Confessions of a CrossFit Gym Owner

Sometimes owning a CrossFit Affiliate gets a little heavy, and every now and then I need to get some stuff off my chest. I don’t claim to speak for every gym owner, but I think that my experience is reflective of many in my field. This is meant to be read by other Affiliate owners and Coaches, but I know that many of my members and yours will read this as well. I hope that they will get a little insight into our crazy world.

What follows are my confessions. They are in no particular order, but I promise they are vomited directly from the depths of my soul. Don’t get any on your shoes.

Owning an Affiliate costs way more money and time than I originally anticipated.

I spend a lot of time laughing at my naïve 29-year-old self. I thought, “All I need is 36 members and I’ll break even”… Ha! Boy was I wrong. Dang! This is an expensive monster that keeps eating money. I had no idea how much money I’d be spending on all the random stuff that happens every year — taxes, fees, replacing broken stuff, buying new stuff, paying staff, electricity, supplies, bla, bla, bla…

Also, I’m here a lot. My 3-year-old son, Asa, tells my wife Kari that he wants to go to “daddy’s house.” He’s referring to the gym. I had no idea how much time I would be investing in this place. Fortunately for me, Kari happens to be an amazing Coach and we get to spend a lot of time as a family here at the gym. Otherwise, I’m not sure I would still have a business…

I need lots of help.

Sometimes I really have no idea what in the world I’m doing. The jump from a guy who likes working out and can teach it a little into a business owner was way bigger than I expected. I’ve been at it for over three years now and I’ve learned a lot. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned has been to get lots of help. I need advice and feedback. I need quality staff and volunteers who are skilled and creative at the things I’m not. I need good systems and programs to make things run more smoothly. I’ve been super fortunate to have some great help over the past three-plus years and am always eager to get more! Ignorance is a scary thing.

 This is, but is not, a job to me.

My job is to successfully run a CrossFit gym. I am responsible for keeping the lights on and the bills paid so that the members of my gym always have a place to come get in great shape with their best friends. It is also how I provide money to live on for my family, my staff and myself. And they deserve to be provided for, so in that manner, I need to make money from this gym.

But, on the other hand, I love every single one of my members. Love is a powerful thing. It compels one to endure suffering, learn patience and to go out of your way for the sake of someone else. It affects your perception. My members are all peculiar in their own weird ways. And I love them for it. If they were different, I’d be different, and the party would be a little less fun. If any one of them isn’t here, then there’s a void. I want the very best for them. That’s why we haven’t taught some of them how to kip yet, or let some of them go for a max-effort front squat yet, or make strange warnings about the shake-weight if someone gashes their shins on a box. I love my members too much to see them go through that kind of pain. I’ll fight for them. Love does that. So really, I’d do this even if I didn’t get paid.

I really think that everyone I know, meet and see from a distance should join my gym, and am genuinely confused and surprised when they don’t.

I really truly believe that CrossFit, done right, is the very best method of fitness. Coach Glassman was clearly onto something, and I feel privileged to get to participate in the CrossFit takeover of the fitness industry. This stuff works! If someone is looking for a fun, efficient and constantly motivating road toward getting in shape, we’ve got it.

I also believe that my gym, although similar to every other Affiliates out there, is in many ways unique and special when compared to the rest. Visitors to my gym, casual observers, people in line with me at the grocery store, EVERY STINKIN’ PERSON IN MY CITY should be absolutely chomping at the bit to get in here and join! Sometimes they aren’t… What’s wrong with these people?!

If you leave, for any reason, I feel like you’re dumping me.

People leave for a variety of reasons. They move away, decide to become a couch potato, they change gyms. It’s the reality of this industry. It doesn’t mean that I have to understand it or like it. I don’t care that a new Box just opened up across the street from your house. You should drive across town to be with us! I take it personally when a member leaves, like I’ve failed them in some major way. It cuts out my guts when people leave, especially when they don’t tell me why.

I love this gym. I love everyone here. I love the med balls and the bumpers. I love CrossFit. I feel better now.

Charlie Sims
Charlie Sims is the owner of CrossFit Regeneration in Louisville, Kentucky. Contact him at crossfitregeneration@gmail.com.

9 Comments

  1. Natalie

    September 25, 2014 at 4:50 am

    ha ha – love it, and it’s all true – I completely feel dumped when someone goes – but i also try to discover why.. maybe just for my own peace of mind…

    one thing you missed – my confession – I can’t change who you are, I can make you fitter, faster and stronger but at the end of the day I am only a tool a member can use to achieve their own goals… nothing makes me sadder than hearing a client put down their body because they are a bigger build or smaller build. Embrace and improve.
    Great read – I’m right there with ya

  2. richard jones

    September 25, 2014 at 9:39 am

    Great read,Keep up the great work you do.

  3. Brian

    September 25, 2014 at 3:37 pm

    Fucking right man. 100% with you on ALL of these!

  4. Chris from CrossFit 619

    September 25, 2014 at 4:56 pm

    Great Article!!!! Getting Dumped is the worst way to start or finish a day : )

  5. Uwem from Ground Zero CrossFit

    September 25, 2014 at 6:28 pm

    Exactly.

  6. Mitch

    September 26, 2014 at 1:38 am

    Hey this is a GREAT article. Thanks for sharing such deep and personal and true stuff. I’m not an owner just a member (of a box in New England). But i get it. Appreciate the passion and emotions and all of it. Love CrossFit. This spirit is everywhere.

  7. Phil Sarris

    September 30, 2014 at 12:09 am

    Charlie,

    Owning a box is everything you described and then some. We are always finding out something new every day as well.We have been fortunate only losing a few members to local boxes. For the most part people leave due to realizing how much work CF is, relocation or burn out. I think that’s the nature of the fitness business. It would be great to be able to retain every one who signs up and when you lose a loyal member it stings. But we are still here continuing to build a strong vibrant community.

    Keep rolling along with great coaching and service and the organic growth will follow.

  8. Matt Noonan

    October 2, 2014 at 5:44 am

    Couldnt Agree with every single sentiment on here! Great read and one I needed after the week just gone. Thanks Charlie!

  9. Tabitha Denny

    October 3, 2014 at 3:38 am

    Thanks Charlie for making a fellow box owner know that I am not alone. The other thing that you left out is the aggravation of other gym’s using CrossFit’s methodology whether in whole or in part and not willing to pay for it. Right is right, period.