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3 Ways to Build an Inspiring Club or Studio

build community

Building a successful and sustainable fitness club or studio can be an arduous task. From payroll and cleaning to sales and marketing, there are many details that owners and managers must tend to. However, there is one area of focus that outweighs them all, explained Trina Gray, owner of the Bay Athletic Club in Alpena, Michigan.

“For health clubs and studios to stay relevant and thriving in the next few years, we must understand our competition,” she said. “Our biggest competition in the industry is not each other. It is the couch. In order to draw people into our facility, and keep them there, we have to create a strong sense of community.”

Here are three ways to build a strong community and inspire more people to walk through your doors.

Make Your Members Your Heroes. Gray notes that one of the ways she was able to build two multi-million dollar businesses from scratch has been to tell her members’ stories. “A brand is what people say about a business, not what the business says about itself,” the entrepreneur advised. “Therefore, your best marketing is to create physical and emotional transformations for your members and then collect them. Your members’ stories are the silver bullet. Real — even raw — success stories say more than any discount, coupon or even training certification ever could.”

Build a Solid Culture. Mark Fisher, the owner of Mark Fisher Fitness in New York, has built a massive following by appealing to a very specific niche. On any given day, you might see staff and clients wearing costumes, playing games and laughing wildly. While he takes his clients’, aka Ninjas’, goals seriously, he has created a fun, nurturing environment. His specific style won’t work for all clubs, but he suggested that knowing exactly the type of person you want to serve is paramount to success.

“Finding your niche is absolutely key because it allows you to get laser-specific about everything from your marketing to the services you offer,” Fisher said. “Once you know exactly who you’re looking to serve, you save lots of time, energy and money by catering to them.”

He said that you need not look very far to find your ideal customer. “Your best bet is to work from the existing clients you most enjoy spending time with. Create a profile of a few of these individuals and go deep. Make a list of everything from demographic data (income, profession, gender, etc.) to psychographic data (greatest hopes, fears, etc.). After you’ve got this information, look for the common threads and create an avatar of your dream client. From then on, make sure everything you do is geared toward your niche.”

 Become a True Leader. Dealing with the club’s to-do list might seem the most necessary use of your time, but hiding away in an office doesn’t inspire greatness in staff or members. Entrepreneur and best-selling author Ryan Lee said that to be successful, every business must have a leader.

“The main role of the leader is to inspire and elevate the team,” Lee said. “Without a strong leader, every club will eventually become mediocre. And in today’s competitive environment, a mediocre club simply won’t survive.”

One way to become a strong leader is to be transparent, he shared. “Always admit your mistakes and take full responsibility because if your team doesn’t trust you, you’ll never be able to lead.”


Ryan Halvorson is an award-winning author and contributing editor to IDEA Health & Fitness Association’s IDEA Fitness Journal. He also oversees production of IDEA Trainer Success, a publication geared toward the business aspects of personal training.



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