Ok, so you're training a few people and getting a taste for this idea of being self-employed. At some point you start thinking how great it would be to have your own space, one where you make the rules, where you control the environment. It seems like a grand plan, it feels as good as when you thought about moving out from mom's house and taking control of your life once and for all. Then you start thinking about all the costs, get scared, keep doing what you're doing and think to yourself, "those other trainers just got lucky... somehow."

In the past 13 months my coaching program has seen 11 new studios open. People just like you, people that had the same fears as you the only difference being a little knowledge and a group of colleagues for support.

I may not be able to help you today with the support you need to overcome your fears about opening your own space but maybe I can help a little with the knowledge.

Here's five tips that can help:

1. Don't be distracted by high-traffic locations
You may not yet have figured out how to capture an audience through multiple marketing channels like social media, email and events to name a few. As a result you might think that it would be a massive benefit to be in a location that's visible, that has a lot of immediate traffic or visitors. Though this is logical it's one of the things I've seen sink new studios really fast. The premium you pay for these locations is never justified in the sales that are produced as a result. Look for locations that are 1-2 blocks off the main arteries, we're a destination location. A fraction of the cost savings invested in efficient marketing campaigns will way out perform that high traffic location.

2. The drive radius
The ideal location is really easy to access but off the beaten path. Next consider how far you can drive in 15 minutes at the worst time of day for traffic. Look at a city map and draw the boundary of how far you can go in those brutal 15 minutes; this will give you a very realistic idea of your real customer area. In fancy technical terms we call this your Isochrome.

3. How far can I get with paint and mirrors?
Don't look for perfect, look for usable potential. Does it have a small reception and/or an office space? Does it already have 1-2 bathrooms and a big open space? Is there ample parking? Look for the space that you can get started with just paint, mirrors and equipment. Don't think it needs to be perfect or look like the million dollar facility; truth is that's a prehistoric business philosophy. Today people want to be involved in the story of your growth and development; they want to experience it as it happens. Even more importantly people are looking for places that present that "down to earth culture" and not the big box "I'm a number" environment. Hence the success of the garage gym!

4. Don't sign a long lease
Now this might be more my opinion then sound advice, but then heck so are all the others tips in this column. I've signed a long lease and I'd never do it again. I believe the key to success in our industry is to be continually evolving. You never know how fast your business is going to grow (I outgrew my initial space in just five months), or the challenges you may face in dealing with a building owner (just ask me about unpredictable building operating costs.) I'd never want to be this restricted again. I'd much rather face the risk of renegotiating costs every 3-5 years in an effort to keep my options open. Additionally here is where risk is a consideration, what can you carry for an extended period of time?

5. The secret sauce of where to look
Here’s the real gem of how to find that right space. Start by looking for all the dance and martial arts studios in your area of interest. Generally where these types of businesses are located you will find spaces in the appropriate price range for your business. They are often just off the beaten path and yet within realistic drive reach of people you wish to cater to. Additionally, sad but true, a number of these types of businesses often fail. This is important because their space is 90% setup for what you need; they've done the work and absorbed the cost for you!

Map out your plan, getting into your own space isn't as difficult or as expensive as you first believed. The old adage of business was it cost a lot of money to get started, that you weren't profitable for months or years. I don’t subscribe to this philosophy, if you've done your homework you can be breakeven or cash flow positive either by the time you open or soon after. Remember fortune favors the bold!


After struggling for eight years as a personal trainer, Cabel McElderry challenged the typical gym setup and created quite a reputation for himself. His 7 figure studio, now five years old, has won multiple awards for business excellence. Cabel has been recognized as one of the top 100 fitness entrepreneurs in North America and is currently one of 50 nominees for Optimum Nutrition's Canadian Trainer of the Year. He now mentors fitness professionals worldwide in an effort to help them achieve similar or better results than his own. Cabel's advice and writing can be found amongst some of the biggest blogs online and he is constantly called upon to offer his advice and strategies at some the largest fitness events worldwide.www.ProfitablePersonalTrainer.com

Topic: Entrepreneur Web Column

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