In the early 2000s, Craig Patterson (Patty) stumbled across a man named Greg Glassman —the founder of CrossFit.
Patty, who instantly recognized Glassman’s genius, immediately took to the man. Quickly, Glassman became Patty’s mentor; he mentored him about fitness, and about life. For three years, Patty called Glassman on a weekly basis to pick his brain. They talked about how a gym should be run. Terms like “free market” and “personal training” buzzed around, and Patty instantly understood their importance.
When Patty began working with his own clients, he did so in a one-on-one environment, getting to know each of them personally, as well as athletically. He knew it was just as important he get to know what was going on in his clients’ personal lives as it was to teach them the proper mechanics of a deadlift. Within 6 months, Patty was taking home $6,000 a month training his growing stable of clients.
That’s when he opened CrossFit Vancouver, the first CrossFit affiliate in Canada—now MadLab School of Fitness, the only registered vocational school of fitness in the country.
The year was 2005. People instantly started flocking to this newfound CrossFit program, and manpower became an issue for all the early affiliates. They responded by developing a group class model to get people fit because it allowed them to coach more people with less coaches. Patty did the same.
What happened next was a nightmare. Patty started to lose the one-on-one relationships he had forged with his clients when he trained them in a one-on-one environment. Suddenly clients weren’t as invested. And suddenly people weren’t moving as well and were getting injured more frequently because they weren’t getting the coaching they needed.
He remembered the terms “free market” and “personal training” and “school of fitness”—things Glassman taught him. It was time to institute change.
In 2006, Patty took on two new coaches – Trevor ‘T-Bear’ Lindwall and Andy ‘Nutts’ Nuttall. He started paying them based on the free market, giving them a percentage of the revenue they generated. At the time, 70% of the revenue went to the coach, 30% to the house. These numbers have since been adjusted to 50%-50%.
This was also the start of the coach apprenticeship program. Without realizing he was doing it, Patty began passing his knowledge to his coaches—to T-Bear, Andy Nutts, and eventually Chris ‘Sheppy’ Saini, the way Glassman had mentored him.
Things started to roll. CrossFit Vancouver started to make in the neighbourhood of $20,000 profit a month, and coaches, too, started to earn living wages.
The problem now was the common one of burnout. Patty found himself working an unsustainable amount of hours. To combat this, he decided to open the floodgates to anyone who wanted to coach. Anyone who had completed his Level 1 CrossFit certificate course was handed the keys.
It was a complete disaster. Nobody was in charge of quality control or developing coaches, who weren’t being mentored properly at the time. Patty realized that, while the free market was a necessary component of his affiliate, there needed to be a free market system with some regulation.
This (2009) was the start of the official coach mentorship program, which has since become an accredited school for fitness trainers, recognized by the PCTIA (Private Career Training Institutions Agency of British Columbia).
Patty started taking on one apprentice coach at a time, bringing people up in a one-on-one environment, like Glassman had done with him, and like he had done with T-Bear, Andy Nutts and Sheppy.
The concepts were in place: free market, personal training, quality control, professional coach, school of fitness. Now it was time to institute a more formalized coach diploma apprentice program.
That’s what MadLab School of Fitness is today.
By 2009, Patty and his coaches had their ducks in a row, so to speak. They had a solid intake process in place, which included a fundamentals program of 12-15 personal training sessions; they understood how to develop coaches, and their coach compensation model was allowing coaches to flourish.
At the same time, CrossFit as a worldwide community had gone from five affiliates to a few hundred by 2008. By 2009, it hit 1,000.
One day, Patty received a call from Glasman: Andy Petranek, the owner of CrossFit Los Angelos, and his business partner, John Birch, were starting a business consulting group. Their idea was to come in and show other business owners how to best run their affiliate. Glassman wanted Patty to be more involved, so they created a “Mastermind Group,” made up of 20 of the top affiliate owners in the world, including Petranek, Birch, as well as current MadLab Group member Dave Picardy of Northshore CrossFit in Boston.
The idea was to talk as a group once a month, and to reveal their numbers with each other. When numbers were revealed, nobody’s numbers came even close to CrossFit Vancouver’s. CrossFit Vancouver was grossing $50,000 a month, while most others were scraping by earning just $5,000 in gross revenue. And what was even more telling than gross revenue was how coaches were doing. Patty’s top coaches were taking home $5,000 to $6,000 a month. Nobody else was even in the ball park. Hardly anyone was churning a profit. The situation was dire.
Perhaps because some owners were unwilling or too embarrassed to share their numbers, or perhaps because they were just burnt out from slaving away coaching 80 hours a week pursuing a group exercise business model—but after a few months the group dwindled to just five or six people.
That same year, Patty spoke about what he was doing at the CrossFit Affiliate summit in Las Vegas. When CrossFit HQ put the video up on their website, Patty started getting calls from business owners everyday asking for help.
The story was always the same: Most gyms had no coach development, no coach compensation model and weren’t intaking new clients properly. He started mentoring other gym owners, which essentially was the start of the MadLab Group.
From 2009 to 2014, Patty dedicated his life to mentoring other gym owners, and collecting data through Alpha, Beta and Gamma teams to discover best practice in the industry. Today, these best practices have been turn into the 8 Laws of Gymmin—laws that have helped countless gyms become more successful.
Today, the MadLab Group has close to 200 members gyms, who have implemented MadLab’s business model and are using MadLab’s tools, including their online school and coach development process, to help their business, their coaches and their clients. They’re well on their way to professionalizing the fitness coach, and MadLab School of Fitness is leading the charge.Join Now