How to Open a Gym

What are the steps to owning a gym? Well, you can buy a gym, open a gym, or find a gym franchise to own, but even if you want to learn how to open a gym without any money, you will need to know these key things. Read on for the basic steps to opening a gym, browse through our gym owner guide, and then when you are ready to supercharge your gym, explore our gym software.

#1 Conduct Market Research

Not every market will support a gym. And every market is different. Some markets will support a CrossFit box (or two or three!) while others may not—but a Planet Fitness or an F45 could be just the opposite. The type of gym you want to start is closely related to your gym market research. Understand your target market, the gym options currently available, and why starting your gym will be profitable in this market. Research competitors and have a fulsome understanding of their prices, products, and competitive positioning.

Be sure to model out in-person and online gym revenue, because hybrid gym models will not only open up new gym marketing opportunities, but offer up entirely new ways to conduct online gym market research (pre-selling gym memberships on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, etc. being just one of them).

Payment Splitting

After all, the single biggest proof point about whether you should start your gym or not is if you have real people pulling out real credit cards and swiping them for your gym’s memberships and packages. Think it can’t be done? Think again. Stir up excitement and engagement with boot camps at a local park (or parking lot, for that matter). Get the endorphins and the ACH bank drafts flowing at the same time.

Finally, have a full understanding of your gym cost structure. How much will you pay your gym front desk staff? How much will you pay your personal trainers? How much will your gym lease cost? Understanding all of the costs that go into opening a gym is key.

#2 Create a Gym Business Plan

If you are starting or buying a gym franchise then this part is easy for you, because this is all done for you already. And, frankly, many of these other steps are done for you as well—or, at least you must do them, but on easy mode. If you are not operating on easy mode in the gym franchise world (not without its cons too, we know, we know), then your gym business plan is something you should think carefully about. This is less about a fancy looking deck and more about building confidence in any capital partners you may need to help you start your gym.

#3 Secure Gym Funding

Getting a bank loan for starting a gym, sometimes in the form of an SBA loan, can help give you the capital you need to start your gym. Alternatively, you can use personal savings or a business partner with capital to inject into the business. If you want to start a gym without any money of your own, then getting good at obtaining gym funding by inspiring confidence in those with that money is a critical skill to have. The good news is that if you think through each of these steps to opening a gym, then you will be prepared for almost any question thrown your way.

#4 Choose a Gym Location

As they say, location, location, location. Yes, you need to be online, and yes, you need to have a quality offering, but as discussed in the gym market research phase, you should have a clear understanding of where the best gym location is for your new gym business. And just because it’s an easy commute from where you happen to live doesn’t mean it will be a profitable gym location!

Read more: How profitable is owning a gym?

#5 Purchase or Lease Gym Equipment

The type of gym you start will obviously heavily impact your gym equipment needs. CrossFit boxes vs big box gyms vs fitness studios will have entirely different needs and cost structures. Do your research and get price quotes on purchasing or leasing gym equipment.

Also, keep in mind that commercial gym equipment prices are much higher than home gym equipment. Your commercial gym treadmills will take a beating; they won’t be sitting idle during the day being used as clothes hangars like many a woebegone home treadmill.

Clothes Hangar Treadmill

Here is a table detailing the average price range for various types of gym equipment for use in commercial gyms:

Equipment TypePrice Range
Treadmill$2,000 – $10,000
Elliptical Trainer$1,500 – $6,000
Stationary Bike$1,000 – $4,000
Rowing Machine$800 – $2,000
Stair Climber$1,000 – $3,000
Free Weights$1,000 – $10,000
Weight Machines$2,000 – $15,000
Bench Press$500 – $1,500
Squat Rack$500 – $1,500
Medicine Ball$20 – $100
Exercise Mat$20 – $100
Jump Rope$10 – $50

Please note that these prices are estimates and may vary depending on the brand, model, and condition of the equipment. Additionally, these prices may not include shipping or installation costs. Be prepared to have to repair and replace gym equipment regularly when your gym is hopefully packed to the brim with exercisers using your gym equipment every day.

#6 Hire Gym Staff

Yes, you are going to have to deal with people all day long at your gym. Not just gym members, but gym staff. Some will be good, some not so good, and some truly great. Your hiring will be a key part of your success or failure as a gym owner.

This includes making sure every one on your staff is not only trained but accredited and certified with any of the necessary personal training certification companies.

#7 Develop Gym Policies and Procedures

But if you are a details person, then take heart because implementing top-notch gym policies and procedures are right up there with hiring the right staff for your gym. Even the best, most proactive and initiative-filled gym staff need expectations set with your gym policies and procedures.

Again, gym franchisees have it easy here, but even independent gym owners can take a page from the franchise gym owner playbook. Get creative in your marketing and advertising, not in the basic blocking and tackling of gym standard operating procedures and other basic gym best practices. Talk to those who have run a gym successfully at scale for advice.

Keep in mind that this applies to you, and not just your staff too. Make sure that you have all of the required gym licenses, permits, zoning requirements, and the like.

#8 Market and Advertise Your Gym

Why is gym marketing and advertising important? You can have the best gym in the world with the best people and the best results around, but if no one knows about your gym, or you have some type of brand perception or market mismatch then your gym will not be a success. On the flip side, often those with the best marketing win, even if their product or experience is only so-so. So take heart, your new gym will have time to improve, but what you cannot do is expect to run a profitable gym if you can’t acquire gym members and personal training clients.

#9 Train Gym Staff

You know those gym policies and procedures you created? Well, people are people and they tend to ignore or forget things. So if you want your gym to be running like a well-oiled machine then be prepared to invest into gym staff training. Regularly.

Staff Management

#10 Develop Gym Programs

Which gym packages, products, and services will you offer? Will you offer high ticket fitness sales, low cost memberships, personal training packages? Private or semi-private? Group classes? What times? These are all important decisions to make as you shape your gym program offerings.

#11 Determine Your Target Market

Come on, you should be laser focused in your gym target market after doing market research so you should be chomping at the bit on how to identify this target market and sell into it. Is it weekend warriors? Youth athletes? Yoga moms? College bros? Analyze your surrounding area for the opportunity.

#12 Choose a Business Structure

LLC, C-Corporation, S-Corporation, partnership, it seems like the list just goes on. Here, the answer is easy. Talk to a qualified tax or financial advisor to discuss what options you have and what might be best for your gym. A CPA, financial advisor, and attorney will all be useful allies as you identify the best business structure for your gym business.

You will then be able to do the following:

  • Choose an official business name
  • Get Federal and State tax IDs
  • Open a business bank account (and maybe a business credit card)

Many accountants can help you with all of the above at the same time.

#13 Obtain Gym Insurance

Here are the different types of gym insurance you may want to consider:

  • General Liability Insurance – This covers the gym for liability claims arising from accidents or injuries that occur on the gym’s property.
  • Property Insurance – This covers the gym’s building and equipment for damages caused by events such as fires, storms, and theft.
  • Business Interruption Insurance – This covers the gym for lost income and expenses if the business is disrupted by an insured event, such as a fire or natural disaster.
  • Professional Liability Insurance – This covers the gym for liability claims arising from professional mistakes or errors made by staff, such as personal trainers or fitness instructors.
  • Accident and Health Insurance – This covers the gym for medical expenses and lost income resulting from accidents or illnesses that occur on the gym’s property.
  • Workers’ Compensation Insurance – This covers the gym for medical expenses and lost income resulting from workplace injuries sustained by employees.

It’s important to review your gym insurance needs carefully and consult with an insurance broker or agent to determine the appropriate coverage for your gym. Keep in mind that gym insurance requirements may vary by state and by the specific risks associated with your business.

#14 Develop a Gym Budget and Financial Plan

Work with your gym financial advisor, accountant, or CPA to create a budget for your gym and a financial plan that will help you start and stay on track.

#15 Negotiate Gym Lease Terms

Your gym lease will be one of your biggest expenses, alongside your personnel costs. Choose wisely. Don’t rush into a decision. And negotiate, negotiate, negotiate. And maybe enlist the help of a professional.

#16 Design and Layout Your Gym

This can be fun, but don’t go overboard. Remember that gym budget and financial plan? Imagine your accountant frowning in disappointment every time you want to go over budget.

#17 Choose Gym Software

You like how we snuck this one in here, didn’t you? Yes, but of course, it’s still true! Check out the best gym software to save you time and help you increase revenue.

#18 Set Up a Gym Billing System

And you want to bill your gym members, collect gym memberships automatically, not have to chase people down for payment, and do all of those things that every gym owner needs to do in order to have cash coming into the bank account, right? And even better if it could be fully integrated into your software platform, website, online booking, custom branded fitness apps, and more? Yeah, we do that too. Check out our gym payment processing and full gym payments platform.

#19 Establish Local Partnerships

Other local businesses can be complementary to your gym business. Pay extra close attention to the smoothie shops, the supplement stores, and other businesses that your target market also shops at.

#20 Launch Your Gym!

Now it’s time to launch your gym! Yes, you can analyze whether you should start a gym, and how to best start a gym, and learn all the steps to owning a gym, and on and on, but at some point, you have to enter the arena, as they say, and just start. We will be cheering you along every step of the way.

If you want to join the many gym owners utilizing the best gym software to run and grow their gym on the Exercise.com platform, get a demo to see how you can open a gym and grow a gym today.

We make fitness businesses happy and successful. We are a next-generation software platform dedicated to making it easy for fitness professionals to manage their entire fitness business in one place.
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