Written by David Sedbrook Saturday, 04 September 2010 19:00
I was 22 years old and I had worked extremely hard to become a successful personal trainer, but I wanted more. I arrived at work every single day at 4:30 AM (to prepare for my 5 AM session) and I wasn't out of the gym until 8 PM, and though I loved my job, I came to an important realization as a personal trainer that changed my career course forever.
The realization was that I wanted to earn more, but there was only one of me and so many hours in the day. I also started to understand that though I loved personal training, I couldn't keep working a 15-hour day, six days a week forever. I started to wonder, had I already reached my full earning potential in the personal training profession? Had my career reached the pinnacle of the fitness industry at 22? "Maybe it's time to find a new profession," I thought to myself. But every time I looked into a new career, I just couldn't imagine leaving the fitness industry.
Then one day I voiced my concerns to one of my long time clients as we measured her body fat. She then looked at me and said, "David, why don't you open your own gym? I mean I don't even like this gym. I just come here because I like you and my personal training with you is getting me results."
That's exactly when I started thinking about opening my own fitness facility that would cater to individuals interested in working with personal trainers just like me. That's the day that Illuminate Gym became a reality for me. I knew that many other personal trainers had tried to open personal training gyms in the past and failed, but what I have learned is being a great personal trainer is not enough for a personal training gym to succeed. It took me a long time to perfect my model, but something I found out about myself is that I'm actually a business man first and a personal trainer second. It's the combination of business sense and fitness passion that makes for a successful entrepreneur in the fitness industry and if you are missing one these two attributes, then I'm not sure opening your own fitness facility is really the answer for you. However, if you do have these two important attributes, then maybe it's time you put your leadership skills to the test and open your own fitness facility!
If you are considering your own fitness facility, the one piece of advice I would give you is the make or break for an entrepreneur starts with all the pieces of owning a business you haven't considered such as: the lease you are going to sign, the insurance you are going to carry, your marketing efforts to get people into the gym, development of your brand, and how to support and develop the people that work for you.
As I said before, being a great personal trainer isn't enough to be a good fitness entrepreneur. In fact, it's just a small piece of the journey to success. It's important that you understand that the early development of your personal training gym or fitness facility is the most important and fragile part of your business development. In other words, the worst thing you can possibly do is to rush to get your doors open as quickly as possible. I have watched personal trainers rush into opening their own personal training studios multiple times and most of them end up out of business very quickly. I had a personal trainer who once worked with me who had all the potential in the world and one day he came to me to let me know he wanted to open his own fitness facility.
"Great, let's put it together and build a business," I said, because he knew I had just started offering franchise opportunities. His eyes dropped and I could tell he had other plans. "I think I want to do this on my own, David," he said.
"That's fine," I replied. "Get yourself an attorney to take a look at your lease and make sure you have enough money behind you to market and to support your business while you get back on your feet."
"I think I'll be fine," he explained. "I already met the landlord and I think I have some good ideas to get some new clients."
That day, he walked out of my office and within weeks he had opened his small facility in a small office building with no exposure. And without proper legal representation, the landlord had taken advantage of the young personal trainer. Within a year, both he and his business were gone, even though he was a great personal trainer.
The point is that if you're a personal trainer looking to start your own business -- regardless of whether it's a 'one-man-shop' or a full-scale gym -- you need to educate yourself and take your time. I would recommend looking into a fitness franchise or aligning yourself with someone who understands the retail business. In any case, personal trainers need to make sure they do their due diligence before opening up to the public to ensure they give themselves the best opportunity for success.
Business can sometimes cloud our view of the fitness industry, and I think you should always remember that personal trainers do what we do because we want to change people's lives for the better. Because of this, the fitness industry can be the most rewarding industry in the world.
David Sedbrook has been a certified personal trainer for over 10 years and is the founder of Illuminate Gym, a growing fitness franchise that is in multiple states and types of communities. Its business model is to offer quality personal training to the masses by making its facilities and training affordable to people from all walks of life. For more information, visit www.illuminategym.com.
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