This month I had the good fortune to catch up with CrossFit Games competitor, part owner of Rouge Australia AND new box owner Chris Hogan. With so much on his plate, I was really keen to find out how Chris juggles his own training, the Rouge gig AND setting up and being the head coach of his new box.
The one thing that really jumped out to me when talking with Chris was that the discipline, hard-work and on-going skill-development needed to get to three consecutive CrossFit Games has transferred amazingly well into his business interests. But it hasn’t all been smooth sailing – check out what he had to say…
Hey Chris, thanks for chatting with me today. Firstly, what was the motivation for starting up your own box?
It’s always been a long term goal – ever since I started working at CrossFit Melbourne I’d just thought it was something that I’d always wanted to do. It (CrossFit coaching) didn’t feel like work and was something that I could see myself doing for a long time. But it was something that I had to build up to it, build up the confidence and get to the stage where I could open up my own box.
Why is the timing right now?
I’ve got my other business, Rogue Australia doing well at the moment. That’s been building and we’ve made it through our first year. So when I got back from the Games last year, I said to my partner Maria and the two other people that I’m in Rogue Australia with, that this is the direction that I want to go, I want to try and open my own place, so we’ve been working on that since and it’s finally coming to fruition now.
I think whilst we were setting it up, it was mainly my training that was suffering. With working over 40 hours a week at Schwartz’s, setting up the gym afterwards, trying to fit in the Rogue Australia and in between, trying to train as well, I think that everything seemed to be slightly suffering. So now that I’ve let Ben (Schwartz) know and I’ve finished up work there (Schwartz’s CrossFit) and I’m wearing only one or two hats, I’m much happier in that I’m getting time to train when I want to and I’m managing everything much better.
Knowing what is involved at regionals, with another possible trip to the US, what things have you set in place to cater for your specific Games preparation?
My finance Maria has stepped up and taken a lot of the load with Rogue Australia, which has been good, it’s helped me a lot, because around Games time, I try and wean off of that a bit. At CrossFit 121, we’re only offering one class a day at the moment, so having less coaching time means that we can still develop and work on the box. We’re still building our change rooms, building our website, we’re still working out the final touches and having more time to do this is a massive positive and it sort of gives me a bit of breathing space.
You’ve touched on a couple of interesting points in that you’re up and running classes, but things are still not necessarily in a finished state. Was this an intentional thing, as in are you looking at letting the box grow as the business grows?
Well I love my weightlifting and I’m actively competing out of a club, the Phoenix Weightlifting Club, so everyone was talking about are you going to be putting in some platforms and I tell everyone the same thing that I will, but I want to live in a box a little first and work out the best place for the platforms to be. As well, there are some other things that I want to happen, but I know that I they can’t just yet. We’ve got a really good skeleton and a really good space to work with, but it’s not finished and I don’t think it will ever be finished because you’re constantly evolving.
What are some of the biggest fears that you’ve had to face in setting up your own box?
It’s a bit of a scary step in the sense that unless you’ve got some deep pockets, you’ve got to borrow some money, so that’s never fun. And on average, I was working 43 hours a week at Schwartz’s, which is a lot of work. But you get paid for that, and it’s great having a full client roster and a good class set up and you’ve got a good system and to step away from that to zero clients a week is a scary step, but you’ve just got to back yourself and ring up all of your mates, ring all of your family members, ring anyone you can and get them in for a couple of sessions. And I think everyone knows that once you get people through the door two or three times, they’re pretty hooked.
Having coached and seen client journey’s from raw novice to addict, has that helped having that experience to draw upon?
Definitely. I did some programming at Ben’s box for the group 2 and that’s been something I’ve done for a while now. And having programmed for my own clients I know it’s something I can do. Keeping these guys moving and keeping things positive will keep these guys coming back and they’ll make great progress like everyone does.
Has having that secondary income in Rogue Fitness been an important security blanket to help while you’re growing your own box?
Having that has been a massive help for me. Like I said, we’ve gotten Rogue through its first year and having that so close to CrossFit 121 means that they’re only going to help each other grow.
What direction are you wanting to take your box over the next 12 months?
To start with, I just want to make it a good fun training environment. In setting up CrossFit 121, I wanted it to be a box that is somewhere where I want to go, not have to go. You want to be able to muck around with the mates and your clients, and a place that you do some good hard work at too, but I don’t them to get flogged, it doesn’t have to be like that.
In the short time you’ve been an affiliate owner, what has been the most rewarding thing so far?
When I first started looking at setting up a box and looking at the lease, I wanted to set it up as a place that I wanted to train. I would set it up so that it would be a big playground for me. So I would try and build the gym that I would want to train in and that my family would want to train in. And so everyone that has come down has said that it looks amazing, it looks great and I tell them what is going to be put in and what is coming and they’re almost as excited as I am – which has been great.
As well, we had our first class run the other day and had 11 people turn up. I had a lot of my mates roll in for the first time, a couple of my family members and a couple of their friends and it was good to see them enjoy it as well, not just me enjoying it – that was a good experience.
What advice would you give to anyone looking to start up their own CrossFit box?
I think you don’t have to re-invent the wheel, you don’t have to re-invent the CrossFit box. You start by looking at who is doing well and what you like about those boxes, and also look at the areas that you think you can do better. But you just get around to as many gyms as you possibly can. You talk to people and I think most people are pretty comfortable giving advice, as we all want to see the community grow. So keep talking to as many successful people as you can.
And what about those wanting to compete and set up their own box?
Well you won’t get as much time as you would like to train. You’ll be writing business plans and going to bank meetings and doing all sorts of silly things, but you need to know that if you miss one session, it’s not going to be the end of the world. I think some people get a bit carried away with that – but that’s just life.
Finally, coming in to the business end of competition, how are you feeling about things?
I’m looking forward to regionals. I enjoy the weekend. It’s great fun competing and it’s good to catch up to everyone in person. And all things going according to plan, I get to go back to the states again, but we just have to wait and see on that.
Well there you have it crew – an awesome story that just proves that if you want something bad enough you will create the time to make it happen. I wish Chris all the best at this years Games and I know that he will progressively build his box into something really special for his members.
If you have a question for Chris or would just like to show your support, leave a comment in the box below and we can continue the discussion.
See you next week,
P.S: We have some epic interviews lined up with affiliates from all around the world, so make sure you subscribe to our weekly email updates so you don’t miss any of the gold.