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Why I Don't Like Being a Fitness Center Owner

There are a lot of positives to owning a fitness center, but sometimes the negatives can really get you down.

Sometimes, I hate being the owner of an independent fitness center. I can tell you lots of reasons why I like owning a facility, and a few reasons why I love it. But, just for today, let me tell you why, sometimes, I hate it.

1. I know it doesn't look like it, but I really am working

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. Whether it's our monthly billing, fixing things in the facility, meeting with staff or doing any of the other thousand things I do on a regular basis, most of my activities don't require member interaction. I'm hoping, someday, members might understand that I often don't have time to discuss their wife's gallbladder, or to hear about their new hot tub. I'm working here!

2. Does something have to break every 30 seconds?

There's nothing as important to a fitness center as the quality of its building and equipment. We work unbelievably hard to maintain our building and equipment, and we proactively service everything we can before it needs it. So, could everything work correctly for just a little while? Of course not. Showers leak, toilets clog, air conditioning fails, heating fails, treadmills break, cables fray, there's no hot water. Does it ever end?

3. "You know, what you guys need is ... "

This sentence puts a dagger right into my heart. It's not member suggestions, per se, which we are happy to receive. Rather, it's the way in which the suggestions are offered. Heck, they are not even "offered," they are dictated! I know our members see us day in and day out, so their observations have a great deal of validity. But, what they are really saying is, "I know more about your fitness center than you do." Would it kill some of these folks to be, you know, polite? How about, "May I make a suggestion?" or "Have you considered?"

4. Weight-loss pills and fad diets

I was recently at my bank, talking to the tellers who see me every day. Occasionally, they ask about memberships, and they always ask how business is going. So, imagine my surprise when I saw the latest weight-loss pill sitting behind the counter. The tellers had actually split the cost of the bottle and were trying it out. We then had quite a conversation:

"How about just eating less?" I suggested.

"Are you kidding?" was their response.

"How about a little exercise?"

"Who wants to do that?"

"Do you even understand what you are taking?"

"Of course not!"

"Are you just interested in weight loss, or would you perhaps like to improve your overall appearance and health?"

Blank stares.

Sometimes, it's depressing that our industry has a product that a lot of people just don't want. The general public - even our friends and family - hear what they want to hear, and look for an easy solution in a bottle or in the latest best-selling book.

5. When does it actually pay to own this business?

There are days when I really just want to get a job. As a general or sales manager for a large facility, I might make much more than I do now, I'd have a shorter work day and I could sleep at night! My own advice to potential facility owners is: "Don't open a fitness center if you plan on making a lot of money." So, I understand what I signed up for ... but when is it going to be about me?

A call for catharsis

Don't misinterpret what I've written here, or email to tell me how to buck myself up. Most days, I enjoy what I do and I'm happy to own and operate a successful business. I'm proud of the lives we've changed over the years, the staff we've developed and the reputation we've established. But, if you do want to email me, tell me what you hate about owning your fitness center. Trust me, it will be cathartic. Let it out!
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