Guest Post By Cory Damm
Opening a gym in today’s market may feel like a daunting task. You’ve got the competition of national fitness club powerhouses, and the cost associated with finding a space, equipment, staff, and insurance. Hundreds of veteran gym owners wish they knew then what they know now. You don’t have to find out the hard way. Here are 10 easy ways to save you money, and your sanity, when opening your first gym.
1) Know your options when leasing equipment
Leasing fitness equipment allows gym owners pay over extended periods of time instead of all at once as would be the case with a cash purchase. Cash purchasing is a risky business, since it has a strong potential for depleting the capital reserves of a business.
Don’t run around from lender to lender trying to get the best deal. This is a waste of your time and energy. Online cloud-based services make it easy to shop lenders across the country for financing terms on new equipment.
Avoid lenders "leasing calculators." Lease payment calculators are little more than makeshift Excel spreadsheet calculators that are designed to mislead clients into entering leasing agreements they can’t afford. The real rates can be obtained by reputable cloud service providers like LeaseQ and are accompanied by a soft credit pull that won’t hurt your credit score.
2) Differentiate your fitness club
Instead of competing against the typical gym giants in your area, tap into a niche market and create your own environment. When Lin Coleson opened CrossFit Carmel in Indiana saw the need for a strength and conditioning program in his area and wanted to bring a feeling of community to his gym.
"We take care of you from the minute you show up at our front door till the minute you leave. You don’t have to wonder what exercises to do or whether you are doing them right because it is our job to ensure that those questions are answered every time you work out," Coleson said. "Another way that we differ from globo gyms is that we are a community of people who enjoy working out together and developing friendships that will extend outside of the walls of our facility."
3) Create a business plan
Even before selecting a location or finding your niche market, plan what your club can realistically offer and have a schedule for growth. Planning each step out before starting the process will ensure you find the lowest cost options for operation. A solid business plan will also prevent you from wasting money, time, or space when starting up operations.
4) Market your gym yourself
Once your planning is done, it’s time to start promoting. Radio and TV ads are expensive and a waste of valuable funds. Instead, break out across social media and the web. Set up a Facebook page, and even a Twitter account. Keep your followers up to date on the gyms progress, and get an online community buzz going before opening day.
5) Time your opening well
When planning the grand opening of your gym, make sure it coincides with health and fitness trends in the area. Many gyms see a spike in memberships towards the end of winter as beach season approaches. Check the records of gyms in your area to determine the most cost efficient opening date (depending on your location, be sure to factor AC and heating bills in).
6) Ensure your grand opening is a hit
First impressions are everything, so take precautions to be sure your opening is not a waste of money. Hire your trainers and receptionists a few days before the launch for training. To have the best chance at securing memberships during opening week, your trainers and receptionists must be well versed in the gyms operations. It is their future jobs on the line too, and customer service is everything.
7) Offer a free trial period
It might seem counterproductive to saving money, but to earn members you need to get people in the gym. There is no easier way to get members through the doors than offering a few days of the perfect gym experience for free.
8) Provide incentives to paying members
Offer specialty services to your members at no extra fee that won’t rack up your operating cost:
a. Offer Nutrition Counseling to all members
b. Free Fitness Evaluation and a Tailored Exercise Program upon joining, which will also help promote your trainers to the gym
c. Member Referral Discounts
d. Club-wide Weight Loss and Fitness Contests
Don’t just tell your gym patrons where their membership fees are going, show them.
9) Create a stress-free environment
Gym-goers come in all shapes and sizes. From the muscle-head lifters to the cardio-enthusiasts, you are bound to see a variety walk through your doors. One thing they all have in common is a desire for a stress-free workout. Setting gym rules like a time limit on cardio equipment, or a cell phone policy can create a worry-free workout environment without spending a dime.
10) Listen to your members
Always remain open to feedback from your members, as they are the most important part of your gym. What you thought was a brilliant plan might just be flawed, and your members are going to be the ones to see it first. Advice from the people who matter the most.
Cory Damm is vice president of client services for LeaseQ, one of the leading providers of equipment leasing and financing in the United States. To learn more about LeaseQ and its free financing platform, visit www.leaseq.com.