Gym owner opens three gyms in 10 months


Gym World comes from Kilo co-founder John Franklin, who shares lessons about making money in the fitness industry.

Here’s his system for scaling fast.

Like most entrepreneurs, I tend to overestimate what I can get done in a short period of time and underestimate what I can get done over a long period of time.

Case in point: I once tried to open three gyms in two months.

To make things harder, they were different concepts, in different states, with different partners.

Jeff Schumacher of Engage Personal Training took a saner approach to scaling, and opened 3 locations in 10 months AFTER dialing in his concept.

If you’re a gym owner that wants to scale multiple locations, here are 5 insights that can save you time, effort, and money.

1. Bigger is not better

Gym owner logic tends to be, “my 5k sq. ft. space is doing great, so a 10k sq. ft. space will do twice as good.”

That’s rarely true.

If you look at coaching franchises with 500+ locations (ex. OrangeTheory, Xponential, F45, etc.), you’ll notice that:

A. They don’t require much space

B. Their locations get a ton of foot traffic, &

C. They don’t require a lot of staff

Engage Personal Training checks all three boxes.

Each location is about 1,800 square feet and located in a shopping center that has a grocery store.

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Engage offers small group training and charges around $350/mo for 3 sessions a week.

Each location caps out at around 120 members and is run by two full-time staff members:

  • A facility leader that coaches 15 sessions/wk and manages sales & programming
  • A full-time coach that coaches 24 sessions/wk

That lean team generates about $40k/mo in revenue, and while that is not a sexy top-line number, they operate at a 40-50% profit margin.

Dan Trink & Kyle Fields from The Fort do over $100k/mo in a 2,000 sq. ft. space running a similar model.

2. Self-fund

Make sure your first location prints money without you before considering a second. I’ve seen plenty of gym owners destroy their businesses by expanding before they’re ready.

If you don’t have the funds to open a second location, that’s a clear sign you’re not ready.

Engage used the profits from their first facility to fund the next gyms. It costs Jeff about $100k to build a facility, and he recoups that investment in about a year.

3. Pick the right operator

The best multi-location owners that I know are good at hiring operators that act like owners.

Jeff finds talent by:

  1. Identifying people from high-level roles at other gyms that want to be gym owners and hiring them. He lures them away from their current job by offering performance-based compensation and profit sharing.
  2. Using a staffing agency. Jeff hired professional fitness recruiter, Jessie Stackhouse, to find candidates based on the job description and qualities Jeff is hiring for.

I did it a little differently. When I scaled from two to five gyms, I hired from within.

A lot of gym owners are afraid of training their staff because they’ll leave one day. But what if that was a good thing?

If someone on my team had dreams of being a gym owner, I trained them up and gave them seed capital to open or buy a gym. They put money into the deal, so they had real equity and skin in the game.

They’d manage the in-gym experience, and I’d manage the back-office functions.

I stole the idea from Outback Steakhouse.

This model works well when you chose the RIGHT operator, but one time, I chose incorrectly, and it was an absolute nightmare.

I cannot stress this enough: if you want to own multiple gyms AND make money, choose the right operator.

4. Market hard

The faster you get bodies in the door, the faster you scale.

Jeff starts marketing a new location 10 weeks before it opens. They spend $1,000 a week until they sell 75 contracts. They’ve hit that number BEFORE the facility opened 2/3 times.

Jeff said the offer that works best for them is a 20% discount for life.

I hate lifetime discounts. They’re good for getting bodies in the door, but they can come back to bite you in the ass.

5. Invest in community

Most gyms do a “Member of the Month,” but why stop there?

Engage celebrates a member every time they complete 100 sessions. When a member hits 1,000 sessions, they get their name on the wall and some big balloons.

They also host a fancy annual banquet where they give out awards.

Doing stuff like this is cheap, and has a massive ROI.

Extended: Learn more about Engage Personal Training

If you want to learn more about scaling to multiple locations, watch this week’s Gym World where we break down everything we know:

Or add it to your queue on Spotify or Apple.

Until next week,


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