Fitness clubs should always have new projects in development and owners should be continuously searching for the next big thing in gym business niches. Special populations represent many different niche specializations that have been boiling up for some time.
Reaching out to special populations will benefit everybody involved. Your club can grow in a new direction, a part of the community that might otherwise be underserved gets a new resource, and your trainers can justify adding a new certification that will be a positive step in their careers.
Special Populations Within The Community
The need to support special populations is certainly there. If you want to expand your practice or head in a different direction, you should begin by researching the market, what qualifications you already have in-house and which ones you will have to develop in your team.
There is a wide range of modified programs for special populations that you can develop based on the NSCA list that I posted to the blog previously. These are the populations that stand out from your general consumers by some feature of healthcare or demographics. These include medical conditions, maternity, fitness for the aged, and injury recovery, to name a few.
The Numbers for New Income Streams
If you have to make a considerable investment in certifications, equipment, and building modifications, that weighs against the potential gain in memberships and training fees.
The final question to ask is whether your brand and business benefit as much as the members of this new segment. Within one or some of these groups, there might be an opportunity to add income and improve your return on investment numbers.
Work out whether you can raise your marginal income rates or increase the lifetime value of these clients. If you can do it and be sure of a sufficient additional income stream, it’s a signal to go ahead.
However, only do so once you have a clear and definite plan that is cash-positive and minimizes risk. Additionally, if your community or state wants to promote health, there may be grants or other subsidies that support clubs that work with special population clients.
Risk Losing Your Best People Like Richard Branson
I recently saw a quote from Richard Branson, the British entrepreneur. He said, "Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to." Sir Richard is obviously a people-person, someone who likes and cares about the people who work for him.
What business could that apply more to other than fitness? None that I can think of, fitness is the most people-oriented business. You need people to whom you can delegate the tasks of running your business and working with your membership.
If you want the best from you hire, you have to risk losing them, but if you treat them with respect and invest in the careers of your trainers, they’ll be less likely to leave.
Branch Out to Stay Ahead
When you are starting a gym business and building club membership it often means concentrating on the easy wins, recruiting the members who fit the largest suitable demographic. Once you have that completely mastered, you will be looking for niches and sub-groups that you can add with a modest amount of effort.
Fitness is such a competitive industry, with big box gym brands that have piles of cash and small gyms that compete on creativity and guile. The range runs from one end of the scale to the other, which is why you have to spend so much time and energy looking over your shoulder.
Special population certification and programming can be an excellent new niche if you want to stay ahead of the competition. Serving seniors, illness recovery, adolescent weight-loss, or similar niches could be a way to add new members and build your name as a brand. Find the special population that suits your club best and develop a qualified team to target these new members and you’ll make it a win for everyone.
Branson, Richard. Look After Your Staff. March 27, 2014. https://www.virgin.com/richard-branson/look-after-your-staff (accessed January 29, 2019).
Fagan, Lawrence. 11 Special Populations That Could Change Your Club. March 1, 2018. https://blog.gyminsight.com/4909-11-special-populations-that-could-change-your-club/ (accessed January 6, 2019).
-. Want to Work With The Disabled? There’s A Certification For That!. September 5, 2015. https://blog.gyminsight.com/1669-want-to-work-with-the-disabled-theres-a-certification-for-that/ (accessed January 29, 2019).
Kugler, Cindy. Becoming a Special Populations Personal Trainer. June 1, 2017. https://www.nsca.com/education/articles/career-articles/becoming-a-special-populations-personal-trainer/ (accessed January 29, 2019).