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Thinking Outside the Big Box

For entrepreneurs who have their heart set on owning a boutique gym, the good news is that the fitness industry offers plenty of opportunities to thrive in a tight market. The truth is your gym can absolutely compete with big box franchises. In fact, big box gyms are getting nervous about competing with boutique gyms! Regardless of your size, being savvy in your strategy is the best approach. The same dynamics defining your competition within the industry will also show you how to make your entrance and strategize growth.

As with any business there will always be potential threats from competition. The fitness industry is no exception. Because you’re the new gym in town you’re going to have some advantages, but with that comes some vulnerabilities as well. However, if you know what to expect from the strengths and weaknesses of the competition, than you will be better able to create a solid business plan. The following are a few of the biggest competitive threats you may see in the industry as well as how to deal with them.

Your direct competitors
It’s easy to say, “Oh, they are nothing like us,” when speaking about another gym – big or small. But the truth is that any other gym in the area is your competition. The majority of people join gyms because they have fitness and health goals. Because of this, you are the direct competitor of every big box gym, franchise, and boutique around you.

One of the best ways to see what you’re up against, is to personally check them out. Go on a tour, learn everything there is to know about the gym, then go back to your own facility and make it better. Regardless of size, a well thought out business plan along with great customer service, can make your business stand on its own, despite the more established gyms in your area.

Your vendors
Everyone from your landlord to your equipment company plays a role in the success of your business. The goods and services provided to you are directly correlated with the operations of your gym. This goes beyond overhead costs, as factors such as availability, uniqueness and more contribute to what makes you stand out. For that reason, it is imperative that you do not rely on suppliers or your vendors to provide you with absolutely everything. Unless you have a franchising agreement protecting your best interest, do not put all your eggs in one basket, per se. In essence, use a variety of vendors that add value and provide something different, unique and personal to your brand. The value you create sets you apart.

That said, you want to keep a healthy relationship with all of your suppliers. They are the backbone of your business because they keep you equipped with everything from towels and treadmills, to smoothie ingredients and soap. They will take care of you, so be sure you treat them well, too.

Your members
This one should go without saying, but because they are so incredibly important and the foundation of your business, it needs to be said. Your members and clients can make or break your business. Anyone who has withstood the bureaucratic mundane atmosphere of a big company knows that you can beat them at their own game. This is possible by consistently providing your members with the high standards they have come to expect (and can easily get elsewhere if you do not provide), as well as the personal connection they crave. Luckily, independent, smaller gyms can give members a more personal experience, which means members get a fresh and innovative feel every time.

Remember that aforementioned business plan? Delivering the best possible experience for your members starts with a better business strategy. You have multiple opportunities to connect with your members and are better suited to respond to their needs. They aren’t just a number like they are at the big box gyms, so don’t make them feel like they are one at yours.

The better you understand the importance of utilizing a business plan that involves a detailed mix of knowing your competitors, utilizing vendors, servicing your members with the highest quality standards, and more, you will easily be the gym that shakes up the market. You will be the competition that everyone wants to learn from and be.