Target a niche for your fitness center to differentiate your business from the larger, national chains. For instance, you can open a Pilates and yoga center, a gym for women, a group fitness center, free weight gym, athletic training gym or family fitness center.
Write a business plan, including details about your niche; analysis of competing local fitness centers; three-year expense budget and profit projections; marketing and public relations plans.
Become a certified fitness instructor, or hire individuals with such qualifications. Even if you will not be training customers yourself, you should still learn basic CPR, in the event one of your clients needs help.
Obtain the business permits needed in your area to run a service business, such as a fictitious name certificate (DBA), Employer Identification Number or state tax identification number. If you will be retailing products, you may also need a resale permit, or sales tax and use permit from your state.
Buy or lease a space for your fitness center. The amount of space you need will depend upon your niche and the amount of equipment you plan to buy.
Purchase equipment for your fitness center. Buying package deals from equipment manufacturers can save money, as well as buying quality, used equipment from personal trainers that are retiring, or gyms that are going out of business.
Get liability insurance to protect your business in the event a customer becomes injured while using your facilities. Though having your clients sign a liability waiver is a way to take precaution, insurance will come into play if someone decides to take legal action after an accident.
Offer incentives for customers to patronize your fitness center. For instance, you can offer free or discounted child care service, free towels for use during workouts, complimentary water, guest passes and security, if you plan to be open during late-night and early-morning hours.
Market your fitness center. Launch a promotional website, sponsor a fitness event or health fair, host discounted classes for seniors or youth, send news releases to local media outlets or open social networking accounts.