With a personal training background and years of preparation, he partners with a former client to open his own gym. He shares some successes and challenges and how they have adapted with COVID-19 affecting them.

How To Build A Better Crossfit Gym That Will Survive A Crisis

Key Points on How To Build A Better Crossfit Gym That Will Survive A Crisis

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  • Scott has been in the fitness industry since 2006.
  • After graduating from college, he started working in a corporate gym in the DC area as a personal trainer.
  • He soon got into a director role and kept changing gyms over the years for more clients and a better salary.
  • However, Scott didn’t like that the corporate fitness industry had more of a sales first mentality rather than a help first mentality.
  • He found out about CrossFit in 2008 through his brother and fell in love with the methodology.
  • In about 2010 he started to think about opening his own gym one day.
  • 3 years later, he was training with one of his clients who was interested in investing in something. They started to brainstorm together about opening a gym. Eventually, Scott found 2 more partners and opened CrossFit Durable.
  • Their LLC was formed around the beginning of 2014 and they found the location in a little under a year.
  • For while he was working in a corporate gym as well, but in 2017 he started to work full time in his gym.
  • After his kids were born, Scott started to work in corporate gyms again to generate as much cash flow as possible.
  • Scott sees a lot of new opportunities in the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a good time to reach out to people who wouldn’t go to a gym otherwise but want to be healthy at home.
  • For the people, who would like to open their own gyms one day, he suggests seeking out to a mentor and find a good team.
  • In the near future, he is planning to build their online presence further and have more individualized programs for people who would like to train from home.
Moments of Truth with Scott Mc Alee
  • Who is your success role model? His brother.
  • What is your biggest success? His 2 kids.
  • What does a typical day look like for you? He gets up at 3:40 AM, goes to the gym, and holds 2 classes. Then he works out on his own and works at the corporate gym for about 9 hours. He then heads home and spends time with his family. He ends the day at around 9:00 PM.
  • What’s your favorite quote? “If it's important to you, you'll find a way. If not, you'll find an excuse.”
  • What are your hobbies? He loves success books and spending as much time with his kids as possible.
  • What is the best business book you’ve read? Chris Cooper – Two-Brain Business
  • If there was one key piece of advice you could leave our listeners with about achieving success, what would it be? Some action is better than no action.

About our Guest, Scott McAlee

Scott McAlee

Scott is the owner of CrossFit Durable for the past 5 years, 14 years of experience in the health and fitness field as a Manager and Fitness Director for larger box gyms in the metropolitan area, degree in Business, 4 year collegiate lacrosse player, father to two boys Ashton (2) and Landon (4).




Scott is the owner of CrossFit Durable and has 14 years of experience in the health and fitness industry. He shares his journey on opening his gym and how he keeps it relevant in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The beginning

Photographer: Rodrigo Sarsfield | Source: Unsplash

Scott graduated from college with a business degree, but he always knew he wouldn’t want to work behind a desk in an office. In 2006, he applied for a personal training weekend course. Back in those days, it was enough to be a personal trainer, while nowadays trainers have to be nationally accredited and do a proctored exam. According to Scott, the experience and the personality are what make a trainer, not these courses.

Soon after finishing his course, he got a job in a corporate gym in the DC area. After only 6 months, his regionals saw how enthusiastic and hard-working he was and they put him into a director role. He began climbing through the ranks and kept moving to bigger locations within the company. Moving to a bigger gym meant better payments too. In the end, he had 25+ trainers underneath him.

Scott was doing that for around 3 years, but he started to notice that the corporate fitness industry had more of a sales first mentality rather than a help first mentality. And he felt disconnected with this idea.

Finding his passion

One day in 2008, his brother sent him a website about CrossFit. Scott was always hyper-competitive and he fell in love with the methodology. It became a passion for him and by 2011 he was doing CrossFit competitions.

Working in the corporate gym, he was very passionate about the development of other trainers. He liked to help them grow. When interviewing new trainers he didn’t really look at their experience or their background. According to him, some of the best trainers were construction workers who didn’t have science backgrounds but had fantastic personalities.

As he is hyper-competitive, he always loved hitting goals and raising the expectations on himself. It was always very satisfying for him, however, the downside is that in the corporate environment his achievements reset every month. Scott was never very good at working under somebody and being told what to do. Being his own boss was always a dream of his.

In 2010 he really started to play with the idea of opening his own gym one day, which would probably be a CrossFit gym.

Opening a gym

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It wasn’t until 2013-14 when he actually could open his own facility. He was training with one of his clients who was very interested in investing his money into something. They started to brainstorm about opening a gym together. The criteria to open a CrossFit gym was a 2-day certification and $3k, so they decided to get into it.

Scott found 2 more partners and the investor helped facilitate the process of starting a business. Their LLC formed around the beginning of 2014 and they found the location in a little under a year. Finding a location was a hard task because they wanted to open in an industrial space. However, in their town, most gyms were in retail spaces. The retail price is higher, around $20/sq ft versus $11/sq ft for industrial space.

Eventually, they found the perfect spot in a retail space with full windows on two-sides and they opened CrossFit Durable.

Scott was in charge of the design of the gym. One of his partners was a firefighter, so he was handling the construction side of things. The only area where they didn’t have any experience at the time was marketing and online presence. They made some flyers, but ultimately they used just word of mouth. Scott was pretty well-known in his town, so people got interested in his new business.

Changing concepts

CrossFit Durable started off with around 80-85 members. In the beginning, they offered a free 2-week introduction course. The idea was to get as many people as possible into CrossFit.

However, now Scott says that he would offer a higher price at first if he could do it again. This might be a limiter, but at the same time, it would be a good way to eliminate people who most likely would not be able to afford to go to the gym.

What he is doing now, instead of a 2-week introduction, is offering a one-to-one individualized personal training for $250.

The original idea was to get people into group classes and offer them a program. But over time it changed to a more individualized approach. They are taking lifestyle factors, nutrition, and personal goals into consideration. When someone starts their program, they do a body scan, looking at the client’s lean muscle tissue and body fat, and do a movement analysis. After that, they offer group classes or personal training based on individual needs.

Generating cashflow

Scott was still working in the corporate gym system while building up his own gym. In 2017, he finally went all-in on CrossFit Durable. He even bought out one of his partners.

It took them around 14-15 months to be profitable with their gym. They were slowly increasing member fees. The original member fee was $115-$140. Now it is $175-$195. This way, they don’t need 200 people to fill their gym, 100-120 is enough.

After Scott had his 2 children a couple of years ago, he decided to go back to the corporate gym part-time alongside running his own business. This way he could generate more cash flow for his family.

The COVID-19 pandemic

Photographer: Ashkan Forouzani | Source: Unsplash

By the first week of March 2020, Scott already had a good sense that there will be issues with the coronavirus in the US. He is a part of a global group of gym owners all over the world, so he heard the news from China and Italy. Scott expected the gym to be shut down.

He started to transfer as many things to the online space as possible. They had kids and teens CrossFit classes that they do online now.

Another thing he implemented when they had to close their doors was to loan out their equipment. Their gym is pretty much empty now because they loaned everything to their clients to be able workout from home. One of the qualifiers was to keep their membership active.

Scott always had a health first approach and this is what he expects in his business too, so they are staying shut down for now. Having so much time on his hand is hard because he tends to procrastinate a bit. He thrives in high-pressure situations but is trying to find a new norm during this crisis.

What the future holds

Scott thinks, that the current COVID-19 pandemic will change businesses and push them to have a more online presence. He is planning to do a combination of online and offline training options.

However, he cannot imagine himself doing online workout classes and be motivational to the camera, so in that field he cannot compete. However, he is thinking about a more individualized service for home members. This would help with accountability or nutrition and he would check on them daily based on their needs. This way he could reach an even wider client base.

How to open your own gym?

Bodybuilder and online coach @Crowtersix working out at a gym!Instagram: @VisualsByRoyalZ
Photographer: Anastase Maragos | Source: Unsplash

For people who would like to open their own gyms, Scott is suggesting to wait until this pandemic is over. But if they are trying to get into the fitness space, he recommends finding a mentor immediately. Learning along the way with someone was very helpful. He took advantage of reaching out to other personal trainers and gym owners who were successful. It was a great opportunity for him to talk about his concerns and they were able to push him in the right direction. He also learned a lot of tactics and strategies from them that he could implement in his business.

Scott says, he made every mistake in the book in the learning process, but these taught him a lot. One of his biggest mistakes was buying out his partner with his own cash instead of pushing it through the business.

When opening a facility, Scott also suggests investing in a good team. Always see the big picture and think about if you want to work in your business or on your business. If you have a great staff behind you, you will be way more successful.