What type of Towel Rack are You?

Another guest post by my hubby: Robb Wolf

When you look at the world of products and marketing the notion that investment in quality will produce good return is often tough to support. “Make it cheaper, make it faster” seems to win out under most circumstances, and I guess when we are talking about products this is true but we often forget about the full accounting of a product. Let’s consider a plastic towel rack that replaces the old-school wooden version.

Plastic looks cheap until we consider:

1-Plastics are made from petrochemicals

2-Petrochemicals (at least the variety we typically use in the US) come from geo-political hot beds.

3-Massive re-distribution of wealth occurs to people who have lots of oil, but who hate western, democratic ways of living.

4-Like Diamonds, Plastics are “forever.”

With full accounting, the “cheap” towel rack actually carries a high price tag.

All that aside however, it’s been my experience that investment in quality is worth the effort when we are dealing with people/service based endeavors. “We” are willing to pay for a lesser product but “We” really notice when receiving sub-par service.  Which brings me a bit closer to the point of this post: Why a focus on quality has always produced good results for our business. If you own a gym, run a yoga/pilates studio or an MMA program you will likely get something out of this, but honestly anyone who makes a living serving people might get a lesson or two out of this.

Way Back

In the beginning there was a void…then matter and energy burst into existence, expanding out at nearly the speed of light!

Ok, maybe that’s a little too far back.

How about January, 2004. We just opened our multiple personality disorder facility (Crossfit NorCal, then NorCal Strength & Conditioning…then CrossFit NorCal…back to NorCal Strength & Conditioning) in a town that we literally knew about 5 people. I did my undergrad in Chico and wrapped that up in 1998, living the next 5-6 years in Seattle. I wanted to live in a sunny climate & the female to male ratio in Chico is 5-2 so I moved, opened the then 4th CrossFit facility and did not know quite how to tackle things. I was a scientist, not a business guy and at that point there was no GOOD example of how to run a microgym, from either a business or training standpoint. We emulated the come one, come all class system (No screening), an “honor system” of payments and a wacky method for paying trainers (No business systems) that was offered to us from our “higher ups.” This was the best we could find to emulate at the time and we really had to learn the hard way. Despite our efforts to help people avoid these same pitfalls, many still run their businesses this way.

Now, people loved the workouts but we had a lot of problems.

1-Not everyone (hardly anyone?) was appropriate for the “Dot Com” WOD’s we used daily. Type 1 diabetic? Insulin pump? Heart problems? Bilateral hip-replacement? Shucks, we’ll just throw y’all in the same class. We can have our new trainers work with the new people…all these orthopedically challenged, broken folks will be trained by people who have almost no strength & conditioning background…I have no idea what to call a system like this but I’m pretty sure the acronym is “RRG.”

2-Due to the lack of focus and progression none of our clients made progress to the degree I thought they should. I came to CrossFit with a powerlifting background. After a few months of dry-heaving I could turn some top tier times on diagnostic WOD’s. Not so our endurance crowd clients.

We were new to business, excited but lacking in any mentorship that could provide a legitimate business system to deal with these and other issues. So, we had to learn things the hard way. Trial, error and at many points being either too dumb or stubborn to quit.

Training Day

Two friends provided important inputs on how to improve our programming and ultimately our business. The first was the Max Effort Black box concept from Coach Michael Rutherford,  The second was the CrossFit skill standards proposed by Co-founder of the 1st CrossFit affiliate, Dave Werner.

Coach Rut shot me an email with a theoretical template based around the Prilepin chart, max effort work and the idea that if one inserted planned strength days over a standard CrossFit template one might achieve superior results. Exercise science is clear on the point that strength precedes strength endurance. Not only did this strength focus “make sense” but Rut ran a nice clinical experiment on a basketball team using this template and achieved impressive results. Rut’s own son made it to 3rd in state in wrestling with a wicked double leg takedown and a 340 lb clean & jerk built from the MEBB template.

I looked at the template, thought about it and shot it down because “I did not need to do that to get really good numbers in CrossFit.”

Can you say sample bias?

It took me a few months to realize the error of my ways and we adopted a MEBB template into our gym with phenomenal results.

It was right around this time that my good friend, Dave Werner shot me an idea about some skill/performance standards to help trainees and coaches focus their efforts. Dave’s idea was that this system would be somewhat similar to a belt system in the martial arts…not perfect, many fuzzy boundaries, but something to provide motivation and structure. Again, I thought about this and being the lazy bastard that I am, shot it down. Dave persisted and although I am a dummy most of the time, I do have some brief moments of clarity and I saw the potential of Dave’s skill standards (or something along this line) fixing significant systemic issues in our business, from client acquisition & retention to training systems.

That’s all for that today, we’ll look at how these insights from our friends have improved our business and I’ll provide some templates for you to follow to help improve yours.

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One Response to What type of Towel Rack are You?

  1. Paul says:

    Thank you Mr.Robb! You and your wife have continued to improve my vision on how to properly run a business, have some fun and maintain some quality of personal life. Thanks again!


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