In 2022, I made a huge leap from being a solo business operator to a franchise owner. I stayed within the same industry of fitness/health and even in the same suburb, but it was still a significant change. I went from having a personal training studio with 400 members to a new two-storey Genesis Health + Fitness gym with more than 1800 members.
It was a decision that required much deliberation and I have learned so much through the transition.
It is a big decision to transition to a franchise, especially if you already own your own business. Do you want to give up your unbridled independence? Will you be able to transition your existing customers to the new business? What do you get in return? And how do you know if it’s right for you personally?
I knew I wanted to grow and I was so excited about the opportunity to take a step up in the suburb where I had also built my business, as I felt confident that my current customers would support the idea.
Here are four considerations that helped me cement my decision:
I would instantly have support
Growth is scary when you’re on your own and I really wanted to remain very hands-on with my clients and not get pulled away from that by backhouse business tasks. When you become a franchisee you instantly have a support network behind you. The franchisor will take care of many tasks so you can focus on your strongest skills and keep doing the work you love, whatever aspect of the business that may be. It’s still your business, of course, but you have a professional crew behind you and can often find better work-life balance as a result.
I would double my brand power
By being associated with a franchise brand that has a reputation already, I knew I could tap into the instant benefit of that. I was combining my existing local reputation with a brand that also had built up goodwill over many years and I felt confident that was a powerful combination.
I would get instant purchasing power
Scaling up means investment – new fitouts and additional equipment. By being part of a much larger business, I knew I would be able to access better bargaining power than I could as an independent operator.
I could plug into a proven operating system
Running a small, solo operator business well is one thing – running a bigger business with more members, more staff and more services means a much more complex beast on a day-to-day basis. As a franchisee you are given the keys to an operating system that’s been tested over time by many other business operators before you. With a reputable franchisor, you should have confidence that these systems have been well refined and are continually improved and updated to ensure the highest possible level of success.
The transition – lessons learned.
The first few months, in particular, were packed with learnings, surprises, high-five moments and challenges. Here are the biggest lessons I learned:
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. 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 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.