Thinking of opening up a gym? Why it’s unlike any other business.

If you’re an ambitious and entrepreneurial individual that’s also into physical fitness, then starting up your own gym may well seem like an exciting business opportunity.

After all, the global health club industry rakes in over $80 billion each year – and the good ones are not struggling for customers. That’s right, I said ‘the good ones’.

What these figures don’t show are all those that jump in ill prepared for what’s ahead and ultimately fail – and believe me there are plenty of them.

But, with a little bit of research and planning, and following the 8 tips provided here, you can avoid becoming one of these statistics.


1.       Dip your toe in the water first

It’s definitely worth obtaining a personal training or fitness certification and trying out a role such as a personal trainer or fitness instructor within an existing gym before you dive in the deep end of opening your own gym. You may have been going to gyms for years, but it’s not until you work in one that you really start to understand it from a business perspective.

From this, you will either learn some valuable lessons to apply later, build a client base to take with you or decide that the industry is not for you and walk away without making a major investment.


2.       Secure financing.

Once you’re content within the industry and know what type of gym you’d like to set up, you’re going to need to determine where you’ll find the money to start up. They say that it can take upwards of $50,000 to set up even the most basic gym. Obviously this figure can skyrocket depending on where you’re planning on setting up shop.

So, you’ll need to produce a business plan before investors or loan providers will go anywhere near your business idea. Definitely do your research here. There are no shortage of information on line that can assist you in putting together a business plan. Just make sure that is clear, concise, well organised and realistic for both yourself and your investor.


3.       Be strategic about choosing your location.

Location will most likely be a key factor within your business plan, since location is often critical to a gym’s survival. First and foremost, you’ll want to do a bit of market research about your anticipated client base. Figure out what key demographics will account for the bulk of your foot traffic, and figure out where a high concentration of those individuals can be found. Accessibility and convenience are important to most gym members. Try and find somewhere readily accessible by car, foot and public transport.

Meanwhile, you’ll need to be thinking about rent. Unless you have acquired some major financing, chances are you’ll need to rent space. This will vary from location to location, and has got to be factored into your initial operating expenses. You must also ensure that you’ve got written permission from your landlord or the building’s owners to make alterations or conduct building work. After all, you may need to alter the property layout to suit your requirements.


4.       Source the right equipment.

Once you’ve got financing and the perfect location, you’ll need to turn your empty space into a vibrant gym. That will take a lot of equipment – and it won’t come cheap.

For starters, you’ll need to purchase a range of basic free weight equipment, which includes bench presses, squat racks, dead lift mats, dumbbells and racks for curls and dips. You’ll also need cardio equipment such as bikes and treadmills.

Depending on your size, you may want to buy multiple machines, as well as pin loaded machinery such as leg press, leg extension and chest fly machines which are all popular gym staples.

Starting to add up isn’t it. The best advice here is to shop around, and if needed invest in quality second-hand equipment. As long as it’s in good condition, your members won’t be able to tell the difference, and you’ll save a small fortune.

Then should the expectation be that your gym will offer fitness classes, then you’ll need studio space to be able to run them.

Yep, it all adds up very quickly, but you may mind that it’s all essential in order to ensure you have the equipment your members want, and will keep them coming back.

Gym 3

5.       Know your licencing requirements.

As a gym owner, you’ll be expected to apply for most of the permits and licenses that any other business owner would need to obtain. You’ll need an ABN (or your country’s equivalent) in order to legally operate as a business and pay taxes.

Depending on where you are operating, you may be required to have an automated external defibrillator on site and staff trained in CPR. You most likely will also need a formal written emergency management plan.

On top of various state licensing guidelines, you’ll also need to observe local municipal council rules on building and business zoning. When in doubt, you should always consult a legal expert before locking in your requirements.


6.       Understand your insurance needs.

If you plan on starting a gym, insurance is absolutely crucial. Yes, it’s important for any business owner. But, you are planning on having people take part in potentially hazardous activities on your premises on a daily basis, so the right insurance in crucial for you. High-intensity exercise can be unsafe for some, so you’ve got to ensure both patrons and your business are legally and financially protected from major accidents.

In addition to regular business insurance, it’s worth taking a look at gym liability insurance. Depending on what area you are in, liability insurance might even be an operational requirement before you’re allowed to open your doors.

Also, if you’re paying out a reasonable amount of money on equipment, you may also want to consider equipment coverage as part of your insurance needs.

There are many insurance providers out there that specialise in these types of coverage. So, once again shop around for the best deal. It’s also worth including a clause within your member contracts that will prevent them from pursuing legal action against you or your business in the event of a self-caused injury.


7.       Hire wisely.

Most people who start up their own gym quickly end up spending an unhealthy amount of time on the job. Gym hours are not just 9 to 5 after all. You can’t possibly run a gym without some help, so you’ll need to ensure that you’re hiring qualified and accredited individuals to join your team.

You should aim to have multiple in-house personal trainers or bring in trainers on a freelance basis to offer your members guidance. That said, you should vet each individual and ensure they are properly certified. Likewise, if you’re offering classes, you’ll want to bring in licensed or accredited instructors who know what they are doing. If you’re bringing them in as independent contractors, you should make sure they are personally insured, too.


8.       Get started.

Once you’ve got insurance and have met all permit and licensing requirements, you’re almost ready to get started. As you’re setting up your new premises, be sure to consult municipal authorities to ensure you are meeting any layout requirements that may exist. You’ll also need to ensure you’re properly supplied in terms of utilities, get everything set up and provide adequate induction training for staff to ensure everyone is on the same page prior to your start date.

From there, it’s simply a matter of marketing your business and doing everything else you can do get people in the door, and keep them coming back.

In terms of appealing to new clients to win your local market share, you should always start online. Social media can be very helpful in marketing your business. That being said, traditional local advertising is also something you will likely need to consider. Be creative. Know your demographics and reach out to those individuals wherever possible.

Just remember that no two businesses are alike, and you may run into a few unanticipated hurdles along the way. You’ve just got to roll with the punches, and when in doubt, never be afraid to seek professional advice.

Good luck!


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