Finding the right property
Where you live, are there any houses or buildings that just constantly blows you mind with their beauty or statue? Building that makes you feel something, rather than just "oh, a house....sweet".
In my little town of 20 000 people there is one such building. It's huge, magnificient and yes... Massive! Ever since the idea of having my own gym first took root in my head I knew that that was the building it just *had* to be in. The "problem" with this building is that it's really huge (1550 sqm /16700 sqf with everything included, but that's actually just about a third of the whole property!), and I thought that there would probably never be a chance for me to rent it. Cool things happen though...
The building was erected in the 1950's and was used until 2010, first for manufacturing stainless steel items such as old fashioned toilets, industry type wash chutes (I think that's the right word), and then went over to doing the same thing but plastic only. Luckily for me, the company grew really big and had to find a bigger venue to occupy. So, it's a pretty typical industrial place, with the exception of the most amazing windows I have ever seen. They are FIVE meters high, and the wall facing the road outside has about 92 sqm / 1000 sqm of windows! Imagine all that light coming through! Oh no wait, see for yourself :]
In December 2013 I decided to call the company that now owns the property to ask what the rent was for such a humungous place, and if I could come in for a viewing. I don't know what flew into me that day really, It was one of those times where you just feel as if you can take over the world. And it suddenly didn't seem impossible to get $300'000 to fund a startup like this. I still sometimes think I'm crazy, but I also think it's crazy worth it ;] I got to view it a couple of weeks later, and I was SOLD.
I spent the following week making budgets to see if I could even make it go around and after a lot of discussion with my boyfriend and parents, we started working on a contract together with the property owners. It took some time and discussion, but in the end we got a pretty good deal for something so big. But big means a lot of money even on a good deal.
Something that the local property companies recently started doing is offer startups a lower rent at the start of the contract to be able to get the business up and running. I think this is really great as it gives someone like me the ability to get on my feet before the costs get too high. There is like a million other things to pay at the start anyways, so I recommend haggling like an old lady to get the best deal possible! It's all about negotiation. Try to make the discounted rent period last for as long as you can, some companies may even let you rent for nothing the first few months. Don't go in too hard in your meetings with a landlord, try to negotiate with a spark and don't get too hot and bothered. You can always have another meeting (unless people are standing in line). Just remember that it is just as important for the landlord to get a good company into their facility that they actually believe in. For them it's best if you stay there forever, as long as you pay your rent on time every month. For you it's best if you get along from the start, and pushing too hard or being stupidly arrogant in a first or second meeting isn't a great way to start a long lasting relationship :]
So what do you need to think about when you're looking for a suitable property?
- How is the location? Is it easy to get to by car/bus/walking? Does it need to be? Is there enough parking available? Will the customer pick something that's easier to get to over your facility? Is this a good location and a suitable property for your concept? Or does location come before concept? There are a million questions like this that you really need to ask yourself. What will work best for you and for the people who are going to train at your gym.
- A good landlord, I can't stress this enough. Having a good, solid company back you up will be great as they can help you get on your feet, and in some cases invest in the renovation of your facility. That usually comes with a longer contract, but it can definitely be worth it. Involve them in the process, make them excited about being a part of what you are creating, it's never wrong to make people positive about your stuff.
- Price. Rent and initial cost for making the place "work". Always compare. If your dream facility is more expensive it might be worth it in the end. For me it turns out choosing a property with about a third of the place would end up costing me just as much due to all the renovation I would have to do with changing rooms, ventilation and countless other things. A cheaper deal isn't always a cheaper deal. How much money will it take to make the facility ready for customers? Paint, reception desk, mirrors, training equipment, FLOORING (I can't even begin to tell you how expensive this can be!), bins and cleaning equipment, storage, the list really goes on and on, and in the end you have a big pile of expenses. Also, it will always be more expensive than you think.
- Monthly expenses. It's not only rent you have to pay each month. Other things that you just can't be without is electricity, heating, ventilation and water. In some systems these are connected so it can be tricky to find out the actual cost. Count HIGH, cause you would rather end up with more money than expected. Don't forget to include the membership system (whatever you use to let people through the door), internet (obviously), phone, charges related to payments (bank always wants money), any leasing you may need, your mortgage, insurance and any licenses you may need. Costs pile up quickly, and some are the same regardless of the size of your establishment. Sometimes sizing up is good because you will have the ability to fill your place with more customers.
- How does it feel when you're in your future gym? Does your head fill up with ideas or is it just another square box for a gym like all others? Is this a place where you can see yourself spending 16 hours a day?
When you have found the right place, get the rent negotiated and start planning!