One Year In: CrossFit CEO Don Faul Says Helping Affiliates a Priority; Many “Underprice” and “Could be Doing a Lot Better Financially”

August 13, 2023 by
Courtesy of Don Faul @donfaul
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One year into his reign as the CEO of CrossFit LLC, Don Faul said one of his top priorities in the upcoming months is to help affiliates run more successful small businesses.

In an exclusive interview with the Morning Chalk Up in late-July, Faul explained the company’s ultimate goal is “to reach and impact more people,” and he believes more financially successful affiliates are one of the major keys to reaching the next “10, 20, 30 million people.” And right now, there are just too many gyms “not doing well enough,” he said.

  • “There are a lot of gyms out there who are doing exceptionally well,” Faul said. But “when we zoom out and look at the overall state of our community,” he explained, “there are too many gyms who…could be doing a lot better financially.”

The number one reason he identified for this is that gyms aren’t charging enough for their services.

  • “The number one thing is pricing…Most of our gyms underprice,” he said.

All of this has led Faul and his team to build tools and resources for gym owners, which will be rolled out in the upcoming weeks, to support gym owners and “empower them to make better (business) decisions” so they can “run world class affiliates,” Faul said.

One big thing: CrossFit’s willingness to offer business education is a huge shift from CrossFit founder Greg Glassman’s hands-off approach, an approach that largely led the company for the first 19 years of its existence.

  • “Ten years ago, there weren’t a whole lot of people at HQ that would answer your email or reach out to you if you were an affiliate owner,” Faul said. “It was, ‘Hey, you get the brand, and good luck.’”

But this is no longer the case in 2023.

  • “We’re in the next chapter now,” Faul said. 

And the next chapter means supporting gym owners on the business side of things. 

  • “Our owners largely get into (gym ownership) because they’re passionate about coaching. A lot of our owners don’t come in with a lot of experience and knowledge on the business side, and historically that meant that a lot of owners made the same mistakes on their own and then worked to recover from that,” Faul said, adding that fixing this is CrossFit’s “responsibility.”
  • “This is a shift…And we believe it’s an important shift,” he added.

The details: CrossFit has already launched a Starter Kit for new gym owners, which Faul said should help provide new business owners a really strong business foundation to get their gym up-and-running. It also provides new affiliate owners the opportunity to work with a mentor—a seasoned gym owner—to help them along the way.

Further, in the upcoming weeks CrossFit will be rolling out more tools and resources to help more established gym owners. Some of the topics Faul said the resources will cover include:

  • finding the optimal size facility for your gym,
  • navigating the ins and outs of signing a lease, 
  • determining the best pricing structure,
  • raising rates,
  • and exploring various revenue streams

The big picture: As much as offering business advice is a shift for CrossFit, Faul is adamant that affiliates will still have the freedom to “leverage their creativity” and “adapt to their local community” to build a unique business that works for them. This freedom is what has made CrossFit so successful from the start, Faul explained, and must be “preserved.”

  • There’s no singular formula that works perfectly in every community,” Faul said.

That being said, within that original business model there’s still room for business advice, resources and mentorship, so gym owners can be more financially profitable and make a “bigger impact” on the community.

“If we’re going to reach more people, our affiliates are the place in which our brand promise is realized. That’s where things happen. So how do we help them be successful? We are investing more,” he said.

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