Recently, Slater Coe’s Box, Derby City CrossFit, moved locations in the city of Louisville, Kentucky. Coe shares lessons he learned from the move:
First off, you need to make sure you and your business partners have the same unified vision and are working toward it together. We were blessed we both knew what we wanted and agreed completely. But we could appreciate a situation where there isn’t mutual agreement, and you end up wasting time in a situation where decision-making needs to be snappy, if not automatic.
Along with that clear vision, make sure you’ve fully thought through the details of the move so decisions are executed quickly. Have you considered what type of door handles you want on the bathrooms? Showerhead heights? Do doors swing in or out? Is your electrician wiring some outlets at an elevated height for TVs? What bottlenecks can you eliminate through better organization of your space?
The pre-planning phase is a great time to reconsider everything you think you know about how your business operates and design it better. And the time to communicate those plans with your contractor(s) is yesterday. Changing plans mid-project is going to be a headache for the project crew, and you’ll likely feel it in your construction budget.
Your new landlord may try to be your best friend during the early negotiation phase, but in the end, he/she is interested in the bottom line. Don’t forget that. So if you’re going into a facility with other tenants, talk to them and get an idea of how quickly the facility team makes building repairs, how willing they are to listen to issues, etc.
Additionally, negotiate the build-out with your new lessor. If building from nothing, it may be your lessor’s job just to get the space to an “empty shell,” but you can absolutely negotiate how much work will be done to the space, how much money your lessor sets aside for the process, and any deferred rent to offset moving costs and initial operating costs. You can negotiate everything, from who will get the bathroom fixtures when you move out, to security deposits, to signage, to repairs, to expansion options. You need to be comfortable asking for as much as possible upfront because you might be surprised what you get in return. If your lessor is close to backing out of the deal, then you’ve probably toed the line just perfectly.
If your lessor is handling some of the build-out on their end, ask about their general contractor and sub-contractors. It can’t hurt to know more and to inquire about them ahead of time. If your lessor is hiring questionable construction crews as part of their work agreement, you’re going to get questionable work in return. Just like our workouts, you get out what you put in. So double check the details of any crews that are hired as part of your lessor’s build-out agreement, just as you would for crews you personally contract with for build-out on your end.
Also, don’t nickel and dime with contractors for items that fall under your build-out responsibility. If you have a vision for your completed gym, you’ll need to make sure that you pay for the qualified professionals to reach that dream.
My business partner, Andrew Mittel, spent a good majority of his life “connecting” with people. It’s not something he fakes or even has to work hard at; he just has one of those unique personalities whose character and charisma draw people close. And because of that, he forms connections with some of the most unexpected people sometimes. He used one of those friendships to get our foot in the door at our new location, and even got the team there to agree to additional concessions that might otherwise have been contested.
So, the moral of the story is to lean on your community of friends from your gym. Many people lent equipment and/or their muscles to help us move the entire gym and all of its contents in the span of one weekend. Without those friendships, without our community, we simply could not have moved. We even leaned on friends in the real estate business to get third and fourth opinions on our lease regarding future rent increases and insurance provisions. Don’t be afraid to lean on your connections, friends and community. As gym owners, we feel we can do everything ourselves, but your community is more than willing to chip in their time and effort. They love being here just as much as we do.