Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Opening a CrossFit® Affiliate

Thinking about opening your own CrossFit® Affiliate?  Congrats!  For many, it is a very fulfilling career.  We've been outfitting gyms across the US and beyond with quality equipment since 2010.  In that time, we talked to many successful gym owners as well as those that were considering starting their own facilities.  As you begin to consider if the life of owning a gym is something you'll want to pursue, here are 5 Easy to Remember Tips to Start Your Gym Right.  

Start Small - unless funding capital is no issue, starting small is always a smart decision.  Getting in deeper than you are comfortable with can cause added stress and worry.  Starting your own gym is supposed to be fun and rewarding.  Keep it small to start and have options for expansion when the time comes.  We've been in and worked with boxes across the US that open with 1200 Square Feet or less!  And many are back to us in under 6 months for more equipment for their expanding client list.  The inventive coach can program challenging workouts in smaller spaces and having a running trail nearby is always a plus.  

On average, an athlete needs about 70-80 square feet of space to move safely and to keep all movement options open.  If they have a bar in hand or are cycling through box jumps or double unders or even burpees, you've got to give them enough space to stay safe.  An area of about 8 feet wide by 9 feet long is the ideal.  And more than ever, we're seeing some even open their gyms in their own garage.  Granted, it is not as ideal.  Parking and noise can be an issue but it's a smart start if you can make all of that work.  As you'll read below, if you plan to grow outside the garage gym, picking up commercial quality equipment from the start is the way to go.  It can travel with you as you move into a larger space.

Map It Out - once you've found the general area that you'd like to start your gym, don't be surprised if finding a warehouse space takes more time than you'd expect.  We've talked with many who find that getting their location finalized and lease signed was the longest part of their plan.

When you do find a few spaces to look at, ask the realtor to hand over a layout drawing of the space or if you need to, map it out on graph paper while you are there.  Be sure to bring a tape measure and a camera [take lots of photos, especially of any damage or potential need-to-fixes before you move too far foreword].  While at home, cut out some to-scale pieces of the equipment you want to put in the gym and play around with placements.  Don't forget to cut out some 8x9 pieces for each athlete, too.


And planning out your gym on paper before you move equipment in will help you make the most of your space by trying different combinations and storage areas.  It's far easier to try new pull-up rack placements on a scale drawing that to move it after it's installed.

Here's a few quick tips when looking at a potential space:

  • The new space doesn't have to be frilly, but it does need to be clean.  Many prefer the industrial look to a gym so long as it's neat.  And it's amazing what a few coats of paint can do to a space.  
  • While you are looking around, check out the parking area too.  Will you have to share?  Are there other spaces in the complex that aren't rented and how will parking work if that happens.  And ask about lighting outside.  Most often you will be looking at spaces when it's daylight but your early morning and late evening clients will want a parking area that is well lit and safe.
  • If you are in an area that gets snow, ask about snow removal and if they salt sidewalks too.  And how early will they get out to do it?  If their maintenance department or independent contractor doesn't show until 8AM, you will have already had two classes by then.
  • Take photos of the space and the surrounding area.  And before you sign the lease, do a walkthrough with the realtor and take photos of anything that is damaged on the outside or inside the space.  Ask that those photos get included in the lease docs.

Gear Tip:  The vast majority of startup gyms begin with the Wall Mounted Pull Up Rig rather than Free Standing.  The Wall Mount Rig can mount to any wall - concrete or stud [ask us how] and is especially well suited to longer, narrow spaces.  Not only that, they are a smaller investment too.  And, should you need to add to it or change it over to a Free Standing Rig in the future, it's easy.

Remember the Golden Rule - this one is big in our book because we like to see everyone succeed!  And here it is: If you can't think of at least five ways to use a piece of equipment in your gym, then you are better off waiting to purchase it.  Yes, there are some single use equipment pieces that are important but to get the most out of your investment dollars, put your money towards bars, bumpers, rings and kettlebells rather than the heavy hitters like rowers and GHDs.  At least right off the bat.

With equipment like medicine balls and gymnastics rings, you can easily keep your programming varied and scalable for all levels of athletes.  That versatility will make you job as a coach much easier and the lower cost keeps the business owner side of you happy, too.

Gear Tip:  For the price of one Rower you can outfit one athlete with: A barbell, a medicine ball, an abmat, a set of rings, a plyo box, a stack of bumpers, a kettlebell and a plyo box.  Just sayin'.

Hi Temp Bumpers are definitely the way to go
Buy Quality - buying equipment for a commercial CrossFit® facility is very different than purchasing for a home gym.  Do your homework and remember that cheapest price is almost always the wrong decision, especially with unknown brands.  It's a bit self-serving for us to say that but we've been there.  If the price is too good to be true, it normally is.  One of our very good friends has owned a CrossFit® gym since 2005 and he has the same Dynamax Medicine Balls today that were in his gym on day one.  And the only bumper plates he buys are Hi Temp.  There is a lot to learn from that.  With the explosion of CrossFit® come more suppliers than we can count and many carry off brand equipment that hasn't passed the test of time in a commercial setting.  Buy quality equipment with a proven track record that you know lasts.  It's better than trying to recoup costs on equipment that fails after a year [or less].

Start a Founding Member Club - CrossFit Motivus out in Spartanburg, SC got their gym off to a tremendous start by starting a founding member club.  Brilliant.  They offered a 20% discount on monthly dues for life to the first 30 members that signed up.  Once the offer was posted on Facebook, they told us they sold out in less than 24 hours.  

And here's another tip:  Resist the temptation for offering Lifetime Memberships up front.  It's great for getting startup cash but long term it's not that great of a deal for the gym owner.

Thinking about starting your own gym?  We've been working with the professionals at Rigquipment Finance and these guys are top notch.  Not only will they provide multiple financing options, they also provide business planning services to show you exactly where you need to be at months 1-6, 7-12 and beyond.  Feel free to have a look though our pre-built equipment packages or contact us for a custom quote.  Once we iron out what you are looking for to start your gym, we can get you in touch with Rigquipment Finance to make your gym a reality.