Would you rush into marrying someone because you like his or her name?

Did you ever have anyone tell you not to rush to finish university? “Don’t be in a hurry to get out in the working world”, “Keep studying as long as you can.”

Well, in a similar sentiment I can offer: Don’t rush into a business. Think. Plan. Save. Gather the appropriate funds. Think some more. Take time. Do it right.

Most businesses require significant amounts of capital expenditure and market research before you can open your doors.  And significant infrastructure. Computers, software, equipment, office equipment, capital for inventory or machinery, education, etc. Not necessarily so with a microgym or fitness studio. Most fitness-based businesses can be opened with minimal equipment and depending on your location, minimal overhead.

The fact that it is in fact so easy, and requires so little overhead, leaves folks who otherwise should be perfecting their craft and taking a year or two to prepare their business model, prepare their financial position and get a solid picture of the system they are wanting to create, jumping in with zero preparation for what lies ahead. It’s a bit like climbing a mountain in the winter with inadequate gear. Can it be done? Possibly. Is it going to be fun? Not at all. Just because it can be done that way doesn’t mean that it should be done that way.  In the case of our mountain climbing analogy, it most certainly will take longer to reach the top and there will be much more suffering in the process…all this providing you don’t die along the way.

As soon as you sign your lease you are on the hook.

There are indeed folks who do great under pressure and the pressure of the lease and the overhead properly motivates them to get out and hustle.  They have dynamic personalities and a decent to great coaching backgrounds and can keep and retain clients.  Great! But they end up putting in 8 hour coaching days with an additional 4-5 hours trying to figure out the backend of the business, trying to set up a business management system like MBO or trying to teach themselves Quickbooks or some other accounting software. They make it work, but they are exhausted and all-consumed by the business. They don’t have time for relationships.  They don’t have time for any other activities outside of the business. The get up the next day and do it all over again.  This is the successful picture.  But it could have been MUCH easier had there been more planning upfront.

Now I don’t want to say this can’t be done.  This was the route that we actually took.  But it was MUCH MUCH harder than it needed to be.  And fortunately there were two of us to share the load.  (3 actually, if you count our early partner Greg Everett).

Some observations

In general most new folks I talk to who are planning on opening a microgym are being FAR too optimistic about the number of clients they expect to attract in the first few months. And folks also seem to simultaneously UNDERESTIMATE the expenses they will have.  Good on y’all as it shows you’re of the optimistic ilk. However, in my opinion it is always best to be conservative when projecting these numbers.  I would rather plan for 10 new clients and be STOKED with 30 in my first month, than plan for 30 (and really be dependent on getting those 30 for my financial position) and only get 10 or 5. It’s the same with expenses. I would rather project on the high side and have resources to support that…for if they are in fact much lower it only makes my position stronger. Each time we’ve moved to a larger facility our expenses have been FAR more than I projected. There are always costs you don’t expect.  Build those into your expenses from the beginning and you’ll have a cushion for them.

Make a list of names

Make a list of everyone you plan on contacting to try to get them to come down the first month you open. Now circle the names of those who you KNOW without a doubt will absolutely come down.  How many do you have?  How many are in the “probably” category? What are you going to do to get those folks in the door.  And then how are you going to keep them?  Clients want a path to follow.  Where do they start? Where do they go next? And after that?  If you haven’t thought this through yet then take your time and think and plan. Again, creating and building a business is an involved project (much like a marriage:).  There is no need to rush.

Back to the title

Ok, now let’s talk a bit about my title…marrying someone for their name. I’ve been doing a fair amount of consulting with folks eager to open up CrossFit affiliates.  They want to “stake their claim” on a name or a territory…be the first to open in a given area.

Let’s face it, CrossFit is a sexy name.  And now, with thousands of affiliates who’ve forged the path and established the brand in cities all over the country, it lends significant brand recognition.

But here’s the deal.  If you are an inexperienced coach with no sense of the profession of coaching John Q Public other than following the main page WOD you may not have the background, knowledge and professionalism to retain the people that come through your door. Folks may initially seek you out because you have CF in your name, but if you fail to deliver the results they are seeking (not everyone cares about a fast FRAN time, not everyone will be wooed with increased work capacity, some folks do have significant orthopedic issues that need addressing, and not everyone likes a competitive environment) they will take their disposable income elsewhere.

And back to staking a claim or being the first in a given territory: If someone else can come in a drive a stake into the ground and claim the territory 2 doors down from you at any time it doesn’t much matter if you are the first or the second. What matters is that you are the BEST. If you take your time you will not only provide the better product, you will enjoy the process a whole lot more.

This entry was posted in Business, CrossFit Affiliates, fitness business, MindBody Online. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Would you rush into marrying someone because you like his or her name?

  1. Drey says:

    Great information! I’m a business major and long to run my own place, but am still trying to get over the emotional ties I have to owning my own facility. This has clouded me to not even think about getting all ducks in a row before opening my doors. Of course it makes great sense to know how you’re going to operate before you take on your first customer. Great reminder of what it means to take your time and do it right!!

  2. Hey Nicki-

    As a serial entrepreneur, I appreciate this post very much.

    This is my favorite:

    “But here’s the deal. If you are an inexperienced coach with no sense of the profession of coaching John Q Public other than following the main page WOD you may not have the background, knowledge and professionalism to retain the people that come through your door. ”

    Seriously! I agree wholeheartedly with that and I think that people really need to follow their passion and gain lots of hours of experience and expertise, and the clients will follow. When you’re selling a service, it’s all about being an expert in your field and becoming a valuable resource for people- then they see the point in paying to come to you for services… which is what a gym really is at the end of the day- because you can grab your own barbell and bumpers for a home gym otherwise.

    Nicely done.
    Diane :)

  3. Adam says:

    Nikki,

    Love the post!

    I have been to a handful of gyms that have done the bare minimum described above and I have been to gyms that have their act together. After talking to owners at both types I understand the level of effort and planning I will need to make my vision a reality, and it tends to mirror what you have described above.

    While many of my friends are telling me to “just jump in and do it” because “it can’t be that hard, or expensive”, I keep telling them that there is a lot more to it than just writing a WOD on the and board yelling “3..2..1…Go!”, and that I want to do it right and I want to do it well.

    While I want to open a gym, sooner rather than later, I want to do it right so as to not turn my passion for training and coaching into something that I dread having to do. Your blog along with Robb’s have proven to be an extremely valuable set of resources for me in my journey and I am sure that they will continue to be in the future. Thank you both for all of the time and effort that you take to share your knowledge and passion with the rest of us!

    -Adam

  4. Michael says:

    It took me yonks to finally jump ship and run my own show, and having low expenses is totally awesome, one less thing to worry about.

  5. Jason says:

    Nicki,

    This post hit home. This shit is a LOT of work. If I didn’t have the passion for training that I do, I don’t know how I would have come out.
    Systems development is especially time consuming. I appreciate your guidance and I think that this blog is very valuable. Thank you.

  6. Paul says:

    Nicki,

    It is with great enthusiasm that I can now say I have my own gym. I am renting ~700 sq feet inside of a current low-volume gym. For the past several years, I have been eager to run my own business; however, I am soooo glad that I waited until now for it to be a reality.
    I discovered CrossFit back in the fall of 2005. I remember when the list of affiliates totaled no more than 5 or 6 locations. Like most others who have been drawn to CF, I almost immediately wanted to open my own box. I am glad that it never happened. I would have failed. No doubt about it. Since that time, I have completed my finance degree which at the very least exposed me to various management and marketing systems. Without these tools, I would have been one of the optimistic “dreamers”, assuming people would be tripping over each other to get through my doors just because of the name CrossFit. I now know better. I have taken my time to study the practices of some other greats within the world of strength and conditioning like Charles Poliquin and Louie Simmons. Big believer of both. The point being that I have become a much better trainer and business-person because of it. Some people may not like to hear it but, CF is NOT the be all, end all of strength and conditioning. Think “Law of Repeated Efforts”. Anyways, I am rambling.
    I just wanted to say that I follow your site regularly and am very thankful for the material being presented. It has given me lots to consider throughout this whole process. For those of you reading this comment, believe me. You DO NOT have to affiliate to be successful. Read everything on this site and actually put it into practice. I took the time to outfit my gym properly and put the proper systems in place. I am small but have a low overhead with the potential to grow. Nicki, I hope to be hiring you within the next six months to assist me with an expansion. Until then, Thank you very much for all of the information you have provided. It truly is a priceless resource.

    Paul
    Category Five
    Hurricane-Strength Fitness
    Find us on Facebook

  7. Dickie Doo says:

    …Likely yes if their surname happened to be Gates, Rockerfeller,Abrahmovitch etc !

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