Anthony Donskov is the founder of DSC where he serves as the Director of Sport Performance. Donskov holds a Masters Degree in Exercise Science & is the author of Physical Preparation for Ice Hockey.
So You Want to Operate Your Own Facility?
Many Strength and Conditioning Coaches have high aspirations of one day opening their own facilities. The thought of a nice building, fancy equipment, and a loyal client base are all elements of the entrepreneurial spirit. However, before the doors swing open, your celebrity clientele arrive, and your first months rent payment is due, there are several things you need to consider. Below are five steps that I acted on and understood before the doors at Donskov Strength and Conditioning were ever opened. I hope these intangible elements can help you in your quest to one day open the doors of your own facility.
Learn and Apply: Before you consider opening up your facility learn from the best! Find a successful mentor that does what you WANT to do and apply the lessons from both a program design and business systems standpoint. I have invested in countless DVD’s, seminars, on-line programs, books, and mentorship programs to help me personally and professionally. This will NOT change over time. Those who do not continuously learn will not be in business for long.
Business Plan: We are Strength Coaches, not accountants’ right? Wrong! You better understand the numbers in your business before you open for business. I invested in Business Plan Pro: http://www.businessplanpro.com/. I cannot begin to tell you how much this helped me understand my business through a different lens. It helped me set a budget, find an appropriate rental rate, break-even point, and most importantly, allowed me to set reasonable, measurable goals. If you do not have a business plan set in place, your doors won’t be open for long.
No Window-Shopping: Before you consider opening your own facility (if it’s a non-membership gym), remember this: there is very little window-shopping. Commercial gyms have membership customers that may also be interested in investing in training programs (they also have very large marketing budgets with a direct sales force) I call these window shoppers. These are hot leads. If you open your own facility, you better understand that window-shopping is a rarity. Direct marketing and word of mouth are extremely important in sustaining business. Most of my business is word of mouth (9/10 clients); I can only remember several instances where a client would walk into my facility as a window-shopper. In order for word of mouth marketing to multiply clients need to see RESULTS and have a positive experience. Continuously finding creative marketing solutions has been one of my biggest challenges since opening up my facility. If you are considering opening your own place, be prepared to tackle marketing head-on.
Very Little Window-Shopping at DSC
Start Small: I started my business in a small studio (600 sq ft) with a rental rate that I could sustain while growing. As I look back at the pictures I can honestly say that I’m proud of this experience. My vision was to grow and reinvest back into one day opening a bigger facility. Too many times, we want overnight success. True, sustainable success comes over time. Don’t bite off more than you can chew! My father told me many years ago not to have champagne taste on a beer budget. The same can be said for starting out too big. To take the analogy one step further, as a Strength Coach it’s always better to make the mistake of starting out too light as opposed to overloading an athlete. We can always add another plate. However, if we overload to soon, the damage is done both physically, but more importantly mentally.
Donskov Strength and Conditioning Studio (600 sq ft)
Donskov Strength and Conditioning (3000 sq ft)
Jack-of-All-Trades: Want to open your own facility? You better wear multiple hats and be comfortable with it. It’s not all strength training. You will be involved in: accounting, marketing, sales, janitorial work (unless you hire out), speaking with parents, scheduling, liability issues, hiring, firing, code of conduct, coaching guidelines, facility rules, program design, maintenance and finally strength training. This will all be accompanied with odd hours: 5:15am (first client), 9pm (last client). You better have PASSION, a will to succeed and be willing to take calculated risks before you open the doors to your new place.
Opening up a facility has been one of my biggest rewards from a professional standpoint, but it may not be for everyone. There are lots of accompanying jobs and stressors that come with facility operation. The most important thing is that you know what you are eating. Too may times we look at the food without trying to understand the recipe. This takes time, understanding and countless hours of work. Rome was not built overnight, nor was any successful strength and conditioning business.