Owning a gym can be an extremely lucrative business, and statistics backs that up. Over 62.5 million gym members go to the gym for 104 days every year. However, as lucrative as it can be, the industry is still very saturated. That means that the competition level is high and you need to invest a lot of work to succeed. It’s not impossible, though – many have done it before you.
In this article, we will mainly look at the reality of being a gym owner and the qualities you need to be a successful gym owner.
Skip ahead to:
- What Does a Gym Owner Do?
- The Reality of Being a Gym Owner
- How Much Are Gym Owners Making?
- 3 Successful Gym Owners You Can Learn From
- 10 Most Important Qualities for Running a Successful Gym
What Does a Gym Owner Do?
Like any fitness business owner, a gym owner is responsible for maintaining and ultimately growing a gym or studio. To put it very simply, they are keeping the lights on. Gym owners have a wide variety of responsibilities. They need to manage and motivate their staff, make sure the bills and staff wages are paid each month, and implement strategies to ensure that the gym obtains new members and retains current members.
In our opinion, to be successful as a gym owner, you need to hire the right team and empower that team to reach their goals – and the overall business goals. As a business owner, you can’t be all things to all people, and even if you have high levels of expertise in areas like sales, marketing, or fitness instructors, it would be self-defeating to spread yourself so thin. Check our articles on hiring the best gym managers, hiring the best staff, and perfecting the hiring process to help you build a winning team.
The Reality of Being a Gym Owner
Owning a business isn’t for everyone. That is just the reality of life. Many of us see the success of entrepreneurs working on their terms and seemingly answering to know one. It’s a very attractive dream if you are stuck behind a desk – or sick of the grind of teaching class after class every day. Why not pack it in then and start your own multi-million dollar fitness business empire?
It’s not that easy. While if this is something you are genuinely passionate about – go for it. But also be aware of the reality of building your own business. An article from PTDC lists some factors people do not think about before diving headfirst into gym ownership. This includes:
- Lease negotiations
- Insurance claims
- Being accountable to staff and investors
- Costly equipment repair
- Branding and website design
These are just a few of the challenges that a gym owner may encounter regularly. Stable operations are the foundation of a successful fitness business. A person who knows everything you need to know about successful business operations is Eric Killian of Fitness CPA. He joined us on our podcast earlier this year to explain the difficult decisions gym owners need to make in detail. Take a listen to this episode for more valuable information on running a fitness business successfully.
How Much Are Gym Owners Making?
Listen, if you go into gym ownership focused on money alone, you won’t get very far. The most successful gym owners are mission-driven and are passionate about helping people improve their lives and be happy in themselves. Check out our most recent podcast with fitness business expert Vanessa Severiano to see why these mission-driven companies will win in the long term.
However, in saying you need to be aware of how much you could make, especially starting. While you need to keep the lights on in your gym, you also need to keep the lights on in your own house. While there is no reliable information on this from job board sites like Ziprecruiter or Indeed – where you would usually find such information on salaries – gym equipment retailer, RDX Sports wrote an interesting article profiling two gym owners in the US.
They found that the average salary for a gym owner starting out was around $146,000 per year – how bad or good this depends on the kind of lifestyle you live. RDX also makes a few critical points on what contributes to how high or low your salary will be, including fixed overheads, debt, and the number of hours you and your staff work.
3 Successful Gym Owners You Can Learn From
Now that we have gone through the practicalities of being a fitness business owner, let’s take a look at some of the best in the business. There are loads to choose from, but we have decided on three whose stories reflect the reality of what it takes to be successful.
“Fired at 40, come back at 54”. This NBC profile title says it all about Ellen Lantham, the founder and owner of one of the most recognizable names in boutique fitness. Orangetheory Fitness has gone from strength to strength since Ellen founded the fitness franchise in 2010. A single mother, she was let go from her job as an exercise physiologist in 1996 and 14 years later founded Orangetheory Fitness, which now boasts over 1,250 studios in all 50 states and 20 countries
Joe De Sena
One of the unique things about Joe De Sena is that he carries around a 44-pound kettlebell wherever he goes – he has even christened it Leo. The reason for this is due to a bet he made with a man who he helped lose weight – you can read more about that here. The fitness fanatic is the founder of Spartan, a grueling endurance race that has exploded in popularity in the US.
Mark Mastrov is the owner of the 24 Hour Fitness center. He started his career by opening one fitness center in Northern California. He was smart enough to notice a gap in the 24/7 work hours, so he decided to fulfill the demand. Now, his single fitness center has turned into an empire worth $1.6 billion. He sold his shares in 2005, and his center has over 3 million members across 400 different locations. He’s also currently the CEO of Fitness Holdings Worldwide and partially owns the NBA’s Sacramento Kings.
10 Most Important Qualities for Running a Successful Gym
Remember that it takes time and effort to work on these skills. It is essential to evolve continuously, and it is okay if you don’t hit the nail on the head at the first go. However, mastering these qualities will help you improve your business and sign new members of your gym.
Consistency is one of the essential qualities of any successful business owner. It is a reflection of your habits, awareness, and the ability to plan. Gym ownership consists of many daily tasks, such as finances and maintenance.
Without consistency, these mundane tasks can become a massive issue later on. If you let daily tasks pile up, you’re likely going to miss or forget something. And this can harm your business in the long run.
So make sure you stay on top of everything at all times. Your gym should be clean every day, and daily finances should be taken care of on the spot. Procrastination is your worst enemy, while consistency will bring abundance.
2. Strong Leadership Abilities
As a gym owner, you will have to work with dozens of people daily. That includes both employees and customers. You have to learn to make crucial decisions on the spot and ensure that everyone trusts you.
You also have to be kind yet firm with your employees. That will motivate them to perform to the best of their abilities. The same goes for clients – you’re the name and the image of your gym. Form relationships with them and be present. They will know that they’re in good hands.
There are lots of resources that can teach you more about leadership. Learning from the best can only improve your gym business. And sometimes you’ll need to make an executive order, so be confident in your abilities.
3. Being Adaptable
Every industry is subject to change, and gym ownership is no exception. What sets great owners from mediocre is how they handle these changes. You will likely face some roadblocks along the way – that’s how life is.
Adaptability will ensure that these difficulties don’t knock you out. Instead, you can use them as a learning opportunity. Success doesn’t come fast and easy. Adaptability means turning challenges into opportunities.
The Customer Engagement Playbook for Your Fitness Business
Let’s take the current COVID pandemic as an example. Instead of doubling down, think outside the box. If your gym can’t operate because of coronavirus and social distancing measures, reach out to your customers and offer online fitness classes. That’s just one of many ways to keep the business going. Or, use social media marketing to boost your success for free.
4. Being Good with Finances
As a gym owner, you’re in charge of your livelihood. However, you’re also in control of your employees’ livelihoods. And finances can make or break a business. If you don’t have extensive knowledge of finance, look for resources to expand it.
You have to learn about profits and losses, labor costs, material costs, and so on. If you don’t feel that you’re up to par, which is okay, consider hiring external help. It is better to set aside some budget for an accountant than to risk messing up everything.
5. Knowing the Industry In-and-Out
Know-how is one of the most important things to consider. Every industry is subject to rapid changes, including fitness center ownership. Evolving and learning will help with mitigating potential problems. It can also help with noticing trends. These trends can give you ideas on how to improve your business.
Not only that, but they can also provide insight into what to avoid. Monitor your competition closely. Imitate and improve their successes and learn from their mistakes. Recognize trends early on and cash in on your knowledge.
Introduce statistics into your business strategy to see what works and what doesn’t. Create surveys for your customers to receive advice on what to improve. And always be in tune with the latest news. Knowledge is power; don’t let it go to waste.
6. Being a Good Communicator
Good communication is crucial in business. You will have to form connections with suppliers, customers, and employees. And good communication is the key to maintaining these relationships.
Social skills, in general, are an essential quality that you should always work on. You will likely find yourself in a conflict occasionally. Good social skills will help you navigate through these situations quickly.
Some social skills you should work on include mediation, confidence, friendliness, body language, respect, and the ability to listen. That’ll help with networking and forming connections throughout the industry.
Success doesn’t come easy and fast. It entails a lot of hard work and dedication. Sometimes, it can take years for your gym business to hit off. If you’re not patient, you will be under a lot of unnecessary stress.
People often say that patience brings abundance. And they’re not wrong. Being patient will build your resilience, which will help you become a successful gym owner. Strength is necessary because you’ll meet a lot of naysayers who give unsolicited opinions.
If you stress out over each one, you’ll burn out rather quickly. Instead, be patient, wait for good opportunities, and remember that success usually doesn’t come fast.
Persistence goes hand-in-hand with consistency, patience, and adaptability. Combined with persistence, you get the four most important qualities for survival. And, achieving stable success in the gym industry is about survival.
It’s a saturated industry filled with competition. Everyone can open a gym, but not everyone can make it successful. That’s where persistence steps in. Even when things aren’t looking good, you shouldn’t give up quickly. Instead, wait it out and do everything in your power to turn the situation in your favor.
Selfishness can bring more harm than good. And let’s face it – being selfish is easy. All you do is take care of your interest while disregarding others’. What’s much more challenging is selflessness. Business ownership is about forming and maintaining relationships and making a profit.
If your business is doing good, then you should share the success with your employees. After all, without their hard work, you would be nowhere. Offer them yearly bonuses, increase their overtime rate, and invest in their education.
Investing in your employees will improve the quality of your business. Organize company events to reward your employees. That will create a healthier company culture. As they say, “Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customer.”
10. Having Good Customer Relationship Management Skills
Your customers are just as important as your employees. Without them, you would be unable to turn in any profit. And their word of mouth can improve or deteriorate your reputation. So you have to treat your customers with dignity and respect.
Make sure to reward their loyalty and listen to their opinion. Conduct surveys occasionally to learn what you could improve. Maintain your equipment to ensure that they’re always safe. Invest in new equipment and gym improvements to provide them with the best experience.
In general, never stop evolving your business to improve customer satisfaction. And, most importantly, offer stellar customer service. Let them know that you hear them and that you care. That will bring your gym business to the next level.
As you can see, being a successful gym owner requires a lot of work, patience, and consistency. That’s without factoring in the coronavirus pandemic. Gym ownership can be an extremely lucrative business if you know how to handle it. Most renowned gym owners share the same qualities, all of which we’ve thoroughly covered in this article.
Fortunately, there is an abundance of online resources that can help you hone these qualities in preparation for reopening after the COVID pandemic. Even if you lack in some areas, you can improve them with some work. Where there’s a will, there’s away. Just don’t give up and never stop working on your skills as a small business owner. You will notice results sooner rather than later.