In one of his first jobs working in his parents’ bakery, Zach Forrest was fired several times.
His father, Greg Forrest, explained it was because one, he liked to eat the cookies and two, because he had a whole lot of personality. But it was in the bakery Zach learned the spirit of entrepreneurship from his parents.
“I think the influence that he’s had [from his mom and I] is just seeing what it takes to operate a small business and how many hours and how all-consuming it can be at times. And it’s been sort of the norm for him. He has never been one to have a 40-hour work week. He has always seen how it’s a 24/7 deal when you own your own business,” said Greg. “You’re always thinking and you’re always trying to improve and work on it. It’s a craft.”
That craft for Zach has transformed, taking on the name of CrossFit Max Effort in Las Vegas, Nevada. But like any craft, it took time and effort to shape.
Zach explained while in SEAL training, some of his instructors were “old-school” CrossFitters like John Brown and Dave Castro. As such, they soon slipped CrossFit into the SEAL physical training, which is where Zach first tried out the fitness regimen. The class had been doing it for six months when Castro asked for volunteers to go to a CrossFit training course. “He gave us one of those looks like, ‘Hey, if I don’t get 30 people to sign up for this thing, you’re all going to suffer,’” said Zach. “We were being volun-told we were taking this course.”
Leaving that weekend enthralled with CrossFit, Zach eventually developed a knack for training people. He opened CrossFit Las Vegas with a partner in 2008, and then opened CrossFit 702 in 2010 with another partner. The stress of juggling two business partnerships eventually led to Zach leaving both and opening CrossFit Max Effort in 2011. He added a second location in 2015.
But like the bakery, Zach didn’t spend time in his partnerships without learning a lesson or two. “If you guys don’t have the same goal for the company, or the same understanding of those things, then good communication is going to only take you so far,” he explained. “Good communication and a good working relationship is important, but if both of you don’t have the same vision or the same measures of success, it’s going to be a rough ride.”
At Max Effort, Zach’s goals and focus are now honed in, and he makes sure everyone in the Box is geared for the same mission: to offer the best customer experience with a priority on coaching. While this looks different in many Boxes, Zach explained for him it starts with his staff, although it wasn’t always that way.
“My focus has shifted directly from the people who are paying the business to the people who are running the business,” he explained. “I realized I was not going to be able to continue to grow the company by myself. That changed the moment I realized that the team is more important than the actual product or service being delivered, because in actuality that’s exactly the service and product that’s being delivered, is the team that you bring on to run the gym.”
One of those staff members is Rudy Postigo, the community coordinator for the Box. He began training with Zach at CrossFit Las Vegas in 2008, but then moved to San Diego a year later. In 2012, Postigo moved back and walked into CrossFit Max Effort. “Immediately after three years he recognized me,” said Postigo. “If he didn’t recognize me, I probably would have been like, ‘OK, maybe [CrossFit Max Effort is] not a good choice.’ He gave me a big smile and a hug.”
Leslie Haycock, a member of the Box, reiterated how Max Effort gets personal with members. She explained the gym’s community has helped her through tough moments, including a divorce and shoulder surgery. “I don’t feel like I would have a personal relationship with a lot of Coaches that I’ve met from around town, and I just feel like Zach is interested in seeing me succeed,” she said. “He wants people to be successful at whatever it is they want to do there.”
Postigo explained relationships between the Coaches and members is something Zach is stringent on. Coaches will spend time in order to create a relationship with each and every member, and this all correlates back to the membership experience. “One of the things we try to make sure is when people walk into a CrossFit gym, their expectations are it’s just a Box. We’re coming in to do a workout. But our goal is to create an experience that surpasses the expectations,” said Postigo. “Meaning you come in and are greeted with a smile, you get given a tour of the facility, we give you highlights of the gym, introduce you to the Coaches. This is what we’re doing today. It’s very systemized.”
Systems is another popular word at Max Effort, especially when it comes to drop-ins. Zach said due to their proximity to the Las Vegas Strip, they will get 15 to 22 drop-ins per day, 120-plus per week. In order to keep things running smoothly and to keep the amount of drop-ins from negatively influencing members, Max Effort has had to develop systems — from an inquiry system and how to answer the phone to an online pre-registering process and checking in visitors. Plus, Zach said his Coaches have become adept at scaling on the fly because he doesn’t like turning people away from dropping-in, even if they’ve never done CrossFit.
Ultimately, systems have allowed him to do the above without taking away from the overall membership experience. Zach said he instead wants his members to embrace visitors, which they have, and that’s because of automation. “The more that we can automate – retention emails, the check-in process, anything like that – is going to save time for the Coaches on the floor for the movement and actually making the business grow, rather than just sustaining the business. Automation is a huge thing,” he said.
The large amount of visitors has also shed positive light on the Box in the members’ eyes. Greg said Max Effort’s community sees visitors lacking in skill and movement, and thus are appreciative of the coaching they are provided at the Las Vegas Box. “Zach is very specific about people moving correctly before intensity,” said Greg.
Because at Max Effort, it’s always about the basics. “Nothing about us is truly unique or innovative as a business, in my opinion,” said Zach. “We just do the basics really, really well. Our focus is, without a doubt, to offer the best customer experience with a priority on coaching.”
That all goes back to the fact his team is the most important thing Max Effort has. Since his perspective shift, Zach has revamped his trainer compensation to a company performance based system. All of his staff are now paid based off of metrics that are determined by asking a series of questions. “What are these people responsible for in the business? What does this person have direct impact [on]? How does this person contribute to the bottom line?” he explained. “Then I would look at what area of the business in that sense is measurable.”
For example, the community coordinator impacts retention, so their pay will be gaged by the ebb and flow of retention. Since this implementation, Zach said he’s seen people come to work with a different mindset, realizing their time at Max Effort matters and impacts more than just their own person. “It’s very much a team environment now, and that’s what the goal was,” he said.
Ultimately, it’s the staff Zach gave credit to for Max Effort’s success. Because for Zach, having a powerful team is what really matters when it comes to continually honing and shaping his craft of entrepreneurship at Max Effort. “The single thing that will make or break any gym, in my opinion, is the team you develop,” he said. “Hire people that will strengthen your team. Don’t hire strong individuals. Hire strong teammates.”