Over the last few years, I've been lucky enough to gain insight into the business of operating a CrossFit Affiliate. The learning curve has been steep, and the footing loose; but I'm a scrambler. I've been fortunate enough to have good coaches - both in my Box, and with my business - and I've shared their insight here.
Lately, more people opening CrossFit gyms - or opening their eyes to the necessity of solid business practices - have been asking for help, which I'm always happy to provide with my modest background. The elements of writing a business plan has become a hot topic, though, and so I'll consolidate my process - which isn't the typical College 101 method - here. I'll post my 2010 business plan at the end of this post, and a link to Jon Gilson's excellent Affiliate Cash Flow Calculator, from which you can build a spreadsheet powerful enough to see into the future. These are templates; edit them. Reshape them. Put your signature on them, and then live them out.
Step #1: Mission and Vision.
This may sound like guruspeak, but please consider: why ARE you doing this? Let's skip the Anthony Robbins stuff, but you need to form a vision in your head of what your business will look like. Draw pictures, make notes. Get it down.
You believe in CrossFit, yes; you want to spread the word. You want to help people. That's noble. The second your passion becomes your business, though, your responsibilities change.
Step #2: Consider your High-Level Goals.
What do you want - and need - to provide for your family? What must happen to provide a solid place for growth for your clients for the next ten years...and keep you out of prison? What will make you HAPPY? What will keep your WIFE happy? What will your CHILDREN want and need as they grow older?
This is not a lesson in selfishness. A good coach, like the pilot of an airplane, should be happy, well-rested, and feel thoroughly supported. Building a terrific Gym Family and then going bankrupt helps no one.
These are your high-level goals. Read more about them here.
Step #3: Find opportunities.
As the grouping of CrossFit Boxes in your area becomes tighter, the natural progression will be one toward specialization. This is our evolutionary nature, and it's NOT counter to the over-reaching CrossFit philosophy. A triathlete who opens a Box will be a better running coach than a former powerlifter like me, because they have context from which to draw. Clients preferring to use CrossFit to develop more aerobic endurance will find his service more enjoyable. That's a positive thing.
Identifying potential markets, and then matching them to your strengths, will give you a great start. Try this Colour By Numbers chart.
Step #4: NOW write your strategy.
This was my guide to writing your business strategy. We've just developed a new Cash Flow Forecasting tool - and videos to show you how to use it - at 321GoProject. It's comprehensive, but you can just type numbers over the formula in each cell if you'd like to make it simpler.
Step #5: Find Bright Spots
Here's where we diverge from the 'common' path. Most business courses end on #4: you print off your booklet, staple, and walk to the bank. This 'plan,' though, doesn't tell you what to do on day #1.
At Ignite! - our brain training program inside our CrossFit box - we spend a lot of time talking about Bright Spots, 20% Bonuses, and Lowenstein's Gap Theory. THIS is the stuff that will help you take action (and your clients, too, on your SECOND day.)
Step #6: Write Your Policies and Procedures Manual.
What would it take to replace you today? For example, if you were paralyzed tonight, and your family relied on your Box to pay for groceries, could someone step in tomorrow and take over?
One of the most important books you'll read on your road to enlightenment is E-Myth Mastery by Michael Gerber. ('E' means entrepreneurial; most people start a business to buy themselves a job, instead of being a true entrepreneur.) The best sentence in the book: "Start working ON your business, rather than IN your business." This section will take awhile, and that's why I've included our Manual at the end of this post.
Your Manual will be specific to you, of course, though you're welcome to use anything from mine (ours is revisited and modified every six months, as new opportunities and challenges present themselves.) You'll need a checklist for everything, from running a group to sweeping the floor. You'll want a job description for all possible staff. LEAVE NO DOUBT about the way you want your business run.
Step #7: Start Watching Your Cash Flow.
Cash flow is the lifeblood of your business. Surprisingly, it was never discussed in my rudimentary business classes in University. Back then, it was all revenue and expenses; I'm not sure why, but I suppose I expected everyone to pay and get paid on the same day, every month. This is, of course, not the way things work.
A simple story to underscore what it took to help ME understand cash flow.
Step #8: Read. Read. Read. Learn. Practise your business the way you practise your snatch. Revisit all of the above in descending order of frequency (cash flow daily, procedures weekly, high-level goals every year or so.) As soon as you think you're 'good enough,' quit. You're never good enough to stop learning.
At 321GoProject.com, you can download a sample staff handbook, sample contractor agreements, and lots of other cool stuff!
It's almost fun to review our OLD handbook to see how far we've come; now that we use MindBodyOnline, the booking and bookkeeping and scheduling has been simplified. Yes, MBO comes with its OWN handbook, but it's so worthwile it's almost funny to look back at the time before we used the program (some also like Zenplanner, with which I have no experience.)
Our sample business plan, downloadable by clicking here (from 321GoProject.com)
As always, this post is meant to be discussed as our own experience. There are a thousand ways to be successful in business. If your goal is to open a CrossFit Box, make sure you're running a business, and not indulging a hobby. Your members are best served by consistency and professionalism. Do the work.
(Want help? I help Affilliates - new and old - set up their businesses as a Business Consultant. I work one-on-one with you to create systems that match what YOU want from your business...and from your life. Click here for more information.)