There is an infinite amount of information available to make you a better CrossFit coach. But what I have found to be the most challenging part of being a box owner wasn’t the coaching side of things, it was the business side of the equation. There wasn’t much out there in the way of business advice for a box owner. After years of making my own mistakes, I will share a few pieces of advice that I believe to be extremely important when opening a box. These all have to do with profitability and the systems that will help make you successful.
We all open boxes to help people change their lives and to teach them how amazing CrossFit is. However, in order to do that long term, being a good coach isn’t enough, you need to be financially successful so the business can thrive and your box can evolve.
1. Find the right location
One of the most important factors that will lead to your success is controlling your fixed costs. One of the biggest fixed costs is your rent. Many people that are opening boxes are excited and anxious to get the doors open. They let their excitement speed up the decision of where to open and may not take the necessary time to maximize their location and/or rent.
Your box will be a destination so there is some truth that location isn’t as important as it would be for other businesses, but it also doesn’t hurt to have some visibility as you’re trying to establish your community.
2. Think long term
Find a location that will allow you to grow. Look for a spot that has adjacent space available for the possibility of expansion. Ask your landlord for “First Right Of Refusal” on the space. This means that the landlord will have to inform you of any potential tenant that is interested in the adjacent space and you will have the first option to rent that space. If you’re ready to expand, great, if not, no worries. All you want is the flexibility to grow if the timing is right.
Make sure you plan long term so that WHEN you are successful, you won’t have to move to a new location because you didn’t put renewals in your original lease. It’s always a good idea to ask for (3 year) or (5 year) renewal terms in your original lease. Most landlords will want you to stay but the last thing you need is to not have that option and then have to move locations.
3. Run Day 1 like you are 4 years in
You can get away with running things differently in the beginning because you have such a small membership. However, don’t fall into this trap. Develop your systems early and run it as if you have 100 members.
Don’t establish bad habits early on because they will be very difficult to change down the road. Establish your new member protocols early. Just because it is easy to use a pen and paper or your homemade excel spreadsheets to track 15 clients, it will make things much more difficult when you have 100 clients and can no longer scribble membership notes on a sticky note.
Find a membership software that you’re comfortable with and start using it on day 1. Ensure you use a system that can do everything for you, such as running payments, setting up memberships, WOD tracking, and social integration. At Vitality, we have used both ZenPlanner and WODIFY and have been extremely happy with both services. There are others out there such as MindBody Online and though I have heard good things about that system, I don’t have any experience with it.
4. Be Ready For The Business Side
As a small business owner, be prepared to be a jack-of-all-trades. You will be the janitor, the electrician, the CPA, the marketing team, and a number of other duties that you weren’t planning on tackling. Teaching people to air squat is only a small piece of the puzzle. If this is something you want to do long term, you need to make this a profitable business and in order to do that, you will spend a large amount of your time doing financial reports, sending out emails, and setting up memberships. Along with this, you will be unclogging toilets, changing lights, mopping rubber, cleaning up weights, fixing equipment, answering the phones, paying taxes (lots of taxes) and anything else that you can think of, or not think of…
But don’t worry, in a while you will be able to afford to hire people that will take care of these duties but in the beginning, save the money and do it yourself. Trust me, after a few hours of staring at a computer screen answering emails, even cleaning the bathroom will be a welcomed break.
5. Don’t Undervalue Your Services
If you set your prices too low at the start, it will make it much more difficult for you to raise them down the road. I always liked the idea of having 100 members paying $200/month instead of 200 members paying $100/month. It’s simple math, the lower prices you have, the more clients you will need to get through the doors to cover expenses and be profitable. The more members you have, the more it will cost to maintain your equipment along with maintenance of your space.
Another trap to avoid is giving people “special” deals. It doesn’t matter if its your friend, 3rd cousin, neighbor…avoid this pitfall. The last thing you want to end up doing is putting yourself in a position where one person finds out he/she is paying something different for the same service as someone else. Everyone wants a deal and everyone has a “special” situation that they think deserves a lower rate. Make it easy on yourself, set your prices and stick to them.