by Lawrence Fagan
All of the small business owners I know, be they gym owners or anything else, seem to have one trait in common: They’re working all of the time. I can only speak for myself but this permanent work mode has often not felt like work at all. It’s been a scramble to make a living out of doing what I love. My colleagues here at Gym Insight seem to feel the same way, judging by their commitment levels.
Burning the candle at both ends is an apt metaphor for the kind of work ethic that is mandatory for success in small business. When you set up a gym it seems like you’re going to be hanging out in a place that you love, doing what you want to do. Instead you’re where you want to be but it’s like a mental treadmill that’s moving just a little too fast.
You spend your days putting out fires and calming frustrated customers and attempting to keep staff happy and productive. It is a lot of work that starts as soon as you wake up and continues until you flop down on the bed. Next thing you know, the alarm is going off and you’re off and running yet again. This continues until you just have to take time off to sleep for fifteen hours and then you go back to it all over again. (more…)
In this blog post I want to balance out some of the enthusiasm that I put into the previous two articles in the series on mobile fitness apps. This article changes gears somewhat; it’s a discussion about where the boundaries lie in mobile computing, in support of fitness businesses. I have already given the case for having apps and now I would just like to mention some of the characteristics and limits that define what mobile apps are and what they can do.
Mobile friendly websites are not the same as mobile applications. The web can help potential members discover your business; a dedicated mobile fitness app is a tool for engaging with members who already buy in to your service. Gym Insight’s website component is mobile enabled; you can use it from a mobile browser with very little trouble or loss of functionality, which is ideal for gym management.
Mobile websites adapt your website content to fit the constraints of a mobile device screen. They are made in the same code as a webpage on your desktop. They load as you open them and then drop out when you close the browser or when you link away from them. (more…)
It is not a daily increase, but a daily decrease. Hack away at the inessential.
This quote from martial arts legend Bruce Lee is so simple, yet it says so much of what success is all about, in gym ownership, in business and life in general. You can spend hours doing little things or find the big things that matter; they may look the same at first. But when all the other things drop away you can still take the essential factors and use them to achieve the final outcomes you desire.
This is what sculptors do when they carve a statue. Starting with an initial piece of stone that is larger than the outline of what is to be produced, they simply remove all of the parts that are not the statue, which the sculptor has envisioned in the stone.
How many times in business do you start out with objectives that get dropped along the way? You figure out what matters and what doesn’t, then it’s simply an issue of letting go of all of those things that don’t produce as great a return on investment as the most successful ones. (more…)
The basics of fitness and gym equipment are essential for a professionally operated gym. They are useful tools for the modern workout routines centered on body weight training. They have not changed in years, which is part of the attraction for some fitness enthusiasts. Some of the commercial gym equipment items that you should be thinking about presently are not much more than gym tools.
Programs that use simple equipment in body weight training; such as climbing ropes, gymnastic rings and pull-up bars have been very successful in the last year. One example of this type of equipment is the kettle bell. The popularity of CrossFit, which draws part of its strength training aspects from free weights, has done much to popularize this simple dumb-bell system.
The most hardcore adherents will be found at your local CrossFit affiliate. But that might be too much commitment for the interested non-gym-rat. CrossFit is expensive but many of its aspects are appealing to the more budget conscious gym members. So I would say that it is worth looking into a good set or two of kettle bells. (more…)
The power of modern mobile devices lies in the ability to provide new ways to build communities and strengthen the bonds within the membership. In the first blog article on mobile fitness apps I wrote about how you get insight into customer activities and how well your gym is being utilized. In the second part of this series I want to discuss how they can help to keep your members motivated.
There is a huge opportunity to make use of the features that you can put into a mobile app. Features that go beyond the abilities of a website. There are three things that should be most important in your application to reach customers and members. These are content, community and coaching. The motivational value that mobile apps bring to your membership lies in them. Beyond that, the biggest contribution fitness apps can make to the quality of the experience your members have is by entertaining them and providing a fun new aspect to working out that they cannot get any other way. (more…)
They say that price setting is an art form, but in my experience, so is juggling flaming torches. They both can be impressive done well, but there is serious potential of getting burned as you go up the learning curve. Changing prices, after your members have had time to get used to a previous price, is a unique challenge where you can get burned if you are not careful.
Any kind of decision-making about prices in business has to be based in the real world of business success. Sales, marketing and finance are the main groupings for factors in your pricing decisions. If you are interested in finding more information I recommend a recent article about general business pricing at Inc.com.
The Gym industry is a pretty healthy free-market. Pricing is mainly constrained by the changes in market demand. The factors are the classics: Power of your suppliers, ease of entry into your market, competitor prices, available alternatives, and power of the consumers. (more…)
In the last two years, there has been a huge amount of interest in mobile fitness apps, as confirmed by Google Trends. Fitness apps can be powerful tools for marketing and motivation and there is a new generation of gym members coming up, who expect that they can download an app and immediately get gratification from it. If you don’t provide that option they will look elsewhere for their fitness needs.
Mobile apps are a very competitive market, driven by many big companies wanting to get their products into everyone’s hands. In fact, the market is so strong that, as of mid 2014, sixty percent of web traffic comes from mobile devices. You can add an interactive element to your gym and provide how-to videos and other training resources. The information that is likely to be useful for members also gives you some powerful analytics on the back-end, about what is going on, in a way that you cannot get anywhere else. (more…)
Apparently, somebody recently discovered that if you created a Venn diagram of the fitness and vacation markets, there’s an overlap. I reckon that was how destination fitness trips were created. This market serves the people who want more than just the indulgence of a luxury hotel. Destination fitness trips combine the fun of a vacation at a luxury resort and the development and personal growth of facing a physical challenge, and knowing that you are a little stronger for having done it.
Spartan Races represent the best of this trend. They have 140 planned events for 2014 in 17 countries, which people attend from all over the world. The events they host push you to the extremes of endurance, throwing unexpected obstacles at you along the course. The hits that you take on a Spartan Race aren’t just a rough boot camp test of will, they are intended to be transformative. You come away from a Spartan event with a new perspective.
I very much enjoyed interviewing the founder of Spartan Races, Joe De Sena for this blog; prior to the release of his book Spartan Up! Spartan Races thrive on their reputation as the most insane and extreme endurance training that a person can put himself or herself through and people sign up by the hundreds. Competitors sign on to do obstacle courses and crawl through mud for hours and hours. (more…)
There’s no time like the present to prepare for storms on the horizon. I’m reminded about this because one of the big boys has just arrived in town in a big way. The launch of Life Time Athletic into the local Las Vegas market has been a wake-up call, announced with all of the glitz and fanfare people expect of this town. I would like to use it as an example of how established local gyms can respond effectively to big-box corporate competition.
When the big national or multi-national brands move in, you are either going to fight based on price point or value proposition. You have to differentiate yourself from the competition by focusing on and promoting the things that you have that are unique or proprietary. (more…)
Membership retention is the one weightiest factor in running your business, after winning initial sign-ups. I’ve been reminded of this because, according to the author of the book Blue Zones, Dan Buettner, almost all of your members will drop out within three years of first signing up. This is your recidivism rate. Improving and extending these numbers will reduce the turnover rate at your gym.
Your revenue is going to benefit from marginally extending the averages on your memberships. Revenue comes from your subscriptions and if you are doing the sort of memberships that are popular these days that means that the majority of your income arrives in equal lumps from each member, each month. So if the average membership length is twelve months and you extend that by one month to thirteen then you have increased your per-member lifetime revenue by 8⅓%. (more…)
One of the most disruptive trends in technology in the last few decades has been the leveraging and (pardon the fancy talk) disintermediation of the old ways that made the wheels of commerce go round. That means that new technologies that are labor saving and disrupting of the status quo cause big changes. Here’s an old-fashioned example: Long before there was MS Word there were typewriters. These days, typewriters are an antique collector’s pride and joy, more than objects of any functional uses. For previous generations the typewriter was a labor saving essential for the workplace. Companies had entire typing pools devoted to writing documents.
Disruptive technologies, like the word processor change the point at which a business becomes viable. That means that you can do much more with a lot less resources. Technology is increasingly about ideas and innovation, and less about deep pockets. I like to think that Gym Insight is a disruptive technology in the same way as the word processor. Insight makes it possible to operate a small gym 24/7 remotely and coordinate the activities and administration functions single handedly. The disruptive part is that you can compete with corporate-owned gyms, without having to have the same deep pockets as the big guys. (more…)
Fitness trends have had lots of ups and downs that are related to culture and fashion. But there is also an influence on trends that comes from the innovations of technology. Still it’s hard to read the tea leaves out beyond a year or so, as the apparent trend today can quickly show itself to be a fad that disappears overnight.
In the gym business we always have to keep a lookout for what is coming because it can determine the capital investments that we would make and nobody wants to take six months to refurbish for the latest thing only to have no interest when they finally open the doors. That is a nightmare for any business.
From the late 70s to the late 80s, the trends centered on aerobics, cycling, rowing and other similar activities, in the 90s the trends moved more to weightlifting and strength training. There has been a long trend shifting back in the other direction with activities like Tae Bo and more recently, high intensity interval training regimens such as CrossFit.
What have we seen come and go in the last few years? Remember Nordic Track? How about the Thighmaster? These were really marketing attempts by brands, more than they were trends. In fact, the more a trend or fad is associated with a particular brand, the more quickly it seems to fall out of favor. (more…)
When television production companies catch onto a formula that’s cheap to produce and popular with viewers, they really work it for all it’s worth. Having an expert, who rescues failing small businesses, is a simple and compelling formula within the genre of reality TV. The premise is usually that a business, in some specific industry, gets help and a makeover just as it’s about to go under.
The super-expert, no-holds-barred host comes in with a camera crew and they proceed, in a period of about three days, to whamp the tar out of the downtrodden business owner. They clear out the staffers who apparently couldn’t care less about their job security, train and motivate the ones that do, clean up and turn out a whole new look, or whatever it takes to get the business back on its feet rapidly. (more…)
The UFC has made a name for itself in the field of mixed martial arts (MMA). They have taken that success and ambitiously turned it into a familiar label onto a new big-box gym franchising operation that puts a body lock on their opponents. They are stable-mates with some of the big national brands but with the ability to leverage an entire menu of unique merchandising. Still, the question remains: What are the chances of this athletic-entertainment powerhouse muscling in on the gym arena? It turns out that its customers and employees have something to say about that.
UFC Gym was founded in 2010 at their first location in Concorde, California. UFC worked with fitness industry equity partners New Evolution Fitness Company (NeV), among others, to develop the brand. It quickly grew to seven locations. Once the model proved to be successful the owners then acquired all of LA Boxing’s locations and are now expanding the model as a franchising opportunity with a turnkey operation. The brand takes care of everything; the local franchisee comes up with an initial investment in return for a split of the profits. (more…)
Gym equipment is the biggest class of capital assets (and possibly of hassles too) you’ll have to deal with when you’re starting your own gym. Whether you run a small gym or a national franchise location, there are some things that must be addressed with enough quality to make your investment worthwhile. Once you have the equipment in place you need to ensure that it stays in working order for as long as you need it.
Gym equipment is the bread and butter of your enterprise. It may be more or less important, depending on the type of gym you operate. If you run a studio that specializes in group-based activities such as yoga or high intensity interval training classes, you won’t lose much sleep over the state of the equipment you don’t have.
If, on the other hand, you depend on fitness machines any more complicated than kettle bells, the way that so many gyms do now, then the functionality and the cleanliness of your equipment will be important factors with which to please your customers.
Keeping all of your equipment up to date and working is like keeping the gym floor space in the highest and best use. When a large piece of equipment is out of service it’s just a giant lump of metal sitting in the way and sending out bad vibes to everyone in the room. (more…)