No matter which way you seek to grow, it’s vital to do so in a way that’s sustainable in the long run.
Every business seeks to grow in one way or another, whether it’s adding an additional location or incorporating a new profit center that adds dollars to the bottom line.
According to Robby Marlow, the president of Delta Life Fitness, successful growth requires one thing: patience. “You have to be patient when seeking growth,” he said. “It will not happen overnight.”
Delta Life Fitness was founded in 2010 and has since grown to more than 20 locations nationwide. Marlow has discovered that when seeking to grow, it’s important leaders take care of themselves both mentally and physically.
“You have to bring your ‘A’ game every day,” explained Marlow. “You as the business owner or founder drive the vision and culture of the business, and if you are not taking care of yourself and your responsibilities, then all will suffer. As pressure and growth happen in your business, you will find excuses on why you can’t workout, eat right or take a vacation — but you will have to do all of these things to make it. It is a marathon, not a sprint.”
Before expanding to a second or additional location, Marlow advised ensuring your initial location is operating smoothly without your direct, daily supervision.
“Make sure your first location is profitable and sustainable without you being in the operation every day,” added Marlow. “If your location can’t make money without you there, then you are not ready. I have seen many horror stories of men and women who find some success and try to outgrow their operations and fail because of this mistake.”
According to Cory Brightwell, the co-founder and CEO of Chuze Fitness, there are a variety of indicators a club operator should evaluate when considering adding an additional location.
“This will depend on the company’s overall growth strategy,” explained Brightwell. “Are they wanting to be a small local player? Maybe regional? Maybe nationwide? Whatever the case, some key indicators to consider are: level of execution at existing locations, capacity at existing locations, available real estate, target demographics, competition, financial performance at existing clubs, team for future club, etc.”
Founded in 2008, Chuze Fitness has grown to 30-plus locations. According to Brightwell, the biggest key to the brand’s successful growth to date has been its people. “If we don’t have the teams in place to open an additional location, we won’t and can’t,” he said. “Along the same lines, if we don’t have the right teams and people in place at existing locations, there’s no reason for us to focus on additional growth. Our Chuzers are the success behind this growing family.”
In fact, ensuring it has the right people to support a new location is subsequently one of the biggest challenges to Chuze Fitness entering a new market.
“It’s never easy to replicate the culture and brand you’ve built in your home market, and the only way we’ve been able to do it successfully is by relocating existing Chuzers to these new frontiers,” explained Brightwell. “Sometimes they are temporary moves, and sometimes they are permanent. The key is ensuring the consumers in these new markets receive the same exceptional member experiences and brand differentiation that we’ve established with members at home. There’s no other way for us to do this than through our existing Chuzers who bleed Chuze yellow.”
For Delta Life Fitness, the biggest challenge to growth has been ensuring communication on all levels of the business — which Marlow explained is especially important as a franchise. “The fitness franchise business is very dynamic, with every day bringing new challenges,” he said. “You have to make sure you have a clear line of communication with your franchisees to your HQ staff. We live in a very ‘I need it now’ world. Being clear, fast and effective with your communication will help take your business to the next level.”
Delta Life Fitness strives to overcome this challenge by setting clear expectations and meeting times. “We follow the EOS (entrepreneurial operating system) by Gino Wickman,” explained Marlow. “It has helped us set up meeting times, but also gives everyone on our leadership team a voice and a place to talk out issues and hold our team accountable.”
According to Brightwell, an important key to successful growth is boasting strong systems and processes before adding an additional location. “We have learned and are still learning that creating playbooks in order to achieve consistency during growth is absolutely necessary,” he said. “When you are a small company, it’s easy for a few core members of the team to hold on to the tribal knowledge. If the tribe is going to grow, that knowledge needs to be transferred and integrated into a system or process. We call them our playbooks.”
Lastly, Brightwell added that if at any time during the growth process you sense the need to take a pause, follow your gut.
“You may be implementing a new growth plan, or in the middle of executing one, but always be willing to slow it down or hit pause if your brand and operational standards aren’t where they should be,” said Brightwell.