How to survive scaling up

  Dec 7, 2022

Scaling up is exciting – but it can also be a huge shock to the system as a small business owner. I recently moved from owning a personal training studio with 400 members to a new two-storey Genesis Health + Fitness gym in the same suburb with more than 1800 members. In the first month I learned a lot, faced very unexpected hurdles and also encountered some pleasant surprises.

If you’re considering scaling up, here is some advice about surviving the critical first month:

Be prepared to experiment, don’t make assumptions. With a bigger business, there is a broader audience to appeal to and what you knew worked in your smaller business may not necessarily be the perfect fit in your larger business. For example, I wasn’t sure how the schedule of classes from 5-7am would be embraced locally. It would have been easy to assume that these early classes would be a flop – but instead we decided to experiment and put a range of early morning options on the board. I ended up being blown away by how many members we had in the club at that time of the morning. Don’t assume – test things out.

Have a great team in place. If you’re scaling up in the same industry then, like me, you’ll hopefully be lucky enough to have a great base team already in place. You will need to grow that team to support a bigger business and it’s best to do so well in advance of the new opening. Your team is critical to your success as the business gets bigger because you can’t do everything yourself.

Push out all non-critical meetings and commitments. With a bigger business, there are more people demanding your time – staff, suppliers, partner brands and customers. Don’t overcommit yourself in the first month as you really need to have that time to focus on the new business and also step back and reflect on the opening so you can make good decisions in that critical period. Around the week 5 mark, you’ll be ready to look at different parts of the business in more detail and schedule the necessary meetings.

Expect there to be curveballs. Statistically, with a larger business – there is more that can go wrong and it’s very likely it will, so you have to be ready to tackle the hurdles with a positive attitude. We faced terrible weather and flooding in the first week after opening. It would have been easy to collapse and shout “this isn’t fair” but we just had to get on with fixing the problem. Again, this is where your great team will be invaluable.

Have an external sounding board on speed dial. There’s a lot going on when you open a larger business and because it’s such a busy and intense period, it’s easy to lose perspective. Identify some key mentors or other people you respect who are familiar with the industry you work in. You will need to call on them sometimes to soundboard your ideas and decisions and ask for advice. I was lucky to have the crew behind the Genesis franchise as a support network along with other trusted professionals I’ve met through many years of working in the fitness industry. It’s a great reminder that the network you’re building right now will be so valuable if and when you decide to scale up.

Schedule your rest. You need to be strict about finishing up for the day and ensuring you get both fresh air and sleep. It’s easy to go from the business straight to the laptop at home to work on the behind-the-scenes things – but pushing yourself too far is a recipe for burnout. Set a strict knock-off time and stick to it (and don’t take your phone to bed!).


Beaux Glenn

Beaux Glenn is the owner of Genesis Health + Fitness Lilydale in Victoria – a huge 1800sqm club featuring a large gym floor, three group fitness studios, a high-tech small group personal training program called Coaching Zone and a Reformer Pilates studio. Beaux is a qualified Personal Trainer, Gym Instructor and Group Fitness trainer who has been in the fitness industry for more than 20 years. Before Genesis she operated a boutique group fitness studio, DynamiCardio, also located in Lilydale.