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7 Common Problems Gym Owners Face and How to Overcome Them

15 Dec 22

By Hattie


While fitness is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world, running a gym isn’t as straightforward as you might think. Balancing revenue, staff and clients is never an easy task and gym owners certainly aren’t alone in struggling here, but there are things that can be done to make life a little easier.

From retaining members to hiring the right people and more, here are some of the most common problems gym owners face and, more importantly, how to overcome them.

1. Location, location, location

If you’re opening a new gym, the place it’s situated is one of the most important things that needs to be taken into consideration. If your facility is too far away from potential customers, they won’t want to travel there and you’ll lose out. A central location is always best, and you’ll often find that clients will forgive a multitude of sins like low-quality equipment and average trainers if the gym is accessible (providing there is no direct competition on your doorstep with better value for money).

But finding the right building in a good location is a common problem gym owners face because there are more things that need to be taken into account. Size is a crucial factor, for instance. If your gym is too small, your clients are going to feel cramped, have to wait to use limited equipment and are likely to look elsewhere. However, if your space is too big, you may struggle to fill it with members and/or equipment creating a cold and uninviting environment. The cost of your overheads will increase, especially if you’re renting.

There are other downsides to renting, too. You could find your choice of location limited, there’s the fear of eviction and it will take longer to turn a profit because of the ongoing monthly cost. It’s usually better to buy your own facility outright, although this can be expensive.

2. Building your team

Hiring the right people at the right time can be a headache, but it doesn’t have to be. Make decisions that are right for your business when you’re financially ready – if you’re struggling with admin, start by finding your office staff. Bookkeepers will take care of finances for you, while a lawyer can deal with insurance.

When it comes to trainers, make sure they have industry-standard qualifications from a recognised body. If they don’t, insurance companies will not cover them for public liability. It’s all too easy for people to get certifications from the internet, and you want your members to be confident that you have high-quality, professional staff. There are different business models in which you can hire Personal Trainers and/or Instructors, including:

  1. Paying PTs a salary for gym floor duties and take a percentage of any personal training sessions they deliver to members.

  2. Paying a level 2 instructor a salary to perform gym floor duties and charge rent to PTs to use facilities with clients. Depending on the location, this can range from £400-£1,000 per month.

But a team isn’t built in a day. Meet with your employees on a regular basis so they can have an input on your business; they’re probably on the gym floor more often than you, after all. You’ll also need to create equal and fair schedules for your hourly staff.

3. Facing the competition

No matter what kind of gym you’re setting up and where it is, you’re always going to face competition. With larger chains buying out smaller ones and the explosion of boutique studios, the fitness market is becoming ever-more saturated.

If you’re still in the planning stage of opening your gym, make sure you do your research. Find out what people in the area are after and what you can do to make your facility unique. If you’re an established gym or studio, keep on top of fitness industry trends so you can stay one step ahead.

This doesn’t just pertain to classes, though. Keep an eye on the technology that your rivals are using like booking apps. Level the playing field or put a unique spin on your version to keep your members happy.

4. Attracting new members

A common problem gym owners face is bringing in new clients. After the initial rush in the first few months, your numbers will plateau and your profits will begin to stagnate. But that doesn’t mean that you’ve reached everyone you can.

Do your research and find out if there’s any demand for classes or activities that you don’t currently run – people are likely to join up if there’s a class they’re interested in that they can’t do elsewhere.

When it comes to advertising, Facebook is your best bet. Its targeted nature means you’re more likely to reach people who will convert. Don’t be afraid to run a marketing campaign, either, and look into whether pay-per-click or email marketing would be worth it for your company. Don’t forget good old-fashioned door to door and hand to hand leafleting. Get out in your community and engage with the locals.

Run in house promotions such as free day passes or bring a friend, this will get new people through the door to see what you have to offer.

See if there are any large local businesses that would like to set up a corporate account. This can be done on an annual basis and is usually guaranteed income.

If you are in a student catchment area, offer student memberships.

5. Client retention

Once you’ve got a strong client base, the next problem gym owners face is how to keep them. The majority of gyms lose a staggering 50% of their members every year. Making sure that every single member is engaged in your offerings is no mean feat, but there are steps you can take to help.

If you have a blog, make sure the topics you cover are interesting and relevant. User-generated content is also a good idea, because your members will want to contribute. Email marketing is another great way to keep your clients engaged with your brand, and it can be an inexpensive solution thanks to platforms like Mailchimp.

Surveys are a brilliant way to get feedback and see how your members feel about the service they receive. Customer satisfaction is a huge performance indicator.

But above all else, customer service is your first line of defence. Ensure that your representatives always give a positive experience whether it’s on the gym floor or over the phone – a negative experience probably means the client won’t come back.

Not all gyms offer great group exercise classes but members that attend classes are 40% more likely to stay. The same goes for members that train with a Personal Trainer so promote & push these services.

Set ground rules and stick to them. If your gym attracts the wrong kind of member and they wreak havoc without consequences, then you will end up losing more members versus that one.

6. A post-COVID world

The global pandemic has definitely changed things – the world won’t go completely back to normal for a long time. At the time of writing, social distancing is still being encouraged to avoid spreading the virus. Ventilation is of upmost importance so if you don’t have windows that can be opened then an air handling unit is necessary.

Hygiene should take top priority, though. Set up hand sanitising stations to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other illnesses, and make sure to have materials for wiping down and disinfecting your equipment. Encourage members to clean their equipment after each use.

7. Maintaining facilities

When you open a new facility, you need to make sure you can afford to maintain it. Countless gym owners don’t factor in the costs of testing swimming pools for pH levels and buying chemical cleaners. Equipment repairs can be costly so it’s a good idea to enquire about the cost of a service agreement with your equipment supplier. Beyond that, you also need to account for building maintenance, cleaning costs and the replenishing of supplies for your members like soap and toilet roll.

Before you open, ensure you have the full picture of your day-to-day costs and figure out what level of client retention you need to break even and make a profit. The last thing you want is to close your doors because you overlooked your outgoings.

It’s not just shiny equipment & clean facilities that keeps clients coming back. Advertising from relevant brands around the gym enhances their experience of the venue. Members are there for self-improvement, and that doesn’t stop on the gym floor. If you’re a health and wellness brand or organisation, advertising in a gym will show potential customers that you have a vested interest in their health and fitness journey. Providing them with valuable and credible messages means they’ll associate your brand with a better version of themselves.

IDS Media UK have a network of 646 digital screens, which dispense Dettol hand sanitiser via a touch-free system. We connect health and wellness brands and fitness-focussed consumers whilst well-being is at the forefront of their mind.

If you’d like to advertise in our network of gyms, please call 01489 860000.