Top 3 Things I Wish I Knew Before Opening a Gym with Dave Tillman of Crossfit Cedar Park

Awesome. Sweet. Well, let's make this happen. So first quick question, how do you describe your business? Would you describe it as CrossFit Cedar Park or CrossFit 2222 or more broadly than that?

Dave Tillman: That's a good question. I'd probably describe it more as CrossFit Cedar Park. That seems to be the main hub, even though we have 2222 and it's growing, it's still like the little sister if you could say that, but we definitely have that, and really Tillman Physical Therapy is a huge part of that because we do so much together, you know what I mean? When we first started, it was Tillman Physical Therapy and then CrossFit grew out of that, so I always trained, but I trained before CrossFit, so it was still working with athletes and everybody really, but we didn't know what CrossFit was.

There you go. Awesome. How long have you owned, so how long have you been training or would you say you've owned a gym even before the CrossFit movement came along?

Dave Tillman: 2000, right at 2001 is when we started.

Holy moly.

Dave Tillman: Yeah, yeah, so it's been about, oh man, 17 years, yeah.

Yeah, that's amazing and awesome. All right.

Dave Tillman: Yeah, we opened up in 2001 and I did some group, but a lot of one-on-ones and a lot of stuff like that, but we had some group classes going, and I trained, literally I trained outside of our physical therapy clinic, and then we affiliated CrossFit in 2007.

Rock and roll, man, and early on that trend and still going strong.

Dave Tillman:  Yeah.

Awesome. Well, let's jump into these questions, man.

Dave Tillman: Sure.

What was the biggest struggle you faced when opening your gym?

Dave Tillman: So, when we first opened, it was, honestly, I'm not gonna lie, it was finding equipment. It was tough to find equipment because like my first, and you might know some of this because I remember when I first met you, it was like hey, could you come up with this or find this or whatever, the first pull-up rig we ever had, I had to go to a machine shop downtown and literally all that I had was a picture that I took off of the computer, and went down and said hey, could you make this, and the guy was like, yeah, I could make that, so it literally was equipment at first, and that would be probably the first thing.

The second thing was explaining what CrossFit is. Now a lot of people know and there's CrossFit gyms all over, and most people at least have some idea even if it's a little bit distorted. You know some idea of CrossFit is and what it entails, but at that time, nobody knew. They just thought it was some kind of hard core military training or something like that.

Awesome, and a very self-serving answer. I love it. Or serving me? (laughter) Let's move on to the next one. What was the best thing about opening your gym?

Dave Tillman: Man, it's kind of, I think it's a similar feeling as when you get your first apartment, and you're just there and it's kind of your place, you know what I mean? You have that first apartment, you make your peanut butter sandwich or whatever, it's the best fricking peanut butter sandwich you ever had 'cause it's all yours, and so that thing. I could literally run whatever workout I wanted, you move things here, there, run it exactly, and it was just a cool feeling to know that okay, we're building a community and we can as a community, not just me saying you have to do this or that, but as a community we could do anything we wanted.

When we had our first challenge, we had an epic challenge which had tire flips in the back, and that was just, it was ... I don't know, man, it was kind of like a church, and that's probably the closest thing to it, like you're building a church basically because that community became so tight, and we literally still have people from that very first time. That's just the coolest feeling is just knowing like this is my crew, my team, my family kind of a thing.

I absolutely love that. That's awesome. Moving on to the third and last question, what are the top three things you wish you knew before opening your gym?

Dave Tillman: Oh, I wish I knew, I wish I would have known how to pay my coaches. That's huge, 'cause we had gone through over, whatever, however long it's been, 20 years, 17 years, we've gone through ten different ways to pay your coaches, you know what I mean, and part of it is growth. You adjust things as you grow and that sort of stuff, and so it's having that system in place 'cause at that time, it was all trial and error, and there wasn't any of that.

It was that, like I said before, the equipment. It was tough to get equipment. My first kettlebells that I got, I had to order from overseas because they didn't have 'em here in America, and so I ordered three kettlebells from overseas, and I had to pay whatever the payment was for the kettlebell, the shipping was exactly the same, so it was outrageous for me to get literally a 35-pound, It was a one pood, one and a half, and a two pood. That's what I ordered, and now, of course, because of places like Fringe, I can just literally drive down and pick up some kettlebells from you guys.

Yeah, buddy. So how to pay coaches, how to get equipment. You have a number three thing that you wish you'd known before?

Dave Tillman: Oh, yeah, yeah. Number three thing. At the time, it was marketing. At the time, we had a certain way to market, and it was literally just word of mouth, go tell your friends, which is a great way, but we definitely did not exhaust our options through online, social media, that sort of stuff, and now I think that's a vital part of any gym. You have to have your Facebook, your Instagram, that sort of stuff. If you're not doing that, then that's sort of a niche that you're missing out on, and so I think that's the other part of it.

Awesome. I love it, Dave.

Dave Tillman: because literally I started, we started, when we switched to CrossFit, like we lost a couple of people because they were afraid or whatever, and our first class, like we had two people that wanted to do CrossFit. I had other people that didn't want to stop doing personal training and other things, but two people that wanted, hey, I'll do CrossFit, and at that time it was a little more hard core, and so they'd go home ... we had a guy who passed out in his front yard and the neighbors thought he was crazy, and then eventually we got one person from him. We just didn't know the best way to brand and market ourselves, and now it's kind of a big deal.

Got it. I love it. Well, believe it or not, that's it, man. Hopefully it was pretty painless.

Dave Tillman: Yeah, it was.

Anything else you want to chat about?

Dave Tillman:  No, man. I'm good. I mean, I could talk about this stuff all day. Don't get me started on programming 'cause then it'll keep going.

I'd love to have that conversation with you shortly.

Dave Tillman: Yeah, brother.

Well, thanks a lot, Dave. Have a great evening.

Dave Tillman:  Thanks, Peter. I appreciate you, man.

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