Fitness Ventures Grows Quickly Thanks to ‘Warrior Spirit’￼
Fitness Ventures first began in 2016, but the Crunch Fitness franchisee is already seeing high levels of success early in its existence.
In fact, Fitness Ventures is one of the fastest growing franchisees in the Crunch Fitness system with 22 open locations across eight different states and 12 more in development.
Brian Hibbard, the president and CEO of Fitness Ventures, said his initial goal wasn’t to be a franchisee. At first, he thought about creating his own brand. However, he fell in love with the Crunch Fitness system.
“We felt like it was pretty powerful and that’s what actually really attracted us to it,” said Hibbard. “So, you know, I took a little bit of a leap of faith and bought a couple units. The first couple did really well out of the gate, and we kind of took off from there with a much larger plan to accelerate our growth.”
While Fitness Ventures is projected to have 34 locations open by 2023, Hibbard said their immediate goal is to have 50 open locations. His “ultimate goal” is to have 100 properties and one million members.
The franchisee was recently acquired in 2020 by Prospect Hill Growth Partners — a private equity firm focused on operational value creation.
“We’re got a great private equity partner,” said Hibbard. “I think that’s been one of the driving forces with us — great lender relationships which have helped fuel the growth. Some relationships we’ve had from my prior businesses.”
But he added the biggest factor to Fitness Ventures’ early success is the team and staff working hard behind the scenes.
“The work ethic and drive among our team is probably second to none,” said Hibbard. “So, I think that’s really a key differentiator for us. We’ve got a set of core values that’s kind of funky and different than the normal set of core values you’d see. We’ve got one that’s ‘Warrior Spirit.’ It’s all about being hungry and driving that hunger.”
That hunger was put to the test once the COVID-19 pandemic began. However, Hibbard says not only did his team navigate the turbulent times successfully — they thrived.
One reason why is the fact Fitness Ventures kept all main managers on staff through the pandemic.
“We kind of leaned into COVID-19,” said Hibbard. “Through COVID-19, we started really building out the team knowing we were probably going to come out OK on the other side. So, for everything that we pulled back, we gained back relatively quickly in early 2021 once we got in season. All our clubs now are above pre-COVID-19 levels.”
Fitness Ventures now has property in regions as far away as Alaska, the southeast and the northeast.
It’s part of an intentional strategy the team has in letting the best possible “box” dictate what region they go to next, versus focusing on just specific territories.
“It’s not just picking a territory and saying, ‘Let’s go develop this next month or next year,’” said Hibbard. “Wherever the best real estate leads us is where we’re going, which has turned out to be pretty successful for us.”
Real estate is a huge point of emphasis for Hibbard. In fact, he says the biggest mistake industry leaders can make is choosing bad real estate when creating big-box gyms.
While the commercial real estate market is in a constant state of flux amid growing inflation, Fitness Ventures’ strong financials, large real estate team and positive performance during the pandemic have ensured the franchisee’s success in a tough economic climate.
“Real estate is just such a huge point. If you build a $3 to $5 million gym, and it’s a mistake, you’re stuck with it,” said Hibbard. “My advice with real estate is to be patient. I see a lot of people who buy territory, and they settle for a B or a C site just because they’re anxious to get something done, and it’s the town they want to be in. Two or three years later they’re realizing maybe they shouldn’t have picked this box.”
For now, Hibbard said their boxes continue to grow up to 50,000-square-feet in size.
Thanks to their new partnership with Prospect Hill, a strong “Warrior Spirit” mindset and an eager eye to the future, Fitness Ventures doesn’t look to slow down its rapid pace anytime soon.