Financial planning is either a beloved or despised topic, depending on the vision of the gym owner. Some are excellent with balancing the books and ensuring the business sees a profit, while others would rather be out on the floor focusing on the core values and marketing the business.
Everyone has their own strengths, but regardless of who you have helping you with your CrossFit gym, you need to know financial planning. This is everything you need to know to get started planning your CrossFit gym in the books and in the bank account.
Financial Planning Tips
CrossFit has some ideas for easy financial planning, although it’s going to depend on your definition of easy. Different target areas will have different average income levels, and these planning tips may not apply everywhere. Still, they’re good to know about since CrossFit has obviously built a successful business using this pricing model. Let’s take a look.
Calculate Your Memberships to Break Even (and Work From There)
Find out how many memberships you’ll need to break even on your annual expenses. CrossFit gives you an example of $100,000 in annual expenses to operate your location, and suggests that you plan for as few members as reasonably possible to meet this.
Through their figures, they state that a $125/month membership to a CrossFit gym or $1,500 annually to those who pay in full and upfront, would require a rough buffer of 73 yearly members to break even.
But what about paying yourself? Well they’ve got something for that, too.
Identify Your Membership Potential
Are you in an area that would benefit from having a 24/7 gym with a high volume of prospective clients? Perhaps a sleepy town that shuts out all the lights at 9:00 PM and wakes up early? This is where you have to look at your membership potential and hours of operation. Is it wise to be open for more hours, or to host more classes? What do your members want?
Your membership potential will include classes, not merely gym access. How many classes can you reasonably fit in within a day? CrossFit wants you to cross-reference your available hours with trainer hours, class size and available space, and how many spots you can feasibly have for your members. If you have the potential to host 6 separate classes per day with 10 clients each, then that’s great for your membership.
Factor in Your Take-Home Income to the Total Cost
You’ve broken even on your operating costs, and that’s great. Now, what do you do? You have to cover your expenses, too. This should be factored into the total cost, otherwise going home to almost no paycheck each night is going to be demotivating and kill the business.
After you know you’ll break even and the business will be okay, pay yourself. It’s important. Even if this is on the side while you continue to work your regular job, nobody can work like this forever. How many additional members will it take to get you paid the way you want to be paid? Work it out, factor it in.
Emergency Fund for Your Business
Every business has ups and downs, busy seasons and slow seasons. That’s why it’s imperative to have a rainy day fund, or an emergency fund as some call it. When memberships dry up and it’s not close to New Year’s Day, you have to rely on an emergency fund to get you through the tough times without creating panic.
You do not want to panic and deviate from your business plan, because once you do it a single time, it’s a lot easier to dip into loans and other financial vehicles that aim to keep you trapped in an endless loop. An emergency fund is essential in your annual projections.
Pricing Structures and Models
Your pricing structure is something you set, and hopefully don’t have to adjust (beyond annual increases) after that point. You need to understand how the process appears to prospective clients, because if done incorrectly, it can be extremely off-putting. You don’t have to structure your gym like another CrossFit gym, but it can help to appease the expectations of inbound leads.
CrossFit gyms often use contracts, so you might get someone to sign up for a six-month term contract where they pay each month instead of all at once. Monthly payments are fixed. If there is a contract, you need to stick to the price in that contract.
If prices increase, that contract is essentially grandfathered in until the term is over. Another great retention strategy for monthly payments is to let users keep their current price for life if they maintain their subscription on a month-to-month basis.
Consider this to be similar to a subscription service or streaming service. There’s value, it’s worth the price, so clients pay it. The problem is, perceived value can change or decline over time. Depending on the month, a client may see their subscription as an added cost instead of an essential one, so that $125 monthly subscription to your gym becomes a financial burden to them. Nobody wants that.
Monthly payments are weird because they’re the most attractive model for acquiring new clients/athletes, but they also provide volatility because there’s no contract term. The main benefit to monthly billing is that it puts control in the hands of the client, and lets you know when your service as a gym isn’t meeting expectations if subscriptions begin to fall off.
- Monthly prices aren’t daunting like annual prices, so your clients are more likely to stick with them
- New members know that they can cancel at any point in time when there’s no contract term
- Monthly revenue is super easy to track for the gym owner
- Great marketability for these price models
- Without contracts in place, you can understand how recent changes affect retention on a month-to-month basis
- A lot of people live paycheck-to-paycheck and might not be able to renew their subscription; this could cause anxiety rather than joy
- Without using gym software like PushPress, you can’t track monthly members as easily, and you spend more time chasing down subscriptions (which isn’t good for retention, either)
- There’s no guaranteed value; you could lose half your clients in a single month and there’s nothing that can be done about it
Class Packages and Pay-to-Play
CrossFit is all about the classes, the community, and the experience. That can all be achieved with a class package, also known as pay-to-play (P2P). These packages are basically selling bulk classes. If your normal class cost is $30 per session, a class package could wrap up 10 classes for $250 to save the client money while also guaranteeing you revenue.
Class packages appeal to those who don’t have time to commit to specific structured classes on a monthly basis, such as with the previous package. Their lives are hectic, or they travel a lot, so you end up with sporadic visits instead of predictable ones. Class packages offer flexibility to the client, which can be monumentally important depending on what they value in a gym membership.
Class packages can also be offered as gifts. They can be given away as presents around Christmas time, or you can offer corporate class structuring (some corporations include gym memberships as benefits). With class structuring, you have an entirely different way to monetize your services without actually creating a new service point or cost to your business.
- Clients with money to spend will feel better about getting value and saving a percentage of each class with a structured bundle
- The sales conversion process is often easier; clients know what they want and this is the perfect product to give that value to them
- Increasing class attendance brings social proof, so if someone is walking by the studio and sees a full class, they’re more likely to assume it’s a good gym
- More marketing is required to sell class structuring; you may need more marketing materials or a salesperson to see the profits that you want from this method
- More member management is required, and you may have to keep your eye on expiry dates for classes
- To touch on the last point, if classes expire and someone comes in to claim one, you’re left in a catch-22 situation where they’re not going to be happy, and you’re not going to be happy
- High class bundle pricing can be off-putting to certain clientele (those who do get upset by these prices aren’t your target market, but it can still create negative word-of-mouth reviews)
Flat rates aren’t the most popular form of subscription to your gym, but they are effective if your gym fills a niche that others in the area don’t. Flat rates mean that everyone pays the same price and has access to the same features. There’s no classism in the gym: everyone is on equal footing. There’s a lot of ups and downs to this one.
The beauty of flat rates is that, if you know you’re going with this pricing model before you open your gym, you can structure your services around it. That means you’ll be able to know how many instructors you’ll need, what equipment you’ll need, and so on. This may limit you later on in how you expand your gym and its services, so keep that in mind now. This is why it’s important to have a vision plan in place for where you want to be in the future.
There are plenty of individuals who will enjoy having a flat rate subscription. Primarily if you’re in a rural area where the need for additional services isn’t great. Some gym owners have a difficult time marketing specific classes or services. Flat rates are great at combating this.
- It’s easier to project your annual revenue when you know exactly how much each subscription will cost with no deviation
- You can still offer an annual subscription at a reduced price
- Less work in your gym software for tracking and maintaining prices
- Simple to train staff and front-end desk help on pricing models
- Less required marketing material since there are less variable models
- No member of the gym will feel like other members are in an “exclusive club” or have an advantage over them, promoting better gym culture
- Less coaches required, lowers cost across entire gym
- Less opportunity for growth through specialized products
- May not appeal to every client that comes through the door
- Reduces your offering compared to other local gyms
- Offering discounts with flat rates looks bad and may hurt your brand image
- May not appeal to specific financial demographics; know your area and the median household income before you offer this
Last but not least, we have variable rates. These are tricky because they can create a rift in your gym culture if there are clear and obvious signs that one person is paying more than the other for heightened services. If the gym or spa section is only available to those on a higher variable rate, whereas classes are the bottom-tier variable rate, it can create a rift. It’s not likely, but it can happen.
Where variable rates help is when you offer discounts to military and EMS workers, because the public consensus is that those individuals are deserving of that discount and benefit. Variable rates can also help with seasonal pricing, which is notoriously difficult for a lot of gym owners. It’s not as simple as “Half-price around New Year’s Day” for your marketing efforts. You can make significant strides in customer acquisition by offering variable rates for certain times of the year.
Variable rates help the most with equalizing your annual revenue. If November and December are your slow months, as they are for many, you can set variable rates for these months to bring in more customers and sell more classes.
You want to make sure that your coaches actually have clients to teach, especially if they’re on a freelance basis and not a traditional employees. This can make a huge difference in how your gym operates throughout the year, though it does come with its own associated risks. Just be sure that variable rates make sense for your gym’s local demographic and target audience before applying it.
- Military, EMS, and other career types can receive discounts that will help with acquisition without hurting your bottom line all that much
- You can offer lower rates for non-peak hours, which will increase class size and help with social proof for your business
- Seasonal pricing and discounts/promotional periods are powerful and under this pricing model, they will become the norm for your business
- Caters to specific clients and their niche needs/expectations
- More products in your management software and more room for error from front-end staff and customer service
- Too many choices can absolutely lead to customer confusion and actually result in less acquired customers
- Conversions from one product to the next can actually increase in difficulty, rather than making things easier
- It becomes much harder to accurately predict annual revenue
Pricing increases are a touchy subject. After all, nobody wants to pay more than what they’re paying right now, so what do you do? CrossFit has some ideas.
- Aim for small, gradual, annual increases by no more than 5%. This way, your clients won’t see much of an impact, but across the board of your entire membership cycle, profits will go up. Let’s all just hope it’s doing more than matching inflation.
- Work it into the initial contract that your clients/athletes sign when they become part of the gym in the first place. This way it can be anticipated and they won’t be upset. Just be sure to bring it up during signing.
- Be transparent and honest. Nobody likes price increases, so that means a lot of companies bury the details and then users are upset when their new pricing comes in. They reasonably leave those services because they were duped. Nobody likes a liar; be transparent from the start, even when nobody asks you to be.
Price the Right Way
Pricing is important. As a gym, there are only so many clients you can have. If they’re not paying the bills and putting profit in your business bank account, you’re not pricing properly. Understand your worth, inspect the competition and what they charge, and be sure to hit somewhere close without upcharging too much.
Whether it’s pricing services, legal entities, or how you should interpret the CrossFit Affiliate Playbook, we have you covered. Read more articles on how to set up the perfect CrossFit affiliate gym, find your core values, and set yourself up for success.