Most CrossFit gym owners have made the transition from coaching CrossFit to becoming a CrossFit gym owner. And as everyone will agree, they are two very different roles.
It’s your responsibility to know all about fitness and coaching when you’re a CrossFit coach, but when you become a gym owner, you now own and run a business.
Figuring out how to run your business well is key, and fortunately, there are many ways to learn.
The quickest and most direct way to learn how to run your gym successfully is by getting a coach. Another option is to read books.
Luckily for you, we’ve compiled a list of books all gym owners should read if you want to see your gym grow fast.
There are a lot of incredible books out there, so we made this list easy for you to navigate! This list is organized by the different aspects of running your business, so you can quickly troubleshoot what challenges you’re encountering.
For example, if you’re having trouble keeping all the members you bring into your community, check out books under “Retention.”
Any book with an * next to it has come recommended by multiple gym owners.
To make this list even easier to scroll through, there is a description under each topic that can help you identify whether you need to spend more time reading books in this category.
We also provide takeaways from each book, so you know what type of transformation you can expect with this new information.
- ESSENTIALS: START HERE
Start here if you’re new to running a business or if you’ve finally decided to make your business a priority. These will provide you with the understanding of what’s actually important in running your gym.
- The E-Myth: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It – Michael E. Gerber *
- This book is for you if… you have fallen into the trap most small business owners do of working hard on the wrong things. Learn to work “on” your business, not “in” your business.
- ReWork – Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson
- This book is for you if… you’re stuck in the “old school” ways of doing business and want quick, practical lessons on looking at your business through a logical, modern lens. This is also a great book to start off with if you’re not much of a reader. 🙂 Chapters are very short, condensed, and easy to digest!
- Raving Fans: A Revolutionary Approach to Customer Service – Ken Blanchard
- This book is for you if… you wonder if your members would just as happily go to the gym down the road. If so, wonder no more. Turn your members into raving fans, through unforgettable customer service, who will never think to leave your gym for another!
- Profit First: Transform Your Business from a Cash-Eating Monster to a Money-Making Machine – Michael Michalowicz *
- This book is for you if… you identify yourself as “frugal” and you reinvest every penny your gym makes back into the business. This book doesn’t only tell you that you need to pay yourself from day one, but it tells you why and what happens when you don’t. You’ll learn how to allocate your revenue in a way that works both for your business and for you.
- 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change – Stephen R. Covey *
- This book is for you if… you are looking for a one-stop shop in how to become the best gym owner you can be. Stephen Covey covers it all. You’ll learn how effective people lead themselves, lead others, and continually strive for a work-life balance to always be at their best.
- The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich – Tim Ferriss
- This book is for you if… you think 40+ hour work weeks and trading your time for money until you’re in your late 60s are the only paths to success. Sometimes we need to be reminded of the lifestyle that is possible from choosing to be a risk-taking entrepreneur, and Tim Ferris does that in this classic. This book will upend all concepts you had on how to work, how much time to work, and how to make money in this world. Because of that, it also addresses what it means to enjoy life, and how you can get creative to make that happen, too.
- Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs – John Doerr
- This book is for you if… your gym doesn’t have a clear direction to move forward. You can’t improve what you can’t measure. When you set tangible objectives and metrics, you will watch your gym grow with a renewed focus, alignment, and sense of accountability.
- Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business – Gino Wickman
- This book is for you if… you aren’t totally clear on what makes a business entity to begin with, so you’re definitely not clear on how to improve them. Traction gets back to basics with core business principles and building them from the ground up.
- How to Win Friends and Influence People – Dale Carnegie
- This book is for you if… the way you interact with others reminds people of Mao. It’s a good reminder of why greasing the skids and working well with others can benefit you in the long run. You’ll also learn exactly how to win people over and be generally likable. These are great skills to hone if you want to have a happy staff and community.
Daily habits and rituals are ultimately what lead us to success or failure. Check out these books to overhaul your routine and become a more effective gym owner.
- The Miracle Morning for Entrepreneurs: Elevate Your SELF to Elevate Your Business – Hal Elrod *
- This book is for you if… you don’t hit your stride until 9:00 am, after four cups of coffee. This book outlines the most effective ways you can get your day started to optimize your success and happiness for the rest of the day. If you are not yet a believer in the power of a morning routine (or your 5:00 am class!), this book is a must-read. These are simple techniques to act on starting tomorrow morning!
- The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business – Charles Duhigg *
- This book is for you if… you know what to do to grow your gym, but you can’t seem to get your life together to knock those items out. Learn about how our habits work and the most effective way to turn them into positive ones.
- How to Make People Like You in 90 Seconds or Less – Nicholas Boothman
- This book is for you if… you know social skills are your weakness and you need a good primer. Whether you want to improve in sales, leadership, or relationships you have with your members, this book will teach you how to be likable, how to build rapport with people, and how to do this in a way that isn’t sleazy.
Marketing is one of those elusive things we put on the back burner as gym owners, hoping we can depend on our members’ good graces and where we fall on a Google search to keep people coming in the door. Check out these books to learn how to properly tell your story to the world, find your audience, and get countless more leads knocking on your door.
- This is Marketing: You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn to See – Seth Godin
- This book is for you if… you’re overwhelmed by marketing concepts and want one place to go where you can easily understand it (some of it anyway). You’ll find it refreshing that you don’t have to have the budget or reach of Coca Cola to effectively market to your audience. Seth Godin does a great job in breaking down how to find your audience, how to talk to them, and why confidence in your brand should make competition irrelevant.
- Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook – Gary Vaynerchuk
- This book is for you if… you think selling a membership starts when you get an inquiry or call from a lead. You’ll begin to see that the marketing and sales process begins way before you ever see an inquiry, and you’ll appreciate the importance of cultivating these relationships with leads online, to ensure that eventually, they walk through your door.
- Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable – Seth Godin
- This book is for you if… you think your unique selling proposition is that you can get people to lose weight. Get prepared to be humbled, as this book breaks down the reality of businesses: there are spectacular ones and then there are the rest. Purple Cow will get you to think creatively about how you’re running your gym, and more importantly, how you can do it in a way that will stand out to your audience.
- Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen – Donald Miller
- This book is for you if… your website touts how many rowers you have and how big your space is. In reading this book, you’ll quickly figure out what people really want to learn about, which is your story. Donald Miller breaks down the elements of a captivating story, and by the end of it, you’ll have the tools to revamp your branding and showcase a story with your audience.
Sales: the heartbeat of running a business. When it exists, we continue to stay alive, and when it doesn’t, we’re dying if not already dead. If you want to perfect the art and science of closing sales, check out these books.
- The Psychology of Selling: Increase Your Sales Faster and Easier Than You Ever Thought Possible – Brian Tracy
- This book is for you if… your idea of selling someone on your gym is running them through a free trial and hoping for the best. Brian Tracy is thorough in his coverage of the selling process. He discusses what is required of you psychologically to succeed at selling, but he also gets into highly specific information such as: why buyers buy, the different types of buyers, and the countless tactics you can use to improve your selling technique immediately.
- To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others – Daniel Pink
- This book is for you if… you think extroverts make the best salespeople and you believe selling only happens when a lead is going through a free intro class at your gym. From reading this book, you’ll come to understand that you are always selling, and your ability to sell well simply depends on how much of a relatable human being you can be. As a gym owner and community leader, you are in the business of influencing others, whether it is to improve their lives, part with their money, or both.
- Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It – Chris Voss
- This book is for you if… you can’t stand negotiation. You go into a local market and you somehow pay more than the original asking price. When you read this book, you’ll be reminded again that you are always “negotiating” in life, even if you don’t find yourself talking with terrorists regularly. Never Split the Difference is another greater primer on human emotions, and how understanding them can help you get what you want. It is also loaded with tactics you can use today.
Having trouble keeping your members around the gym? Getting one cancellation notice after another from members who “don’t think CrossFit is for me”? Check out the titles below.
- Never Lose a Customer Again: Turn Any Sale into Lifelong Loyalty in 100 Days – Joey Coleman
- This book is for you if… you forget about a member once you’ve made the sale, and two months later you’re wondering why that person left. Learn how crucial the first 100 days are for any new customer, and optimize this time period to keep your members around for life.
- The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact – Chip Heath
- This book is for you if… your coaches just facilitate class for an hour. Understand what your gym loses when you and your coaches don’t create memorable moments for your members, and learn how these moments have the ability to make your members fall in love with your brand forever.
- Be Our Guest: Perfecting the Art of Customer Service – The Disney Institute
- This book is for you if… you suspect your lack of attention-to-detail, both in interactions with members and running a top-notch facility, leave your members wanting more. Learn how to create a consistently magical experience for your members to keep them coming back everyday.
If you’re struggling to run a cohesive staff, these books are for you. They will help you identify the challenges you’re having in dealing with and leading your staff members, and you’ll discover what you can do to be a more effective and engaging leader today.
- Extreme Ownership: How US Navy SEALs Lead and Win – Jocko Willink *
- This book is for you if… your coaches suck and it’s their fault. This book leaves you with no one but yourself to blame for everything in your life and your business that is going wrong. The message of this book may not make you feel good, but if you take it to heart, you will start to take ownership of your gym and ultimately make it better.
- Dichotomy Of Leadership: Balancing the Challenges of Extreme Ownership to Lead and Win – Jocko Willink*
- This book is for you if… you think leadership is always about doing “more.” You’ll learn in this book that leadership is in many ways an art. It’s about knowing when to move forward, but more importantly, when to step backward. If you’re looking to hone your leadership skills, you’ll learn here how to do it by balancing yourself, your people, and the mission.
- Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Some Don’t – Simon Sinek
- This book is for you if… your favorite thing about being an owner is that you’re the king of the castle. You’ll learn from this book that in order to achieve success and run a great business, you must let the people around you “eat first.” There is nothing ground-breaking about the tenets in this book, as we all know putting others first helps us in the long run. However, it is a great reminder of something we often forget.
- One Minute Manager – Ken Blanchard
- This book is for you if… you think leading people is just about giving grandiose speeches and managing people is about whipping people to work. You’ll learn important skills in managing people, such as how and when to give feedback, how to communicate clearly, and how to effectively manage people and treat them as normal human beings.
- One Minute Mentoring: How to Find and Work With a Mentor–And Why You’ll Benefit from Being One – Ken Blanchard
- This book is for you if… you think mentorship consists of chasing people to get coffee with and nodding mindlessly when having said coffee. Mentoring can sometimes have a bad connotation because it’s misunderstood. This book breaks down what good mentorship looks like, how to be a good mentor, but also how to be a good mentee. If you think you don’t need mentorship, let this book change your mind–mentorship can elevate your success quicker than anything else can.
- Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Heart. – Brene Brown *
- This book is for you if… you think leadership is about having power and wielding a big stick. Brene Brown convinces the reader that real leadership is immensely challenging because it isn’t a one-way conversation. Leadership is effective when conversations happen both ways, and these moments are just as demanding of a good leader as it is of the staff member. Read this book if you need a primer on being a more down-to-earth human being. It will help you as a leader of your gym.
- Turn The Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders – David Marquet
- This book is for you if… you expect your staff to keep quiet and take orders when you give them. Get ready to be inspired by what can happen to a team of uninspired, downtrodden staff members when they’re empowered to think critically and make decisions on behalf of the team.. You’ll go back to your gym ready to let your coaches run the show once you understand how their engagement and excitement about your gym’s mission can turn them into the best coaches you’ve had.
Why do we run a gym anyway? Is it to help people lose weight? No, it’s ultimately to have a lasting impact on people who come through our doors, and we do that by understanding where we’re headed and how to best help those around us. Check out these books if you need some clarity on what your purpose is as a gym owner.
- Help First: Sell Less. Profit More. – Chris Cooper
- This book is for you if… your revenue goal is the only thing you have your eye on. Chris Cooper reminds us to find ways we can genuinely help our members, understanding that by helping others, we ultimately profit more. This is also a good wake-up call for gym owners who forget that it’s the human to human interaction that makes the gym as successful as it is.
- Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us – Seth Godin
- This book is for you if… your membership is run by cliques and people marching to their own drumbeat. Demystify what it takes to get your community to rally behind your vision and watch them participate in it with enthusiasm.
- Legacy – James Kerr
- This book is for you if… you think your legacy in the world has four walls and fits in a “box.” Legacy covers the gamut from life to leadership to success, with lessons in all facets of life. Ultimately if you care about leaving a positive legacy, it will happen just as much inside your gym as it does outside. In this book, you’ll learn about the decision-making, self-mastery, and curiosity needed to discover sustainable success and making a lasting impact on the world around you.
We aren’t born winners. We can become them, if we aren’t already. If you’re weighed down by emotions and negative thoughts that continue to derail your chance of having success in life, read these books.
- Mindset: The New Psychology of Success – Carol Dweck *
- This book is for you if… you want to know what it takes to be a winner. It all comes down to having a growth mindset, and this book will help you identify where your mindset is right now and what you need to do if you want to change it.
- Principles: Life and Work – Ray Dalio
- This book is for you if… you enjoy a thoughtful (if not long) meditation on all things life and work, sprinkled with actionable steps on achieving a life that is deeply fulfilling. Ray Dalio starts with his background to provide context to the principles he’s eventually going to introduce. You can’t help but be engrossed in the adventures, personally and professionally, he has had over the years, from the money he has made, to the family he grew, and the connections he’s built with powerful people around the world. Ray Dalio is obsessed with living life on a deeper level, connecting with others meaningfully, and he explains his processes and principles that can help the reader achieve the same.
- The Obstacle is the Way – Ryan Holiday
- This book is for you if… your emotions run your decision-making, and the gym is only as good as your mood is that day. Peppered with ancient Stoic wisdom and inspiring stories, this book will have you no longer running away from the challenges in your life–but running toward them instead.
- Think and Grow Rich – Napoleon Hill
- This book is for you if… you think there are only a small handful of gym owners who can be successful. You’ll learn that in order to be rich, you must believe it’s possible and you must also be obsessed with the idea of it becoming a reality. If you feel like there is a ceiling to your potential as a gym owner, read this book.
- Mastery – Robert Greene
- This book is for you if… you believe reading a Wikipedia page makes you a master of any topic. You’ll learn the focus, dedication, and patience it takes to truly master anything, and you’ll also have a deeper appreciation for the role of a mentor in helping you become that master.
Battling indecision and a barrage of excuses as to why you can’t take action? Look no further.
- Discipline Equals Freedom: Field Manual – Jocko Willink *
- This book is for you if… you’re winging it as a gym owner and have no clear sense of direction. If you are tired of making excuses as to why you can’t have the gym you envision, here is a 4:00 am wake up call.
- Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action – Simon Sinek *
- This book is for you if… you know you’re passionate about your gym, but you haven’t given much thought as to why. Learn why your “why” is more important than the “what,” and how this personal understanding can have positive ripples throughout your business.
- Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds – David Goggins *
- This book is for you if… you cuss like a sailor. It’s also for you if you feel like a negative mindset is holding you back from taking action you know you need to, today. Let David Goggins put life in perspective. When you hear his stories, it will make any challenge you’re facing at the gym look like a cake walk.
Your gym might be considered successful already, but you just can’t seem to get the breath of fresh air you need to enjoy it. As these authors would suggest, do less and care less.
- The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A Fuck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life – Mark Manson *
- This book is for you if… you spend your days obsessing over what the gym down the street is doing. This book is a primer on self-sufficiency and the freedom found in caring about the things in life that are truly important.
- It Doesn’t Have To Be Crazy At Work – Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson
- This book is for you if… you’re running on fumes and think this is the only way to be successful. Less is oftentimes more, and this book proves it. What you’ll discover is that the “answer to better productivity isn’t more hours—it’s less waste and fewer things that induce distraction and persistent stress.”
- Who Moved My Cheese?: An A-Mazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life – Spencer Johnson
- This book is for you if… you freak out at change or when things happen unexpectedly. You’ll learn how to go with the flow more, a skill vital as a gym owner and entrepreneur. By embracing change, you’ll enjoy life more, no longer having anxiety about the future or the what-ifs.
- Ego is the Enemy – Ryan Holiday
- This book is for you if… you refuse to change, believing you know the right way to run a gym, but for some reason you’re not keeping members and you’re losing money. The first understanding you’ll have from reading this book is that your ego is in the way of your success. You’ll learn that the cycle between aspiration, success, and failure never end, and the sooner you can tame your ego, the sooner you can navigate to the next stage.
- The Courage to Be Disliked: The Japanese Phenomenon That Shows You How to Change Your Life and Achieve Real Happiness – Ichiro Kishimi
- This book is for you if… you think your gym’s ability to succeed is based on how it has done in the past (or is doing currently). Or in other words, if the biggest thing limiting your gym’s success is your current mindset, give this book a read. As gym owners, we often get mired in drama. With our members, our coaches, or even the Affiliate Owners Facebook group, we let ourselves get weighed down by things that don’t matter. This book encourages us to not let our pasts define us and to not identify with who likes us and who doesn’t. Once you get over the mental chatter that surrounds these two things alone, you’ll be liberated again to focus on growing your gym and the people who will get you there.
Sometimes we just need someone to light a fire under us, so we can get us excited about the incredible opportunity we have as gym owners. Check out these books if you want to be inspired to live with passion and purpose.
- Crushing It!: How Great Entrepreneurs Build Their Business and Influence-and How You Can, Too – Gary Vaynerchuk *
- This book is for you if… you aren’t on social media and don’t see the point. Crushing It! isn’t just about social media. It’s primarily about branding, revolving around the tool of social media, so if you “don’t see the point,” there’s a good chance you don’t appreciate the importance of having a personal brand as a gym owner and entrepreneur. Even though you run a brick and mortar business, this book can help inspire you to put yourself out there, so you can live in line with your passion.
- The Magic of Thinking Big – David J. Schwartz
- This book is for you if… deep down, you don’t believe in your ability to grow your gym and be successful as a gym owner. Our thoughts 100% shape our reality, and the sooner you embrace the challenge to overhaul your beliefs that are subconsciously driving your behavior, the sooner you will be successful. Don’t be surprised when it happens.
- Awaken the Giant Within: How to Take Immediate Control of Your Mental, Emotional, Physical and Financial Destiny! – Tony Robbins
- This book is for you if… you want change, but you don’t know how to make it happen. Tony Robbins doesn’t just tell you to make change in your life, he inspires you to. You will be given the tools to audit what it is about your life you want to improve and how you can take steps forward to make that happen.
Author: Chelsea Ricketson
Chelsea runs CrossFit Lobo with her boyfriend Lee in San Antonio, Texas and is Vive Group’s latest staff writer. She also writes about her journey as a gym owner on the great Almost Elite blog. Follow more of her writing here!