Facing The Dilemmas Of Being A Gym Business Founder

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  • Facing The Dilemmas Of Being A Gym Business Founder

What To Expect As A New Gym Business Owner

Founding and operating your own gym is as demanding as any other business you can decide to build. As the owner and founder you are going to be constantly called upon to make choices, decisions and judgments that seem to demand the Wisdom of Solomon.

In fact, if you’re thinking about starting your own gym, it will help you very much if you can see this as a positive situation and a challenge. The irony is that the more rapidly you get to the point of takeoff, the sooner you’ll lose the business to professional managers and controlling investors. The most fundamental choice you will have to make may be the most difficult and it will determine whether you are going to have a job for life or a life of wealth and luxury.

Founders Choosers

If you are the sort of person to make decisions and take action then you will definitely get your chance as a small gym owner. Until you have enough revenue to hire experienced managers you will be making all of the tough calls.

Your life might even get to the point where everything you do seems like a binary choice; yes or no, go or stay, buy or sell, one or zero, and so many others that it’ll make your head spin.

It doesn’t matter if you are starting out with a well-capitalized franchise with a growing brand such as Orangetheory or you are just single-handedly managing a gym space that operates by remote access, there will be a continuous flow of decisions you’ll have to make that involve people.

Whether it’s your membership, staff and independent trainers, or outside vendors of services, people will have conflicting needs and agendas and you will have to make decisions that choose between them, often with some or all parties left feeling dissatisfied.

Investors Bring Traumatic Dilemmas

A gym business is one of those endeavors where there’s a bit of a spread in the level that you can start at, depending on what you bring to the business in your own personal skills. If you’re a trainer or you have some training system that’s not heavily equipment based you might be able to bootstrap from nothing just be holding classes in the park and building word-of-mouth support.

Any operation that demands fixed space and fitness equipment means all of the added complexities of managing leases and insurance policies and utilities. You can still just about edge your way into that level as an individual owner/trainer/manager if you use something like Insight’s remote access control system.

When you start to think about a full service gym then setup will take your costs and initial investment into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Unless you have an independent source of wealth you will probably need to bring in professional investors and bankers and that is where you begin to lose control of your baby.Board of Directors

Investors will begin to take control from you because they will want to retain some control of their capital. You will likely end up with a board of directors, some of whom you will choose and others that will be the representatives of investors. This is where the dilemma begins to get real. It’s human nature to want to hang onto control but letting go is the way to empower these outsiders to maximize your business potential.

Control Or Value But Probably Not Both

Friends and family as investors will most likely leave you to make the choices. High wealth individuals, bankers and venture capital investors will want to take some control to best support their vision of how to best run your business. Based on their experience and track record that put them in such a position, they’re probably right!

So, the most fundamental dilemma that you face as an owner is: can you let go enough to get the most growth out of your little business? Sometimes letting go will be the best for everyone and it can make you wealthy in the process.

The ideas for this post came from a book by Noam Wasserman, called The Founders Dilemmas. You can find it on Amazon via the link or at other major booksellers. I liked it as soon as I read the back cover because it sums up the experience of being the guy or gal in the hot seat. Since gyms are such people oriented businesses you will have to try to balance the needs and demands of everyone, every day during the early stages. I know there was a period when I certainly did.


Fagan, Lawrence. Charity Events By Orangetheory Prove My Point. September 28, 2015. https://blog.gyminsight.com/3500-charity-events-by-orangetheory-prove-my-point/ (accessed October 4, 2015).

-. Lean Startup For Ambitious Small Gyms. February 3, 2015. https://blog.gyminsight.com/3178-lean-startup-for-ambitious-small-gyms/ (accessed October 4, 2015).

Wasserman, Noam. The Founder’s Dilemmas. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2012.