Common Misconceptions About Owning a Fitness Business

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Working for Zen Planner, I get to meet and talk with the owners of fitness businesses almost every day. One thing that has struck me in the past year of working with and hearing from fitness business owners is the refrain, “I thought owning a fitness business would be different.”

Now different can mean a bunch of things – less stressful, more stressful, less hands-on, more hands-on, etc… So I thought I’d outline a few over-arching themes that I hear fairly often.

Misconception # 1 – I’ll be able to do what I love and train and coach clients every day

Many folks open a fitness business because they truly love inspiring change in others. No surprise that most people think that if they open a fitness business, they will get to spend time with gym members and clients each and every day.

However, what these new business owners quickly find is that a lot of time can end up being spent on tasks that take them away from working directly with clients. Ascension Martial Arts, for example, found that they were spending over 15 hours a week on administrative tasks. “As membership grew, the administrative work quickly began to take a lot of time,” says Ascension and Chief Instructor and professional MMA fighter, Jason Trzewieczynski. Jennifer Searles, who owns THE WORKS personal training gym, echoes Jason’s statement, “When we first opened, my team and I spent way too much time following up with members on topics such as scheduling and organizing account information, rather than focusing on working with individual clients on personal goals.”

Misconception #2 – If I build it (a fantastic gym or studio), they (my clients) will come

David Cross, of Evo Fitness, describes this “build it and they will come” mindset as “egos will kill you.” All businesses, fitness businesses included, need a ton of marketing to get off the ground. Unless you’re purchasing an established business with an existing client base, you’ll need to market, market and then market some more to get your name out there. David notes, “The truth is you need to do everything in your power to make people aware of your gym and get people in your gym. Nothing should be over-looked or beneath you. Whether it is handing out promotional flyers at the nearest traffic lights, offering free or heavily discounted sessions to local businesses and friends, or going to local running clubs and selling the benefits of strength training. You need to sell.”

With fitness facilities now popping up on almost every corner, this has never been truer. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of jobs within the fitness industry is expected to grow by 23.2 percent over the next decade. That’s a lot of big box gyms, studios and personal trainers competing for some of the same clients.

Misconception #3 – I can use Excel or another free tool to manage my clients and gym members

We hear this one a lot. “Why would I use (and pay for) software to help manage my gym or studio when I can use Excel or another free tool to do it for me?”

Get your copy of our free checklist, 9 Things Your Gym Management Software Must Have.

While Excel or another free tool may work when you’re starting, you’ll find that you’ll quickly outgrow the limited functionality offered. Here are just a few things that Excel won’t allow you to do:

  • Capture data from interested new prospects and house that data in a consistent format that was easily accessible to all employees.
  • Automatically send out alerts and emails to potential and existing gym members
  • Offer a way for potential members to reach out to you and receive an automated follow up
  • Track workouts consistently
  • Process payments automatically
  • Track attendance and enable members to check themselves in
  • Gain insight into member trends in order to proactively manage potential attrition

These are just a few examples of the limitations of not using software that is specifically designed for a fitness business. What this means is that you’ll have to develop work-arounds to do all the things you’ll need to do every day. This, of course, takes you away from working directly with clients and focusing on ways to grow your business.James Wallace of the Texas Fighting Syndicate told us, “Billing would take me two or three days a month to figure out who owed the gym and how much they owed,” James added. “Then I spent the next two weeks following up with those members for payment. This is time I should be spending on other areas of our business.”

Misconception #4 – I can (and have to) figure out how to be a successful fitness business owner myself

This is the one I personally identify with the best. I’m pretty independent and I like to think I can figure out almost any problem if I only work hard enough. What I discovered a number of years ago is that my network of other Marketing VP’s, CMO’s, Directors and similar folks are the absolute best resource for almost any problem or issue I run up against. Although we all like to think we are unique, our problems such as “too few new inquiries / leads,” “a cut-rate competitor” or “customer retention” have all been experienced by others.What I’ve found over the years is that others in my network are more than happy to share their experience of overcoming a particular issue or problem. I’ve found the same willingness to share with others through our Zen Planner customers in the form of case studies, blog posts and video testimonials.

In addition, Zen Planner has a rich network of partners who focus on making gyms and fitness businesses uber-successful. Our education and consulting partners are second to none and may offer that extra bit of “oomph” in new ideas, best practices and stories of what’s worked for others to take your fitness business to the next level.

These are just a few misconceptions we’ve heard from fitness business owners. Now it’s your turn, what was your biggest misconception prior to opening your fitness business?


Thinking of purchasing gym management software? Get your copy of our helpful checklist, 9 Things Your Gym Management Software Must Have to guide your research.

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