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The Dreaded Side of Business

The financial end of running a fitness center can be one of the most dreaded jobs a fitness facility operator has to tackle, but it is a necessary one to succeed in your passion.

Rob Bishop, our Independent Issues columnist, says this month: "The most important thing I do on a daily basis is interact with my members. But, every so often, I have 'other' work to do." For many owners and managers of fitness facilities, the primary reason you got into this business is because fitness is your hobby and your passion. You enjoy the club atmosphere, you love fitness and you want nothing more than to help your members and infect others with your enthusiasm about a healthy lifestyle. "In this respect, health clubs are like restaurants and bars," says Bishop in his June 2007 column. "People love their local bar, their favorite restaurant, their neighborhood gym, so they want to own one themselves." The problem is, they only want to "focus on the fun stuff," he says. "After all, who wants to ruin a good dream with business realities?"

But, finance is a business reality. The financial end of running a fitness center can be one of the most dreaded jobs a fitness facility operator has to tackle, but it is a necessary one to succeed in your passion.

Overseeing the financial end of your business means doing many things. You have to make money, save money and, even more importantly, manage that money. In this issue, we offer ideas for tackling all of those financial avenues. First, Senior Editor Anne McDonnell talked with other facility operators to see what types of billing systems are working for them. In her article, "Budgeting In a Digital Age" (p.36), she shares insights on how to create a yearly budget, how to revise budgets, how software can help, how best to handle membership dues and whether to outsource budgeting or to handle it on your own.

Then, author Julie Ann Eason explores the money-saving strategy of purchasing used versus new equipment. In her article, "Buying Used" (p.30), one of Eason's sources says that buying used could save you between 30 to 70 percent. If you do decide to buy used, be sure you understand the terminology of used equipment, how to ensure you're buying from a reputable vendor and how to budget for purchases.

And, last, author Amy Scanlin suggests that one way to increase cash flow in your facility is to offer food and drink concessions. In her article, "Feed Your Coffers with Cafés" (p.40), Scanlin provides three examples of fitness facilities that operate concessions, from partnering with other vendors, like Caribou Coffee and Subway, to doing it on your own and even creating a specialty niche with product offerings. Then, she provides suggestions for "putting it all together."

These articles are merely guides to the financial process. No matter how much you dread hitting the budget books each week, you can only live your passion if you make, save and manage your money - if you perform the dreaded side of business.

FM welcomes the digital age

Many of you have embraced the digital age, providing members with websites that offer facility news, fitness advice and interactive forums. FM seeks to do the same for you, our readers.

In the next couple of months, we will have two new digital products. First, our website will debut with a new design and state-of-the-art operability. Both our Library of Articles, which contains thousands of articles dating back to 1992, is searchable by author, keyword and date. This allows you to find whatever information you need to help you in your fitness business operations. And, our Buyer's Guide allows you to search for suppliers and products by company name, brand name, keyword and more.

Second, our new FM Blog will complement our sought-after monthly e-Letter. However, while the two are both online forums for the exchange of ideas, they are very different. The e-Letter, which is a free, subscription-based vehicle, allows you to share very specific solutions to very specific problems with other fitness center professionals. On the other hand, the FM Blog is a place where you can get FM editors' positions and views on industry news and issues, and add your own. It helps put what is happening in the world in the perspective of the fitness industry.

We're looking forward to keeping pace with you in this digital age, and to hearing your perspectives on our new blog. Log onto our website at, and to our FM Blog at

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