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How to Build a Better Business Plan as a CrossFit Affiliate

Your business plan is your lifeline that guides the money side of your CrossFit affiliate gym, and it deserves your attention.

Sam Karoll
August 15, 2022
TLDR;
Your business plan is your lifeline that guides the money side of your CrossFit affiliate gym, and it deserves your attention.

Having a solid business plan is the foundation of any great venture. You can’t just walk around and stab into the dark while hoping that your business will magically stick. It takes a lot of dedication and hard work before anyone even knows that your idea is live and viable.

So let’s take a look at what goes into a business plan, what you need to account for, and how you can expect the entire process to go. We want you to be as prepared as possible, so let’s start with visualizing your business down the road and how we’re going to get you from point A to point B.

Create a Business Vision

It’s easier said than done. Many people think that a business vision is just painting a mental picture of where you want your business to be, but it’s more than that. You have to turn it into a usable resource.

This is everything you need to know about setting up your business vision in a practical sense so you can utilize it later.

Set the Goals for Your Affiliate

Start by figuring out exactly what you want out of your affiliate gym, and if it’s relevant. Do you want to hit $300K AAR in the first year? How do you want your gym to be recognized or known?

Set both financial and personal goals for your gym. After all, you wouldn’t be doing this without some level of personal involvement. What do you want for the gym? Can you separate that from what people want and what they’re willing to pay for?

Goals may change, but it’s important to establish an abstract view of what you want your gym to achieve right in the beginning.

Define What Success Will Look Like for You

Goals are one thing, but now let’s talk about success. Your success comes from achieving those goals you set out to do, but they can also come from other areas.

If you spend time looking up business articles, you’ll find that a lot of people equate success to the value you bring to shareholders.

But you’re not a public company. You’re a sole proprietor (most likely), so how do you find success that you can measure and be proud of?

Keep your targets on customer satisfaction. You’re not here for VC money or to send the profits to shareholders. You’re here to design a service (fitness product), sell it, and make sure your customers are happy. There’s no better money than happy customer money.

Determine How Outside Businesses Will View Your Approach

You compete with other businesses, and you analyze them to make your own plan, but what happens when the tables turn? What happens when other businesses start looking at yours and thinking about how they can match you?

This is an important step, because anyone can do what you’re doing. We hate to say it, but at the end of the day anyone can start a gym. Anyone can look at what you’re doing and copy it. You have to be prepared for that.

They can copy your pricing, your aesthetics, and a ton of things about your business, but they can’t copy how you run it. Having the same features or benefits doesn’t make a business better, it’s how they do it.

We talked about happy customer money earlier. Do what you do better than anyone else, and even if they try to copy you along the way, your clients will know you’re the genuine article.

Your Method to Accomplish Everything

Your vision plan is, at the end of the day, your method and goal to accomplish everything you set out to do. An action plan stems from a vision plan, so if you envision your business incorrectly, the action plan will be incorrect. In fact, everything that stems from it (i.e. your entire business) will be formed incorrectly.

The way that you approach your business is unique. It’s something that other people can’t copy. Find out how you want to accomplish everything you set out to do, and that’s how you’ll stand out from the competition. Solidify the way that you achieve your goals right now, and nothing can stop you.

Design an Action Plan

Take your business vision and actualize it. Turn it into a set of goals with paths to achieve them. Not sure how to do that? We’ll walk you through it.

Map Out Every Action You Need to Take

Once you know where you want to go, which is the entire purpose of the vision goal, you have to approach it with a list of tasks that you can check-off to actually reach the end result.

You can reverse-engineer this entire solution. Envision how you want your gym to operate, what you want to include in memberships, and every little detail about it. Write it all down.

Now how are you going to get there? There are two main things to look at: the SMART method, and delegation.

Use the SMART Method

SMART can be broken down into its five elements, each of which outlines a part of a plan. You can use the SMART model for your entire vision plan if you want. Let’s break it down.

Specific

Your vision should be specific. “Being a profitable gym” is a wish list, not a plan. “Being the only CrossFit gym with an in-house daycare that caters to working parents and single mothers” is specific.

Measurable

You have to be able to measure your progress and track it accordingly. If you can’t measure your efforts, you’re dead in the water. Find out how you’re going to measure your success right from the start.

Achievable

A vision is different from a dream. If you can envision where your gym will be and take actionable steps to get there, it’s achievable. If you have your hearts set on being the best of the best and don’t understand how time-consuming and innovative that process is, and you aren’t ready to work on it, you’re dreaming. Make sure you can actually achieve what you set out to do, otherwise the luster will wear off, and you’ll be in too deep when you realize what you’ve done.

Relevant

If you want to make a specific feature of your memberships shine, like the flagship product of the entire gym, that’s great. But is it relevant? Is it something people want, or is it something you want? There’s a big difference, and nobody cares how badly you want it; if it doesn’t suit them, it’s a waste of time and effort.

Time-Bound

Actionable steps need a time frame. Time-bound means having a time frame but not a time constraint. If you have a part of your project that will take approximately two weeks, that’s fine. You don’t have to hit it in exactly two weeks, but after you hit that initial time frame, you can ask yourself how close you are to finishing that specific task or set of tasks. If you’re close, it means you had realistic expectations. If you’re really far away (and you’ve been working on it), it means you’re working on a pipe dream.

Determine Who Will Carry Out Each Action

Now that you know how you’re going to get there, find out who’s going to do the work. You’ll obviously be involved in the process and carrying out work of your own, but you can’t do everything. No CrossFit affiliate can.

If you don’t have a co-owner or business partner, hire a manager. Hire someone who can help you on a fundamental level to build up the entire process.

Now you can delegate. Assign one specific person to carry out one specific task, and let them do their job. Don’t micromanage. Do this with enough employees, and progress ramps up extremely fast.

Owner and Operator Agreement

Owner and operator agreements are essentially contracts between you and CrossFit. Commonly referred to in legal terms as an owner-operator (the hyphen is important), you operate a small business and run day-to-day operations, though you may use a franchising model (CrossFit falls under this category).

While CrossFit doesn’t own your building, employees, or have cuts of your monthly profits like some franchising agreements force, you’re still paying an annual $3,000 fee to keep CrossFit in your brand and you have to follow guidelines to maintain that branding as well. This is what you need to know about being an owner-operator.

What Sole Proprietorship Looks Like as a CrossFit Affiliate

You run Dan’s Gym, LLC, so you are your own business. But you also have your CrossFit affiliation, and your name is Dan’s CrossFit of Palm Beach.

So does CrossFit own you? No. They allow you to use their name in your gym title, they let you use their logo, but they do not own you.

They essentially lend the right to use CrossFit in your name and branding to you, but your business name (LLC, S-Corp, whatever you choose) isn’t going to have CrossFit in it.

They reserve the right to pull their name from your branding at any point, which means you may have to change merchandise logos, titles, and even the store sign outside. You might even have to stop offering certain classes.

But you’re still a gym. You can still keep members, maintain membership plans, and your staff is still your staff.

So as a sole proprietor, you own your gym, your money, and your client list. CrossFit can’t take that from you.

Define a Growth Plan and How You Fit Into it

With or without your CrossFit branding, you have to plan on how to grow your gym and make it profitable. Your growth plan will include your target market, which we’ll get into in a moment, but it should have a basic outline in your owner and operator agreement.

In the modern day and age, you should absolutely diversify the way that you advertise yourself. There are more platforms and channels than ever before, and it’s free to get started on all of them.

Your growth plan must include marketing and advertising, for sure, but it should also outline an expected time frame of how you want to grow your company.

Growth plans should be actionable, but the metrics attached to them are difficult to nail-down. The rule of thumb is to aim low and overachieve. If you want your gym to pull in $25,000 a month, that’s a great goal. That’s $300K AAR.

Aim for $200K (as long as it means you’re profitable). That way if you’re appealing to investors, they’ll have a reasonable goal to watch out for and be delighted when you exceed it. If you have a hard time finding your path and you only hit that $200K or fall just underneath, it still looks good without missing a huge target.

Understand Your True Target Market

When any business owner (CrossFit affiliate or not) picks their target market, it’s usually who they envision serving. It can be a very selfish mindset if you don’t approach it objectively and tactically.

Your target market is almost never who you think it is. Unless you already have business experience and understand exactly what we’re talking about, you need to know the following so that you can nail down your target market and actually bring in customers with your marketing efforts.

Analyze Local Competition

Your local competition already knows their market, and they’re successfully selling to them. While you definitely want to stand out from your competition, you won’t know how to do that and how to target your own market (or directly compete with theirs) if you don’t know what they’re up to.

Inspect their website, sign up for their email newsletter, visit the location, become a customer. Nobody knows the company better than their customers, so become one. Understand their pricing structure, how they treat their staff, and what they offer that you don’t.

There are plenty of ways you can analyze your local competition (called a competitive analysis):

  • Pool All Competitors: You don’t just pick one competing business and analyze them; you look for as many competitors in the area as possible so you understand your local market better.
  • Find Indirect Competitors: It sounds counterintuitive, but you should also know who’s in your business that isn’t competing in your niche or subset of fitness. As a CrossFit affiliate, other CrossFit gyms would be direct competitors, but yoga studios would be indirect competitors, for example.
  • Narrow Your Scope: You start with a broad scope to fit everyone in, and then you analyze them. You and a competitor may offer twenty-five different services, but you can’t possibly compete on all fronts. In fact, they’re not trying to compete with you in every possible vertical, either. Narrow down the services or sections of your service you offer that are in direct competition with theirs, and work on those. Find out where you want to compete, and where you don’t want to.
  • Document Your Findings: If you spend an entire day analyzing other gyms and you don’t write it down, chances are you won’t remember all the points you discovered in a month’s time. Write down what you find and review it later. This helps you realize where your focus should be, if you misdirected your focus, and helps to know if your efforts have been profitable or in vain so you can adjust your strategy accordingly.
  • Identify Openings: After you’ve inspected all of your competitors, it’s time to discover where you stand to make an impact that they aren’t. What are the public online complaints regarding their gym? Is it something you can do better than them? Are subtle hints about their gym such as “Not enough open machines” something you could improve upon? While you shouldn’t take every single individual critique to heart as a reason to change your business operations, collect them all and listen for patterns.

Choose Demographics to Target That Align With Your Mission Statement

You’ve analyzed the competition and found a few things out. Great. But you’re not out of the woods yet. Now it’s time to find out which demographic you stand to serve, and how that will impact your marketing strategy.

Take a look at the age, gender, income, schooling, and living arrangements in your area. Are there a lot of low-income housing apartments? Is the median income at a price where people can afford housing, therefore having more spending money? This will help you determine your rates, your target market, and who you can help.

If your competitor is twice as expensive as you, they’re not catering to the low-income demographic in your area. That’s something you could do with deals, promotions, and general pricing. Find opportunities based on your local demographic.

Create Buyer Personas to Evaluate the Psychology of Your Target Market

Buyer personas are helpful, although it’s important that you know they’re overused in marketing. You need them, but they’re not a simple thing that you can just conjure up in ten minutes like a lot of articles suggest. Here’s what you need to do to make effective buyer personas.

  1. Research your buyer persona type based on demographics and the type of personalities that buy into your market (in this case, CrossFit instead of just general fitness).
  2. Build multiple buyer personas based on interest, availability, and demographics (that previous research is about to come into play).
  3. Create stories around your buyer persona. Approach the persona with a story in mind and a narrow assumption about their current position, such as “Tired of CrossFit gyms charging a fortune? That’s why we made Dan’s CrossFit of Palm Beach.”
  4. Determine the goals, challenges, and habits of those buyer personas.
  5. Craft marketing and advertising material for those buyer personas and their struggles. Remember: people seek out a solution because they have a problem, so approach the problem and outline the benefits.

Here’s an Example Based on Our List

Let’s take that Palm Beach example a moment ago and quickly turn it into an ad. The buyer persona? A demographic of fitness-centric people in a low-income area.

“CrossFit gyms charge you for classes you don’t get a chance to attend. Dan’s CrossFit of Palm Beach only charges you for what you want. Custom tailor your package today to include as many classes as you want, or just for gym access. If you can’t attend your class, let us know and we’ll refund it to your account.”

This approached a lot of problems. It sets the stage for the problem that your buyer persona is facing (expensive plans), promises a solution (custom-tailored options to save money), and reduces risk (class costs refunded to their account).

Another reason that CrossFit affiliates should love that pitch is because it doesn’t say anything about refunding cash. The money that would have been spent on the class goes to their account total, so it can either be used for more classes or another month’s membership for gym-only access. It maintains retention, keeps your clients happy, and the money never leaves your till.

Build Your Business Better Than Anyone Else

Planning is the difference between something being a dream or being a reality. With hard work and consistency, and a killer business plan, you’ll be more prepared than any competing business in your area. While there’s definitely more to success than a good business plan, building a foundation is crucial. It’s what separates the amateurs from the professionals.

Now that you have the basic outline of a business plan, it’s time to build yours. You can use templates to help you figure out what you want your business plan to look like, but at the end of the day, your business plan will be entirely unique to your vision statement, mission statement, and financial goals.

Sam Karoll

Sam is our Community Manager for PushPress. He also owns and operates Xplore Nutrition, a personalized nutrition coaching service designed "for your lifestyle and goals by a Coach who's always available."

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