I Tossed My Dream of Opening a Gym in the Trash & Why You Should Too

by Matt Weik

For the longest time, I wanted to open a gym. It was a goal of mine and something I wanted to pursue as a business opportunity. After much thought, research, and consideration, I flushed the idea down the toilet and threw it away like yesterday’s trash. It wasn’t that I had the wrong business model or that I lost the passion to move forward—it was more so because there were multiple red flags that made me decide it would be a long journey and one that many have been down and failed. What were these red flags? Here are some of them that you should consider if you, yourself, are thinking about opening a gym.

1. Oversaturation of gyms

The market is extremely saturated when it comes to gyms and fitness centers. Every fitness lover like you and I think about how great it would be to open a gym and allow members to use the facility to help them reach their health and fitness goals. But the reality is, there are gyms on just about every corner these days. The mom and pop independent gyms are becoming extinct like dinosaurs. Chains of gyms are entering the space at a record pace and completely stomping out just about every single independent gym out there.

Sure, there are some independents out there who have loyal members, but when you can walk down the street in almost any direction and join a gym for $10 a month, it’s hard to keep the doors open and the lights on if you’re a small independent. I have plenty of friends who own gyms, and they all complain about how the market has changed and they are being squeezed out by places like Retro Fitness, Planet Fitness, Anytime Fitness, LA Fitness, Gold’s Gym, and many others.

2. Expenses

If you think you’re going to be able to take what little savings account you have and put it towards a gym, I hate to break it to you but you’re going to be short. Starting a gym is extremely expensive. You need a location (building). You need equipment. You need staff. You need insurance. Utilities… Licenses… The list goes on and on. It’s enough to make your head explode when you pull out the calculator and start swallowing some of these costs.

There’s no getting around any of these. They are all necessary evils and cut into your profits. Many smaller gyms basically break even every month after paying off these expenses and debts.

3. Some people just SUCK

I’ve worked in a gym for many years before breaking free, and one thing is for certain… there will be people you want to smack upside their head in the worst way—but can’t. They show little respect for anything and cost you money. They think that just because they pay for a membership, that they can do whatever they want inside your establishment. Well, to an extent they can—but that doesn’t make them right.

You know how at home hot water is a valued asset? You jump in the shower and jump back out as quickly as you can? Well, at the gym you have people who will just stand in the shower for 30+ minutes doing nothing. It’s a complete waste of water. Or they will wash their hands in the bathroom and never turn the water off—running up your water bill.

In addition, you will have to deal with people who think they are entitled to everything—you know, the delicate snowflakes that are among us. They abuse the equipment because they simply don’t care. They take the gym towel home with them because they feel like it’s being paid for by their monthly membership dues. They will complain about what’s on a television in the cardio room. They don’t wipe down their equipment when they are done and their nasty sweat and grime are left all over the pads. The gym is too hot. The gym is too cold. The parking lot is icy. The grass is too high. People don’t like the paper towels in the bathroom. The paint color doesn’t suit their taste. Why are the smoothies and protein shakes so expense? They should be included, right? Pay for a bottle of water? But, it’s water! You name it, they are going to complain about it. You’ll hear it all—be ready.

4. You need to be present

Sorry, but you need to be an active owner. No one is going to want your gym and business to succeed more than you. Don’t think you’re going to open a gym and use it as an investment piece. Not going to happen. Unfortunately, the staff isn’t going to take too kindly to complaints and they are going to give the members whatever they want just so they don’t catch flack for anything. You don’t want to pay for a towel? Fine, take a towel. You don’t have money to pay for that drink and you’ll catch me next time? Cool, go ahead and take it.

Things will start to slip through the cracks. Member complaints that aren’t addressed by you will slowly have members canceling their memberships and leaving for those $10 gyms. While some of those members you might personally walk them out the door because they were a pain, that pain in the butt was monthly revenue. One thing is for certain, losing members will always decrease your revenue while your monthly bills stay the same. You do the math. In the end, your days are numbered if you lose your membership to the competition.