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"Rock Climbing Gym for Sale" - Your Guide to Evaluating & Buying a Gym

Updated: May 2

climbing gym for sale sign

I've been hit up by capital partners, private equity and others asking about investing in or buying climbing gyms. In addition to capital firms, I am also asked regularly by gym owners looking to be acquired/exit, or owners looking to grow via merger or acquisition: "What should I be looking for?" Having been on a team that secured a considerable private equity round of funding and also later sold gyms, I have a good understanding of what it looks like, and the due diligence you should be considering if you are looking to buy a climbing gym. This list is by no means exhaustive, and if anything is just the tip of the iceberg. But it's a great place to start.


climbers hanging out in an climbing gym that is for sale
Is the climbing gym for sale successful?

**Disclaimer: How you analyze a climbing gym business that is for sale if you are looking to acquire it vs. invest in it, vs. merge your businesses with it will vary considerably as each of those carry their own different needs and ways of valuing the business.

However, regardless of your end goal, there are some key things you should be paying close attention to. I've collated this list from many conversations with capital firms who have invested in or bought gyms, owners who have acquired or merged with others, and my own experiences with private equity, and M&A (mergers & acquisitions)

"Leadership first and foremost. Is the leadership team good? Are they the ones to scale the business?" - Private Equity Partner

In order of importance, here are the things you should be digging in to:
  1. The leadership team - Can they get the business from here to there?

  2. The business model - Does it scale? What is the path to and cost to scalability?

  3. Brand - There is actually very little differentiation in the climbing industry, brand matters.

  4. Financials - Are you getting an acceptable return?


The Leadership Team

Every single capital firm or investor I've talked to in any capacity has mentioned this in one way or another. So what types of things should you assess when looking at the leadership of a climbing gym?

  • Remember that what got them to where they are may not necessarily be what will get them to the next place of success. So you have to ask yourself:

    • Is the founding team also a good scaling team? Those can be two very different skill sets.

    • Has this team demonstrated success as leaders of a growing and successful organization and can they exhibit success during the hard times as well? This takes strong leadership qualities such as humility, adaptability, resiliency, strong communication skills, and work ethic.

  • Does the business have the org structure it needs in 12-24-36 months out? Think through what leaders and leadership roles you may need to achieve future goals. Is there a pipeline of talent inside the organization to fill these duties? If not, how will the gap of leadership talent be closed and how much might it cost to do so?

  • This is honestly a great time to start talking to staff. How do they feel about the organization? Are leaders driving good culture or is there a lot to fix?

Ultimately, it doesn't matter how good the spreadsheet looks, true success and scalability comes from a strong leadership team that can get it done.

The Business Model

Doing something once or even 2 or 3 times can be more luck than actual strategy believe it or not. So spend time learning about the business model and whether or not it will continue to thrive:

  • Does the business have clear Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)? And I'm talking about more than just whether or not the business is profitable. Do they look at some of these key metrics?

    • Member/Customer Lifetime Value

    • Cost of Customer Acquisition

    • Active Membership Growth (monthly new member sales & monthly member churn)

    • Employee Satisfaction (there a lots of different ways to measure this)

    • Cashflow (Real actual money in the bank, not just on an accounting spreadsheet. Without good cashflows, any business is a house of cards)

This is a pretty good start, but there are plenty of others you may want to consider. But let's move on to the basic operations of the business. You want to know how much work and money you may have ahead of you to stabilize or improve operations.
  • Is the gym well maintained and clean? Or is it run down, falling apart and in need of repair and significant capital expenditure to get it to where it needs to be?

  • Has the climbing gym for sale only been successful under very specific circumstances (market conditions, geographies, etc)

  • Talk to customers and members:

    • Do they like the gym? - Cleanliness, atmosphere, climbing experience, amenities, service standards?

  • Dig in with the leadership team on:

    • What is the sales process/tactics and how are they measuring it?

    • Is there clear employee onboarding and training?

    • Do they have any version of an HR function?

    • What is the risk mitigation standard operating procedure? Do they have any outstanding liabilities or claims?

    • Are there business goals in place? What are they? How do they track them and who is accountable?

I could go on and on here as well. Start here. It will give you good insight to the business (and the leadership team depending on their answers)


I hate to break it to you, but the differentiation in brand and experience in our industry is extremely negligible. One of the first things I ask aspiring owners and existing owners when we meet is: "Tell me about your brand, who are you and why should anyone care?" Pretty much every single owner answers with some version of this: "We really focus on the quality of the route setting and building a community" Now I'm not saying they aren't delivering on that promise, but I am saying everyone else is trying to as well. So the question becomes what makes the gym different?:

  • Often times, it's hard to nail down exactly what makes a brand a "brand". But you know it when you see it/feel it.

  • One thing to look at: Core Values or Mission statement. Is it being operationalized? CULTURE = VALUES + BEHAVIOR. Simply having core values on your website or painted on the wall in your staff room does not mean your brand is living its values. Talk to staff, customers, members and the community about how well the brand is exemplified in the experience.

  • Brand and Marketing are not a one-to-one comparator but you can certainly glean some insights from things like Yelp! reviews, Glassdoor reviews, social media reach and engagement and other fundamental marketing metrics.

social media of a climbing gym for sale
This is what Ai thinks social media engagement is apparently

CULTURE = VALUES + BEHAVIOR. Simply having core values on your website or painted on the wall in your staff room does not mean your brand is living it's values.


This is obviously a box that absolutely has to be checked. Are you going to get an acceptable return on this investment over an acceptable period of time? I can't tell you what "acceptable" means for you because it will always be different. But you should know what you're looking for so you can assess the business against it. Here are a few common financial metrics to look at (in combination with the KPIs above):
  • EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) - This is a fancy accounting term but the generation of consistent EBITDA can be a really good indicator of the business being run well. This is a big one Private Equity looks at.

  • Cashflows - I'd suggest looking at at least trailing 12 months. If the business cannot consistently manage cashflow to be positive, this is a big problem

  • Personnel as a % of total revenue - I like this one for climbing gyms. Look for somewhere in the 30-35% range. Anything more than that means they probably should be figuring out how to make more money and/or they are vastly over staffed for the business (usually the business is super top-heavy). Anything much less and it might mean they are understaffed, underpaying etc.

Really important note here: Why is financials last? That seems insane right? Well, you might be buying a business BECAUSE it is failing. So the other items may be the thing that you can leverage along with your own capability to turn the business around.
Again, this list was generated from dozens of conversations with private equity, bankers, wealth management firms, owners and my own personal experiences in the industry. It's not exhaustive but should give you a really good primer on how to evaluate a climbing gym business. Looking for help with due diligence for your M&A activity? Just reach out



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