Published On: Mon, Jul 18th, 2016

A Successful Trainer’s Advice on How to Open a Gym

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Beautiful-Fit-girl-training-at-Gym2By by Brian Gajeski

Many personal trainers have a dream to open a gym. Maybe you’re sick of letting your boss or club owner drain your profits. Maybe you are in an unfair partnership with another trainer that isn’t pulling his or her weight. Or maybe something has changed in your life that you need more than what your current position provides.
To make your dream come true, use these tips to accumulate a position of strength and then go get it!

How Do I Get More Personal Training Clients?
Tip 1 – Do Your Research and Put a Realistic Plan Together
I hear personal trainers bitch about their current situation, saying the classic line, “Wait until I have my own gym, then I’m going to . . .” Further discussions reveal they’re stuck in fantasyland.
When I first broke off from the box gym I was working at, one of my personal trainer friends told me he was looking to move on, too. I asked him his plans and all he said was that he was going to buy the open lot down the road and start his own gym. The open lot down the road was listed at $650,000.
All I could think was: did he just rob a bank or did he get a very large inheritance from a relative? So he’s going to buy a lot, build a gym, buy all the equipment, hire personal trainers, and just sit back and rake in the money? I tried to sell him a bridge in Brooklyn, but he couldn’t afford it.
In reality, it takes a huge amount of planning just to see if it’s possible to start your own gym. Do your research, get all the numbers together, and then put it down in a fitness center business plan. Make sure you have someone who knows business — and has operated a business — go through the numbers and your plans with you.
If you’re going to be borrowing money from the bank, they’ll insist on a written business plan and projections. You need to have a thick skin during this process and be prepared for some tough questions. Close your eyes and pretend you’re on the show “Shark Tank.” It’s all about money to the bank — they care very little about your dreams!
Spend four to six months talking with other gym owners across the country. Most gym owners are very open to helping others and recounting the struggles they met in starting their businesses. Make at least three calls a week. Arrange a time to contact the owner and then put it on your schedule. Do not reschedule – they’re giving you their time and some excellent information. This is a listening session, so have a list of questions ready. Fight the urge to tell them all about your plans — just ask good questions and takes notes during these calls.

How to open a gym
Focus your questions on three areas:
1) Style of gym along with the number of clients and all sources of revenue generated.
2) Expenses and operating costs including employees and the management of those employees.
3) Hurdles in starting your own gym, or unforeseen problems that arose.
Over time your questions can be more targeted to specific questions relating to your plans. After the first two months, you should only be talking to gym owners of the same style gym you’re planning to open.
Your research and planning should include a complete budget. Your business will need the obvious things of equipment, marketing, and a location, but make sure to include items that most people don’t think about. Things such as insurance, accounting, attorney and cleaning services, and utilities can add up to be major costs.
Use professional rates when doing your budget. Don’t fall into a trap that some people looking to start a gym fall into. Because their mother is an accountant and will be doing the books, they think the cost is zero – big mistake. Budget in a professional to do your services; you’ll want to rely on the advice of a professional when making critical business decisions.

Tip 2 – Accumulate Wealth Before Making the Jump
One of the biggest hurdles for most personal trainers who dream of opening their own gym is finances. The best way to save for your dream gym is to live by a budget and spend far less than your current income level. If that means no new clothes or shoes this month, then don’t buy anything. Bring in extra income from a different source if need be.

5 Steps to Sell Your Personal Training
Are you willing to mow lawns on Sunday afternoons to make your dream come true? Save at least 20% of your paycheck every month to accumulate the capital needed to open a gym. I suggest accumulating at least six months at your current salary amount before making a move. That’s besides the initial startup costs of opening your own facility. I personally lived in my parent’s basement for a year to save enough to make the jump.
As far as gym start up costs are concerned, that will be determined by what your plans are. What style of training or style of gym you going to open? Starting up a small group fitness training location will be much cheaper than opening a 24-hour equipment based franchised gym. We’re talking tens of thousands versus hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The larger the facility, the more equipment needed, and the more you need to accumulate before starting. The better location will cost you more too. And if you’re planning on hiring other trainers, that costs money too.
Avoid borrowing large amounts of money. The interest rates might seem cheap now, but could you afford the payments if interest rates doubled? Many businesses fail shortly after an interest rate increase because they’re too heavily in debt. You should always be planning for the unexpected and have a source of cushion cash available to you — money in a separate account that you don’t use for month-to-month operating cash.
Hopefully you’ll be successful in opening your own gym and can pay yourself a salary from week one. That savings account can now become your cushion cash in case of an unexpected event. And no, using it to buy the latest and greatest piece of equipment does not qualify as an unexpected event.
There are a few ways to accumulate or secure the capital needed in starting your own gym. You could save everything yourself; highly unlikely. You could partner with someone who could bring capital into the business. It might be another trainer or it might just be an investor who believes in you. Keep at least 51% of the ownership — never give away control of your destiny. A 50/50 partnership is a terrible idea — I made this mistake starting out. If you take on an investor make sure everything is documented in a legal contract.
The most likely scenario will be a combination of your personal accumulated capital and a loan from a bank. Get ready to sign your life away to the bank and you might as well bend over right now. Although it will be a very scary situation for you, if your research and planning are done correctly, it will be based on accurate numbers and assumptions. Be sure to take the least amount of money as wages each month, and put any extra money toward paying back the bank loan ASAP. One of the greatest feelings in business is when you’re debt free.
To be contd.

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