Building your first fitness gym

Let’s get that location started!

You’ve found the right location and negotiated a killer lease – hopefully with a sweet build out allowance (and even better yet, an allowance paid up front by the landlord instead of reimbursed later). Assuming you have all your local permits in order it’s time to get started, but where to begin? And how much will this cost you? The answer to the later is a lot. Certainly a lot more than the number that just popped into your head just now.

Hire experts

First you need to know what you want to do with the space. Will you have restrooms? Showers? Office space? Where will the MU rings go? What about the pullup rig? Hire an architect to help you draw out and visualize the space, allowing your to maximize what you have and perfect the class flow before the first sledgehammer is swung.

Once you have the plans, get a few different quotes from recommended general contractors. Hopefully you can find someone who has a relationship with the Building Inspector (or maybe your landlord already has this covered) – if not, you will need to read through everything and make sure you are progressing according to code (which is likely the most red tape you have ever seen). Some things might catch you off guard, like do you need to supply a MSDS for the paint? (and do you know what an MSDS is?)

The more people you can hire who are qualified the better and less stressed you are going to be, and the easier it is going to be to get the doors opened.

Plan for overages

You might have an idea of how much the build out will cost you. I recommend you at least double this, if not triple it and use that number as your guide. The same thing goes for time – you can get delayed on the smallest of issues – so plan on it taking far longer than you originally anticipate.

Paint and drywall is just the beginning

Your build out budget needs to include more than just construction. You will need a TON of stuff for when your doors open. White boards, markers, shower curtains, toilet paper, desks, computers, merchandise and, of course, equipment. While the cost of the construction portion can vary hugely depending on what you do with your space, the equipment alone will likely cost you somewhere in the vicinity of 5-10k to start off. You can save by searching for used equipment – check craigslist, ebay, local affiliates with older stuff they no longer use, or after major competitions.

Again Faster has step-by-step affiliate packages. For 5k you can get yourself started with some barbells, bumper plates, ab mats, kettlebells, plyo boxes, jump ropes, racks and more – enough for 5 athletes (although they mention it can be stretched to 10 athletes per hour). Of course, 5k is not chump change, so make sure you are planning on this aspect of your build out when you draw up your budget.

Things to start thinking about during build out

While the place is coming together there are some things you need to start thinking about, so make a list and start checking off some of these (and any others you can think of)

  1. Logo – if this is your second location, are you keeping the same logo? Do you need some slight alterations made? If this is your first location, do you have your logo yet? Your logo is going to be the most important part of going forward with publicizing your place, so get it hammered down.
  2. Merchandise – what things will you sell at this location? Do you need to make new shirts? What about ordering protein powder? Do you have your custom journals set up? Make sure you have everything you want on opening day by preparing and ordering now!
  3. Staffing – will you need to hire new coaches? If you do, make sure to get familiar with the labor laws in your area and start looking for talent. Remember, your coaches are what is going to really make or break your place. You can have the most beautiful state of the art training facility but if your coaches aren’t educated or engaged you will never reach your business potential. Start screening now, so you aren’t stumbling later.
  4. Subletting – will you be leasing space to smaller related businesses, like a massage or yoga studio? If so, start letting people know about the availability of the space and find someone who is the right fit.
  5. Signage – Design and order your signs, be it large structural signs or banners you will hang, make sure they are on hand the moment you can put them up.
  6. MarketingStart your marketing now, let everyone know about your soon-to-be opening location, talk up all the star points and try to get a small membership base together, so when you open your doors you are off running. Some gyms offer trial classes during the buildout (usually held outside) and then give people who sign up early an incredible deal. If you can open your doors with 20 members paying 80% for the first six months why not? It gives you the peace of mind of some garunteed cash flow.

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