Yesterday evening at Kane Hall on the University of Washington campus in Seattle, Washington, I had the honor and privilege of attending a seminar presented by the founder of CrossFit. Known by most as simply “Coach,” Greg Glassman shared insights into how the CrossFit phenomenon was created and the importance in establishing a free enterprise system in which affiliates thrive.
This was the first time, aside from CrossFit Journal videos, that I have heard Glassman speak. Overall, I found his demeanor likeable and his perspective straightforward. He was not afraid to discuss the economics of the business and fielded questions that many folks have put on the table, such as issues around saturation and brand protection.
“an opportunity so rich that it became an obligation.” -Greg Glassman
Throughout his speech, there were several nuggets of insight that I found particularly interesting. Glassman discussed that business owners should focus on pursuing excellence as opposed to money. “Excellence is the beacon. Excellence is the light house,” Glassman said. Excellence is the only thing that is constant and should be the focus of all that we do. He said, “Markets move capital to excellence.” Glassman pointed out that by building a brand and culture that exudes excellence, the money will follow. This process cannot happen by focusing on money first. Focusing on excellence allows individuals to pursue a passion. Glassman said that his goal was to establish “the best training program every created.” This perspective allowed him to provide a value to his clients that other gyms and personal trainers did not make a priority. He focused on excellence without ever realizing he was becoming an entrepreneur and the wealth soon followed.
Glassman said that, “Business is presenting uniquely attractive opportunities.” I absolutely loved this definition. You typically read that business is about solving a problem or taking an existing idea and manufacturing it more efficiently or for less cost. What types of opportunities are businesses offering their clients? I work in Higher Education and even through that lens, this perspective is applicable. If you are not able to provide a unique and attractive product/service/experience to customers, you will not be in business for very long.
Glassman shared his experience in Africa, building schools, and how the CrossFit community banded together to raise money through the CrossFit for Hope work out. The work out generated nearly $1.7 million in donations. He discussed how much power there is in giving. A quote that truly stood out to me about this experience was that he felt it was “an opportunity so rich that it became an obligation.” Wow. A millionaire founder of an exponentially growing fitness program made it a point to discuss how giving is enriching to the point that he feels obligated to continue doing so. I find that to be a powerful perspective.
Towards the conclusion of his talk, before taking questions and answers, Glassman discussed his marketing philosophy. He said, “The best marketing is when you are so good that people won’t shut up about what you do.” There was laughter in the crowd as I am sure most people have heard the joke, “How do you know that someone does CrossFit? Because it’s all they talk about!” Glassman said he doesn’t recommend marketing. He recommends branding. Focus on your brand and clearly communicate to others the value that your company offers people. His goal was not focused on maximizing the rate of return on his investment, but to “maximize the healing.” He knew that if he focused on healing his clients by providing “the best training program ever” and optimizing their nutrition, the marketing would take care of itself.
Glassman set up a free enterprise model of affiliation, as opposed to franchising his brand. He has almost single-handedly created a platform in which thousands of individuals have become entrepreneurs. He expressed that the overall “pie” of revenue generated by the CrossFit brand and community (Affiliates, shoes, supplements, apparel…etc. All companies that are positioned as targeting the CrossFit population) is estimated at $1 billon. The CrossFit brand slice of that pie is roughly $50 million. Glassman conveyed that the overall goal is for the pie to continue growing, while his slice continues to shrink. Glassman has put his opportunity for obscene wealth on the backburner to empower those in the community.
I was not quite sure what to expect from this seminar. I decided to come in with an open mind and worst-case scenario was that I got to listen to the founder of this life-changing activity that we have come to know as CrossFit. I mean, it’s not every day that you get to listen to a millionaire speak for roughly $10 a ticket, right? I could not have been more appreciative for the opportunity to hear him speak. I felt rejuvenated and excited as we walked back to the car. These “business” lessons are extended beyond the boardroom and the bottom line. These words are how we should be living our lives.
Focus on excellence. Seek opportunities to give that are so enriching it becomes an obligation. Pursue your passion. Provide uniquely attractive opportunities. Pay attention to the process and not the end result. If you’re good at what you do, people will not shut up about you. Do not market, brand. Maximize healing.
And most importantly, as Glassman said, “Love the hell out of your clients.”
A special thank you to the Freedom Foundation for hosting this event.
I am passionate and write about personal development, leadership, education and healthy lifestyles. I work in higher education and I am committed to being an outstanding mentor and professional in my field.