How to Run a Thriving Gym in a Small Town

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  • How to Run a Thriving Gym in a Small Town

Is it possible to prosper as a gym owner in a small town? After speaking with several gym owners in  cities of fewer than 5,000 residents we discovered it’s a definite “heck, yes!” With the right dedication and planning, you can succeed and grow in any sized hamlet.

Advice from our Gym Insight customers on how to flourish as a small-town gym. 

1. Adapt to your community’s needs.

As Justin Green, owner of the Source Fitness Center in St. Clairsville, Ohio, explained in our Gym Owner’s Podcast, the household income for his small town gym are not high. As a result, he’s noticed that stay-at-home moms exercise when the kids are at school; dads bring teens in at night. Turns out, parents can’t afford personal trainers and babysitters. In response, he nixed personal training services, and is in the planning stages of adding a licensed childcare center. He may be on to something. Discount brand leaders offering Kids Clubs onsite have 12% more “Households with Children” compared to the national average.

2. Offer lots of services in one space.

Reagan Reed, owner of The Cardio Club in Delhi, NY, considers her gym “multi-faceted.” Cardio Club boasts 24/7 gym access, as well as a host of dance, exercise, personal training, and group-training classes for all levels. She offers dance classes for both children and adults, holds Aerial Silk birthday parties, and rents out space to a chiropractor, a nail salon, and an eyelash technician. She strives to think “outside the box,” hustling to ensure every style of exerciser feels welcome and included in her gym. “If I was only doing one thing, I don’t think I would have survived,” she confesses.

3. Keep it friendly. Keep it nice.

Small-town gym residents expect an engaging owner. Yet, more than simply gabbing with guests, these owners emphasize the need to listen as well.  Ask members what they like about the gym. What they don’t like. Then act on it. 

Reed recently invested $25,000 on a new parking lot in response to a suggestion by one of her clients. 

Tanner Boudrero, owner of the Fit Factory in Preston, Idaho, kept getting requests for an incline bench in his gym. Space was tight though, so he pulled one of two flat benches to make room for the new equipment. Unfortunately, members complained immediately.  He quickly rearranged the weight room to include the second flat bench, which members really appreciated. 

4. Small-town gyms cater to the customer.  

Residents in small towns do have choices when it comes to gyms. They can stay home and exercise. Or, they join the big box clubs invading rural communities.  

For its own survival, a privately owned gym in a tiny town must:

  • Offer equipment in great condition
  • Update the center
  • Keep the facility in tip-top shape. 

Like residents of urban areas, dissatisfied members may simply leave. But in a small town, bad news travels fast. The owners we spoke with go out of their way to cater to customer needs, even going easy on cancellation or refund policies if the situation calls for it. Friendly flexibility is the model they follow.

5. Keep Communicating

Ironically, reaching out to your customers is vital, too. Boudrero sends out quarterly surveys via Instagram. These five- to six-question surveys take the pulse of your membership – what’s going right? What equipment would you like to see? What is not working?

6. Own the club land and equipment, if possible.

Property ownership provides financial flexibility when big competitors take root. Gyms that own the land have more control over rates. Drops in business are easier to weather.  

7. Small-town gyms go with the flow. 

The pandemic shutdown taught gym owners nothing is set in stone. When change is necessary, go with it and keep moving forward. 

It’s Business-101

If all this small-town talk sounds like simple good business practices, you’re right. Running a business that is adaptable and reflects community’s needs is just the right way to run a company. 

Then how does life in a tiny town differ?

Well, here everyone does know your name. Carving out a welcoming, warm environment with engaged, helpful staff goes a long way in the success of a small-town gym – as does establishing a niche that reflects your values. Ironically, your fees don’t have to be lowest in town just because there is a smaller member base. But you do need to earn their business by providing a great product. It’s a vibe. It’s a tribe. Find yours.

Watch our interview with Justin Green, owner of Source Fitness.

Gym Insight

Take customer service to the next level with our gym management software. Built to help you run a profitable, efficient gym, our member management software streamlines sign-ups, simplifies the sales process, and gives new members immediate gym access through our digital keytags. The proof is in our customer recommendations. Go to our website or visit our Gym Owner’s Podcast to listen to gym owner testimonials. For more information, call 1-855-FOR-GYMS and ask for Anthony or Natalia. We’d be happy to provide a free demonstration.