Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Start A Gym??

I ran a class a couple of days ago and one of the students remarked, "You are a great teacher.  You should start your own gym!!"

Many high ranking Martial Artists have a fantasy about starting their own gyms.  I admit that I have entertained that idea as well.  However, there are several factors to being an owner/operator of a gym that many people don't realize or don't know about.
To open a gym you need more than just a talent for teaching.

It's Just Business

When you open your own gym, first and foremost, it is not just a gym.  It is a business.  As such, it has the same problems that starting any small business will have.  You have to come up with a business model.  You need to come up with start up funding.  You need to find a suitable location.  You need to obtain the minimum equipment to open.  You need to figure out a price structure that will, at minimum, keep the doors open and the lights on.  You need to come up with a marketing plan.
These are heavy topics, an they must be addressed before moving on.

McDonald's, Burger King, or Bob's Burgers?

Next topic is franchising.  Buying in to a franchise can ease much of the process of opening the doors.  Franchises allow you to piggy back on an established brand, and trade on their name.  Many also provide Point of Sale software, as well as subscriptions to membership services that you can use to track your student/customers.
With that ease comes many catches...  Many franchises require that you sell only their brand of merchandise.  You like Atama Kimonos, but you affiliate with Gracie Barra?  Sorry, only Storm Kimonos are to be sold here.
Many franchises also require you to teach a specific curriculum, or movements a very specific way.  Franchises also limit you to who you can have visit for seminars to only those within the franchise.


Unless you are starting some silly Martial Art that doesn't have competitions, your students will eventually want to compete.  Even if you don't want to go to these tournaments, you need to make connections and find out where and when the are so that you can schedule training time.  You need to make sure that your students are ready.  
You are the representative of your school.  You have to GO to these tournaments.  You must coach your students.  Remember the first topic, you are running a business.  Tournaments are advertising.  If you aren't there, your students will see the schools that have a coach at the tournament.  You will lose students if they see that another school will be more supportive to their goals than you are.  If you are not there, you have no opportunity to show that your school is better than the other schools, and will not attract new students.  
Tournaments are very important.  If you want to keep your school going, you are going to need to organize a team and go.

Time Requirements

You can't just have one class a day, when it is convenient for you.  Your class times must be at the times that you can attract the most students.  This normally means you need one early morning class, one lunch class, an early evening class, and a late class. 
Do you want to segregate your beginners from your graduate students?  Another class time.
Don't forget, to make money you will need to do private classes.
Tournaments, 4+ classes a day, cleaning requirements, business paperwork requirements, marketing requirements, contractor requirements, private class requirements, and don't forget, you are the spiritual leader of your gym.  You need to make personal time with your students.  That means weekend outings to watch combat sporting events.  Boxing, MMA, Kickboxing, if its on, you can bet your students will want to watch it with you.

Many times overlooked is your own fitness.  YOU need to look the part of a Marital Arts instructor.  That means you need to work out.  You need to be able to take on any one that comes through the door.  You need to be ready to physically impress the dad with a beer gut that has watched too many JCVD moves that his 5 year old can learn from you.  Time time time time

Kids Classes  

If you want to be successful, you will need to have children's classes.  No two ways about it.  You may want to train adults, but kids are what keep the doors open.
Now teaching children isn't so bad.  What is bad is their parents.  From the mom that wants to be very sure that you aren't teaching her little angel about anything other than Jesus, to the dad who wants his 3 year old son to never ever, under any circumstances, tap out.  You must deal with them in such a way that keeps the money coming in.  

Starting your own gym can be very rewarding.  But it must be seen as a full time job.  If you have a career, starting a gym is nearly impossible.  Would I start a gym someday?  If was the only option left to me, and then I would look for a full time instructor willing to put in the necessary time.  I want to train, but I don't want to run.