2. City, State
3. Name of your affiliate
HERE’S THE TOUR:
4. Describe the first moment when you decided to open your affiliate. Where were you? Who did you tell first? What was their reaction?
I always knew that I wanted to open up a CF gym, but I didn’t want to be like those people you meet at a CF cert who say they’ve never CrossFitted, but are going to open up a CF gym anyway.
Well, after graduating from the University of Florida, with an emphasis on Education, I moved back home and started coaching at a local CF gym. After having to step down from coaching to teach at a local highschool I realized how much I missed CF and the community.
I had a childhood friend who was doing CF with me and believed in me enough to keep pushing me to start a CF gym myself. I was afraid and scared of failing, but I finally realized I had nothing to lose.
I went through the affiliation process and was approved a few weeks later. We took what we had from our garage and found a small 800 sq/ft unit. CF Naples was open for business!
There was no grand opening or anything like that. We were just happy to have a place to train and people who would actually come to be coached by us!
5. Did you start as a hobby or did you plan on running a business from the beginning? Describe how you made the distinction between a hobby and a business.
We definitely started as a hobby. Don’t get me wrong. We were phenomenal coaches and we took great pride in taking somebody who had no experience and making them great CrossFitters. We always focused on having a plan for class and the importance on progressions and modification, but that’s about it.
It wasn’t until December of last year that I realized something had to change. Being a full-time teacher, wrestling coach, and business owner, and running CF classes at night for a year-and-a-half was taking its toll. I sat down with my partner and said “I’m going to finish out my commitment to teaching school this year, but after that I’m done. So, whatever we have to do with our business, let’s make this happen.” That’s when things got real. We turned things from a hobby to a means of survival. Literally.
6. What inspired you to incorporate The BIZ principles into running your affiliate?
We have always known that we were great coaches. Personal training at UF really honed my skills as a trainer. The people I trained along side have graduated and become successful trainers, massage therapists, chiropractors, sport columnists and college professors. My coaching skill set has always been there.
What we lacked was business principles. I knew nothing about what made a business run successfully. I got into CF because I wanted to help people. I didn’t realize you had to understand business to be successful. I thought if you were a good coach people would understand. That was far from the truth.
7. How has The BIZ helped you Raise Your Game?
We have grown over 300% in the last 8 months and have expanded to a 2,500 sq/ft facility. We hired our first employee this month and currently have two coaches in the ITP training program. More than anything, the BIZ has helped us “professionalize” our business in every facet. This includes everything from how we answer phone calls, to answering emails. It also includes the coaching we do ‘on the floor’ AND ‘off the floor.’ In addition, it includes everything from events to challenges, from getting members to keeping members, from our website to our FB fan page. There isn’t one area where The BIZ hasn’t made us better.
8. How is owning an affiliate different than you expected?
Being a great coach means nothing if you have mediocre business practices. You have to be a master of everything. Being an affiliate owner is your life. It’s part of your very being. There is no in between when you first start out. Give it hell and don’t turn back. Everything I’ve ever attempted, I’ve done really well. When I realized that I sucked at running a business (even though I was a badass coach..don’t forget that) I realized that I needed help.
9. What advice do you wish you’d received before you opened your affiliate?
Start with a system! Rules, policy, and procedures are key. Don’t leave a stone unturned. This is everything The BIZ has taught us. We have “professionalized” our services from top to bottom. Everything needs to be well thought out. How do you set up membership rates? How do you treat someone who walks in your gym during class? What type of music do you play? What’s your hold policy? Where will you get shirts printed? When do you create an event? How are you going to set up a class schedule? When do you add more classes? How do you run a challenge? How do you get people to pay for a challenge? How do you get people to do things for their own good? What do you expect from a coach? How do you pay a coach? Do you have an Instructor Training Program set up? These are just a few of the questions we let slip when we opened our doors that The BIZ has since helped us answer.
10. What is the toughest lesson you’ve learned as your affiliate has grown?
“You’re worth more than free or discounted.”
I started CF because I saw the life changing effects in its methods, science and community. I would do CF workouts with my friends at school just because I wanted to be the first to introduce them to CF. It was really hard to transition into a business mindset for a long time. It wasn’t until I got tired of working so hard and not having anything to show for it that things got real.
11. Tell us about your favorite moment running your affiliate to date. Funniest moment?
Being the tough guy that I am, I rarely show emotion. Needless to say the last few months have been a whirlwind. Stepping down from teaching, getting the expansion project complete, running 20 classes/week, getting ready for the Baseline Challenge event…I couldn’t help but be grateful for everything. Needless to say the event went amazing. We had a DJ, a tent with food and mimosas, a professional photographer and a check in table where our athletes signed up and received their score cards and t-shirts. We even barricaded the event so spectators could watch, just like a professional competition. Our members thought they were coming in for a Baseline re-test. Boy did we surprise them!
At the end of the event, I was giving thanks to everyone who helped support us and right at the end I started to tear up. As I stared at all my athletes I was just so proud of them that I started to choke up. After telling my self to “man up” in my head I thanked everyone for making our dream possible! The rest is history.
12. Describe in one word the kind of business owner you are.
13. What other person deserves to share the spotlight with you thanks to their input and value to your business? Why?
My girlfriend, best friend, coach and co-owner Tara Kalajian. She is the brains behind this operation. She’s a lot smarter than I could ever be (don’t tell her that though..she might get even smarter). She is everything that I am not. I’m high energy, she’s steady. I’m impulsive, she’s cautious. I’m great one-on-one, she’s great in crowds. I love meat, she loves vegetables. I love coffee, she loves tea. Without her, our affiliate would have shut down a long time ago. She has seen the very best of me as well as the very worst. She has never quit on me. Because of that, I’m determined to make my dream OUR dream. She makes me want to be better everyday.