Gym ownership can be an incredibly rewarding career path. There will be days when everything goes right: Classes are full, members are happy, life is good. Then there will be days where you got 99 problems and no idea how to solve one.
The key is to take a proactive approach. Know where to expect these problems so you can create a plan of attack. An operations manual is an extremely helpful tool in being proactive. It allows you to outline your plan and policies ahead of time, while you’re thinking with a clear head. We tend to be less sharp in the middle of a sh*tstorm.
Operations & Admin
Let’s start with the basics. In theory, gym ownership means running a gym properly. Create a well-oiled machine that makes the day-to-day operations and admin simple. That way, when issues arise, you’ll be prepared and available. Here are some tips:
- Pay your bills. Thank you, Captain Obvious. You can’t run a proper gym if the rent isn’t paid and the lights are out.
- Hire a rockstar staff and take care of them. Classes will run as scheduled if you trust the people in charge of them.
- Getcha some really solid gym management software. Members should be able to check into class, record their workouts, connect with the community and more. Make it simple and automated, giving you more free time to deal with unexpected chaos.
Maintenance & Cleaning
Safety is a key priority with gym ownership, and that includes well-maintained equipment. This isn’t the area to try to get a deal or to skimp on maintenance duties. Make sure your members and staff take care of the equipment, and alert you when there are any issues. Learn how to fix the common issues yourself or hire a reliable company to help.
Next up, cleaning. There’s a gym industry secret that most people never think to consider: Those bathrooms ain’t gonna clean themselves. Yay gym ownership! This is generally one of the first tasks a gym owner will outsource. It’s time consuming and not-at-all glamorous but it has to be done. Schedule time to get it done consistently or hire a reliable company to help.
One more thing: Create a plan in your operations manual for ordering supplies. Your members will need toilet paper, soap and other consumables. Make sure you’re always stocked and ready to meet their needs.
Profitability in Gym Ownership
This one is pretty simple: Unless you got into the gym-ownership game to be a non-profit, your gym has to make money. Put simply, your revenue has to be greater than your expenses.
Pro Tip: Check out the typical gym’s monthly recurring expenses so you can create your own Profit & Loss projections!
Don’t overthink this one. The bottom line is: If you're not profitable, you either need to increase your revenue, decrease your expenses, or both.
Make a list of your monthly expenses. Determine if there are any that you can eliminate or reduce. (Example: Your rent probably isn’t negotiable but can you find a less-expensive option for your phone or internet?) Now it’s time to look at your revenue.
Marketing & Sales
When it comes to marketing and sales, one of the biggest issues gym owners face is focusing on the wrong one first. It seems logical to focus on marketing first to get prospective members in your door. But you will waste a lot of time and effort by not perfecting your sales process first. Bringing 100 leads in will yield $0 if you don’t know how to close them.
Closing can include anything from selling memberships to upselling current members. Explore the various revenue opportunities for your gym and create a plan for increasing each one. For most gyms, membership sales will be the big kahuna. Secondary streams often include things like personal training, apparel or supplement sales.
If sales isn’t your jam - as is the case more often than not in gym ownership - explore your options. Add coaches that are natural salespeople or hire a company to help. Once you’ve dialed in your sales process, it’s time to get the word out.
For some gyms, digital advertising will bring in a consistent flow of leads. For others, it might take some more creativity. Marketing can include anything from hosting events to to outdoor signage to collaborating with other businesses. Most gyms will need some degree of trial and error to hone the marketing tactics that work best.
Member Experience & Retention
If your members want equipment and a randomly-programmed workout, they can go to just about any gym. They come to your gym for the community, coaching and most of all, the member experience. They want to get results and feel like they belong.
There are a lot of levels to crushing the member experience. It runs all the way from the moment they find your gym online to years down the road, when they’re still a member. Owning the member experience is how you create raving fans. Raving fans are loyal. They’ll stick around for years and they’ll tell their friends.
Create a plan to be fully in control of their experience. How will you celebrate their milestones? What will your referral program look like? When a member is unhappy, are there steps to follow that don’t compromise your vision or values? Being proactive with your member experience plan will prove to be incredibly valuable along the way.
Owner’s Physical & Mental Health
Gym ownership will provide ample opportunities for you to be a source of support for your members. This, coupled with the stress of being an entrepreneur, can often be a lot for someone to carry. Being prepared with a game plan will help when issues arise. However, for those ‘I didn’t see that coming’ moments, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Whether it’s a social media group for gym owners or hiring a mentor, find your tribe. Remember, coaches need coaches too.
Also, set boundaries. Know when to recognize when something is too much. You have a unique skill set as a gym owner, along with a unique set of boundaries. Something that overwhelms someone else might be just fine for you. And something that burdens you might be in someone else’s wheelhouse. If your only self-care is your daily workout, even though issues might try to derail it, refuse to compromise. Take care of yourself so you can take care of your gym community.
In Summary: Be Proactive. Have a Game Plan.
Issues will inevitably arise in gym ownership. Six common areas include operations, maintenance, profitability, marketing/sales, member experience and your own wellness. Take a proactive approach to these issues by creating a plan. When issues arise, how will you handle them? By creating a game plan, you’ll be ready and successful for the long run.