Starting a new business is always an adventure. Gyms seem to be even more special. It is a way to earn a living staying in shape and helping others get healthy. And a lot of fitness enthusiasts or trainers dream of opening their own gym for months or years before they decide to make the jump. However, they often forget that it is a business they have to manage every day, not just a hobby. Here are six mistakes people make when starting a gym.
Opening in the Wrong Location
Gyms are as location dependent as any other business. You need to set up somewhere that has enough clientele to fill the gym, but not a lot of competition. The competition could be the gym in their apartment complex and local jogging trails. If you’re opening a specialized gym, know that you’re still competing with the big gyms. Do your research before you commit to a location. And if you decide to open a gym where there’s already a lot of competition, try to significantly differentiate your product offering so you can stand apart from the rest.
Not Being Committed Enough
Opening a business is a commitment. Your gym needs to be open when your clients want to work out. You need to have the right tools or team behind you to keep the gym running, too. Then you will be able to focus on the clients while someone else handles the back office. You may think you’ve got a good partner, but if they aren’t committed enough to the business, you may find yourself short-handed.
You should also know that a good personal trainer isn’t necessarily going to be a good business owner. If you can’t handle supervising the business seven days a week and handling administrative issues regularly, you may be better off working as a personal trainer and meeting clients wherever they are than running a gym. Alternatively, you can hire someone to handle the business side while you focus on the clients. Just recognize, however, that doing this will increase your payroll obligations.
Thinking You Can Start with Almost No Money
Don’t make the mistake of starting a gym with almost no money – you have more expenses than just the rent. Nor can you assume you’re going to save money by working for free. After all, your goal is for the business to sustain you so you can pay your own bills.
A common mistake is overestimating sales predictions. Just because you have a great idea and many potential clients, doesn’t mean you’ll get enough sign-ups in the first month to make payroll. Work with a bookkeeper familiar with the industry to create a realistic plan for cash flow so you have enough savings or credit to pay ongoing expenses like payroll and rent. And recognize that you’ll have to plan for paying payroll even when there isn’t much cash coming in.
Not Using Software to Simplify Management
You can use a variety of software tools to simplify and streamline the running of your software. Depending on the type of gym you have, you could run into scheduling problems. Any mistake could cost you hundreds of dollars in refunds and hurt your reputation. The solution is to use gym software to handle the class schedule. The best tools prevent double-booking of instructors and trainers as well.
You can’t afford to lose track of gym paperwork. Good gym software will manage your membership paperwork. It will remind you and clients when their contracts need to be renewed. The best software allows you to handle the process of renewals online, collect payments and record them. This will save you many hours of administrative time. Good gym management tools will streamline the payment process, making it easier to send invoices and track unpaid ones. The ability to check memberships can save you from admitting freeloaders.
As a business owner, the reports that gym management software provides are invaluable. You’ll be able to track membership levels, cash flow, and schedules. You’ll be able to see the state of your business in a matter of seconds. Checking your profit margins periodically may deter you from purchases that push you into the red, and it could force you to make changes to your offerings that keep you profitable over the long run.
Not Supporting New Gym Members
Signing up new gym members is only a first step in what you hope is a long-term relationship. You need to offer guidance and support for new members so that they become invested in the gym and continue to come.
Make them feel like they can come to you with questions. There’s also a business case for doing so. New gym members are at risk of getting injured when they try unfamiliar equipment, and you don’t want that. Take the time to make them feel appreciated and supported, and they’re less likely to quit your gym and go to another one.
Treating Everyone Exactly the Same
There is a trend to treat everyone exactly the same in the name of fairness and equity. However, this can be a mistake.
We’ve already mentioned the need to offer support and guidance to new gym members. Another mistake is treating people of varying skill and experience levels the same. The veteran weightlifter doesn’t want to know how to do a shoulder press, but they’ll want to give their opinion on the selection of workout equipment. The person trying to get into shape or lose a lot of weight will have very different needs and goals than gym rats who want the latest fun classes on the schedule. Cater to each member’s needs, interests and expectations. Talk to people so you can come up with options that cater to a wide range of people.
A grand vision and the dream of owning your own business isn’t enough to successfully run a gym. Avoid these mistakes, and you’ll have eliminated the biggest reasons why new gyms go under.