gym owner

Adapt and Overcome: How to Handle the Top Ten Gym Owner Struggles

Being a gym owner comes with a unique set of challenges. Here are ten common struggles among gym owners and suggestions for how to solve them!

Monica Hilton
September 5, 2023
Adapt and Overcome: How to Handle the Top Ten Gym Owner Struggles
Being a gym owner comes with a unique set of challenges. Here are ten common struggles among gym owners and suggestions for how to solve them!

When you first dreamed of gym ownership, chances are you envisioned all the great parts. You pictured yourself in that joyful gym owner role, coaching happy clients and changing lives. The struggles were nowhere to be found.

Then over time, things started changing. At first, it was a little thing like the toilet overflowing. Annoying? Yes. But fixable? Sure.

As a group of gym owners ourselves, the PushPress team understands this gradual transition. We know the small inconvenience and we empathize with those moments when you question whether it’s all worth it.

Overcoming gym owner struggles
Even though each fitness business is unique, struggles among gym owners can be similar.

Being a gym owner comes with a unique set of challenges and each fitness business has its specific struggles. But just like the “shared suffering” of a tough WOD, there’s comfort in knowing that others are going through it too. And even more so when there are solutions to be shared.

Common Gym Owner Struggles (and Solutions).

Here are ten of the most common struggles a gym owner will face over the course of running a fitness business. We’ve also included some suggestions for how to successfully tackle those issues.

1. You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know.

We’re not starting in chronological order here. This one applies to the brand-new gym owner and those who’ve been running their business for years.

It’s pretty simple: Some things are in your wheelhouse. Others are not. Statistically speaking, most gym owners got started out of a love for coaching, not a desire for entrepreneurship. And as a result, they simply don’t know what they don’t know. And that’s okay!

A good starting point - for a gym owner at any stage - is outlining your systems and processes. This will help you create a gym operations manual that you can refer to as your road map along the way.

In addition, it never hurts to reach out to others for help. Hiring a business mentor is a great option, whether you’re starting, growing or thriving.

Pro Tip: Don’t forget the PushPress Facebook community, filled with other gym owners who love to “talk shop” and help each other find solutions!

2. When to Outsource.

If you look at the entire to-do list for running a gym, it can be incredibly overwhelming. And in the early days, you might have to be somewhat of a jack-of-all-trades. But as you grow (and as revenue permits), make a list of the areas you might be able to outsource. Then prioritize the list based on what you need help with most.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Cleaning and Facility Maintenance. Hire a dedicated cleaning staff and schedule regular deep cleanings. Invest in regular equipment maintenance to avoid more costly repairs in the future.
  • Programming. Save time, provide quality training and develop better coaches when you enlist the help of a gym programming company.
  • Financial Management. From budgeting to managing cash flows, financial issues can be daunting. Consider hiring a financial advisor or accountant, who will review financials regularly to track performance.
  • Liability and Insurance Issues. The physical nature of gym activities means there's always a risk of injury. When it comes to protecting your business, leave it to the professionals. Consider outsourcing legal help for everything from waivers and contracts to buying and selling a gym.

3. Finding Your Unique Selling Proposition.

You could probably list at least a dozen reasons why someone should join your gym, versus the one down the street. But oftentimes, people have the misperception that all gyms are the same. And with so many different options, differentiation is key to standing out.

Gym unique selling proposition
Highlight the ways your gym is different from the competition. Photo credit: Swift River CrossFit

Therefore, you need to focus on your gym’s unique selling proposition. Highlight your niche offerings, prioritize customer service and actively seek feedback to continuously improve.

4. Which Services to Offer (and What to Charge).

Another key to differentiating your fitness business is deciding which services to offer. When you’re a new gym owner, it may make sense to start simply, with group classes as your core offering. Then as you grow, you may decide to explore high-ticket gym services like personal training or nutrition coaching.

When it comes to pricing, it’s not as important to analyze your competition as it is to find ways to provide value that matches your profitability goals. For example, let’s say you determine that you want your ARM (average revenue per member) to be $250 per month. What services and value can you provide to make people happy to spend that $250 with you?

5. Building (and Keeping) The Dream Team.

Ultimately, you need to have the right people on the bus for this journey you’re on. And it’s important to put those people in the right seats. Which is why building a great team of coaches and staff is crucial for the growth of your business.

When hiring coaches, make sure you’re focused on the long-term picture and finding people who fit your gym’s unique culture. Keep retention near the top of your goals list, fostering a positive environment, the same way you do with your gym community. Finally, offer competitive wages and options like ongoing education reimbursement or additional revenue opportunities.

6. Getting the Word Out.

With so many fitness options available, standing out can be difficult. But marketing to attracting new members is a critical piece of the growth puzzle. There are so many ways to accomplish this but they don’t have to be overwhelming.

First, understand the difference between earned, paid and owned marketing, and utilize all three. Second, when you’re considering paid ads, start by crafting the right offer and messaging for your audience.

7. Create Raving Fans of Your Brand.

Whether you’re a new gym owner or just need a new game plan, building a powerful brand can be pivotal. Your brand is a cornerstone that will likely iterate and improve over time. But when you’ve got it right, you’ll know. People will recognize it. Local businesses will refer clients. Members will be happy to rep your gear. And all of these things will contribute to increased revenue and retention numbers for your business.

Create a strong recognizable brand
Create a brand and member experience that your clients will appreciate and support for the long-term.

8. Making Changes.

Chances are, you won’t get everything right the first time. Don’t be afraid to make changes and lean on others and their experience for advice. The best gym owners are never done perfecting their business, as they’re always looking for ways to improve.

So how do you know where to make changes? It starts by tracking the important gym metrics. This will allow you to see what’s working and which areas you can improve. Over time, you’ll be able to keep dialing everything in as your business continues to grow.

9. Managing it All.

Your gym management software should make your life easier. From membership management to workout tracking to lead nurture, it should help you run your business better.

We may be a bit biased but we truly believe the suite of PushPress products is all you need to save time and level-up your business. As a team of gym owners ourselves, we’ve created these products to accomplish the tasks we needed done in our own gyms. Plus, we take a “help first” approach to everything we do.

Pro Tip: Want to find out how PushPress products can help you run your gym better? Book a demo with our team today!

10. Prioritizing Your Mental Health.

As a gym owner, there will be overwhelming moments. Above all, remember that your mental health matters.

You might be a superstar at delegating and automating, with processes that are rock solid. However, it’s normal to eventually feel like the weight of gym ownership is heavy. Prioritize yourself and ask for help. Find a community of gym owners and seek out the things you really enjoy about owning your gym. Just remember, there’s only one you, and you matter.

Monica Hilton

Monica is our Content Manager extraordinaire for PushPress. She also owns her gym in Indianapolis, Together We Rise CrossFit, which she opened in 2014 and previously worked in IndyCar racing.

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