15 Challenges Fitness Franchise Owners Face (and How to Fix 'em)

Gym and fitness franchises of all sizes face challenges that threaten to squash their business daily. Here are 15 of the most common challenges — and what you can do about it right now.

15 Challenges Fitness Franchise Owners Face (and How to Fix 'em)


Gym and fitness franchisees make around $4 billion in annual revenue in the United States. This makes fitness one of the fastest-growing industries of the franchising world.

Running a fitness franchise has got a lot of rewards, but also comes with its fair share of challenges.

Here are 15 challenges every fitness franchise owner faces — and how to fix them.

1. A Wider Variety of Choices

Fitness franchisees now face unprecedented competition around every corner. From larger chains buying out smaller chains, to an explosion in boutique chains, consumers have more fitness options than ever before.

In fact, a survey found that millennials and younger generations prefer to use boutique studios, which — depending on your niche — is either great news or a cause for concern.

If you are a larger chain, use this current trend to study what the boutiques are doing and replicate it in your space. This could mean offering classes and an environment that replicates some of the smaller and more intimate fitness studios.

If you are a smaller, boutique studio, this means to keep doing what you are doing and, in fact, double-down on what makes your offering unique to your members.

Either way, it pays to stay ahead of trends that are popular in the industry. This could be both done in the classes you offer and also the technology you use, i.e. booking apps.

2. Getting a Solid Client Base

If you’re a new fitness franchise owner, one of the challenges you face is building a solid customer base of loyal members.

The plan should always be to grow your customer base. If you're a fitness franchise owner in a particular area, it could be that gym membership is already saturated for that neighborhood.

How do you fix this? Your homework should have ensured that you invested in a fitness franchise with a great reputation. Make the best use of the established brand. Drum home your fitness franchise’s USP, so everyone who wants that kind of service will join your gym.

3. Retaining Members

When you’ve started growing your base, how do you keep your members?

Retaining gym members means you have to keep your members engaged with your fitness franchise. Think about reaching your members in different ways, including using  content marketing. As well as email marketing, you can also send messages to your members' smartphones or tablets by using push notifications.

4. Customer Churn

Customer churn happens in every business — and it's especially the case with fitness franchisees.

A survey showed that most gyms lose 50% of their members every year. As a fitness franchise owner, your top priority must be to reduce customer churn.

This can be done in many ways. For example, give the best customer service. This tactic can’t be stressed enough. Your customers must have a positive experience at your gym every time to keep them coming.

You also need to nip failed payments in the bud to reduce customer churn. Left unchecked, failed payments can have a massive and devastating impact on your fitness franchise.

But how do you tackle failed payments which, in most cases, lead to customer churn?

The answer is to partner with a full-time customer retention solution like Gravy. We are solely focused on recovering payments, retaining members while upholding your brand integrity. Our retention specialists reach out personally to put a human face to the mostly automated (and cold) world of payment recovery and customer retention.

Book a free discovery call to find out about our proven payment recovery approach that protects your gym, members and your bottom line.

5. Managing Employees

It can be challenging for fitness franchise owners to manage employees.

Happy employees, in turn, provide good and positive customer service. So, this must be a top priority. If you employ hourly staff, you must ensure that work schedules are created equally and fairly.

Spend time assessing the strengths and weaknesses of employees. The workers who are really enthusiastic and friendly should be placed in member-facing roles.

Make sure you meet with your employees regularly to discuss the vision and the future of your fitness franchise and to address any questions or concerns.

6. Maintaining Facilities

Investing in a gym franchise can be really expensive.

Hopefully, you spent time analyzing the figures to get a return on your investment as soon as possible.

Your start-up and ongoing costs should include maintaining facilities. This could include testing the swimming pools for PH levels, investing in chemical cleaners, etc. Other day-to-day maintenance costs include cleaning the gym equipment and replenishing supplies.

You can solve this challenge by ensuring that you have a full rundown of operating costs when signing up for your fitness franchise. You should have gone through every detail to understand how much it costs to maintain a gym.

You should also know how much gym member retention you need to break even and to make a profit. A well-maintained fitness franchise will help to reduce fitness franchise churn.

7. Building an Effective Team

Hiring can be a challenge for fitness franchise owners.

You need to find staff who are capable and qualified according to industrial standards. You must ensure that all fitness personnel have a certification from a recognized body and not just from anywhere.

More than ever, it's easy to earn personal training certifications, so set your standards high when vetting this customer-facing role. Personal trainers can often make or break your business.

However, building your team goes beyond hiring personal trainers. You also need to hire administrative staff – for example, receptionists, bookkeepers and, possibly, an office manager to ensure that the day-to-day aspects of your fitness franchise runs smoothly.

8. Maintaining Your Well-Being

The challenges that every fitness franchise owner faces can soon mount up.

If not handled properly, this could lead to the decline of the mental and emotional health of a gym owner.

The steps to take to solve this challenge are to ensure that you have systems in place to handle every aspect of your business more efficiently.

This is especially the case when it comes to customer retention since this can be a huge cause of stress.

When payments fail and customers are on the brink of churning, you need a system in place that goes beyond the normal dunning software to ensure that, as soon as you experience a failed payment from your customer, there is a proven system in place to contact the customer to ensure that the payments are up and running.

9. Securing the Best Location

When researching your fitness franchise, ensure you choose the best location since this can have a significant impact on your business.

If you secure a great location and things, like equipment, aren't up to par, you may still get customers. But it will be hard to get members if your gym is too far away or inconvenient for people to get to.

When sourcing premises for your fitness franchise, make sure that it’s the right size.

A property that’s too small will make your members feel cramped and people wouldn't want to visit your gym because they will feel uncomfortable. If your property is too large, your clients will have extra space, but it will also cost you more.

To overcome this challenge, research the area and demographics of your fitness franchise. Also, make certain that the fitness franchisor gives you a guarantee that another fitness franchise won’t open nearby because this will mean more competition.

10. Keeping Members Satisfied

When it comes to gym member retention of your fitness franchise, you have to think about different ways to keep your members happy every time.

Your aim should be to offer the best member experience to every single member. To do this, you need to understand your customer's motivations and goals and make every effort to help them.

To meet this challenge head-on, ask your members for feedback every chance that you get.

This will enable your members to talk about what's working for them and what isn't. This shouldn't just be a run-of-the-mill exercise.; it should be something that you take seriously.

Go through every single recommendation and assess if it’s valid and, if so, put in a plan of action to address the concerns.

Taking this approach could reduce fitness franchise churn as your customers will feel like they’re listened to and you care about their concerns.

When you do implement suggestions from your feedback and survey, let the customers know that you’ve listened to them and these are the steps you are taking.

11. Multitasking

As a fitness franchise owner, you have to wear different hats.

First of all, you must be a business person. If you have experience in the fitness industry, you may want to continue taking classes to keep your finger on the pulse.

You also have to be aware of marketing. Although the franchisor will provide marketing materials, you may have to find unique ways to get your message out there.

You have a huge range of responsibilities as a fitness franchise owner, and it all leads to reducing fitness franchise churn.

To face this challenge, you need a business mindset at all times for every single part of your business – this includes membership retention.

You must partner with the right agencies for a more successful business. Gravy is the industry leader for a reason. As the experts in failed payment recovery to reduce franchise churn, we’ve helped hundreds of businesses to gain millions of dollars back in failed payments.

Book a free, friendly and brief chat with us today.

12. Managing Bookings

You need an efficient service for booking classes, managing cancellations and everything in between.

This can be done by using the latest technology so members don't have to call, text or email to book a class. You can invest in gym membership apps that show your members how many spaces are left in a particular class. This makes it more convenient for members to book a class.

13. Managing Payments

Fitness franchise owners need to ensure that the best payment structure is in place to maximize their membership revenue.

It's likely that the franchisor will have a particular payment processor and payment structure in place. You need to ensure that the payment solutions you choose collect payments on time and also notify you when a payment has failed, but that's only part of the story.

When a payment has failed, a tried-and-true system to recover that payment and member as soon as possible is your best answer to retain their membership and loyalty.

If you’re only relying on dunning software to get your failed payments back, your fitness franchise membership churn will shoot through the roof.

14. Bringing in Regular Revenue

Getting regular revenue is one of the challenges every fitness franchise owner faces.

Without consistent revenue, you won't be able to keep your fitness franchise open for long. Therefore, it's essential to ensure that you reduce fitness franchise churn and do everything to increase gym member retention. You can solve this challenge by protecting your fitness franchise against failed payments.

Again, think about booking a free call to find out how we can help you solve this challenge.

15. Limitations Based on Franchisor Requirements

Every fitness franchise owner has limitations when it comes to doing things their own way, which is because the franchisor will make certain stipulations and have specific ways of doing things.

Franchisors may have a certain way of dealing with failed payments, which would normally be through the run-of-the-mill, traditional dunning or other type of automated software. However, this is not be the best solution for your business.

As you can see, most challenges fitness franchise owners face centre around reducing churn and increasing member retention.

Book a chat with Gravy today and find out how we can help you to tackle both of these issues.  


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