The Bottom Line: 10 Questions with Craig Pepin-Donat

Craig Pepin-Donat

Every month, Club Solutions sits down with an industry expert to share in their wealth of knowledge. In the March issue, the conversation features Craig Pepin-Donat, the executive vice president of Crunch Franchising.

1. What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned from 35 years in the industry?

I’ve learned there are four keys to success — vision, alignment, execution and inspiration. You have to have an awesome vision people believe in. You need to have the ability to communicate that vision and get your team aligned with your strategy. Then, you have to have the ability to guide them on how to execute your vision. Lastly, people mostly want to be inspired, so you have to be in it with them, not just handing down orders.

2. What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome at Crunch?

Working with franchisees, because they aren’t our employees. They are entrepreneurs who have a lot at stake and we have to make sure they are a part of the process for any major decision.

3. How do you overcome that challenge?

We do a lot of webinars, surveys, retreats, conventions and executive strategy sessions to evaluate franchisee feedback, and I personally answer hundreds of comments and questions everyday on policies and procedures. I have written every operational policy we have based on franchisee feedback.

4. What accomplishment at Crunch are you most proud of?

Building the operational and communications infrastructure for our company, writing and managing our operations and construction manual, developing Crunch University for our 215-hour franchise training program and building an awesome operations team to support our franchisees. A franchise company is only as good as the franchise system. Ours is exceptional.

5. What are the main keys to Crunch’s success?

Systems, structure, communication and flexibility. We have an awesome operational infrastructure and communication strategy with our franchisees, vendors and internal team and we provide a lot of operational and marketing flexibility in the field so our franchisees can adapt and adjust to their local competitive landscape.

6. What would you say is Crunch’s greatest differentiator as a franchise?

The brand, logo and philosophy are simply the coolest in the industry and the turnkey franchise system is world-class. We also have over 60 proprietary group fitness, small group training and group cycling classes with videos and manuals all served up on our eLearning platform through Crunch University, all of which are accredited with ACE, AFAA and NASM. Some “value clubs” give you a box. We provide a dynamic fitness experience where fitness actually is fun.

7. What industry trends are you paying the most attention to?

We’ve been studying small group training very closely for years because everyone in the industry wants to offer it, but the majority of clubs just can’t figure it out. We believe we’ve cracked the code for how to create, manage and deliver proprietary small group training content. It’s a super, awesome, fun, kick-ass, game changer.

8. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Don’t talk a big game unless you can deliver.

9. What advice would you give to young professionals?

If you’re passionate about fitness, stick with it for life. I started out making $3.50 per hour for a grand total of $111 on my first paycheck — with overtime. I’ve held every conceivable position in the industry from trainer to president with top fitness brands all over the world. Now, I’m a founding partner with one of the largest fitness franchises in the world. Stick with what you love because passion will take you further in life than anything else.

10. What’s the favorite aspect of your job?

I love creating new initiatives, systems and programs that drive operational success and building a team that believes in our vision, contributes to our success and the lifelong relationships that are developed through that experience. 

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