Background for Success
Starting a gym business is probably a dream for a significant fraction of the population. Whether you’re in this country or around the world you may yearn to open a fitness club someday. If you think you have knowledge and finances, that dream may even turn into a plan. For those that do attempt it, the journey can be long, hard, and possibly heartbreaking. If you want to succeed in the fitness industry, there are a few things that are certain about your journey to get there.
Can You Sacrifice And Struggle for The Cause?
Even in an ideal situation, you’ll have to sacrifice and struggle to get to the rewards of a thriving club membership and sustained profitability. So, what are these ideal circumstances? The short answer is probably as simple as specialized knowledge and lots of cash to invest. If you work in the industry already, you’ve developed your skills and achieved the certifications that validate them.
If only starting a fitness business was that easy! The sacrifices start with foregoing material niceties like a new car or upgrading to a luxury apartment. The real dues that you pay as a business founder are that every waking moment of your day you’ll be wrapped up in moving your project ahead. Those times when you’re not actively working to build your business, you’ll still be thinking about it.
Application of Expertise
The way to succeed in fitness, or any other industry, is to apply specialized knowledge to a problem that hasn’t been addressed by the market, or inventing a program that consumers don’t realize they want and need. Steve Jobs had a special talent of filling a need that consumers didn’t know they had. He was a master of finding niches that had no preexisting market and making consumers go crazy for a product that was new and unexpected. He did this several times, with the iPhone, iPod, and even the Apple II.
Marketing executives would never have recommended attempting launching any of these because no market existed. Apple is still laughing, as these devices changed the world. In fitness, Greg Glassman had a similar impact on how fitness clubs operate and the client programming they provide. The essence of Glassman’s insight was that there’s a niche in clubs that offer at least two key features.
There’s a huge demand for high-intensity interval training with a group dynamic that leans on peer pressure. It’s the market segment where CrossFit, Orange Theory, SoulCycle, and others like them have found passionate followings. Other brands such as Equinox have built their unique selling propositions around targeting the luxury market.
Finding The Funding to Do The Founding
The point is that new businesses have to find a niche and deliver something exceptional to the market. Establishing such a gym from scratch requires two things: special knowledge and funding. Gyms occupy real estate, which means rent, mortgage payments, or piles of cash to invest. Then there are costs of fitting out your gym and decorating it. If you can bootstrap up from working as a trainer, it might be the least cash-intensive way to proceed, but you still have to provide specialized knowledge and hard work.
Even with funding in place and a genius idea founding a gym startup is hard work because the industry is so people-focused. The more you do yourself, the less you have to pay others. Establishing a gym business means, negotiating with real estate agents, painting walls, assembling equipment, and being an enthusiastic sales representative. After you spend days and nights struggling to make your business a success the secret to further success is learning to let go.
Learning to Let Go
If you provide one thing as a founder that’s irreplaceable, it’s your hard work and willingness to hustle nonstop. You’re likely to have some lean years, and you have to consider the grave possibility that you could end up with nothing. Hopefully, you will ultimately be the proud owner of a successful business and have the time to enjoy all the rewards that go with it.
Even at the start, it will help if you can develop the discipline of letting go occasionally. Making time for yourself and your family is not a crime, it’s how you recharge and, as Steven Covey would have said, to "sharpen the saw." After all, what’s the point if you get to your business goal and find everything else is in your life is falling apart.
A passion for fitness and the chance to build a health club are both outstanding things. However, remember to bring your personal health, family, and friends along with you, because those will make the sacrifice and struggle so much more rewarding when you get there.
Easter, Michael. CrossFit’s Greg Glassman Disrupted Fitness Next He’s Taking on Healthcare. October 12, 2018. https://www.menshealth.com/health/a23663806/greg-glassman-crossfit-health/ (accessed December 12, 2018).
Fagan, Lawrence. Ease Your Gym Management Burden By Learning How To Delegate. August 15, 2015. https://blog.gyminsight.com/3428-ease-your-gym-management-burden-by-learning-how-to-delegate/ (accessed December 12, 2018).
Gajeski, Brian. A Successful Trainer’s Advice on How to Open a Gym. July 2, 2018. https://www.theptdc.com/2014/09/top-trainers-advice-on-how-to-open-a-gym/ (accessed December 12, 2018).
Well done with the article. I�ve researched the profitability of over 800 different types of gyms, and the depth of content you share here is quite impressive. One thing I would call out is that I�ve learned that the range of profitability for fitness facilities is pretty wide and has a lot to do with how well the business strategy is developed and executed. Marketing, customer retention, hiring quality staff all matter to a large degree. In my research, I�ve also found that it is very important to be thoughtful on where you locate your gym (near your ideal customers) and being very careful about the commercial lease you sign.
It is a lot of work so you really have to love it!
Sounds like a lot of work. I would be overwhelmed. I guess you have to live it and breathe it to make it. Thanks for the info.
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