Opening a fitness studio is exciting and rewarding, but at the same time, there are a lot of moving pieces to consider in order to run a successful business. Sometimes things can go wrong — mistakes happen. The good news is that with failure comes more knowledge, and you can learn those lessons and come back out on top full speed ahead. Five successful fitness business owners share their biggest mistakes when starting their businesses, and detail what they learned along the way.

Choose your target demographic and know when to pivot

You might have a very specific demographic that you are targeting as you are building your business plan and brand. Although you have a specific vision of your target audience, you should stay open-minded and adaptable once you go to market. You may attract a different type of demographic than originally planned — updating your messaging and marketing could help reach an audience you may not have specifically tried targeting in the first place.

Misa Dugally of STRIDE Pasadena says, “In our business plan we anticipated attracting mostly experienced runners, so we geared our programming and marketing toward the runner demographic. Very quickly, we realized we needed to pivot toward the novice runner and walkers who were anxious for a place like STRIDE to meet their fitness goals. Today our STRIDE model is about inclusiveness… the elite runner, weekend warriors, moms and dads and Couch to 5ker’s can all move together!”

Hire people who are trustworthy and always double-check

As you begin hiring staff or instructors, make sure you fully vet and verify them. Even when you meet someone who has a great portfolio or resume and you get a good vibe,  make sure you understand their bandwidth and work ethic. 

Michael Champlin, owner of Row House Campbell told us, “I should have pursued a ‘trust, but verify’ approach with my general contractor, instead of just ‘trust.’ I relied on their project manager to stay on top of all of the details regarding construction, but the manager was spread too thin and their mistakes, lack of foresight, and omissions cost me much time and money. For now on… trust and verify.”

Choose the right location and the right people for your fitness business 

Choosing the right business location is extremely important for your fitness studio to succeed. You first need to consider the saturation of your niche in the fitness market, as you ideally want to bring a new type of fitness studio to a neighborhood. It’s also important to hire the right instructors who align with your brand values.

Meredith Lincoln, owner of Stretchlab Burlingame and Stretchlab Mountain View learned, “There are two key components to success in this business: first, ‘location, location, location;’ after you’ve decided on that, it’s then ‘people, people, people.’ We are a service business, and it’s critically important to have motivated, enthusiastic, team players to drive the business day-to-day. The biggest mistakes I’ve made were on hiring the ‘wrong’ people, usually when we were understaffed and feeling really strapped. The ‘wrong’ person is not better than ’no’ person, I’ve painfully reminded myself several times.”

Outsource sooner than later

As a fitness business owner, you can only wear so many hats without overworking yourself and burning out. The more operational and administrative tasks you have, the less time you have to create amazing fitness programs and even less time you can spend with your clients. Delegate and lean on your staff or hire outside professionals where you can.

Reece Mander, owner of Reece Mander Fitness says, “The biggest mistake was thinking I could do all the sessions, all the marketing, the sales and the admin. In reality, it just leaves you burnt out and not being able to help as many people. Get help and outsource sooner would be my best advice on this.” 

Understand geographic differences and cater to those factors

When your business expands and opens in new regions, that might mean that your brand marketing and operations can no longer be a “one size fits all.” It’s helpful to do some research by talking with your clients and taking location surveys to learn about their regional needs and feedback. 

David Collignon, Senior Vice President of Operations at Blink told us,  “As Blink Fitness has grown and expanded into new markets, we quickly learned that the fitness equipment and layout needs of the customer varies. For example, in a more suburban market, we may need a bigger stretching area whereas an urban market benefits from having more heavy weights. As we continue to expand, we’ve dedicated more time and resources to find out the needs and wants of our members in each area we are opening in so we can adapt our plan and find greater success.” 

Building a fitness business is no easy task, and there will be lots of ups and downs along the way. However, you can learn from every mistake or hiccup and move forward with even more confidence and energy. Become a ClassPass partner to gain more business insight to propel your venture — learn more here.

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