Isaac Buchanan is the CEO of Snap Fitness UK and Ireland, one of the fastest growing franchises in the world. Isaac started with Snap Fitness in 2013 as a franchisee of a club in regional Australia, previously working in retail franchising serving on senior management committees in various roles. Having worked as both a franchisee and franchiser in multiple industries, Isaac truly understands both sides of the business. We sat down with Isaac to discuss:
• What people need to consider before starting a fitness franchise
• What kind of investment is required and how long it takes to become profitable, and
• Some common things that franchisees overlook when starting their businesses
What is the most important thing to consider before starting a gym franchise?
The number one thing to consider as a prospective franchisee is that you are aligned with the brand. Many people look at franchising opportunities based on which one will make them the most money or provide them with the most support, but those things are secondary. The first thing you need to think about is whether or not you can see yourself falling in love with the brand. A new franchisee needs to understand the realities of owning a business. It’s hard work. You’re able to manage the demands of owning the business if it is underpinned by passion.
What key skills are required to succeed as a franchisee?
In order to succeed as a franchisee, I believe it is more about personality traits than specific business skills. In my opinion, there are three personality traits that are critical for a franchisee to succeed. The first is energy. Our business is run off of motivation. People who join Snap Fitness are looking to be boosted and you can’t do that if you’re sitting flat behind a desk.
The second key trait is empathy. Every member that walks through the door is in a different position from the last one. Exercise is both physical and mental, and if you’re not empathetic, you can’t build meaningful connections.
The third personality trait is determination. Owning a business is hard work. Other skills – like understanding a P&L, learning the operations of a business, recruiting staff – can be learned. But you can’t teach energy and enthusiasm.
How important is location when considering opening a gym franchise?
The location is likely the single biggest decision that a franchisee will make. This is because it is one of the most substantial business costs for a fitness facility. Because of this, many franchisees will try to compromise on location to save costs. This often proves to be a bad strategy because the marketing potential of a prime location is hugely valuable. The incremental work required to promote a new site and drive new members in a location that is hard to find or off a main street is often not worth the cost savings. We work in partnership with the franchisee to advise on location. The franchisee will often have a preferred location but we will present all the opportunities that will yield the best results. Our geographical information system helps us narrow in on a location with a high concentration of people who match the characteristics of a typical Snap customer.
How much money do you need to open a franchise, and how long does it take to become profitable?
To open a Snap Fitness franchise, you need around £150,000. Most clubs break even within the first six months and most are profitable within 9-12 months. Location plays a key role in this. We’re very cautious about the number of sites we open and the location of those sites. We say no to far more sites that we say yes to.
What do you know now that you wish you knew 5 years ago?
Five years ago, I wish somebody told me that all the things that really matter about our industry cannot be found on a spreadsheet. It’s all the intangible things that make a real difference to things like retention of members and the overall success of the business. Personality is everything. Speak to staff. Speak to members, and everything else will follow. If you have a great manager with great energy, empathy and passion, you’ll have a great business.
What advice would you give to new franchisees?
I have three pieces of advice:
1) Take your time to select the right location. If you’re talking about a 10-year commitment, don’t be in a rush to make that decision. Think it through, analyse the data, be considered in your approach.
2) Put all your energy into your team and members. Learning the operations of the business will come with time. Your focus should be on the team. Let the franchise and the brand take care of the rest.
3) Embrace learning and learn quickly. You won’t know everything on day one, so ask questions, be curious and get stuck in.