The Founders' Club

[An excerpt from Help First: Sell Less. Profit More.]
Over the last few years, I’ve worked with consulting clients to help them open their businesses with 50, 60, or even 70 members already pre-registered. My all-time record is 94 clients committed in advance (that means the business owner is already holding their check, ready to cash it on Opening Day.)
First, CrossFit Prototype opened with 54 members pre-sold; then CrossFit Belleville took the title with 63. Lowry CrossFit held the record with 70 members enrolled by the end of their Grand Opening day. Currently, CrossFit Apogee holds the title with 94 (but that will likely be broken by a client in Minnesota before you read this book.)
How are they doing it?
By offering extra value to create a sense of immediacy for potential members. By offering pride for early adopters. And it doesn’t cost them anything.
Our strategy, in a nutshell:

First, lay the groundwork.

1. Create context. Tell your story on your website and Facebook. What brought YOU to try CrossFit? What made you stay? Why did you want to coach? Why do you want to open your own gym? When people feel that they know you a little, it’s easier for them to trust you quickly.

2. Establish expertise. Write knowledge-based content. Show the audience your expertise; earn trust before you earn money.
3. Get your website up, and establish your social media presence as soon as you can. Give people a place to go to find answers to their questions.

Next, attract attention.

4. Take your kettlebells to the park, for example. Set up a sandwich board. Run around your parking lot. Wear your box’s t- shirt. Take gift certificates to trusted service providers around town. Invite “talkers” to a “free preview” workout. This list is long, and we work through it in the Mentoring Program, but these ideas are all effective.

Offer increased value for a limited time.

5. This sounds sales-y, but it’s not. Ask yourself, “How else can I help people get started with my service?” What services will help people learn more about dieting, stick with your program longer, keep their books cleaner, or achieve quicker success?

Offer these for free with pre-registration. For example, members of a gym’s Founders’ Club might receive one or more of:

  • Two free Personal Training sessions
    (value $180)
  • Two free months of Open Gym time
    (value $100)
  • Free admittance to all seminars in the
    next 12 months (value $280)
  • Free admittance to all in-gym events for
    the next 6 months (value $200)
  • Free nutritional profile meeting (value
  • “Founders’ Club” T-shirt…
It’s important to illustrate the price in the above to demonstrate value, because consumers in North America frequently confuse value with price. You and I know the true value of a personalized nutritional plan (about a million bucks!) but for now, you’ll have to give your potential clients some context in a language they’ll understand (i.e. $135 value!)

Play to their pride.

6. “I was there when this place was a shed in a parking lot…” Founding-member cred is powerful. We have members who still proudly wear their faded yellow ‘Catalyst Fitness’ t- shirts with a homemade logo from 2005. Green on yellow, thick cotton, and ugly. But they’re worn with pride.
Painting your Founders’ Club member names on your wall takes guts, but hey – they’ve committed to YOU. Put their pictures up on your wall. Tell their stories on your site. Celebrate their commitment.
7. My favorite ‘Founders’ Club’ prize so far is a t-shirt that CrossFit Prototype gave its first members. The front has their logo; the back has the member’s last name and their member number. For instance, if I’m the eleventh member to officially register, my shirt will say “Cooper” with a big ’11’ beneath. When a member wears that shirt, they feel pride…and take ownership of the Box’s success, because they’re part of the cornerstone.

It seems unbelievable to open a new business with positive cash flow on the first day, but it’s happening. The Founders’ Club model makes it possible; several boxes are using these very ideas to make it a reality.

Last (and most important):


A 20% “EARLY BIRD” discount means you have to recruit 20% more members to break even. It means 20% more members to get to your “Perfect Day.” Especially in the beginning, people are attracted to your for novelty, expertise and brand…you don’t need discounts. Ever. Discounts at startup just show you’re not confident in your expertise; you’ll attract the wrong type of clients and work harder for the same money.


One more thing!

Did you know gym owners can earn $100,000 a year with no more than 150 clients? We wrote a guide showing you exactly how.