Welcome to our first post in ITA's new Spotlight Series. This series will profile excellent affiliates and take a peek into how they do business. We hope this helps shed light on various practices and principles different gyms use to create successful and inclusive programs.
For our first installment, we talked to Nicole Christensen from CrossFit Roots in the beautiful land of Denver, Colorado. Like CFSBK, you may remember CF Roots from the Open announcements last year, or maybe you met Nicole on staff at some of the CrossFit Level One seminar certifications. We hope you enjoy hearing her wisdom as much as we did. Post any questions or thoughts to the Comments!
Gym name: CrossFit Roots
Location: Boulder, Colorado
Affiliation year: 2009
Estimated number of members: 350
Square footage: 10,000
Gym owner's name/s: Nicole and Eric Christensen
Number of full-time and part-time trainers: Seven full-time coaches, one full-time office/business manager, four part-time coaches
Besides CrossFit group classes, what other programs do you offer?
We offer two types of classes in addition to regular CrossFit group WOD classes: Specialty Classes and Closed Programs. Specialty Classes are included in a regular group membership and include things like Olympic Weightlifting, Strength, Erg (rowing), Power Hour (CrossFit Football type programming), and Mobility. These classes are each offered a few times per week and enable athletes to work a weakness in their CrossFit repertoire or to focus on an aspect of CrossFit that they particularly love. We also offer a number of closed programs: CrossFit Endurance, Olympic Weightlifting Club, Teens, Kids, and Women's Only. These programs are offered on a specific schedule and athletes attend those classes only as part of their program-specific training program.
Describe your group class programming style:
We follow the CrossFit main site, two weeks delayed, and we fill in main site rest days with our own programming. I believe in the main site and know that it delivers a strong general physical preparedness to all of my athletes. This surprises a lot of people, but instead of developing my own programming, I'd rather spend my time working on how to scale appropriately for every athlete, develop progressions for every level of skill in a workout, come up with a thorough WOD plan for every class, and work with my coaching staff to continuously improve our coaching.
Which aspects of your gym's operations are you most proud of?
I'm most proud of our back office and our coaching staff's Coaches Development Hour. Our back office team runs the shop in a professional manner—from timely email responses to website updates to organization, they deliver the services that a paying member expects. They also do it with a huge smile. I'm also proud of my staff's continuous desire to improve, which I witness particularly in our Coaches Development Hour. We meet twice a month to work on specific components of coaching.
What kinds of challenges you are currently experiencing?
We're currently trying to figure out how to keep all of our staff looped in on all updates, operations, and athlete issues. With over 100 classes per week and five closed programs, there are a lot of logistics that must constantly be reviewed. For example, we recently added an Erg class on Wednesdays at 5pm, which means we can't have rowing in the regular programming on Wednesdays because the Ergs are taken at that time. It seems like a small issue that you just log in your head, but then when someone else does programming and you haven't communicated that, you haven't set them up for success.
In your experience, what kind of personality and qualities are valuable in running a successful affiliate?
A few valuable qualities come to mind: excitement for all successes, good manners, and not seeing yourself above any job. First and foremost you have to genuinely get excited about an athlete's success. Not excited because you can post it on your blog and show the world, but genuinely happy for the accomplishment the person has made. Second, you need good manners. You have to have a handle on the obvious stuff—your cell phone never belongs on the shop floor, you say hello to your members by name when they walk in the door, you don't eat during class, you don't make your members ever wait for you to start class, and you follow up with athletes when something is not right. Finally, you have to do everything all the time. When I started my affiliate, I cleaned the bathroom every night. Now that we're much larger I personally don't clean the bathroom every night, but that still doesn't mean that when it needs an extra cleaning I dump it on someone else. You have to lead by example if you're going to run a successful affiliate.
Pretend I'm a new or aspiring affiliate owner. What advice would you offer me?
Coaching is the priority. Don't be fooled by getting a fancy website, a lot of random equipment, and selling lots of product. Coaching is what makes your athletes better. Resist the urge to offer lots of classes in the beginning. Do one thing really well and it will pay off.
In your opinion, what kinds of things transform a good affiliate into a great affiliate?
Long term consistency paired with innovation. Coach Glassman wrote about how keeping your bathrooms clean was one of the surest ways to please members and it's so true. You have to keep consistent the basics—excellent coaching, clean bathrooms, toilet paper always restocked, clean equipment and floors, consistent daily post time for your blog. These are the things athletes expect and depend on and the things they deserve. Once you have your system in place, then you have to keep an eye out for innovation—whether it's revamping the class schedule, changing the way you incorporate skills in class, or developing new programs. And when thinking through innovation, always return to the question, "How will this directly benefit the majority of my athletes?"
Do you have any cool equipment hacks (novel ways you store/label/decorate gym equipment)?
My husband turned leftover Rogue pull-up parts into a wall ball shelf. He also built a pretty cool bar storage rack.
What's one thing your gym has that can't be found anywhere else in the world?
Pictures of our history on the wall.
Do you have a gym pet?
No, but we do have a Kid Robot which we dress up seasonally.