Top 6 Mistakes New Gym Owners & Trainers Make
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First of all those who succeed have a very clear plan based on surveys, experience and /or current market conditions and not on what they like. Just because you like it does not mean your clients will.
Just because someone is a great trainer has no bearing on whether or not they will succeed as a business owner. It can help but is not the key factor. I know this will upset some but it’s just what I have observed. I have witness some of the best trainers in the industry utterly fail in their own fitness business.
So what are the key ingredients from my experience.
1. ARE YOU WILLING TO FAIL?
This might sound really strange but in order to succeed you must be willing to fail and lose it all. That doesn’t mean you want to fail but it means that you will go ALL IN to ensure you don’t fail. So by being willing to fail miserably as a worst case scenario but backing yourself completely and doing whatever it takes to ensure it doesn’t happen. If you’re afraid to fail you’re screwed! All great business owners and entrepreneurs have had some miserable failures along the way and many were bankrupt before they made it. So be willing to experience both failure and success. You really must be willing to experience a high degree of success and not just get by.
This same goes for anything in life. The willingness to experience both the positive and negative outcomes of a situation is the first hurdle to overcome to ensure you are fully willing to do whatever it takes to succeed. This isn’t a pessimistic attitude; it’s just getting real but ensuring you do everything possible to make it go in the right direction. Think about anything you have ever succeeded in and I guarantee you that you were willing to experience what was required before you started in order to succeed and where you failed you weren’t willing to experience or do what was required.
So as a business owner it may mean learning more about Marketing or Sales or Financial Control or how to become a better leader etc. It’s usually the thing you don’t want to do that is the thing you really need to do!
2. HAVE YOU SET SPECIFIC GOALS?
Without a doubt this is the most important thing to consider when starting any kind of business: you MUST set goals for the business and you also need to have a very clear idea of your own personal goals. So yes, separate personal goals for you and goals for the business. They are very distinct and separate things.
There is a lot of information around regarding goals and in studying successful and unsuccessful business owners and in my own business ventures where I have failed miserably or succeeded the key ingredient was clearly defined goals and effective planning to make those goals a reality.
I will cover planning later on in this video but to gain a good understanding on the subject I suggest you read of listen to the audio book, “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill. Like everything in life there is a technology or system involved in doing anything and there is a right and wrong way to go about it and this book covers the right way to do it. It was written about 100 years ago and is just as true today as it was back then.
If you already have the idea that you know all there is to know about this subject or any subject for that matter, you will probably fail. So, you must be willing to learn new things and replace old ineffective ideas with better ones.
I will cover goal setting in greater depth in a separate blog as it is a vast subject.
Just because someone is a good personal trainer or athlete does not mean he or she will own a successful fitness business.
3. DO YOU HAVE A WELL CRAFTED PLAN THAT ALIGNS WITH YOUR GOALS?
As Benjamin Franklin once said, “if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail”.
Unfortunately I learned this one the hard way. You can set goal after goal but if you haven’t worked out a plan or road map to achieve that goal, it won’t happen. Positive thinking alone won’t make it happen. So work out a plan that make the goal become a reality. Keep it realistic and don’t go off on a tangent and always keep the goal in mind.
According to the Small Business Association 60% of new businesses fail during the first three years of being open. So plan and turn your plan into a reality.
4. DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU WANT FROM THE BUSINESS?
This is basically the "why" for starting the business in the first place. It's your reason or purpose. If you are going to work in the business day and night and plan to do so for many years to come your approach will be very different than if you plan to grow the business, move out of the day to day operations and work on the business model so you can open more locations or sell it as a going concern. You need to decide this from the start ideally or if you are running an existing business take a step back and work this out. If you want to scale up or sell you need to think like an entrepreneur and systemise the business and implement procedures and a training manual that can be handed over to the next person.
This may take some soul searching but if you have a well thought out Goal and Plan then this will be obvious and won’t take too much thinking. Some people refer to this as their Exit Strategy or Strategic Plan. A great book on this is “The E-Myth” by Michael Gerber. I strongly recommend you read it or listen to the audio book. It covers a large array of business principles.
5. NO IDEA WHO YOUR IDEAL CLIENTS ARE.
Before you start your marketing drive, it’s important that you identify exactly who your ideal clientele is. Do you want clients will use you facility 2-3 times a week and mainly just to stay in shape from the ages of 30-50 with a higher disposable income or do you want a younger crowd from 18-30 who will be dedicated members and train very regularly or are you after body builders, or people who will mainly just use cardio equipment or PT clients aged from 30 -50 etc.
Each of these types of clients will have specific requirements.
If you try the shotgun approach to target everyone, it won’t work. As a start-up or small business, you cannot compete with the marketing budget of the multi-chain franchises, so don’t try to compete with them. The solution is to target a specific part of the market or niche. Yes, it might mean you lose a few but it’s the only option you have.
I have seen a very successful start-up that we fitted out last year last grow to over 1000 members within 8 months. It was also viable and profitable from day one with over 300 members on opening day. Believe it or not, part of their model is that they don’t have showers, which not only reduces some of the headache involved in obtaining permits from council, it also saves a lot of money in fit-out, cleaning and ongoing costs. It’s a very simple model in a 400 square metre space, located in a high vehicle traffic location. This business owner had their model well worked out beforehand and a simple but effective marketing plan targeting their ideal target market.
Being selective with who your clients are has several benefits:
- You won’t attract the wrong type of clients.
- You will be able to provide a consistent level of service your clients will appreciate as you will understand your client’s needs and wants.
- Far higher retention rates as your clients will be more comfortable training in a facility filled with people from a similar demographic.
- They will refer their friends as they will want more people like them training at the gym.
6. ARE YOU A LEADER?
Ok, now this is a tough one but I am being very direct. If you are a sheep, you are going to fail and get trampled in the process. It’s that simple! You might survive for some time in a buoyant market but as things get tougher you are going to get destroyed by market forces, competition, demands from clients or your own staff.
A good friend of mine once said that if running a successful business was easy, everyone would do it. It takes hard work, persistence and dedication.
You need to ask yourself honestly are you a good leader? Will your staff respect you? If your answer is no, then you need to do some serious work on yourself. I will cover this in a separate video or article but you cannot succeed if you are not a leader. You will succeed in direct ration to how effective you are as a leader and how clear your goals and plan are.
So as you can see, it’s not just about knowing your industry or being a great trainer or just understanding marketing and sales; you need to be well rounded in all areas of your business and you must be willing and able to lead.
I had a business which failed miserably after many years of success, but the biggest issue wasn’t competition. The problem was me and if any business owner who has ever failed was truly honest with themselves, they would see that they were the problem and not everyone else. Sure, markets can turn and change, competition can come in and take some of your market share, staff can be difficult or problematic or even work against you at times but if you are on the ball and reading the market and successfully managing and growing your business, these factors won’t destroy you.