Key Steps for the Gym Turnaround

October 9, 2015

By: Jim Thomas

The first step is critical.  You must recognize the need.  Most gym owners wait until it’s too late.  If you have a problem…face up to it now! Speaking from my consulting experience, don’t wait to admit the need until the patient is on the operating table. The longer you avoid what’s happening, the worse it will get and the more difficult the turnaround becomes.

You must start immediately to give your gym its best chance to survive.

You must get an immediate grip on your finances.  Only pay what will keep you in business.  Everything else can wait.  You must always preserve a positive cash balance.

Next, you must take an objective look at your situation and develop short term and long term priorities. Don’t let emotion rule your decision making. Be willing to make the difficult decision. This is about saving your business.

You will need to determine what has caused the underperformance. If you don’t know why this happened, you are doomed to repeat the mistake. Be sure and re-establish discipline.

Establish a marketing plan and get the entire management team on board for the planned objectives. Do your research.  Take massive action to overcome the issue of obscurity. Now is not the time to be testing new marketing ideas.  Go with what’s proven.

You will need supplier and vendor support to ensure your plan can happen. Don’t ignore these folks.  Meet with each of them and let them know your situation and your intentions. The key here is good communication.

You need to become an expert at health club management, particularly sales management.  Start surrounding yourself with people who are better than you are at what you are asking them to do. Get your system in place.  You must have a disciplined sales process. Assume nothing.

Keep everyone involved in the process. Communicate, don’t keep anyone guessing.  Communication is the key to most anything, but it’s the foundation when trying to keep everyone on the same page during a gym turnaround.

Manage the process.  Let people know what needs to be done and why.  Then follow up. Train. Train. Train. Manage by objectives.

Know your numbers.  Don’t let the process of change distract you from the need to manage your gym. Track everything that is done in your gym just like you normally would. 

Manage with a cautious optimism.  Know the risks moving forward and be prepared to deal with them. There are many elements that can stall your turnaround progress.  Make a list of these potential setbacks and then a have plan if this were to happen.

Keep your foot on the accelerator.  Don’t let up.  Ever. Don’t take success for granted.  It’s hard work.  Be on the lookout for success apathy.

Now, let’s get your gym turned around!

Jim Thomas is the founder and president of Fitness Management USA Inc., a management consulting and turnaround firm specializing in the fitness and health club industry. With more than 25 years of experience owning, operating and managing clubs of all sizes, Thomas lectures and delivers seminars and workshops across the country on the practical skills required to successfully build teamwork and market fitness programs and products. Visit his Web site at: or