The Bad Exit: When You Should Not Sell Your Gym

A look down a long, dirty, tunnel with a dim light at the end.

Very frustrated gym owners sometimes make aggressive, desperate moves.

I get it. I’ve sat on a park bench after a 13-hour day and been unable to see a way forward.

Walking away seems like the best solution—or at least a way to bring a swift end to your misery.

But I’ve seen a lot of bad exits over the years, and if you’re frustrated, I hope my advice will help you avoid making huge mistakes right now.

Don’t Sell When It’s Sinking

Your business is an amazing thing—and I know you might not be able to see that at present.

But think about it: You make people stronger and fitter and healthier. When they pick up that barbell, they feel like a superhero. When the wedding dress fits, they feel like a million bucks. When they can bend over to play with grandkids, their quality of life improves.

You know all this—you started a fitness business for a reason. But you might have forgotten how valuable your business is to your clients (and your town) because it just isn’t running well and might not be worth much on paper.

I understand, but you had a noble purpose when you started your gym, and I’d like you to exit in a noble fashion: Leave the business in the hands of someone who can grow it better than you can.

In my town, a local gym is going under. Its stewards have for years refused to do the hard things required to save it. And now its closure will leave a monstrous hole in our community. Had the people in charge been good stewards, they would have given control to someone who was willing to do the hard things to save it—and preserve a pillar of the community for its patrons.

So don’t sell your gym in a fit of rage, when you have leaks to patch and fires to put out at the same time.

Take just six months to fix the business and sell it when it’s on an upward trajectory so someone else can continue the mission.

If you sell because it’s losing money or because you don’t want to make the hard decisions, that’s not selling. That’s just giving up—and I know you aren’t a quitter.

Even if you want to sell, put in just a little more work to ensure the business lives on (a mentor can help you right the ship and profit on exit).

Don’t Sell Without a Plan for Monday

Again, I know it’s easy to fantasize about being rid of a millstone around your neck.

But here’s the reality: If you just toss the millstone but don’t know “what’s next,” you’re still going to be very stressed.

You’ll just trade the stress of running a fitness business for the stress of being unemployed. Or miserably employed—it can be hard for entrepreneurs to suddenly clock in at 9 a.m. and take marching orders from the boss.

So what are you going to do when you’re a former gym owner?

If you don’t have an answer, don’t sell just yet. Right now you have a purpose, a job and income—even if you work too hard for too little.

Don’t fold the tent until you know your next move and can make it with confidence. If you’re just pulling the rip cord and expecting everything to improve, it probably won’t.

So get a plan in place. When I see gym owners sell without a plan, I get worried. When I see an owner say “I’m selling, and this is what’s next,” I know they have clear next steps laid out, and they’re likely to find success.

Not Sure? Get Help!

If you’re at a point where your family is struggling, you’re close to bankruptcy and you’re mentally beating yourself up, then sell your gym. Take a year off and come back—we’ll always welcome you.

If you choose that path, I hope the advice above helps you make the best exit possible.

But I really hope you stay in the fitness industry. We need people like you. And if you have even a little bit of energy left to fight for your business, let’s talk.


One more thing!

Did you know gym owners can earn $100,000 a year with no more than 150 clients? We wrote a guide showing you exactly how.