(The wrong way to open a gym)
When I’m in Manhattan, I go to Union Square for a chess lesson.
This is roughneck chess: you sit on a folding chair or overturned bucket. You take the first seat available, no matter who the opponent (don’t worry, they’re all better than you are.) And you don’t put money on the game–but you’ll pay. Oh, yes.
My last lesson, in June, was against a street player named Mike. His wool cap was pulled down almost to his flat nose, and his heavy leather jacket would have made me sweat. I was wearing a t-shirt, but sweating plenty as we started anyway.
Mike leaned over to the guy beside him and said, “Gimme a coupla your pawns.” Our board was missing a few pieces. His neighbor handed over some mismatched pieces, and we began. Mike let me go first.
I was finished in under three minutes.
“Ever played before?” he asked.
I had. In fact, I’m not a bad chess player. I’m scrappy. I like changing my game plan on the fly. But Mike hammered me from the beginning. And so the lesson began.
“You have no opening,” he said. “You gotta have an opening.”
In chess, your first five moves largely determine your ultimate success. You can set up a defensive position and do battle, or just make random attacks that expose your King. I hustled hard in the first few minutes. But you don’t out-hustle a hustler.
When you open a gym, you can set yourself up for long-term success by doing a few things right:
- Running a Founders’ Club focusing on value
- Choosing the best location for your clients’ convenience
- Setting your rates using a formula to determine what you need
- Identifying your ideal clientele and focusing on what they want
- Planning your revenue streams to be diverse
- Inviting your neighborhood businesses to participate in your ‘grand opening’
- Meeting with clients 1:1 before opening day.
…and many others which we outline in our Launch Strategy (it’s in the Incubator.)
You can also KILL YOUR KING by making these fatal mistakes:
- Offering a discount for the first X members
- Promising a guaranteed rate for life
- Copying prices from other gyms
- Aiming for a high-volume breakeven point
- Selling only group fitness classes
- Pissing off your neighbors in advance
- Choosing the cheapest rental space instead of the best.
I once knew a gym owner who ran a Founders’ Club deal: pay a discounted rate, guaranteed for life, if you signed up before Opening Day. Over 90 people DID. Unfortunately, with the discounted rate, the gym owner was still losing money with 90 members.
What’s worse than losing money in your business? Losing money AND fulfilling your promise to 90 people.
That gym’s gone now.
Mike, my chess coach in the park, gave me a second chance: he’d sell me a “lesson” for ten dollars. He taught me an opening. It wasn’t original, but it worked: I lasted almost a half hour against him in the next game. I gave him all the money in my wallet–50 bucks–even though he was reluctant to take it.
Now I use my Union Park Opening whenever I can. And we teach the Founders’ Club strategy–the REAL Founders’ Club strategy, developed and tested by me and over 50 gyms before they opened–every time.
The moves you make before the game begins can set you up for to win–or they can kill you before you even start. Have an opening plan.