Association of Fitness Studios by Association of Fitness Studios

Does the following routine sound familiar?

Get up early, get to work at your boss’ gym, train clients, eat lunch, train another hour or two, get paperwork done, attend any necessary meetings, get an hour or two break, then work with clients again through the evening.

Does this—or some variation of the above—describe you?

But what if you want more? What if, after a few years, you begin to ask yourself, what’s next in my career? You dream about running your own training business, but where do you start?

Those questions are exactly why we created the Association of Fitness Studios (AFS). With our growing community delivering outstanding benefits and credible industry services, AFS can help any entrepreneurial fitness professional navigate the path to business ownership.

As you begin down that path, there are several factors to consider to ensure you’re ready to make the leap and to go off on your own.

1. Do your research.

Talk to local studio owners in the area where you’re thinking of opening your studio to determine the competitive landscape. Shop those competitors to get a solid understanding of what they offer and how much they charge—then use this information to your advantage.

2. Complete a business plan.

A solid business plan shows you're thinking long-term and will help sort out the many questions you'll undoubtedly have to answer along the way, especially when you start looking for start-up money. Think of your business plan as the roadmap to your success, but also know that compiling one takes a lot of time and focus. Need a business plan template or financial projection sheets? AFS has an entire library of everything you need to get started.

3. Get legal advice.

This is a critical step in the process. Your lawyer will guide your every step from creating the legal entity of your business and negotiating financing, to ensuring your structure and physical business is on a strong footing. You should also have an exit strategy that protects you down the line.

4. Have the right insurance coverage.

Insurance coverage, especially general liability coverage, will protect your business from a variety of factors that could end up saving you thousands of dollars, if not your entire business. Bad things can happen to good people—be protected.

5. Get a handle on your cancellation policy.

Want to know where one of the biggest losses in revenue comes from for fitness business owners? You guessed it, cancellations. So how do you protect yourself, both as a health and fitness professional and a studio owner? AFS spoke with numerous fitness industry professionals and studio owners and here are some of their outstanding strategies:

  • “It's all about setting up expectations from the start. It's on the bottom of every email I send—right there underneath my signature. If there's no confusion about the policy, they won't question it.”
  • “I say that this policy is in place 'to protect my time.' The most important thing to say, though, is that judging cancellations on a case-by-case basis would be completely unprofessional and compromise my integrity. If you don’t, your clients will think you’ll make an exception for them because their situation is special.”
  • “In an attempt to be as understanding and flexible as possible, I always allow my clients to make up a session within the week that they cancelled if there is a time that works conveniently for both our schedules.”

6. The member experience trumps all.

In today’s competitive environment, your business MUST embrace the mindset of your customer. Your business is a reflection of you. And the experience your prospects and your clients receive begins the moment they walk in the door.

What Not To Do…

We recently spoke with an individual about his experience at a local fitness studio in San Francisco. While out grocery shopping he noticed some clever advertising in the studio’s window and decided to walk in to obtain more information.

First, there was no one there to greet him. Not only that, the owner was conducting a group class. My friend asked for some information related to the studio to review (already feeling weird about it because he was the one interrupting class). The owner promptly replied, “We’re out, and need to make more copies. Sorry.”

“O.K., not a problem,” he said. “Is there anyone I could talk to to learn more about the studio?” The owner replied, “That would be me and I’m in the middle of class. Come back in 30 minutes.”

My friend walked out and never went back.

If you’re deciding to go off on your own or are currently running your own studio—don’t let the most basic fundamental elements of good customer service get brushed aside.

For example:

  • How are prospective clients greeted? With a welcoming smile or with someone on their cell phone?
  • Are clients or members greeted by name? If not, they should be.
  • At the very least, you should have fliers with contact information, details about your business, your classes and your core values on display or readily available.
  • Business cards should be located at the front desk and stapled to your fliers.
  • Sign up sheets and specialty fliers for classes. It’s all about lead capture.

We live in a world where technology has given consumers everything at their fingertips, and brand loyalty is being put to the test. While time will tell if companies like ClassPass and Groupon have a long-term impact on your business, remember to stay focused on what you can control—the experience your clients and members receive the moment they walk through the door.

For more information about the Association of Fitness Studios, visit

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