5 Lessons Learned Since Owning My Facility
Recently I have had an increased number of personal trainers reach out to me who are considering opening facilities/gyms of their own. Some following up with questions or asking for advice after watching the chat I had with my first mentor, Mick Blythe. (See video below).
These few points will aim to give some insight into some of the lessons I have learned along the way and provoke even more questions to those who are in the position I was (and still am to an extent) a few years ago.
I'm not talking about overhead bicycle kicks, i'm talking bills.
Any gym owner will tell you, that there is never a month, even week where you aren't paying for something.
Besides the typical rent and utility payments, you also have to consider insurance, marketing, accounts and banking, employee wages (your own wage), software and systems... and lets not get started on equipment, which you will not only have to buy, but maintain and often replace.
It is important to have a start-up plan and costs, but think longer-term.
Anyone can open their own facility, but not all last if the financial side has not been throughly thought out and planned for.
If this current pandemic has asked any question of your future plans, it is - how can they survive another one, or two, or three of these?
LOCATION AND AWARENESS
Where you are located can effect the type of clients you acquire and who you target, but there aren't any guarantees who you will attract or how fast they will sign-up.
Being in the centre of an affluent area does not mean that you will be packed out with high-paying individuals, nor does being surrounded by big companies mean that you will have all their employees flocking to sign-up with you.
My first facility was based inside of a business centre. Albeit a small 290sq.ft space tucked away in the corner, you could not miss seeing the dude taking clients through slow, heavy sled pushes out in the yard in the rain.
Moving in I thought I would attract all the business owners for before and after work sessions, maybe even lunch time slots.
I introduced myself to every other business in the building and the surrounding area, dropped leaflets, emailed HR departments and said hello to every passing person - yet that first year was very slow for sales.
Quickly I found m original beliefs to be far from the truth.
Initial interest may be there but it could take time to build awareness and cement a reputation for whatever it is that you offer.
Most people already have a gym membership, so why should they potentially leave and sign-up with you?
Results and word of mouth will be your best tool - repeatedly show people how you operate, who you train and what they have achieved.
THE MAGIC FORMULA
As coaches (and even business owners in other industries), we are always looking for the magic formula - the best possible service and value we can possibly provide for our clients, and to be compensated for it handsomely.
Everybody wins, right?
Initially we may notice what others are providing, do the maths and start seeing the dollar signs - maybe even think we can do it better ourselves.
What works perfectly for someone else, may not work for you at all.
... I found this out very early on.
I had followed the success of other another coaches program online, and thought that I could run the same format but to a much better standard, offering better quality coaching and better value for money. A few months in of minimal new sign-ups, inconsistent retention and a lot for self doubt, I called it quits.
When you see a product or service from the outside, you're seeing the version that was created months beforehand and therefore you are already behind, with no idea on the process it took and systems built within it.
My advice is to write down the services and products YOU wish to offer. Experiment with it and continuously ask for feedback from those who are actually a part of it. Your crowd is unique and will be different to the next gym down the road.
This will take time, however you will eventually develop your own winning formula - to which others may then look to imitate, which is completely irrelevant because you will be constantly refining and improving the service, getting results and creating a massive buzz and demand!
THE DIRTY WORD
My perceptions and beliefs around selling were that it made me a bad person.
These perceptions and beliefs stemmed from what I always classed as the worst job that I had before moving into fitness...
Cold-calling anyone and everyone trying to flog phone and broadband packages. I became good at it, but ethically I quickly realised it was not for me.
Starting out as a personal trainer, that past experience made it difficult for me to sell much without feeling 'sleazy'. I thought I had to run a step-by-step sales pitch and have prepared objection handling techniques.
Once I looked back at this and really thought about it, I held these beliefs about sales for so long because in that call centre job I did not believe in the benefits and value of what I was trying to sell, nor did I really understand what the potential customer wanted.
Selling is not bad, it is how a business will survive.
Think about it...
You have a service or product that you truly believe will help people. But if you don't sell it out of fear of rejection or use methods of selling that worked for somebody completely different to you, your business could go under and then you can't help anybody.
Ask the right questions, listen carefully to the answers you receive back and then propose exactly how/if you can help solve their problem.
If you do not strive to continually develop and invest in yourself and your business, how can you expect to grow and how can you expect others to invest in you?
Again, there is no magic formula. No course, qualification, book or mentor that will take you to the top of the game.
I have hired and worked with mentors who have actually made me regress in business, and others who have almost instantly improved it twice over.
I have travelled across the world for seminars, learned from the very top people in their areas of expertise and whilst I respect them, some I have taken very little away from and others, that much incredible information I couldn't make notes fast enough!
I have signed up to a course with the belief it will give me all the knowledge I need, or because a peer has recommended it, to only realise I had signed up for the wrong reasons and waste hundreds of pounds. Alternatively, I have attended a two-hour workshop that has changed my thought processes on a specific subject for the better.
I have read books and taken nothing at all from 300 pages, and I have also read many others and taken just one paragraph that again has changed my beliefs or been instantly applicable to improve myself and/or my business.
Investment leads to knowledge or assets, apply and use those to achieve a result, which leads to value, trust and much more.
These are lessons learned during my journey and my experiences, and just the tip of the iceberg. This might have been very helpful to you, or a complete waste of 5-minutes, but going back to why I decided to write this article...
My goal was never to own a gym, I actually wanted to just go fully self-employed and rent space in somebody else's gym, and I never fully understood what I was getting into before actually doing it, as much planning as I did in preparation.
The reality is that it is a constant battle, it isn't always fun and problems and doubt arise almost daily. Responsibility is very high and you cannot turn your back on anything.
Honestly, I still often think about quitting and working a comfortable 9-5. What keeps my going is my core value of wanting to help people through exercise, positive mindset and creating an environment to build people up, not break them down. For me, there is no greater feeling.
If your goal is to own a space of your own, ask yourself WHY and how much are you willing to sacrifice to make it succeed.