A special treat is stored in us in this episode because the dynamic duo who are successful franchise owners will grace us with wisdom today. From teaching high school students Spanish to building and running a successful multi-unit operation, Amy and Jesse Hudson share their journey about building a successful business with their Exercise Coach franchises. This husband and wife duo takes us behind the scenes about managing their growing business while only working 15 hours weekly. Amy and Jesse also share insights into their personal growth as entrepreneurs and what’s helped them cultivate a mindset that has helped them scale successfully. Learn how you can run a multi-unit franchise by tuning in to this episode!
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How To Run A Multi-Unit Franchise By Working Only 15 Hours Each Week With Amy And Jesse Hudson
In this episode, I am joined by two very special people I’m excited to talk to. They are Amy and Jesse Hudson who are successful franchise owners of The Exercise Coach. They’re also a dynamic duo because Jesse has been involved on the franchise development side of The Exercise Coach for several years in addition to other things he’s done in franchising. Amy is taking the lead on building an amazing multi-unit operation with The Exercise Coach. Amy and Jesse, welcome.
Dru, thanks for having us.
It is good to have you. Thanks, Dru.
I am glad you could be here. You’re building something that a lot of people who tune in to the show aspire to a successful multi-unit operation. You are also maintaining a family-oriented lifestyle at the same time as you take care of the daughters, the family and all that good stuff. I am looking forward to getting into this but I would love to start with your guys’ story on how you got into this whole franchise racket and how things are.
I tell my story a lot on a lot of calls with candidates so I have a good idea of how to start here. We were living in the Chicago area. We were married for a few years. Amy’s from Chicago. I’m originally from Minnesota. We’re in Minnesota but we spent about ten years in the Chicago suburbs. When we were there, we met the Cofounder and CEO of Exercise Coach Brian Cygan and his wife Gerianne through meeting them, going to church on Sunday and being involved. We had little kids and they had kids that were a little bit older than ours. We became friends.
It turns out he had these fitness studios and he had hired an attorney to write his FDD. I didn’t know what an FDD was or what franchising was. Through a series of events, I was able to go to work for him in the very beginning. I had a little bit of a real estate and construction background. I’m not shy to talk to people in terms of working with prospects and things like that. Most people get into franchising by accident. A lot of us talk about how we were doing something else, went to work for a franchise company and then stayed in the industry for a while.
I went to work for him. We helped at the very beginning get some things going. Amy became a client of the location. Since I was working for Brian, she got a free membership. That’s where her love of The Exercise Coach came from a client perspective. I worked there with him for six years in Illinois and then we moved our family back to Minnesota. I kept working for him even remotely and have been involved from the very beginning. It’s been fun to see that early-stage, founder-led, bootstrapped startup emerging into national, being part of all the different elements and learning a lot about the franchise life cycle from that perspective.
When was the decision made to open a couple of Exercise Coaches?
We had relocated from Chicago to Minnesota. Having been a client of the exercise coach, I told Jesse, “I can’t live without The Exercise Coach. Can we open one here?” We had always talked about going into business together one day or doing something together. We had this brand that we were familiar with, knew inside and out and appreciated the value of firsthand from the changes that I had noticed in my health and life. It was from having been a client and then learning about how strain training can change people’s quality of life up until the end of their life by reducing disease risk and increasing brain function and bone density.Learning about how strength training can change people's quality of life up until the end of their life. Click To Tweet
It is life-changing. I said, “We have to open one.” We opened our 1st location in 2017, our 2nd one in 2019 and then our 3rd in 2021. We want to bring this wonderful brand to as many people as we can locally. I enjoy running businesses and empowering staff members and team members under me to grow to their fullest potential as well.
You have three open. That’s no small feat. Congratulations. Amy, what were you doing before you decided to open an Exercise Coach?
My first career was as a high school Spanish teacher. I did that for ten years. I was teaching high school and it was a lot of fun. I had become a stay-at-home mom for a couple of years and enjoyed that as well. I did a few little hobbies on the side. I had two daughters at the time and then we had our third one when we moved up to Minnesota. I was balancing the mom life with having a previous skillset as a high school teacher when we opened our first location.
Did you always have the itch? Was the entrepreneurial itch always in the back of your mind or was it something that you saw what The Exercise Coach was doing and saw the opportunity in the twin city market? What was the defining moment that said, “We should do this?”
I would not say that I always had an entrepreneurial itch. I was very happy with my previous career and being a mom. I was content in different seasons. Since we found a brand that I also became passionate about, I wanted to open one. Jesse, though, has always been entrepreneurial. His line of thinking has always been more that way than mine. That expanded my mindset and the possibility of succeeding at being a business owner and allowing that lifestyle to being a mom and balancing other things by running a semi-absentee business.
We both have business ownership in our immediate family. Her father, grandfather and one of her uncles have owned or own small businesses where they work full-time in it. My grandfather was a small business owner, both of them. We both have that background. I gravitated growing up to my grandfather’s stories of owning businesses, buying buildings, selling buildings and starting businesses. I always was enamored by that.
He indoctrinated me a little bit. He used to say, “You’re going to take a risk on yourself, not on somebody else.” He always of the belief that if he owned and controlled the business, he could own and control his destiny. He was a 12-hour day and 7-day-a-week business owner. He owned a gas station and a motel where they slept in the apartment behind the front desk. If somebody checked in at 2:00 AM, it was him in his bathrobe. It was a little small-town motel, not a big downtown tower.
He always was very positive about business ownership. I went to college and he was proud of me for getting a college degree. He always said that he would support that. Part of when we came into The Exercise Coach, he was still alive at the time. He encouraged me. He was like, “Take a shot on something that can grow. You’re young. It sounds like Brian’s got a cool thing.” I had a positive view of business ownership. Amy had a background in business ownership as well but I’ve always been a little bit more, “I’m going to take a shot. If it fails, it’s on me.” The two of us have balanced each other out well in that regard.
What was the moment when you were like, “We need to do this.”
It was when we moved up here and talked about doing it. In Illinois, they had opened most of the good territories within 30 to 45 minutes of where we lived. We both loved the Twin Cities. It’s hard for people that aren’t from here to understand why you’d love a place that has cold winters but it’s a great place to raise a family. We both went to college here.
We moved there for the quality of life and family purposes. It’s a wide-open map if we ever wanted to do The Exercise coach. At the time, we had two daughters and they were school-age. The original plan was Amy would be able to send them off to the bus stop in the morning and then go into the studio in her exercise coach shirt and train the clients. She was going to be the face of the business owner-operator.
We got here and we had a franchise agreement signed. We were starting to look for properties. We called June, our third daughter, our Minnesota baby. We’re very happy that we have her but we weren’t expecting that. We had decided when we moved already to open the location but we hadn’t factored in an infant at the same time.
I remember we went out to a restaurant for dinner after we found out that Amy was pregnant. I said, “Do you still want to do this? We can’t do it the way we were going to do it. Maybe we delay it. Maybe we talk to the franchisor. This is a big change in how we’re going to run this business. It doesn’t make financial sense for us to put her in daycare and then for you to go in and be a trainer. We’re going to have to run it with the manager. We’re going to have to run it semi-absentee from the beginning.” We decided to go ahead anyway.
We had a different model than what we had intended. There were some learnings involved in launching with the manager versus launching with the owner in there for 40 or 50 hours a week. It is always a little easier if the owner’s in there in the beginning. It’s not necessary but you certainly learn lessons faster that way.
We had to learn lessons through our staff, which was not what we had expected early on. Foreshadowing made us more confident to launch a couple of more stores because franchisees can love their business so much that they never scale out of it. It is not because it’s not working but because they started training the clients, grooming the dogs or whatever the business is and then staying there in that first unit. It showed us but especially Amy, that she has got an incredible talent for hiring and training. That’s what you need to do to be that semi-absentee or multi-unit owner.
This was pretty early days in their growth. Were they set up for semi-absentee ownership back then or was it something that you guys had to navigate through to figure out?
The model has always been able to be run semi-absentee. It’s a pretty simple business model. Trainers deliver the service to the clients. Your employees are the star of the show but the mindset of the owner has to be conducive to that. The mindset of the owner has to be, “My employees are my number one asset so my job is to develop and pour into them to make sure that they know what I need them to know to run the business successfully.”
The owner’s job in that scenario is, “What are the needle-moving activities within this business that make the most difference in the success? How can I track those activities being done by the staff and then execute that when I’m not there?” The owner’s job then is to oversee and find a way to keep track of those things going on and learn that with your team as your studio is launching, growing and maintaining those things over time.
Every year, a franchise gets better at its systems. We launched our store right before a brand-new marketing system that has revolutionized our business. We were one of the last 1 or 2 franchises open with the previous marketing model, which wasn’t predictive. It worked but you didn’t know it was going to work all the time.
We have a marketing model that we know is going to work all the time. They’ve brought on dashboards and a lot of platforms that make it easier to be a semi-absentee. Fitness always has been semi-absentee-able, if that’s a word because a customer comes to you. There’s a retention rate, membership model and all that stuff that we know.
Five years later, when we opened our third location, Amy went into the business manual and went from the beginning as if she was a new franchisee. She was like, “There is a lot more stuff in here.” The franchisor will continue to get better at some of that stuff. I don’t care how good the model is. If the franchisee can’t hire and inspire a team, it doesn’t matter what the franchisor systems have.If the franchisee can't hire and inspire a team, it doesn't matter what the franchisor systems have. Click To Tweet
In my opinion, there are franchise models that are able to be run semi-absentee and then there are franchise owners who are able to run a semi-absentee business. Those are both critical factors. What we’ve learned is that there were certain things. For example, we were like, “Why doesn’t this employee know how to do this? Have we told them explicitly and exactly how to do that?” If it is a no, then we can’t assume that they know how to do that. If you are like, “Why isn’t my manager running my business better?” That’s a pretty nebulous question. What exactly would you like them to change? Some of that little management stuff, you have to learn.
It’s no different from training employees in Corporate America but it’s your business. They’re your employees. That is something that I’ve seen with Amy. She is a voracious learner. She loves to say, “What don’t I know and how do I learn it? How do I get better? How do I get 2% better at something?” She’s gone on a journey over the last couple of years of listening to podcasts, reading books, paying for coaching and paying for seminars on mindset. She has become the owner that you need to be to run a multi-unit development and not pull your hair out.
You grow as an owner. You’re not going to be the same person five years from now as you are now. That is something that I coach my candidates on. I’m like, “The 1st year in the 1st location is going to be your busiest because you’re new to it. That’s okay but have the 2 to 5-year goal in mind. Don’t get stuck in what’s going on now. Say, “How do I make this better next time?” It’s that mindset that we’re passionate about helping others understand as well.
How did the two dates converge with baby June and the opening of The Exercise Coach at your first location?
It was 10 or 11 months after she was born that we opened the studio and it was ready to go.
When you go look at a space to put your store into, you take pictures and videos. In many of them, she was at least a little bit or very pregnant. We have pictures of her pregnant and us touring a facility in an open space. We were doing the site selection and launch around that timeframe. We then timed the store opening to be far enough beyond the birth where it wasn’t going to work. The franchisor was flexible. What I will say is they gave us a little bit of extra time to open. Our goal was the fall of the previous year. I’m like, “That’s not going to work. That’s going to be two months after the baby. Can we go to the spring?” They said, “That makes sense.” You have to have a good partner in your franchisor when life stuff pops up.You must have a good partner in your franchisor when life stuff pops up too. Click To Tweet
That’s a busy eighteen months, if we call it that, from the time you got the news to when you opened your first location. That is how business and life go. You can have a plan and then the plan changes. No plans ever go according to plan. I hate to say it because I wish I had a fancier way of saying this but you figure it out as you go. Have the confidence that you’re going to forge forward, get through it, come out the other side and continue to go. That’s amazing. It’s no small feat. I do sometimes tell people, “Starting a business is having another kid.” It needs a lot of attention at the beginning and then it grows a little bit. It is a whole new dynamic in your life. It’s a blessing. It is rewarding but it can be a little different.
It is work at first but if you put in the time right away to get it off the ground and build it the way you want it to run, that pays you back in the end. It does take building it up correctly from the get-go. Sometimes, you have to make mistakes and say, “That didn’t work. What else could we try,” until you get it there. If you can do that, then you have more freedom to scale to another location or give yourself the freedom back that you were looking for.
Fast forward, you have three locations open. This whole semi-absentee word is fun to say. A lot of people say it but there is the reality of what that means in terms of running your business truly semi-absentee, which is manager-run. That is how it boils down. Are you comfortable talking a little bit about what your weekly life looks like as the owners of a multi-unit operation being run semi-absentee in terms of what your management routines look like, how you’re interacting with your staff and what you are doing to pilot the operation you have?
I’d be happy to. My managers are my eyes and ears within my business. They’re hired based on the personality and qualities that they would bring to the team. When we seek out a manager, we look for somebody who’s going to be great with people and driven to succeed. The rest of the skills then are groomed and taught by me to the manager and worked on continuously.
We’ll start monthly. Monthly, we meet. We call them sales and leadership meetings. In these meetings, we talk about sales and sales goals. We’re like, “How did our previous month go? What do we want to accomplish next month? What actions can we take as a team to get there? What does that look like? What else can we put into place?” We analyze our sales and the needle-movers related to those and create new goals.
It’s amazing because saying a goal, stating it and putting it out there in front of your eyes subconsciously does help you to achieve it a little bit higher than you would have hoped for the best. We talk about that pretty in-depth monthly. It is all three of my managers together with me on Zoom. We guide our conversation with a document where they populate some certain KPIs so that we are able to look at the actual numbers.
We then talk about leadership. I have 15 employees across 3 locations but I do rely on my managers to develop the other team members underneath them. My managers are incentivized for their team members underneath them to perform well. One question I ask my manager is, “On a scale from 1 to 10, give me a rating on how much you trust the rest of your team.” We are assuming that the manager has all of the mindsets and skills in place that I’ve taught them about an ownership mindset.
I’d be like, “How much do you trust the rest of your team? If that number is lower than you want it to be, then what needs to happen? Answer that question for that person to be trusted more by you. When will we do that? Is it training? Is it additional professional development? Is it something else? When will that happen? Let’s check back in with that in the next month.”
The follow-up and the identification of what needs to happen ongoing do separate sometimes a higher-performing location from a lower-performing location. The highest performers in any system are always the type of people that are asking themselves, “How can I do better? There’s always a little bit more I can do.” They’re not coasting along. That’s what we do monthly.
Weekly, I also check in with my managers. I created a simple Google document that asks some certain pulse questions about how the studio is going. For example, “How many leads did we get this week? How many people have been booked? Are there any happy clients? Are there any risky clients? What are we going to do about that?” We check in on a weekly basis as well for those things. I’m able to discuss things with them and give them tips and mentorship that way related to things they need.
As things evolve with the brand or new initiatives are happening or other things, we do a lot of communication over text messages. We are constantly in different capacities to make sure that there’s always that ongoing. They know that I’m always there to support them as well. That’s how I oversee them. I don’t have to be in any particular location.
I do like to go into my different locations, work out and get trained by some of my coaches as well so that I can speak firsthand to how their skillset is as a trainer. That’s more for fun and connection with me as the owner. That takes up about fifteen hours of my week on average. I analyze my KPIs. I review my marketing goals. I try to do a little networking in the community and then have other time to work on being a mom and balancing the household and other projects I like to do. That is how my week looks.
I do virtually nothing to fill this out. I have a full-time job where I’m working with The Exercise Coach to help them sell franchises. Rarely, it does happen occasion that she’ll ask me for my advice or help and I give it. I’m honest with everybody that I should get a little tiny percentage of the credit for this but she’s the one that’s running the studios functionally. I jump in only when there’s something I can add value to, which at this point is little and I’m proud of that.
That’s amazing that you’ve figured out a routine and a meeting structure that fits well. It is pretty lifestyle-friendly but you’re also able to do that by pushing down the accountability. It sounds like the status quo is not acceptable in your guys’ business. In a nice way, it’s, “What’s working? What’s not working? Where are we trying to get to? What are we going to do to get there?” People have their tasks on what needs to happen and there are check-ins. It’s simple and elegant. From a management standpoint, there’s a little bit of an art to holding those meetings, doing it in a fun way that engages the managers, gamifying it a little bit but also helping the business grow and thrive.
I read somewhere once that all employees love to be great at their job and they want to know what winning looks like. It was in The 4 Disciplines of Execution book. It talks about whether they know what winning looks like and how we could celebrate when we do win. It is always dangling a carrot of, “This is what we’re trying to achieve.”
It’s never in a condescending way or in a condemning way if we don’t quite hit it but it’s always that we want to help as many people as we can so how can we do that better? We can all win from that. Every employee should know that you are out there to support them in becoming the best they can be for the studio to become one of the top performers in the system. They take pride in that. It can be a little bit of an art but how do we inspire people that we’re doing something special here?
I will give one of Amy’s superpowers. She likes to delegate. She trusts that people will largely do something right, which is critical here. Our kids were doing their laundry at ten. It’s like, “It’s a machine with buttons.” My kids know how to run the washing machine slightly better than I do. If we can teach them to do it, like let the dog out, feed the animals and clean their room, then let’s do the laundry. They can make their breakfast. They’re making a seven-year-old’s breakfast in the morning. She is like, “What can I delegate?”
It’s not because we have special children, although I do believe our kids are great. It’s not like they have some skillset. It’s, “Have you taught somebody how to do it? Have you encouraged them to do it? Have you trusted them to fail?” If their failure might cost you money or time, it might and you have to be okay with that. What I’ve seen with her is she delegates but then follows back up and makes sure that it got done right.
The Exercise Coach business model doesn’t have a lot of ordering. We have virtually no inventory but there are some supplies. There are printed forms, gym wipes and all that stuff. She has one of her employees that wants a few extra hours and is organized. She is like, “You do the ordering for the three studios. Here’s how to log in. Here’s how to do this.” It is anything she can find to delegate that makes sense so that she can focus on the things that they can’t do.
They can’t run QuickBooks or we’re not going to let them. They’re not going to be the ones deciding on how much to spend on Facebook that month so she’s doing those things even to the point where the managers run the reviews of the coaches. The managers are doing the regular reviews of the coaches and Amy is like, “I’ll help out when you need it.” You sit in the first one, right?
I sit in the first one but then after that, it’s the manager with the employee.
None of this is something that only we could do or she could do. It’s one of those things we’re being disciplined in setting up that structure and then saying, “My goal, 5 years from now or 3 years from now, is to work 10 to 15 hours a week. What do I need to do to get to that point?” We’re five years in so we’ve learned some things. It’s very doable. That is what needs to be said more often. It’s doable to get to this lifestyle and own the business in this way but what do we need to do to get there? It’s to delegate, trust, hand off tasks and then hold people accountable.
People will fail you. They will quit last minute. They will be poor performers and there are things you need to do. You’re not going to get there by everything running through your hands or running through your inbox. You can’t scale beyond a single location if you want to be the choke point for every decision. Nothing’s sitting on her desk hardly ever for very long and that’s important.
It sounds like you do the management execution well. You also have great leadership that puts the grease on the wheels to make it fun and create the culture. You have the mission of helping as many people as you can. I got to ask. People want to progress in their life and their career. Have you found that there are any similarities between running a classroom and teaching kids a new language and running the business the way that you are?
What teachers do is identify what information needs to be taught. They prepare an engaging way to teach that information. They check for understanding, assess and ask for proof of learning. That basic structure that a teacher’s job is while being fun to be around and trying to create an atmosphere of fun, all those things have beautifully translated into running a team. There are a lot of skills in business ownership that can be transferable from other careers and vice versa too. Skills you learn as a business owner are translatable to other areas of your life. Being open to, “What skillsets do I already possess? What mindsets might I need to develop to become a business owner,” are very helpful. Why don’t you capitalize on something you already know? I would encourage that.
One comment I was thinking about previously too while you and Jesse were talking is as a business owner, it’s easy to have the mindset that, “Nobody cares about this as much as I do.” We’ve all heard that line that nobody cares as much as the owner. If you believe that, then how much time and effort are you going to spend pouring into your team if you don’t believe that they care as much as you? If you can switch that mindset to say, “I can develop people that care as much as I do and are incentivized to run my business well for me so that we all win,” you are going to then fuel that fire to pour into them so that everybody wins. For anybody who’s a new business owner, if you can own that and internalize that, that will serve you well.
As you transitioned into the business ownership role, Amy, did you realize that you always had that mindset or were there things that you did? Were there books you read, podcasts or any kind of personal development that helped you, if you felt like you needed to, groom your mindset for a new venture or did you already have it?
I grew into it. I fumbled and stumbled a lot over the course of the first year. We had a manager that I didn’t know how to effectively lead, unfortunately. The personality and the mix of the whole thing weren’t what they needed to be. I didn’t know that beforehand but I had to make adjustments on the fly. We ended up, even with our first store, putting a new manager into place close to the end of the first year of business. By necessity, I learned how to delegate more, oversee better and be more strategic about what we were focusing on to get the business to the next level.
There are a couple of books that did help me. There’s one called Man Up by Bedros Keuilian. It’s the idea of, “It’s all my fault.” “If the business is failing, it’s my fault. If the business is successful, it’s my fault. If my coaches are incompetent and my staff doesn’t know what they’re doing, it’s my fault. I must have missed something somewhere so what can I do?” That can be scary or it could be encouraging to know you have a lot more control over this than you think you do.
There’s another book called Extreme Ownership as well. I forgot who wrote that. It’s the same idea that it’s on you. What do you need to do to develop your mindset around other people and learn about your strengths and weaknesses as well? Building self-awareness helps you to be more humble and open to growth. There is a great book called Mindset by Carol Dweck. It talks about the difference between a growth mindset and a fixed mindset. Do you know the book?
It’s eye-opening. A fixed mindset is a belief that your skills are fixed. Your intelligence is fixed. Your capacity and talents are fixed and not able to be developed over time. If you’re bad at something, you weren’t cut out for it. If you have a failure, you are a failure as a person. It’s internally destructive. There’s a growth mindset. The growth mindset says anything can be learned.
How empowering is that? Any failure I have is simply information on how I can do better next time. It doesn’t mean anything about me and I don’t need to go hide in the corner. It means I can take this information, get better at something and do it better in the future. It’s this very empowering mindset. When I discovered that in my growth journey, I had some language to identify and catch myself in the moments where I was having a fixed mindset, getting defeated and getting stuck, worried, fearful and shame-based versus that empowered mindset that this is figure outable.
I get to live with the vision that I’m helping people get into or hopefully helping people get into it. When she went through that realization or mindset, it was not a switch instantly. I started to see that when there was a challenge, she was like, “I’m going to fix this,” versus, “What’s wrong with me?” I’m going to make a strong claim and I can back this up. If you think that mindset and understanding yourself are woo-woo and not real business stuff, you’re never going to be successful at any level if you don’t work on this.
If you don’t figure out how you are taking things the wrong way, interpreting things the wrong way, getting in your way or owning that and working on that, you will figure out the ceiling. The ceiling will not be the franchisor’s fault or your coach’s fault or the marketing department’s fault. It will be you.
I’m coming to believe in my years working in this industry that self-awareness is probably the number one most critical aspect of any business owner or franchise owner. If you don’t know where you’re strong and weak and where the landmines are in your personality and your way of viewing the world, it doesn’t mean you’re never going to be perfect. You’re always going to need to work on stuff.
If you don’t have somebody that you can trust to speak into your life a little bit, whether it’s a spouse, coach, friend or if you’re religious, a pastor, minister or somebody who’s saying “Let’s talk about things,” your ceiling’s going to be you. When you talk to those franchisees, they tell you that the ceiling is the franchisor or their manager or something else. They’d be like, “If only these kids worked harder, I’d be more successful.”
That switch with Amy is specifically a huge transition in our business to where when things go wrong, she’s like, “How do I fix this?” versus, “The sky’s falling.” If you’re an employee of a business, like a franchise location and your boss is always worried, negative and nervous, it’s going to translate. That’s not something that only some people can have. That’s figure outable or learnable for anybody. You just have to say, “I’m going to do that work.”
For a lot of semi-absentee business owners in franchising, they need to spend time early working on themselves a little bit. Read some books. One of the biggest impacts on the business is going to be what you bring to the table from a mindset perspective. Don’t assume that because you were successful in Corporate America that everything will translate. Certain things will translate but one of the things I see with franchisees is they ran a marketing department for a $50 million company but they had everything else done for them. They had legal and HR hiring for them. They were important in a small and specific skillset with a lot on the line.The biggest impact on the business is going to be, you know, what you bring to the table from a mindset perspective. Click To Tweet
When you go into a small business, you are legal, HR and marketing. The context is much smaller but your role is much wider. It is being aware of that and saying, “This is a different thing. I’m not at Coca-Cola or HP anymore. I’m at Dru’s Fitness Studio or Jesse’s Fitness Studio. I have to run this business differently.” It is understanding some of these dynamics.
Pay for some business coaching. It might be the best money you spend early in your business career. Whatever you bring to the table that limits your business won’t go away until you work on it. With Amy, I am so impressed. Every morning, she has her planner out and a book she’s reading. She’s taking some time in the morning to work on her and the organization stuff before getting into any of the tasks of the business. It has paid off for her.
You have what I would describe as an ambitious humility in terms of getting to know you better. You want to win. You’re competitive. You want to build something significant. You’re going about it humbly with this drive that’s forging you guys but you don’t expect anything. You know that you’re going to have to make it happen and figure out how to make it happen, whether that’s hiring a good manager, helping them hire good employees or whatever it may be.
When I started doing this show, I didn’t have a theme except I wanted to have amazing people and talk to amazing people like you. It’s a journey. With entrepreneurship, you can’t script it. It’s different for everybody. The fundamentals can be similar in terms of what it takes to be successful and what it takes to run a multi-unit and semi-absentee operation successfully. The fundamentals are the fundamentals but how somebody personally gets themselves in the mindset is a very personal thing.
The books that you mentioned, Amy, may not resonate with somebody else at the time where their head at in that specific moment in life. If you keep your head on the swivel, keep an eye out and are willing to pick up a book, listen to a podcast and continue to do that, you’ll find something that connects with you. You will find something that resonates with you in your language or how you view the world. You have to have that thing that’s pushing you forward.
You know where you want to get to but you don’t exactly know how you want to get there. It’s what a journey is. You can’t predict what you’re going to run into on a journey. I am getting philosophical but that might be my theme of the show after you have shared more about this. I appreciate you helping me figure that out.
Think about how small business owners can get this persecution mindset where everybody’s against them and everything’s tough for them. You hear them in hiring and this and that. It’s like, “What’s it like to be your employee? What’s it like to be your customer?” You are not the star of the show. You’re a servant of your employees and clients. You’re trying to create an experience and a good place to work. We ask ourselves, “What would it be like to work for us? What would be like to work in our studio? What’s great about the job? what might not be great about the job?” It is being honest with everything and putting yourself in other people’s shoes.
Amy and I get phone calls sometimes from franchisees in our system. We are not the top performer but we’re in that group of folks that have been around for a while and have gotten some awards. We’re certainly not the best franchisees in the system but we get phone calls and people reaching out and asking. They all think that there’s a secret that the franchisor isn’t telling them. They are always amazed when you get on the phone and say, “Have you gone through every single piece of training in the business manual? Have you made sure that all of your employees do everything that you’re taught as well as they can? Have you done the fundamentals?”
They’re looking for a shortcut to success and a secret. They’re like, “Where do you get your clients? Are you getting some special free clients that nobody else knows about?” We’re like, “No. We’re spending a lot of money on Facebook like you are. We are just making sure that our lead-to-prospect rate is as high as we can or our prospect-to-client rate is as high as we can.” It’s the fundamentals.
There are also behaviors under each of those metrics. That goes back to her management style. If you aren’t doing what the franchisor has taught you to do as well as you can, don’t ask about the next level yet. Nail the fundamentals. There’s a good chance that you’ll be in the top half of the system by the time you finish that. You can then go after the networking or the special sauce. Go after the things that you feel might take you to the next level.
If you’re a struggling franchisee reading this in a system where there are people that are outperforming you and you expect to call them and ask for some special hint, there’s likely no special nugget. They just probably are doing all the things along that chain of whatever it takes to bring in revenue slightly better than you. You stack all that up but it’s a big number at the end of the day. Focus on the fundamentals. Every business has a different pipeline, different KPIs and different rates.
Your franchisor should know where you should be. Hopefully, they should benchmark and tell you where you stack up. Attack the things you aren’t good at and keep fixing stuff that isn’t working. Be open and be humble as much as you can. You’ll probably find yourself with a pretty good business on your hands if you bought into a strong system by doing the fundamentals well. That’s what I think. Amy does not get distracted too much by shiny objects. She’s not chasing the home run. She’s making sure that everybody’s doing everything pretty well most of the time. At the end of the day, that leads to a pretty successful business.
One book I would recommend is by Scott Greenberg called The Wealthy Franchisee. Everyone should read that book. One thing he talks about in there is the art of teaching somebody something. If you’re not in there, what do your team members need to be doing well for your business to succeed? He gives a basic three-step process. It is to show them and then have them demo it back to you while you’re sitting there and then revisit and assess it later. Shadow them doing it. It is that simple thing of, “Do I know that they’re doing those things?”
That book is great because it’s filled with little tips on how to make sure that people are constantly growing and developing. You’re never done. Let’s not expect that. Let’s always continue to grow and develop and do this to the best of our ability. Any business that coasts are going to eventually decline. We know that’s human nature so how can we work against that tendency?
That’s the opportunity with owning your own business. You have that ability and opportunity to create something that doesn’t have limits or doesn’t have a ceiling versus the alternative, which is going to work for somebody else where there are constraints. That’s a lot of wisdom that you have shared. What’s next for you in your journey?
It depends on the day and whom you ask. We’re actively considering another location with Exercise Coach because we love the brand. Dru knows this because he and I are friends. We’ve spent time. I’m always like, “Maybe we should do something else.” You said to me when we were playing golf, “Why don’t you do what you are already good at?” I’m like, “That’s not bad counsel.”
We’re looking at another location. In our geography, there’s a fourth territory that would make sense. If you looked at a map and you thought about the twin cities, having a certain part of the metro would make sense for us. We have a coach and assistant manager in one of our stores. What Amy does is have a manager and then an assistant manager in each location. The assistant manager knows how to do almost everything the manager knows how to do. The manager’s required to train that assistant manager in those tasks so we have a bench. We can take that person to the next location. We have a couple of talented people. There is one in particular who would enjoy doing that.
We’ve always thought about other concepts, maybe doing something else in a different industry and potentially franchise as well but we’ve got a lot on our plate. We’ve got a 9th grader, a 7th grader and a 1st grader. They are all girls. One of them is getting rides from her high school friends and the other one’s still watching cartoons in the morning. We have a busy family.
I work on the development side with FastLane representing Exercise Coach. I continue to have a big pipeline there. It’s a blessing to work on a brand for several years. We’re open-minded. We like to keep our ears and eyes open. We’re going to execute what’s in front of us. The three stores are doing well. The third store is a little over a year old. That’s where it starts to level. That’s where we start to say, “It’s built right.”
The first two are mature. The third store is still a newer location. It’s about 14 or 15 months old but it’s on its feet. We’re going to enjoy that for a little bit and look at opening another location. Our kids are getting to the age where we can start talking to them about joining us one day in a few years. Who knows? We’re enjoying this season of life where we’ve put a lot of time and effort into things and they’re paying off. It’s a good spot to be. Ask me in a week and I’ll have a different idea.
I don’t know where I read this. It is probably from High Performance Habits by Brendon Burchard. What does success look like? It is asking yourself what success looks like to you. Work and career are one categories of success. Also, what are the values that we have as a family? What are the values we have personally?
Are we leaving ourselves enough time and bandwidth to develop those other areas as well? That’s also what success looks like too. That’s important to me in asking where we’re going. It’s like, “Time we’re pouring into our kids is also a success too.” How can we keep leveling up every area and trying our best to keep everything strong? It’s not perfect but how can we make sure our attention stays in a variety of places too? That helps me on some days when it’s easy to get too myopic and all consumed in, “Being a business owner is my identity and not other areas.” That’s helpful.
It is lifestyle and family. That’s why we’re doing this whole business thing. It is to be able to enjoy that. I have no doubt that you are going to achieve whatever it is that you want to achieve in this next chapter, whatever it may be. Thank you very much for coming on and sharing your story. Congratulations on your guys’ success. It’s inspiring.
Thank you so much for having us.
It was a pleasure. What you do to help people identify the right fit for them is critical. Working even with a coach before selecting a franchise is important. You’ve got your finger on the pulse of what’s going on in the industry. To anybody who tunes in to this show that’s working with Dru, you’re in good hands. He’s been in the franchising industry for quite some time and is a well-respected voice.What you do to help people identify the right fit for them is critical. Click To Tweet
That’s the nice thing about this industry. We all want everybody to succeed. It’s good for the entire franchise industry when franchisors grow, franchisees are successful and profitable and franchise consultants make good matches. The tide lifts all boats in this industry. That’s what I like about where we’re at. The collaboration versus competition ratio is high. It creates a nice industry and a nice environment. It’s a pleasure getting on with you. Thanks so much for having us and allowing us to share our story.
Thank you very much. I enjoyed it. Thanks and good luck with the next chapter.