3 Training Products that Help Retain Staff and Clients

When you own a CrossFit Affiliate, retention is the name of the game.

Unlike big franchises with huge advertising budgets, most of us rely on retaining 95% or more of our membership each month to grow or even just to maintain membership. As important as client retention is, Coach retention is even more important. Good professional CrossFit Coaches are more challenging to find than clients. When we find a good one, we should try to hold to them. 

Broken down even further, you can look at CrossFit gyms as microcosms of each individual class time. Each class is made up of a Coach and clients that consistently attend that time. When a Coach leaves, there is an unavoidable client turnover and rebuild that will typically need to take place. As gym owners we want to minimize these cycles and provide services that keep clients and staff around for a long time.

1. Mandatory Private Intro Sessions

In 2019, we decided to take the leap and scrap our old three-class Elements course in favor of four personal training sessions and a month of mentoring with a Coach. Our old system was convenient for the business and free to clients looking to “try the gym out” but created some issues as time went on. 

Early in the business, clients were integrated from Elements into our small group classes with me typically coaching both. The transition from the intro classes into small group was pretty seamless because I coached them in Elements or watched them be coached in Elements and then had them in class the next day. It was easy to meet them right where they were at in class.    

 As the business continued to grow, class size, class schedule and coaching staff all increased exponentially. Clients were now coming out of the fixed Elements course into classes with Coaches that hadn’t previously worked with them. Some of these clients would get overwhelmed early on and cancel their memberships in that first month. 

After mulling it over for close to a year and at the advice of my business coach Stuart Brauer, we eliminated the old system in favor of a mandatory four private session offer and month of mentoring for all new clients without previous CrossFit experience at a cost of $280. I was nervous the start-up cost and barrier to getting straight into classes would kill our new start-ups. It actually did the opposite and we saw a slight uptick of new members. It turned out a lot of people were nervous to jump straight into classes and this was a much less intimidating way to start. 

Once a client has finished their four private sessions, Coaches then follow-up with them for a month. They send them the programming in advance and scale their workouts before they set foot in the gym. Client retention after the first month soared. It also vetted clients who were looking for a quick fix or just wanted to “try a class” with no intention on joining. 

This product also serves our Coaches, adding another revenue stream to their base salary. Each coach gets paid $170 of the $280 Elements cost. If a Coach trains just one Elements client a week, it adds an additional $680 of monthly income to their salary and another $8,000-plus per year. Coaches can sometimes have up to three Elements clients at one time which can make a huge impact on their salary. 

A secondary benefit for the Coaches is the one-on-one training experience they get. Often times, CrossFit Coaches only lead group training sessions. They lean on the programming, music and group atmosphere, and might just be facilitating a class and not really do much actual coaching. This regular practice of one-on-one coaching develops our staff into better all-around trainers. 

2. Personal Training

Personal training had always been a “soft” offering of the gym, but until 2018 it wasn’t something we pushed or even featured on our website. Demand slowly dictated that we create products around the service. We now sell personal training as 30-minute “skill sessions” and 60-minute training sessions. 

The skill sessions help clients dial in the more challenging skills we frequently encounter in CrossFit — like muscle-ups, Olympic weightlifting, etc. These “skill sessions” involve progressions, video analysis of the movement, as well as homework to work on between sessions. The 60-minute training sessions include a skill session and a workout to apply the skills learned. Priced at $70 per 60-minute session and $40 per 30-minute session, the Coaches are paid a 70/30 split. It’s not a particularly large revenue source for the gym, but is extremely beneficial for both the client and the Coach. Coaches are again able to supplement their income and clients are fast tracked toward their goals.

Clients can also book sessions for simple custom 30 and 60-minute workouts; this makes up about half of the training we do at the gym. All of our six full-time Coaches have at least one regular personal training client and most have several. 

3. Individual Design

Individually designed programs have been around the CrossFit community for a while, but typically only serious competitors with the goal of competing had a Coach designing them workouts. Over the past couple years, the demand of general population clients interested in individual designed programs has steadily increased. As a gym, we now offer individual design to clients seeking that level of service. Each Coach has a specialty and we can direct clients to Coaches who best serve them. 

Currently this service isn’t being maximized at our gym by all trainers, but it’s gaining more and more traction. Individual design offers Coaches a big opportunity increase pay without having to physically spend time on the floor. It allows clients to get exactly what they are looking for out of training and a concierge Coach crafting every detail of their plan and working closely with them.

What does this look like in action?

At our gym, a Coach with a schedule of 15 classes will have a starting base salary of $2,000 a month plus benefits. If they start one new client on Elements each week, they add an additional $680 per month to their salary. In addition to their Elements clients, they carry four hours of personal training a week — $70 x .7 (the Coach’s cut percentage) = $49 x 4 = $196 x 4 = $784 per month. If in the evening one of the regulars wants to train for a competition and requests an individual design for the next three months, that would equate to $125 x .7 = $87.50. 

So, let’s do the math: $2,000 (starting base) + $680 + $784 + $87.50 = $3,551.50 per month, or $42,618.00 per year, which is a pretty standard annual salary for a new Coach. We have Coaches working this system who are making as much as much as $80,000 a year. 

Adding these products to your current offering can help turn part-time Coaches into full-time employees and help your clients take their fitness to new levels. 

Want to learn more about CrossFit Grandview’s operations? Check out this Box Talk episode with Brandon Couden.

Brandon Couden is a CrossFit Level 3 Certified Coach and a graduate of Ohio University with a B.S. in Physical Education. During college he developed a passion for strength and conditioning through competing in the sport of boxing. In 2007 following graduation, Brandon discovered CrossFit and never looked back. He took over the Rogue Affiliate in 2009 and rebranded it as CrossFit Grandview in 2012. Brandon participated as an athlete and coached Regional and CrossFit Games teams every year from 2010 to 2016. Since then he has turned his focus to the Coaches development and the business side of running an Affiliate. As an Affiliate owner Brandon has grown his business from 14 members from his first month in business to maintaining over 500 month in and month out for the past several years. He relies heavily on a philosophy of putting Coaches and staff first, and creating community through consistent challenges and quarterly social gatherings.