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5 Ways To Make Your Gym The Mecca Of Muscle

You want bustling not bankrupt - check out these guidelines to keep your gym from being relegated to the past tense.

5 Ways to Make Your Gym the Mecca of Muscle

If you build it, the gym rats will come, right? Sorry, building a successful gym from the ground up is neither a walk in the park nor a piece of cake, and financial failure is the all-too-common case for most of the people with an itch to own a gym.

The market is there. According to a 2009 study by the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, 31 percent of all corporations subsidize employee health-club memberships. This study also noted that every university in the United States has a fitness facility on their campus, making it clear that more people than ever are using fitness to improve their health. Another study called The U.S. Weight Loss and Diet Control Market: 9th Edition estimated that 75 million Americans participate in some form of dieting.

The key is finding the right niche, marketing to the needs of your local community, and bringing the customers through your door. Your wildest dreams can quickly turn into the worst nightmare if you aren't careful, so follow the strategies that have built the best and most successful gyms in the world. Here are some simple steps to maximize membership in your fitness center.

To be a sucessful gym, the bottom line is that you must get people through the door.
+ Click To Enlarge.
To be a sucessful gym, the bottom line is that
you must get people through the door.

1. Think About Your Theme

Picking a theme is simple if your gym is the only game in town. However, if there are already a few competitors out there, think hard on how to set yourself apart.

At the basic level, you'll need cardio equipment, machines, and free weights. However in larger cities, newer niche gyms are beginning to pop up, such as boxing clubs that only consist of heavy punching bags hanging from the ceiling like bats in a cave. How is that popular? A lot of people come in for the power hour (not just boxers) and let off steam by pounding a 200-pound sandbag and doing some cardio. The draws are intensity and great music.

Other gyms draw an outdoorsy crowd with rock climbing walls or spinning bikes. There are even gyms that combine fitness and gaming to make your workouts truly virtual. Currently, the newest and most popular gym type is CrossFit. With timed workouts using lots of exercises and little rest in between them, these may be the ultimate timesaving full-body blasts.

CrossFit has even become a competitive sport, and CrossFit gyms are sprouting up like weeds in an untended backyard. So think about the type of people you want to draw and focus on it.

Whatever theme you choose, it should be one that fits some sort of fitness demographic. A good strategy is to keep things simple at first, and then slowly build from there. Remember, it takes more than 10 years for most gyms to turn a profit, so be patient. For more value added, consider teaming up with a local physician or physical therapist to share space and provide fitness rehabilitation services.

A rack of dumbbells and a few machines do not a gym make.
+ Click To Enlarge.
A rack of dumbbells and a few machines do not a gym make.

2. Location, Location, Location

Realtors say it all the time, and with gas prices as they are, the right gym spot is becoming increasingly important. You want an easy-to-access location with lots of free parking and plenty of outdoor lighting in a safe area. The cleaner, the better. Oh, and it would be nice to be close to a major highway.

Location is one of the most time-consuming and costly decisions you will have to make. It's common to see major corporations spend 70 percent of their investment value on the location of a new business. Avoid locations, like malls, that are prone to traffic congestion.

In fact, it's good to visit a location several times between 7 and 9 a.m. and 5 and 7 p.m. (high traffic times) before deciding on a location to make sure it won't be the place people avoid. Try contacting a realtor to give you complete information on the location so you can make an informed decision.

3. Mapping Out Your Muscle House

The floor plan of a gym is incredibly important, and should be decided by using updated computer-assisted design (CAD) software. The mood and feel of a gym is often decided in the first 10 seconds upon entering through the doors, so the way a gym is designed is crucial.

Using CAD can provide virtual tours of your gym before it's even built, allowing you to know how it looks and feels before a brick is laid as well as giving you the opportunity to get new members before you open your doors. Get inspiration on how to place your equipment and front desk by going to popular gyms. See how they do it.

In particular, locker rooms are an area you have to have dialed in. The number one gym complaint is locker room cleanliness. People don't go to places that are unclean, so this has to be one of your highest priorities. Budget accordingly because I have personally seen 12 gyms close because of fungus transfer from shower floors--frequent and recorded cleanings have to be the standard.

Get showers and keep them clean so clients can keep themselves clean and not sue you. Also, remember to keep your locker rooms near the front and off to the side of the entrance to allow for easy staff and client access. This way you also minimize having a dirty floor in the winter by decreasing the distance dirty, wet shoes have to travel in the main gym area.

You don't have to use trial an error to find a good floor plan. See what other succesful gyms are doing.
+ Click To Enlarge.
You don't have to use trial an error to find a good floor
plan. See what other succesful gyms are doing.

It's also important to think about your windows. People love natural lighting, but having the sun blind or beat down on people already sweating and working in the gym is bad news, so be careful to properly place your windows and minimize negative sun influence.

Remember, your theme should match your floor plan for best results, but take the time to run through various scenarios like cleaning, working out, injury emergency plans, peak times, gym tours, and even day care. All of this "out of the box" thinking ahead of the design will go the longest in producing gym success for a long period of time.

As far as equipment goes, it has to be safe. Risky gym equipment is a safety issue and a lawsuit waiting to happen. Consider keeping equipment that poses the most risk for injury, such as free weights and cardio equipment, completely visible from the front desk for fast response and proper monitoring.

4. Performance Equipment on a Budget

Equipment isn't cheap, and you can spend $9,000 on a single piece of cardiac equipment like the Precore AMT elliptical. But if you're looking for safety and quality on a budget, contact a remanufacturing company like Commercial Fitness Solutions out of Dayton, Ohio.

You can get the same equipment complete with warranty for less than half the original retail price. Sure it's nice to have brand spankin' new equipment, but startups often have tight budgets.

You can also check out craigslist, another site for finding all types of fitness equipment. You'd be surprised at what you can find, but just make sure to check out the equipment before you buy it. Monolifts, squat racks, bench presses, Smith machines, and more are all there at a significantly lower cost. Sure, it takes some additional research, but it could save you 50 to 70 percent on equipment!

Only work with reputable dealers, and don't pay until everything is built and in working order. The last thing you want missing is your equipment money, so always check with the Better Business Bureau to determine if someone is legit or a sham.

5. Hit The Ground Running With A Pre-Opening Sale

If you've watched reality shows, you know how much hype is made before a show goes on air. The same goes for a gym. Before opening your doors, throw your name out there by offering virtual tours, showing your floor plan, getting some nice apparel with your logo, and getting people signed up for memberships. Many successful gyms use this approach--it's a great way to build capital quickly.

Get involved at local events like parades or expos. This is a cheap and quick way to get you on the community radar. Or, you can do a televised challenge with a celebrity or some sort of contest to get the fitness juices flowing in your town. Tie in a good charity to the event and you can solidify the community's trust in you!

For your pre-opening activities, make sure your staff is completely in the know about anything and everything. You have to follow up on phone calls, e-mails, and other inquiries or people won't think you know what you're doing. Get names and numbers logged for everyone you meet, and follow up with them for at least 90 days after opening.

It's also about mutual respect: If you have a good facility and awesome customer service, that alone will bring 90 percent of the people back, and they'll use your facility with respect. But remember, you can't play favorites. If you give 10 percent of your members 90 percent of your time and vice versa, your gym will seem inaccessible and filled with snobbery.

So there you go. Good luck! I hope to pay visit to YOUR gym someday!

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