Even though it was a ton of work, I have to tell you that being a trainerbecame fun once I had my own training studio. Despite the fact that I madeevery possible mistake in the beginning and put in 70-hour weeks for months onend, it beats working for a gym on its worst day.
For that reason, I can relate to trainers that want to open their ownstudio. In general, my advice to these trainers would be go for it. Despite thecost, uncertainty and risk that comes with the decision to pursue a fitnessstudio, in my opinion, the benefits far outweigh the downsides.
But you need to go in with your eyes open or success will be elusive. Right now, I'm going to go through my short list of prosand cons of starting your own studio. Keepingin mind that I'm a little biased toward studio ownership, I'll put the plusesfirst. Please remember this isn't career advice, so don't hand in your two-weeks notice yet. These are just the thoughts from a guy who's been there foryou to think about if you're planning to go down the same road. Here we go:
Benefits of having your own studio:
Easier to manage employees: Gaining respect andobedience from employees is essential to the success of any business. Withoutit, it's impossible to maintain the necessary standards of service withouthaving to do all of the work yourself. If this buy-in from employees isn'tachieved, no business owner can ever expect to get the freedom from theirbusiness that they want. By having your own facility, you take advantage of thefact that employees are conditioned to give greater respect and credibility tothe owner of the facility where they are working, compared to any other workarrangement.
Easier to get compliance from customers: Gettingcompliance from customers on payment terms, prices and training practices arenecessary to operate a business easily and with maximum profits. It's mucheasier to achieve all of this in a studio environment. Again, most customersare conditioned to give more respect to the owner of a facility than a trainerwho's operating without one. It makes the job of retention much easier, makesthe business less dependent on the business owner, and allows for servicestandards to be implemented and upheld. Having a facility turns any fitnessbusiness into a professional practice, which carries with it a huge shift incustomer compliance and income potential.
Easier to charge higher rates: As mentioned above,in a studio environment, a client will generally tend to be less priceresistant. This environment, where you are the center of attention, results inhigher perceived authority for you and higher perceived value for yourtraining.
Saves time: Having your own facility eliminates theneed to commute between sessions, and helps eliminate gaps of "dead time"during the day. This allows you to fillup every open hour with training sessions for you, and more importantly, foryour staff. It also has the potential to increase yourincome by virtue of the fact that you are no longer wasting any time. You canoperate your business and tend to your marketing for every hour you decide tospend in your in studio.
Predictable training environment: Having a locationof your own allows you to control all of the variables in your business. Itallows you to control where you're holding consultations, how group sessionsare structured, what equipment is used, and every other factor to ensure thetype of training experience that keeps clients coming back. Your own studioallows you to execute boot camps, semi-private sessions and have your employeesrun private session all out of one place.
Duplication: When you've mastered the management ofyour first location and it has achieved a high level of profitability andpredictability, the next natural step is to open your next location. Owning astudio gives you the opportunity to duplicate your already successful business,creating the greatest potential for rapid growth.
Longevity: Have you ever wonderedwhy you don't see many trainers in their 50s, 60s or 70s? I can guaranteeyou it isn't because they're independently wealthy. The fact is most trainersare forced into other careers at a certain point, because of the physicalnature and tendency of burn out for personal trainers. However owning a studiogives you the potential to move into the role of business owner andentrepreneur. You'll see many entrepreneurs refusing to retire because theylove their work so much.
Now let's get into some of the pitfalls:
High Equipment costs: Equipment costs are amajor drawback with opening a private facility. With most commercial equipmentcosting between 5,000 all the way 15,000, just a few simple pieces of equipment cangrow a training studio's start-up costs to over 50,000. This makes opening afacility out of reach for the majority of trainers, and makes it nearlyimpossible for the facility to ever achieve immediate profitability.
However, you'll see a growing trend today toward training that doesn'tinvolve traditional gym equipment. You will see evidence of this trend if youvisit large corporate gyms such as Bally's Total Fitness and Town SportsInternational Clubs (owners of the NYSC, BSC, PSC, and WSC gyms). Most of thesegyms have now created designated training zones in their clubs. These sectionsare reserved exclusively for their training clients, who are their highestpaying customers; yet these areas contain the least equipment of any other partof the gym. This brings further proof to the practicality of a minimalist gymenvironment. This type of environment puts the emphasis on the trainingexperience, rather than prohibitively expensive equipment. This is good newsfor the trainer who is looking to open their facility with a minimum of upfront costs.
Employee hiring and management headaches: Employeesare one of the biggest headache for any business owner, but are absolutelynecessary if you want to achieve freedom from your business by having it runwithout you. It's important for anyone considering opening their own studio toeducate themselves with hiring and managing process, and be willing to startsmall and go through some growing pains in the process.
The necessity of business systems: Without businesssystems, any fitness business will turn into chaos. Creating systems to run themarketing, training and back-end upkeep are a must when running a profitable location. Not only is this important to the healthof the business but also to the sanity of the owner.
Mindset and confidence: There's an entire mental andbelief component to opening your first fitness facility. Despite your desire tofinally have your own "gym," knowing that you can do it is what will determineyour success. It takes a certain determination and resolve to ride through therough spots that are natural in any new venture, and any trainer considering itneeds to go in mentally prepared.
While the positive sides of having your own studio areappealing, it's kind of like skydiving: the realities of gravity make it vitalfor you to go in prepared and know the risks involved. They're very real andvery unforgiving. But if you think you're ready and can handle it, make thejump and enjoy the ride!
Kaiser Serajuddin is the writer of the popularpersonal training blog, Super-Trainer.com. He guides personal trainersthrough the challenging period of starting their personal trainingbusinesses and helps them on the road to six figures. For moreinformation, you can download his special report, The Six-FigureFormula, at www.super-trainer.com.