Home Blog 10 Hidden Expenses in Opening Your Own Strength and Conditioning Facility

10 Hidden Expenses in Opening Your Own Strength and Conditioning Facility

Written on May 24, 2012 at 11:41 am, by Eric Cressey

Today’s guest blog comes from Pete Dupuis, my business partner at Cressey Performance.  Pete might fly a bit under the radar with respect to the online scene, but as you’ll learn below, he plays a huge role in the success we’ve had at Cressey Performance. 

So you’ve decided to open your own strength & conditioning facility…

As any aspiring entrepreneur knows, there’s a considerably long list of expenses that come with getting your business off the ground. For those of us who’ve decided the right move is to open up our own gym, the obvious staples include: racks, benches, dumbbells, bands, mats, sleds, etc. Based on my experience, there are plenty more expensive surprises along the way.

Below, you will find ten quick examples that came to mind as I reflected on the time, energy and cash flow it took to get CP to where it is today. While I’m sure I could double or triple the number of bullet points on this list with a little time to run through my transaction records, the following collection represents the ten that either caught me by surprise, or simply slipped through the cracks as Eric and I sat at a local Applebee’s drawing up a business plan on a napkin during our “let’s start a gym” extravaganza. Enjoy!

1. The fine print on our insurance policy – Every business needs insurance. What every business does not need, is the anti-terrorism coverage built in to the policy that nearly went undetected on our radar before paying the year-one premium. A quick Google-search (or the application of common sense) told us that the terrorists of the world don’t seem to be particularly concerned with Hudson, MA, or the new gym that just popped on to the scene. We saved ourselves some money by throwing a check mark in the “no thank you” box next to anti-terrorism coverage.

2. Registering your LLC and maintaining it annually – I can’t speak for other states, but Massachusetts has devised a particularly profitable little policy that requires business entities in the Commonwealth to slap down a quick $500 LLC filing fee. Now, the filing fee wasn’t particularly shocking, but the realization that we’d owe an additional $500 on the anniversary of starting our business each July certainly stung a little bit when times were tight in the early stages of our operations.

3. Furnishings – Once you’re done with pulling together that list of equipment for your dream gym, you’ll probably realize that the key to keeping it full of clients is not only delivering results, but also demonstrating some level of professionalism. It’s pretty difficult to be taken seriously if you’re pitching your services from a poorly equipped office – or if Eric is passed out on a sketchy red couch after working a 20-hour day.  

While a laptop and a cell phone will get the job done for a couple days or weeks, you’ll soon realize that printers, phones, chairs, desks, trash barrels, etc. can pile up to make for a pretty hefty bill at Staples.

4. Logo design – Since we have yet to spend a dollar on what most would call traditional advertising (newspaper/internet/television/radio), CP has been dependent on delivering noteworthy results and some memorable t-shirt designs to stay top-of-mind with the baseball community. Without a decent logo, we’d be struggling on the brand-recognition front. Since design work isn’t cheap, we recommend taking the trade-barter approach with any client who’s got the right skill-set – and you’d be surprised at how many there are. You make them strong, and they make you the next Swoosh or Golden Arches…everybody wins. 

5. Website Design – On a similar note, writing HTML doesn’t come naturally to most of us. The “do-it-yourself” web-design tools might cut it for a little while, but the moment you begin working with professional athletes, their agents, or the organizations employing them, it becomes time for a website that reflects the same level of quality product you are promising on the training floor. Do yourself a favor and find a professional who is qualified to design an appealing site for you – and it’s especially nice if they’re interested in doing it in exchange for some of your appealing strength and conditioning programming and coaching.

6. Medicine Ball Wall – While some facility owners are fortunate enough to find space that incorporates cinderblock walls capable of handling the violence of a good med-ball session, many of us are not so lucky. In our case, the expansion from 2,000 sq. feet of gym space to over 6,600 came with the unanticipated $2,500 cinderblock wall installation. In our case, the 150+ feet of straightaway sprinting space outweighed the fact that brick/cinderblock walls were nowhere to be found upon our arrival.

7. Med-Ball/Equipment Replacement – The harsh reality of CP making baseball players better is the fact that we destroy medicine balls at an alarming rate. The same goes for wear and tear of exercise mats, bands, etc. Just because you managed to pull together the funds to outfit a facility on day one doesn’t mean you’re not going to be reinvesting in the business early and often.

8. Audio Equipment – In an industry where a mediocre training environment can singlehandedly kill your gym, loud music is a must. Unless you’re operating in a garage, it’s going to take more than a boom box to get the job done. Plan on investing in a receiver, some decent speakers, and an iPod to get the ball rolling on an environment in which people set PRs on a regular basis.

9. Memorabilia Mounting Fees – Assuming you’ve got a client or two that you’re proud to say you train, you’re going to want to hang a jersey, some photos, or the occasional newspaper story. Since thumbtacks are a little abrasive on game-worn MLB jerseys, professional mounting/framing is a must, and it isn’t cheap. The more successful your client roster becomes, the more expensive the gym walls become. It’s a good problem to have.

10. City of Hudson Dumpster Licensing Fee – I saved this one for last because I find it to be both the most unanticipated and most obnoxious annual expense I’ve managed to come across since starting our business. Despite paying rent to the property owner and a dumpster rental fee to our trash-removal vendor, the city of Hudson “has enacted regulations to require licensing dumpster within the town” as of mid-2011. So if you potential gym owners are looking to open a S&C facility here in Hudson (which, by the way, would not be cool), you can plan on budgeting $75/year for the privilege of housing a dumpster on your off-street private property.

Like I mentioned earlier, these ten expenses are just the tip of the iceberg, and I could certainly go on all day with them. With that in mind, if you’re a business owner who has walked a mile in these shoes, I’d be curious to hear what expenses surprised you along the way.  You can post your replies in the comment section below.

For those of you looking to learn more about Fitness Business start-up, be sure to check out the Fitness Business Blueprint, which includes loads of business, relationship-building, assessment, program design, and training strategies you’ll learn to instantly help take your business to the next level.

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13 Responses to “10 Hidden Expenses in Opening Your Own Strength and Conditioning Facility”

  1. Julie Sawyer Says:

    Thanks for posting this Eric! Getting ready to open my own facility, so this was great timing.

  2. Nicholas St John Rheault Says:

    Great Job PD…. It’s about time you got online want wrote stuff for CP!!!!! Glad you’re informing us on the business side of owning a gym!!!! Kudos for you MBA

  3. Sean Andersen Says:

    Nice Pete! I hope number 11 isn’t “terrorism repair costs” because you elected to skip out on that coverage!

  4. Tim Peirce Says:

    Good good stuff, Eric. It takes quite a bit to be a great trainer and a decent business owner. Thanks for your experience, and sharing it. . . even if some of it is in the People’s Republic of Massachusetts;-).

  5. Ryan Says:

    Great work, Pete.

  6. Derek Claussen Says:

    I couldn’t agree more with Eric more when it comes to creating a brand. Luckily for me, I work full time as a graphic designer and part time training baseball players (Similar to Eric but not nearly at his – level; By the way Eric, your forethought has helped me immensely) in hopes of having my own facility in 2013,

    When it come to creating a brand, spend the money with someone with a portfolio. Skip the “I know someone” route if you can because it can create a lot of headaches. Spend the money on a logo, a cleanly written website that you can learn to manage (to keep your search high on search engines) and don’t be afraid to consider yourself larger than a one person show. If you don’t spend the money now, you won’t ever go back to it. Tshirts, business cards, flyers, whatever, should all have the same look. I use Gilden “softstyle” shirts to give away and most people claim to fall asleep in them. Spend a little bit extra on higher quality card stock for b-cards and marketing materials and you can make a connection just by touch alone.

    As much as people think things may be too expensive, do your research and you may find out that it’s just are as cost effective. You have to spend money to make money.

    Feel free to reach out, I have all sorts of ideas that may be beneficial to the business. After all, I do both training and design for a living.

  7. Dan Pope Says:

    Great post Pete. The facility I’m working at is currently expanding and the process of getting loans approved is showing to be a royal pain in the ass! I give a lot of respect to those who choose to go out there and build there own facility up. I especially liked the point about growing professionally as your clientele does. I guess the professional clientele is not going to particularly enjoy the bare bones warehouse/garage style gym. Nice article.

  8. Jay H. Says:

    Great post Pete! As an Insurance Broker in the Boston area I can say you are dead on with the Terrorism insurance. I would encourage you and anyone opening or running a facility to really make sure your agent/broker is working as hard for you as you are for your clients. Don’t let your policies automatically renew every year. This leads to inflated premiums. Have your agent present you with a few quotes every 1-2 years from 2-3 different carriers. Insurance company “appetites” will change over time so if company “x” was not competitve two years ago they might be now. Just like in S&C a little variety never hurt anyone. Things to make sure you are covered for: Abuse and Molestation especially for any facility that has a manual Therapist. Insurance should be purchased by the independent contractor for General Liability and Worker’s Compensation and list YOU as an additional insured…Just a few thoughts to save you guys money and frustration from supporter of your industry.

  9. Richard Bell Says:

    The CAM fees were shocking!

  10. Daniela Says:

    Good ideas, but as young business people all types of hardships will get thrown at you, – don’t do everything perfectly. Learn as you go, and do make errors, as this is a good learning curve for down the road. Do contra whenever possible ie) logos for training sessions, and use the expertise of your current business people, they always have valuable advice. Do what the MOST important thing – take care of your client first and foremost. Have a clean environment, and TAKE CARE of your customer. Insurance, permits, all those things are important, but the person who pays your bills are the most urgent right now. Don’t do everything yourself, learn to ask for help. Hire really GOOD people, until you find them, don’t go second rate. Keep it small until you are ready to grow, and then ask yourself – do I need a bigger place? I mediate and sit on things I’m not sure of daily. Take care of you, as you are the most important asset to your business.

  11. Matt Goodwin Says:

    Along with the website, etc. Signage is a hidden cost I didn’t think about until a friend mentioned it. Hmmmm. I guess it would be good for people to know that they’ve reached their destination.

  12. Conor Says:

    Awesome advice Pete. Great learning all things that revolve around the industry from guys that have been in the trenches.

  13. Tammy Thomas Says:

    Thanks for the reminders. I’ve been working on my business plan, and have realized that the anticipating hidden expenses can really add up.

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