Find out how not to go bust when your gym starts to burst at the seams. The line between small and large gym is drawn by USASF, which defines small gyms as having 75 or less athletes and having one physical location. So can crossing the threshold be as simple as the difference of just one athlete? Far from it-as making the jump from small to large status can often multiply the risks, rewards and responsibilities associated with running your gym. Just ask Candace Guilford, owner of Florida-based Winter Park Cheer Athletics. Guilford relocated her gym in May 2012, shifting from a 4,200 squarefoot facility to a 12,000 square-foot space. She felt that the gym was "bursting at the seams," which prompted the move. Though the extra floor space has been a plus, Guilford says it's managing the extra bodies that can be a challenge. "I don't think I expected all of the fires that I am constantly putting out," says Guilford. "Spending time with coaches, dealing with the kids-when you go from three or four small squads to eight or nine larger teams, it's a jump. It can be a scheduling nightmare." Like Guilford, Pattie Brower of Tri-State Cheer in Havertown, Pennsylvania, has wrestled with similar challenges after expanding her gym. The expansion doubled the gym in size to 14,000 square feet and added a second 54' x 42' spring floor and 42' x 48' flat floor. Since the ribbon-cutting ceremony last year, Brower has focused her energy on finding ways to keep the space afloat. "Structurally, scheduling teams was never a challenge," she says. "The challenge is that off time, the fill-in time that offsets the cost of expanding. I just thought, 'What am I going to do since my costs have doubled?'" For Brower, the answer so far has been renting space to outside athletes and teams. However, she cautions that gym owners should seriously consider these extra costs when thinking about expanding or moving-rather than just jumping into the decision because they feel like bigger is better. It's easy to feel energized and optimistic by the success of mega-gyms, but many owners who've made the leap say that athletes and their safety should be the primary focus, rather than shiny new equipment or gigantic facilities. "Don't get bit by the industry bug and think you definitely need a bigger gym and better equipment," Guilford continues. "You could easily end up in debt." Timing is Everything For both Brower and Guilford, the right time came when they felt they had no other alternative. "Making that huge jump was scary," says Brower. "We waited until we had the right amount of athletes, and we became so large that [it was necessary] to break through the wall and expand." Guilford is also an advocate of waiting until your program has physically outgrown its space to make any major decisions. For her, the right formula was waiting until every minute and every inch was optimized before making a move. "All you need is a floor if you have great coaching," advises Guilford. "Don't try to jump into a larger location too fastinstead, use your floor time wisely. Don't move until you maximize your space seven days a week." Proper budgeting is also paramount to determining feasibility. It's important to connect with owners of similar-sized gyms to get a realistic idea of monthly costs, as well as to work closely with a bookkeeper and/or business consultant to estimate projected expenses. (To determine a "break-even budget," ACX's Randy Dickey advises taking all of your bills and dividing the total by how many hours the gym is open-it may be helpful to compare your current number and the projected number to see how much they differ.) So is it the right time? Let your ledger do the talking. Keeping the Small Gym Feel Stephanie Hoot-Whiddon has been through it all at Richmond, TX-based Texas Thunder-from growth to downsizing to an upcoming move in June to a larger facility. (The Texas Thunder website says it's "Where Large Gym Talent meets the Small Gym Atmosphere!") Keeping that close-knit, personal feel is important to coaches like Hoot-Whiddon, and like Guilford and Brower, she does not think bigger always equals better. "This industry is constantly changing," says HootWhiddon. "A lot of people in this industry don't do this to get rich, and there's a lot to be said for smaller gyms. I really do it for the kids." That seems to be a common thread between owners who have expanded their gym size. It's easy for kids and athletes to get lost in the shuffle when the numbers grow, so owners must make extra effort to make them feel like they're an important part of the gym family. For example, Brower's gym has team bonding events and sleepovers, and Guilford places top priority on making sure " the kids aren't just a number where you don't even know their names." For Hoot-Whiddon, " finding a responsible staff is the biggest challenge" when a gym is expanding in size. After all, when growth necessitates hiring more coaches and employees, it can be doubly challenging to find the right employees-and make sure they match your values. "My ultimate goal was to have a bigger program but also keep that one-on-one, fun, friendly atmosphere. Losing that was my biggest fear," Guilford admits in retrospect. For many gym owners, it boils down to whether you've done the proper legwork, whether the timing is right and whether you're expanding for the right reasons. As Brower says, when all those things come together, "The reward outweighs the risk."
Published by The Cheer Professional . View All Articles.
This page can be found at http://mydigimag.rrd.com/article/Growing+Pains/1370155/154156/article.html.