When training for a marathon, fitness experts offer a lot of advice. From gearing up mentally, to making sure you’re physically prepared, there are plenty of details to which the fitness enthusiast must be attuned. If your passion for fitness has led you to pursue a dream of owning a gym, many of those same marathon-minded tips can be applied for success.
For fitness-conscious entrepreneurs, owning a gym represents the perfect marriage of personal passion and professional opportunity. And opportunity certainly abounds in this industry. In the past five years, the U.S. fitness business has grown 3.5 percent, and it has earned owners $36 billion in revenue in 2019 alone. But even though fitness centers have proven to be among the most lucrative and time-tested businesses, that doesn’t mean they’re foolproof.
So let’s take a closer look at which aspects of a marathon mentality you can apply if you’re ready to run your own gym. These tips can help increase your chances of being successful in the fitness business.
Training and preparation
You wouldn’t set out to run a marathon without having trained properly, and you shouldn’t open a business without the proper training either. Even the most savvy entrepreneurs aren’t experts on all aspects of running a business, and success comes down to being equipped with the knowledge and tools necessary to help your fitness business succeed.
For example, if you’re planning to handle the back-office business details of your gym, you may need to brush up on your bookkeeping skills. Or, you might need to get some training on how to market your business to help you learn how and where you want to be advertising your gym in order to get the most bang for your buck.
Preparation can also include buying the necessary equipment or fine-tuning your class schedules to cater to your membership. Offering the right mix of equipment and classes can set your fitness center apart from the competition, so take the time to educate yourself on your members and what they want.
Start early and start small
Someone who is new to marathon running wouldn’t sign up for an event the day of, or even the week of — at least, we hope not. Some conventional wisdom states that aspiring marathon runners should run a consistent base mileage for a year or more. While you probably don’t need to take it quite that slow in your business, starting with small goals early on can help you reap bigger successes in the long run.
Runners often start smaller, with a 5K race, for example, and then work up to a 10K, and eventually a half- or full marathon. Owning a gym requires that same patient cadence to ultimately reach your goals. For instance, if you’re acquiring an existing fitness business, a logical small goal might be to grow the membership by 5 to 10 percent per month for three consecutive months. If you’re starting your fitness business from scratch, you might set a small goal of signing 10 new members each month for three consecutive months. Whatever your small goals are, you can move on to bigger ones once you’ve achieved them. Just like a marathon runner, ramping up to larger goals can help you to cover more ground, faster.
Putting in the hard work
For most people, running a marathon is the culmination of months or years of blood, sweat and tears. Successful marathoners put in the time and commitment necessary to get the best possible results on race day. They don’t sidestep the tough workouts or skip their long runs.
In order to be successful, your fitness business requires this same type of stamina. All of the hard work and preparation you put into your business today will be well worth it once you start hitting those small — and large — goals. For example, putting in some long hours to build camaraderie with your members or to execute your marketing plan may be tough now, but you will begin to see memberships and revenues increase if you don’t cut corners or skimp on the tough stuff.
Running a business of any kind isn’t always glamorous. There will inevitably be tasks that are arduous, mundane, or just downright unpleasant (like cleaning up other people’s sweat). Marathon runners practice endurance to help prepare them for those long runs, and you must practice endurance by putting in those long hours and days that will ultimately lead to achieving your business goals.
Building endurance as a business owner requires a resilient mindset and accepting that there will be victories and failures on the journey. As any successful athlete will tell you, winning the race has a lot to do with one’s mindset and those who view setbacks as opportunities for growth tend to realize more success in the long run.
Knowing your limitations
Logic reigns supreme in any endeavor, whether personal or professional. Successful marathoners often have big goals, but they know their limitations and respect them in order to avoid fatigue, injury and ultimately failure. Running your fitness business should be no different. If you don’t work within your capabilities and limitations, you will not realize your desired outcome.
One of the key aspects of this is knowing your personality and temperament. Ask yourself whether your personality is better suited to be a hands-on owner or more of a behind-the-scenes presence. Chances are that you got into this business because you like people and want to help them achieve their own personal health and fitness goals. If that’s the case, the day-to-day business of running your gym and interacting with clients may not even feel like work to you. But, if you aren’t a people person, you may find this aspect of the business exhausting or draining day after day.
Knowing your limitations will allow you to flourish, or to appoint someone else to carry out those tasks that you know aren’t best suited to you. For example, if you don’t consider yourself a “people person,” you may want to appoint someone else to run your client-facing and/or marketing operations.
No matter what type of fitness business you own, you must put in the time to gain the knowledge you need and train yourself in the endurance required to be a successful business owner. Doing so will ensure you will cross the finish line with all the satisfaction of a successful business owner.
Bruce Hakutizwi is director of Dynamis Ltd.