/ Fitness Business

The Personal Trainer's Dilemma: To Stay with the Gym Chain or Go Independent?

Over the last ten years, a growing trend has emerged, with many encouraging personal trainers to break away from big box gym chains and venture into starting their own independent businesses. The backdrop of a ZIRP economy, the allure of entrepreneurship, and software advancements have paved the way for this transition. I’ve been a strong advocate for trainers positioning themselves to create the best work environment for themselves as possible and seen the difference it can make in their lives.

There are many success stories, but what seems to be lacking across the industry is a consistent message highlighting that this path isn't a universal fit for all personal trainers. Contrary to the prevalent online message these days, keeping your role as a big box gym chain employee might actually be the optimal choice for the majority of professionals in our industry.

There are remarkable advantages to embarking on the entrepreneurial journey in the realm of personal training. The opportunity for control and flexibility, particularly when leveraging scalable training services, stands out. Minimizing the impact of gym margins on your earnings is another huge motivator. However, it's crucial to recognize that these benefits come hand in hand with their own set of challenges. Often overlooked are the complexities of running a solo business—juggling multiple roles within your business, taking on newfound responsibilities, and navigating uncharted territories with unexpected risk (remember 2020?). Speak to any trainer who's opened their own gym or moved on from their previous role, and you'll likely hear a sentiment along the lines of, "I'm happy with my decision, but..."

It's imperative for Personal Training operations teams to acknowledge the evolving dynamics of the market when it comes to attracting and retaining training talent for their fitness businesses. While leaving a large gym chain job has become easier than ever as a trainer, gyms can focus on embracing their strengths to interest potential new employees to join their business. Focus on how having a job with your business can be a lower risk compared to being in business on your own (job and income security). Sell the benefits of having a large business with access to more resources and tools for your trainers to use to help their clients. And please please please upgrade your training services to add options like semi-private training and hybrid training so trainers can increase their income. There are endless opportunities for larger fitness companies to capitalize on to attract the best talent. It will be fun to see which fitness companies are going to lead the way for our industry from here!

Matt McGunagle

Matt McGunagle

CEO & Founder of StrengthPortal. Working hard to help you in between deadlifts and jiu-jitsu!

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