This month we sat down with Mike Lauer, the senior vice president of operations at Eat the Frog Fitness about how to successfully expand locations.
What are the best practices for opening a new location?
Besides real estate itself, there are two critical areas for launching a successful facility:
1. Marketing strategy. Presales is so critical in fitness. Make sure you have a strong message in the community to build hype, urgency and, most importantly, a prompt to take action. Attack all angles. From “boots on the ground” guerilla tactics to a heavy digital presence, you must saturate your local market with your brand. This requires a marketing budget that is usually bigger than most novice business owners have scheduled in their pro forma.
2. Team. Your team is everything and where you should spend the most time and money. Recruit by selling the vision of your business opportunity and act on what you have promised. Hire people with passion, treat them well, keep them educated and striving for excellence, and success will follow.
How has COVID-19 impacted expansion projects?
There has been a disruption within multiple verticals of the operation. The restrictions of the supply chain on product/distribution have made project management for studio and big-box gym development very difficult and expensive. However, we have been able to work through the hurdles, and we are now back on track with fast-paced buildouts.
What should operators keep in mind when choosing a new location?
Before you identify your location, you need to make sure you understand your target audience. You also need to have a strong understanding of your consumer’s habits and routines. In addition to traditional demographic information, I tend to focus more heavily on psychographic data. You also need to be aware of your competition ratio. This market is crowded, so pay attention to who is around you and what stage of business they are in.
What should operators avoid when expanding?
It’s important to perfect your operation and establish strong training platforms, processes and procedures to replicate success. Grow from the inside out, both with your team and from a regional development perspective.
Mike Lauer’s three tips on opening a new location during COVID-19:
- Educate your local community on why health and fitness are a powerful way to prevent infections like COVID-19 or other illnesses.
- Connect with your local city and chamber of commerce. Network with the people who control local ordinances and impact on local policy.
- Make safety and preventive health measures a priority in your build-out.
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