Functional Training Zones

If You Have A Big Enough “Why” To Start A Business, You Will Figure Out The “How”

By: Bill Parisi, BBA, C.S.C.S., Founder, Parisi Speed School and Parisi Franchise Systems

Many trainers have goals to open their own training facility one day.  The thought of owning your own business is exciting and rewarding.  However, there will be many bumps in the road during the process of launching your own business.  Below are 7 steps to think through and follow to make sure you stay on the right track.

1.  Find Great Mentors - From day one, I have had many mentors.  These individuals have come from many different areas, such as leadership, business, training, parenting, real estate and investing.  Since I am always on the lookout for mentors, new ones continuously enter my life.  A mentor is an expert in a specific field that is willing to share his or her knowledge with you in a way that you understand and can take action and execute on.  Some of my mentors were former personal training clients or the parents of the children I trained.  One of the most influential mentors in my life is Dr. Rob Gilbert, the keynote speaker at this year’s PB Summit.  I have learned from Dr. Gilbert that if you truly define your why and dig deep, you will preserve and figure out the how.  This is imperative when starting a business because 80 percent of all businesses fail in the first five years.  Then, of the businesses that make it the first five years, another 80 percent fail in the next five years.  That means 96 percent of all new businesses fail in the first 10 years of opening.  Define your why and find great mentors.  The right mentors will help guide you through the tough times in business so you do not become part of this devastating statistic that I stated above. 

2. Learn Accounting - I know many people in the fitness industry despise numbers and have trouble managing their own budget, personal investing and retirement plan. I believe this is absolutely crazy.  A simple rule I have is that if you are not able to manage your own personal finances, then you should never open a business.  The good news is that you can learn to master your own finances.  You just need a mentor to show you how or you can take some self-study courses to learn. It is not that difficult.  It is just like working out. When someone new works out for the first time, it can be very scary.  However, once they start, it becomes easier and less painful.  The same holds true when attacking your finances.  When it comes to business you need to understand how to read and interpret financial statements.  The financial big three are; the Income Statement, Balance Sheet, and Cash Flow Statement.  These may sound complicated but once you learn them they are the most important navigation tools for your business. 

3.  Find The Best Commercial Real Estate Agent In Your Area - Finding the right location is the most important step in insuring your business success. An easy way to do that is to find an experienced and well-connected, local, commercial real estate agent who is "wired" into the community.  Make sure you meet with a number of agents and interview them.   Share with them your idea of a dream facility and ask them to give you their feedback.  You will be surprised on how informative a well-connected and experienced commercial real estate agent can be in helping you develop your business plan.

4. Create a Business Plan - The old adage goes, "If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”  This has never been truer when it comes to starting a business.  There are some very good business planning tools out there to help you write your plan and figure out your budget. A great resource to get your business plan done is the U.S. Small Business Administration. This is a government agency that lays out an 8-step process.  This tool really helps you think through and write your business plan.  I highly recommend you check out their website at If you invest the time up front to plan, you will save money and minimize your mistakes in the future.

5. Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable - One of the most important aspects of being successful in business is not being afraid to ask. I remember my first real estate negotiation.  I asked my real estate agent if I could meet the building owner of the location I was looking to lease from.   This practice is uncommon because most of the time, the agent for the buyer or renter speaks directly to the agent for the owner.  In this case, I wanted the building owner to know my personal story. I wanted to share with him my vision.  Many times building owners are simply cut throat and it's all about the money.  But once in awhile, you find a landlord that sees value in fitness, what you can bring to the community and give you the benefit of the doubt. This strategy can really help if you are negotiating a specific issue that you really need to get you over the top.  I have negotiated over 30 different real estate deals with Parisi Franchise Systems and sharing our mission and vision has absolutely helped us get better deals 50 percent of the time. 

6. Master Your Floor Plan - Most people do not realize how important the right floor plan really is.  When you are building a new facility and do not think through the floor plan, the cost to go back and make changes after the construction process has started can be extremely expensive.  I have always said that your floor plan is one of the most important factors in determining your level of profitability. Your floor plan determines how many people you can train at one time and identifies the flow of how workouts would be performed.  A well thought out floor plan should be done by a professional with experience.  PerformBetter has people on staff that can help you with this. They have created over 1,000 floor plans; so let them help you come up with a solution.

7. Finding The Right Staff and Building A Cohesive Team and Culture- Recruiting talent is an ongoing task.  You have to always be looking to find good people.  I have always said that the fitness business is supply driven.  When you add a great coach or trainer to your staff, your business will grow.  A great trainer doesn't always mean they are the most knowledgeable?  My best coaches are people that came to me with very little knowledge on training but possessed the right attitude.  They are eager to learn, motivated to work, and willing to do whatever I ask.  They want to be in the people business, not just the exercise business. Too many trainers think it's all about the exercise science.  Although we need to know how to keep people safe and prescribe results oriented routines, we also need to provide the motivation that gets people coming back.  Create a seamless interview process and perform group interviews. Wherever you go, be on the lookout for people that would like to become a personal trainer. Make collecting resumes a habit and understand that as a fitness business owner, your staff is your first and most important customer.  Always be looking for new ones and take care of the ones you have. 

These topics and more are covered more in depth in Bill Parisi’s Audio Series “Success Skills.”   You will receive powerful business advice, insightful tips, and valuable secrets to take control of your professional destiny.  To purchase, go to  Success Is A Skill, and You Can Learn It.

For more information about Bill Parisi and the Parisi Speed School, check out

(September 2015)