Last week Brett Kuehn wrote a phenomenal article called "What You Should Know Before Opening Your Own Fitness or Performance Facility." One of the important aspects he mentioned to focus on was location.
We all know location is important in your success as a facility, but just how important.
In my opinion, location is a major key to your success. As an owner or operator of a fitness or performance facility, location can truly make or break you.
Today I'm going to give you the exact criteria to follow when seeking your first location or looking to scale and grow your business to a new location. When you are searching, make sure the facility you're looking at checks all of these boxes, or don't sign the dotted line.
First off, I get it, finding the right spot is becoming increasingly difficult because there are so many gyms all around the country. The real estate is expensive, and don't even bring up the renovations, paint job, permits, signage etc. All of these come into play when you're looking for a location.
Here's the thing, even if you're looking at a location where a facility has recently up and left, your community may not trust gyms in that location anymore. Maybe they were individually burned by the last facility and they didn't see results, or there was an even bigger issue (like the real reason they went out of business), either way, just because a gym was in your potential spot, don't prematurely count that as a blessing. This is a very difficult part of the process.
So let’s say you’re opening a gym, or expanding. It all begins with market research. You have to do the demographic AND psychographic research. It's not enough to know that your age and income group are in your area, you have to research their interests, their values, their opinions, their beliefs, and their buying habits.
Where most people go wrong is they just try to find a place to set up shop. It’s not just about finding a place, it’s about finding the right place.
The difference between one side of the street and the other could mean thousands of dollars a year. It’s that important.
If you're looking to open a gym or scale, I recommend even start a year out from when your expected opening date is, it can be that tough to find the right location.
I understand that every city is different, different zoning, different application processes, different pricing etc. But don't automatically chalk this up to "This won't work for me."
It's extremely critical that you read this and take this to heart. I'm telling you this from personal experience and the experience of hundreds of other facilities I've had the honor of working for and with. So take the principles I tell you today to help you choose a great first or next location.
Here are the five criteria you've got to look for:
- Visibility - not just with your eyes from the road, but visibility in the sense that the city knows exactly where you are. If you’re in a shopping plaza, people know where that is. If you’re a stand alone building, people know what road you’re on. Even if it’s physically not visible, I truly believe it’s important that you’re in a highly known area where people know the landmarks, the roads etc. For instance if you say "We're off Main Street across from the mall", that should be enough for someone to know where you're located.
- Accessibility - Parking and the ability to get on and off the property. If it’s hard to get in and out, and parking is lack luster, people will get very frustrated very quickly. Don’t cheat on this! You’d be surprised how important parking and the ability to get in and out of your facility is.
- Size and Flow - the size of the facility is extremely important. You can definitely be too small - but you can absolutely be too big. You don’t want it to feel claustrophobic when a prospective athlete walks in, but you also don’t want to look empty because you’re way too big for your equipment and the amount of athletes you work with. The feel of the experience is extremely important. The room dynamic can make or break that experience. This starts right when someone walks in, what are their eyes drawn to, where are they physically drawn to?
- Cost - How much is this going to cost you? This is obvious, but my encouragement is make sure not to over commit. If you over commit, you are limiting the number of people you can bring on staff (AKA the amount you can scale) and the amount of innovation you can bring to your facility. When your building is too expensive, your gym becomes less innovative. And remember, successful facilities are constantly investing and innovating their athlete experience. Don't let your rent be the reason you stay stagnant.
- Potential for Growth - You want to put yourself in a position that your building could help you grow. What is the maximum use you can get out of it? What is your max capacity, and once you hit it can you continue to grow, by building onto, knocking down walls, or if you’re in a great community can you launch another location?
If you follow these 5 criteria, you will 100% sign the dotted line on what will become the Premier Facility in your market, simply because of your location.