Tim Bainton and Alex Planes

People become sports and fitness professionals for many reasons.

They might want to continue a lifelong relationship that began on courts or in gyms as children and turn passion into profit. They might want to be able to wear comfortable pants and shoes and avoid the office lifestyle of cubicles and tedious commutes. Or they may simply see an opportunity to build a rewarding career in a fascinating and ever-evolving industry.

These reasons also entice many fitness professionals to take the leap from “employee” to “entrepreneur.” Fitness and sports entrepreneurs often combine a disdain for the 9 to 5 cubicle lifestyle and a passion for positive health outcomes with a desire for professional independence and financial security.

But when looking to make the leap, many fitness professionals can become overwhelmed by the complexity and responsibilities of business ownership. It certainly doesn’t help that the incredible volume of supposedly helpful information on starting, operating, and building a business is often contradictory or downright wrong.

That’s why we’ve written this guide. In a series of six articles (including this one), we’d like to share some of what we’ve learned on our own entrepreneurial journeys to help other fitness professionals become successful business owners. We’ll cover the following topics:

  1. From Employee to Entrepreneur: Starting Your Business Journey
  2. Setting Financial Goals for Entrepreneurial Success
  3. Business Plan Basics: Anticipating Your Entrepreneurial Future
  4. The Art of the Pitch: Closing Sales and Attracting Investors
  5. Growing Your Fitness Business: Operating Essentials
  6. Building an All-Star Team: Hiring Great Employees

Why fitness pros make great business owners

Fitness and business share many similarities, and those extend from the weight room to the corner office. It’s no coincidence that nearly every self-made billionaire (and most self-made millionaires) begin their day with a workout and consider exercise critical to their success.

Fitness is all about setting goals, creating structure, overcoming obstacles, and learning from past successes. These are all critical aspects of a succession essful entrepreneurial journey. The process of setting goals and creating structure should begin before you’ve even formed a company or started booking clients on your own.

Understanding your motivation

The six articles in this series can help you with certain steps on the journey, but they can’t help you understand why you’ve decided to take the journey, or where you want it to lead you.

You want to be a fitness entrepreneur? That’s great! What services and/or products do you plan to offer? What kind of clients or customers do you want? Where are they located? What kind of branding will you use to represent your business?

A business without a defined purpose and presentation is doomed to failure.

You don’t need to have a comprehensive list of every possible offer or extremely detailed customer profiles right away, but you should understand who you want to serve and what you want to offer them. Clarity of purpose can make it far easier to get the ball rolling once you’ve become Fitness Entrepreneur Incorporated and are ready to rustle up some revenue.

Why niches are nice

But here’s a word of warning: don’t try to be all things to all people. The best businesses are those that identify a particular unmet need in the marketplace that it can fulfill more effectively than anyone else. As it grows, a successful business can add new offers, develop new products, and target new markets. Google didn’t start off with email, videos, a mobile operating system, or self-driving cars. It started working on all those things after its first product — a great search engine and its attached self-serve advertising system — was already spinning off money.

Defining your offer and your audience narrowly will help you identify your niche market. Your niche should be defined by the one thing you can do best right out of the gate as a sports and fitness entrepreneur. There are niches everywhere. Coaches have niches, and so do gyms, and so do product manufacturers. For example, if you’re great at helping athletes develop greater cardio endurance, don’t try to market yourself to bodybuilders. You’ll have better results with triathletes.

Knowing your niche is essential to eventual entrepreneurial success, but you’ve got a long way to go yet. Before you get going, you should get a handle on your financial situation, and we’ll be discussing that in the next article.