You’re not going to make a lot of money owning a gym – not immediately anyway. That’s the reality, not only for gym owners, but for most entrepreneurs starting up a business.
So why bother?
Ask yourself this question before you do anything. If the answer is to just make money you will be joining the 81% of gym owners in the fitness industry who fail within the first year.
The best fitness founders in the business built empires successfully because two very important things drove them – a passion for helping people get fitter, and the foresight to see a gap in the market with huge potential.
Take one of the most successful and recognised brands of the last decade, Orangetheory Fitness.
Ellen Latham founded Orangetheory Fitness at 54, fourteen years after being fired from a previous job. Starting out of a spare room in her Florida home, she used her passion for Pilates to teach others in the local area. It quickly grew and she spotted a gap in the market for a science based high intensity workout and went all in, establishing the monstrously successful brand in 2010.
The point is you need to think about passion and proving your concept first before thinking about a gym owner salary. Of course you need to live and put food on the table but you also need to be realistic.
That’s why, in today’s article, we are going to talk about the realities of how much a gym owner makes and what impacts this as you start the business and begin growing.
More importantly we are going to give you three insanely practical and proven strategies from three well known fitness founders to help you with this growth and increase your salary along the way.
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How much do gym owners make?
First of all there is no defined average for a gym owner salary. It all really depends on your rate of growth of business and the expenses you incur to keep things running. The reality is, that as a business, you will be making a loss for the first while until you start turning a profit. That’s the way things work for most fitness entrepreneurs, especially if you are new to the game and opening your first location.
In this early phase your salary may be quite small, in line with what you were likely making in a part time job in high school or college! However, as you grow the business and generate more revenue and profit, your rate of salary should increase. Keep in mind though that you should always be thinking about where you can invest in your business to improve your offering rather than only thinking about how to increase your pay packet.
What the numbers say
While there’s no defined average for a gym owner salary, there’s information online about the different wage brackets in the US. Here is information from four of the top job and salary sites online.
- ZipRecruiter, an American jobs marketplace, reports that as of June 2022, the average annual pay for a gym owner in the United States is $69,472 a year.
- Glassdoor, a job review site and marketplace, estimated total pay for this role is $90,519 per year. This number includes an average cash bonus of $28,193 per year from things like commission and profit-sharing.
- Salary.com reports that the average salary for a gym owner is $52,263 as of July 26, 2022.
- Indeed.com, a jobs board and marketplace, estimates that the average salary for a gym owner is $61,005.
Let’s look at the ZipRecruiter numbers for example and break it down. It works out to be approximately $33.40 an hour. This is the equivalent of $1,336/week or $5,789/month. The approximate hourly rate of $33.40 can be misleading because gym owners often work more than 40 hours a week, especially in the early stages before they can afford more staff.
But as you can see averages and medians can differ, so don’t get too fixated on these numbers for now. In the next part of this article let’s take a look at what factors impact your salary.
The factors that will affect gym owner salary
Now that we’ve talked about how much gym owners make on average, let’s talk about the finances. Every business has three main financial components: revenue, expenses, and profitability.
Revenue is the money that comes into the gym from membership fees, class fees, personal training fees, and other revenue streams like apparel or supplements.
Expenses are the money that goes out of the gym to pay for rent, utilities, advertising, equipment, and more.
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Profitability is the difference between revenue and expenses. If revenue is greater than expenses, the gym is profitable. If expenses are greater than revenue, the gym is not profitable.
Let’s break each of these down so you can understand how they work.
Gym owners bring in revenue from a variety of sources, including membership fees, class fees, and personal training fees.
The amount of money gym owners make varies depending on how successful they are in attracting new members and retaining current members.
A few examples of revenue sources for a gym:
- Personal training
- Group classes
- Supplement sales
- Gear/Apparel sales
Operating a gym comes with a variety of expenses, including rent, utilities, advertising, and equipment. Gym owners need to be mindful of these expenses and make sure they are covered in order to maintain a profitable business.
- Payroll (trainer salaries and support staff)
- Software costs
- Cleaning costs
- Gym equipment
- Marketing costs
- Production costs for marketing materials and merchandise
- Startup Cost
- Reinvestment of profits
It’s not how much you make that matters, but how much you keep. This is a mantra that rings true for gym owners just as much as it does for any other small business owner. In order to have a healthy profit margin, gym owners need to bring in more revenue than they have expenses. Successful gym owners know how to keep their expenses low and their revenue high, which allows them to maintain a profitable gym business.
Ignore the number-crunching at your own risk. Gym owners need to know how much money is coming in and going out with a reasonable degree of accuracy. In the next part of this article, we will look at three incredibly effective strategies from three highly successful fitness founders on how you can increase profitability – and in turn increase your salary.
How to increase profitability for your gym – and then increase your salary
As we referenced in the introduction to this article, 81% of fitness studios and gyms fail within the first year of business. The incredible thing about this statistic is that it’s four times the rate of failure of small businesses in other industries!
Lucky for you we’ve gathered some proven strategies to help you boost profitability, especially in year one. All of these experts have been welcome guests on our podcast and shared brilliant insights on key aspects of running a successful business. They are:
- Mehdi Elaichouni, Owner at Carpe Diem BJJ.
- Alex Hormozi, gym owner and founder of Gym Launch
- Chris Cooper, gym owner and founder of Two Brain Business
Focus on getting your operations airtight
Tucked away in a quiet, leafy suburb of Singapore is the first location of Carpe Diem BJJ. Owner Medhi Elaichouni joined us on our podcast in March to detail the challenges he faced when launching this first location and the lessons he learned.
According to Medhi, one of the most important things is to get your operations airtight and standardized. Everything, from the way a member is greeted at the door, to how a class is taught, right through the tone of voice in marketing and retention emails should be recorded in a playbook. And this playbook should be known inside out by every member of the team.
High price, high value gym membership
Alex Hormozi went from sleeping on his gym floor and barely breaking even to growing a highly successful fitness business and consultancy called Gym Launch that’s helped over 1500 gyms generate collectively $1 billion in revenue – pretty impressive!
But how did he do it? After tons of research, he realized a couple of key things about running a fitness business. One of these was to charge more not less for your gym membership. Not only will this increase the revenue you make per member (giving you more capital for other areas of the business), it will also bump up the perceived value of the membership for the member. The only way this will work however is if you deliver on that value and get them results.
Keep membership numbers in line with growth
The first instinct of many first time fitness entrepreneurs is to try and get as many gym members in the door as possible. And while the potential sight of empty classes strikes fear into the heart of most gym owners, it’s the wrong move to scramble for anyone and everyone. The reason is, not only do you need to acquire members – you need to retain them .
Chris Cooper believes the perfect number of members you should aim for is 150. He references this article based on anthropologist Robin Dunbar’s theory that we can only maintain about 150 relationships. According to Chris, if you aim for 150 members you can plan what size of facility you need, how much fitness equipment you need, how many classes you need to put on and more importantly how much to charge to make sustainable profit. Think of this clearly when sitting down to write or rewrite your business plan.
We all want to be successful and make enough money to live comfortably. But as a gym owner, your earnings may be unpredictable in the first year to five years as you establish the business, prove your concept and grow.
Focus on the business first, the problem you are solving with your offering and delivering the best experience possible for your members. After that, increase in revenue and profit should follow.