How to start a gym business

Get your heart rate going with our business guide to launching and running a gym...

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What is a gym business and who is it suited to?

What’s a gym business?


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The issue of health and fitness is never long out of the media these days. With obesity levels rising and the NHS straining under the weight of treating related illnesses there’s a high demand for gyms and fitness centres. Exercise comes in many forms and most commercial gyms will offer group classes, as well as an area for individual fitness training. Gone are the days when gyms brought to mind the image of Schwarzenegger/Stallone look-alikes pumping iron. Gyms are now the refuge of yummy-mummies and City professionals.

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The rise of the health and fitness chains over the past decade is proof enough that people are willing to dedicate a lot of their time and money on getting in shape. But the smaller more independent gym could offer something a bit more personal and if you’re keen to open a commercial gym that could be just the market to tap into.

Who is it suited to?

Well to start with, a strong interest in fitness is really a given. Unless you’re planning to hire staff to do everything from the outset, it’s safe to assume you’ll be spending a lot of your time on the premises so the sight of health crazed people pounding away on the treadmill has got to fill you with excitement. You’ll also have to be willing to put in long hours. Most people who can afford to use a gym are employed, which means they’ll want it to be open at the crack of dawn until late at night so they can fit their exercise regime around work hours.

Stephen Sharkey set up his own gym with a friend in South Wales in 1990. “For the first few years we didn’t employ anyone,” he says. “We used to get up early and do all the cleaning, and then go on to do all the instructions with the members. We didn’t even hire a cleaner until three years into the business.”

Sharkey is also keen to point out the importance of being passionate about wanting to help people. “You’ve got to understand how this industry is really capable of changing people’s lives.” If you can create the right kind of atmosphere, then your gym will not only be a place to improve your fitness, but an escape from the pressures of daily life.

So a strong work ethic, and good people skills are essential if you want to succeed in this business. Remember also that this is not an easy way to make money, so you’ll need a tight grip on your finances. Excellent marketing and sales skills will also come in handy when trying to recruit and retain members.

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