I opened my own gym because, like you, I am passionate about helping people and I believe CrossFit is one of the best ways to accomplish that. I thought that, to be a success, I would need to make every athlete who walked through my doors happy. In going above and beyond, I’d earn their loyalty and, just as importantly, their business for the long term.
I’m sure this sounds very familiar to you. Some time ago, I learned a valuable lesson about the cost of doing too much for individuals, and why as business owners our focus needs to be on providing scalable services to the whole membership: one for all, not all for one.
In the early days, I enjoyed being within arm’s reach of each client; taking in their input and responding whenever I could. As you know, as coaches we’re often approached by clients with limitations caused by current or past injuries, and the standard scaling and progressions that our coaches provide in every class don’t work for them. Instead, they need outright substitutions.
I had one client in particular who I had gotten to know well. She attended WODs consistently and worked hard; we even had a couple of coffee dates where we talked business, workouts, and kids. When an old injury flared up on her, she began asking me and the other coaches for typical scaling for stressor movements. Of course, this was the norm for all of our clients and something that we were proud to accommodate.
Those worked for a while. Then, as even the scaled movements still aggravated the injury, she began asking for different exercises she could do during the WOD in their place. Then I realized that we were scaling entire workouts for her daily, and personally spending more than 10 minutes with her in any given class. My husband Jason decided to write up a scaling guide she could use for every WOD that worked just for her. I think this is when things really went south.
At some point not long after that, she began complaining about another body part that was bothering her. Jason started giving her extra programming to do outside of the WODs, and a version of every strength and metcon component was scaled entirely according to her needs.
THEN came the kicker: she asked for nutritional advice. No big deal–except she wanted it for free. At this point, I had been preparing a nutrition program to roll out to the entire gym which would naturally be available for additional cost. When I offered the same plan to her as I was offering to the rest of the membership—with the attached price tag—she was outraged.
In my effort to make her happy, I had set an expectation with this client that she could receive all of the value of individualized programming and nutrition included in the cost of basic membership. Obviously, this isn’t sustainable on many levels. I should have stopped this snowball when we were in class with her, and offered her a personal training package. But I didn’t, and the situation only escalated. The quote from her that is seared into my mind forever is,
“shouldn’t there be a cap on how much I pay at your gym?”
Clients pay reasonable rates to receive the value of our programming, which is carefully designed to provide variety, progress and improvement for a huge majority of people. It’s good value for the athletes, and it scales for us. That’s a sustainable business model. If I spend hours on each and every athlete customizing that programming and providing them with meal plans and shopping lists, I am multiplying the hours I’m working for each person and not receiving a dime of compensation in return. That’s the opposite of sustainable—that’s just crazy.
Just recently my husband Jason and I were discussing this particular client, and he dropped this precious nugget of wisdom he had learned from this experience:
“One of the greatest gifts that I ever gave myself was never doing for one person what I can’t do for them all.”
He called it a GIFT. Profound, right? If you can’t give every athlete in your gym individualized programming and nutritional guidance for the price of a basic membership, don’t do it for one athlete. At that moment I decided I would never feel guilty for charging for my services again.
This approach doesn’t mean that you can’t respond to an individual client. Instead, it’s an opportunity to meet their needs while building out your business and revenue stream.
One for all, not all for one.