Joe Onorato | #MemberMorale

Welcome to Member Morale. Here at RevCo, we've recently decided to reboot the Member Morale blogs. The goal of these posts are to showcase our members, and the value they bring to their peers here at Rev, as well as their clients. We've decided to go with a "readable podcast" kind of format, where I sit down with our members and talk about, well basically, whatever the conversation leads to.

Kicking off the newly rebooted series, we have Joe Onorato of Crossfit Diversion. 


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Welcome Joe, mind starting us off with a brief 30-second commercial about yourself?
CrossFit Diversion is what we consider, South Jersey's premier CrossFit facility. All of our coaches hold Level 1 certifications as well as a multitude of specialty certifications. We specialize in CrossFit, Olympic weightlifting, bootcamp, and youth training from 4-14.

How long has Crossfit Diversion itself been around?
We just had our 1-year anniversary on July 29th. 

Wow, nice
Yea it’s been awesome. We'll be having our 1-year party on August 25th. It's been a fast and wild year to say the least.

I feel you, we just started as well June 2017, it's been a wild 365 days.
We signed our lease in July, opened at the end of that month. Hopefully the first of many.

So what got you into CrossFit?
Back in 2006 when I was in high school, my trainer had a brother who was an air marshal. CrossFit started in the military, that's where it became popular, and you know we were doing the regular gym routine, and one day he said "You know my brother's been doing this stuff, it's pretty cool, let's try it out. You can be my guinea pig." And you know it was pretty fun. I've been playing sports my whole life. Never really (seriously) went to the gym or anything but I enjoyed this new program. I ended up going away to school in Florida. When I came back over winter break, he had opened a CrossFit gym. It was in Williamstown. I popped in and did a bunch of workouts, helped out a bit. Transferred home from school. Got certified. Started coaching. Stopped going to school because I fell in love with helping others and developed a newfound love for health and exercise.

So did you start doing classes at that gym or directly into coaching or...
Yep. I started out as an athlete. Then I started shadowing/helping out, learning the craft. Then eventually I was an assistant coach. Then I just got thrown into the fire as a coach haha. We’ve evolved exponentially in the last 10 years as gym owners. We've gotten a lot smarter ha. We bring all of our coaches through the ranks over at the new gym. Everyone is a member first. Everyone's part of the community before they become a coach that way they can build rapport with the members. They get an understanding of how a class works before they actually run one themselves. Then they eventually go off on their own and run their own classes.  

So you've been doing it for 10 years. What motivates you to just come in there everyday to this day, and keep going at it?
Everything we do at the gym is so rewarding on a daily basis. We’ve built such an amazing community over at Diversion. Don’t get me wrong, it didn’t happen overnight. This is 10 years of trial and error and constantly tweaking things and we’ll never stop growing and tweaking things. Seeing everyday normal people come in and accomplish things they weren't ever able to do, like perform a pull up, and now they can do a pull up; or run 400m without stopping, and now they do that for a warm up. Seeing people dial in their nutrition and empty the medicine cabinet or come up to one of us and say I can run around with my kids now without getting tired is just so rewarding. We have 150 members now roughly, and that's 150 different personalities, and 150 different bodies, 150 different athletic backgrounds. It's cool to be able to work with somebody different everyday. And they push us to get better. At the same time, I've been super fortunate to even be in the situation I’m in and to be able to do the things I do. If it wasn't for my family and close friends it wouldn't be possible. That’s what drives me. They’ve been unbelievably supportive.

How big's your team? Is it just you?
No way! Lol it would be impossible to do all we do at Diversion without the team we have built. My business partner Karim and I are thankful every day for the staff we have. We have 10 coaches on staff right now, plus Karim and I. They handle anything and everything from coaching CrossFit, to the boot-camps, to the weightlifting program, to the kids. Dawn handles all of our marketing/social media to boost our presence, and everyone I see notices it. She does an awesome job. Tracy runs our Fundamentals program. She’s a teacher by day, so her nurturing personality is perfect for our beginners. Everyone on our staff is amazing, how many gyms in the area have a 14 time National Champion Weightlifter like we do with Aaron?

Superpower. What would you say it would be? What are you really good at either professionally or personally?
I can house an inordinate amount of food and still function athletically lol especially donuts. In all seriousness, I would say the ability to multitask and just “get shit done”. I’ve grown up in a very motivated environment. My father has always owned his own business and he’s someone I look up to daily. He never stops working, but he’s also never missed a single sporting event we had. I thoroughly enjoy the “grind”. 

I'm kind of the same, I'd rather be so busy out of my mind than be bored.
Honestly, as much as I love grinding, I'm working harder to get away from that. Learning how to create leverage is my new goal. The first few months we had the gym open was kind of tough, working 15-16 hour days between a full time job and the gym, I don’t wish that on anyone. You have to love what you do to do that. We talk about leverage all the time in our mastermind group. I’ve always been a big believe in putting “aces in their places.” We put a lot of faith into our staff that they're doing their jobs and doing their jobs well so we can go out and grow the business. We were able to get to a point where we were doing well enough to hire two people full time which helped create that leverage we needed to grow the business. We are now able to do things like this, get out into the community, be able to help out some different programs and things like that for the kids in the area.

I know you help out a lot of our Rev members now too. Jeremy Boyd of Trifecta Therapeutics and the like.
Yea Jeremy's the man. Great guy. His support has been awesome. We have been looking for a PT since we started at Diversion. An expert who could help complement what we do, someone who believes in our methodology. We’ve formed a great mutual relationship where we try to send people over to see him and you know he's really good at what he does. It helps build confidence with our members that we’re aligned with right people too.

Yea Decent Doc is good people. What would you say your biggest hurdle is, whether teaching someone or in the day to day. Would you say stubbornness is a big problem when it comes to people who signed up not willing to give it 10/10ths.
The biggest problem I have seen in my 10 years of doing this I guess, 99.9% getting people in the door and 0.1% keeping them. We have an extremely high member retention rate, which is tough especially when you have an LA Fitness, a Planet Fitness, an Edge Fitness, charging the $10-$15 per month, whereas the CrossFit model is around $99-$130 per month. We have to present value for why should they be here as opposed to anywhere else. When someone sees that sticker price before they even come in, it kind of deters them. Its finding different networking events, or ways to get into the community to show everyone that we're more than just a gym. We're more than just put your headphones in for an hour and you'll get a good workout in, we're so much more than that. 

Yea I guess to see the value you need to listen and put the lessons into practice.
Yea and they're getting group based personal training. We look at it this way, whether you're here for CrossFit or not, if you walk in our gym, you're going to get a good workout in regardless. We've preached culture and community from the beginning. We go to Phillies games together, we go to dinners together, we go to fundraisers together, we go and hangout at BBQ's together. It's truly a family. I met people when I started 10 years ago, who are going to be groomsmen at my wedding and friends forever. That's how tight of a community we are. As opposed to someone at a commercial gym where you'll probably see the same people everyday, but you'll never have a conversation with them. 

That's good because you can feed off of each other's energy and it motivates you more to work harder
Yea CrossFit's a super friendly, competitive program. You and I can be in the same class, same program, where I'll high-5 you at the door, but when we're mid workout, I'm going to try and beat you haha. Its a healthy competitiveness. The community is what keeps me coming back all these years. We have our own nutrition program. My girlfriend runs a meal prep service with one of my best friends' wife. It’s how many extra things can we do to provide extra value to the community as opposed to just, come in and sweat. You can do that anywhere. How can we better ourselves and set ourselves apart to increase that client value?

Yea I feel like you practice what you preach too. It sounds like you have a vested interest in what you do and you live by it yourself
Yea, I'm a big believer in Practice what you Preach. I live the health and fitness lifestyle. It’s a huge component and a reason why I'm there every single day, 8-10 hours a day. We all try to lead by example at Diversion. You aren’t able to do that without being passionate about it. 

Does it stop feeling like work when you're in your gym?
No it still feels like work. Actually it feels like more work. When you're doing something you love, it might not feel like work, but if you're committed to something you spend every waking moment thinking about how to make it the best version possible. It's more work when you find something you love to do because it drives you.

So what about personal stuff then? I know you're big into golf, you're big into family. Any other hobbies?
I mean I play every sport honestly. I’ll challenge anyone to cornhole lol Athletics have had a huge impact on my life. I love to read. I value family time the most because of all the work I put into things. We have a 2.5yr old I just want to spend time with and go outside and play with and eat ice pops with when I get home. Everything I do is so that my family always has a smile on their face. If they’re happy, it means I’m happy.

Awesome man, anything you want to add?
Just trying to get the word out there man. We want to help people. I mean I'm super biased because it's ours, but I think we have the best total fitness experience you’ll find. From the workout, to the community, to everything else. We even get into charitable work. Last year when all the schools in the area had that mold issue, we did a book bag and school supply drive. So when the kids came in they got a free backpack, binder, notebooks, pencils, and stuff like that. We run a scholarship program for teens/at risk youth. if they can't afford it or can't get transportation, we get them a free membership to the gym so they can come in and work out. So it's just getting that out there more and saying "hey we're a part of the town, we're part of the community, we care about the community. We're not just here to make money." We try to give back at the same time. We do realize that it does come back around. I'm a big believer in karma. That's us in a nutshell man, we're just a bunch of fitness freaks running a gym with a bunch of cool people and we want to help change as many lives as possible. 

Awesome that's sounds like the best way to put it. I appreciate it man.