When you feel your business is ready to grow, there are several routes you can take. You can open more studio locations, but this requires huge investment capital. You can license your products or IP to other studios, like class formats or patented equipment, but you won’t have much control over how these are managed. Or you can choose the option somewhere in the middle of these two — franchising. This route offers you more control over your brand and allows you to scale with fewer financial barriers to entry than opening a new location.
What does franchising mean?
Put simply, franchising your fitness business is a way to extend your business by authorizing others to distribute your branded products or services. When fitness studio owners franchise their businesses they become a franchisor, and they allow another person — the franchisee — to operate another studio location under the same rights and trademarks. Franchising is an attractive option for many owners, as they can decide on the rules and boundaries for operating the business without all the responsibility of owning the business.
Lots of companies use this business model; you’ll probably recognize popular franchises in fast food, salon services and real estate. The model can work in any industry with the right kind of planning. When you’re thinking about franchising your fitness business, there are three key variables to consider.
The very first question to ask yourself is an obvious one: is your business profitable? Your profit margins are the best place to look when assessing if your business is ready to grow. This is also the first place franchisees will look when making the choice to invest in your brand. Profitability also signals the success of potential franchises. That’s important to you because you’ll be earning royalties on sales made in those locations.
On top of financial modeling, you’ll also need considerable funds to spend on starting up your franchising system. From lawyers and consultants to advertising and registrations, the fees associated with franchising will quickly add up. Here are a few big-ticket items that you’ll likely need to spend on, whether it’s through legal fees or the cost of time away from your existing business:
- Feasibility study
- Franchise Disclosure Document
- Marketing and discovery plans
- Training manuals
- Registration and trademarking
With these financial considerations attached, franchising might be a path for more seasoned business owners. Even so, if you’re seeing a boom in your new boutique fitness studio, it’s never too early to think about growth. Keep in mind that franchising your fitness business is not a quick way to inject capital.. It can be costly, and it’s not guaranteed that you’ll see significant revenue from new locations right away.
The second question to ask yourself can be a tricky one: is your brand strong? Better put, is your brand strong enough to hold up in other locations, under different management? As a fitness business, a large aspect of your brand is the fitness genre and class types you offer. The qualities of strong brands can be hard to pin down, but it’s ultimately about appeal — the perfect combination of services and experience that attract consumers.
With franchising your fitness business, you’ll want to be sure that your brand has the type of appeal that will help it thrive in a variety of places and markets. In order to attract the right franchisees, your brand and the services that fall under it need to be translatable and teachable. Franchisees will take care of marketing their individual locations, but you won’t get them to invest in the first place unless you have a convincing mission and strong brand identity that will prove effective over the long-term.
The ultimate question to ask yourself is one that requires some self-reflection: do you have the time to begin franchising? Getting started can be extremely demanding, especially if you choose to DIY certain phases of the process that would otherwise require lawyers or franchise consultants. Once you’ve completed the formal work to implement a franchising system, you might have to do some serious discovery, marketing and networking to find the right franchisees.
The work doesn’t stop after franchisees open up their locations — it’s only just getting started. With more control over your brand comes more responsibility to your franchisees. The contract will lay out the exact terms of your obligations, but you’ll have to teach, train and inspire your franchises in order for them to be successful. From creating exhaustive manuals and guides, to offering continued support, you’ll always need to spend time on the franchises, especially in the beginning. Make sure you have strong administrative and management support in place at your existing business because it will be tough to juggle both responsibilities on your own.
Franchising your fitness business is a journey — read more about one studio’s experience with franchising.