Opening a Fitness Facility

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Below is a Q&A response that I wanted to post up.  Hopefully it will help those of you out who are hoping to open your own gym/fitness facility someday!

Hi Mike,

I really enjoy reading your level headed and erudite advice on your newsletter, Fitcast, Mens Health, etc.

I am an aspiring entrepreneur, not unlike yourself, and looking into starting up a gym in the XYZ area. I am emailing you to see if you have any advice to get me started in the right direction, specifically:

1) What resources did you utilize when doing market research for your gym?
2) What mistakes did you make in the planning process that would be easily avoidable?
3) Any resources I need to be looking at regarding starting a gym?

I really appreciate any time you could give me, if only to simply point in the right direction.

1 – Here are the things Bill and I looked for when opening our gym:

  • Price per square foot (PPSF)You could go a few hundred feet towards the primary road in our area and literally triple your PPSF. We didn’t need visibility, as we’re not your typically “drive-by and join” gym.
  • Travel LocationWe wanted to be near major intersections and highways.  This was critical, as it would get people to and from our gym faster.  I think the general rule of thumb is people are willing to drive about 20 minutes max to go to your gym.
  • General LocationThis jumps off the previous point.  If people are only going to drive 20 minutes to see you, you don’t want to be in a horrible part of town.  We’re in a fairly centralized location that’s not only easily accessible, but right in between several affluent communities.
  • CompetitionI’m assuming you also want to know how we scoped out competition.  In all honesty, I didn’t care who was around us.  Bill and I know what we’re capable of, and what we bring to the table.  I think other fitness facilites will have to plan around us, versus the other way around.  We’re in a unique demographic, have a higher price point, and offer much more customized services than anywhere else near us.

    (Yes, I realize this may sound a little arrogant, but I feel we’re the best place in our area.)

2 – As far as planning goes, I’m not so sure we made major mistakes.  Instead, what was more evident was that we simply hadn’t run a business before!

The training/assessment side is actually easy for us in the grand scheme, because Bill and I are both technicians versus managers or entrepreneurs.  The hardest part for us is on the repeatability/systems side of things.  If you haven’t picked up the E-myth yet, I would do it immediately.  Too many of us are technicians for life, and we wonder why our gyms fail.

3 – I would start off with the E-myth, as well as attending a Cosgrove Business seminar or mentorship.  I’m actually heading to one this weekend, as I know it will take IFAST to the next level.

4 – You didn’t ask a fourth question, but I’m going to give you a piece of advice that has really paid dividends for me.

I have tried a lot of direct marketing stuff, and not really seen the result.  This is costly in two ways – first off, I’m spending money and not seeing a return.  Second, I was designing a lot of the stuff up front as well.  So I was wasting time and money (yes, I’m sure AC is having a fit as he reads this.  It’s just my experience up this point.)

That said, we’ve had a huge ROI from our website, Facebook pages, etc.  The book Guerilla Marketing talks about all the things you can do for free to promote your business, and it’s even more true now than ever before.  There are so many platforms out there to help you promote your business, you absolutely must take advantage of them.

Build a blog.

Create a Facebook fan page.

Start a Twitter account.

Anything you can do to generate interest and “buzz” will help you build your brand, and therefore your business.

That’s not to say I’ve given up one direct marketing, as I haven’t.  I just have to become more disciplined and focused to really make it work.  In the beginning, however, you can save a lot of cash and still develop a ton of momentum without breaking the bank on marketing.

I hope that helps.  Good luck!



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  1. Stopped to read this cause I have the same plan. I like your honesty about direct marketing. Everyone truly says use it, but like you said it takes some $$$$.

  2. I like the comment about creating a buzz. Get people talking about your program and get a referral program in place. I’ve read The E-Myth and it’s a great read and very informative.

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