"I think I'm going through a heavy masochistic period," joked Roza, 52, before adding that running CrossFit was indeed a long-term goal.
“When I started CrossFit about 10 years ago, I really wanted to get more immersed in CrossFit very quickly. I think that's how a lot of people see CrossFit,” he told CNN Business. "Because I had this part of me that was also a kind of business builder within a year of starting it, I got the crazy idea that one day I wanted to buy and run CrossFit … The current challenges that CrossFit was facing allowed this opportunity to materialize. "
The crisis CrossFit was facing encouraged him to take the chance: "I felt a calling. I felt that this was my time to step in."
Roza, a technology entrepreneur and CrossFit gym owner in Colorado, became the new CEO last month after buying the company from founder Greg Glassman. Glassman resigned in June after reacting violently to his reaction to the death of George Floyd and the nationwide anti-racism movement. In early June, CrossFit gyms, which pay an annual fee to license the brand, began to quit after a call to the company to stand up for the Black Lives Matter movement went unanswered. In a call to gym owners on June 6, Glassman said the CrossFit leadership "is not mourning George Floyd," according to a tapping on CNN Business. Glassman later posted a series of controversial tweets that sparked outrage online and caused hundreds of other gyms to sever ties with the company as well as the company's top sponsors.
Roza already has a very different tone than Glassman in his last days with CrossFit. And he's in the process of taking steps to develop the organization and restore trust in the CrossFit community.
"Black lives matter, absolutely. Brown lives matter, absolutely," said Roza. "It's at the core of everything I believe as a person. Racism and sexism are absolutely hideous. We will not tolerate them in CrossFit."
He said Glassman's comments on George Floyd created a sense of "cognitive dissonance" for themselves and other CrossFitters – between what they heard from top management and their own experiences at CrossFit gyms.
"We knew that, at best, CrossFit was as comprehensive as anything we've seen," said Roza. "We knew that hierarchies in the gym would be removed and everyone there would be accepted."
Roza will speak publicly in front of the CrossFit community in a virtual town hall on Wednesday for the first time since the takeover.
Developing the CrossFit culture
It won't be the first time Roza has run a company.
The Stanford Graduate School of Business graduate was CEO of Datalogix, a digital marketing data and analytics company, when it was sold to oracle (( In 2014, he headed Oracle's data cloud business for several years. Roza founded his fitness studio CrossFit Sanitas in 2012. Most recently, he was executive in residence with General Catalyst, a venture capital firm with investments in companies such as Snapchat, Airbnb and Kayak. )
At CrossFit, Roza is in the process of building a more diverse leadership team and establishing the company's first board of directors. He hired a director for the company's culture and inclusion efforts and created a diversity, equity and inclusion council to ensure the company's continued progress.
"The things that mattered most to me were having an inclusive and diverse group of people around me," said Roza. "This is really what will really help us not only really think about these things, but it will also help us model and lead the conversation that we post there."
Roza has a lot of feedback to work with. Since the acquisition was announced, Roza has received thousands of emails and social media messages from CrossFit members and had conversations with hundreds of them. The suggestions on the company's website alone ranged from defining the CrossFit culture to how to make sport easier for vulnerable teenagers.
Ultimately, Roza wants CrossFit to be "the world's leading platform for health, happiness and performance."
The company currently has 14,000 affiliated gyms in 150 countries. Roza estimates 2 to 3 million people around the world have tried CrossFit, but he wants that number to be 100 million. To this end, he plans to create marketing and contact information in multiple languages (currently most of the company's materials are in English) and find other ways to connect with prospects, such as through a mobile app that will host the training relieved at home.
Running a fitness company during a pandemic
Amid its cultural reckoning, CrossFit also had to deal with coronavirus. Gyms have been closed for months in many places, and some states are still not allowed to open gyms.
"If you're one of those 14,000 small business owners or one of the 50,000+ trainers who work out at these gyms, you worry about a living. If you're a member, you've lost some of them." the importance and purpose in your day, "said Roza.
He said the company is currently working on advancing its gyms (or "boxing" as CrossFit calls them) – highlighting the difference between other large gyms with lots of equipment and CrossFit gyms, which offer small group fitness classes with minimal equipment to offer . Roza added that the boxes are usually large, airy spaces and that the company recommends safety protocols like increased hygiene and the wearing of masks.
Roza brought in a Harvard-trained infectious disease expert to develop best practices for CrossFit gyms, and CrossFit's first chief analytics and research officer to oversee the company's progress in reopening the gym.
The company is also adapting its annual world championships to the Covid-19 era.
This year, the first round of CrossFit games will take place virtually – the top 30 men and women from 16 countries compete from home or in the local gym. The top five men and women will then advance to the personal finals in California and it will all be streamed live as fans cannot gather to see it in person.
"There has always been a perception of CrossFit that it was scary or not for me," said Roza. "When you find a great CrossFit gym, it's not one of the things you think will be. For most of the people who walk through that door, a little magic is starting … So I'm just looking forward to it that more people do it. " As a result of this, try and so that we gain people's trust where we lost it because if we are not at our best it is not good enough. "