6 Lessons I’ve Learned in 6 Years as an CrossFit Affiliate Owner

They say time flies when you’re having fun.  I remember like it was yesterday, the decision to open a CrossFit affiliate late in 2008. Hours of running financial reports, and ten times that scouring message boards and the internet about all things related to CrossFit and in general, health and fitness. In February 2010 we opened at the time, the 3rd (now 50 or so) affiliate in Charlotte, NC. In that time we’ve done a few good things, and made plenty of mistakes.
Whether you’re a general fitness enthusiast, CrossFit nut, or future CrossFit affiliate owner, I hope these 6 lessons I’ve learned will serve you well.

  1. Don’t judge a book by its cover- The beauty of CrossFit is that it includes anyone willing to show up and work hard. From the high school All-American soccer player to the obese, diabetic father that just wants to be able to chase his son in the yard without needing to sit down after 5 minutes. Each member has their own story to tell; and they all find CrossFit to be the answer to some of their questions. Abuse, death and disease are many reasons I’ve heard why people seek a CrossFit affiliate. It gives them piece of mind knowing that this may be the only hour of their day where they are surrounded and supported by people that want what’s best for them. I’ve met recovering drug addicts, people that buried a child or spouse, injured war veterans and a variety of others that come to train with us. Everyone has a story.
  2. The “Community”- I was not prepared for what a powerful aspect of CrossFit this was. Perhaps it wasn’t much of a thing in 2007/2008, but when I first started CrossFit it was because it was something different, and near my office. No more, no less. Now, every single day I’m surprised by what I see and hear from people who, if we never existed may not have anything else in common. All walks of life, coming together to support each other in a quest for better health for themselves, their family and communities. It’s easily the most surprising experience through 6 years.
  3. It’s Just Exercise- I’ll probably catch some heat for this one from the real nerdy fitness geeks out there. As an anatomy geek, I’m permitted to say such a thing. While fundamentals are important, and understanding energy systems has its place; for the 99% that make our business what it is; our goal needs to be to get people to move better, and move often. Sure, the CrossFit Games has gone from $500 cash and a handgun to a $275,000 prize, however, in a time when many cities are just trying to avoid the “Top 10 Obese Cities” list; let your main focus be this, “Move better, move often” and you’ll give the masses what they need.
  4. It’s so much more than just exercise- This is hands down the best reason I would do this all over again. When I first decided to open an affiliate, it was essentially an afterthought as an “add on” to my chiropractic office. I maxed out one credit card and decided to get started with the thinking, “at worst, I’ll have a gym where I can work out with friends.” For the record, banks frown upon that type of thinking. Every time I talk to another member about their experience, the number of medications they no longer need to take, the relationships they’ve improved or created, the relationships they gained the confidence to leave, the <enter anything here> that has improved since joining our facility has made me more grateful than I would have ever expected for steering this ship called CrossFit Steele Creek.
  1. If You Have OCD, think twice- Many that know me, and those watching from a distance will see that I have many obsessive-compulsive tendencies. Fortunately, between aging and my daughter I’ve gotten better. However, this gym will terrorize you if you’re anything like me. It’s a good thing that it’s so much fun to just go back and talk to members so I don’t spend every waking minute trying to maintain order.
  2. Keep it fun- Unless you’re training for a living; I mean for dollars, and not for some new gym gear and protein from sponsors; it has to be fun. The majority of people that need you don’t stick with an exercise program because it is not fun.
    If you’re a member at a CrossFit affiliate and not having fun, something is wrong. If you dread it, you won’t do it well, at least not for the long haul. If you’re not having fun because you’re always “getting hurt”, something is wrong. Hurting isn’t fun.
    If you own a CrossFit affiliate and your goal isn’t to keep it fun, you’re missing the boat. Sure, we’re after results. However, there are so many options that can give people results, yet they choose you. Make it so they can’t imagine going anywhere else. Create a place so when they are shopping for a home, they tell the realtor that the number # 1 thing is the proximity to your business.
    Fun brings 80% of your members out to a workout on Thanksgiving morning, New Year’s Day and July 4th….Not exercise.