Are you looking to launch or scale up your niche fitness business? The key to a successful fitness business is to operate like a start up. That’s one of the big lessons from all the business owners and managers we’ve interviewed in the last 5 years. Here’s what operating like a startup means for your business:
Figure out where your competitors fall short
Early on, you need to learn fast. The best way is to visit other fitness businesses. At this stage it’s okay to look at a broad mix of types, from niche studios to all-in-one gyms. You want to focus on other successful fitness businesses. Your goal is to learn what they do that works and also what isn’t working for them or their customers. It’s easy to learn what people don’t like about a fitness studio because people love to complain. To learn as you can, it’s best to also immerse yourself in other fitness communities. Community sports teams, running clubs, and the like are great places to start. This will let you hear a wider range of opinions about many different gyms their members use. At the end of the day, you want to be sure the problem you plan to solve is something people care about.
Start small and stay laser focused
Once you know your problem is worth something, solving that problem should be your main goal. Your business is going to live or die depending on how well you solve the problem for your customers. The key to success is to start as small as possible. This is something all the successful niche fitness business owners did. Here’s an example of a story we heard often:
When I started my gym, I only had 400 square feet. This let me keep my costs low while I proved how much demand there was for what I offered. Because I didn’t have much space, it wasn’t as fancy as most commercial gyms. I was surprised to realize the looks didn’t matter as much at this stage. What mattered was that my customers got something they couldn’t find anywhere else. Even better, I found that people really got to know each other and form a community. I didn’t know it then, but this community would be key to the growth of my business.
Starting small is key to building a successful fitness business. It lets you focus on measuring everything you do so you understand what’s working or not working. This is the only way you can know that a change you’re considering is worth making. Your goal is to know as early as you can if you have the start of a successful fitness business. If you do, it’ll be worth investing more of your time and money to make it grow.
Grow your studio
Now that you’ve established yourself in the niche, you should have a solid community. This means you can begin to focus on growth. By growth, we don’t mean the size of your space. Early growth needs to be all about increasing your number of walk-ins and regular members. This matters more than getting a bigger space. When it comes to scaling up your space, it’s better to be cautious. You should only add more space when yours can’t handle the current number of members. Never size up in anticipation for future members. If they don’t come, you’ll only be left with a higher rent and pressure to cover it any way you can.
To build a successful fitness business you need people to be aware of what you offer and get people to pay you for it. To do this, you need to make it easy for your members to spread the word. It helps to have a good presence on social media and a good website too. Your goal is for anyone who hears about you to be able to easily learn about what you offer. Remember to have all of your social media posts link back to your website. Once you get people to your site, you need to make sure they can easily contact you to learn more or “sign up” for one of your classes or membership packages.
Some other pieces of advice
- Don’t fall for vanity metrics. It doesn’t matter if someone says they’ll join, it only matters if they sign up to pay. For every 100 people who say they’ll join your gym, maybe half will drop in, and of those, maybe 10 or 15 will buy a recurring membership.
- Hold off on moving your gym to a bigger space for as long as you can. Memberships tend to be cyclical in nature. You need to be up and running for at least a year to understand what the cycle is for your business. People drop out all the time for different reasons.
- Recognize that retaining members can often be harder than attracting them. It’s also more cost effective. Having a good community is one of the best ways to retain your current members.
- People will have all sorts of requests and suggestions for what you can do better. Be sure to keep track of the requests, and look for any trends, but don’t be too eager to please everyone. You need to stay focused on solving the problem you’re addressing.
Once your fitness business is up and running, be sure to keep the startup mentality and test everything. For more on how to test everything be sure to check out our post on testing, iterating and executing your fitness business plan. Our friends who have built a successful fitness business agree it’s key.
Note: This post is geared towards niche businesses and may not apply if you’re opening a franchise. To learn more about our recommendations for a franchise, contact us.
Learn more about how to manage your own fitness studio. Grab your e-book now!