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Phil Phil

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Read Unscripted!
Jan 20, 2022
13
12
Alright, before anything - yes, I know it's a highly saturated market (even on this side of the globe). Being said that, heres my story:

I came to Japan in 2013 to do my Ph.D course. Things were going good and I was planning to get in one of research facilities here in Japan upon completion. The more I lived here, the more I was learning about this country's society, law, corporate culture etc etc, the more I started to realize that if my end goal was to get a high-payment 9 to 5 then after completing my course it would had made more sense to go back to Russia (I'm from Russia) and use my "unique for Russia" experience of Japan (university, degree, tuition sponsored by Japan's government, language) and land myself a high-payment job there + such bonuses as: no stress of living in a foreign environment, having my own house that is paid for, car, friends, family, connections, you name it. But, the curious and adventurous part of me was telling me "You've managed to make it over the damn sea! You can always go back home - let's see how much further you can go here instead."

That, and realization that one day I'll have to go back to my home country to look after my parents was pretty much dictating the only solution: business, that is not not attached to my time.

Having no experience or knowledge about anything thats crucial to business, I failed with my first try, then with the second, then a few more attempts failed to even pass the step of "market research" (my previous attempts passed it simply because I had no idea that you shouldn't give a go to any idea that suddenly appear in your head, and should test it out before execution).

Now, let me do the cinematography's *Few years later* thing and spare you from reading to much of my story.

I've been spinning in the fitness community pretty much since the first year of living here. And I witnessed a boom in "personal gyms", "diet gyms", "private gyms" (they have many different ways to call them here, but basically they are all like boutique gyms). Was a bit too late to catch the initial wave, but decided to try it out and opened a "private gym" in my home (used an empty room for it). But even before opening it, I already could see that that concept had nothing to do with ultimate goal - even opposite - it was centered around me as a trainer and it was making me stuck in one location - my gym. Well, had a few customers - enough to pay rent and electricity bill, so I was happy that at least I was working at home - saved me some time.

After some time I was approached by a friend who's family owned a chain of fancy beauty/hair-salons in town. They wanted to set up a fancy "medium size" gym in one of their salon buildings, but they had no idea about what is required, training system etc. So, we signed a contract, with me providing consultation, creating a specific training system, providing training services and equipment maintenance. I'm getting a percentage from sales, which now I think wasn't a best solution, but well.. we will see. I thought it was a good start, because now I'm not attached to a specific location since I don't own the gym, I don't pay rent for it, they cover all the bills. My only expense is salaries because I hired two trainers part time.

At the current point I still have to be at the gym half of the time because what I'm getting from it is not allowing me to completely replace myself with my staff. We've been open since October 2021, so at the time of writing this it's just 4 month of operation. Good thing is after paying salaries I still have a little bit of money for myself to pay my bills. Recently I started getting more and more involved in organizational side of this business: strategy, marketing etc etc. But that's good because the more this business depend on me, the better my chances are to get a better deal/bigger cut in the future.

If all go well I'm planning to take the system and bring it to people who want to open a gym, or have one, but it's not working out for them. Also I have some ideas on how to expand to other spheres.

Currently I'm struggling with finding a proper way to market this gym to proper client. The gym is positioned in low cost, micro-group training, monthly membership type, so the goal to generate sales by having a big number of customers.

On the other side, the gym is like one of those awesome atmosphere cafes that if you know it's there - then you know, otherwise you'll have no idea that it's there (even though its in a big fancy building right on the side of a high traffic road).

I thought about my "ideal customer" and it looks like this to me now:
- a person with a free time (moms whose children are in high school or older, business people, people with a flexible working schedule);
- a person who comes to a gym just to keep a good health and not exactly pursuing a goal to be a bodybuilder or a model;
- a person who likes a personal touch to service they receive;
- a person that likes to be in a fancy environment (it's like a fancy Starbucks but it's a gym, there's a terrace with grass and chill area).

So, to me, looking at that "ideal customer" profile I feel like I should be positioning this gym in high-class superior service high-price category, and generate revenue by the level of service with a smaller number of customers. But I'd prefer to avoid that because I'd love to keep it being an "affordable superior service".

Now, talking about competition. There are TONS of personal gyms in this town, but most of them just a 3x3m room with one machine in rental apartment with one trainer who's a "I like working out so I'll open a gym and make it cheap". Those gyms tend to disappear after a year. Bigger places are owned by big companies and usually are all-Japan chains. With such gyms, the priority is not customers satisfaction, but shareholders happy pockets, so it's possible to appear "better/different" for me.

I'll pause here for now. If you have any input or advice on this one, I'll be very happy to hear from you.

Sorry for the length of this one.
 
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FitRay

Contributor
Read Rat-Race Escape!
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Read Unscripted!
Apr 17, 2020
24
35
34
Berlin, Germany
Hey there, thanks for the story - I'm part time in the fitness niche, but not related to gyms.
My single advice or tipp: Watch all videos on the youtube channel of Alex Hormozi. He was a gym owner and made some big business moves based on that and now shares his lessons.

For some reason his content is spreading extremely in social media right now, and the "some" reason is: It's extremely helpful - I learn form almost every video.

Even if you just watch the first (oldest!) 10 videos you'll learn smth new for you, I'm sure! And the topic he tackles in the first videos is "gyms during corona" - still a prominent topic.

Let me know, what you think about this guy and his content!
 

FitRay

Contributor
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Read Unscripted!
Apr 17, 2020
24
35
34
Berlin, Germany
And maybe to make you even more curious, he says, that gyms AREN'T a saturated market! Well, that is a statement, huh?

And I agree. If you look at the gyms and the value they offer ... there is sooooo much one could improve! And if there is smth. that can be improved ... then there is an opportunity. If there is an opportunity, how can a market then be saturated?
 

Phil Phil

New Contributor
Read Unscripted!
Jan 20, 2022
13
12
Hey there, thanks for the story - I'm part time in the fitness niche, but not related to gyms.
My single advice or tipp: Watch all videos on the youtube channel of Alex Hormozi. He was a gym owner and made some big business moves based on that and now shares his lessons.

For some reason his content is spreading extremely in social media right now, and the "some" reason is: It's extremely helpful - I learn form almost every video.

Even if you just watch the first (oldest!) 10 videos you'll learn smth new for you, I'm sure! And the topic he tackles in the first videos is "gyms during corona" - still a prominent topic.

Let me know, what you think about this guy and his content!
Thank you for your reply. I've just checked youtube for Alex Hormozi and instantly realized "that's that guy with a moustache that was in "Recommended to you" on youtube some time ago". Will definitely check his content now.
 
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Phil Phil

New Contributor
Read Unscripted!
Jan 20, 2022
13
12
And maybe to make you even more curious, he says, that gyms AREN'T a saturated market! Well, that is a statement, huh?

And I agree. If you look at the gyms and the value they offer ... there is sooooo much one could improve! And if there is smth. that can be improved ... then there is an opportunity. If there is an opportunity, how can a market then be saturated?
Well I guess when we say it's a saturated market we mean there are lots of gyms around. But I totally agree - the overall value offer is not that high (I can speak of Japan only), so yeah there's a room for opportunities.

Another good thing about Japan is that most overseas trends are becoming trendy here with a bit of delay (trends becoming trendy.. well). For any business in Japan - pay close attention to what's going on overseas because it will most likely be popular here in 6 months or a year. Even in this day of internet.
 

FitRay

Contributor
Read Rat-Race Escape!
Read Fastlane!
Read Unscripted!
Apr 17, 2020
24
35
34
Berlin, Germany
Well I guess when we say it's a saturated market we mean there are lots of gyms around. But I totally agree - the overall value offer is not that high (I can speak of Japan only), so yeah there's a room for opportunities.

Another good thing about Japan is that most overseas trends are becoming trendy here with a bit of delay (trends becoming trendy.. well). For any business in Japan - pay close attention to what's going on overseas because it will most likely be popular here in 6 months or a year. Even in this day of internet.
Yeah, I noticed smth similar a few years ago related to personal training. There was a time, when personal training was a normal thing in Europe, but almost no one offered it in Japan. For a brief moment, my trainer and me were thinking, what we could do about that, but dropped the ideation mostly because of the language gap ...

What do you think, is this maybe the main reason, why things need some time, until they reach Japan? Eg. for me and my product it's simple to translate the content to English, French, Spanish etc. but Japanese? Hell, I even don't know, how paragraphs, keywords etc. in a Japanese SEO-text or lead magnet work, so I wouldn't be able to "control" a translator-freelancer, if they do the things right... You know, what I mean?
 

MitchC

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Another good thing about Japan is that most overseas trends are becoming trendy here with a bit of delay (trends becoming trendy.. well). For any business in Japan - pay close attention to what's going on overseas because it will most likely be popular here in 6 months or a year. Even in this day of internet.
I noticed in Japan everyone’s teeth are so yellow, I figured someone who knew the market could take the influencer marketing model and make a huge teeth whitening company there. Maybe it’s already been done since I went?
 
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Phil Phil

New Contributor
Read Unscripted!
Jan 20, 2022
13
12
Yeah, I noticed smth similar a few years ago related to personal training. There was a time, when personal training was a normal thing in Europe, but almost no one offered it in Japan. For a brief moment, my trainer and me were thinking, what we could do about that, but dropped the ideation mostly because of the language gap ...

What do you think, is this maybe the main reason, why things need some time, until they reach Japan? Eg. for me and my product it's simple to translate the content to English, French, Spanish etc. but Japanese? Hell, I even don't know, how paragraphs, keywords etc. in a Japanese SEO-text or lead magnet work, so I wouldn't be able to "control" a translator-freelancer, if they do the things right... You know, what I mean?
The reason is Japan's society being conservative. That's why new things are not so fast to get accepted. For example things like shisha (hookah) and vape are still quite on the underground level here. It's still common to be asked to send someone a fax.. things like that.

I also have a feeling that Japan's market appear a bit mysterious to many overseas entrepreneurs, so they focus on the countries that market they at least understand. And that's true to some degree - it's quite challenging to understand how to approach customers here. Takes years of living here. And I'm still working on it.

About translations and stuff like that, I think the easiest way would be to find an internationally-oriented company that will import your product in Japan. They'll then take care of all the nuances.
 

Phil Phil

New Contributor
Read Unscripted!
Jan 20, 2022
13
12
I noticed in Japan everyone’s teeth are so yellow, I figured someone who knew the market could take the influencer marketing model and make a huge teeth whitening company there. Maybe it’s already been done since I went?
You're right. Japanese people are actually spending a lot of money on dental care (there are as many small dentistries as there are convenience stores (7-11) here), except teeth whitening. People who are into in - they are into it, but nation-wide.. nah.

Everyone's wearing masks anyway, haha. But hopefully things will change.
 

Phil Phil

New Contributor
Read Unscripted!
Jan 20, 2022
13
12
Status update.

Was able to work out a "flat payment deal" where I'm getting a certain amount of money for my services flat, that allows me to cover staff salaries and leaves me enough to pay my rent and gas/electricity/water bills. After reaching a certain amount of customers also getting a percent of sales on top. Sort of a safety pad.

Number of customers slowly but surely increasing.

I think I'll work on polishing the training system to guarantee results even more, but not sure where to move from there to grow.

Any suggestions, ideas, directions are welcomed.
 
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Phil Phil

New Contributor
Read Unscripted!
Jan 20, 2022
13
12
Recently started to think about offering supplements for sale at my gym.

Currently all revenue is created only by memberships. But honesty, trainings margin is quite low. Relying only on it will put a high pressure on keeping a relatively big (for my city) number of customers all the time. I noticed that some customers drink protein and other stuff during/after training. Personally I don't promote the use of supplements for basic health and fitness - and that's the line we're drawing at the gym (actually I managed to build a pretty competitive body on just food, but that's another story - PM me if you want a healthy advice). But!, I'm not gonna sell meat, fish, eggs and mixed nuts at the gym, so supplements could be a source of revenue (a big margin source of revenue). I'm just not sure if I'll be able to push them in authentic, natural way. Like "I don't use supplements, but yo, buy my protein".

Other opportunity might be clothing. Some customers were asking if similar uniform as trainers are wearing was available for purchase. Number of customers who approached me with that question wasn't big, but maybe there will be more interested people "coming out" if I start to offer.

I could possibly do a "Soft Proof" (I believe that's what MJ called it) and test the interest level before creating an actual product. For clothes easy - just post pictures of trainers' uniforms. For supplements - ask a factory to give me a design of the package or even buy a test amount (yeah it's goin to cost more than but just for the test why not), put my fancy label on it and post pictures of that stuff.

The more I write about it, the more I think that I should give it a try and see what will happen next.
 

MitchC

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Recently started to think about offering supplements for sale at my gym.

Currently all revenue is created only by memberships. But honesty, trainings margin is quite low. Relying only on it will put a high pressure on keeping a relatively big (for my city) number of customers all the time. I noticed that some customers drink protein and other stuff during/after training. Personally I don't promote the use of supplements for basic health and fitness - and that's the line we're drawing at the gym (actually I managed to build a pretty competitive body on just food, but that's another story - PM me if you want a healthy advice). But!, I'm not gonna sell meat, fish, eggs and mixed nuts at the gym, so supplements could be a source of revenue (a big margin source of revenue). I'm just not sure if I'll be able to push them in authentic, natural way. Like "I don't use supplements, but yo, buy my protein".

Other opportunity might be clothing. Some customers were asking if similar uniform as trainers are wearing was available for purchase. Number of customers who approached me with that question wasn't big, but maybe there will be more interested people "coming out" if I start to offer.

I could possibly do a "Soft Proof" (I believe that's what MJ called it) and test the interest level before creating an actual product. For clothes easy - just post pictures of trainers' uniforms. For supplements - ask a factory to give me a design of the package or even buy a test amount (yeah it's goin to cost more than but just for the test why not), put my fancy label on it and post pictures of that stuff.

The more I write about it, the more I think that I should give it a try and see what will happen next.
Have you listened to Alex Hormezi much?

His my first million podcast episode is great he basically explains his whole gym system that his coaching clients pay for. A big part of it is supplements.
 

Phil Phil

New Contributor
Read Unscripted!
Jan 20, 2022
13
12
Have you listened to Alex Hormezi much?

His my first million podcast episode is great he basically explains his whole gym system that his coaching clients pay for. A big part of it is supplements.
Yeah, I did. And thought "Yes sir". But I was left a bit concerned about the fact that he's got a giant network of gyms, while what I'm having here is a quite a local gym with under a 100 customers as of now (actually hitting a 200 would be a beast mode in my city), and I'm not a big fan of milking the customers till they're empty. But maybe I should rethink the way I think about that.
 
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MitchC

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Yeah, I did. And thought "Yes sir". But I was left a bit concerned about the fact that he's got a giant network of gyms, while what I'm having here is a quite a local gym with under a 100 customers as of now (actually hitting a 200 would be a beast mode in my city), and I'm not a big fan of milking the customers till they're empty. But maybe I should rethink the way I think about that.
You’re helping them more not milking them.

My gym sells supplements which saves me going to a store.

They also make protein smoothies, all you need is a blender, some ingredients and a fridge. I love getting a shake after a session.

The my first million episode is good because he runs through the whole funnel and you really get to see how he thinks about things. I honestly haven’t watched much of his stuff so I can’t compare but I thought the episode was amazing. I read his book and probably got more out of the podcast episode than the book.

Also he doesn’t have a network of gyms, he has clients which are gym owners but all the gyms are seperate businesses and not owned by him.

I’m not sure why that’s any different to what you have, you would literally be the perfect candidate for his coaching but you can get it for free from his YouTube and books.
 

Phil Phil

New Contributor
Read Unscripted!
Jan 20, 2022
13
12
You’re helping them more not milking them.

My gym sells supplements which saves me going to a store.

They also make protein smoothies, all you need is a blender, some ingredients and a fridge. I love getting a shake after a session.

The my first million episode is good because he runs through the whole funnel and you really get to see how he thinks about things. I honestly haven’t watched much of his stuff so I can’t compare but I thought the episode was amazing. I read his book and probably got more out of the podcast episode than the book.

Also he doesn’t have a network of gyms, he has clients which are gym owners but all the gyms are seperate businesses and not owned by him.

I’m not sure why that’s any different to what you have, you would literally be the perfect candidate for his coaching but you can get it for free from his YouTube and books.
Interesting thing - while talking to customers who are struggling with losing weight/putting on some mass, I tried to throw in "well, at this point it might worth it to give some supplements a go" for a test and I was amazed at how receptive they were to the idea of spending extra on supplements. Very eye-opening observation. Looking for factories in Japan now.
 

Phil Phil

New Contributor
Read Unscripted!
Jan 20, 2022
13
12
Quick update on things.


I made some adjustments to the membership plans, more precisely, I removed the plan that was a bit confusing to the customers. It was an unlimited plan where customers could come as many times as they want. I replaced it with a "4 week challenge plan" where they train 3 times a week for 4 weeks. This adjustment made it easier to pitch this plan.

Also some adjustments to the "sales guidance"? (I didn't wanna call it pitch because I don't really feel like pitching anything - just helping them realize what they need in order to achieve their goal, and after a short 30-minute trial training they're pretty much sold and all I have to do is to say "You did a good job today, it was tough but that's good. Ready to work together?") made it easier and more smooth to sign up people.

As for supplements - applying for a "new business subsidiary" to buy a smallest possible amount of supplements and give it a go. Yeah, here in Japan companies will not talk to you unless you're willing to buy at least 5,000 worth of product. So, I decided to apply for "free money" because... why not?
 
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