This month in Hub we are focused on Branding and the Client Experience. But, before you start focusing on your overall brand and client experience, you have to make sure that you have a plan in place for your business. This week’s blog post is written by one of our incredible 321Go Business Coaches, Jamie Gallagher, who is also the founder and owner of Origin Fitness in Burke, VA.

From Jamie…

The CrossFit gym and micro gym market has provided fitness entrepreneurs a great platform to help people improve their fitness. In fact, we could argue that we do more to help people with their health and wellness than all other fitness professionals combined.

However, I’m not going to talk about the glory of helping others.

I want to talk about the mandate that we must help ourselves first in order to help others better.

I have talked with hundreds of gym owners over the last couple of years.  I have noticed trends in high achieving gyms.  I have also noticed trends in low achieving gyms.  I want to focus on the trends of the low achieving gyms in this blog post because I want to use it as a guide and a check to see if your gym is going down the dead end road.  These trends are not unrecoverable or means this will happen to your gym, but it probably will, eventually.


The trends I see in struggling gyms is a lack of a plan, structure, and execution of their business processes.

Any well run company has a plan and structure to it.  High achieving companies have a logical and well thought out structure on client engagement and retention, an organized marketing strategy and campaigns to support this strategy, and a pipeline for employee development and upward mobility.

High achieving does not mean you have to spend a ton of money.  In fact, just thinking through each piece will actually save you money in the long run.


Writing down your plan and executing on it is what separates going out of business from a business that thrives.  Too many owners fail to execute for one reason or another.

Stop reading Facebook and execute your plan!

Who cares what another gym owner thinks about it.  They have absolutely no clue about your business.

Focus on your four walls and execute!

I like to use McDonald’s as the example. The reason I use McDonald’s is that their product is totally repulsive and their business success is legendary. Any McDonald’s you go to has the same menu, same drive thru, same soda selections, same customer expectation. You know what you are getting every time you walk in. McDonald’s also pays their employees.  They don’t trade Big Macs for work.  McDonald’s has a structure.  It has been tweaked over the years but the basic structure and business processes have remained.  Our workouts may train for the unknown and unknowable but treating your business like this is a recipe for failure.  You will PR going out of business!


Struggling gyms have little to no plan or structure.

They don’t pay their coaches which hurts the consistency and sustainability of a well trained staff.  The owner can never feel safe to go on vacation or take time off because there is fear that unpaid coaches may leave or miss a class for some B.S. reason.  The client experience is hurt by a constant carousel of half-hearted coaches who keep running through their gym and have no connection to the community.  Or you have to fire a coach who was a member and now you are down a coach and a member.  Again, the client suffers.  Paying employees is what every legitimate business does, just like McDonald’s.

They have no on-boarding process.  What does the client life cycle look like?  How are you setting up the relationship building process between your staff and the new client?  Can your coaches describe it and execute it?  If not, your gym is losing out on making money when you are not there. Does McDonald’s lose out making money when the owner or manager is not there?  No, it does not.

Their classes suck because of the lack of structure.  There are gyms who do not formally warm up or prepare their athletes for the work out.  They merely say we will begin the workout in X amount of time.  This is negligence at its highest order.  In my opinion, gyms that do this need to resign their affiliation today.  They are part of the problem that gives CrossFit a bad name. This is why they can’t charge a premium for services and are always scared about losing members.  If a gym is not providing high level coaching and touch points throughout the entire class or personal training experience, that gym is doomed.

Their internal and external marketing is all over the place.  Constantly jumping from one gimmick to the next is not a marketing plan. And I’m seeing far too many gym owners doing this. It needs to be laid out over the course of a year with specific goals in mind.  Backwards planning on how you will achieve those goals is where the real magic happens in terms of learning how to connect with your target market.

A word of advice: focus more on the people inside your gym than those you are trying to attract.  Those inside your gym are already bought in. Upsell them on specialty courses, personal training, and other add-ons.  Soon enough your members will have an average client value of two people!  Again executing on your marketing plan is what will separate you from those who don’t.

If you opened your gym solely because you love CrossFit and you want to help people, you are are probably struggling. If you opened your gym to jump on the “CrossFit wave of cash”, you are probably struggling, too.

The gyms who are excelling want to help others AND make money!  They see this as a business, not a hobby.

Owning a gym is too hard to make it a part time thing and be successful.

Having a plan from day one will automatically set you apart from the jokers down the road and make you profitable faster.

Essentially, these owners who make these mistakes are athletes who love coaching exercise and have put zero effort into their business skill set.  This lack of planning will most likely kill their business.


I may have killed a few dreams or upset a couple owners out there.  Good. I have your attention.

Let’s think about fixing your business.  It all starts with, you guessed it, a plan!

Opening a gym should include a business plan that includes everything you will need to be successful on day one. Things like…

  • What are your coaching, marketing, and equipment budgets?  How are you obtaining financing?
  • What is your working capital? Hint: if it is not at least three months of operating expenses, you need to rethink your plan.
  • Who is your competition?
  • What is your strategic advantage (why would people choose your business)?
  • What services do you offer?
  • What are the financial projections after a year (be conservative in your estimation)?
  • Who is your target market?
  • How will you market to them?
  • What is your onboarding process?
  • What does your coaches development plan look like?

These, amongst many  others, are questions a business plan will help you flush out.

You need a thorough business plan before you even open your doors.

For comparison, my business plan was over 100 pages long.  It took me nine months to build and I had a business coach.

Even though my business plan was thorough and well thought out, some of it went out the window almost the day after I opened.  The second month we were open, my members were clamoring for a CrossFit Kids program.  Well, in my business plan, I hadn’t planned on a kids program until at least month six!  What to do?  I pivoted quickly and started the Kids program.  I could do this because my underlying structures were in place. I already had the staff who could run it (so I wouldn’t have to).  I had the money to buy some of the equipment necessary to start a great kids program.  I was only stressed because it was new program, not because of structural deficiencies like man power or finances.

This may sound like a no brainer to some, but to many gym owners this scenario could cause a breakdown of systems or financial hardship.  The pillars of my plan were in place to give me the freedom to make sound business decisions.


Some of you may be thinking, “Well, I’m screwed.”  You might be right.

Lacking a plan and structure is not unrecoverable. But, you must put in the work times two because your business is already operating and you need to fix it as it goes.

My best recommendation is to find a business plan coach. Most counties and cities have some sort of Small Business Development Center with free or discounted help. Look them up and see how they can help you.

The second step is to get yourself a business coach for your gym. Yes, this will cost you money. If your business is worth it to you, it is worth the cost.

We ask our members to pay top dollar for coaching. Are you too cheap or hypocritical to do the same?  This is a mirror test. You must look into the mirror everyday and know you are doing everything you can to make your gym successful.

If you are not, the hard truth is… it might be time to close up shop.


If you want and need help developing your business skills, Hub is an affordable resource and community of gym owners that will give you the tools to grow your gym.