, and I’ve been using it to test some programming ideas. Further, I’ve had a number of people come up to me and ask what we’re doing and how they could join. I like this approach better than dropping in at a friendly affiliate, because you don’t risk poaching members (d*ck move!) and because your target should be brand new people anyway (because they have a longer “life cycle” than experienced CFers and because you get to spread the gospel!)
Then, we started offering free workouts in a popular local park. I made some initial equipment purchases that I knew would travel well- kettlebells, dumbells, bands, and a sweeeeet wagon:
We started with one workout a week, on Saturday mornings, have added one on Tuesday evening, and this week will add a third- Thursday at 6AM. (This is a kick-myself-in-the-ass strategy to get back in the habit of 5AM wakeups.) The workouts have been great- we’ve brought new people in, connected with old friends, got some newbies “learned up” a bit, attracted people walking and running by, and had a lot of fun. I highly recommend it.
Knock Out as Much Admin as You Can
Just because the gym isn’t built yet doesn’t mean you can’t build the systems it will require when it opens. I’ve filled up tons of notebooks with programming ideas and templates, worked on pricing and membership options, and done some hiring. I figured out what back-end system I wanted to use, got a trial month, worked out the kinks, and added all needed info in. (It’s a good thing I did too- I use their digital waivers during the free workouts.) I narrowed down who I wanted to design my website and am getting close to launching the fully built site soon. Basically think of as many of the things that the gym will need on a day to day basis from an infrastructure standpoint, and endeavor to have them sorted out before doors open. This will save duplicative effort down the road.
Stay Connected to Your Community
Especially after working at a big, bustling affiliate for a long time, these months have seemed a little lonely for me. I obviously compounded the situation with also moving to a new city, but hey, I like a challenge. Still, I’ve worked hard to stay connected to my old gym, the CrossFit community at large, local affiliates, and people in general. I’ve made sure to post stuff to social media, even when its just pictures of building progress- its easy to drop off the map, but you need to let people know you’re still working hard to build something. (This was made easier when I engaged someone to be my social media manager as a membership barter.) I’ve stayed in touch with old members, and made sure to write them each a personal note when they bought some of our first run of t-shirts. I found a local charity partner in town and started working towards running an event to raise money for them each year (details to follow.) In short, its really easy to “go dark” at this stage, but focusing on community can help you stay motivated and keep others engaged in your progress.
So, that’s a lot of what I’ve been up to. Just in case this post seemed too sunny, get ready for the next one, all about panic attacks, running out of money, and how to not make some easily avoided mistakes I’ve made.