Building a Business That’s Much More

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Members make their way into the converted garage gym and spread out to stretch and prepare for the workout that’s about to begin. Dumbbells, kettlebells, and barbells line the walls and half a dozen rowers are staged just outside the rolled up garage doors with pull-up bars across each opening.

On a whiteboard on the wall is the WOD (workout of the day).

W.O.D. May 12, 2011

Power Cleans 5 X 5

21 – 18 – 15 – 12 – 9 – 6
DB Power Snatch L
DB Power Snatch R
Pull ups

It’s the end of the week, so there’s a focus on lifting heavy things. Each session will include a warm up that exceeds most people’s traditional workout, plus five increasing sets of power cleans – aiming to achieve your personal best, followed by a timed workout that includes dumbbell power snatchs and pull ups. Finish the workout and you’ll do 81 of each! Just another day at CrossFit Central in Austin, Texas.

For a taste of CrossFit, enjoy a short (01:31) video by Paul Scheider called “Breathe”



CrossFit Central is an Austin, Texas affiliate of the International Method of Fitness – CrossFit. Co-Founded by a brother/sister team – Jeremy Theil and Carey Kepler – in 2005, it has grown to be one of the largest CrossFit affiliates on the planet. It now runs two gyms in central Austin, bootcamps held in public parks around the city, and corporate programming on location at the workplace. Their corporate program at Sherry Matthews Advocacy Marketing was where I first heard of CrossFit. You can read about their story here.

Building Community

While people join gyms for a host of reasons, there is a 60-80% dropout rate. There are many reasons for this, but one is the lack of community found in most traditional gyms. One of the unique attributes of CrossFit is strong focus on building a community of friends pursuing fitness. This starts with coaches that get to know their clients and who build fellowship among their class members. In addition to regular classes, coaches and clients also get together for special events, picnics, and community workouts. For example, tomorrow is the Spring picnic for members and their families.

Use of Social Media & Storytelling

CrossFit is largely led by a young crew who grew up in the era of the Internet and social media and that’s clear from their approach to business and marketing. The CrossFit Central website is a running stream of content chronicling the daily CrossFit activities around Austin, promoting upcoming events, sharing videos, and profiling the success stories of real people (not just athletes) who have achieved great results through consistent hardwork. Coaches also have their own blogs and many are sharing updates on the Facebook fan page or via Twitter.  All this adds to the presence CrossFit Central has online.

Collaboration and Friendly Competition

A unique quality of CrossFit affiliates is a focus on friendly competition and collaboration. Affiliates frequently host other gyms and welcome CrossFitters to jump into class when they are visiting from out of town. Affiliate leaders swap stories of what they’ve found works and doesn’t work in spreading CrossFit and growing their membership base. In addition, competitive workouts are hosted locally, regionally, and nationally for teams to compete against others. This collaborative and friendly competition model builds the CrossFit community and aids in spreading the common goal of living a healthy lifestyle.

A Greater Mission

While their motto is “Building a Fitter Community”, coaches and members also strive to give back to the community in other ways. This includes hosting events that benefit charities like the Livestrong Foundation and the Wounded Warrior Project. This month, coaches and members are bringing their strength to Habitat for Humanity to build a home in East Austin.

Focus on Steady Hard Work & Personal Best

Coach Michael Gregory

When people discover I’m a CrossFitter, I get a wide array of reactions. Many have driven by the gym or a bootcamp and see it as an intense fitness program. I’m quick to point out that I am holding up the rear in my cohort, but that’s okay. My coach, Michael “Big Mike” Gregory says, “CrossFit is for everyone, but not everyone is for CrossFit” and that’s very true. While groups workout together and there are a lot of competitive events, the real challenge is within each of us. We are constantly competing against ourselves and doing better than yesterday. By pushing yourself, each WOD brings you a step closer to your goal and everyone walks a little taller after a session knowing they did something tougher than most and are getting better and better by the day. Success stories are all around and the feeling is addictive.

Final Thoughts…

We share the story of CrossFit not just because I’m a member, but because many of the attributes of its business model and mission are rock solid and applicable to many of the organizations we work with. A lot can be learned from a collaborative organization with a clear mission, measureable results, evangelist clients, and a sense of purpose beyond the boundaries of the core business. Go discover a CrossFit gym in your community. For a list of affiliates, go here.