Wellness Partners

A Gym Owner's Guide to Operating Models

May 22, 2024
Last Updated May 22, 2024

The U.S. market for gyms and fitness clubs was an impressive $31.2 billion as of last year. Total membership growth among all fitness centers increased by 37%, and more consumers than ever frequented multiple facilities. 

Even better: Gymgoers show higher commitment rates to their fitness goals. They visit studios an average of 75 days annually, up from 72 days in recent years. The fitness industry is booming — so how can you, as a gym owner, get a slice of the action? 

By setting up a profitable operating model that customers can't resist!

Your gym's operating model is the basis of its business strategy. It defines how you'll attract clients, retain them, and generate sales. The right operating model will resonate with clients, allowing you to create a loyal customer base that thrives at your studio. 

Why Operating Models Matter for Gyms

All companies need an operating framework, including gyms. Without a defined strategy for driving sales, you'll find yourself playing whack-a-mole, trying to attract clients using the playbook of the moment. Other processes, like marketing and day-to-day gym management, won't have a dedicated standard to follow. 

A comprehensive operating model outlines all the aspects of your gym's operations, including its revenue strategy, systems and processes, and organizational structure. It uses visuals such as flowcharts and graphics to outline your gym's operations and client relations. 

Think of your operating model like a jigsaw puzzle. The image on a puzzle box shows the end goal, a beautiful picture. The puzzle pieces make up the picture — you just have to figure out how to make them fall into place. You'll take the same approach to your gym's operating model.

The Key Components of a Gym Operating Model

Your fitness center's operating model may incorporate five elements outlining processes and procedures. Each component is critical to your gym's operations.


What is your gym's overarching purpose? What value do you deliver to your clients? The answers to those questions form the backbone of your operating model.

An example of a gym strategy might be "To provide a high-quality training facility with cutting-edge equipment to elite athletes." Another is "Offering affordable fitness classes suitable for the everyday gymgoer." Whatever your strategy is, make sure it defines your gym's target market and value proposition.


Your business processes include the systems you use to make your gym run seamlessly. They include your hardware and software, fitness equipment, facility arrangement, and other tools, like marketing and sales platforms. 

To give you an idea, assume you rely on a dedicated overnight cleaning company to make your facilities squeaky clean for morning customers. If the cleaning company suddenly folded, you might scramble to find another option. It would interrupt a major business process — providing a hygienic gym for your customers. 


The structure of your gym outlines the different services you offer, such as in-person and virtual fitness classesweights and cardio equipment, and personal one-on-one training. Each structure fits into achieving your gym's purpose.

Let's say your gym is known for its intensive kickboxing classes that you offer daily. The classes contribute to your gym's purpose — helping people lose weight, improve confidence, and enhance their muscle strength. If you suddenly stopped offering kickboxing classes, you would need to find an alternative option for your clients. Otherwise, your gym might fall short of its goals. 


No gym can function without employees. Think about the various roles throughout your gym that make it run successfully, including your fitness trainers, receptionists, cleaning staff, sales reps, and marketing staff. List their responsibilities and how they contribute to the gym's operating model.

For instance, say you count on receptionists to check in clients when they arrive. Without a receptionist, anyone could walk in and use your gym equipment, even if they didn't have a membership. Plus, you'd lose the all-important personal touch, since no one would be there to interact with clients. 

Culture & Values

Your gym's culture and values define the attributes and traits it strives to embrace. You want your staff to understand and exhibit the values that align with your operating model. 

For instance, if you plan to attract customers of all fitness levels, you might emphasize wellbeing and personal growth in your gym's culture. You might scout for trainers interested in improving their own health while also serving as an inspiration to others.

How To Build Your Gym's Operating Model (Step-by-Step)

Defining and creating your gym's operating model starts with a brainstorming session. For the best results, consider including employees who perform different functions so you get insights from all business areas.

  1. Define Your Gym's Purpose and Value Proposition

What sets your gym or fitness studio apart from others in your area? Do you focus on boutique fitness activities, like yoga or pilates? Are your target customers of a specific age group, such as seniors or working professionals? Is the gym open 24 hours a day, seven days a week? Do you offer a free workout app that anyone can download?

You can probably identify the strategy of mainstream, nationwide gyms pretty easily. For instance, Planet Fitness caters to people looking for an affordable gym in their community. 

Your gym's purpose and value proposition are probably crystal-clear to you. Use them as the primary theme of your operating mode.

  1. Describe Processes That Are Critical to Your Operating Model

Think of a critical process as the oxygen that keeps your gym alive. If the oxygen runs out — or a process fails — your business could come to a screeching halt. That is until the process is fixed.

Some examples of processes that are probably pretty vital to your gym include:

  • Payment collections and membership renewals
  • Gym equipment maintenance
  • Fitness class scheduling 
  • Onsite customer service assistance

For instance, say you typically have one customer service rep on-site each shift to handle questions, check-ins, and sign-ups. How would you handle it if that person called out immediately before their shift began? You'd probably need a backup. Otherwise, members may miss out on their regular workouts.

  1. Identify Technology That Keeps Your Gym Running

Technology is a huge part of any business — even gyms. While your gym's focus is your members' health and wellness, technology keeps various processes running smoothly. 

Each technological tool plays a role in your operating model. For instance, a CRM can help you track client interests, contact details, and membership renewals. You might use it to follow up with a client who misses a fitness class (hello, motivation!) or suggest a new service you offer — like nutrition counseling.

  1. Describe Each Employee's Role in Your Gym

Every employee contributes to your gym's success. Consider asking your team how they support your gym's purpose. They can provide insights into their contributions, which you may be unaware of. 

Take marketing as an example. Maybe you have a super-creative marketing analyst who helps bring in leads and develop advertising strategies. But in addition to those duties, they might also track your sales and monitor membership renewals. By allowing employees to talk about what they do, you can learn how they keep things spinning in your favor.  

  1. Wrap Up The Details in a Crystal Clear Flowchart or Graph

Once you have all the relevant information, it's time to narrow things down. The idea is to make your final operating model super clear in a crisp, one-page pictorial. Some examples of visual mediums you might use include the following:

  • Decision trees: Useful for if/then situations
  • Flowcharts: Describe how processes support one another
  • Charts and graphs: Great for numerical data
  • Bulleted lists: Helpful for itemizing details under a subhead

Some companies opt to include multiple visual elements. For instance, you might use decision trees for customer service activities like membership renewals and bulleted lists to describe the duties of key employee roles in your gym.

Real-World Examples

You probably don't want your gym to be a carbon copy of other successful fitness centers. Otherwise, your brand may be indistinguishable from the competition. However, examining the operating models of other gyms can inspire you as you work through your strategy. Here are a few case studies to consider. 

24 Hour Fitness

The 24 Hour Fitness chain caters to customers who want to work out any time. Many of its clientele have alternative working schedules, so they might show up for a run in the late evening or early morning hours. The company's operating model focuses on meeting the fitness needs of its clients anywhere and anytime. 


OrangeTheory strays from the traditional gym model to offer one-hour interval training classes throughout the day. Clients can join a class that fits their schedule. Its operating model focuses on improving client health based on their fitness level. 

A Definitive Business Model Helps Your Gym Stand Out From the Competition

At the heart of any gym is its customer base, and as a gym owner, you want a loyal following that stays with you for the long term. One of the best things you can do for your gym is create a straightforward business model that outlines what customers can expect when they join. 

Your business model exists to better service your customers, but it also outlines what you expect from your team. Each employee plays a role in your gym's success. When they understand your objectives, they can work to meet them.

As your gym gains traction in your market, you can attract even more customers through a partnership with Wellhub. We connect gyms with employers offering wellness initiatives, increasing brand exposure and gym memberships. Our network of over 14,000 businesses provides 20 million employees with access to fitness services and gyms. 

Learn more about joining our network — speak with a Wellbeing Specialist today!




Wellhub Editorial Team

The Wellhub Editorial Team empowers HR leaders to support worker wellbeing. Our original research, trend analyses, and helpful how-tos provide the tools they need to improve workforce wellness in today's fast-shifting professional landscape.


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