Equal Partners

By Amy Ferro

A year into our relationship, Chris and I were reading Men’s Health magazine and found the featured “Baseline” WOD. We both did it and nearly died. As trainers, we knew we needed to get to a CrossFit gym, for our own fitness and to enhance our client’s training. As many first timers do, we did an intro session at CrossFit Boston on a Saturday morning in September of 2008. The rest is history.

Our situation seems to be pretty rare. When we opened CrossFit Southie in late September of 2010 I was only twenty-five and Chris had just turned twenty-seven. We’d been together for three years and each had our own separate personal training sole proprietorships. We decided to open the business as partners and took a plunge of faith we would stick together. We did things backwards: open a business, grow it, then think about marriage, vacations, a house, babies and all the other life endeavors and choices.

Since we opened, membership has grown to 425 members and we have expanded twice. We went from 3,600 square feet, to 7,700, to 10,000, and we are now looking for more space. There are five of us full-time, one twenty-hour per week coach, and four part-timers (less than ten hours per week).

When we first opened, however, Chris and I worked seven days a week. I remember a stretch of forty-two days without a day off. Talk about becoming sick of each other. I don’t think we had any idea how well we complimented one another before we opened CrossFit Southie, though. If you have read the E Myth you are familiar with the personality traits of successful business owners. The Entrepreneur is a dreamer who takes action and has little fear of risks. The Manager is organized, systematic, and good at keeping the day-to-day responsibilities running smoothly. The former will run with an idea, but leaves a mess along the way; the latter cleans up the mess and keeps the idea afloat. Anyone who knows us could easily distinguish the two roles. I am the entrepreneur and Chris is the manager. I’m the one who wanted to open CrossFit Southie and took all the initial steps to make it happen, but Chris is the one who has put most of our systems in place and is responsible for the business running smoothly.

It’s not easy. Every day brings a new decision to be made, and with every decision comes a debate. Through debate, compromises are made. Nothing is ever done on impulse. Every business decision we make, we feel confident about because we know we each individually analyzed the issue and came to a decision.

We play to our strengths. Chris deals with the financial obligations, developing the website, improvements around the box, employee delegation, and scheduling. I am responsible for all special events (certifications, competitions, fundraisers, Paleo challenges and anything social or community-related) marketing, programming, designing and ordering apparel, payroll and health insurance, and the boxes’ growth (dealing with the landlord, inspectors, and contractors). Splitting the responsibilities in half makes the business much easier to manage and grow, and the business would not be what it is if one party was missing.

How often do we argue? All. Of. The. Time. It’s the norm. We expect a lot out of each other. This is common in most business relationships, which is why many small business partnerships often end in turmoil. For us it works. We can disagree and let it go because we care for each other, and on the nights I leave work early, I still find myself counting down the minutes for Chris to come home.

This past Christmas, Chris asked me to marry him. After sharing business ownership, the thought of marriage seems like a walk in the park.

Amy Ferro is the co-owner of CrossFit Southie.