Box 101

Gym Owners: The Pitfalls of Scaling Up

Deuce Gym, Venice, CA


Everyone loves the early success story. The once-new gym with new success and new fun is often viewed in retrospect as the “glory days” of gym operation. How many times have you heard the stories of “the old days” before the second location or before “they started getting big?”

Being successful can come with its own set of problems and changes. It’s not uncommon for gyms to experience trouble with community vibes and the experience they offer when gym membership is in the many hundreds. Other times the optimism and booming success of a first location is met more unceremoniously in a second location.

The famed assertion from W.L. Gore & Associates, as highlighted in Malcolm Gladwell’s best-seller The Tipping Point, that we can only manage 150 real networked relationships might support this thinking that when it comes to the richest CrossFit experience, maybe size isn’t everything. Of course, in any business, duplication is key and a major challenge. Surely, there are booming successful communities with massive student enrollments and multiple locations like Brick CrossFit in Los Angeles and Invictus in San Diego, but for every one of them, there are many experiences of veteran students wondering what happened to the early days of their affiliate.

Does that mean that the ideal gym has no more than 150 members? No, but I think this concept is worth looking at. Managing experiences and service with larger numbers is a challenge. And this consideration makes for key distinctions in strategy.

Beyond membership numbers and networking relationships, there’s an entire consideration for square footage that’s often left unrecognized. Tried-and-true success stories like CrossFit Harlem in New York City have kept an unmistakable gym experience by staying in a modest-size gym. We all have been into 10,000-square-foot facilities where a class of 10 students feels like it has the energy and buzz of an art gallery. Hearing crickets in an indoor football-field-size Rogue showroom will never trump the energy and buzz of a well-organized couple dozen hundred square feet.

These are all considerations that we mull over in our heads at Deuce Gym. How big do we go? What about the facility? With the experience and success in the moment, it can feel less like the obvious next step and more like a roll of the dice with these considerations.

Logan Gelbrich


Founder – ORIGINAL Nutritionals & DEUCE Gym