The Consumer to Owner Scenario

consumer to owner

With literally no official supporting facts to back this statement up – except for the hundreds, if not thousands, of Affiliate owners I’ve interacted with – I believe the following to be true:

“The vast majority of Affiliate owners began this journey as a customer and consumer of CrossFit and then transcended the line into ownership by opening up a gym.”

If you’re one of those individuals, then this article is for you. There are some serious advantages and disadvantages that stem from this path, and I’d like to share my thoughts with you regarding each:

The Good News: You Used to be a Consumer at Another CrossFit Gym

Everyone learns from his or her experiences, especially as consumers. We learn our own value paradigm, what “service” means to us, why we align ourselves with certain brands and companies over others, etc.

Most of this goes on hundreds of times a day to the average person, unconsciously being downloaded into our mainframe of purchasing decisions and behavior. Every gas station, coffee house and product at the grocery store we consume tells us about ourselves as customers.

This, my friends, is a huge advantage when you decide to harness that experience and create a service offering around it. It’s at the moment you undergo your entrepreneurial seizure and decide you can offer a fitness service better than what’s available in the current market that you need to reference your consumer brain for ideas — how to market, where to set up shop, how to sell, what products and services to offer, what will the client experience feel like, and how will the consumer identify with your brand.

By originally possessing the consumer lens, it allows you to think with your consumer brain.

  • Think back to what you loved and hated about your CrossFit experience as a member. Before you knew what an AMRAP was or how to deadlift.
  • Recall your first five days at your first gym: What details about their facility really grabbed your attention? What aspects of the coaching and instruction made you feel less like a newbie and more of a student in a learning environment?
  • Can you recall that instance when you went from feeling “unsure” about this CrossFit thing to “Holy shit… this is it! I’ve finally found what I’ve been missing!”

Re-harness these emotions and thought processes to use them to help direct your business. I assure you, your CrossFit experience is very typical and there are hundreds of individuals within your market looking for that same “ah-ha” moment you experienced.

In the same token, if your first experience as a member was a poor one and that’s what sent you down the path of opening your own business, embrace it, remember it and learn from it. As the microgram market continues to expand, the quality of facilities is going to average out. Be above average by remembering the bitter taste your initial experience left you with and make it your mission to ensure it never surfaces within the walls of your gym.

The Bad News: You Used to be a Consumer at Another Gym

The customer-based experience you had probably lends itself well to the following hypothesis: “You don’t possess a thorough academic or business background in health & fitness.”

Coming from someone who has hosted many L1 and L2 certifications for CrossFit HQ, I feel I can speak accurately when I make that statement. The majority of L1 cert holders know that weekend experience as their first formal education in the world of fitness. They have all the knowledge of a consumer who wants to offer a better product, but not fluent enough in the academia side and certainly not experienced in coaching large cohorts. Not to mention, owning a business is probably something they have never experienced before.

In my opinion, this is the genesis that sets most Affiliate owners up for failure in their entrepreneurial efforts.

If your storyline runs something like this,

“I was a member at CrossFit ABC for two years, but hated the way the owner did business. So I decided to take my L1 and started the Affiliation process. A year later we opened our doors as a brand new small business in the marketplace.”

Then it may also continue like this,

“So we’re a little over a year into business and our growth has been stagnant at best. I’m coaching five classes per day in addition to all of the other business aspects and cleaning the gym every night myself. We are barely profitable and the pressure is starting to build. Am I ever going to make this business a viable means of livelihood?”

And the reason that scenario has played out so often is because you missed a step. You went from consumer to business owner immediately. Or perhaps you spent some time coaching part time for a gym to master your craft. But how much time did you spend preparing yourself for owning a business?

The same journey I think gives an owner the strategic advantage of creating his service offering through the lens of a consumer can also bite him/her when it comes down to being able to run a business. Any chink in the armor in terms of basic fitness academia, lack of experience working with large groups of people or immaturity as it relates to building a profitable business can potentially lead to your downfall.

So if this scenario has resonated with you, I advise you to do the following:

  1. Let your previous role as a consumer guide your decisions when it comes to tailoring your service offering. Take off the P&L hat and think about your product from the lens that you first encountered it. This can act as your Northstar when you’re trying to figure out if you should offer contracts or go month-to-month, should you allow open gym or at what price to set your rates.
  2. If you lack the experience and basic knowledge of a fitness professional, do not pose as one. Hire fitness professionals and Coaches who know more than you and employ them to offer the highest service in your market. Do not try and “fake it till you make it” because you think teaching the air squat is elementary. This is by far the fastest way to fail in a growing marketplace with more skilled professionals.
  3. When the first two are dialed in, but knowing how to market, develop staff members, manage budgets and project a plan that will keep your business profitable is your Achilles heel — hire a business mentor or partner with someone who can run that side of the business. This is an area you do not want to try and “wing it.” Being analytical and business savvy can be taught, but in my experience it’s natural. You either have the DNA to be a great business owner or you don’t. If you don’t, find the missing yin to your yang and complete this puzzle so you can get back to doing what you wanted to from the beginning — changing lives, enjoying your work and living a happy life.

Stuart Brauer
Stuart Brauer is a 15-year student of strength and conditioning, and he was fortunate to find CrossFit in 2006. Since then he's dedicated his life to building a fitness business simply based on the pursuit of excellence. From humble beginnings making three figures and running park workouts to owning a million dollar gym, he's now ventured into business consulting for gym owners looking to chase their dream. You can find his content on Facebook and Instagram @wtfgymtalk.