Recently, my wife and I spent a (very long) weekend completely reorganizing our Box — moving around all the equipment, reorganizing our merchandise area and tidying up. We felt things needed to be organized more efficiently and we rethought our entire layout. Our weekly cleaning crew came through right as we finished, scrubbing down floors, bathrooms, showers and equipment. The next day when I unlocked the door at 4:30 a.m., I felt as if I walking in a brand new space (instead of one that had taken hard abuse for more than a year). Members noticed the difference immediately and many commented on how great it felt to work out in a clean, organized and friendly space.
In fact, a number of members have commented on our facility, our atmosphere and our professionalism after visiting other Boxes while out of town. The usual remark is “I didn’t realize how spoiled we are.” I am not arrogant enough to think my Box represents the CrossFit Box Gold Standard (although I am goal-oriented enough to aspire to that), but it did make me wonder: What specifically does set us apart? What do members notice the most? What makes them feel at home in our Box? We as Box owners need to know so that we never stop doing the right things (and improve the not-so-right things).
With that in mind, I took an informal survey of my members — especially the ones with experience at other CrossFits around the country. Some of the feedback confirms things I already thought, but other comments have given me fresh perspective.
Where Everybody Knows Your Name
A welcoming, inclusive atmosphere is critical to our success. We consider ourselves to be a friendly, non-intimidating bunch and I insist that my Coaches set the tone in this area. No one, no matter what their level of experience and fitness may be, should feel out of place in our facility. Period. When a new member or drop-in appears for his or her first WOD, the Coach needs to make sure there are introductions all around. In all fairness, I believe my Coaches and athletes would do these things without my asking. My Box has been blessed with a great group of athletes. Members feel at home and want to make sure new arrivals have that same experience. I have to think this translates into our high retention rate. Creating a welcoming atmosphere is just a smart business practice.
A Clean, Well-Lighted Place
A clean and well-organized space is almost as important as a welcoming atmosphere. We are blessed with a large open space and clearly it is appreciated by members and drop-ins alike. It surprised me that this was something mentioned by every single person I surveyed, but my wife (an interior designer) just nodded knowingly. She always says people may not understand why they feel comfortable in a space, they just know that they do. Good layout and flow, well-organized equipment, general cleanliness, and a lack of clutter don’t just give athletes the space they need to work out, they make them feel at home in that space.
My Coaches and I are always working hard to improve our knowledge and coaching. We are a newer Box and we don’t boast any regional-level athletes as some Boxes do. We are not deep on the experience side; but from the beginning, we have focused on the quality and safety of our coaching. We share ideas and knowledge with one another and network with other experienced Box owners and Coaches so that we continue to raise our standards. I’ve learned that good coaching is not about getting a certification and leading WODs. It is about using that first certification as a base on which to build a lifelong learning experience.
I work hard to make sure our programming is balanced enough to be scaled for newer members and still satisfy our top athletes. This is not an easy task and I don’t always get it right, but I have an on-going dialogue with my members and I take their feedback into account. I’ve learned another important lesson – programming needs to offer plenty of variety over the course of the week and BE FUN. I program team or partner WODs at least once a week and our Coaches strive to keep our mood energetic and fun.
Many of my members have mentioned that we make good use of technology. Apparently people actually will judge a Box by its website. We have Spotify and members can add to or create playlists for WODs. We rely heavily on social media (especially Facebook) to communicate with our members and promote our events. Recently, one member gently reminded me that not everyone has a Facebook account. A regular newsletter or e-mail with information about programming, special events and social activities would be far more inclusive.
Since we are a new Box, we have relatively new equipment. We keep it clean and maintained and I update when I need to. New equipment is a huge investment (far more than I anticipated), but it is a quality feature that athletes notice.
One final note – don’t run out of t-shirts. My members get very frustrated when they visit other Boxes and can’t buy a t-shirt. It doesn’t hurt to redesign and offer new styles every so often as well.
Perseverance over the long-term is an important part of owning any business. CrossFit is not a plug-and-play model. As owners, we need to stay on our toes, anticipating the interests and needs of a wide variety of athletes. It’s a tough job sometimes, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.