By Stephen Tharrett, SUCCEED! Speaker

Entrepreneurship is the engine for every small business—fitness studio ownership included. Entrepreneurs pursue their dreams, confident that dreams will become reality. One quote from an unknown author says, “Dreams are like stars, you may never touch them, but if you follow them they will lead you to your destiny.”

You might feel that opening a fitness studio is your destiny. If so, then getting there will require you to follow the stars, or from a business perspective, seek out and follow the insights of successful entrepreneurs. Here are some key considerations for getting there.

Transition from Trainer to Studio Owner

The transition from trainer to owner is as much a personal journey as it is a business journey. Paraphrasing what I’ve heard espoused by trainers who have started their own fitness studios: “I’m a fitness professional and exercise scientist, not a business person or marketing director. I don’t want to spend time on business and marketing, I want to do what I do best: train people.”

However, if you want to be a successful studio owner, you’ve got to shift your mindset and embrace competencies you’re not as passionate about or as well-versed in. For example:

  • Move from being the story to being the storyteller.  Frequently trainers seeking to go out on their own are celebrities within their ecosystem, accustomed to being the story told by others. As a studio owner, you have to shift your mindset and actions from being the content of any story to being a storyteller, conveying the vision, values and purpose behind the business to others through stories. Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple said, “The most powerful person in the world is the storyteller. The storyteller sets the vision, the values and the agenda for an entire generation that is ahead.”
  • Shift from being a lone ranger to an influencer. Most great trainers and instructors are lone rangers. They do their thing and they do it extremely well.  As a studio owner, you've got to lose the lone ranger mentality and shift to becoming an influencer.  "The task of a leader is to get people from where they are to where they have never been." - Henry Kissinger.
  • Move from implementer to innovator.  Steve Jobs said, "Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” As a personal trainer, you might follow the policies, practices and programs developed by management. As a studio owner, you have to be the business innovator. You are the individual who brings forward ideas and actions, sometimes uncomfortable ones, then sees them through to fruition.

However, if you want to be a successful studio owner, you’ve got to shift your mindset and embrace competencies you’re not as passionate about or as well-versed in.

First Steps to Studio Ownership

The business side of opening a fitness studio requires more than an idea, credit-card debt, cheap rent, a sign on the door and a Facebook page. Of course, there are many entrepreneurs who take this path, but success—meaning your business is thriving three to five years down the road—requires multiple steps. Here are just a couple:

  • Take the time to craft your story. Every successful business has a story. A story describes who you are, what you believe in, what makes you different, and how you deliver on that difference. A story communicates the journey you lead, the purpose behind it, the values that drive it and an achievable destination. It also is the framework from which you build a business plan and budget.
  • Get Googleable. Make sure your new business appeals to Google. Most organic searches are the primary means by which today’s consumers find you, not to mention learn about you. As an aspiring studio owner, you’ll want to secure your desired domain name as soon as possible—avoid a derivative of your business name that will be hard to make sense of online.

Join Stephen Tharrett at SUCCEED! AFS' Annual Business Convention & Expo for a complete roadmap to becoming a fitness studio owner and creating a successful business culture. Stephen’s sessions:

Defining Your Business Culture & Creating Your Tribe: Why it Could be Your Most Important Long-term Objective
Turning Vision Into Reality: What to Know When Starting Your Own Business


Stephen Tharrett is currently the owner and president of Club Industry Consulting, a global consulting business based in the U.S.  He is also a co-founder and partner in Club Intel, a member and brand insights firm.

Stephen is a former board member and president of the International Health and Racquet Sportsclub Association (IHRSA), having served as president of the board from 1996-1997. He is the author of eight management textbooks for the health and fitness industry and a frequent speaker at industry conventions throughout the world.