Gym Story from PushPress

How We Grew A Garage Gym to Multiple Locations

CrossFit H-Town Group Shot Another Gym Story From PushPress PushPress, the makers of your favorite gym management software, is working on a new series, Gym Stories. We’d like to feature gyms in the community (PushPress client or not). We would like to tell your story to the world. If you’re a gym who’d like to tell your story, let us know here! We recently had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Theo Tsekouras at CrossFit H-Town in Houston about their experience scaling their gym from a small garage into multiple locations. Let’s jump into the interview

Sq. Ft.
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Houston, TX

The Interview

Hello and thank you for taking the time to chat with us today about CrossFit H-Town Fitness. We’re thrilled to have you here today to talk to us in more detail about your gym’s journey so far. Can you help us kick off the interview by telling us a little bit more about the story behind your gym? You started in a 2 car garage? Tell us a bit more about your journey from your 2 car garage to where you are today.

After doing CrossFit for 5 years and 2 years at a small CrossFit gym, I wanted to focus more on quality of teaching. With the permission of my wife and about $2000, I turned my garage into the smallest CrossFit gym (at the time) in the world.  I had 2 friends, and 1 of my wife’ coworkers as our 1st members. I quickly grew that membership base into 50 people, all in the garage. It was at this time, I started looking for a retail space to move into. From the end of 2010 to now, so many changes of ups and downs and ups again have happened.

Now, you’ve been in business for 10 years now. What have been some of the biggest changes or pivots you’ve needed to make along the way?

The biggest change was me retiring from the Fire Department to focus on the gym full time.  In addition, expansion of the 1st gym, opening of the 2nd location, hiring, firing, closing the second location, and even renovations.

Early on how did you go about learning how to run a gym? What types of learning or training did you engage in to help improve your chances of success as a gym owner?

I already had a business degree going in, so having some of the numbers was essential. However, a lot of it was trial and error.  You implement something, see if it works, continue on. In the beginning, there wasn’t a lot of support out there for CrossFit gyms.  You would use software that was really made for other areas like martial arts. Our key focus was making sure our staff was being paid before we were, creating a fun environment, and making sure everyone was on the same page.

Do you have business partners in your business? How big of a role do partners play and how have you gone about the division of responsibilities?

In my 1st location, you could say my wife was my partner, but that was the extent of it.

It wasn’t until our second location that I took on partners.  Partners can be a great thing, provided that there is a clear line of responsibilities outlined and to that extent, the repercussions of the failure to meet them.  However, sometimes, your priorities, your lifestyle, and passions may all change too. I know mine certainly have.

How do you approach accountability with partners and employees?

With partners, having responsibilities outlined clearly and holding weekly or monthly meetings to make sure we are holding each other accountable.  With employees, I think if you set/show the standard, but don’t micromanage them, it can be a win. Find out what your employees want.

Early on, what were three of the biggest obstacles you faced and how did you overcome those obstacles?

The first one was clearly finding a location that was suitable to go from the garage to a new place.  With a limited budget, I found a small place that was in a “not so nice” part of town. Luckily, that area is now one of the hottest areas in Houston to be in. Within three years, the area changed dramatically. That was a big risk, because we were going to take on liability that we didn’t have in the garage.

The 2nd was the expansion of the 1st location and essentially doubling of all equipment/inventory.  We took a bet on the growth of CrossFit. This effectively created a second room and in and of itself, a pseudo second location.

The 3rd was the official second location and the addition of partners.  While it was a great location, it was expensive. We did very well there, but all things must come to an end.

How did you go about onboarding your first customers?

First, due to our small area, and the fact we were a garage, client acquisition was slow. That meant, once a person joined, it was usually 1 on 1 anyway. This allowed for a more personal connection. I was pretty good about mechanics and relating with people. Once we transitioned into the 1st location, we had more people joining at a time, so I set up a 3 class onboarding option, and kept it to 5 people. There are a lot of people who remember me going through their “foundations” class during our normal class times.

How have your customer onboarding strategies changed from when you first started until now?

They have evolved and devolved a lot over the years. As we reached the peak of growth, we had set days and times new members could take their foundations which could span over 2 weeks.  It was just due to volume. We later developed private classes with a coach before joining the main group. Now, we have simplified it even more, but still retain a few of the above.

What are your current three most successful growth channels? Why do you think that is?

By far, the best has always been our current members and their referrals. If people are happy, they want their friends to be with them.

Secondly, our history naturally has people searching on the internet. This is really due to some of our awards we have received over the years.

Lastly, while we have B2B partnerships, our location is prime for the type of member we focus on. This area is a natural draw, so that helps.

What are your three least successful growth channels? Why do you think that is?

I think the discount clubs are terrible for what you want to get. We tried them one time with our 2nd location and didn’t attract the right people.

2nd, I would say an advertising agency.  While they do have their advantages, the ROI is very slow.

And lastly, I think expansion too early can actually kill your growth. Nobody wants to be in a big gym, with nobody inside.

Lastly, if you could go back in time and give a younger version of yourself three pieces of advice about what it takes to run a successful health and fitness company, what would those three pieces of advice be?

Don’t expand too quickly, because the environment changes all the time.

If you decided to have partners, right down the responsibilities and make sure you hold everyone accountable.

As a married man, listen to your wife and take her advice thoughtfully.

Thank you for taking the time to chat with PushPress readers today about your experience as a gym owner. We truly appreciate it Tony. To our fitness entrepreneur blog readers, if you’d like to learn more about CrossFit H-Town, we suggest you head over to their website here.

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