When you’re planning to open a gym, it’s hard to decide on which is the best option for you.
If you’re in this thing purely for the money and not looking to get your hands dirty, then a franchise is probably the best choice. If this is you, no need to read on. You are not our people.
If you’re a passionate coach who works as hard as you can to transform your clients lives on the daily, and you’re opening a gym to grow your business and further your impact – you are who I’m talking too right now.
Going out on your own is exciting, but you’ve got no support and it seems risky. There’s the franchise route – they’ve done it before and it seems to work, but do you really feel as passionately about their brand as you would your own? The third and less common path is affiliation. You get a brand and a bit more freedom, but does it actually provide you with much else?
Let’s look at some of the key areas of a business and see how the stack up across the board.
Systems and Processes
We’re talking systems for programming, sales and marketing, client retention. Things that you can implement day to day that will help your business run smoothly and efficiently.
Franchises are known for this. You get the giant playbook with all the systems and processes you need to follow in order to run your business (often called a ‘turn-key operation’). Franchisers know how valuable this information is and they charge a pretty penny for it. This is the first major downside to buying a franchise – it’s expensive. The second downside – you’re prohibited from going outside of what’s prescribed in the playbook. It’s ‘my way or the highway’.
On the flip side, you have something like brand affiliation, like what Crossfit offers, where there is essentially no systems or processes provided. Cheap yes, but you get systems. Going alone is basically the same here – you will be fending for yourself when it comes to systems and processes.
Day to Day Support
Someone to call, email or text when you need help.
Franchises will have someone dedicated to this, like an account manager. They will be your go to person when you have an issue that needs fixing. You won’t get through to the company founder, but you will be able to find someone to assist your enquiry. Affiliation will generally offer nothing here (they’ve not given you anything besides a brand, so there’s nothing really to ’support’). When you’re cruising solo you’re very much alone in this situation. Friends in the industry, other gym owners (if they will talk to you) and your local barista are where you will find your support.
Like minded humans, treading the same path as you. A space where you can share, support and collaborate.
Most operators whether its franchise or affiliation will offer some access to some kind of community. The question is – how accessible and how helpful is that community? The word community gets thrown around a lot by brands these days.
Speaking from experience, the most valuable business community I was ever part of was through a business coach we had many years ago. It was called Alchemy. They had a tight group of gym owners. We would meet a few times per year to develop our business. It was hugely valuable for me and for our business, however it wasn’t a cheap organisation to be a part of. Interestingly, the group was full of Crossfit gyms too. They were all affiliated to a big global brand yet they had no other community option either.
When I think of community I think of my gym, Jungle Brothers. It’s an open space where people can show up when they want and connect with like minded humans. It becomes a third space for them. It facilitates collaboration and support. It is the single greatest strength of our gym.
To date I have not seen the equivalent on offer from any fitness enterprise out there.
Utilising the clout of a pre-existing brand in your favour
Being able to label your gym as part of an existing brand is powerful. As an example (and this will not necessarily align with your ideals but go with me) – being able to put Fitness First over your front door is guaranteed to give you some recognition with consumers. It will help you grow faster than putting a name that no one has ever heard of. People recognise established entities.
This is one of the great strengths of both franchises and affiliations – you get to leverage all of the hard work the brand has done over the years.
The flip-side here is if the brand stands for the wrong things, you’d probably rather not leverage it. And this is something that must be considered closely before getting into bed with another brand – do they stand for the things you stand for?
Going alone is tough in this regard. However sometimes it’s your only choice.
The ability to run your business the way YOU want to.
Whether it’s through your training program, your equipment choice, what you name your classes, the colours you paint the walls, or the music you play – every little part of your gym is an expression of you. Or, if you’re a franchisee, it might be an expression of someone else and nothing of yours. Affiliations will likely not have any conditions here, besides the odd logo on your wall, which gives you full control over your choices.
I believe the value of self expression cannot be overstated.
For some people this matter very little, and they’re happy to go with what has worked before. But for others (and this was the case for us) we had visions of what we wanted our gym to be. We had dreams to become something unique, and that meant we couldn’t have restrictions on how we expressed ourselves through the gym.
Looking back this has made business life hard at times, but it has made it satisfying. Choose wisely.
I hope the points above help give you some clarity as to what may be the best choice for your gym. I truly believe you should follow your heart on this one, as you’re going to be putting a lot of time and energy into your gym so it should be the one you want it to be.
If you’re still unsure, and you like what we’re about, you might be interested in the Jungle Alliance.
We built the Alliance as an alternative to franchises and affiliations. We wanted to create something that would give a new gym owner almost everything they would need to build a successful gym:
- The Growth Playbook
- The Systems
- Programming that they can use from day one
- A quality brand to leverage
- Gym management software (that’s designed to be the perfect fit for your gym)
- An epic community that supports your growth
- The huge financial outlay, or
- Restrictions on how you run your gym (or what it looks like)
If this sounds like something you want to know more about, click here and lets chat about a potential future together. You will speak with myself or Teora, both founders of this thing.