So you’ve been doing the personal training thing for a while now; you’re a rock star at it, and you’ve decided you want to start your own fitness facility. After all, there’s a lot to like about the idea:
- Be you own boss
- own your own gym facility
- make your own rules
- work when you want
- keep all your hard earned money
Sounds like a dream right? Not so fast!
I have colleagues and interns tell me all the time their goal is to start their own fitness facility. While I respect their ambition, I can’t help but think – slow down, take a step back and let’s first think about this.
Now don’t get me wrong, owning your own business is awesome and being your own boss definitely has its perks.
But there are so many small things that most don’t consider or take into account, and before they know it they’re burnt out and close up shop.
Let’s look at some things to consider and understand before you make that leap. These are some things I wish I fully understood before I opened my own gym and hopefully my mistakes can help you before you start your own fitness facility.
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1. Business Plan – Before you start your own fitness facility, you absolutely need this. It’s the backbone of any business, and it needs to entail a ton of details to make sure this decision will be for the best. Make sure your business plan includes the following.
- Research -You gain quite a bit of knowledge being a personal training in a gym facility, but are you an expert in your area on all things fitness? Is there a popular niche in the area, what can you charge, what locations are available, what is the competition, what is the upstart costs, will you have clients from the get-go or need to get more personal training clients, what equipment will you need, how much money do you have? These are all preliminary questions that need to be answered.
- Mission Statement – Every business needs a mission statement that will guide their philosophy through every decision. A great book to help you with this is Start With Why by Simon Sinek.
Starting with the why of your business will allow all the other pieces to fall into place. People buy the WHY you do, not WHAT you do. I look back on my mission statement at least once a month and use it to guide tough decisions, make sure things are being run in-line with the statement, and remind me of my values and purpose of the business.
- Competition – Is there competition in the area? What differs you from the competition? It’s important to know who will you compete with, what do they offer, and how can you separate yourself from them before you try to start your own fitness facility.
- What Do I Need To Be Successful – This question will dictate your plans. How much space, what equipment, what tools, and how many clients will you need to do what you want and be successful?
- Timeline/Goals – This is an incredibly important for any business owner. I remember writing long-term goals for my first 1, 2, and 3 years of the business, and I also write a goal for every month.
This keeps me motivated and allows me to breakdown my big goals into smaller, attainable goals. It’s also a great way to track progress and evaluate your business. Think of it this way: You want to start your own fitness facility, but that’s not the end goal. It’s just the beginning.
- Investments – Are you willing to give away equity or share in your business for a startup investment? This is different for everybody, but I wasn’t willing to do so. I waited and built my business to the point where I could venture out on my own without any outside investment.
I wasn’t interested in an investment, whether from a silent partner or bank, because I wanted control over my work. I didn’t want to owe someone equity or a share of my business for an upfront investment, nor someone to give suggestions when they weren’t going to be involved in the everyday operation.
Again I knew the WHY of my business and no one else could fully understand that; so I was not willing to give up that side of things. My advice is to hold off on investors and hold on to the long-term upside profitability of your business.
2. Money – It takes a fair amount of money to start your own fitness facility. Not only is fitness equipment expensive, but also the hidden here and there expenses add up very quickly.
Here are two tips for you off the bat.
One, whatever expenses you come up with, whether it be overall startup costs or monthly costs – add another $500 for total startup and $100 to monthly expenses. Surprise expenses like toilet paper holders will pop-up, so have some built in room to accommodate for them.
Two, you should have at least 2-months of savings that can cover operating expenses up-front. This gives you some leeway during the initial months and leave you prepared for hidden costs or potential down periods.
Here’s some costs that you need to consider:
- Rent – This will likely be your biggest expense when you start your own fitness facility, and on that note are you going to rent or own? Each will bring different expenses.
- Utilities – Electricity, water, gas, city, internet, cable, garbage services are all common utilities that can add $300-1,000 a month to your expenses. Make sure you factor these in and go high when planning for them.Insurance and Liability – You’re going to NEED this and it isn’t cheap.
- Flooring – Whether it be rubbing flooring or carpet this cost can run anywhere from $2-5 per sq/ft. Outfitting a space even as small as 1,500 sq/ft can run you a pretty penny.
- LLC, S-Corp, or similar – Another annual cost that you NEED to have and depending on where you’re located this can be hundreds of dollars for application and annual fees.
- Office Supplies – Depending on your gym facility you’re going need a number of office supplies. Things like chairs, desks, printer, garbage bins, white boards, picture frames, posters, mini fridge, towels, business cards, etc. This bill can pile up very quickly if you’re not prepared.
3. Many Hats – When people ask what I do, it’s cool to say I own my own business and get to coach athletes all day. While it’s neat to call myself a small business owner and coach, in reality it’s only a small part of my job description.
If you start your own fitness facility, understand you’ll be in charge of a ton of other jobs; and as I tell my interns, while I’m a full-time coach, I also work part-time doing the following jobs
- Maintenance/Custodial – You’d be astonished the amount of time that needs to be spent on daily cleaning and upkeep. Vacuuming, cleaning toilets, doing laundry, wiping down equipment, fixing projects, shoveling snow, taking out the garbage. This work really never ends.
Weekly time spent – 5-7 hours
- Accountant – For a sole proprietorship, self-accounting and bookkeeping is easy enough. I use Express Accounts Accounting Software, which is free for Mac users and allows me to track everything and prepare reports for tax season.
This saves a lot of money rather than paying an accountant, but it does mean at the end of every month taking a solid chunk of time to sit down and record everything.
Understand though, that if you add employees or other avenues to your business, then you must hire a professional to handle this for you. Weekly time spent – 1-2 hours.
- Advertising/Marketing – There are a lot of great articles on the PTDC that cover personal trainer marketing and advertising, and this is even more important as you open your own place.
The thing with marketing and advertising is it’s an everyday job. Whether social networking, emailing, writing, newspapers, public events, starting a fitness blog, or videos. This aspect of your business never ends so get used to it and become great at it.
Weekly time spent – 6-8 hours
- Secretary – Heck you’re the owner of a business aka you’re a big timer, but guess what, you’ll also be your own secretary. You’ll be spending hours taking calls, writing emails, scheduling meetings/sessions, and taking care of mundane paperwork.
Weekly time spent – 4-6 hours
Overall you’re looking at 16-23 additional, non-training hours per week you’ll be spending working on some other aspect of your business that’s not coaching/training related.
4. Hours – When working as an assistant at a bigger gym, you never truly realize the crazy hours that go into a business, but you’ll quickly find out how difficult the hours can be.
You already know that personal trainers typically work when others aren’t, so you’re looking at early to mid-mornings (5am-10am), then you might have the middle of the days open before continuing in the afternoon and into the evening (4pm-9pm), and don’t forget about weekends.
There are a couple challenging issues with this, one being early mornings and late evenings on most days. Working late into the night only to be followed by waking up before the crack of dawn can wear you down quickly.
Not to mention frequent weekend work can add an additional 8-10 hours of work on the weekends when most people get to enjoy down time or social time.
If you have a family or active social life, this could take a beating when you start your own fitness facility. Moral of the story, be prepared to spend a lot of hours, especially at the beginning stages, working your tail off at the facility.
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5. Network – Here’s a top secret for you — reach out to others who have gone through the process!
Most are more than willing to give you advice and guidance during this process. Plus they can give you some great “in the trenches” experience to help you avoid or make the best possible decisions.
6. Is This Your Passion? – Last and probably most important – is this your passion? It’s well known personal trainers don’t have a long self-life because they don’t have the passion to persist through many of the difficulties described above.
Only those with a passion for coaching and training make it through the difficult times. Only those with a deep passion will make it through the vacuuming, scrubbing toilets, early mornings, late nights, weekends, and sacrifices.
If coaching/training is not your passion, you’ll be weeded out quickly. If you’re in it for the money, you’ll be weeded out quickly.
Don’t start your own fitness facility in hopes of making money. Chase your passion of helping others and loving what you do, and the money will find you. It doesn’t work the other way around. If you get it twisted around, you’re business will fail.
Make It Happen: Start Your Own Fitness Facility
Opening a gym facility of your own is a huge step with a lot of risk and responsibility, but if it’s what you love to do and the WHY you’re doing it is with passion and nobility, then you know what, go out and make it happen.
It’s a tough journey to start your own fitness facility and the process can wear you down. But those who enjoy the grit and grind will reap the very special rewards of owning a fitness facility that reflects your unique mission and attract a client base that makes every day of work a truly magical experience!