Starting a business is exciting. And scary. The trick about being a successful business owner – in any industry - is understanding that it doesn’t simply take a few college business management courses or an MBA. What it does require is vision, stamina, an open-mind and a willingness to learn through taking action. Unfortunately, the actions that many novice fitness business owners end up focusing on, especially at the beginning stages of business, are actions that don’t have a direct impact on creating a foundation for a strong, thriving business.

    The following list of ten mistakes commonly made by new fitness business owners may give you insight in to how to shift gears if you’re in the early stages of your business.

    Mistake #1: Focusing on logos, business cards, brochures and other “visuals” as necessary to start a business.

    We think logos and business cards are important. And they are, to a degree. A logo, business cards and other collateral make the business “feel” real to us, but many wait for these pieces to be complete (and seemingly perfect) before taking more important actions that can have a greater impact on kicking off a business. Logos, business cards and other collateral communicate your business visually, but you don’t need a logo to begin creating relationships, begin networking, or telling people about what you do. People buy you…not your logo.

    Mistake #2: Starting a business without an accountant.

    While there is no particular order to this list, this mistake certainly makes it to the top. Too many novice business owners think they will figure out taxes and liabilities alone. Our clients hire us because they are not experts in biomechanics, weight loss or performance; for the same reason, unless you are an expert in the (ever-changing) tax code and business formation laws, not hiring a quality accountant when you start your business is like walking a plank blindfolded. This is possibly the single most important investment you can make to protect yourself. Ask for referrals from other local business owners, interview several and select someone who will be active and take an interest in understanding your business (not simply file your taxes once a year).

    Related column: 5 questions to ask your accountant before April 15th


    Mistake #3: Fear of taking action.

    Fear of making a mistake often hampers us from simply taking action. Being a business owner or entrepreneur means taking imperfect action, otherwise you risk losing opportunity, or worse, stagnation.

    Mistake #4: Trying to go it alone.

    There can be a lot of pride and ego when starting your own business. No successful business owner achieved success through isolation. Seek a variety of mentors, resources, coaches, mastermind groups, online forums and ask for help!

    Mistake #5: Investing more in learning new training methods and not on expanding your marketing and sales acumen.

    Training: it’s what we do…and what we get excited about. However, if you’re starting your own training business, the assumption is that you have the education and qualifications to safely deliver programs to your clients. While continuing education in your craft cannot be understated, an absolutely necessary skillset you may not be nearly as fluent in is sales and marketing. You’ll need to begin sharing your learning time and investment between training education and sales and marketing strategies and techniques if you’re serious about long-term business success.

    Mistake #6: Appealing to anyone who will hire you.

    Again, if you’re starting your own business, you likely already have experience with different types of clients and should have a pretty good idea of who you enjoy training and who will get the most value from your services. Be specific with who you target and be selective with the clients you take.

    Mistake #7: Ineffective networking (or not networking at all).

    The most successful business owners are often those who are most connected. Get involved in local networking groups, but select them carefully. Attend community events. Get involved in local charities or organizations. Ask what you can do for others, rather than telling them what you can do for them. As you grow your own network, you can then become a connector which often leads to people seeking you out. The power of networking can be as effective as the best website.

    Mistake #8: Undercharging and wavering on rates.

    Know your cost of business (your accountant should be able to help you with this), and set a dollar value of your qualifications and your time. Undercharging for services is a chronic problem in our industry leaving too many good fitness professionals not able to maintain a quality of life they deserve and desire. Set your rates (offer no more than 3-4 options at most), be clear on the value you offer and remain steadfast to your value without wavering or discounting (there can be a few rare exceptions at your discretion).

    Mistake #9: Lack of direction and a path to get there.

    If you don’t know where you are going, you certainly won’t know how to get there. Is your goal to make a specific revenue? To open a studio? To have a certain of clients? To eventually hire a team? While goals evolve, having general direction of where you envision your business gives you a starting point to then work backward to determine what you need to do specifically to get there.

    Mistake #10: Not treating your business…as a business.

    When you take the leap to business ownership, training can no longer be a hobby or something you do on the side. It’s a business, requiring difficult decisions, imperfect actions and a focus on striking the balance of doing what you love but letting that love give you a quality of life you deserve and desire.

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