4 Mistakes I Wouldn’t Make Twice Opening a Gym

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  • 4 Mistakes I Wouldn’t Make Twice Opening a Gym

What could be better than exercising every day and hanging out in your own awesome health club? If owning a gym is your dream job — keep reading our blog. The truth is – opening a gym is a lot more than just buying gym equipment and unlocking doors. Succeeding at owning a gym takes planning, perseverance, moxie, and money. Today, we’ve spoken with experienced gym owners to learn four of the most common mistakes new gym owners make when getting started in the business.

Understand your lease fully before signing on the dotted line!

#1 — Signing a lease too quickly

Claude Mumpower owns Iron Mayhem in Bristol, Virginia. The 11,000-square-foot powerlifting gym is his third location since opening in 2014. He started in a 2,000-square-foot building and quickly outgrew it. The second location seemed ideal until his $200 monthly electric bills skyrocketed to $1,800 per month. Turns out there was a secondary agreement with the electric company to pay for equipment, that Mumpower knew nothing about. He ended the lease – but only after retaining an attorney and losing time and money. Not the best start to a new location! 

Top tips to signing the best lease for your new business :

  • Always have the building fully inspected before signing leases. Heating, plumbing, electrical should be fixed upfront. Otherwise, you’ll start spending money on structural renovations originally budgeted for equipment.
  • Talk to the city or county building inspector prior to signing a lease. This is the person who’s going to sign off on any of your changes. It’s best to know the zoning requirements ahead of time so you won’t waste money on a project that won’t pass inspection. 
  • Understand the lease completely before signing, even if that means seeking expert legal advice.

#2 — Modifying membership plans

Demetrius Moore is a nice guy. He and his father, Ricky Moore, own American Fitness Center in Fayetteville, Georgia, established 2011. Unfortunately, they learned the hard way that members can take advantage of your good nature. In his case, when a leader of a basketball team asked him to waive a registration fee, he said yes. That led to the director of a nonprofit attempting to change a group personal training program after it started. Both decisions created problems and unnecessary confrontations between management and members.  

Membership advice for new gym owners:

  • Keep program pricing clear, transparent, and the same for everyone.
  • Establish a formal process for agreements. A good agreement clearly defines each party’s responsibilities. This eliminates confusion over the services your gym provides, and what customers must do to hold up their side of the deal.  

#3 — Not writing a good business plan

For Chris Giumarra, owner of Rosamond Health & Fitness in Rosamond, California, the road to running a profitable fitness center begins months, or even years, before the doors open. To ensure their business makes it through the lean years, new gym owners should study the industry  and create a serious, 40- or 50-page business plan. He advises eager would-be gym owners to keep a notebook with them at all times, write down ideas, thoughts, anything relevant to your prospective gym. Then, develop a comprehensive business plan. He followed a template provided by the Small Business Administration.

“People look at it as a fun business, but they don’t understand how difficult it is to run a successful gym,” Giumarra explains, “You put it all on the line.” 

Giumarra founded Rosamond in 2016, yet he has only paid himself in the last two years.  If the business goes under, new gym owners not just walk away from a small business loan, they’re losing everything ever invested. A good business plan deep-dives into the details: demographics, competition, equipment cost, buildout expenses, monthly expenses, employee costs, insurances, taxes, improvements, marketing budgets and more. 

Be ready, he says:  You have to be prepared long before the grand opening.  


New gym owners need to never stop promoting their business!

#4 — Letting marketing slide

Giumarra admits he got lucky the first two years in the gym business. He opened in a small town and knew enough to not make any huge mistakes. He took his good fortune for granted:  Stopped saying yes to requests to attend Saturday morning events where he and his staff would promote the gym for a day. Cut back on community building and special promotional offers. Stopped pushing so hard to bring in new leads. 

Then, business slowed significantly and it was time, in his own words, to kick himself in the butt. Today, his marketing is omnichannel and ferocious: social media, community sponsorships, local advertising — he’s become the business owner everyone knows. Now, Giumarra can’t walk into the mall without people recognizing him. “We built this little gym and it spiderwebbed. People’s references don’t lie, but it takes a long time. These five years feel like an eternity.” 

Gym Insight 

At Gym Insight, our gym membership software provides a clear, transparent picture into your company’s financials, and offers a platform from which to run your business effectively. Our software is built in-house, by fitness club owners. There are no cumbersome third-party plug-ins or complicated protocols, and it’s available for a single, low monthly subscription price — no hidden fees, no links to your payment processor. Call us today for a free demonstration on how we can lower your software management costs and free up time and capital.