Any success in your business is worthy of celebrating, but completing a year in business is probably the best feeling. You are able to see all your hard work sustained for 365 days. In Columbia, Missouri, the owner of CrossFit Aggregate, Joe Whitehurse, took some time to chat with Box Pro and look back on his year in the industry, including lessons learned and peak moments.
BP: Why did you decide to open CrossFit Aggregate?
JW: I was a public accountant and was traveling a lot to Chicago and Texas, working 100-hour weeks. I kept thinking happiness was on the other side of success. Eventually, it took a toll on my body. I had two seizures, MRSA, shingles; I was hospitalized for dehydration and I was declined life insurance, all in a year. I passively started working on a business plan to give myself that carrot to work toward. I also rededicated myself to fitness. It started to snowball and began to take more and more of my attention. At the end of the day, I got fired because of that.
Seven days after getting fired I signed a lease for CrossFit Aggregate and secured the loan another 45 days out. My timeline definitely got ramped up, but it clearly was the best thing that could have happened. To make my dream a reality has been pretty awesome.
BP: What have been some peak moments from your year in business?
JW: The first client was definitely a shining moment. It happened to be a guy driving by who saw our sign. He thought it was destiny and I thought it was a warm, fuzzy feeling.
Another time was the first instance one of my clients referred someone. Still to this day, I only have one member I knew personally beforehand, and he joined two months ago. I wasn’t a Coach or an athlete at any gym in this community. I didn’t call on friends to come and populate my gym; it’s been a fruition of doing good work and seeing that word of mouth spread.
BP: Any lessons learned?
JW: The first and most embarrassing thing was my financial modeling assumption given my background in finance. I started with slow growth monthly, but I wrongly assumed that upon opening I was going to have 20 to 25 members within the first 30 to 45 days. Every other Affiliate I talked to who had helped me gauge this number had been a Coach or a member previous to opening their doors, so they had people follow them.
I also assumed when people saw I was the closest gym to them they would switch. Once you have a gym you don’t monitor new gyms popping up; there’s no dinging on your phone to tell you I’m around the block. I also underestimated how much the community means to one another. I knew it, but when I was building my financial model I underestimated it.
I also underestimated myself. Any time a client was deciding between mine and another gym, I took it so personally at first. I felt I needed to scrap everything and go back to a drawing board because I lost this one client. It’s all a work in progress that I am consistently trying to better myself on.
BP: Do you have any advice to offer someone considering opening their first gym?
JW: Talk to everyone you can. All the gym owners in this town had great advice and were so welcoming. People want to help you. It’s great if you want to sit there and say I did this all by myself. Even if you don’t ask anyone, you still didn’t do it all by yourself. That’s just an impossibility. Have that humility to reach out and talk to everybody. People want to see you succeed even if you are their competitor. We all want to work together to get more people into CrossFit.