So you’re interested in starting your own gym? Awesome!
What you should know ahead of time is opening and running a successful box is about more than buying a new job, or simply sharing your joy of programming with others. Starting your own business involves meticulous planning, an understanding of financial factors, and a series of legal steps to ensure long-term success.
Here are the first four steps to take towards having your own gym:
Legal Odds & Ends
Before you start looking for a location, signing up members or recruiting coaches, you need to have your backend in place. If you’re going in with a partner, you’ll want a strong and fair partnership agreement that clearly states what each person is putting in (both in terms of hours, work performed and investment) and what each person will be getting out of the business as far as profit share goes. You’ll also want to make sure you have a clear plan in place in the event either partner wants out. Finding a lawyer can help streamline this process. A lawyer can also help you with determining your legal structure, registering your business name, obtaining business licenses and permits, and understanding employer responsibilities in the event you plan to hire employees or independent contractors.
In addition to legal advice, you’ll also want to find a bookkeeper or accountant who can provide guidance with regard to your finances and tax obligations. You’ll need a tax identification number, to register for state and local taxes and finally, determine how you are going to finance your business.
Finally, you’ll want to insure your facility. Not only will your landlord require insurance, you’ll also want to protect your business from any claims or losses. We recommend contacting Vaughn Vernon at Affiliate Guard insurance, a company dedicated to understanding and protecting CrossFit boxes and CrossFit Kids programs.
While these obligations may seem pricey before your business has any cash inflow, you won’t want to skimp on these steps. Investing in a proper business setup now will save you time and headaches in the future when you don’t have to go back in and make corrections.
The Rent Factor
Once you have a proper business structure in place, the next thing you can do is move on to finding the right location for your box. Generally, about 3,000 square feet of office/ warehouse space is a good place to start. All too often, gyms make the mistakes of opening “too big” without the cash flow to support a large space. While it may seem like an exciting idea to own the largest box in your area, at the end of the day you’ll have to acquire more members to make your first profit and you risk losing one of the most important aspects of the CrossFit experience: close knit community. In a smaller gym, members can get a family feel as you grow organically. In a large empty gym, classes can seem boring or even low-energy.
While searching for your location, always stick to your budget, only going above and beyond if you can afford to take a potential business loss of the difference between the rent and your initial budget. A couple additional factors to consider in your location hunt include: proximity to competitors, visibility, the potential market within a 12 minute drive, and additional costs such as renovation, decorating, taxes, common area maintenance, and insurance.
With a space confirmed, you can now work towards equipping your gym. Make a list based off of how many people you would like to be able to service per class hour. Is it 10, 15, 20? From there you can determine an equipment breakdown for all the rig space, wallballs, mats, barbells, and more that you would need to serve that size of clientele. Prioritize this list into the “must haves” and “extras.” For example, you NEED barbells, but you can probably go for a month or more without GHDs until you turn a profit and can budget accordingly. You don’t need to have everything right out of the gate, but you do need to have the essentials that members are paying to be able to enjoy. Again Faster Equipment offers both pre-made and custom packages to help outfit your new space according to your budget.
Finding a Price Structure
The next thing you’ll want to consider is your price structure. A business has to have cash flow in order to survive and determining the right price structure can make or break a business. One of the biggest mistakes a fitness business can make is offering prices that are too low. Sure, you can undercut competitors in your area, but at the end of the day, you only put yourself in a hole. Not only are you sending out a signal that your services aren’t worth the current market rate, you’re also putting yourself in the position that for every one member your competitor enrolls, you’ll need to add two or more in order to make the same amount of revenue. Offering memberships at the lowest price possible may get you a few people to enroll, but ultimately, if your focus is on low price over high quality service, those members will be the same ones who leave when an even cheaper option opens up. Potential members will know that is not possible to be the best gym and the cheapest gym at the same time- the laws of supply and demand would simply not allow it. Remember that price is part of your brand image. In addition to competitor prices and brand image, also consider that your price is what determines how many members you need to add before you turn a profit.
Starting Member Packages
Once you have an idea of your price, you can offer founding member specials. Check out this post about the Founder’s Club and how to utilize it when starting a new box. As opposed to offering Groupons and bottom-floor prices, think about what you can do for new members that others are not. Instead of lowering your prices, offer extra personal training sessions, or new gym swag for free with pre-registration.
Finally, don’t forget about the little things that your gym will need to have in order to maintain itself on a daily basis. Finalize your waivers and membership forms, price sheets, brochures, flyers, Facebook page, and website. You would also be wise to implement a gym management system like FrontdeskHQ, Wodify, Zenplanner, WodTogether, or MindBody and an accounting system that can help you manage your finances on a daily basis such as Quickbooks.
Overall, with the right systems and planning structure in place your business has the foundation to survive. From here, its all about putting in the work, marketing, growing your community and establishing your box as a respected contender in your local area. The great thing is, you don’t have to go it alone. 321GoProject offers complete branding/website packages and business mentoring packages for new CrossFit boxes. If you are interested in working with us to develop your branding or business strategy, contact us today.
Guest Post by:
Amy Duchene and her husband Marc own CrossFit 915 in El Paso, Texas. They also have their own kid’s fitness company, CuzImABeast, that offers informational articles, WODs, coaching videos, and cartoon learning aids for CrossFit Kids programs. Amy is also one of Specialty coaches who help affiliates with their kid’s programs.