Alternative CrossFit Pricing Scheme

You could say that I have a small obsession with pricing schemes and using them in a way that affects people’s behavior (see Lose It or Lose It). I like exploring situations in which pricing schemes can have a big impact, and one such situation that caught my eye recently was CrossFit registration. I thoroughly enjoy being a CrossFitter and have noticed a small hiccup in the way their system works. People do not always sign up for their classes ahead of time, and class size tends to be between ten and thirty people. With only one coach, these larger classes can be tough, and the optimal class size is around fifteen to twenty people per coach. It’s hard to predict class size because people tend to skip signing up ahead of time, and I think a new pricing scheme could change that.

Before I propose my new pricing scheme, let me explain the current price structure. First, there are drop-in fees for non members. These are $20 per class. After that, there is a 10-class punch-card for $150. That comes out to $15 per class. Then there is a 2x a week for $115 per month program, which, if there are four weeks in a month, comes out to $14.38 per class. After that, there is 3x a week for $125 per month, which comes out to $10.42 per class. At the very top is unlimited classes for $155 per month, which if you do the goal attendance pattern of three on, one off, comes out to $6.74 per class. So, any one class can cost from $6.74 to $20, depending on the level of engagement.

OK, back to getting people to sign up for classes ahead of time. You need to provide an incentive for thinking ahead, but how do you do that when people are pretty much allowed to come to any class they want? You could turn people away if they don’t sign up ahead of time, but that could be construed as punishment and might make people angry. You could remind people about the class by pinging them with a rundown of the anticipated Workout of the Day, then letting them register by replying to the notice. Or you could reward people for signing up early. All these solutions are interesting, but I think they could be made more effective.

What if you charged the first person to RSVP only $1 for that class? You would then charge $5 for the fifth, $10 for the tenth, etc. The charges would reach the highest current price ($20) at the 20th person, which would also create a class with the ideal number of students. With twenty people in a class, the gym would make $210 per class with twenty people. On average, that is $10.50 per person, which is right around the middle of all of the various prices, as they currently exist. Members could fund accounts, and then money would be taken out of those accounts when they sign up for the class.

That is the simplest version. A little  more complex version would include membership levels with a set MAXIMUM price per class. For instance, I could sign up as a member and pay $10/month simply for the ability to never pay more than $12 a class, even if I am the 20th person to sign up.

A kicker would be that once people sign up, they are charged for the class and can’t cancel. This way, someone can’t go through and buy all the spots at $1 and then never show up.

Long story short, there are a lot of ways to use a pricing scheme to affect the behavior of your customers. I’m not sure a CrossFit gym would necessarily want to rearrange their pricing scheme right this very moment, but this formula could be an appealing long-term plan. Since CrossFit is all about changing the way you think about fitness, maybe its time to change the way you think about pricing too.


Box Jumps

This is one of my favorite videos for two reasons: (actually, the real one went away at some point)
  1. You can see that his head doesn’t really move vertically that much. He could probably get his head/feet that high without running. 
  2. The running helps him get his body over his feet once he hooks them on the edge of the box, it doesn’t really help him jump higher. 

If you are working on box jumps, you can get a lot higher by concentrating on tucking your feet under you. If you are trying to jump higher than say… the middle of your body, some horizontal movement will help get your body back over your feet once your feet land. 

I’m nowhere near an expert, but watching that video and trying those things has made it so this fat boy can get onto a 38" box with a standing box jump. 


Giving Myself a Kick in the BUTT in 2012

Update 8/1/2013: I failed miserably, but I'm trying other things. 

Four and a half years ago, I quit a job that I didn’t like and was forced to hustle a little bit in order to make a living. While that busy phase mostly went smoothly, it still posed an interesting challenge that kept me on my toes. Now I’m getting lazy again. I never wanted to do client work for a living, but here I am, four and half years later, doing client work for a living.

Over the years, I’ve created some of my own sites/projects, but none of them have been big enough to take up all of my time. This is entirely my fault, since I’ve gotten too comfortable with client work and don’t feel the same need to hustle as I once did.

Earlier this year, I tried taking one day a week to work on my own, but, after a few months, I fell back to doing client work at least five days a week.

I’ve decided that I need a kick in the butt, so, using the same concept that prompted me to create Lose It or Lose It (where you lose the weight or lose your money… publicly), I am making my goals public. I want to make 2012 the year that I wean myself off of client work and focus my time on my own projects and ideas.

The hard part of this process has been trying to figure out how to handle ending things with my clients, because I really do like working with them. They are some of my best friends and we have worked on some awesome projects together. I’ve decided that the way to gradually move out of that sphere is to cut out one day of client work per week per quarter. Then the clients will have time to find other developers, and I will have time to train those developers before I finish with the client work.


Without further adieu, here is the schedule I am going to keep in 2012:

  • 4 days/week ➞ Until Friday March 30, 2012
  • 3 days/week ➞ Starting Monday, April 2, 2012
  • 2 days/week ➞ Starting Monday July 2, 2012
  • 1 day/week ➞ Starting Monday, October 1, 2012
  • 0 days/week ➞ Starting Monday, January 1, 2013

As I transition out of client work, I will need to really ramp up my own projects so that I can make enough money to maintain our standard of living once I finish client work. While I do have a small war chest in my consulting company, I don’t want to dip into those savings if I can help it.


I keep mentioning my own projects but I haven’t actually discussed what they entail. Allow me to elaborate…

I started Lose It or Lose It in late 2009 with John Young, who also partners with me for our Nerd Merit Badges project. It has huge potential, since it actually works AND it makes money. However, it has kind of languished lately. I hope to promote it on a grander scale soon, as well as create a sister site called “Back on My Scale." This one would be free, and the only goal would be to weigh in every day. If you weigh in, $___.__ will go to Back on My Feet, a nonprofit dedicated to empowering homeless people through running. If you fail to weigh in, the site posts to Facebook, saying that you don’t care about Back on My Feet and didn’t give them money that day.

How exactly will Back on My Scale make money for Lose It or Lose It? We’re not sure yet, but hopefully it will be an effective gateway to Lose It or Lose It. We’re hoping that this program will help us reach more people and eventually funnel some of them into Lose It or Lose It.

A few years ago, John and I started Nerd Merit Badges, which are merit badges that you earn for nerdy achievements like rubber ducking a problem or committing to an open source project. John has really turned this site into a money-maker, and I’ll continue to work to help him with it.

I have several other projects that I think could really take off but aren’t quite there yet. One of those projects is VIPbox, which is basically a paid contact form. I think that there is value in making it easy to get a message to a VIP, since right now it can be a challenge. Basically, the VIPbox owners would pick charities and set a price per message, then allow people to contact them through their VIPbox, which requires those people to make a donation to the charity of the VIP’s choice before they can send the message. By taking that action, the VIPs are saying “if you pay this money to a good cause, I agree to read your message within seven days." VIPbox would make money by taking a percentage (10% or less) of everything that goes through the site. For example, if Oprah set her VIPbox price $10k/message, she’ll be sending over $9k to a charity of her choice just by taking the time to read a short message.

Another project (code-named Memoi) is what I call a PRM, or Personal Relationship Manager. It is a lot like a CRM (Customer Relationship Manager, a type of program that helps your company keep track of all the information about your clients), but it’s focused on personal relationships for an individual rather than a company. It’s kind of like an address book on steroids. My goal is to charge a flat $5/month for it. I think that price is low enough that an individual will pay it, but high enough to still make money for the site.

I am making all of this public so that you will follow-up with me when you see me and help keep me accountable. I’ll also be writing a status blog post every quarter to review how things are going. Wish me luck!


Tools I Use to Run a Business on the Internet (for Free or Cheap)

In part one, I went over the essentials for looking professional on the internet. In this post, I want to help people who are new to the business world learn about some services that exist to make life easier. The best part? Most of these services are available for little to no cost.


At this point, I bill most of my work by the hour and use Freckle for time tracking. Freckle is beautiful and makes me happy whenever I use it. It has a great system for creating invoices based on the hours you work, and it can also handle one-off expenses. 

I used a different service called Harvest for YEARS and was very happy with it. In fact, I stopped using it only because Freckle was released and my friends had built it. Harvest tends to be a little more expensive than Freckle but it is very good and may even be better for tracking time in large businesses. 

If your business does very little billing by the hour, I know many people love Freshbooks for creating and managing invoices. I haven’t used it much myself but I hear good things about it. 

I use Quickbooks for my consulting business because that is what I used when I started the business and I haven’t switched away from it. However, my business partner, John, and I decided to use LessAccounting when we started Lose It or Lose It because it was easier for both of us to enter, access, and view the information we needed.

Selling Stuff with Shopify

John and I also have a site called Nerd Merit Badges, where people can buy embroidered badges that represent their feats of nerdom. In order to do this, we needed an online store. We started with simple Paypal/Amazon buttons but quickly switched to using Shopify. Shopify does their own hosting (no need to mess with servers or anything) and pretty much let you customize the site as much as you want. They work with a ton of payment processors, which means that all you have to do is choose one and use it. 

Shopify works for 90% of what people need and is WAY cheaper than building a custom store.

Managing Clients with Highrise (AKA People Love When You Remember Stuff)

For many businesses, knowing and remembering information about your customers is critical. This is where Customer Relationship Management(CRM) software comes in. Basically, it’s a central repository of everything your company knows about your customers. This way, anybody in the company can jump in and help a customer.

There are several ways to start using a CRM. One is to install some software on your own server, but who wants to do that? Another option is Salesforce, which is infinetly configurable but can be quite expensive. A nice option isHighrise, which meets almost everyone’s needs and is much cheaper than the other options.

On a side note, I think this kind of software is good even if you are the only person using it. People LOVE it when you remember stuff. Use this to add everybody’s birthdays and you’ll never forget them again!

Project Management with Basecamp

I don’t do a ton of project management, but when I do, I use Basecamp. Project management is all about communication, and that is pretty much what Basecamp facilitates. There are messages (kinda like general email), milestones, to-dos, time tracking, etc. I pretty much only use the messages and sometimes todos, but that’s because I only ever manage small projects.

In the end, all that really matters is getting an accurate record of what was communicated. What is nice about Basecamp is that you can interact with it via email almost exclusively, but it tracks who said what when. This means that things don’t get buried in an email somewhere and I often tell my clients that “if it isn’t in Basecamp, it didn’t happen." I’ve found that really disorganized people HATE Basecamp :P

Customer Support with Charm

To be 100% honest, I haven’t really ever needed a customer support tool. That’s because most of my projects are pretty small, so we just use email. However, customer support tools can be useful resources in certain circumstances, so let’s take a look at a few options.

Charm is made by the folks that created Freckle (the beautiful time tracking software I mentioned above) and so I am confident that they will do as great a job with Charm.

Another customer support tool that I’ve seen used a lot is Zendesk. I have never used them from the company-side, but I have used them from the customer-side. I’ve filed many a ticket with Zendesk and it has pretty much worked as expected.

Intranet or Knowledge Base

Back when I was a structural engineer, I realized that we would be well-served by compiling everyone’s knowledge about various aspects of our jobs in one convenient location. This project had mixed success because the people at the top thought that all knowledge should come from the top, and I disagreed. However, the idea was sound, and has led me to put my faith in a knowledge base.

Harnessing the knowledge of the company at large is an great option. Even if your business consists solely of you, having a central repository where you can easily keep notes about how your business works is invaluable. If you have employees, it’s even more valuable because they can learn from what you already know and be more efficient.

There are several ways that you can compile and share your knowledge. You can install some kind of wiki software on your servers… but who wants to do that? Instead, you can sign up for a hosted wiki like PBwiki, which will let you edit pages of text. If you want something more structured, I would suggest trying out Backpack. It has the concept of pages, but guides you into certain kinds of content like text, lists, files, etc.

Collecting Data with Wufoo

If you have any online presence at all, you will come across a situation when you need to collect information from your customers or users. You could pay a developer to come up with some one-off solution, but that can be expensive and may not match your expectations. The data you need to collect could be anything from a contact form on your website to registration for an event and paying its fees.

I like to use Wufoo for these kinds of jobs, which is really saying a lot, since I can custom-write a program for my own use. With Wufoo, you can build forms with drag-and-drop ease. It will also let you configure who gets notified of what and how. You can embed the form in your own site or have Wufoo host it on its own page for you.

One example of how we used Wufoo with great success was when we wanted to give out Lose It or Lose It t-shirts to our users. We created a form that collected their usernames, addresses, and sizes, then, once the t-shirts were made, we used the dashboard to keep track of who had yet to receive a shirt.

Sharing Files with Dropbox

Dropbox is a service that, at it’s most basic, just syncs a folder between computers. You can also access the files via their website or mobile devices.

Where Dropbox really shines is sharing and editing of files with your teammates. Previously you had to email them around and make sure only one person edited it at a time or you had to be on the same network and put the file on a server. With Dropbox, you can share a folder with another Dropbox user and everytime you save it, it will get pushed to their website and downloaded to the other user.

User-centered Task Management with Flow

This is the last thing on the list but it is by no means the least important. I LOVE Flow. LOVE IT. It is probably one of the best-made web services out there and they even have an awesome iPhone app.

So what’s so special about a todo app? Well, the reason I love it (besides the fact that it is beautiful and almost flawless) is because it is user-centered, not business-centered. I use it to track work AND personal things I need to do. Everything revolves around lists and tasks. I share some lists with my wife and others with my business partner.

With Flow, everything I need to do is in one place. So how do I make this work with clients? Well, a lot of the time, items in my own lists point to items in my client’s ticketing or task management systems. This way, I don’t have to look at three different programs every morning to figure out what I need to get done that day.

To put things in perspective, I spend all my working days in two apps — email and Flow. I would be lost without them.


So, that was a lot of information. What I wanted to get across is that there are a lot of free or inexpensive services out there that can make you look more professional and help you save time. What’s nice programs with low monthly costs is that you only pay for what you need and you don’t have any large, up-front expenses. The downside to these kinds of things is you are at the whim of the service owner, which makes it easier for them to change things on you. In my experience, however, monthly charges are usually the way to go. Plus, the companies I recommended in this post are rock-solid.

Keep in mind, if you are using the free version of something, you probably will get less help. If you feel like you will require a little more hand-holding, be kind and pay for at least the lowest level of service.

If you have any questions at all, feel free to email me and ask. I’m happy to help. :)


Why I am Not a Fan of this Time of the Year

I wish I could skip this time of year entirely. It often fills me with anxiety and, up until recently, I wasn’t quite sure why. The stress would just build and build, which left me with what appeared to be a pretty bad attitude. Unfortunately, that was mostly because I hadn’t figured out how to communicate better. I have recently identified the underlying cause of that sneaky, underlying anxiety: gifts. 

I think people feel obligated to come up with gifts for each other at this time of year in order to communicate the idea that “I love you and am thinking of you." A sense of obligation is never a great place to start in terms of gift-giving, and it can add stress to an otherwise thoughtful gesture. Plus, how sure are you that the sentiment is being properly communicated by your gift? Of course, there is also the fear, which can come in many forms. For example, many people worry that someone will give them a present when they themselves have nothing to offer that person in return. This fear can lead to frantic brainstorming sessions that involve trying to think of something to get for everyone. And of course, it leads to yet another fear: what if the recipients don’t like what is offered? 

The idea that a gift I give will sit around, unwanted, on a shelf for a few years is not a pleasant one. You see, I grew up in a fairly cluttered house. That means that being surrounded by things that have little value to me often stresses me out. The last thing I want to do is spread that stress around to other people.

I really enjoy giving things to people at any time of the year, as long as what spurs the purchase of the gift is that I think of something I know they will really want or could use. It’s when the fears, obligations, and anxieties get in the way that I want to skip this season entirely.

Happy Holidays.

Side note on gifts for children: Children expect to get gifts at this time of the year and are generally overjoyed by the simple act of opening up a present. Thus, their behavior and expectations don’t stress me out, and I find giving them gifts during the holidays to be nothing other than a joy. While I may skip gifts for other people during the holidays in favor of a later, more thoughtful present, I make sure to always wrap something up for the kids in my life.


Some People Care A LOT About Rebasing

I don’t know much about Len Smith, but one thing I DO know is he is passionate about rebasing over merging. So passionate that he gave me the finger when I told him I tend to merge instead of rebase. These stickers were inspired by his reaction. I commissioned Michele Melcher to do this illustration and got the stickers made at Stickermule. I couldn’t be happier with the results. 

Want one of these bad boys for yourself? Just send a self-addressed stamped envelope to:

Randy Schmidt
16 W. Gay St
West Chester, PA 19380


Abacuses and Ranger Beads

One trend I’ve been noticing at the CrossFit box I belong to is whenever we have to do an AMRAP (As Many Rounds As Possible) or a fixed number of rounds, people are scrambling for ways to keep track. One way they use is they write the number with a pen on a little scrap of paper. The other method is to use the chalk to mark the floor or something near them.

One day I was thinking it would be a lot more satisfying to slam a bead on an abacus and thought about making the barbells themselves an abacus. However, we aren’t always using barbells. John found these awesome single-row abacus’ so I bought some for the gym. 

My next attempt is going to be something like “Ranger Beads" since I think those will be more practical. Stay tuned!



Everybody should know about this website. If you ever needed to get at a special character quickly, you should bookmark this. 

These are especially dangerous if you own Text Expander and set up some shortcuts for common symbols. For example, “sskull" results in ☠ for me. 


PSA: Time to Install Winter Wipers!

The only thing more delightful than new wiper blades is new winter wiper blades! Yes, they exist! If you live in the northeast, December 1 is a good time (maybe setup a recurring task in Flow? If you sign up, let me invite you so I get free months ;)  to buy yourself a new set of winter wipers and install them for the next 4-5 months. 

What’s different about winter wipers you may ask? First of all, the rubber is slightly softer which makes them work better when the temperature drops and rubber tends to stiffen up. Secondly, the innards are wrapped with rubber to keep ice and snow from building up in the springs. This will keep you from having to stop your car every quarter mile to knock the ice off. Win. 

Don’t skimp either and use the ones from last year. Wipers sit in the sun all day long so they tend to degrade over time. Buy yourself some fresh ones!

The downside to winter wipers is they are heavy and they can wear out your wiper motors faster. So while your at it, set up a recurring task to get new non-winter wipers in March or April. The weather will start to warm up and you’ll want to get rid of the heavy, soft ones you used in the winter. 

You’re welcome. 


Essentials of Looking Professional on the Internet

Update 12/4/2011: Squarespace gave me the discount code “r38y" for 10% off (expires 6/1/2012). Once you are finished the 14 day trial and ready to pay, just enter that code. Thank you Squarespace!

More and more of my friends and family are starting their own businesses in the non-tech world. As they begin to set up their business, plans often screech to a halt when it is time to craft a professional image. Usually this happens because people don’t know where to start or because they are daunted by imagined complexity. In an effort to make the world a better place, I’m going to offer ways to bootstrap your web presence with a few essentials. Don’t worry, it is a fairly simple and inexpensive process. Here we go!

Do I need my own domain?

Yes. You need to find and register at least one domain name ( or for your website. The most important thing to remember is that the domain name should be easy to spell phonetically. At this point, missteps are common, so don’t worry too much about getting the name just right. After all, you can always add/change it later and forward everything from the first one to the new one.

So, should the domain name be YOUR name or the name of your business? This depends on your plans for the business. If you are starting a business that is 100% centered on YOU, using your name as a domain name is probably good. However, if you plan to grow the business past you, then it may make sense to use a company name. 

Now that you have an idea about what kind of domain name you want to use, you need to make sure that you can actually use it. This process involves checking the domain’s availability and registering it for your own use. You can check availability and register a domain name by going to a registrar and searching for that domain. I used to use GoDaddy, but I have been moving to DNSimple because the user interface is much clearer and there are fewer attempts at upselling.

It’s a little harder to get started with DNSimple because you need to create an account in order to do it. However, this extra step is absolutely worth the trouble. Go ahead and create an account and follow the instructions for adding a domain. The site will ask you if you want to register a new domain. Yes. That is what you want. Do not enable WHOIS Privacy Protection unless you are doing something seedy. If the domain is available, DNSimple will let you register it. If it is not available, the site will ask if you want to transfer the domain. Since you are setting up a domain for the first time, you can’t transfer it. Time to search for another one!

This is the most important thing about your domains, so pay attention.No matter what happens, make sure that YOU own and have exclusive access to the account where the domain is registered. If you give access to a third party for some aspect of your project, make sure you change the password once they are done. Under no circumstances should you allow another company or individual to “manage" your account for you. I’ve seen way too many people have problems with a company holding their domain hostage to keep them from leaving and finding another company. You’ve been warned!

Also, make sure you have a current credit card on file with the registrar as well as a fallback email address. You don’t want to lose your domain because your credit card expired or they couldn’t reach you.

Do I need a website? Isn’t that complicated and expensive?

Setting up a website for your business used to involve getting a shared hosting account, finding a designer to design a website for you, and hiring a developer to make the site work. However, for many people, especially as they start out, that process is overkill. You DO need a web presence, but there is no need to spend a lot of money. Your site simply needs to sidestep two common pitfalls: ugly design and confusing information access. Most people can get away with a single page that lists who they are, what they do, roughly where they are located (if they offer services in the real world), how to contact them, and maybe a picture of them or their building. 

Customers and clients only really care about the design of your website if it is ugly. If it is not ugly, then the design will fade into the background and they will be able to concentrate on what you can do for them. 

The other key aspect of setting up your own website is making sure that you can update the information yourself. Having to pay or wait for a third party to make these changes can be frustrating and costly. 

Thankfully, there are a few services out there that will let you set up a simple website and make changes yourself. These services offer a bunch of templates that will help keep your site from being unappealing and expensive. 

Some friends of mine recently launched a hosted version of Apostrophe, which will let you use their content management system (Apostrophe) without having to worry about hosting. To be honest, I haven’t used it yet and they are fairly new, but it looks promising. 

I recommend using Squarespace. I know quite a few people who have used them with great success, and yes, I am one of those people. Squarespace starts at $12/month, which is great because you don’t need to pay much money up-front. The default payment option is to pay for a year at a time, but I would recommend paying month-to-month instead. Who knows what your needs are going to be in a year? By paying month-to-month, you’ll have the most flexibility and can make changes quickly if you decide you are outgrowing what you have. 

If you want to customize your design, I would find a design on Squarespace that you like, and then contact the designer directly. This way, you know that you like the basic design and you can rest assured that the designer already knows how to work with Squarespace.

Why can’t I just use my Comcast email address?

The last part of looking professional on the internet is setting up email addresses with your new domain(s). I think The Oatmeal says it best. You don’t want to give out email addresses with Hotmail, Yahoo, Gmail, or AOL in them. At best, they don’t let you control your email, and at worst they make you look like an amateur. 

The way I suggest that everybody customize their email is with Google Apps for Your Domain (GAFYD going forward). Basically, you can use Gmail, Google Docs, and Google Calendar, but with your very own domain. In other words, your email address would be instead of If you need ten email addresses or less, you don’t have to spend any money to set up GAFYD. If you need more than ten email addresses, the setup costs fifty dollars per year per account. I haven’t had to pay for GAFYD yet and I have many accounts set up already. 

You can also have multiple domain aliases. That way, if you change your domain going forward, you can add it to your account and still get email from all of your domains. 

To get started, head to their groups page and sign up. If you purchased your domain through DNSimple (as I suggested above), you can configure your domain to work with GAFYD in just a few clicks.


Mr. Goofus decided to quit his 9-5 office job and do what he loves — climbing and pruning trees. People started asking him for his email address so he gave them his current email address, and set up a simple web page at Six months later, he decides to change from Comcast to Verizon FiOS and starts giving out his new email address, Uh oh, he’s lost control of his email and will no longer receive email from anybody he’s worked with in the past! Also, nobody is going to remember his website because it contains a tilde!

Ms Gallant is a masseuse who went out on her own six weeks ago because she was tired of dealing with her boss. She purchased for personal use and for her company. Her personal email address is and her business email address is She has set up a single-page website at using Squarespace that has a picture of her while she is working, her phone number, the types of massage she does, as well as where she typically works.

Really? That’s all I need to do?!

These are the essentials of setting up a new business and looking professional while you’re at it. If you are lucky, customers won’t think anything out of the ordinary because the details of the above fade away. People only really notice when something looks BAD. 

In part two, I am going to list some of the online services my friends or I use to run businesses. There are helpful tools out there that can simplify your life with just a little up-front investment. 

If you have any questions at all, feel free to email me and ask. I’m happy to help :)