So you've got your business up and running and now you want to take it to the next level. But what exactly does this involve for a small business in the fitness industry?
First off, you should examine the scalability of your business. Scalability is the ability that a startup has to grow. In more specific terms, a scaleable business means it can adapt to handle a larger workload without compromising its performance or losing revenue.
Potential approaches to scaling a small fitness business might include expanding your premises, taking on new employees, offering a new product or service, or opening your business operations in a second location. To fund all these changes, many small business owners take on bank loans, franchise their business, borrow money from friends and family, or even get funding from venture capital investors.
To gain further insight into the fitness industry, we spoke to a range of fitness business owners around the UK. The majority of our respondents highlighted growing the business as their most important goal. When we asked what was preventing them from getting there, they identified admin as the second most common challenge.
In this article, we’ll examine some of the challenges faced by small fitness businesses as they aim to scale. We’ll provide a number of helpful tips that you can use to help get your fitness business started on its journey towards scalability.
1. Sort the basics first
A recent survey of 3200 startups showed that trying to scale too early was one of the most common causes of failure. This applies to any business from tech startups, to small fitness studios. According to Inc magazine, fundamental aspects to consider include:
Finding out who your core customers are
Discovering which of your marketing channels have the best ROI (and therefore the best prospects for scaling)
Making sure you have the resources in place for scaling
2. Know your numbers
Following on from tip no.1, it’s not wise try to scale before you have enough money in place for doing so. To fund all these changes, many small business owners take on bank loans, borrow money from friends and family, or seek funding from venture capitalists. Fitness entrepreneur Liz Nable points out that it’s also important to have your end goal in mind, as this will help you identify the best place is to seek additional capital. Decide if you’re scaling to eventually sell, or to increase your profits?
3. Do base before space
For fitness businesses that rely on studio space to run their operations, it can be tempting to go all out and invest in a larger studio. But this can be a serious mistake if you don't yet have the customers to fill it. If the space costs more in rent, as it no doubt will, you may be struggling to make up the shortfall, while at the same time stepping up your marketing efforts to bring in the customers to justify it. This can cause unnecessary stress, while also making existing cash flow issues feel more pressing. It's better to build a solid customer base first, making do with the space you have, and leave upgrading until it really makes sense to do so.
4. Boost your marketing
With the issue of your customer base in mind, don’t forget that marketing matters a great deal for any small business - and the fitness industry is no exception. Successful marketing strategies can come in many shapes and sizes, from traditional advertising in industry magazines, to word of mouth referrals, email campaigns or targeted social media advertising. For your fitness business, the most suitable marketing strategy depends very much on the nature and location of your main target audience, along with your specific business needs. To get you started, why not check out our Fitness industry survey e-Guide, which includes a number of expert marketing tips, including how to make the most of Facebook.
5. Automate everything
22% of our survey respondents identified ‘admin’ as one of the main challenges to achieving their expansion goals. With such a vast range of flexible digital tools out there, many of them specifically designed to cater to the fitness industry, there's really no reason to not automate away all that tedious admin. For small businesses, one of the biggest offenders for producing time-consuming admin is the payments process. Issuing invoices, handling cash and cheques, and chasing customers for unpaid invoices can eat away at your valuable time. That’s time better spent focusing on marketing your business, or on doing what you enjoy most - training clients to live healthier lives. So consider automating everything using a full digital fitness studio management solution, such as teamup.
6. Keep your cash flow healthy
We like to say that ‘cash flow equals confidence’ - and it’s true. When you know exactly how much cash to expect each month, you can feel secure in handling everyday business expenses. You can also plan for more exciting ideas, such as investing in snazzy equipment or hiring instructors to teach awesome new classes.
Collecting membership fees is essential for any successful fitness business. But a whopping 57% of the business owners we spoke to in our fitness industry surveyhighlighted late or missed customer payments as their biggest payment related issue. Clearly, this problem is endemic in the fitness industry, and your growing business can’t afford to ignore it. That’s why you should choose your recurring payment method with care, to make sure it performs to the max and keeps your cash flow in good shape.
Many fitness businesses go with Direct Debit, with good reason. As the UK’s preferred way to pay for subscriptions, Direct Debit allows you to automate customer payments for a lower fee than credit or debit cards. What’s more, choosing the right Direct Debit provider can improve the level of service you offer, helping to develop a loyal membership base and, most importantly, keep members coming back to your gym.
Bright outlook for UK fitness industry
There’s never been a better time to run a fitness business in the UK. The country’s fitness sector is worth £4.7 billion as of 2017, and experiencing dynamic growth. People in the UK are now more focused than ever before on pursuing healthy lifestyles, and they’re in it for the long term, as recent consumer research shows. For a range of useful insights from UK fitness business owners, check out our full Fitness industry survey e-Guide, conducted in partnership with teamup.
To find out more about how you can automate your payments and reduce time spent admin, read our guide to Maximising payment performance for gym owners.