The Broken Gym Business Model:

Sustainability & Ethics In The Fitness Industry

What is sustainability?

‘The ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level.’


‘Avoidance of the depletion of resources in order to maintain an economic balance.’

 What are ethics?

‘Moral principles that govern a person's behaviour or the conducting of an activity.’

Why does this even matter?

Good question. 

There is something inherently wrong with the fitness industry as it stands. 

You’ve seen it. You can’t quite put your finger on it… but it is there. 

The traditional ‘gym’ model is based on 3 things:

  • Low barrier to entry for clients - cheap and fast (straight into class/membership)
  • Low barrier to entry for coaches - minimal training
  • Low $/coach hour 

All of these are designed for the franchisees, licensees, and mass marketing companies to scale quickly.  The business model for these companies is to SELL MORE FRANCHISES, LICENSES AND MARKETING CONTRACTS TO NEW GYM OWNERS, AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE. Their gyms are set up for short-term success, to make sure the gym is profitable in the short term, so they can sell more franchises, licenses and marketing contracts fast. 

The business model they follow is in direct conflict with the long-term success (ie sustainability) of the gyms they are setting up in business.

If the client development process is complex it slows everything down.  Imagine a franchisee, licensee, or mass marketing company implementing an actual client consult, 3-day evaluation and 15 personal training sessions before they could get into a group class?   

Imagine the board room conversation with a franchise seller?

Well we can, it happened to us. After we proposed this client development process. What we immediately got back was...


“WHAT? That would take months, maybe even years of coach training. Who is going to do that? That would slow down franchise sales by years. We need to get out of this completely by year five, seven at the latest. Imagine the infrastructure costs? NO WAY WE CAN DO THAT!!!” 

It is very simple:  What happens to the clients, the coaches and the gym owner after the contract is signed is not the franchise’s primary concern. The pursuit of long-term excellence in a gym is not their concern. We are not saying they are evil. It is simply not how they make their money. The business model for these companies is to SELL MORE FRANCHISES, LICENSES AND MARKETING CONTRACTS TO NEW GYM OWNERS, AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE.

It begs the question:  If the long-term success of the client, the coach and the owner is not the primary pursuit, then is it inherently unethical?

We now ask you to have a long look at your business model.  

Is your client development process detailed or simple?  

  • Are you doing professional 1 on 1 client consults?  
  • Are you doing a well thought out 1 on 1 client assessment (our data points to 3 sessions as a minimum)
  • Are you doing 15 - 18 personal training sessions before they go to a group class?

Is your coach compensation model detailed or simple? (hint: by the hour plus a % for PT sessions is simple) 

  • Are you paying coaches on performance?
  • Are you paying them to find new clients?
  • Are you paying them to retain new clients?
  • How much revenue does each of your coaches bring into the gym?
  • Does your coach compensation model really achieve what you want it to achieve?
  • Have you ever explored a different way to compensate your coaches?

Is your coach development process detailed or simple?

  • Is your coach development mostly technical training?
  • Have your coaches done professional enrollment and communication training (ie sales training)?
  • Have your coaches done business development training?
  • Have your coaches done client retention training?
  • Have your coaches done client recruitment training?
  • Have you coaches done personal development training?

If the answer to most of these questions is no, then ask yourself “Why?”

When we ask gym owners that question, we almost always get the answer: “That’s the way we were told to do it” or “it’s just the way it has always been done.”

Is there a better way to run your business than the status quo? Is there a better way to do it?

That is a question we have been asking ourselves for 18 years and it has led to a relentless pursuit of excellence in a gym that is both sustainable and ethical. 



Education for Coaches.


Our coaching programs are about gaining the communication, organization and sales skills needed to be a career coach and earn a professional wage - plain and simple. 

Technical courses and certifications are great and are a definite must if you want to be a great coach for a long time, but what good is all that knowledge if you have no one to share it with?

Madlab's Professional Coach Development Program helps you take all the knowledge you already have and package it into a clear, sellable and straightforward system. 


Our Flagship Location.


Our flagship facility Madlab School of Fitness is the beating heart of everything Madlab.

Located in Vancouver, Canada, it's where we learned everything we know today regarding helping clients, empowering coaches and creating a profitable business.

Over years of trial and error, we established what we now refer to as The Nine Laws. These laws are the fundamental rules needed to build the best gym in town.

Still in operation today (17 years later), Madlab School has six full-time coaches, two part-time coaches and two apprentices.


Education for Gym Owners. 


Your gym is doing good, but is good really good enough?

We know first hand that being a business owner isn't all rainbows and sunshine as the little jobs pile up fast - the accounting, the intros, the billing, the hiring, the cleaning, the programming...

Madlab's Three Seal Mentorship Program is all about building a gym that creates buy-in from coaches by empowering them to care about the little jobs just as much as you do.

This buy-in gives you (the business owner) more freedom and space to focus on growing your business instead of just managing it. 


1980 Clark Drive
Vancouver, BC Canada
V5N 0A9