You're a passionate fitness or wellness professional, and as such, you have developed a loyal following of clients. And now, you are ready to take your business and career to the next level by opening your very own private facility. But tackling such a professional transition can be a daunting task. In the March 2006 issue of the magazine, I authored an article titled, "Utilize the Space You Do Have," in which I outlined the business plan for an initial move, shifting from working for a health club or independent fitness facility to setting up the private in-home studio. Now, making the transition from the home-based business (training, lifestyle coaching, etc.) to opening the first commercial location is the next step in reaching your entrepreneurial dreams.
Laying the Groundwork
The first step and vital factor for business success is to prepare financially for making the move to a commercial location. Thankfully, today, you can open a studio with very little equipment and still provide clients with a great workout. If you are already training clients in your home, you can transition that equipment to the new location. As your client base and revenue grows, invest more capital into additional equipment. By doing so, the majority of the new commercial studio expenses will come in the form of rent, allowing a sense of security with many months of operating capital reserves in the bank.
One to Five Years Out
This might sound like a long time out to plan for the opening of the commercial location, but depending on the financial status of your business as well as your own personal finances, the opening of the commercial studio may be anywhere from one to five years into the future. You will need this time to accumulate equipment and/or capital for the new venture. This is also the time to plan out your studio on paper. Writing out the business plan on paper is absolutely critical. In your plans, describe precisely what size the studio will be, how much you're willing to spend per month on a lease and utilities, how many trainers (or other wellness professionals) you plan on training and managing, how much revenue you expect to generate, what your marketing budget will be, etc. There is no shortage of questions to be answered during the planning phase. So, write it all down. This will help you consider all the factors, including the essential question of location. Where is your ideal location? Do you want a retail location, or is the rent in an industrial or warehouse district a better fit financially? Also, talk with other studio owners to precisely determine what to expect from a financial commitment standpoint. After you have your plans on paper, review it frequently. Continue to refine and hone it, and keep in mind that what gets measured is what gets done. Therefore, the more you look at your plan and corresponding goals, the more on target you will be.
One Year from Opening
Begin to look for the new space a full year before the anticipated opening. Contact several commercial real estate agents to help in this search as well as ask everyone you know to keep an eye out for your predetermined, ideal space. Once you have found a potential location, talk with the owner regarding pricing and your ability to customize the future space. Leased spaces are as unique as the individuals who own them. Ask for what you want, and if the owner isn't willing to work with you to create the space you need, move on to the next ideal location. Remember, you will want to consult with a real estate expert and legal professional to help you in the negotiations of your lease terms, price per square foot, build-out options, etc.
Three to Six Months Out
By now, your options for spaces should be narrowed down to a couple of specific locations. Begin making a comparison of these choices. You should also consult with your best clients to get their input on your future location because they might have real estate connections or know what is available or coming available in town.
Update Your Systems: A very common mistake an independent business owner can make is to transition into a new venture by taking on commercial space without changing the systems of conducting business. You need to expand the systems that have proven successful for you and create ones that you don't yet have in place. If you're taking on an increased overhead, you will probably consider hiring other wellness professionals to help offset the additional costs of studio ownership. How do these professionals meld into your established business? Are they an extension of you, working under your guidance? Are they completely independent of your business and paying a fee for the use of your studio? Who is in charge of opening and closing the studio? You must create a detailed outline of how you will incorporate other professionals into your new business.
Another mistake that can be made when transitioning from a single-person
business to a multi-staffed studio is the positioning of the new facility. Many new entrepreneurs position themselves as the business. By marketing their achievements and the ways they, specifically, can bring positive health and wellness change, new ' prospective customers and clients look to enact change with only the entrepreneur and not with the newly hired and trained staff. You will need to create new systems for marketing that will not only highlight yourself, but also the benefits of working with your team.
Other systems that will need to be created or adapted include hiring and training staff, sales and marketing processes, client startup and retention systems, accounting, studio operations and so on. You also need to think of who will be in charge of the studio when you are not there. Trust me, you're going to need time away from your business; otherwise, it will consume you. Several months before opening your new location, you will be well-served by putting all of the processes and systems of your business down on paper to allow your operation to run smoothly. A great book to help you further understand the value of systemizing your business is The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It by Michael E. Gerber. Without a structure and systems of how to conduct business, your opportunities for success diminish significantly.
Intensify Your Marketing: As you approach the opening of your commercial studio, you must begin marketing the new venture. Entire volumes of books are written on marketing a health and wellness business, but here are a few that I believe are instrumental.
Share your new venture with everyone you know clients, friends, family and all of the people who support your business (accountant, lawyer, printer, etc.) as well as neighboring businesses. Get the word out by email, phone calls, letters or by any means possible. And give your sphere of influence offers to come work with one of the members of your team in the first two months of opening your doors this will create a swell of positive momentum for your opening.
Get out into your community, and speak to groups and organizations churches, rotary clubs, schools, police and fire departments and corporations everyone needs clarity in health, fitness and wellness. Put the word out about your business through your clients; they are the people who will put you in the right places for speaking engagements.
Train your staff to generate and conduct weekly outreach events. Offer free body fat testing; show up at fitness events wearing your company shirts; and hand out flyers with special offers. Your outreach should be systemized within your marketing plan and is only limited by your creativity.
Contact the media. Send out press releases about the new wellness or fitness facility in your community. Detail your passion for teaching the residents of your town how to eat right, lose weight and feel great. Create a strong hook; exercise persistence, and the media will pick up on your story.
Your marketing plan should be in place several months prior to opening your doors. In order to find success with your commercial studio, do your homework, and put in the effort. Keep your eye on your goal; measure your progress consistently, and soon enough, you'll discover that thrill of hanging your own sign outside your very own facility.
Brian Calkins is President of HealthStyle Fitness Inc. For more information, visit www.briancalkins.com.