A Long December: Starting A CrossFit Gym Part 12

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 the final piece of the adventure, before I’m a real live gym owner. Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4. Part 5. Part 6. Part 7. Part 8. Part 9. Part 10. Part 11.

When I first opened my gym, I had set member number goals, based on… well, based sort of on nothing. Looking back, I realize those assumptions were incredibly theoretical and probably influenced more than a little by my time at CrossFit South Brooklyn, a bustling, “mature” gym in the heart of the most populous city on da Erf.

Quickly, I realized it would be both more challenging to attract new members and that this challenge meant I needed to recalculate my goals. I set more conservative goals, with the idea that we’d have enough members to break even by the time we had been open a year.

With the year drawing to a close, we weren’t quite there. On top of that, December was a slowwww month, as members went away, budgets were diverted to gift shopping, and people were consumed in the Holiday spirit and not in the spirit of Froning Claus.

During that time, most of my coaches went away for holidays and honeymoons while I was left spending a lot of time in the gym thinking about what I could do to jump-start things. Along with some talks with my brother who helps me on the marketing, sales, and creative side, I realized that I needed to refocus and reshuffle some aspects of the gym, starting with my own involvement.

As the gym had begun to pick up steam I became too enamored with the idea of “outsource your weaknesses.” While I’m not a natural salesman or marketer, I realized I needed to be way more involved in the day to day sales process and efforts to market the gym. I realized I had been playing the role of “Head Coach” well, but for the business to be successful I needed to be much more. Looking back, much of my motivation for delegating some of the sales and marketing work was fear. Fear that I wouldn’t be good enough, fear that I would try and fail, fear that I didn’t have what it takes.

That stuff was scary, but my fear of the “Peter Principle” was even more profound. The “Peter Principle” suggests that employees are promoted based upon their current performance and not necessarily the skills needed for their new role. I had been a great coach, but was I a great owner? One thing I do know is that I’m a great learner and I knew I could learn on the job. So, I re-dedicated myself to the “scary stuff.” I designed a 6 Week Challenge to attract new members, started to learn and employ Facebook marketing and brainstormed about ways to enhance the process of turning an interested person into a happy and jacked member. As my coaches came back I used my extra time to shift schedules around so that I had a chance to meet and talk to every prospective member who came in the door. I took back the lead follow-up duties and worked to be better organized about taking notes and making reminders to call leads back. I wrote a freakin’ sales script.

In the first week of January, our member growth exceeded growth in all of December and it continued into the next week. We are now back on pace to hit our goals by month’s end and I’m personally reinvigorated about my role as the owner of a business and not just a coach who knows a lot about CrossFit. To that end, I am in the process of transitioning my most experienced coach to a Head Coach role, so I can make being the Member Services Director my main role and focus. I’ve begun reading a bunch about social psychology and human behavior in an effort to not only be a better “salesman” but an owner who can better help people who want to make big, scary changes in their lives face their fears, build good habits, and stay on course.

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