The Blind Leading the Blind

blind leading the blind

I don’t believe in original ideas. Nope, I see the world and everything “new” as a concept that comes out as a better version of a previous idea. Before Facebook there was MySpace, before the iPod there was the Walkman and before CrossFit, strength + conditioning existed, just in separated efforts.

I view the microgym market in the same light. The 30,000th Affiliate is going to do a much better job than the 3,000th Affiliate. Will they being doing anything drastically different? I’m not sure. I don’t think new exercises are going to be created nor do I think the validity of the barbell is going to be replaced, but we will be doing it all much better than we are doing it right now.

However, because I get to work with microgym owners who are currently riding the struggle bus on their journey through entrepreneurship, I can’t help but think back to how we all got to this point.

How we all decided that $150 per month was the going rate for group fitness?

How did we establish classes should have a “strength” component followed up by a “metcon”?

How could we buy into the belief slapping the name “CrossFit” on your front door meant you were almost guaranteed business success?

Because we started off as a grassroots phenomenon. Because we are a decentralized organization. Because we are the blind leading the blind…

But I don’t think it’s a bad thing.

This movement was founded on a belief in fitness. That belief was given for free to the masses and all of us had the opportunity to run with it however we saw fit, allowing the cream to rise to the top. However, that initial cream was the model of business we all copied. Those first hundred or one thousand Affiliates paved the way for us all – not only with their courageous efforts, but their poor business practices. But I don’t say poor in a negative fashion – what the hell did they know? This was new territory (kinda) and the first five years of Affiliates were experimenting with what would become the business equation most of us follow today.

As CrossFit Affiliates, we are a decentralized business. There is no head of the snake telling us how to do it. There’s no HQ giving us a playbook. We’re not a franchise model. For more on this, read The Starfish and The Spider. Up until recently, there have been very few business resources out there for Affiliate owners. OG’s will remember the names of Nikki Violetti and Jon Gilson, but in the beginning our best business resource was the old school message boards. That was the online think tank in which most of your current gym’s policies, operations and strategies came from – whether you know it or not.

These days it seems like everyone has an opinion on how you should run your gym. Hell, guys like Chris Cooper and myself have made a living on it. But even now, the Affiliate scene is still plagued by previous methods we all cooked up when we didn’t know any better and before we had entered puberty in the microgym industry.

Why do you think the average prospect thinks we are all part of a franchise? Maybe it’s because we all share a common denominator in brand (CrossFit), we all offer very similar monthly membership prices and the majority of us still use special lingo like “WOD,” “AMRAP” and “DNF.”

Don’t you see how we all look like incestural cousins?

But again, I don’t think it’s a bad thing.

This is where myself and other gym owners who recognize the recurring trends are going to win. This is where the line in the sand gets drawn for the true entrepreneurs and those who are just following the status quo. This is where microgyms who want to win realize they have to start acting/behaving/selling/storytelling DIFFERENTLY.

Maybe instead of offering monthly memberships at a flat rate, you start charging per class? Have you ever taken your per class revenue per client? It’s probably pathetic and barely would buy you a pumpkin spice latte this fall.

Perhaps you start investing time and energy into tech and learn from other models like Orangetheory Fitness and MYZONE?

Or maybe you consider brand perception as something that’s important and decide to get creative and actually build your company on your own reputation?

But if differentiation isn’t for you, that’s OK. Don’t make sudden movements and keep your hand on the gym in front of you because you’re just the blind leading the blind.

Stuart Brauer is a 15-year student of strength and conditioning, and he was fortunate to find CrossFit in 2006. Since then he's dedicated his life to building a fitness business simply based on the pursuit of excellence. From humble beginnings making three figures and running park workouts to owning a million dollar gym, he's now ventured into business consulting for gym owners looking to chase their dream. You can find his content on Facebook and Instagram @wtfgymtalk.