There comes a time in most careers when you contemplate your next step. Do you stay in the rank and file and continue to hone your skills, strive for a management position, executive status or perhaps strike out on your own as an entrepreneur? The fitness industry is no different. You may have started in a health club, corporate gym, outdoor boot camp or some other conventional setting for beginner trainers, but now you want more. This is probably the point you have thought about opening your own gym or studio. You wonder, "Do I have a big enough following for people to come with me? How do I buy the equipment I need and pay the bills until I have enough clients? What kind of marketing would I do? How do I build my client base among all the big-name health clubs and gyms out there?"

First, you need to ask yourself some hard questions - and be honest with yourself; your success or failure will only be determined by you. The BIG question is: are you willing to do what it takes to build your business and be successful? Most people will say, "Of course I am." But are you truly willing to give up nights with your significant other, spouse or children if need be to take care of business? Are you willing to not just do the things you love, like training clients, but also do the accounting, opening the doors, closing the doors and cleaning the bathroom because the guy you hired last week called in sick for two days in a row? It takes a lot more to run your own business than just showing up to turn the lights on every morning. You have to be willing to do whatever it takes to succeed, or the business won't.

Now, you think to yourself, "I like training clients one-on-one, but I like the idea of owning a big facility also." But nobody knows Joe Smith and there is a well-known health club a town over. How does your small no-name studio compete with that? That is when you might start playing with the idea of buying a franchise.

Like anything else, there are pros and cons to consider when deciding to become a franchisee. Depending on what kind of business you want to have and where you want to take it will determine your best course of action. Do you want to own a women's only facility or a boot camp franchise? A health club-based location or perhaps a powerhouse hard-core gym might be more up your alley? Do you want to be hands-on involved or just own a fitness facility and pop in once in a while?

There are several benefits and positive aspects to buying a successful fitness franchise that many aspiring business owners find very attractive.

Somebody else has done much of the hard work for you. They have tested the system, written the manuals and branded the product. And guess what? It typically works. As long as you follow the system, it should work for you. They know the best methods to get new clients, have the advertising worked out and provide you with all the information and resources to get out there and open your doors.

The franchise provides training and teaches you much of what you need to know to be successful. They will literally 'hand you the manual.' Your job is to study it, learn it and apply it. You do not have to reinvent the wheel.

The franchise may provide discounts on supplies and services. Some may offer advertising and marketing materials and resources. Often times, there may be automatic fees involved in this, so again, do your research, but for a brand that has been proven to work, it may be worth your investment rather than trying to figure it out on your own. After all, your business is fitness.

Depending on the franchise, the name is already branded and established. Clients have heard of you and are coming to you with their money willingly. Even if you go for a niche market, the franchise company is getting the name out there. It gives you double exposure.

Buying into a franchise may also mean a territory comes with it. This does not mean a competitor will not open nearby, but another location within your franchise cannot, so the devotees to your brand in that area are coming to you. 

You will have support from your new franchise community to help you grow the business; there is an opportunity to create relationships with more experienced franchisees. 

Let's take a look at what many consider to be some of the restrictions of investing in a franchise fitness business.

You have no autonomy. Your business is not John Smith's Awesome House of Abs. You are owner of Big Brand Fitness in My Town. If you have a specific idea of how you want your programs to run or want to label your own new way of training with your name on it, then buying a franchise may not be the right path for you. 

When you buy a franchise, you often need to have a good chunk of money upfront. You need to play by their rules which you must agree to when you sign your agreement. You will also likely be required to follow their structure. In some cases, the franchise must also approve the location you pick for the facility.

You will be paying a royalty fee each month. This structure is different for each franchise so it is a good idea to look at the franchise documents for a few companies for comparison. You want to be sure that you are comparing apples to apples; for example, you should not compare a gender-specific fitness facility to a hard-core powerhouse gym as it would not be an equal comparison.

There is a term for the franchise agreement. Are you willing to make a 5-year or 10-year commitment? If you have a specific location you are interested in and cannot get a 10-year lease, you may not want to buy a franchise that signs you to a 10-year term. In that case, you may consider a different franchise.

There are usually minimum requirements for equipment you must purchase before you open which add to your start-up costs. In some cases you must purchase equipment through the franchise. Even if you might be able to buy the equipment cheaper somewhere else, many require that you spend upfront for that franchise’s choice of supplier.

Buying a franchise is a big decision and there is a large monetary and long-term investment to consider. Talk to your accountant, business adviser, lawyer and trusted family members. It is critical that you also take time to do extensive research before finalizing any decisions and be fully committed to your venture as a franchisee.

Resources for fitness franchise information and comparison:
Daniella Cippitelli Abruzzo is President/Co-Owner of FC Online Marketing Inc., and 27th Street Kickboxing Inc. For more information on and future franchise opportunities send inquiries to