In CrossFit

October 19, 2009

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CrossFit Inc. defies categorization according to traditional business models. Perhaps that’s why the company is exploding during the worst economic climate since the Great Depression. Business journalist Marty Cej took a closer look at CrossFit the corporation and presents his independent research here as written. CrossFit Inc. has not verified Cej’s calculations and projections.

CrossFit Inc. is variously portrayed as a fitness company, a grassroots health movement, a nascent sport, a fad, a publishing business and sometimes, disparagingly, a cult. Whatever the description, a few things are certain: CrossFit is hugely profitable, and its growth has only accelerated during the worst economic downturn since the 1930s. That’s something very few companies—fitness or otherwise—can claim.

With CrossFit, Greg and Lauren Glassman have sparked a fitness movement that has attracted and inspired hundreds of thousands of people around the world. CrossFit’s founders must now contend with the challenges of managing one of the fastest-growing fitness companies on the planet.

Greg Glassman calls the company’s evolution “organic,” a term that has become a buzzword for any sort of growth that doesn’t result from an acquisition or merger. In CrossFit’s case, the word is both accurate and specific. Glassman has taken his lead from clients and trainers, cherry-picking what works and dismissing what doesn’t. He likens his role to that of an orchard keeper rather than manager.

“When you map out the revenue streams—the affiliates, media and the seminars—the way they support each other is too beautiful to have been planned,” Glassman admits. “The Journal validates our approach, the seminars authenticate it by providing a real human experience, and the affiliates replicate the process. It’s the virulent nature of CrossFit.”

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16 Comments on “The Business of CrossFit”


wrote …

Fantastic article, incredible people and a community we are proud to be a small part of. Thanks for the piece Marty.

CrossFit Marina


wrote …

Dave Castro is a SEAL?


wrote …

Fantastic article Marty. Whenever I think I have a handle on how beautifully simple & complex CrossFit Inc. is I see something else which displays it in a new and amazing light. Thanks for shedding that light.
Semper Fi,


Damon Stewart wrote …

Thanks Greg, Lauren, Dave, Nicole, Lynne, Lisbeth, and so many others. As affiliate 184 we're proud to be part of this amazing community and personally I hope the Glassmans become billionaires in their continued pursuit of excellence coupled with integrity.


wrote …

Awesome article Marty! It was great to read how CrossFit is evolving from this perspective.

We do CrossFit as a family and love it. My wife, 11 year old daughter and myself just ran a marathon relay this weekend with bunch of other CrossFitters from our box. We would never have done something like that before we started CrossFit.

Thank you to Coach and Lauren for starting this ... we can't wait to see where it goes.

Mike - CrossFit PEI


wrote …

Terrific article, but I find it funny to have so much content and comment from Patchell-Evans, Mr. Globogym himself. "Patch" recently described a $3 user fee for music used in spin classes as "the worst crisis facing the fitness industry today." Um, slightly different paradigm. GoodLife has perfected the perfect vanilla in Canada: mediocre, non-threatening, provider of Lowest Common Denominator PTs. They own Can-Fit-Pro, a weekend certification course. They sell insurance to their Trainers. But this is where the similarities with the CrossFit community end. They now own Trothen/McConkey, an insurance firm for fitness professionals, who won't sell insurance to CrossFit Affiliates (citing concern over "truck pulls" in one email to me personally.) Another local PT accused "Patch" of personally attempting to block his insurance applications when he left GoodLife many years ago. A look at their annual conference seminar list reveals over 90% sales-related courses, and the rest focused on BOSU balls and elastic band training. Where CrossFit encourages client growth through the education of its coaches, GoodLife has a PT turnover rate rivalling the fast-food industry. We're poles apart and mutually exclusive.


wrote …

A friend (also an economist) said "Crossfit must be a inferrior product if it is growing in an economic deppression" He then did the WOD with me "Tabata Something Else" now he thinks the only thing inferrior are other fitness programs. I can't wait till we can open our own affiliate. Plus look where traditional business methods have put us.


wrote …

I am awed by the direction we CrossFitters, as a community, have come from and are going. It is awesome to see that if you replicate yourself in people who have the same values as you, success is within your grasp. I love that success is not defined here in the CrossFit world as monetary income. I believe the money is a symptom of the loyalty, integrity and selflessness the Glassmans have reproduced in each one of us and trying to change the world through fitness and nutrition. Yet time and time again I continue to read and understand what it is in the minds of the affiliates and the trainers that keeps them pushing forward. To that I say, "Audaces fortuna juvat!" Some starting in city parks or gymnasiums with nothing but a kettlebell and a medicine ball. Some starting debt free and continuing to operate that way through out their entire life. In this day and age, when people's nest eggs are flying away and their own pocket books are looking emaciated, it seems that their realization of mortality and that all they can really affect is their own health and perhaps try to spread that a little to their neighbor. It will continue I believe in this manner for quite some time. Thanks to the whole community for what you have given freely. Thanks to the Glassmans for what they have freely given and for their belief in people!



wrote …

Reading this gives me chills! I feel so fortunate to be a part of something so amazing and so life changing. Greg and Lauren, thank you for what you have created, given and continue to do for us all. I can't imagine how you both must feel, and I wonder if you really know just how thankful we all are for what you have given us the opportunity to do. I know what CrossFit has done for my life and for so many lives at our little box alone. When I actually stop and think about just how many people are touched and inspired all over the world by CrossFit it is truly incredible. Thank you!


wrote …

Big thanks to Glassman and all the people at Crossfit inc. started a month ago and just hit our 1 year membership goal of 50 people. The growth is so rapid we can barely handle it, a good problem!!


wrote …

And you deserve every penny you bring home, Coach. Can't thank you enough!

As far as Castro running the show while being on active duty overseas... wow. I need to suck it up and realize that my day job + kids + wife + church + life does not equal "too busy to work on my gym's programming"... Thanks for your service to both country and Crossfit, Dave.



wrote …

Great timing, great article, considering the debate raging through the message boards on the so-called "dilution" of the brand. Greg and Lauren, you are near genius in your efforts, and have demystified the path towards achieving wellness for some, and Elite Fitness for others.

Another Article could chronicle the satellite constellation that has sprung up in lockstep with HQ, that services the CrossFit Community--the "centers of excellence" that serve to feed both the material and educational needs of the CrossFitter/Affiliate owner: places like CrossFit Central, Invictus, Again Faster, K-Star, Brand X, Balboa, Max Mormont, Catalyst Athletics, HyperFit, CFLA, Coach Rut, (scores of others,) the Tyler Haas's, StudBar Pullup's, Rogue's, GG's, and so many many more.

This is truly a great community to be a part of.

CrossFit San Elijo


wrote …

How about the fact that not only does Coach keep affiliate fees the same for those that started early, but he gives free affiliation to Military Affiliates. This alone has allowed our CF community here at West Point (Black and Gold CrossFit) to grow exponentially. We started 2 years ago with about 5 people at 0530 in the morning and now we easily have 40-50 COLLEGE kids showing up on a regular basis every morning at 0530 and over another 50 that do the WOD throughout the day. One Fridays we get over 100.

The ability to call ourselves an affiliate lends legitimacy to the box here and could not be maintained without the non-profit option. The warriors that are being shaped here will graduate and take functional fitness to their units and an in shape Soldier, saves lives. You can't put a price on that. Our trainers here do it for free and wouldn't have it any other way. I know that is not realistic (and would actually be pretty stupid) for those who are trying to have profitable boxes but it just shows the love for the community and makes me understand what Coach and Lauren were doing in the beginning by being a free source on the internet. Our trainers can afford to do it because we get paid to do other things, but I can tell you just watching the spark light up in a kid who gets what their doing and why they need to be better is a phenominal feeling. That is why CF trainers do what they do...the money is just a bonus. If you love what you do, you never work a day in your whole life.


wrote …

I wouldn't say Dave was actually working for the last year of active duty. hahahaha


wrote …

Outstanding article Marty! As both an affiliate owner and also a business ops manager in my other job, this really resonated with me. It's great to get some history and a little "behind the scenes" look into HQ, the business model, philosophy, scalability and profitability, etc.

Thank you to Coach, Lauren and HQ for the profound impact you have all made on so many of us and for sticking to the strict belief in providing a forum, tools, resources and a proving ground for this amazing community to thrive and grow.


wrote …

a few Exercise demos and, a few free crossfit journal articles and my curiosity was peeked. 25 dollars later and I was a fanatic. 1000 dollars later I'm a trainer. 6 months later and my life has never been better and looks like it's only getting better from here.

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