1. Get your CrossFit Level 1 Certificate-
This is an obvious first step and one that is required by CrossFit HQ. Many of you considering opening an affiliate have probably already taken the course, but those who haven’t should look for a course in your area. CrossFit HQ tends to list the courses about two months in advance, so if you don’t see one close by, re-visit the site over the next couple of weeks. New ones are constantly being added to the list.
As an aside, I have to mention that the CrossFit Level 1 is just a starter course. It’s a two day event where much of the time is spent learning CrossFit’s definition of fitness, its concept for programming, and the nine fundamental movements. You’ll touch upon their nutritional philosophy as well. Be prepared to do two workouts, and to spend a few hours reviewing form for each of the nine movements. By the time you are done with the course, you’ll hate the PVC pipe!
You will by no means be a fitness expert at the end of the weekend, but it is helpful to understand CrossFit’s core values and to get your feet wet. To be a good coach, you need to do just that- coach. The skills you need are ones that are acquired over time with practice. Luckily for you, most of your classes will be small when you start an affiliate, and it is easier to develop as a coach in a small, intimate environment than in a class where you have to manage many people.
I can’t stress enough how vital it is to continue your professional development as a coach. CrossFit is so multi-dimensional that it’s unlikely that you are extremely proficient at every skill. When I began coaching, the snatch and the clean were my weakest movements as they were the most technically demanding. It was necessary that I improve in order to be a better coach for my clients. To do so, I attended the USA-W Level 1 which I highly, highly recommend. At this course, I met Olympic lifting coach Michael McKenna who now programs for and coaches me specifically on the Olympic movements. In turn, my newfound proficiency in these has given me a niche in the fitness community that attracts clients. Thus, like an athlete would, identify your weaknesses and attack them until they become your strengths. It will better you as a coach and make your gym more attractive to potential clients.
Therefore, start by getting your Level 1, but don’t stop there. Find other courses and mentors who will further your development as a coach.
2. Hire an attorney, apply to be an affiliate, and insure your business-
While you don’t need to hire an an attorney to become a CrossFit affiliate, you will need to draw up an agreement between yourself and any business partners you may have. Even if your business partner is your closest friend, it’s important to have a clear, definitive agreement regarding the business and the role/responsibilities of each parter. Also, you’ll need to register your business for state tax purposes, and it’s much easier for an attorney navigate these waters than it will be for you.
With the tremendous amount of work that goes into getting an affiliate up and running, it’s not worth your time to try to make sense of legal matters. Hire an attorney and ask for a payment plan. Use them to draft a business agreement, to register your business as a limited liability corporation (which protects you from being personally liable for business losses or if someone were to sue the business), and to review the lease agreement when you find a suitable space.
In conjunction with the work your attorney will be doing to set up the business, you’ll need to do a lot on your end to affiliate with CrossFit. Headquarters requires you to hold the level 1 certificate, which you’ll have already taken care of, to list one person as the affiliate owner, and to write an essay describing your passion for CrossFit and reason for wanting to affiliate. You’ll also need to create a website that links to crossfit.com before you are officially affilated. (We’ll explain how to set up your website in part two.)
In addition to these things, you’ll pay a yearly affiliation fee of $3,000 to CrossFit and provide proof of insurance. The business should be registered with the state and affiliated with headquarters before you can insure it. The insurance we used to protect our business was Nexo Insurance Services which is popular among many affiliate owners. The price will depend on the size of your place, how many members you have, and what you are insuring (i.e. will you have a kids class or is this just for adults?, etc.). Our policy ran us about $1,500 per year.
We also joined the CrossFit Risk Retention Group, otherwise known as RRG. This is an important way to support the community and to protect your own business. It’s an insurance company owned by those who join the group and eventually, it will pay dividends back to policy holders. This is an important policy to have because it will cover things that may occur at a CrossFit box, but that a traditional insurance may not cover. The fee to affiliate with the RRG is $1,000 annually.
3. Find a location-
Finding the right location for a CrossFit gym is paramount and your choice in location can make or break your business before it’s even opened, though you won’t realize it for some time. We know many box owners who were eager to open their gyms and signed leases that did not work in their favor. They still have their boxes, but much of their income goes to paying unreasonably high rent and to fixing the building. Luckily, you’ll have hired an attorney who will ensure that you sign a lease that is fair to both parties.
Even still, you can’t rely solely on your attorney. They aren’t in the business of owning a CrossFit gym, and they do not know the profit margins of a box. You need to have a rough estimate of what you can afford. In general, warehouse space is much cheaper than retail space and it’s also a better layout for a CrossFit box. However, many affiliate owners make the mistake of getting TOO much warehouse space. You will be renting per square foot, and while it would be great to have a giant CrossFit box, you’ll likely strap yourself will unnecessary bills. Generally speaking, it’s best to find a space that could fit a class of 15-20 safely without tons of excess room. If, one day, your box grows to need more room, you can always find more space or add class times. Until then, keep costs low.
While looking for a space, consider not only the space itself, but whether there will be a cost to build out. We were able to avoid doing a build out because we found a space that already had two bathrooms. We were able to paint and lay the flooring ourselves, and there was already heating and insulation for the winter. Though the idea of building out a space to create the CrossFit gym of your dreams is tempting, it’s best to start with the necessities and add on once you are generating income. For example, we didn’t hire a sign making company to draw the logo on our walls until we’d been open for months and could afford that luxury.
Finally, be wary of the triple next lease (NNN lease). This lease means that all additional taxes and maintenance costs that would typically be covered by the landlord are passed through to each tenant. In other words, you’ll be responsible for fixing the roof if it were to cave in or for paying for snow to be shoveled during the winter. The unforeseen costs of a net lease can be tremendous. Instead, find a building that offers a modified gross lease, which is one where the landlord pays for many of the additional costs that may occur.
Keep calm during the process. Finding a space is difficult, but once you find one that is cost effective, you’ll thank yourself in the years to come.
Stay tuned for part 2!