From group class mentality to multi-service facility: Should CrossFit affiliates seek to partner with other, on-site health professionals?

The first question affiliate owners ask each other is always the same one: How many members do you have?

Why is this?

Is it a way to size each other up and to judge the other persons success? Is it a way to measure your own success in comparison?

Dave Picardy, owner of North Shore CrossFit in Danvers, MA, believes the question has become a default one because most affiliates base their business on a group class model, and generate almost 100 percent of their revenue from group class membership fees.


Members at North Shore CrossFit (above) enjoy the benefits of in house massage therapy, acupuncture, Chinese massage, physical therapy, wellness assessments, and functional movement screenings.

 

Over the years, the perception of affiliates opening is that CrossFit is a group exercise facility,Picardy said. New affiliates just think that is how it started and what it was. Picardy believes affiliates need to look beyond the group exercise business modelfor the sake of revenue-generationand also to create what Glassman has always preached: Excellence.

Adding professional services to your product offering
One easy way some affiliates are expanding the services they offer to their clients, and raising revenue in the process, is by bringing on other health professionals, such as RMTs, to chiropractors, to RDs and nutritionists.

Chris Cooper of CrossFit Catalyst in Sault Ste. Marie, ON, and author of Two-Brain Business,” “Two-Brain Business 2.0and Help First,rents a small space in his facility to a Registered Massage Therapist (RMT) and an Athletic Trainer (AT).

Cooper charges them rent based on on square footage cost multiplied by 2.5.

So if the cost per square foot is $1, they pay $2.50 per square foot (of space they rent),Cooper said. In practice, Coopers RMT and AT both pay approximately $400 a month in rent.

Diversity of services brings natural cross-over
Revenue aside, the biggest benefit of having an RMT and AT on site is how they help his current clients.

Every box owner would likely rather have an injured client be fixed up in-houseIt also keeps the client coming to the gym so theres no mental interruption,he said.

Cooper said the arrangement has improved client retention, and has sometimes even brought him new CrossFit clients.

Michelle Young is the Certified Athletic Therapist at CrossFit Catalyst, also working with the competitive team at Reebok CrossFit Firepower. Athletic Therapy is a combination of prevention, assessment, immediate care, rehabilitation and reconditioning of musculoskeletal injuries (injuries to your muscles, bones and joints).


The ATs clients are very easy to switch (to CrossFit), because she starts in the rehab room and then moves them into the gym as therapy progresses. No formal integration into CrossFit, but theyre doing their sessions out among the rest of us. Then its an easy segue into personal training,Cooper said. His RMTs clients transfer to CrossFit less often, but Cooper said the couple of times they have, the clients have stuck around.

In London, Ontario, Dave Henry and Jennifer Broxterman, have a similarly mutually-beneficial arrangement. Henry is the owner of CrossFit London, and Broxterman, his wife, is a Registered Dietitian (RD), who runs her private practice Nutrition Rx out of the gym.


Jen Broxterman is the registered dietitian and CrossFit athlete at CrossFit London. A Registered Dietitian (RD) is a health professional who can provide advice on nutrition, food, and making healthy choices to improve your health or manage a medical issue; they must earn a bachelor's degree to become an RD, whereas a "nutritionist" is a title anyone can claim.

 

It has been an amazing crossover program,Broxterman said. Clients who see me poke their head out and watch the end of the workout. They often start asking me questions about CrossFit,.

She added: And likewise, as I start to get to know athletes who are training, they often express to me their performance goals, and as they start to take their goals more seriously they start to realize they could use some nutritional guidance.

Broxterman is always careful not to push anyone in any direction, but the crossover between her nutritional services and Henrys coaching services occurs naturally, and effortlessly. She estimates that about 10 to 15 percent of the gyms clients have come from her Nutrition Rx business, and vice versa. Not only does their arrangement help their clients and their bottom line, it also lets both Broxterman and Henry focus on what they do best.

It lets Dave focus on his job, on coaching, and when people ask for more diet help beyond his scope, he can refer them to me,she said.

While Broxterman and Henry’s arrangement might be seamless because they’re married and have each other’s best interests in mind, is teaming up with a CrossFit affiliate always as beneficial for the health practitioner as it is for the CrossFit affiliate?

Is it always a win-win?

Questions for an RMT, RD, chiro or physiotherapist to consider when partnering with a CrossFit affiliate may be: Is it worth my time to travel back and forth and work at multiple locations? Will I be able to generate enough business at the affiliate? Will CrossFit clients be receptive to my beliefs about human movement, mobility etc? Will potential customers who aren’t members be put off by the fact I work out of a CrossFit facility?

All valid concerns, so is there a “right” way to partner up?

Physical therapist Chris Wash of Dothan, Alabama explained he did his due diligence before committing to working at an affiliate. When he found the right affiliate to partner with, CrossFit Embrace in Dothan—with coaches who he knew believed in him, and were willing to learn from him and vice versa—he teamed up.


Chris Wash (third from left) and his team of physiotherapists offer a range of services including coaching, seminars, treatment, movement analysis, Normatec Compression, and MarcPro Recovery, as well as one on one training.


“I think it’s very important to approach any sport with a team of people that help athletes get better at everything,” Wash said. This is exactly how Wash’s partnership with CrossFit Embrace works today: They’re a cohesive team that allows athletes to learn some aspects of fitness from their CrossFit coach and other aspects from people like Wash.

Other potential challenges to consider are noise, space and privacy constraints for the therapist and his or her clients. For example, fighting for space with a group class as you’re trying help a client rehab from an injury isn’t an ideal environment for the client. On the other hand, the best case scenario is a separate space within the affiliate for the RD, chiro or RMT to set up an office or treatment area.

A final learning point from Wash’s successful approach is that mutual respect and appreciation is likely to be vital to make a true partnership work. If an affiliate owner is simply looking to increase revenue from renting spare space, the success of the program in growing both businesses may well be reduced, or even fail completely. But when the two parties can work together in a way that’s beneficial for the client, the health service provider and the CrossFit affiliate, the sky’s the limit.

As an affiliate owner, what has your experience been like with cross-over services?

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