Budget decisions are critical for small business owners. Oftentimes an area that doesn’t get money allocated toward it is equipment for specialty programs. Classes like yoga, Strongman, gymnastics or obstacle course preparation can be placed on the backburner in order to purchase equipment needed for the everyday athletes.
Jonathan Jones, the head Coach at CrossFit Torva in Carrollton, Texas, explained equipment is a big consideration for their business when they map out specialty programs. The Box currently boasts Olympic Weightlifting, Running, Strength and Obstacle Course Race Prep programs, outside of the general CrossFit offering.
Not many gyms have the extra cash around to go buy every piece of equipment on their wish list, however. At CrossFit Torva, Jones explained it is important to see each specialty program as a unique revenue stream for the gym, which means spending less money on equipment will yield more in the end. Because of this, the gym uses creativity and connections to figure out equipment dilemmas.
“We need equipment for our Strongman program, so we started asking around in our community and found someone who had atlas stone molds, and they brought those into the gym,” said Jones. “Turns out one of our members owns a company that creates concrete lawn ornaments. He took the molds and got them done for us. Another member of the community has an in with a metal working company, so we are working with him to build our own yoke.”
Sometimes creativity can only take you so far, as Cortney Cunningham, the owner of CrossFit Stimulus in Hampton, Virginia, explained. Faced with the high prices that come from buying name brand at full price, Cunningham said they will browse a few places before choosing to buy brand-new equipment for classes.
“We buy a lot of our equipment on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace,” said Cunningham. “We are always scanning those for good deals. We found our gymnastic mats – which can sometimes run up to a $1,000 – for $150 from a gymnastic studio closing nearby. We have saved searches so anytime barbells or gymnastic mats or things like that come up, we get notified.”
An added benefit of purchasing equipment for specialty programs is using the pieces as a trial run, explained Derrick Elkins, the owner of CrossFit Timber in Clackamas, Oregon. By buying a small quantity of something to use in a specialty program, the Coaches are able to see how the athletes take to the equipment and if it is worth incorporating into the larger classes.
“Being a small business, budget decisions are critical,” said Elkins. “Programming, coaching and equipment are all of the components which have the greatest impact on our members, so they take priority. When we started to diversify the equipment, we actually couldn’t afford to purchase in quantities for our larger classes, so our approach is to start with a small number and test out the usage. And after a few months in our Strongman classes, we can decide whether it makes sense to invest in an expansion of that item to incorporate into our daily WODs.”
As that transition into daily WODs occurs, most equipment from specialty programs can be used in any class, whether for the workout or a warm up. At CrossFit Torva, Jones explained because of their obstacle course race prep program they have a lot of large equipment they store in the gym. Every now and then, the Coaches will let the athletes have a bit more fun and warm up on the training equipment.
“Anytime you get a new toy you want to get people’s hands on it,” said Jones. “A warmup is a great time for that. On days you are going to do Fran, or a shorter class, make the warm up be climbing over the obstacle wall. Or, pull out some of those new things you have and just have fun. It’ll spark interest for that class.”
Cunningham also reiterated the importance of finding dual functions for each piece of equipment you purchase. In her eyes, no equipment should be used for only one thing in the gym.
“Look around and see what unique ways you can use your equipment,” said Cunningham. “The gymnastic mats have dual function because we can use them for our CrossFit kids program. With all the CrossFit gyms out there, you need to be able to set yourself apart — and by being able to offer more you can appeal to every population.”
When it comes to specialty programs at your gym, think outside of the Box. What can you make? What do you already have? What is a necessity?
“Look at what you have inside before you start buying,” said Jones. “You have enough in your gym right now to run a barbell program, a strength program and definitely a running program. Talk to your members and see what they want.”