9 Common Gym Owner Problems (And Their Solutions)

common gym owner problems

If you’re someone who has a new business or simply wants to brush up on your knowledge, considering the most common gym owner problems can be hugely beneficial.

But before we get onto our list, check out our range of Level 4 Personal Trainer Courses, starting with our Level 4 Sports Nutrition Course. These are ideal for expanding your industry knowledge and optimising the effectiveness of your gym.

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9 Common Gym Owner Problems

Our list will cover 9 problems faced by gym owners, and how you can solve them to help protect your business.

#1 - Balancing Your Finances Effectively Is An Early Gym Manager Problem

gym owner problems

One of the most common problems faced by gym owners is how they manage their finances in the most effective way possible. 

Without enough capital, it can be difficult to run a fully stocked and reputable gym, and by missing out on key revenue streams, you run the risk of dwindling funds.

You don’t want your clients to feel there’s limited gym machines or a lack of equipment, as this runs the risk of them cancelling their membership.

This is why getting your finances in check before you begin spending is incredibly important. You’re able to allocate funds wherever they’re needed, and arrange repairs as and when they’re necessary.

Of course, when you first establish your business plan, you’ll create an accurate cost estimation that takes into account key expenses, such as:

  • Rent/Mortgage 
  • Equipment
  • Staff
  • Gym management software
  • Maintenance 

But, one important gym owner challenge to consider is how you’ll be earning the money from your gym.

The money you get from loans or lenders will only go so far, so it’s important to consider your passive sources of income to ensure you can stay afloat in a competitive market.

Here’s a few methods of making money that you should take into consideration when planning how to overcome the gym owner problems you’ll face:

  • Memberships - This may seem obvious, but by offering multiple membership options, alongside special deals like day passes, you’re securing a much larger income than otherwise might have.
  • Personal Trainers - Depending on whether you have in-house trainers, or offer freelancers the opportunity to train in your gym, your PTs are a great source of passive income. You can choose to take a cut from each client they trainer, or charge them a flat rate for a set period of time.
  • Yoga Instructors - In a similar vein to your personal trainers, you’ll be able to charge yoga instructors a rental fee for any studio space you can offer.
  • Locker Hire - By charging customers a small fee to use on-site lockers, you’ll be earning passively as customers come and go.
  • Advertising & Partnerships - By offering to sell a company’s products in your gym (like healthy foods, or supplements), you’ll be able to take a percentage cut of any sales, or negotiate a flat fee.

Ultimately, you must make sure you have all of your finances ready before you begin spending otherwise you could lose track of things.

gym owner problems

This could result in you having too much of one type of equipment and then lacking in others, leading to members feeling unfulfilled. 

With this in mind, another example of gym owner problems revolves around equipment so be sure to check out our next point before purchasing. 

To find out how you can increase your income in other roles, check out our guide on 'How to Make Money as a Personal Trainer'.


Expand Your Knowledge With OriGym

Expand your industry knowledge, starting with our Level 4 Sports Nutrition Course.

#2 - Where To Source Good Quality, Affordable Equipment Is A Key Gym Owner Challenge

problems at the gym

Another example of gym problems for owners is not being organised when purchasing equipment as this can lead to unnecessary overspending.  

You’re going to want to find the best quality product that suits your budget and the ideal way to go about this is to do plenty of research into each product. 

As you probably know, the price of equipment can vary depending on the following factors:

  • Brand
  • Model
  • Condition
  • Delivery costs

It’s important to explore different vendors and familiarise yourself with what they offer to make an executive decision on which is best suited for your gym.

While this can be a time consuming task and you may be tempted to just pick the first pieces of equipment you come across, this could result in you spending more than necessary. 

gym owner problems

Additionally, not doing enough research into equipment runs the risk of you choosing poor quality products your members may not be satisfied with.

Poor quality machines will also have a shorter life expectancy and might need repairing frequently which will increase costs.

Make sure you avoid common gym owner problems like this by doing thorough research into all the types of equipment on the market to get the best quality that suits your gym and budget. 

#3 - A Poorly Chosen Location Can Affect Your Gym’s Member Retention

gym owner problems

There are many problems faced by gym owners, one of which is trying to find the perfect gym space. A poorly located gym runs the risk of not getting enough members which limits sales.

For example, a gym situated in a low populated area isn’t likely to attract people or help your staff get personal training clients. On the flip side, setting up a gym in a densely populated area may be tricky to match up to competitors. 

You should take great consideration about the location of your gym so you attract enough people while not being too close to your competition.

As well as location, you’ve also got to find the right sized building that reflects your budget. 

If your gym space is too small, your clients are going to feel on top of each other when working out. This runs the risk of long queues for equipment.

Conversely, if your gym is too big, you may find it difficult to fill it and struggle to make ends meet. 

problems faced by gym owners

How do you avoid experiencing gym owner problems such as this? First off, organising viewings is essential. 

While you may be excited to get the ball rolling with your business, don’t get ahead of yourself by booking a random gym space as it might not be the most suitable. 

When you go to viewings, take your gym business plan with you. This should contain details regarding the required size you need. 

You should also calculate how large each section of your gym needs to be.

Think of it like this:

  • You find a treadmill that is 65 inches long and 30 inches wide
  • You plan on purchasing 10
  • You’re going to need to reserve a space in your gym that’s 9m x 2m to fit all 10 treadmills
  • This leaves approximately 20cm in between each treadmill. 

You should try to do this for all other sections of your proposed gym such as:

  • Free weight section
  • Functional fitness area
  • Stretching area 
  • PT corner

Doing this will help you visualise whether a space is the right size and avoid this problem faced by many gym owners.

If you approached this article wanting some examples of problems faced by gym owners, not selecting the right space can be a significant issue.


Expand Your Knowledge With OriGym

Expand your industry knowledge, starting with our Level 4 Sports Nutrition Course.

#4 - A Lack Of Management Expertise Could Create Problems For Gym Owners 

problems faced by gym owners

Another one of the most common problems faced by gym owners is a lack of management expertise. 

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking all it takes to run a gym is to rent a space and buy some equipment as it takes much more than that to be a good gym manager

Gym owners that lack management expertise are at an increased risk of creating a negative environment for employees which can result in a variety of other problems for the business. 

For example:

  • Careless staff
  • Poor reviews
  • Bad reputation
  • High staff turnover
  • Low member retention
  • Low sales

These are key problems at the gym you must prevent from happening otherwise your business may not be around for as long as you hope. 

Whether you’re planning to manage the business yourself or would rather recruit someone for the role, the individual must have management expertise so the business runs smoothly. 

There’s a huge range of courses available designed to train aspiring managers into being the best boss they can be. 

For example, CPD (Continuing Professional Development) Courses help participants hone their skills that can be transferred to managerial roles. 

Training programmes like this are incredibly valuable if you want your management team to have all the necessary skills to run your business well. 

Not doing so runs the risk of you experiencing common gym owner problems so consider carefully about who is managing your business and whether they have relevant experience. 

- - - - 

Struggling with other gym owner challenges? Check out these articles below to find out more:

#5 - Doing Inadequate Research Into Staffing Can Bring Issues To Your Business

problems faced by gym owners

If you’re serious about avoiding common gym owner problems, you should take care when hiring staff as recruiting the wrong type of worker or the wrong number of employees can cause various issues.

Let’s tackle these problems individually and discuss the ways you can avoid them. 

Hiring the wrong type of employee may result in unfulfillment and increases the chance of them moving on. 

For example, if you want to start your gym with just fitness classes and introduce personal training sessions at a later date, you don’t necessarily have to recruit fully qualified PTs as Level 2 Gym Instructors are qualified to lead classes.

problems faced by gym owners

You should also check whether there’s a genuine need for recruitment.

When first starting your business, you may find some functions are covered by a small number of workers, such as:

  • Payroll
  • Sales
  • Operations

This means you may not need to recruit whole teams until later. 

However, hiring less staff increases the risk of existing staff being overworked. They may end up doing tasks that don’t relate to their job title, working too many hours in a day or too many days in a week. 

This can lead to them being unhappy working for you and looking for employment elsewhere, potentially making your issue even worse. 

With that, you may consider erring on the side of caution and recruit too many staff members.

Having too many staff members can result in there being limited work for each member. They may also seek other employment due to unfulfillment.

Most new small gyms tend to recruit one of the following:

  • Manager (even if this is you)
  • Personal Trainer
  • Gym Instructor
  • Marketing or Outreach Manager
  • Maintenance Personnel

As your company begins to grow, there will be indicators suggesting you need more or less staff.

For example, if you have a lot of customers complaining they’re struggling to book PT sessions due to unavailability, you need more PTs.

Similarly, if you’re getting inundated with queries, you may need a receptionist.

You should always assess your finances before recruiting a new member. You can do this by comparing your annual revenue with your labour costs to see whether you can afford more staff.

In summary, one of the most common gym owner problems is not considering staff needs before starting the recruitment process. Doing so can lead to unfulfilled staff and frustrated members.

Find out more about hiring staff for your gym with our guide - 7 Key Tips on Hiring a Personal Trainer for Your Business.


Expand Your Knowledge With OriGym

Expand your industry knowledge, starting with our Level 4 Sports Nutrition Course.

#6 - Not Marketing The Business Right Can Cause Gym Membership Problems

problems faced by gym owners

Did you know not effectively using gym marketing ideas can cause membership problems?

If you’re not promoting your business to the right people, it’s unlikely to get enough attention, resulting in there being few members.

When you first open your gym, you’ll probably find the influx of new members plateaus after a few months.

However, this doesn’t mean you’ve reached every prospective client in your local area and there are plenty of ways you can advertise your business to reach even more people.

A great way to market your business is by using Facebook adverts as these can be targeted to your chosen demographic within your local area.

For example, this Facebook ad is aimed at women, specifically mothers, offering free sessions for 2 weeks as an incentive to join:

gym membership problems

This means people are exposed to your business, boosting the chance of them either signing up or recommending you to a friend.

Leaflets and posters are an often overlooked marketing tool in an ever growing digital world. 

Both methods offer a wealth of valuable information for prospective members and can be left in a variety of places for people to pick up as they’re going about their day. 

Examples include:

  • Around your local area
  • On the cash desk at health stores
  • Distributed on the street
  • Posted through doors

You may also want to consider running some in-house promotions to attract new customers, which could include:

  • Free 1-day pass
  • No joining fee
  • 15% off PT sessions

You should also include these promotions in your adverts. 

In order to prevent experiencing classic gym problems like most other gym owners, make sure you’re clued up with marketing techniques like these.

Your sales will keep at an increasing trajectory rather than plateau after your first couple of months. 

However, putting too much focus on new clients can often make existing clients feel forgotten about, which can lead to even more gym membership problems.

#7 - Forgetting About Existing Clients Causes Membership Cancellations

gym membership problems

Another one of the most common gym owner problems is forgetting about existing clients by focusing on getting as many people through the door as possible. 

However, it’s equally important to nurture those that have supported your business from the beginning. As soon as they feel forgotten about, you run the risk of losing them. 

According to gym management app Clubwise, the 3 main reasons why people quit gyms are: 

  • Struggles with accountability
  • Uncomfortable with equipment
  • Feeling out of place

It’s your responsibility to ensure each individual that signs up for your gym doesn’t feel any of these things. 

To overcome this gym owner challenge, each new member should receive a complimentary consultation with a fitness professional to discuss their goals. This doesn’t need to be anymore than 5-10 minutes so shouldn’t take too much time away from your staff’s working days.

Clients should have the opportunity to book a free induction, a common service across most gyms. This gives new clients the chance to familiarise themselves with the equipment to reduce feelings of discomfort in the gym.

To make your clients feel even more looked after, you could offer them a complimentary check-in session every 4-6 weeks. 

gym membership problems

Again, this may only need to be 5 - 10 minutes but helps to keep themselves accountable by working towards their goals ensuring they remain members of your gym. This is a good opportunity to upsell clients PT sessions if they want more tailored plans. 

Another way you can make existing members feel looked after is by distributing feedback surveys to see what they’d like more of. 

Whether this is more classes or equipment, asking clients what they want shows you’re listening to them.

Now, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to fulfil each client’s wishes. However, taking the initiative to reach out shows your keenness to keep them happy and boosts the chance of clients staying long term. 

Ultimately, if you’re keen to avoid experiencing the same common gym owner problems, you should make sure each one of your clients feel looked after throughout their whole membership. 


Expand Your Knowledge With OriGym

Expand your industry knowledge, starting with our Level 4 Sports Nutrition Course.

#8 - Failing To Maintain Facilities Is A Common Problem For Many Gym Owners

gym membership problems

One of the most common gym problems is when owners fail to maintain facilities to a good standard, meaning clients may look elsewhere for better kept facilities. 

As a business owner, you must make sure you can afford to maintain it. You should take careful consideration of this when calculating your budgets, as discussed earlier.

Many gym owners fail to factor the maintenance cost of equipment into their overall budget. 

From lubricating machines and pH testing in swimming pools, to replacing worn out or damaged equipment, these are all general maintenance costs you need to consider. 

If you fail to do this, your gym will look unkempt and will likely lead to your members not feeling as though they’re reaping the full benefits of their subscription. 

One of your gym manager roles is to keep organised and create a list of tasks you and your team should complete at different times. 

This may look something like this:

Basic Cleaning & Hygiene Maintenance

  • Clean all fitness equipment and gym machines
  • Clean bathrooms
  • Check swimming pool pH level
  • Replace antibacterial stations

Weekly Cleaning & Stock Replenishment Tasks 

  • Clean windows
  • Clean lockers
  • Equipment stock check
  • Restock vending machines

Monthly Gym Machine Tasks

  • Oil machines
  • Check working order of soundsystem and TVs

You’ll be surprised at how much your members notice when an area or equipment isn’t looked after. This means it’s important to stay on top of things to retain clients. 

If you’re serious about overcoming these common gym owner challenges, you should try to maintain the facilities to a good standard as much as possible. 

To find out more about the cons of being a gym owner, check out our article on 'The Pros and Cons of Owning a Gym'.

#9 - Gym Owners Who Don’t Consider Modern Solutions Could Lose Business

problems at the gym

Last on our list of gym owner problems is not considering how the fitness world has changed and evolved over the last few years. 

It’s fair to say the pandemic transformed the way many businesses operate, and gyms are no exception. 

While social distancing is no longer a legal requirement, many individuals still have a heightened awareness of sanitising frequently throughout the day.

It’s important these individuals still feel catered for in your gym otherwise they may not feel comfortable being members. 

You should make sure you have plenty of cleaning stations in your gym for members to use throughout their workout.

problems at the gym

You should also encourage staff to do regular rounds of cleaning so members know you take hygiene seriously. 

Good ventilation is also another way to keep airborne illnesses from spreading. Whether this is with an air handling unit or by opening windows, ventilation is super important.

Cleaning stations and ventilation units will help members feel comfortable using the facilities, thus boosting the chance of them leaving a good review and recommending your gym to family and friends. 

Before You Go! 

If you’ve just started your own business or are considering doing so soon, our solutions can help you tackle a number of gym owner problems if they arise.

To improve your industry knowledge as a gym owner, our Level 4 Personal Trainer Courses are perfect! Enquire about our Level 4 Sports Nutrition Course here.

Find out more by downloading our course prospectus to find out more or simply enter your details below!

Written by Emily Evans

Content Writer & Fitness Enthusiast

Emily studied English Language and Literature at the University of Sheffield, graduating in 2021 with a 2:1 BA honours degree. Alongside her degree, she also gained experience in student publication as Forge Press’ Lifestyle Editor and Deputy Editor for Post-Production. This is where her love for content writing stemmed from, which also led her to OriGym. Outside of her work, Emily will either be found on a long hike, at the gym or making a mess trying new healthy recipes in her kitchen!

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