As co-owners of ABC Fitness Connection LLC in Waldorf, Maryland, my husband and I are expected to know and operate every aspect of our business efficiently, effectively and profitably. We must do so even as one of us holds down another full-time job, as we raise a family and as we serve as chairpeople in other professional organizations in our community.
We work hard to balance our small business on the values in which we believe: trust and honesty. As my husband, John Wright, says: "We connect our community to lead healthier lifestyles because families need a healthier household. It is very important not to lose our passion because our goal is getting people healthy from the inside out."
We always strive to be the best fitness center in Southern Maryland. However, we have several large franchise fitness facilities popping up on every corner with access to larger advertising leverage than we have.
Even though our goal is not to compete with the large franchise gyms, we know that to succeed, we must be the best by maintaining our vision and building upon our foundation, which is rooted in education and motivation.
Local businesses have an advantage over franchised facilities in that when people walk into a franchise, they often have no idea what community they are in. On the other hand, when you walk into a smaller family owned fitness center, it typically shares the community's identity and unique sense of place.
So how does a small family owned fitness center survive with limited resources? Our recommendation is to not face this alone. Instead, unite with other small business owners who are also faces of your community to create a mighty punch.
Small businesses are the forefront of our economy. In fact, every minute a new business in the United States is started, and according to some people, more than 50 percent of all workers will be self-employed by 2020.
According to Statistics of U.S. Business from the U.S. Census Bureau, small businesses in this country employed about half or 56.1 million of the nation's private workforce in 2012. Almost all firms with employees are small. They make up 99.7 percent of all employers nationally, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
If you are a small fitness facility in your community, check out these five pointers about how to create a mighty punch in your community.
- Take the time to vend. Small business owners are the ones who give back to our communities and local schools. They support the community, and they are the people living in the community. Become aware of events taking place in your community, and volunteer to support them in exchange to vending without a cost or a discounted fee. By doing this, people will put a face with your business, which often leads to an "ahhh" moment about your services.
- Cross-market with other businesses. We built relationships with businesses within a five-mile radius of our fitness facility. Because of the relationships, we were able to place our brochures in their establishments and vice versa, especially when we had services that complimented one another. Additionally, we developed ways to refer our clients to the surrounding businesses.
- Offer discounts for referrals. Word of mouth is the best advertisement in the world. It gives creditability to your services when someone shares a testimonial about your services. We reward our clients for spreading the word if their referral leads to a sale of service.
- Get involved in your community. We support several nonprofits through fundraisers or volunteering opportunities. This lets people know that you care. For example, we have an all men homeless shelter near our facility, so every year we host a food drive boot camp. We've been lucky to be featured in the local newspaper on numerous occasions while supporting events. This is free advertisement.
- Show you care. During our slow season, it is tough. We've gotten creative when it comes to keeping a cash flow by offering free fitness workshops. We also seek speaking engagements. These services share your knowledge of the fitness industry with the community, which potentially equates to new clients.
Tammy L.S. Wright is CEO and co-owner of ABC Fitness Connection LLC in Waldorf, Maryland. She is a mother, PTO president and chair of several organizations in her community.