Today, we continue our interview with Todd Nief, co-owner of South Loop Strength and Conditioning (“SLSC”). To view Part I of this interview, please click here.
If you want to learn more or have questions for Todd, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Todd Nief: So, there was some sort of “sting operation” going on regarding CrossFit gyms in Chicago not complying with an Illinois statute surrounding fitness business contracts.
A gentleman pretending to be an interested client came in and asked our front desk guy a bunch of questions about our memberships and then asked to see our contracts. At the time, we didn’t have membership contracts (since we were new and had no idea what we were doing). Based upon this and some other documents he had viewed, we were cited with a $20,000 fine for not complying with the state statute requiring certain cancellation policies on fitness business contracts. The fact that we did not even have contracts was not a defense, since, if you are accepting money for a service, that is legally a “contract.”
The truly bizarre facet of this story is that the Illinois statute was clearly written to protect consumers from predatory contracts that escalate in value over time, have Rube-Goldberg machine style cancellation policies, and will not let you out if you die or move. In some twist of fate, the state decided to attempt to fine a gym $20,000 in its pathetic second year of existence with owners who did not have the wherewithal to have proper contracts drawn up. We were able to work out a settlement, but I still periodically laugh at the insanity of the state of Illinois running a sting against our rag-tag operation.
[Note from Aaron Werner (Health and Fitness Attorney/Interviewer): Be sure your gym is using a form membership agreement that has been reviewed and vetted by an attorney knowledgeable in health and fitness matters. Each state generally has its own statutes that discuss what must be found in your form membership agreement. If your form membership agreement does not follow the applicable state statutes precisely, you may experience what SLSC went through (above).]
H&F Law Blog: How does your gym handle insurance (general liability or otherwise)? How concerned are you when evaluating policies and types? Is there a heightened concern with the types of activities and amount of weight some people are lifting at your gym?
Todd Nief: The CrossFit Risk Retention Group (“RRG”) is actually a fantastic entity that handles insurance for a lot of CrossFit affiliates. When we first opened, the RRG was not yet formed, and we had another commercial policy. Fortunately, we never had any claims, but dealing with it was a nightmare. Our agent was unresponsive and incapable of answering basic questions or getting us documentation we needed (like additional insureds, etc.). The policy also was kind of unclear in terms of what kinds of activities it did and did not cover.
The RRG is created by CrossFitters for CrossFitters so all of the different scenarios surrounding running a CrossFit gym (competitions, kids programs, non-CrossFit fitness activities, etc.) are covered and explained and they are very responsive to inquiries.
Todd Nief: Well, there are two answers here. I can give you the backroom coach -nerd speak or the client-facing doublespeak marketing nonsense. Or maybe a blend of both.
Most of our clients come in looking to do CrossFit - either in a group class setting or working with a coach one-on-one in either a personal training setting or a program design setting. A lot of these clients want to do CrossFit for different reasons. Some want to look good and feel good. Some want to have more energy for the job. Some want to be healthy long-term for their family. Some people want to maximize their performance in CrossFit as a sport, and they want to beat people and win points and money. Some want to use CrossFit as a strength and conditioning program to improve their performance in another sport - like soccer, triathlon, or rugby.
Each of these cases is a little bit different, and we understand the appropriate way to coach each person based upon - not just what their goals are - but what their priorities in life are.
Yes, we know all the details on how to design lactate endurance protocols, how to teach a snatch, how to progress back squat strength for beginner, intermediate and advanced lifters, and how to write running intervals that will improve someone’s mile time by 45 seconds over eight weeks. We know how to tell the difference between a squat that’s limited by poor ankle mobility, one that’s limited by poor hip mobility, and one that is limited by inability to properly stabilize through the core.
But, more importantly, we know how, why and when to apply each of these protocols and modalities. And, we know how to make the process fun, exciting and engaging to keep people coming back.
H&F Law Blog: What are your plans for the future? What is on the horizon for SLSC?
Todd Nief: Right now, our goals in the next few months are to grow membership to the point that our monthly memberships cover all of our fixed expenses (rent, payroll, utilities, etc.). Right now, we’re still dependent on extra programs to make ends meet, which is not ideal. We are also in the middle of our competition season as I am writing this, and we are hoping to send a team to the CrossFit Games Regionals at the end of May in Columbus, Ohio.
In addition to the membership growth and competition aspects, we hope to expand our online coaching as well. Me and one of our full-time coaches (Jon Colborn) each coach several clients - both in the gym and remotely. We like to think that we know what we are doing when it comes to writing exercise programs, so we are going to be looking to expand that service even more - by both bringing in more coaching clients and potentially additional coaches who we have worked with as well.
We also have a podcast and a blog that we post to a few times per month. We try to put out content on not just training, but also nutrition, business, change psychology, and whatever else we find interesting at the time. We also like to interview CrossFit coaches, start-up CEOs, independent record label owners, CrossFit Games athletes, and physical therapists who are smarter, more knowledgeable, and generally more well-rounded and interesting people than ourselves.
The blog is located here: http://southloopsc.com/articles. And the podcast can be found on any podcast catcher by searching “south loop strength.”
[Note from Aaron Werner (Health and Fitness Attorney/Interviewer): Definitely check out SLSC’s blog. They have excellent content.]
H&F Law Blog: Todd, thank you so much for participating in this interview. We very much appreciate your insights and honesty with respect to the excellent gym you guys are providing in Chicago (and online).