Posted on September 18, 2014 by Lawrence Fagan
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…)
Posted on September 15, 2014 by Lawrence Fagan
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…)
Posted on September 7, 2014 by Lawrence Fagan
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…)
Posted on August 25, 2014 by Lawrence Fagan
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…)
Posted on August 15, 2014 by Lawrence Fagan
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…)
Posted on August 6, 2014 by Lawrence Fagan
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…)
Posted on July 29, 2014 by Lawrence Fagan
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…)
Posted on July 24, 2014 by Lawrence Fagan
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…)
Posted on July 21, 2014 by Lawrence Fagan
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…)
Posted on July 14, 2014 by Lawrence Fagan
You can’t say too much about certain things in this business and one of them is certification. Also beyond that, or perhaps before it, you want to consider which professional organization is the right one. There are plenty of good organizations such as the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), which provide relevant and effective qualifications.
You should be pursuing advanced certification on an ongoing basis and encouraging your staff to do the same. In the competitive fitness and gym management industry you have to keep moving along just to keep up. Rather than taking up a lot of space to go into details of a particular organization, I’d like to discuss the framework that can help you get the right benefits and connections out of any organization that you ultimately choose to join.
Stephen Covey used to say that one of the habits of successful people is to sharpen the saw. By putting some energy into having the most up-to-date tools, your resources will go further toward your desired results. Getting involved with the industry and increasing your level of qualifications is the modern way to sharpen the saw. This was something that I tackled in a previous article about keeping your certifications up to date. (more…)
Posted on July 9, 2014 by Lawrence Fagan
As a business owner there’s a plethora of rules regulations and certifications that you have to navigate through. Of course, on top of that, gym ownership comes with its own specific headaches. When you own a business of any description you quickly find out that there are all kinds of tasks that seem to have been designed to distract you from your purpose and the mission of your enterprise. As always, I try to avoid the controversies and politics of ownership but we all have to deal with them. So, my discussion point here is how to respond effectively to yet another set of dirty jobs in the gym management and fitness center business.
Three of the most common categories of documents that you will be forced to deal with as a gym owner are:
1. Fitness certification, both initial and advanced
2. Re-certification of expiring certificates
3. The prerequisite supporting certification that goes with them
The initial certification should not be such a big problem. After all you don’t hire untrained trainers, right? Either they come to you pre-certified or, alternatively, lesser-qualified staff in your gym is ambitious enough to get certified as trainers and build their careers from the bottom up. I think that kind of initiative should be strongly encouraged. If you have someone who starts at the bottom and works their way up I think they make for more loyal employees. (more…)
Posted on June 30, 2014 by Lawrence Fagan
Because my gym has been doing well recently, I’ve been forced to analyze all my financials. I say this because I had been solely relying on the competence of my bookkeepers for the past couple of years, blindly thinking that they would do a good job. I was so wrong!
The past few weeks, I have been scrambling to brush up on basic accounting principals in order to answer basic questions that are not clearly defined by the books. That means I am completely redoing everything that the bookkeeper did (or in my opinion, did not do).
You might not look to Jerry Seinfeld for wisdom. That is, if you didn’t first stop to think that he has been so completely successful as a stand up comedian and the star of his own TV show. It’s true that the hook for the show was that it was about nothing but it was a great show. That is in no small part because of the work that Seinfeld put into building his career and the long and determined path that he traveled to get there.
His secret to success is both inspiring and mundane. It is a practical habit that is entirely within the mindset that you want to cultivate in a fitness center or studio:
“The way to be a better comic is to create better jokes; the way to create better jokes is to write every day.”
Jerry Seinfeld Quoted by Brad Isaacs in Life Hacker (more…)
Posted on June 26, 2014 by Lawrence Fagan
It seems like lately I can’t help but notice that workout spaces have been popping up with the name CrossFit displayed in bold letters across the front of the building. Gyms that offer this new workout system have been spreading like wildfire. Because it’s such a mixed and intense way of working out, CrossFit licensees, or affiliates as the brand calls them, need to be expert at fitness, personal training and injury prevention. It appears to present a huge opportunity for trainers to become owners. However, the question remains: Is it a true fitness trend or is it a fad that is just now peaking in popularity?
CrossFit values strength and endurance over leanness and helps athletes become bigger and more powerful. The system covers training and diet and also leverages group dynamics of bootcamp style workouts to generate the highest possible motivation levels and help the members push harder. There is a hazard of overtraining or training beyond your fitness level and it’s the responsibility of trainers to supervise, motivate and advise to get to the edge without going over it. Even so, there’s a lot of benefit to be gained from it and the brand is enjoying a huge burst of growth in attendance and popularity right now. (more…)
Posted on June 24, 2014 by Lawrence Fagan
A while back I wrote an article about the ten reasons new gyms fail. It was well received by the readers of Gym Insight and the discussion was very gratifying for me. But as a believer in fitness and getting results in a positive way I feel compelled to balance it out with an article about the positive side of gym startups and success. I admit that there is likely plenty of overlap between this and the previous article. These things are worth saying over and over again and doing more reps never hurt anybody.
Have A Great Business Plan
The power of business plans is that they work whether you follow them or not. The difference is not following the plan to the letter but making the plan in the first place. In the military leaders understand that once the battle starts the plan goes out the window. In business, as in war, it is the discipline of making the plan and putting preparations in place that sets you up for success. (more…)
Posted on June 20, 2014 by Lawrence Fagan
I recently posted a blog about statistics in the fitness business. I really only just scratched the surface with that one. In this blog post I want to address a few things that I had to leave out, and tie up loose ends. It’s always good to know where the next generation of competition could come from.
I tend to think the source of competition to watch is self-employed trainers building followings through social media and then establishing studios once they have enough of a revenue flow. Also there were some statistics that relate the demographics of the industry to that of the employment world at large. It has some interesting data but it’s not worth a full post itself, so I have included it here.
As a gym owner you know what it is to be self-employed, whether you just started out on your own or buying into a franchise. What I know from the experience of working as a vendor, and also as a gym owner myself, is that there is a huge gap between the world of employment and entrepreneurship. What lies between is a little murky and blurry.
It’s a risky proposition to step outside the safety of employment and into running your own enterprise. But from what I’ve seen, the more time you spend in the business, the more likely that you are to become self-employed. The way gym entrepreneurs and freelancers generally start their careers is as employed staff members. They use that time to gain experience, confidence and relationships that they will call on later in their careers. On the other end of the scale, fitness business owners are self employed, by definition. (more…)