#120 Being Obsessed With Your Clients with Crystal Herring 

John (Intro): I have been on a quest to learn everything I can about leadership obsessed with what makes the best leaders so good. After running companies small and large for the last 20 years, today I speak on stages all across the world to audiences who are interested in that same question. My name is John Laurito and I'm your host. I invite you to join me on this journey as we explore this topic: What makes the best leaders so good? Welcome to Tomorrow’s Leader

John: All right, welcome to today's episode of Tomorrow's Leader, where we dive deep on all things leader related, related to leading yourself and leading others. I'm John Laurito, your host today with a guest that I know you're going to get a lot from. I have Crystal Herring on with us today, who is the owner of CrossFit in Apex, North Carolina, and brings a wealth of knowledge and information and learnings and all kinds of leadership stuff. Congrats on your success, Crystal, and thanks for joining us. 

Crystal: Thanks for having me, John. I feel honored. I hope I can bring some value here to your listeners. 

John: Well, I know based on what we've already talked about, I know there's going to be a ton. So there's a lot of stuff that I'd love to talk to you about. And I know, you know, I'm familiar with CrossFit because I've done it before and it's a huge part of the fitness industry. But for those people that are listening or watching that don't know Crossfade, maybe that's a good place to start. Why don't you explain what it is? 

Crystal: Absolutely. So it's pretty basic, right? It's functional movements performed at a high intensity. So we do weightlifting, running, lots of bodyweight exercises, and every single day is completely different. 

John: Got it, and it's really I mean, it's a lot based on community, right? I mean, that's a big aspect of CrossFit. What does that look like? 

Crystal: Absolutely, I mean, that's one of the things we pride ourselves most on here, maybe more important than what happens as far as the fitness in our building, is our community. It's pretty crazy. We give back a ton. We have 150 members here and we spend a ton of time taking care of each other, taking care of the causes that are important to our people. We do a ton of stuff with Special Olympics and Travis Manion Foundation, we're big on giving back to military heroes and things like that, too. 

John: That's excellent. That's fantastic. So it's not only about helping people get better themselves but also, you know, helping other people and helping the community around. But the community also within the group. I mean, a lot of CrossFit is not the concept of just going to the gym and working out by yourself in a dark corner. I mean, it is truly, I recall when I had done it, there's a lot of accountability, but there's a lot of teamwork. There's all kinds of stuff. What does that look like? 

Crystal: Yeah, we joke around, you know, if you want to take your headphones off and come join part of a community, that's what you can do here. You know, we're not a Global Gym. There's nothing wrong with that. But, you know, you're going to come in here, you're

not going to have headphones in. You're going to be a part of a small group of people who all are like-minded individuals. We all have the same goals. And, you know, most of our classes are less than 20 people. And so you've got a program written for you at the start of every workout that you follow with a group of folks that encourage you. We don't allow anyone to clean up from their workouts or put anything away until the last person finishes. So you'll find some pretty big cheerleaders here, too. 

John: Oh, that's cool. So in the end, it's not like everybody's off doing their own thing. I mean, if you're the last one or two-person, you know, finishing up, you've got a whole, you know, group of people cheering you on. 

Crystal: Absolutely. That's something we pride ourselves so much in CrossFit that you'll definitely never finish alone. You'll see so many times, you know, the last person got a lap to run or five more. Burpees is that people from the group will join them and finish with them together. So don't feel like they're finishing alone. It's pretty cool stuff. 

John: Yeah, and it's not from what I remember. I mean, it's not where you are and tell me if I'm wrong on this, but it's not where you're working out for an hour hard and, you know, like you know, like just going to the gym and lifting a lot of weights. It is really a series of short bursts, intervals of really high intensity, right? And it's really the outcome of that is just huge dramatic results, right? 

Crystal: Yeah, I think CrossFit is so intimidating to people, that's one of the biggest barriers that we fight every single day, specifically with women, and I hate that. And I've tried so hard to break down that barrier. It's not a one-hour intense workout where you're going to leave, you know, feeling like you killed yourself. We spend a great deal of time here. Specifically, our box is warming people up. So we spend the first, you know, could be five to 15 minutes doing a warm-up and stretching out. And sometimes we break out lacrosse balls and foam rollers and that's when we talk through the workout of the day is what we call it. And then we spend some time on a strength or skill portion so we could be back at the squat rack. We could be practicing, you know, pushups or sit-ups or handstand push-ups, something like that. Whatever we're going to do in the workout, we spend some time building up to that, whether it be a skill or strength, gymnastics is a big part of it. So you'll see some of that, too. But the biggest thing is we have a modification for everything. We truly believe that CrossFit is for everyone here at our gym specifically. And so no matter what level you're at, you're going to come in here and get a great workout. And that's the greatest part about our coaches and the fact that we have such small groups of people. There's plenty of time for that. So no matter what level you're at, you're getting a great workout. Yeah. And then the workout itself can be five minutes long or 35 minutes long. It really just depends on the day. So it's constantly varied, which is great. 

John: How much does the relationship aspect and the community aspect keep people coming back? Like I think about, you know, now it's for those people that might be watching this at a different time. We're right at the first week or second week in January. Got a lot of people in New Year's resolutions, but then you usually see three weeks out, the gyms empty out. What's the retention rate like? And is it really impacted by that community feel? 

Crystal: Yes. So to give you an idea, we have 150 and on average our daily attendance is 100 to 120. So our people are showing up every single day. You know, I feel like, in a

boutique environment, you're paying a little bit more. So you're not going to pay for a gym that you're not going to come to, you know, at that rate that we charge for people. And so that's definitely a huge difference for us versus a much larger gym. Accountability is key. And everybody knows that. We have an athlete chat, we have a food and lifestyle chat. Our coaches get an absentee report every week that they follow up with anyone who hasn't shown up in the gym. So we refer to ourselves as the accountability partners from Hell. Yeah. You know, we reach out to you if you don't show up at the gym. Yeah. I mean, we want our people to show up, right? We want you to be successful. And if you're not in here, you're not going to be successful. 

John: Yeah, well, I know. I mean, first hand, I've worked out and exercised most of my life. I know the periods of time where I'm doing it by myself is significantly less effective. One I go, much less. I remember when I was working up by myself maybe three times a week, I convinced myself I'd go five or six. But when I looked at it, it was probably three and my workouts just weren't as good. And I have for the last six, seven months been working out with my brother-in-law, Jeff, and our workouts and consistency have gone up significantly. Today ended up going because he, wasn't able to go. And it was really hard for me to drag myself there. So that accountability, that partnership that you get from other people, that's huge when it comes to this. 

Crystal: I think right now, people aren't getting the community where they typically did. They're not going into the offices. Churches are just now starting to reopen. So I think a lot of the reason why people come in here every single day is to have that community and get to talk to other adults. And like I said earlier, just be with like-minded people. 

John: Absolutely. Yeah. So now you and your husband Brian had started this in 2018. Is that right? So how did you get into it? Tell us about the start of it. 

Crystal: So I always joke that I'm a CrossFitter by marriage. My husband is the mastermind behind this part of our business, which is the actual gym. I run the business, he runs a gym, we try and stay in our lanes. So he's been an avid fitness guy since before I met him, since 

high school and college has been a big part of his life, just healthy living in general. We relocated here from the Baltimore DC area in 2013 and we joined a big giant gym and we had two tiny little kids. And he kind of developed the following of people who wanted to do functional fitness, CrossFit like workouts. CrossFit is very strict, though, about you can't do CrossFit, you can't call it CrossFit unless you're in a CrossFit gym. So it got to the point where we had you know, he had a really large following of people, upwards of 50 people that were training with him at this big gym. And then we transitioned to our house. So he had a huge career shift very unexpectedly in January of t2017. And he sat down and wrote a business plan and convinced me somehow that this will be a good idea. Mainly I just wanted all these people out of our driveway and garage, I guess. So we took a huge leap of faith, he had a non compete. So there was a period of time where he had some time to write this business plan. And I was a stay at home mom at the time and so took a huge leap of faith. We signed a lease, so there was no turning back on that. And we had these 60 people who committed to starting this with us and signing up with us. They believed in us, even though I wasn't quite sure what we were doing was the right choice. We did it. And so, yeah, we opened in March of 2018 with 60 people in this gigantic brand new space all on our own. Just Brian and I, he started a new full-time job right before that so that we could pay our bills

and keep health insurance and all those things. And I kept up with my contracting gig. And so here we are. Almost three years later, we've more than doubled our membership count. And wow, it's been a huge success. 

John: That's tremendous. Congrats. And obviously, during a really challenging time, which I want to get into a little bit with you, what was when you started the business? I mean, this was something that came, it sounds like, out of a passion and had a really powerful, you know, why. And you had a following and Brian had a following. What was the biggest learning, though? What was the biggest kind of when you started the business? Was it what you'd expected or was there some kind of big aha moment or what did you think? 

Crystal: You know, I don't think you have any idea what to expect when you open a business. It was truly a passion project and it kind of married both of our strengths. He's so passionate about helping people and in the fitness world and I'm so passionate about building communities. It was a perfect fit for us. Honestly, there weren't a ton of challenges the first year because we were literally running on adrenaline if I'm perfectly honest. I mean, this was his dream come true. And so he just was so excited and passionate about it. There weren't a ton of struggles in the beginning. We had a dedicated group of people who stuck with us and supported us. Like I couldn't even begin to explain. I'd say that if I had to pick a struggle, it would definitely be the fear factor, especially for me. I'm not a risk-taker, that's for sure. And so there was definitely terrifying, to say the least. What was the scariest thing? Failure, right? It's always the scariest thing. And in such a visible thing, I mean, if we fall on our faces with this brand new business, that's an actual storefront that we have social media for, that we've put ourselves out there. There's no hiding it. Right. Everyone's going to see the failure. And so that was definitely scary for me for sure. Yeah, I don't think that Brian had that same fear. He was so confident in what we were doing, which is great. We have a good balancing act like that. 

John: Yeah, it's interesting because some people that you talked to say that visibility, that high visibility is good, it motivates you and it's got even more accountability, more at stake. But you're right. There's a fear there, too. It's like, OK, I'm if I'm going to fail, I'd rather fail privately, not so publicly. I'd like to succeed publicly but fail privately. But that's an interesting thought about it. One of the things, though, that's interesting about your business, a lot of business owners I talked to are starting a concept or business, a service out of a passion, but they don't necessarily have momentum. They're starting from ground zero. They don't have any clients. They haven't built a following or anything like that. How important the giving advice to a business owner like that? Is it better to plant the stake in the ground and build it and they will come in? Or is it better to get the momentum ahead of time? I mean, what's your advice having done it? What do you think? 

Crystal: So I'm a big believer in building people first and not building a business. You know, I think you build you build people and then people help you build a business. We could have never done this and I never would have done it. One without people to support us from the very beginning. That would have been too scary, too much risk for me. I guess if your risk tolerance is higher then maybe you do start and you build it and they will come kind of thing. For me, I needed people that were going to support us first and I needed people that believed in us first to start out.

John: And so you literally had these people that were already followers and were working out, I guess, with you and Brian that were agreed to hey, listen, yeah. We'll be your first members of your gym. 

John: Yeah. I mean, these are people that Brian trained for years for free. Yeah. So, you know, we put a ton of time and effort every morning. He'd get up no matter what, in addition to his full-time job. And he did all the programming himself. And yeah, they definitely committed to it. We told them our idea. They encouraged us. They offered to support us and so many insane ways out. But in the end, we did it on our own without any investors or anything like that. All we needed was their commitment to help us get off the ground. And so that's what they did. 

John: Yeah, that's excellent. Well, congrats again. What do you think has been the biggest leadership challenge you've had? 

Crystal: Oh, geez. I definitely think managing people is difficult. We have an amazing team and we always have every person that's worked for us is amazing, I think in the beginning trying to. Convince people to believe in us for sure. You know, we started out on our kitchen island with this group, this team of three coaches that we sent and got their certifications to coach with us and getting them to believe in us and believe in what we were doing. That was huge. And we owe an immense amount to those folks who started with the very beginning leading. You know, you have to have thick skin, just like I said, with owning a business. You have to be able to have difficult conversations that aren’t always fun. But I think in any small business, we had to prove ourselves as leaders to these people who are working for us. And that took some time for sure. And we weren't able to pay them an immense amount or give them a ton of benefits in the beginning. And they did it anyway. And so it's paying off now and we're able to give vacation time and health insurance and we were able to pay people through Covid, which was huge for us. 

John: How do you get people? Because this is also a question I get a lot from leaders that struggle with this. Hey, I know I need to get great people. I don't have the resources or the money to pay to get great people. But you see people, businesses that are still able to attract great people even when that's not the case. How do you do that? What goes into getting those people on board, even though it's not necessarily for a big paycheck? 

Crystal: Yeah, I think the biggest thing we've learned is hiring from within, which you see a lot of successful businesses, such a big part of CrossFit, that is the community. Right. And every single CrossFit gym has a very different community and a very different dynamic. And so across that coach down the street might not be a good fit for us because of know the demographic of our community. And so what we've learned and where we've had great success is hiring within. So we have an athlete who's super passionate and moves really well and just is a good fit and a good advocate for our people and our business. Then we'll ask and we'll reach out. Hey, are you interested in doing this? And so that's worked out really well for us, I think, to just word of mouth. You know, people talking about us and within the community, the fitness community has been really good for us. 

John: That's great. And you know what? That's a great point because you've got people that are believers because they're clients, you know, they're members of the gym. And who better than to be the people helping to drive the success and helping other members and

help the organization grow. And so I think a lot of businesses lose sight of that. Sometimes the best hires can be from your customer base. And that sounds like what you've done in many cases. 

Crystal: Yeah, I mean, I think we've definitely built a cult-like following, to say the least, in the best possible way. Our people you know, it's so funny. They joke that the first rule of CrossFit is to tell everyone you do CrossFit, which is great for us from a marketing perspective. Our people have got the bumper stickers on their cars. They wear our gear and our swag everywhere, and they are truly walking marketing billboards for us. So it's really great. 

John: That's awesome. So that's pretty amazing. How does that develop? I mean, if you're talking to leaders out there in other businesses that are saying, well, I wish I could build that type of following in a tight-knit community, I mean, what goes into that? 

Crystal: Well, I mean, I think you have to believe in what you're selling and believe in your service and you have to be on fire about it to make other people feel that way. And Brian and I truly are and our coaches truly are. We believe in it. It's so important to us. We're huge advocates for mental health and physical health. And I just think we've believed in ourselves. They've seen what we've done. They get so excited. The biggest compliment, I guess I'll have like an older athlete who's been here forever and they'll be like, oh, my gosh, that class, it was huge. Like, you know, they're so excited to be a part of what we've built, you know, especially people who have been here for years and years. So I think the biggest thing is just them seeing how on fire you are about it and you believing in yourself is the biggest part about it. 

John: It's electrifying. I mean, people get attracted to them because they want that positive energy. And, you know, I'm a huge believer. Health and fitness, physical and mental. It starts there and that's how you lead yourself through lots of success. And even adversity. It's also got to be tempting sometimes to take it personally when you have, you know, whether it's setbacks or people that don't join or maybe people that, you know, end up quitting or stopping, do you find that's the case? And how do you handle that? 

Crystal: Absolutely, I mean, every single time we get a cancelation and we do right, we get cancelations for all different reasons, it's expensive to be a member of CrossFit. That's a big part of it. To that end, any time someone tries to cancel for a financial reason, our community will carry them in a hot second. Over Covid, we floated 15 athletes' memberships on our own. Just we don't ever want that to be the reason why people don't come here. I feel like that's such a barrier to entry for people to CrossFit. And that's never the case in our gym. You know, if you want to be a part of our gym and that's the issue, then we'll work through it. So, yeah, I think that's a big thing. People move, you know as I said before, we police our community a lot. We've definitely let some people go, which is hard to do. But, you know, this is a business. It's not just a place for fun. And so we do it with our team. We do it with our community. You know, we run this like a business as not just a gym. It's a business. And we have to follow rules. And we don't do drama and we don't do negativity. If you're not here to show up and be positive and support each other, then you have a place here. 

John: So you've actually cut members?

Crystal: We just have said, like, we just don't think it's a good fit, you know. Yeah. And that's OK. No offense taken. And we did it with, you know, people as a part of our team too. It's just, you know, it's toxic. And that stuff in a gym especially, you know, runs rampant. And I feel like that was probably one of our biggest fears. When Brian wanted to open a gym, I was like, oh, I don't know. Like I don't do drama. I don't like that kind of thing. And I feel like gyms are breeding grounds for that. And so we promised we wouldn't do that. And it hasn't happened here. 

John: Well, as a leader, you own that culture and you know, in that environment, I see a lot of leaders that hold on to the wrong people for way too long. I was actually this morning I was talking to somebody who was talking about the fact that there was an absolute cancerous negative person in their organization. It was a small organization that was taking this person that I was talking to who's an A-player and dragging her down. And they let her go. They finally let her go this year. And it was a smart thing to do because inevitably that person in the organization too long or in the classes or whatever it is is going to have a negative effect on other people. And then your players end up a little leave and then want to put up with that. 

Crystal: And I feel like a gym especially is such an intimidating place for people to be already. You know, you've got to make sure that every person in a gym is supportive of everyone else. And we're big on exclusivity here. You know, anyone here is welcome in our gym. We have people, we have huge kids and teens programs. We have people here from the age of 4 years old doing CrossFit kids classes to up into our oldest athletes, I think. 72 he is. And so, yeah, everyone needs to know they have a place here and never feel intimidated walking in our front doors. You know, I think we're obsessed with our athletes. We're obsessed with our clients. And that's why we've been successful. You know, we are constantly asking them what they want, what they don't want, and we're constantly adjusting to meet their needs. And I think that's so important. 

John: I love that. 

Crystal: We've also had very slow and steady growth. You know, it's so hard as a small business owner not to get excited about all the things you could do. And so we've been pretty consistent and slow and steady instead of kind of jumping on all the things that could make us more money quicker. And I think that's benefited us greatly. We've grown with the correct people and the right people that are a good fit for us. 

John: Yeah. So when you talk about, you know, the policing environment, the self-policing environment, what does that look like? I mean, what is that when you've got standards, I guess, that are so high or that people that are the members want to make sure are upheld, are there examples or can you give us a story or something that shows what that looks like? 

Crystal: Yeah, I think you can tell right off the bat, usually if someone's going to be like you said, cancer or a problem or toxic to the environment, it's pretty, pretty easy to tell. And, you know, it starts out probably with a conversation. Right, which is never easy. A story that comes to mind is we had a newer athlete who reached out and just said that she had asked for help in one of her classes of another athlete. And they, you know, they kind of made a snarky comment to her and made her feel really unwelcome and uneasy. And so that's the type of stuff we just don't tolerate here. We're a community and we got to be supportive of

everyone. And so we just pulled the athlete aside and had a little dialog with her. And she's super apologetic. You know, probably her humor was taken the wrong way, I guess. And I don't think we'll have that issue again.So that kind of stuff. You know, from a coaching standpoint, I think we have very high standards for coaches, and I think that's probably a really hard part about owning a business or anyone that works here for us. 

Crystal: It's hard to find someone who you trust to leave with someone, something that you've built. And it's taken me years to build. And, you know, we have very high standards. We have coaching contracts that they have to sign with. Our value system was not listed on it. I think lots of gyms hire hobby coaches, you know, people who just want to come in. They like to coach, they'd like to work out. They want a free gym membership. And that's not the way we operate here at all. Like I said before, we run it as a business. We have team meetings. These people are our employees, not contractors, not one-offs who are just coaching for a free membership. We pay them very well, we treat them really well, and we have super high expectations. You know, it's not just an hour of coaching. We require them to be here before class or hire them to stay after class, know we require them to follow up with people and offer words of encouragement, you know, so our expectations are super high. 

John: Well, that's a sign of a winning organization. You know, sometimes problems, it happens. It's kind of the low, the slow degradation of standards that kills businesses and kills companies. And it doesn't happen overnight. If it happened overnight, it would almost be easier. But it's a slow one percent drop in the standards that you'll have a leader or a business owner that will say, wow, how do we get to this place? I don't even understand it. I don't even know how we got here. And it's because they didn't have the conversations that you had where you spotted a problem and you addressed it. And just like you said, more times than not, when it's addressed, it's usually met pretty positively because a person may not even realize that they violated the standards or they did something that was, you know, not in alignment with the core values or whatnot and the leaders that address that head-on. Those are the ones that are successful and those are the ones that lead, you know, top-level organizations. 

Crystal: Yeah, I think you have to show your team what your expectation is. You can't just expect them to know what the expectation is. You've got to show them, you know, we require our team to be a part of our community, too. That's a big deal for us. You have to be in class alongside our clients and our athletes. They want to see you doing the exact same things that they're doing every single day. So that's a big deal for us, too. 

John: Well, let's talk about building a team because that's a question also that many, many leaders have and they struggle with is building a successful winning team, especially trying to build a team that works in a way where everybody's strengths are complemented and whatnot. How do you think about building a team and some of the challenges that might exist? We're trying to do that. 

Crystal: Yeah, I think my number one thing is just being vulnerable, you know, Brian and I are not experts at owning a business three years in. And so we've been very vulnerable and open to criticism ourselves and in helping us build things up and change things, we're definitely not perfect either. So we give criticism to our team, but we also expect it in return

and we can handle it. And some of that has helped us build some of the best protocols and had some of our greatest successes because of that. So, you know, as I said, I think it's been our biggest struggle for sure, especially in a situation like this where our business is not necessarily full time. Right. And these people aren't making six figures. It's truly a passion project for our coaches. And so it's definitely been a struggle. My best advice is to treat them very well and to constantly offer them education and ways to grow. We have a monthly meeting and every other month we try and bring some value to add whether it's a chiropractor or in February doing CPR and AED training. And we do. We give dollars for education every single year to every coach to spend on themselves. So just encouraging growth. And again, just like our athletes, like they ever kind of phase-out or don't feel like it's a good fit here, that's always fine. 

John: Yeah, well, it's you know, and I think that's the truth. If it's not a fit, you can't just try to get people part of your organization just to fill seats. That's got to be the right type of people. And one bad person, one person is not a fit, can take out five, 10 positive people and have that much of an impact. And many business leaders don't necessarily anticipate that. Yeah, it's hard. Yeah, definitely. So we've just been through a very, very tough year. 2020. We walked in last time this time last year, nobody had any idea of what was going to be coming. And here you are, a new business owner in a gym that obviously was highly impacted, an industry that was highly impacted. How did you navigate through 2020? Tell us about that and some of the challenges that obviously you and everybody else were facing. How do you deal with that? 

Crystal: And I think we're still navigating it, right, every single day we're navigating it. I was hopeful that when 20 twenty in the calendar flipped that we would be all over this. But obviously, that is not the case. So, yeah, we're still dealing with it every single day in the fitness business. Aside from, you know, the hospitality business has been hit really hard. So it has been hard. I think it was just a concrete reminder to me that selling a service is not enough anymore in any business. It doesn't matter what you sell, if you're a restaurant, if you are a retail store, you have to do more than that. You have to get back to your community. You have to have a community. I mean, are people rallied around us, like I couldn't even imagine. It brings tears to my eyes to think about what they did for us. You know, we pivoted very quickly. We didn't sit and think about it for a week or two to try and figure out what we're going to do. Obviously, we couldn't have planned for this. We had no idea this was going to happen. Not even in the second week of March did we realize what was going to happen. So we pivoted quickly. We communicated a ton. We were very transparent people. We were very vulnerable, which was not an easy thing to do. 

Crystal: You know, we told people that if we didn't have their continued support through and through this, however long it lasted, then we wouldn't have a gym. And that was the honest truth. So we literally closed our doors. On the same day we closed our doors, we opened the back doors and people pulled up their trucks and SUVs and we gave them our equipment. So the 128 people who are members here were able to come and borrow our equipment. Each person got one or two pieces and we created a quick Google spreadsheet to track who had what, and they had to sign it out and sign a liability waiver really quickly. And so we did that on a Saturday morning for about five hours. There were lots of tears shed and we thought it would be for about two weeks, you know, and so little did we know it would be for about six months or so. And our people took their stuff home to their garages and their

driveways and their living rooms. It was so fun to watch people on Zoom and kind of where they were working out and they dialed in. We started out with four or five Zoom workouts a day from our garage, and we got to know our people in a whole different level. We got to know their spouses and their kids and their dogs. And so there were so many great things that came of Covid and our people bought gift cards on our website and just literally couldn't give us enough to make sure that we were OK. It was unbelievable. 

John: Well, I think that comes from having given so much and having made such an impact in their lives. And when you do that and unselfishly, you're doing that, that when the tables are turned and you're in a situation of needing help, that's why they're so quick to help. And that says a lot about you and your gym and how you've run things. That's true. And the community, obviously, that's a fantastic community that you've built. 

Crystal: So that's pretty awesome. Yeah. I think, you know, we listen through the fear and the unknown, obviously, like I said, thinking it was going be two weeks and turning into months and months. I think we were one of the first gyms to reopen and we did it in our parking lot, and invested a ton of money in these rubber mats that we could use in the back parking lot. And we opened back up at the end of June with small group training and the heat of the summer. It was so hot and people came and they came bigger and more than ever before. And it just showed us that they needed physical, mental health more than anything they needed to be around each other. I truly believe that we're all stronger together, and I think most people here feel that way, too. So it was overwhelming. And they're willing to go back out there in the parking lot right now if that's what we need to do. They're like, we don't care if it's winter, we'll do whatever we need to do. They've followed our strict, strict protocols the entire time and we've done it successfully. Thank God everyone stayed healthy. And what we're doing is working. 

Crystal: So, you know, we also used the time to kind of readjust any business that has an unexpected shutdown. You know, Brian, I spent a ton of time going over protocols, looking at kind of what's worked for the first two years and what hasn't, what we really need and what we really don't. You know, and we kind of pared down a lot of what we did before that really wasn't necessary that people didn't really need to have. And I don't know if we'll ever bring some of those things back. So, yeah, definitely showed us what we needed, what we didn't and what was important in our business, and what wasn't. 

John: Do you think in a way it strengthened you this last year? 

Crystal: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. 100%, yes. 

John: You said something that really struck a chord with me and that's being vulnerable because I know of many leaders and businesses that have not been put themselves in that situation. They've not been transparent. And maybe it's because of pride, I guess because we all have it. It's an ego thing and you don't want people to understand and know how difficult things are whatnot, I know a business that actually, unfortunately, closed and the employees had no idea, nobody knew they showed up and stores were closed, whereas maybe, you know, it sounds like with your being open, honest, transparent, that led to even tightening and strengthening the gym and the organization and the community itself. Is that something that you feel leaders need to do that more? Is that a big part of what you've learned?

Crystal: 100%, I mean, I want people that I do business with to be transparent with me as well, you know, people want to help and they want to show up for you, but they don't know how or they don't know that you need them to show up for you. They're not they're not going to do it, you know. And so, yeah, I think look, Brian, I still have other sources of income besides our small business. So we're very grateful. And in that, we could keep the business afloat if we needed to for a little while. And that is what we did. But, yeah, transparency is key. Look, it's a huge hit to the pride. Let me tell you, especially for Brian. You know, he was like, really? Shall we really say this? But it was the truth. And people needed to hear that. And once they heard it, that's all they needed to know. And like I said before, there were people who couldn't stand behind us. There is job loss. And people were scared just like we were. And so, you know, showing those people that no matter what, even if they couldn't financially support us, that we were still going to be there for them, that we're still going to support them. You know, and I think everyone's comfort level right. Even right now, is different. And we fully respect that. A big part of what we're doing right now is offering lots of different things. We're still offering Zoom classes. We're offering workouts in the gym. There's always the ability to workout outside, which is what a lot of our athletes are doing. So, you know, I think listening to what people want and what makes them feel comfortable right now, people are still nervous and scared. And so we have to work through that. 

John: Well, I think also when you're that open and transparent, you invite them to come up with solutions and ideas to help because it's you know, it's otherwise you're just relying on your own ideas and solutions and nobody is smart enough and experienced enough to come up with everything, you know, the days of the leader that knows everything and the know-it-all are long gone. I mean, people aren't attracted to that type of person. They're attracted to somebody who's authentic, which means dropping the guard and pulling the veil back and saying, OK, here's the deal. Here's, you know, here's what the reality is and here's where we need some help. And I've seen countless businesses do that. 

Crystal: Yeah, I think they want to know that you're like them, right, we're in this right with them. We're not in this above them. We're going alongside them. We're all struggling with the same things right now. I mean, none of us have ever been through anything like this. And so we don't know what we're doing. We're trying the best we can and we want to know what we can do better. And they've told us and that's fine. And sometimes as a leader, that might be hard to hear, you know, but for us, we're welcome. Any you know, we're like, tell us all the things you think we can be doing better. You know, there's nothing more valuable in this business than our relationships with these people. I mean, there's nothing. 

John: Yeah, exactly. Well, I'm excited for you. You've had obviously in a short period of time, a lot of success. What do you think as you look out, you know, three years, five years? What's your vision? 

Crystal: I think my vision's a little different than Brian's, which is what makes us a good match. You know, I think we were growing out of our space pretty quickly here, and that's become more apparent with Covid for sure, with our space restrictions and things like that. So I think our vision is continued, slow, steady, correct growth. You know, we want to grow our business. I think any business that can make it through covid, especially in the health and fitness world, people are realizing now that health and fitness are so important and we have to take care of ourselves so that when a pandemic hits, we're all OK and we can

survive through it. And so I think that you know, we've been busier now than ever before. And that's why people are realizing the importance of health and wellness in their life. And so my vision is to grow the business, you know, triple it is right now and to get our own space sometime soon in the near future and, you know, continue to make a difference in our community. And that's my vision. 

John: That's excellent. Well, you've got I know a big community of followers. Hopefully, this helps you get more. This ,interesting enough, I just found out this podcast has been listening by people all around the world that have actually tuned into this, but there's a huge contingency in Holly Springs, Apex area. So you've got a lot of local listeners. So where are you exactly for those people that are listening to that may want to drop in, may want to get a hold of you? How do you know how do they learn more? 

Crystal: Absolutely, so we're super active on social media. You can also check out our website at CrossfitContrivance.com. We're located right in Apex on the Holly Springs Apex line on East William Street across from the Big Hope Community Church. So we would love to see you and drop in and just say hello and introduce yourself. We've got three small kids. We live right in Holly Springs ourselves. So we are right here. 

John: Well, I'm going to ask you for one last piece of advice for the listeners, because you've got people that are, you know, in all different walks of life. You've got some business owners, you've got executives, you've got teachers, you've got parents, you've got athletes. You got people that just want to make 2021 the best year they've ever had, maybe especially coming after 2020. What's one piece of advice you give them. 

Crystal: I would say if I had to choose one, it would be consistency is always key. You know, consistency is key in your workouts, in your diet, in business, and in life. You just be consistent, you'll definitely always have success. 

John: I love it. I love it. Great stuff. Well, this has been terrific. I know we're at the close of our time here and this has really been helpful. We're going to put all your information in the show notes. For those listening, just go to the show notes and you'll see all Crystal's information and how to visit CrossFit and social media contacts and all that kind of stuff. But I hope as you get closer to that vision that you have and tripling the size, you'll come back on, and then we can say, hey, remember the beginning of 2021? We did our first show together. So we kind of reflect. 

Crystal: Well, thanks for inviting me, John. This is great. 

John: This has been terrific. Thank you, Crystal. So we've been here, everybody with Crystal Haring, the owner of CrossFit Gym in Apex, North Carolina. For those of you who want more, obviously, we've got all the information in the show notes. Some great, great takeaways today on leadership, on building a business, on pivoting, and navigating through uncertain times. I hope you've enjoyed today. Please make sure you like, subscribe, share. As always, add your comments, suggestions for future guests or topics and go down below hit five-star reviews. Give us your comments there. As always, appreciate your time today. Look forward to seeing you next time. Thanks, everybody.

John (Closing): Thanks for joining us on today’s episode of Tomorrow’s Leader. For suggestions, or inquiries, about having me at your next event, or personal coaching, reach me at john@lauritogroup.com Once again, that’s john@lauritogroup.com. Thanks! Lead on!

 

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