Lessons Learned in Box Expansion

Box expansion

Measure four times. Cut once.

It was a lesson Amy Chang, a co-owner of CrossFit Hickory in Hickory, North Carolina, learned when the Box underwent expansion and things didn’t fit as she hoped. “That’s why I say measure like four or five times and know that even after that you’re probably going to have something that is not quite right,” she explained. “It’s OK. It’ll work out for you.”

Part of the life and journey of a CrossFit Box is that of growth and expansion. Whether it’s gaining another 5,000 square feet or simply moving the rig from one end of the gym to the other, things change. And there are a lot of lessons to be learned.

Over at CrossFit Icehouse in Fargo, North Dakota, the Affiliate has expanded every six months for the past two years. The most recent move has been to an 8,000-square-foot space, which Courtney Shoemaker said is their dream facility and hopefully the last move.

One of the key lessons they’ve learned in the latest expansion is to build in cushion on the schedule – as they moved three weeks later than initially scheduled. “Had we had to do it over, we would have built a month of overlap into our leases so we weren’t in limbo land,” said Shoemaker, a co-owner of the Box. “Luckily, we were able to stay in half of our current space, which isn’t ideal, but better than being gym-less in the middle of Fargo winter.”

Bursting at the Seams

Probably one of the most common pieces of advice Affiliates share when it comes to expansion is to only do so when you’re bursting at the seams in your current space. David Osorio, the owner of CrossFit South Brooklyn and founder of Inside the Affiliate blog, shared expansion came because of demand for more space.

“I didn’t want a second location to service a new population, a new geography of people,” he said. “My intent was to make our current program better … I’m really just interested in making what we have as good as possible.”

The gym is currently running in three spaces – a first and second floor in one building, and another 5,000 square feet in a building across the street. Osorio said there has to be flexibility, but certain programs do live in each of the spaces. For example, the upstairs space houses programs like Pilates and the preschool class.

One of the biggest benefits Osorio has found from expanding is being able to offer more programs. While it’s an ever-constant refinement process in making things more efficient, he said it keeps people engaged. “We found that we created stickier members who hang around much longer when they have a lot of options, so there’s so many different ways they can express their fitness,” he said.

The Moving Process

When it comes to the actual process of expanding, Shoemaker noted to be transparent with the move. They have communicated and kept members in the loop about the progress being made.

But before even moving, CrossFit Icehouse held a member appreciation event to announce they were changing locations. “I think that helped keep them engaged in the process from Day One,” said Shoemaker. “We plan to do something similar again after to thank them for their patience.”

Members can be a big help when it comes to physical labor as well, said Chang. But once you get everything into the new space, there will be a lot of trial and error. Chang said while it helps to look at how the day flows logistically, you also need to listen to your Coaches’ ideas, as they are hearing member input daily. “If you engage your trainers and value them from the get-go, then you’re going to have more buy in,” she said.

Sticking to the Budget

When it comes to affording expansion, Osorio explained you have to plan accordingly. He was looking for 2.5 years before he finally found the space across the street, and he saved all that time. Costing about $300,000 — plus $60,000 for new equipment — he said the savings gave him a nice buffer to work with.

Shoemaker also said to be ready financially and to avoid overextending yourself. While expansion can be a huge benefit, don’t go into debt over it. “Make sure you have a business plan and stay on budget, as it can be extremely easy to go over if you aren’t careful,” she said.

Heather is the editor for Box Pro Magazine. Contact her at heather@peakemedia.com.
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