Stuart Broster, CEO of Anytime Fitness UK, offers his expert advice on running a successful fitness franchise
As more and more people identify the business potential of health and fitness beyond a personal passion, increasing numbers of individuals are opening their own gyms. There are nearly 7,000 UK gyms and this figure will continue to soar.
The 2018 State of the UK Fitness Industry Report outlines that one in seven people across the UK is a gym member, while the fitness industry’s total market value has grown by 2.9 per cent to £4.9 billion.
A key contributor to such statistics is Anytime Fitness, which is consistently demonstrating why the health and fitness industry is the sector to invest in.
Outpacing the likes of McDonald’s and Subway, Anytime Fitness opened 3,000 clubs in its first 13 years. Today, Anytime Fitness has over 4,200 clubs in 34 countries and over four million members, including over 150 clubs in the UK.
Franchising with Anytime Fitness comes with many benefits, including recurring monthly direct debit revenue, a low staffing model and a fixed franchise fee.
We also appreciate owning a fitness club comes with high start-up costs, which is why franchisees have the option of both five and 10-year franchise agreements, providing them with the option of a longer time period to recoup their initial investment.
Be hands on
My advice first and foremost if you want to become a successful franchisee in the fitness industry is to ensure you develop a passion for fitness, customer service and an understanding how gym franchises operate.
While it’s by no means essential to have previous fitness industry experience, it’s common for gym owners to purchase a club, employ a team and let them do the work. Many individuals who do this don’t see results and then ask: “Why are we not getting members through the door?”
Successful fitness franchise clubs have owners who lead from the front, delegating roles and responsibilities accordingly. Be a regular on the gym floor, speak directly to members and, ultimately, have a presence. Act as a second club manager and support your club manager in any way possible.
Teach others your vision and concept. If you do this, they will believe in it too and member engagement will subsequently rise. In your spare time, conduct market research to discover business development opportunities for your franchise.
Use the franchisor’s guidance
The majority of fitness franchises offer their gym owners strategic advice, which aims to enhance their clubs.
By following your franchisor’s advice, you’re increasing the chances of success, as they are the experts in the field. It’s more than likely the franchisor’s guidance will have been generated by experienced senior professionals within the health and fitness sector.
With an Anytime Fitness franchise, help is always at hand. Our support covers every aspect of your business, from training, key performance indicator monthly self-assessments and a road map to achieving a strong pre-sale, to opening your club and beyond.
An example of this is our recent launch of the Evolve balanced scorecard, which provides clubs with a framework to self evaluate their businesses, assessing them on key areas of their performance and identifying internal opportunities to help them improve their financial performance.
Additionally, Anytime Fitness offers its gym owners a dedicated franchise performance coach, holistic and online support, industry leading training and a brand standards manual, all of which collaboratively improve club performance.
Know and engage with your customers
The importance of retaining your members is critical to the success of fitness franchises.
Long-term, committed customers are a primary source of business and it remains imperative you provide quality service to both new and existing members. It’s far more cost effective to retain members through impactful social interaction, than treating them badly and having to spend money on marketing and sales to recruit new members.
Utilising social media platforms is a fantastic way of transferring your fitness club culture to the local community. Creating fun, engaging content encourages your members to be part of that community.
Train your staff to approach and engage all members. The best advocates for your club are your staff, as their interaction with members can lead to increased member visits. Strong membership engagement can generate further sales, as satisfied members are much more likely to recommend your fitness club to their peers.
Having a team who facilitate a positive, friendly culture and member contact processes, such as sending regular customer emails and updates, potentially leads to reengaging members who may be starting to disengage.
Members value communication from staff and ways they can express their views on how the club could improve. Engaging with your customers is what makes your club special to them and ultimately will discourage members joining a different gym.
Engage with the local community
Involving your fitness club with its local community can generate various benefits and business development opportunities.
Ensure your club is actively present at community events and offers advice in local schools, societies and clubs.
Partnership working is highly regarded throughout the community sport sector, with its relevance significantly increasing during the fight against physical inactivity to understand behaviour change. This could include offering membership discounts through purchases at local amenities and partnering with local charity events.
Maximising social media’s impact through activities such as fitness challenges incentivises membership involvement and subsequently develops a community feel to your fitness club.
Make sure your club’s Instagram and Facebook are active on a regular basis. Use these platforms as a primary way to engage with your members outside of their visit hours.
Essentially, it’s important to ensure your club provides a unique offering to the community, which encourages membership engagement.