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Welcome to the second part of our Growth series

In the first part, we explored franchising and what you need to consider if you decide that’s the right way for your club, organisation or class programme to grow. You can read the article here: How to franchise your club or business.

Part two is for those of you considering to grow your club by opening another facility in a different location. We’ll be looking at the benefits of expanding, key points for you to consider to ensure your expansion goes as smoothly and successfully as possible, and alternatives if you’re not quite at that stage yet.

Why you might explore taking on a facility in a new location

Increasing your reach to new members is the most obvious benefit of opening a facility in a different location. But new sites also have other positive advantages. For example, you may be able to offer your services to a new demographic and expand on your existing client base.

Extra facilities also offer an effective and easy way to expand on your existing programmes and classes.

Another benefit is being able to offer more varied programmes and additional classes, in addition to your current programme.

Spotlight on swimming

Clive Marquis, LoveSwimming Community Ambassador, sees huge potential in expanding swimming teams across the country to build on both membership rates and performance levels.

“You could easily expand into other pools miles away from your main pool locations and create satellite groups”, he says. “This could massively increase membership and accessibility to swim training for people if there is no local team intending to set up the new satellite group.”

A satellite club is a sports club that extends its activities to a new venue, usually a secondary school or college, specifically targeted at the 11-25 age group.

“Satellite groups have lots of potential, especially for performance benefits… You can run smaller development groups in your satellite groups that then feed into your central higher-performing programme so all of your best and fastest swimmers can train together. This is something many big and successful USA swim teams do.”

What to consider if you want to expand

When planning your expansion, it’s essential to examine the various factors that will determine your success.

Here are the main points to keep in mind:

  • Financial planning – First things first, you’ll need a robust business plan. Is there any funding available? Look at local authority objectives and consider whether your application could link to them. Check UK Sport and Sport England for initiatives as well
  • Location – Collaboration is key. You’ll need to work with the planning office to see if they have any obligations. Make sure to work with the landlord as well and outline your business plan
  • Policies and procedures – Review your existing policies and consider if they cover multiple sites. If not, consider overhauling them
  • Advertising – Don’t let marketing efforts for your new facility be an afterthought. Look at what channels you can use – email newsletters, social media or even flyers and posters. Consider offering new members a discounted price for joining when you open. See our marketing blog posts for more tips
  • Streamlining your business – Analyse areas in which you can make efficiencies across multiple sites, like recruitment. Will you upskill or promote staff from your existing team, or hire new staff members?

Alternatives to new premises – things you can do at your existing location

If opening a facility in a new location isn’t an option for you right now, there are still things you could do at your existing premises.

Expanding at your current site

This could be something like building a bigger changing room, or renovating a store room to become a café.

Be mindful that building works are likely to be subject to planning permission from your local council. The cost of carrying out the work will also need to be factored in. Because of this, increasing the size of your facilities may not necessarily be a cheaper alternative to opening in a new location.

Improve what you offer 

Another way to enhance your club or organisation is to improve your existing facility without increasing the footprint. Here are some common scenarios that might prompt you to consider making changes:

  • Outdated facilities – If your equipment hasn’t been updated for years, it’s time to upgrade your club with new, state-of-the-art equipment that accommodates the latest developments in your sport
  • Declining membership rates – Examine your club and your premises. Is anything in need of repair? Is your club lacking a variety of activities? For your organisation to succeed, you need to challenge, engage, and excite your members
  • Increased competition – If your competitors are outperforming you in activities, equipment and programmes, it’s time to step it up. You can create an environment where people feel stimulated, welcoming, and interested by offering new equipment or services
  • Ambitions to move up the league – If you’re a football club and want to move up, you may need to enhance your facility, for example, by installing floodlights. However, even small improvements like benches or better kit can help attract better players

You may already have some ideas, but this is also an excellent opportunity to listen to what your members want. Ask them which changes they would like to see. This could be done via a survey sent to your database, or a suggestion box at your club.

Spotlight on gymnastics

Gymnastics clubs might consider offering a ninja programme to enhance their offering. These popular classes are an easy way to introduce a novel activity to your existing schedule. You can learn more in our article: Running a ninja programme at your gymnastics club.

Another step you can take immediately is to review your current timetable to spot openings and improve efficiencies. Are there free slots that you could fill with popular classes, or pilot new ideas? By ensuring you are maximising the potential of your timetable, you are also actively improving your services.

If you want guidance on reviewing and planning your timetable, take a look at our article: Five ways to make your training timetable more effective.

It can seem overwhelming when facing the many options you have to improve your facilities. We recommend looking at your activities and programmes first, as these can often be the easiest and most cost-effective ways to make positive changes.

So, what’s next?

Expanding your club network with a new facility in a new location is an exciting step for both you and your members. Our top takeaways are:

  • By making sure your business plan aligns with the local community’s interests and priorities you are looking to go to, you could be considered for funding
  • If expansion is a plan for the distant future, you can focus on changes to your existing club in the meantime. Be mindful that changes like these could still incur high costs and require planning permission
  • The cheapest alternative is to upgrade and improve your existing location. There are many ways to do this, from buying new equipment to offering new classes

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