The American Dream: An Interview With Jeremy Thiel

“The American dream is alive and well.  The ability to create a successful company today is more possible than ever for the person who is willing to go out there and bust their butt, get educated, network, and do the work it takes to be successful.  The sky’s the limit.”

Jeremy Thiel is a CrossFit affiliate “box” owner based in Austin,TX.  He co-founded CrossFit Central with his sister, Casey Kepler, in 2005.  He has 3 gyms and also runs a program called Relentless Boot Camps, with over 12 locations.  CrossFit Central was voted “Best Training Studio” by Austin Fit Magazine in 2010.

CrossFit is a recently blossoming strength and conditioning brand, combining a variety of intense, timed, high-energy full body workouts, including sprinting, lifting, carrying, climbing, gymnastics, and much more.

“My passion is the sport.  CrossFit isn’t a hobby.  There’s this huge lifestyle component to CrossFit, kind of a mentality and an edge that the hard-hitters desire, as well as people who want to produce exceptional results in their lives, people who want to be motivated and encouraged.  Whether it’s success in overall fitness, wellness, or weight loss, our goal is to do everything that we can do in the community to support people in achieving their goals.  My biggest motivation is setting people free of the mental, physical, and emotional limitations that they set on themselves.”

Thiel is also the owner of a growing company called SicFit, which he describes as “a video/community website, all-supporting of CrossFit as a sport.  We do media, marketing and promotion, everything to do with the CrossFit lifestyle and with progressing the sport to the next level.”

Beginning To Live The Dream

“I got introduced to CrossFit in August of 2005, went to my first certification in November, and just fell in love with the community and what CrossFit stands for.  I knew that this was what I wanted to do with my life, and I saw a phenomenal opportunity for future growth and development.  As an entrepreneur, I was seeking a profession that lined up with my passions, but also with my desire to make a professional income.  When I found CrossFit, I thought it would be the perfect way to live my dream of working out anytime, anywhere, with no real limits on the type of income I could make.”

“I started my business through boot camps, which were outdoor fitness programs based on the CrossFit functional movement protocol.  I used medicine balls, dumbbells, kettlebells, PVC pipesâ€â€limited equipment compared to barbells and gymnastics apparatuses, but which still yielded great results with the high intensity interval type of training that CrossFit provides.  I did that for over 16 months and had well over 100 clients.  That’s when I decided to get into a facility, which we grew up to 70 clients in about 14 months, and continued to run the boot camp.  So in the first two to three years, we got up to a couple hundred people and really paved a good foundation for future growth.  We eventually grew out of that facility and found a new location, which quadrupled our floor space, allowing us to pursue more clients and have our own space to operate as we chose.  And from there we really exploded.  We grew rapidly.  By year three and a half, we were at around 500 clients.  At that point, we opened up a second location.  In the past year we opened up our third location, a specialty training facility called Red & Black CrossFit, where we do strength conditioning, Olympic weight lifting and auxiliary training, as well as higher intensity training that is more programmed for CrossFit competitions.  And now we’ve pushed into the 800 client mark.”

Building Something From Nothing

“When I started in 2005, I had about $1,000 a month to live off of.  So I was pretty broke.  I was really set on doing things debt free, and building something up through cash flow.  So I had to produce results by getting clients fit and in shape, getting more clients, and recruiting new talent to come on and coach with me.  I really had to build a business from nothing.”

“The biggest problem I faced was that things just didn’t happen fast enough.  When you’re young and ambitious, you want it all now.  But you’ve got to be able to have perspective on how and when growth occurs.  I read a book quite a few years ago called “The Slight Edge”, by Jeff Olson, who teaches about the law of compounding interest and about daily individual habits developing into long-term success.  That really helped shift my mindset.”

You’re Only As Good As The Company You Keep

“When I started this thing, one of my biggest desires was to develop a team.  You’ve got to have a team around you to balance out your weaknesses and help you stay focused on the tasks that you might not be the best at, but which are necessary for your business.  As an entrepreneur, I really saw myself as a headhunter.  I was constantly out there hunting for top talent and recruiting them onto my team.  From the get-go, I was converting professionals in the industry into CrossFit coaches.  These were people who were really talented, but not all their skills were being used; they were longing for something that gave them more meaning.  Now we have 25 professional coaches.  In the last 2 years, my role has shifted from coaching clients to coaching the coaches and developing their skill sets, and also working with my management teams, running the business.”

Promotion

“We’re heavy proponents of promoting through online social media, as well as just meeting people and networking.  We really don’t take the approach of paying for advertisement.  I invest in people.”

On the importance of using facebook, twitter, video, blogs, and other social media platforms to spread the word about your business, Thiel gives this valuable advice:

“Use them; that’s number one.  Sometimes it can be so overwhelming.  People don’t know where to start, so they don’t even get on the platform.  But sign up and start to navigate the territory.  Seek out experts in the social media platforms who can communicate how to utilize them.  Gary Vaynerchuk’s books “Crush It!” and “The Thank You Economy” are huge resources.  “Engage!” [by Brian Solis] is another good book on social media.  Strive to do something exceptional, and let others know that you are excited about it and want to share how it can impact and help them.  If you’re passionate and excited about what you’re sharing with like-minded people, you really can’t lose.  People are going to associate with your experiences, and that’s what social media is all about.  Being very progressive on those platforms has been one of the most powerful things we’ve done from day one.  Especially with posting videos online.  I’ve invested quite a bit in video production and recording, just to get people to see what’s actually going on at the gyms.”

A Lesson Learned

“This is really my second go at business.  When I was 20, I started a company called Power Plant, which was a sports conditioning program.  I was the sole owner of the company, but I had two or three of my best friends working with me as partners in the creation and operation.  We didn’t have any contracts or agreements on what that meant.  We put in work, and I paid out money at the end of the day.  I had fallouts with some friends due to lack of communication and transparency.  So the biggest lesson I learned from that first attempt is that transparency and contracts are key for continual success.”

What Does The Future Hold For CrossFit Central And SicFit?

“Our goals are to stay progressive with our operations, IT department and technology; that’s crucial for our future as we grow past 1,000 clients.  Also, to continue to add value to our current clients and support the Austin community.  Plus, we’re looking at possibly expanding from theAustinterritory to other facilities around the country.  With SicFit, we’re coming on as a platinum sponsor for the CrossFit Games, supporting them with media and promotion.  We’re trying to develop SicFit into a global brand.  It’s being well received in theUK,Australia, and all across theU.S.  It really is a dream come true to be able to ship gear and t-shirts, and have people submitting videos from all around the world, people who want to be associated with the brand and resonate with it.”

Advice For The Aspiring Entrepreneur

“Without character and integrity, nothing will work and your business will never succeed.  You need to operate your business as a professional; that means paying your taxes, operating within governmental constraints, following procedures, and being really clear and intentional in the way you communicate in your contracts with associates and business partners.  Without that, you’re going to have a lot of problems as you grow.  Your reputationâ€â€especially in the 21st centuryâ€â€is very important.  If you don’t manage that by holding your integrity and commitment to excellence as the highest of priorities, you will not last in a business of any sort.”

“As an entrepreneur, you have to have a desire to learn.  You also have to have ambition to create something, to go out there and make something happen that has value to the world and to humanity.  And when you’re young, there’s this sense of believing in yourself a little bit more than anybody else might think is healthy.  But if you don’t think what you have is special, nobody will.  You’ve really got to believe in yourself, one hundred percent.  Have a purpose, have a reason, and wake up every morning with that.”

To learn more about Jeremy Thiel, CrossFit Central and SicFit, please visit:

CrossFit Central Website: Crossfitcentral.com

SicFit Website: Sicfit.com

Facebook: Facebook.com/CrossFitCentral

Twitter: Twitter.com/#!/crossfitcentral

 

About the Author: Justin Wiles

Justin Wiles is a Musician, Songwriter, and amateur Audio Engineer. He has previously written blog posts for Stem & Leaf, an artist collective based in Austin, TX. He is a contributing writer for BossStart and Co-Editor/Featured Author for BossStart’s upcoming sister site, PauseStart, launching early 2012.

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2 Comments + Add Comment

  • Great article. Such a young guy to be so successful.

    • Thanks Mel. Glad you enjoyed it.

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