gym partnership

Gym Partnership: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

There are pros and cons to going into business with a partner. Here are some ways to determine if gym partnership is right for your fitness business!

Monica Hilton
January 4, 2023
Gym Partnership: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly
There are pros and cons to going into business with a partner. Here are some ways to determine if gym partnership is right for your fitness business!

From coach to janitor, the list of “hats” you’ll wear as a new gym owner can sometimes be exhaustive. That’s why the idea of a gym partnership can be so appealing as you get your fitness business up and running.

Until your gym is profitable and stable, handling the admin, marketing, operations, sales and more is a big task. And when it comes to time-consuming responsibilities, two gets the job done faster.

Pros and cons of gym partnership

But this starts an interesting debate: Do you go it alone or work with a partner? We’ll explore the pros and cons to help you decide which is the better fit.

The Pros Of Gym Partnership.

Here are some of the reasons why you might want to consider starting your fitness business with a partner:

1. Startup Costs.

Starting a gym is a substantial investment. From the down payment on your lease to the cost of equipment, expect to spend a significant amount before you ever open your doors.

Each additional partner in the venture lessens the financial burden and risk. By splitting initial funding, each person assumes a percentage of the risk.

2. Ongoing Costs.

The second step is to examine the ongoing costs of running a fitness business. These include things like rent, utilities, insurance, etc. During the early days, your monthly expenses will likely be higher than your revenue.

Again, being able to split the financial contribution can ease the stress of the early gym startup days. Do your best to estimate expenses and make sure each partner agrees to their share.

3. Divided Roles and Responsibilities.

When it comes to building a fitness business from the ground up, there are simply more tasks to be completed than one person can do well.  As a solo operator, your time and attention will be pulled in many directions. This probably means doing an abundant number of tasks well, versus doing a few tasks really well.

Having a gym partnership significantly lightens the load on each person. So if they can focus on each task more, they can complete them with higher levels of competency. Ultimately, your gym’s deliverables will reflect this.

4. Diverse Expertise And Interests.

One of the benefits of having multiple people running your gym is utilizing a variety of skillsets. One partner might love balancing the books while the other is a people person, handling the coaches and sales. Partners with balanced skillsets (one is strong where the other has a weakness) makes for a team that can excel.

It’s also beneficial to explore revenue streams that play to each partner’s strengths. For example, if one of you is a graphic designer and the other is a marketing whiz, retail could be your jam. This gives you an opportunity to build a gym brand with strong demand and sales outside of just your gym.

5. Happy Members, Happy Life.

It’s a fact of life: People often gravitate to others for unknown reasons. Some people like dry humor or sarcastic jokes, some don’t. One personal training client might prefer a male coach, while another prefers a female. Different strokes for different folks.

If you’re the sole owner and for some reason you don’t jive with a particular client, that might present a tough situation. If you have partners, you’ll connect well with some members and your partners with others. Depending on the situation, this can offer a unique comfort level for your gym community.

Happy gym members improve retention rates

The Cons Of Having A Business Partner.

While there are many benefits to sharing ownership of your gym with a partner, here are some downsides to consider:

1. Life Or Situation Changes.

In the event of a major life change for you or your partner, the potential exists to massively disrupt your business. These are things that alter your expected business plans such as the birth of children, going back to school or changing careers.

If this change happens without proper forecasting or planning, it can cause stress on your business relationship. Or even worse than stress, it might cause distrust, and likely will adjust the balance of contribution made from partners.

2. Unfair Or Unbalanced Contribution.

Define the workload and responsibilities clearly from the start. That way, one partner won’t end up perceiving the situation to be unfair. In this case, resentment can form if the issue isn’t addressed and agreed upon.

It’s also important to specifically outline each person’s role in the gym partnership. For instance, let’s say you’re a marketing rockstar. You make gym social media posts and write blogs, totally about 10 hours a week. Your partner is the clean freak, handling all the janitorial tasks. If he spends 20 hours a week on those tasks, will there be resentment? After all, you’re working 10 less hours and your role doesn’t require cleaning toilets.

3. Profit Distribution Discrepancies.

One potential point of conflict is in the distribution of profits. Unless specifically carved out in your operating agreements, it’s a rule of thumb that everyone is to receive profit distributions equal to the percentage of money they invest into the business.

So the example above could present a tricky situation. What if someone is investing the lion’s share of time and effort, but didn’t contribute as much money upfront? The situation may feel unbalanced if they’re not entitled to fair profit distribution. There’s no faster way to ruin a partnership than to disregard the distribution that everyone agreed was fair.

4. Trust And Ethics.

At the beginning of a business partnership, just like in The Lego Movie, everything is awesome. But over time, it’s inevitable that things won’t go according to plan, which can cause stress.

Similar to a marriage, trust cannot be compromised. If it is, it will strain the very foundation of the relationship. And if trust is broken, further damaging actions on both sides can cause a negative, downward spiral. Therefore, the key is that both partners must always act with integrity and honesty, no matter how difficult the situation.

Building trust between gym owner partners

5. Ego And Decision Making.

Another common point of contention between gym owners in a partnership is decision making. If tough times have already caused stress on the relationship, partners can be more likely to let their egos take over. Nothing will cripple a business faster than owners who cannot agree on important business decisions.

As tough as it may be, focus on the best course of action for business success. And this will inevitably mean setting egos aside. Sometimes it’s easier to ask, “If a friend were in this situation, what recommendation would I make to them?”

6. Shared Liability.

It’s natural to focus first on the profits and the workload when going into business with a partner. But liability shouldn’t be overlooked. Whatever you do exposes your partner to business liability, and the same is true for their actions.

For instance, let’s say your partner prioritizes heavy weights over safety when coaching classes. If she tells someone to try a specific weight that ends up injuring them, your business is at risk. If you neglect to consistently collect signed waivers from visitors, you are putting your business partner at risk.

How To Decide If Gym Partnership Is For You.

When deciding if you should have a partner, start by looking within. Remember, you can’t control any of your potential partner’s thoughts or actions. So you have to look at things from the lens of what you can control: Your own thoughts, feelings and actions.

“But, I’ve known my potential business partner for fifteen years.”

Statistics will tell you that length of the relationship has no bearing on the potential for business success. Just because you’ve known someone a long time does not mean you know how they’ll react if things don’t go as planned.

A partnership is basically a marriage. Once you enter into it, it cannot be easy undone without some headache and heartache. Especially once ego gets involved.

1. Analyze Yourself And Your Potential Partner.

Start by asking some straightforward questions, for both parties. Then based on the answers, determine if shortcomings on either side can be worked through. Sometimes a weakness on one side plays into a strength on the another, so it might actually strengthen the partnership. Other times, there’s simply no getting past some flaws.

Here are the questions to ask:

  • Do you or your partner let your ego get in the way of major decisions?
  • Are you or your partner the type to go above and beyond, or do you let others pick up the slack?
  • Do you and your partner tend to be selfish or selfless?
  • Are you both honest? Can you be trusted in a room with all your profits, and can your partner?
  • When it comes to communication, are you both able to be mature and articulate?

2. Analyze Possible Scenarios.

Run through each of the cons to gym partnership listed above, one by one. You and your partner should talk honestly about your thoughts for each one.

Analyze possible scenarios for gym partnership

How would you feel if your partner decided to have a baby or go back to school? What if you caught your business partner making financial decisions you didn’t know about? If you two didn’t see eye-to-eye on a big business decision, what steps would you take?

Analyze the potential worst case scenarios to have a better idea of how a partnership would end up working out.

3. Communication And Planning Are Key.

The best route to surviving the things that could potentially derail your business is to be crystal clear in communication and planning.

A clearly-defined business plan and partnership agreement gives you a black-and-white reference point. Trying to figure out a path to resolution in a heated moment is a dangerous path. Therefore, settling potential arguments while all of the partners are cool and level headed will serve you well.  

PRO TIP: Once you’ve decided if you’re going to partner or fly solo, take the next step! Set up your gym management system by registering your FREE account here!

PushPress is a gym management software that is here to help you grow your fitness facility. With PushPress, you'll be able to manage classes and appointments, take payments, track attendance, manage leads and create an unforgettable member experience!

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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