Don Roberts’ Fit 24/7 Gym keeps things simple. His gym does not boast a sauna, day care, or exercise classes. Customers know to follow the rules or get kicked out. And his club is open every day, 24 hours a day, frequently without a single employee on premise.
Stripped bare of any extras and run entirely by himself, his 550-member facility in Durango, Colorado, has been profitable — very profitable, he insists — from day one. The key to making money is minimal expenses and 24 hour access.
The advantage of 24-hour gyms
Staying open around the clock gives people the freedom and opportunity to exercise on their schedule. It becomes a marketing advantage and attracts customers who might otherwise join a national chain.
Most importantly, with door-access technology becoming ever better, there’s no need for a front desk person. Or really any additional help at all. Roberts has run his 24-hour gym on a 9-5 weekday schedule without ever hiring an employee.
Overcoming objections to 24-hour gyms
There is an “ick” factor to running a 24-hour gym, Roberts admits. But a well-run gym overcomes many of those challenges. Conversely, it is true that liability insurance costs are higher for 24-hour gyms, and fewer companies offer such coverage. But the hassle of finding good gym insurance is still cheaper than hiring employees, he argues.
Gym access software has become so good, there are few excuses to close shop. With Gym Insight, health club owners know who is entering, at what time, and what the individual looked like. Member-access control hardware is fully integrated into a club’s software, updating in real time, even if computers are imperiled. Local door-access control, as well, allows members to securely enter locker rooms, tanning beds, or any other area without employee help.
Roberts also relies on a high-quality, full-color, constantly recording, multi-camera system to keep members honest, and provides complimentary personal safety pendants for customers uncomfortable exercising alone.
Don’s best advice for making money running a 24-hour gym
- Establish a list of house rules, go over them with every customer, and enforce them strictly. If a gym rat keeps dropping weights, it’s three strikes and he or she is out.
- Do as much as possible yourself – cleaning, repairs, maintenance, customer service. Although it sounds like an overwhelming task, when approached systematically, one person can run a smaller gym.
- Start with a small gym. Fit 24/7 Gym is a 7,000-square-foot facility. If Roberts had to do it over, he says, he’d open with 3,500 square feet. Most people use only 20 percent of the facility. Figure out what that part is.
- Offer only what you want to deal with. Don’t follow trends or bigger competitors.
- Get to know your customers and they’ll feel comfortable coming to you when trouble’s brewing.
- Invest in excellent, high-quality gym equipment, cardio, and technology systems. All three will pay for themselves.
- Pay incredible attention to small details – a clean, well-run gym is a happy one – any time, day or night.
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