Starting your own business may seem like a big jump, and many people are scared to take that risk.  In fact, there are statistics that seem pretty scary when it comes to starting a small business. The Small Business Association states that 30% of new businesses fail during the first two years of being open, 50% during the first five years and 66% during the first 10.  But don’t let that scare you from following your passion and starting a business.

If you are thinking about starting a business in the health, wellness or fitness industries there are ways for you to set your business up well so you are more likely to succeed.  If you take the time to plan well from the start, you will be able to implement each step and create a strong foundation for your business.

Step-by-Step Guide to Starting a Business in the Health, Wellness and Fitness Industries
Step 1:  Gain Experience

The very first step to starting your own business is to assess your readiness.  You need to be real with yourself and decide if you have the experience and knowledge necessary to run a business.

First and foremost: do you have the necessary skills to practice in your field?  Whether you are a personal trainer, massage therapist or chiropractor before starting your own business you need to gain firsthand experience.  If you are just out of school, or you just completed your certification, you need to spend the next season of your career learning. Take this as an opportunity to hone your skills and find your professional footing.  Find a mentor to learn from so you can better yourself. Starting A Business - A Step by Step Guide for Health, Wellness and Fitness Professionals

Once you have gained experience and have developed a following of clients, you need to ensure that you have the business skills necessary.  Even if you are the best at what you do, you will need to understand the operations side of running a business. Do you know what software to use for scheduling and billing?  Who is your accountant? What are the overhead costs of running a business? How many clients or patients do you have to see in order to make ends meet? Or to make a certain profit?  What will it cost to have a receptionist? How many employees will you need?

Again, a mentor would be a great resource at this time.  Put in the work while you are learning from someone who has already navigated the process of starting a business.  Have patience while you are building your foundation…it will be worth it in the end.

Step 2: Your Idea  

Most people think that a business starts with a building, or maybe even some capital, but really a business starts well before these details are worked out.  Your business starts with your idea. That’s why it’s vital for you to fully define exactly what you want to build. The more detailed and clear your idea is, the more prepared you will be to implement it properly.

Throughout this post we will be walking through an example business, MyFitGym to help you visualize each step.  We are using a fitness facility as the example, but all of these steps apply to other health and wellness fields too.  If you are starting a medical or chiropractic business, or a massage therapy or nutrition business or really any business at all, you need to start by clearly defining your idea.

In order to clearly define the business idea of MyFitGym, instead of saying “I want to open a fitness facility,”  we should say “I want to open a fitness facility in the Allentown district of Buffalo that offers affordable personal training and boot camp classes to women ages 25-45 to help client lose weight and improve their health.” (More about defining your target market below).

Another important question to ask yourself about your idea is “What makes my idea unique.”  What is it that will make your business different than your competitors? Why should someone choose your business over a similar one?  There are a lot of possible answers to these questions.

Let’s use the example of the gym above.  What makes this gym unique? Perhaps the pricing is different than local competitors.  Or maybe, it is limited to only women so that it provides a more comfortable space for the target market.  Or maybe it offers different styles of classes than other gyms.

Make sure that you know what it is that makes you different because you will need to make this difference clear to potential customers.

Before moving forward with your idea, it is wise to do some research on what already exists in the market.  You can find out if there is a market for your idea, who your competitors are, etc (see section on market research below).

Step 3: Your Mission Statement

Don’t make the mistake of skipping this step.  Because you will need to refer back to your vision and mission when making important business decisions…think of these statements as a compass guiding you towards your business goals.

Starting A Business - A Step by Step Guide for Health, Wellness and Fitness Professionals

Your mission statement is present-focused and is the “why” of your business strategy.  Which is pretty important. So, how do you write a good mission statement? And what does it include?  It starts with the idea you already clearly defined in step 1.

Throughout the writing of your mission statement, keep in mind the story of your fitness business.  Why did you start your business? What makes your business unique? Why should someone choose your business over a competitor?  These answers aren’t written directly in the mission statement, but they are at the heart of it.

Next, define what your business does for your customers.  Write this down! For MyFitGym we could write “MyFitGym creates a comfortable environment for women to reach their health and wellness goals.  Our certified trainers provide high-quality, affordable personal training and group fitness classes designed to help women lose weight and increase their energy.”

See how the story is underlying this statement?  You can tell that this gym was created out of a need to provide a more comfortable environment than local competitors.  It shows the uniqueness of the business and encapsulates the passion to help.

Here are a few examples of other health and wellness businesses with solid mission statements:

Fall Creek Chiropractic
“Our mission at Fall Creek Chiropractic is to partner with our patients in creating healthier, happier lives and to be a positive resource for our community’s health through caring, family-based, extraordinary chiropractic care.”

Rochester Regional Health
“To enhance lives and preserve health by enabling access to a comprehensive, fully integrated network of the highest quality and most affordable care, delivered with kindness, integrity, and respect.”

Hands On Sports Therapy
“At Hands On Sports Massage, we treat existing injuries, provide preventative maintenance, and educate our clients about their muscles and bodies.  Our customized massage treatment and preventative maintenance program will maximize your athletic performance by increasing your range of motion, flexibility, agility, speed, function, and focus, so you can train and compete at your greatest potential.”

Most companies write their mission statements towards their customers, but some also include internal aspects.  What does your business do for its employees? Or owners? It’s even okay to write multiple mission statements, one for customers and one for employees.  This is up to you and genuinely depends on what your business prioritizes. If part of your mission is to create an amazing work environment for your employees and trainers, then it would be helpful to create a mission statement for internal purposes that is included in training material and orientation, but that is not made public.

Step 4: Your Vision Statement

Your vision statement is different in that it is future focused and intended for internal use.  It tells you and your employees where your business is heading. It is what you dream for your business to become.  With your vision statement, you are setting the direction for your company.

Your mission statement is focused on what you do.  Your vision statement is focused on the outcome of that effort.  As a health and wellness business, you want your vision statement to focus on the health outcomes for our clients (the output of the services your offer).Starting A Business - A Step by Step Guide for Health, Wellness and Fitness Professionals

Here are a few tips for creating a good vision statement:
  • Look 3-10 years into the future.
  • Dream Big.
  • Use present tense wording.
  • Capture the passion and energy of your business.
  • Use clear and concise language.

For MyFitGym a good vision statement would be “MyFitGym provides an environment where women across the state of New York can reach their health and wellness goals without feeling self-conscious.  By creating a non-judgemental and safe environment we allow women to reach their potential and live a life full of energy and passion.”

This example has a growth mindset by stating that we can reach women in the state instead of just our neighborhood.  It is written in the present tense – showing that we are taking steps in our business to reach this vision. And it shows the passion we have for women improving their health.

Step 5: Understanding Your Target Market

Who do you want to serve?  That may seem like a simple question, but many businesses don’t define this well.

If you think that your target market is everybody, you will likely fail to reach most of them.  Here’s why: it’s not easy to cater to both 21-year-old college athletes and 55-year-old empty-nesters.  Many companies end up trying to reach too many groups of people and end up reaching none of them.

Do you have a passion for working with young athletes?  Great! Focus on providing the services that will benefit them.  Do you love to work with women who have been struggling to lose weight?  Awesome! Create a business that meets their needs. Just don’t try to meet the needs of everyone while you are just starting to build your business.Starting A Business - A Step by Step Guide for Health, Wellness and Fitness Professionals

Above we talked about being specific with your idea, and this is a vital part of that.  Choose a specific group of people that you are trying to reach and design your business, your marketing and your environment around that group.

Here are a few demographics to consider when defining your target market:
  • Gender
    • Does your business serve only men?  Only women? Or both?
  • Age
    • Do you want to work with teenagers?  Young Professionals? Retired Adults?
  • Socio-economic status
    • Is your business going to be focused on lower-income individuals who don’t have access to health services?  Or are you focused on a higher income population? Or somewhere in between
  • Geographic Location
    • Do you want to serve people located in a specific neighborhood? Region? Or maybe you offer online services and can reach people farther away?
  • Health and Wellness Goals
    • Do you plan to help people prepare for fitness competitions?  Lose weight? Restore mobility? Eat better?

Once you have defined your target market, you have some research to do.  Read up on how to best market to your ideal clients. This is a good time to enlist the help of a marketing company that specializes in the health, wellness and fitness industries.

Step 6: Your Product or Service

If you have followed the first four steps, this one should be almost complete by now.  To succeed in business you need to know exactly what you are offering your clients. This is probably where your idea started.

Just like with your target market, you need to narrow this down to a few basic products or services.

It’s easy to get bogged down by continuously adding more and more features to your offerings, but the opposite is what leads to success.  Make sure that you have established your basic services before adding more. There is always room for growth as you build a strong foundation.

As crazy as it seems, growing too quickly can be a downfall for your company.

Using our example from above, MyFitGym offers personal training and boot camp classes for women.  Once these services are in place and running smoothly, we can add nutrition services or seminars.

Step 7: Market Research

Market research can be divided into two categories: primary and secondary.  Primary research is conducted by you (or a company you commission to do this).  The result is firsthand information that you gather through focus groups, online surveys, phone calls, questionnaires and more.  With this technique, you are going directly to the source to gather the information that you desire. This approach yields responses that are specific to your company’s needs, but is cost and labor intensive.  Secondary research is the data and public records that you have available to you. This is usually affordable (or free) and easy to access.

Smart business owners start with secondary research first and then conduct their own primary research.

MyFitGym may start by doing research on local demographics to ensure that a potential location would be a good fit for their services.  They can look into what competitors are in the area and the average income of nearby families. After that, they may send out a questionnaire to households in the neighborhood to see about their gym-going habits to make sure they are filling a need in the community.

We know it seems like a lot of work to put in before you open your location or start offering your online services.  But if you take the time to clearly define your business, write out your vision and mission statements, and define your target market and your product or services you will have created a strong foundation to build your business on.

As a result of your hard work, you will be more likely to succeed.

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