Fourth Ever Affiliate, CrossFit San Jose, Goes 100% Virtual Indefinitely

November 10, 2020 by
Photo credit: CrossFit San Jose
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CrossFit San Jose has gone 100% virtual. Indefinitely.

The gym has been around since 2004 and is the fourth to have ever affiliated. Lance Miller has owned it from the start. He said at one time they boasted 11,000 square feet and over 300 members.

Then COVID-19 hit California.

When the gym reopened briefly over the summer before being shut down again two days later, only 27 people came back in person. Nearly 70 stayed online.

  • “We just got to the point where there were eight other gyms around us that were doing parking lot workouts,” said Miller. “We didn’t have the best set up for parking lot workouts and we had 2/3 of our members continuing to stay online.”
  • “We decided this is what we’re going to do: we’re going to shut down; we’re just going to serve the people at home until this passes over,” he continued. “We went from the number four gym to a start up again.”

One big thing: Faced with a very difficult decision, Miller and CrossFit San Jose went all in on a full virtual pivot and a few months in, it looks like that responsiveness and awareness to the realities of the pandemic and landscape of state regulations is paying off.

In August, Miller ended his month-to-month rental agreement, cancelled all memberships, and either farmed out people who wanted to work out in person to other gyms or signed them up for a new, virtual-only membership. And this all happened during the first wave of fires in California.

Why it matters: As winter nears and coronavirus cases rise, a second shut down becomes more likely — especially in states like California that just yesterday started to move some counties once again under more stringent restrictions. Gyms and their members will need to adapt to the virtual world if they want to survive.

About 50 members came onboard when CrossFit San Jose went 100% virtual.  Miller rented, sold and got rid of equipment. Four full-time coaches stayed on to run the program from their home gyms. Members receive a combination of personal training, virtual classes and individual programming. 

Photo credit: CrossFit San Jose

Business is going well. Since September 1, Miller and his team have been perfecting the art of a virtual training business and will begin the push for referrals this month. In fact, Miller said all four staff are making above the threshold of what they would have made on unemployment with the pandemic bonus. And members are being retained.

  • “I figured if I took care of my coaches, my coaches would take care of the members,” said Miller.

All in all, Miller’s goal isn’t to be the next Peloton. He still wants to serve only about 80 to 100 members, giving them the time and attention they need. For him, it’s about quality relationships versus quantity of clients.

And one day, Miller does hope to bring his business back to in-person. But for now, it doesn’t do anyone any good for CrossFit San Jose to reenter the physical market.

For those looking to make the transition to a 100% virtual business, Miller had several pieces of advice:

  • “Realize you’re not going to do it right and you’re not going to do it well [at first],” he said, encouraging other owners to continuously refine their virtual offerings.
  • “Try to give your best to the membership,” Miller continued. “Make it as professional as you can.”

Finally, Miller did offer up his help to any who need it. Please email him if you’re interested in taking your business 100% virtual.
The bottom line: CrossFit San Jose is one of thousands of affiliates. But in order to survive a pandemic that seems far from ending, the industry needs to consider possibly taking business 100% virtual in order to exist on the other side of COVID-19.

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