No Bullsh*t: A Year in the Life

At one point in his life, just about every meathead has dreamed of owning his own training facility. The idea of having the equipment you want, the music you want, and the atmosphere you want is very enticing. Well, I recently finished up my first year of doing just that. My facility was under construction last August, I began training out of it in October, and the doors then opened to the public in November. A year later, I’m looking back at all the changes that have happened since that first day and all the lessons I’ve learned. It’s been a great experience and one hell of a journey so far. I have lived it, learned from it, and now it is my turn to pass it on. These are three major lessons I learned in my first year of running a gym:

1. Always have a game plan…and expect that plan to change.

As a strength coach and business man, planning seems to be a natural part of the process. Whether it is a six-week training block for a client or a marketing strategy for the January fitness boom, I’m geared to think about what my best bet for success is. However, after a year of doing this, I have realized that not much ever seems to go as planned. When I first signed my building lease, I was told the build out would be done sometime in August. However, due to several circumstances outside of my control, the build out didn’t start until August and wasn’t finished until October. The facility I was training out of at the time find out about my new place, canceled my contract, and gave me a day to get all of my equipment out. They also attempted to contact all of my training clients to prevent them from going with me to my new facility. Not as planned! I ended up keeping all of my clients, training out of someone’s backyard for a couple of weeks, and eventually going to another facility for a few months while my place was being finished. (And this is just one of several examples).

My advice is to be ready to roll with the punches. Have a game plan but also be flexible and willing to change—you can’t afford to waste time being pissed about a situation. Think of it as a never-ending football game. You are not going to win every single play, you just have to be consistent and not do anything stupid. If you get burned, you’ve got to get ready for the next play or you will get burned again. Sometimes plans don’t work out at all, and sometimes they work even better than you had imagined. Both can be challenging situations. If you know this going in, you won’t be surprised when something happens.

2. Hold true to your ideals. Remember why you opened a facility in the first place.

I opened up my training facility for several reasons. For one, I wanted to provide people in my area with the best possible training facility for reaching high levels of fitness. This meant having a facility with a great atmosphere, the best equipment, and the highest level of training knowledge possible. Secondly, I wanted a place that I would want to train at. I wanted a facility that would not only help me make others better, but it would also help make myself better. I wanted to make a decent living, but I didn’t get into the training business to become a millionaire. However, the rest of the world does not operate this way. Money is numero uno, especially if you are a business owner. When people ask how your business is doing, they are asking how your business is doing monetarily. If your response is, “We were barely able to keep the lights on this month, but 10 members hit new PRs last week,” most people are going to take that as meaning your business isn’t doing so hot. PRs don’t pay the bills.

With all that being said, the number one goal of any company is to keep the lights on. Making money is very important. It is what allows you to continue to have positive effects on people, but don’t let that be your only (or major) driving force. (If your major driving force is making money, opening a meathead gym is not the way to go). If you are smart enough and lucky enough, your business will provide you with enough money to live the lifestyle you are comfortable with, while still allowing you to spend your day doing something you enjoy. Anything above that is just icing on the cake.

During the last few months, I have found myself focusing too much on the status of my business from a financial standpoint (which is actually pretty damn good for being in business for only a year) and the desire I have to expand. I have to remind myself to look at all of the people who have been positively affected by NBS Fitness and all of the people who now call my gym their home. I have been lucky enough to make a decent living the last year, but even more so, I have been lucky to be able to love my job and love the people I spend my day with.

3. Treat your business just like your training

The more I train and the more I run my business, the more I realize the similarities between the two. Both require a lot of dedication and commitment. You can’t find success in either without putting in the effort over a long period of time. A lot of people go into training and business with only the short term on their minds and the desire for quick results. They quickly realize that neither business nor training works this way and get discouraged and quit. The process is a marathon. You will have your highs and your lows, but you must show up and be ready to work day-in and day-out.

Another similarity I have found is that focusing on the small things helps you get more out of the big things. Many a time, it is the commitment to doing the small things that keeps you in the game when everyone else is falling like flies. The small things usually tend to be the things you hate the most. For me, it is accounting work. Reconciling my check book and looking at financial statements are boring as hell when compared to training people. But if I fail to do them or put them off, it will most assuredly come back to bite me in the ass. So I have to buckle down and make sure they get done so that when the time comes for me to do something big (expand, try a new marketing strategy, or buy equipment), I know that I have laid the foundation to help me be successful.

Finally, the more you know, the better your chance of success. You must seek the advice of people who have been there before you. No success is had by one single man, it is the culmination of all those who have influenced him combined with his own grit and grind. And while taking advice is well warranted, you still have to put in the hours and learn on your own. There is no better learning experience than trial by fire, but if you have surrounded yourself with the right people, your chances of getting burned are far less likely.

To all my fellow meatheads who dream of opening up their own facility one day, I wish you the best of luck. In my first year I’ve learned a lot, had some great experiences, felt a lot of pressure, made many new friends, triumphed, failed, lost some money, and made some as well. Everyday is a new challenge and a chance to do something awesome…and I get to wear shorts and a T-Shirt to work.

And make Harlem Shake videos…

Related Articles:

Brian Schwab’s Top 10 Tips on How to Open Your Own Gym

Start-up Guide for Gym Owners

Starting a Warehouse Gym: The Sh*t They Never Told You

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About the Author

David Allen is the owner of NBS Fitness is Memphis, Tennessee, where he trains clients of all different backgrounds. NBS Fitness is also home to some of the best powerlifters, Strongmen, and fit individuals in the entire mid-south. David is also a former college football player and collegiate strength and conditioning coach and competes in powerlifting, bodybuilding, and Strongman. You can check out all things NBS Fitness at his website www.nbsfitness.net.