Beyond the Garage
...continued personal training sessions before joining classes. Some affiliates do this sort of thing and some don't. During these sessions we cover nine fundamental movements in CrossFit (air squat, front squat, overhead squat, deadlift, sumo deadlift high pull, clean, shoulder press, push press, push jerk). We also go over using the gluteham developer, kettlebell swings, thrusters, use of the AbMat, and maybe a couple other odds and ends. These sessions have been crucial! I can't imagine having a client join a class without receiving this training first. We have found it indispensable.
Our advertising budget remained true to CrossFit principles. It was zero dollars. We had our website; we put links to it on our MySpace pages; we put up a personal training post on Craigslist. com. That was it. We waited. Then one day, less than one week after affiliating, we got an e-mail from some people interested in what we were offering. After a few e-mails and a phone call, they scheduled their first fundamentals class. Our first clients! We were excited and nervous. How would they be? What would they think of working out in our garage? Would they really pay us? How the heck should we run the first fundamentals session?
So, one evening these two people pulled into our driveway. Their names were Penny and Chris. All of us gathered in our kitchen and we just talked for probably thirty minutes. We spoke about CrossFit in general, why it works, how long we have been doing it, what they could expect, etc. In retrospect, I realize now that we were in the kitchen for so long before we started the session because we felt like we had to validate ourselves. I still thought of my garage as just my garage, not as CrossFit Virginia Beach. It can be tough to make that distinction initially. However, we finally got out into the "gym" and knocked out the training. It went great. Everyone learned a lot and we laughed a bunch. Before they left they scheduled their other two fundamentals sessions. The second one took place with no problems. Before the third, Thomi and I started to worry; were certain that they would leave and never return. I would have bet money on it. We still could not believe that someone was going to pay to work out in our garage, especially after the mild beatings they had received from us for workouts. Much to our surprise and delight, they said they wanted to sign up for the three-classes-a-week package. Our first clients!
At this time both Thomi and I had full-time jobs. The nice thing about opening up in our garage was that there was almost no risk involved. If the business grew, then great. If it failed, then no big deal, we were only in our garage. We had two classes in the mornings and two in the evenings on our schedule. Sometimes both of us could be there; sometimes it was just one of us. We went several weeks before getting another client, but eventually we did. Then we got a fourth. Now we were in a situation.
In our garage, two people could train comfortably, but three was tight. Four took serious planning. So if all four of our clients wanted to work out at the same class time, we were in a bad spot. Also, if we gained one more client, we might have to tell someone that they could not attend a class due to limited space. Obviously we did not want to tell a client they could not come to a class. We needed more room.
Thomi and I originally thought we would outgrow our garage in six months to a year. One month after affiliating, though, we saw the writing on the wall and began the search for a box. I didn't think it would be any trouble at all to find a suitable space to move CFVB into. I am a real estate developer by trade and have to deal with this kind of stuff all the time. Let's just say I underestimated how challenging it would be.
We wanted 1,500 to 4,000 square feet for our gym. I did not want to go too small and then have to move again in six months. We wanted high ceilings, at least fifteen feet, for rope climbs, rings, and wall ball. We wanted low rent and low maintenance. We also wanted a big roll-up door. The roll up door is not necessary; it's just damn cool for some reason.
We had to take a leap of faith and spend some money in order to grow our business, be successful, and deliver to our clients the training environment we felt they deserved.
All these requirements are best found in light industrial buildings such as warehouses. As a general rule, commercial spaces that are retail-oriented are much more expensive to lease or purchase than those that are suitable for industrial applications. We never even really considered moving into a retail space, as the cost would have been prohibitive. Also, most retail spaces are not going to have the high ceilings and bay doors we wanted. The most desirable floor plan for a CrossFit gym is lots of open floor space—also found most commonly in warehouses.
So we started our search. We spent about 100 hours on commercial websites such as loopnet.com and driving around in our car visually inspecting locations. Nothing is ever perfect, and this held true for our search for a warehouse. Most warehouses are not designed to be occupied by a business where people show up for the services you are offering. That is a nice way of saying that the parking usually sucks in industrial areas. Zoning regulations are different in each city, but it is not uncommon for a warehouse to have one parking space for every 1000 square feet of floor space. You can do the math, but it's not good. There are warehouses out there with good parking situations, but you need to hunt for them.
So we visited warehouse after warehouse. Some had great square footage but low ceilings; some had great square footage but no parking; some had good parking and square footage but were in a ghetto. Nothing is ever perfect. Patience is a virtue. One warehouse in particular kept popping back into our heads. It was