A Warning to the Eager Gym Owner

Can your Box handle growth?

It’s January! That means payday in the gym biz, right? Everybody is super motivated to get healthy after a full month and a half of serious food abuse and lifestyle imbalance. They are making resolutions to make this the year that they finally stick with a gym routine and get in shape. We should be chomping at the bit to get every one of these “hot leads” through our doors and into our program, right?

Maybe.

My gym is celebrating our third birthday this month and I’ve approached growth in a few different ways over the course of these three years. From blitz marketing campaigns, to super cheap intro offers, even to merging with another gym, we’ve tested the options. To be fair, every single one of these approaches has brought us members who, over time, have become incredibly steady and irreplaceable additions to our community.

However, due to the limited amount of space and equipment we have and a limited number of hours in a day, inevitably when a blitz of new people came in, often times existing members were going out.

The appeal of all those new members and the accompanying increase in revenue is real. Still, the wise gym will consider a few things before opening the floodgates to a rush of new members.

Ask yourself whether you have the infrastructure in place that can handle rapid growth. How do you introduce new members to your program? To your culture? Are your Coaches equipped to handle larger, more diverse classes? Do you have enough Coaches? Enough equipment? Can your programming accommodate a full room? Simply put, does your system and do your processes naturally grow with your community, or are you in danger of bursting by overpopulation?

Beyond simple infrastructure, ask yourself whether your gym has room socially for a sudden influx of new relationships. Like it or not, we are in the relationship business just as much as we are in the fitness business, and this can be a fragile ecosystem to maintain. Will the sudden rush of new faces frustrate and fracture your community? Will the existing members feel bypassed in favor of the new? Will the new people wander around lost for months, having no idea where they fit in and who to ask for help? Are your Coaches prepared to give input and attention to everyone, new and old?

I have a final warning to the eager gym owner. Regardless of your level of preparedness, rock solid infrastructure and systems, never look past your current member in favor of the potential member. Invest your time, attention and money in making sure that your members are happy. Give them more than they pay for. Love them. If you do that, you’ll never lack new people wanting to join your community.

We’ve made our share of crippling mistakes due to chasing more members and trying to stuff more people into our little gym. Growth is good. We all want it. We love what we do and want more people to do it with. I just want you to be prepared for it when it comes. The questions above are a good place to start, and I advise looking at your gym with a very critical eye. Ask your members what they think. Ask your staff.

I want 10-15 new members per month. That’s it. Even in January. That’s what my structure can accommodate with excellence. Those 10-15 people will get our very best and the 250 or so current members will also continue to get our very best. If many more than that come flooding in, it will be a struggle for our staff and systems to continue to offer excellence.

2015 is upon us. And CrossFit is just getting bigger. So, in the spirit of resolutions please join me in resolving to provide our athletes with the absolute best training, in the most supportive environment possible. Give them a value higher than the dollars they’re spending with you. Let’s make 2015 our best year yet!

Charlie Sims
Charlie Sims was the owner of CrossFit Regeneration in Louisville, Kentucky.