What is an Affiliate Rep and How Do They Benefit CrossFit?
About a week before Eric Roza bought CrossFit along with Berkshire Partners in July of 2020, an Affiliate Representative program – also known as Field Leaders – was launched.
The idea was simple, in the wake of CrossFit’s most damaging and controversial times, communication from head office to affiliates moving forward was key, and could make or break the company during its most fragile moment.
The US now has 14 affiliate reps, broken down by various states and regions, and two regional managers (East and West). One of the affiliate reps in the US is Zac Zuspann, who runs two gyms out of Oklahoma City (CrossFit Complete and CrossFit Complete West). Zuspann said there is a lot of work to be done, but he is confident CrossFit as a sport, methodology and a company, are headed in the right direction.
Zuspann opened his first box in 2010 and added the program’s guiding light, through the initial stages of a leadership transition, and pandemic, was “to increase communication between CrossFit and CrossFit home office.”
He continued, noting each affiliate is different, which means communication is key at all levels. Zuspann oversees four states (Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and Arkansas) noting they meet once a week to tackle the problems of the moment. The global pandemic presented a waft of challenges for affiliate owners which included varying degrees of lockdowns according to state or even region, and gym owners trying desperately to find ways to stay afloat as shutdowns dragged on.
“Whenever you are working with a very large diverse group of people with different personalities, the solution isn’t always the same for everyone,” said Zuspann, who noted the goal for 2022 is to rekindle in person meetings now that the pandemic appears to be in the rear view mirror.
“But you have to learn to be flexible, you have to be a good listener, and you really have to rely on your experience and to try and provide a solution. And that solution could be drastically different for each owner given what their passion or purpose is.”
CrossFit’s senior manager of Affiliate Community/Engagement Danielle Hale, who leads the US Field Leader program, said the community has been through a lot but is looking forward to the future.
“Our field leaders have really stepped up over the last two years, as the community experienced big changes and tried to navigate the impact of a global pandemic,” said Hale. “They absorbed worries and guided owners, understood and truly cared for their peers as they made their way through hard times, and – most important – served as a voice for their fellow owners.”
“[Field leaders] are a voice for the affiliate community at large.”Danielle Hale, CrossFit’s Senior Manager of Affiliate Community/Engagement
Hale added the field leaders are a sounding board for their respective districts and a filter for CrossFit’s affiliate team as headquarters develops new products and experiences for the community, so they can test them with this group first.
“They are a voice for the affiliate community at large, and we appreciate them at every step of the way.”
Josh Hunnicut, the District 8 field leader (MI, IL, IN) and head coach and owner of New Species CrossFit in Metro Detroit, said he’s seen a shift already taking place.
“My favorite part of the Field Leader program is how it has brought box owners back together in a positive way. I have seen it rebuild relationships between box owners and have watched them connect over the new perks and programs for owners.”
Zuspann said he has seen a shift in communication from head office as of late as well, and an increased willingness to have a consistent back and forth dialogue between affiliate owners and home office. Zuspann said part of this is working through problems that invariably arise and must be dealt with.
“We want to be that trusted avenue of support for owners where they’re maybe feeling frustrated sending an email out into space, or if home office is taking awhile to get back to them and they can come to us and maybe we can help filter that information.”
CrossFit headquarters also noted a number of tools for affiliate engagement and support they’ve rolled out over the past year, including regional Affiliate Roundtables to encourage small group mentoring, the Affiliate Playbook with tools and best practices, CrossFit Affiliate Programming to make weekly workload a little lighter, and the Affiliate Partner Network to help save money and drive increased revenue. CrossFit said in a statement that all of those initiatives were launched due to survey responses and individual feedback directly from affiliates themselves.
Editor’s note: the original piece incorrectly stated the launch date of the Affiliate Rep program, and the story has now been updated. We regret the error.