How To Run A Multi-Unit Franchise Semi-Absentee With Steve Hitzemann, Multi-Unit StretchLab Franchise Owner

FM 4 | Multi Unit Franchise
Running a multi-unit semi-absentee franchise is what a lot of people dream to do. Meet Steve Hitzemann, one of the early franchisees with StretchLab, along with his wife Stacey. Join Dru Carpenito as he talks to Steve Hitzemann about building a successful multi-unit business. Learn the secrets to running the franchise semi-absentee (and keeping his job). Discover how they decided to invest in StretchLab when it had zero franchises open. And find out how to conquer unforeseen obstacles and his plan for the future.

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How To Run A Multi-Unit Franchise Semi-Absentee With Steve Hitzemann, Multi-Unit StretchLab Franchise Owner

I am excited to have my long-time buddy from franchising. We got to know each other personally over the years, Steve Hitzemann, who is a multiunit franchisee with StretchLab. He was early on in StretchLab, which has since gone on to grow to a large franchise organization. We look forward to talking about a lot of different things with this Steve. Welcome to the show.

I appreciate you inviting me. I’m excited to chat with you.

There are a lot of interesting topics that we can cover with your journey in franchising and some of the cool things that you are doing. To kick things off, I would love to share a little bit of your story with the readers. Maybe what you were doing before you got into franchising in StretchLab, what inspired you to get into it, and what you are up to now.

Before StretchLab, I had been working pretty much in Corporate America since I got out of school. I’m based in Charlotte. I made my way into the finance industry, as a lot of folks do based here in Charlotte. I have been doing that and enjoying it. I have learned a lot from different leaders along the way, peers, and folks that I have worked with and worked for. They always haven’t been huge massive companies but now I work for a big bank and enjoy it.

I thought through the years, “Is this a forever thing for myself?” My wife is a part of the equation in terms of the lifestyle that we wanted to live and what she was doing. She is a nutritionist by trade but she has not worked or she had not worked since our first child was born. We were talking through what the future looks like for us from a work perspective. Does she want to go back and be a practicing nutritionist? Those conversations were in process with no set timelines or deadlines where we had given ourselves.

When we came across StretchLab, that came out of uncovering it by reading the paper one day from the front page of the journal. There was an article about assistant stretching studios but prior to that, I, myself, specifically brought her into the mix. We had gotten on to our own personal stretch routine as we have gotten older.

We realized how important it was to stay active. We have historically been active folks and want to continue to be that way into the golden years but we realized that we had to do more maintenance than we had been doing. After a few chiropractor visits and things like that, we decided and uncovered that stretching was going to be a key for us to be able to keep doing what we are doing. For several years, we were doing a lot of stretching at home and doing some of that.

Didn’t you hurt your back doing some physical?

I merely bent over and folded laundry one evening watching TV. Back goes out on me. I have spent Christmas morning laying on the floor in massive pain. That truly was the genesis of something. It was as simple as that. It was not like a car wreck or I fell off my bike. It was living life. That got us going. We see this article in the journal. I’m like, “That is sweet. I would love to be a customer of that business. Do we have any of those around here?”

Multi Unit Franchise: Franchising for StrechLab is like buying the Club Pilates playbook. But instead of a Pilates studio, you’re putting a StretchLab studio. All that is the same, that’s the beauty of franchising.

I had done some deep stretching classes at yoga studios in town, which I liked. I loved them but it was not one-on-one. When I read about assisted stretching, I was like, “That is the gym. That is what we need.” That thought process quickly evolved from, “I would like to be a customer,” to “Maybe there is a business opportunity for us.” That got us starting to do the research. At that point in time, this is early 2018. It was StretchLab, Stretch Zone and you had some other mom and pops in these big cities.

It was an LA New York thing. Chicago had some studios there. It is not outside of those big metropolitan cities quite yet. That got us going and we will talk about it but the introduction to you and conversation validated my thoughts and I tripped out to Orange County to kick the tires on it because that was the only place to see. At least the StretchLab was in LA. That is how it played through.

Several years later, here we are.

Several years later, I opened my fourth studio.

That is the one in Fort Mill. You had a personal experience that opened your eyes to the opportunity as a potential customer. You can’t even be a customer because there wasn’t a studio here. It sounds like you and Stacey were going through some iterations of what is the next chapter, whatever the long-term plans were going to be for the fam. The worlds collided and here we are. It is always a journey. You can’t script it no matter where you are.

The things that happen along the way, to me, become pretty clear signs about the path to take and what is right or wrong. I remember it vividly and I know you have written at least once about this. I started talking with close friends like, “I’m thinking about this idea. We have uncovered this.” Nobody had any experience with franchising. Our mutual friend was like, “You need to chat with this guy, Drew. He is from Virginia. He is a tech kid.” We had some similarities there.

I remember you and I spoke on the 4th of July 2018. I remember vividly spending probably ten minutes describing StretchLab to you. You were quiet and you listened. When I was done, you shared that you knew all of what I had told you and then some because you had been at a conference and you knew a lot more about the business than I did.

You validated everything that I had, all my research, and what I was thinking. I remember I hung up that phone. I was like, “That was a sign that this becomes a good idea.” From our personal experience and life experiences that we have. Even those things that are irrelevant to starting a business. Those pieces there for me validated, “This guy knows what he is talking about. He has got similar information that I have. Some of the questions that I had, you are able to answer.” That conversation that you and I had was a big part of us deciding to go ahead and do it.

That was 2018 and the concept was new, this idea of assisted stretching. There are a lot of franchises that are out there with similar early-stage ideas and concepts, but a lot of the validation was what is behind the scenes a lot of the time, like with Xponential factor. For anybody reading that does not know who Xponential Fitness is, it is the parent company of StretchLab. That has since gone on to become a publicly-traded company. The StretchLab was one of their first few brands.

It was maybe 4th or 5th in the portfolio. I do not know exactly. When I was doing the research, from a potential franchisee’s perspective, it was going out and talking to other franchisees. You can get names of lists of folks in the back of the FDD. I’m sure you know exactly where that is within those docs. For me, I was speaking to Club Pilates franchisees. It is the Xpo playbook now but it was the Club Pilates playbook that you were buying. Instead of a Pilates studio, you are putting a StretchLab studio but the sales process, the marketing, and all of that were the same. That is the beauty of franchising in a lot of ways and how Xponential has become successful.

In your journey, there will be pretty clear signs about the path to take and what's right or wrong. Click To Tweet

I was out there talking to Pilates franchisees because it was early. The only StretchLab were ones that corporate purchased from the folks that started with the idea. I couldn’t speak to them for some legal reasons. It was okay. Here are other folks talking to them. In the end, you got to trust your gut a little bit but do a lot of research and line the chips up as best you can, based on the info that you have to make that decision. It was early on and here, at least in the Southeast where I am, I had to go out West to see this in action.

What number of franchisees were you?

I asked that and I don’t know if I was in one of the first ten. I’m within the first twenty. In terms of our studio’s opening, we might be in the first ten there. It would be off on that. We were early on the first out here. My colleagues down in Jacksonville beat me in terms of opening when it comes to actual studio doors. We had some folks up in Jersey too. You had Jersey, Florida, and Charlotte, at least East Coast.

You do some regional training, as StretchLab has grown, which is several years later. I had dinner with Lou. He mentioned that over 500 studios were signed and in development and maybe over 100 opened.

They have a huge 2021 in terms of the terms of signings. We were looking at sales results. There are close to 250 studios that are out there reporting sales if either they are open or in a presale status, which is a great thing about our model from that presale point of view. We can get into it. It has grown exponentially.

As the company has grown its West Coast-based headquarters, you were early on the East Coast. You have become a regional training center. Can you talk to us about that?

One of our employees, we knew early on that they were going to have trainers and instructors throughout the country to support the footprint as it grew. When we started, everybody that trained, I had to send to California. My training costs were through the roof right out of the gates. It was a known issue. It was not anything that I was surprised by but I had to send everybody to Cali to get trained with the intent of finding individuals, as they got enough experience and they proved themselves to become local/regional trainers.

We were fortunate enough to identify one of our employees that wanted to do that. He had the chops to do it. He has some peers now in Florida and some folks coming a little bit north of us. People have been coming to us to train in Charlotte for several years now, which is great. From that perspective, everybody that I hire and train, I can keep here at home. I do not have to send them cross-country.

It is proprietary techniques and training but can you maybe talk a little about how you picked employees, what you look for in their backgrounds, and what training they go through to become certified flexologists, assuming they are certified.

In terms of finding folks, there are some objective items that candidates have to have. You do not have to have all of them but you have to have one or a couple of a few things. It is a relative degree and a four-year degree. It’s one of a few different certifications within the personal training or yoga instruction, which has got a 200 or a 500 hours certs and things like that. It is an accredited cert within bodywork or fitness degree, and relevant experience for us to even talk to somebody to consider them.

FM 4 | Multi Unit Franchise
Multi Unit Franchise: Personality is important to have during one-on-one stretching. You’re going to be in a person’s personal space all the time. So if you don’t enjoy having a conversation with an individual, then it won’t work out.

Those are the more objective pieces. From there, if somebody has had hands-on experience with the client, that is important. If they have had hands-on experience with a client in a previous job and they liked it, that is good. Some people want to work with individuals but a massage therapist does hands-on. That is different from a lot of boutique fitness. If they have that experience, that is great.

Their personality is important. Our business only offers one-on-one stretching and you are in the person’s personal space. If I don’t enjoy having a conversation with an individual, they are not going to be hired because they have got to be able to relate and listen well. When we are interviewing, are they listening to my questions and taking it past the first layer and going a little bit deeper? That tells me that we are listening and thinking.

We need folks to be able to do that because it is important for us to tie our services back to what we call the why. Why is somebody in the StretchLab? A lot of times, you got to dig for that. You got to peel back a few layers of the onion to truly find that with a client because they won’t necessarily come right out with it. I need folks that can relate and have the ability to start to ask those questions. When they hear the answers, they take it down to that level. That is important for us.

From a training perspective, we have online modules that folks have to complete in a test prior to showing up to training. They have two full days of hands-on training, which puts all of that online work into practice. That is then instructor-led. All the online is individual on their own time. They show up to training as a candidate, put all that to work, pass another test, and make sure that they have got all that down and twenty hours of practice before they are certified as a flexologist.

That twenty hours of work are practicing with our team. I’m getting stretches. My wife is getting stretches. All of our managers are getting stretches depending on the studio they are going to work at. We offer that up to all of our teammates because, for them, it is a free stretch and they are going to give them feedback.

I give decent feedback. I’m not a flexologist. I don’t know all the ins and outs of what they learned at FTP and how to put that into practice. My other flexologists 100% do. I looked to them to give that coaching and feedback back to those folks so that they could ramp up quickly. When they are seeing a paying client for the first time, they are delivering a good stretch. They are giving great experience right out of the gates.

That first stretch is important because it is surprising. A good stretch, how it truly activates and invigorates this body in a way that wherever I go, it is a good 2 to 3 days of this new type of energy you have flowing through your body.

The endorphins get going. You feel good and it snowballs. You are standing taller. You are more confident if it is going out there to play golf or tennis. You are walking with a better posture on the block. That first experience is key because when we know we do it well, it sells our services for sure.

You have scaled up to four studios and it sounds like it is no easy feat to get somebody up to a certified flexologist based on what you laid out there. Any tips or secrets that you have figured out, not in the StretchLab, maybe a business in general in terms of recruiting and hiring?

I was chatting with one of my area managers because we have got training coming up. I’m like, “How many folks do we want to have hired?” He was like, “We have identified somebody.” I was like, “If you have got somebody, lock him in. Make that offer now.” Especially in this job market, coming through COVID and everything there, if we wait around and maybe there is somebody better, that never plays out. If we are not sure about them, I do not want to make the offer, but if we feel good about somebody, I want the offer out ASAP. We can get them on the team and have them come into our studio.

When franchising, you have to do a lot of research and trust your gut a little bit before you make a decision. Click To Tweet

They have already done that through the interview process anyway but get them going into that online piece so that they can start to take it in. That to me is key. If we know we have got somebody, let’s lock them in, get them hired, and get them to sign. They are going to join us. Hopefully, they are not out there looking for another job. We know when folks give us the half in half out answer, it never places. They are always out and looking for the next best thing.

What does your hiring process look like?

People are applying through job boards online. Our managers are reviewing those and we have got phone screens. It would be one phone screen. If we like them, we will bring him in for a first interview. Sometimes we will hire off that first in-person or it will take a second in-person with myself or Stacey. We have lead flexologists and all of our studios as well. They oversee the quality of stretching within each studio. We will bring them into the interview process as well. They are bought in with somebody that is going to join their team to make sure they have got the chops and they are going to fit culturally with the team that we have got in there.

That is what that looks like and I’m doing that. We are always doing that. There is always training on the horizon. That is a nice thing for us now that I don’t have to worry. If I find somebody good now, it is going to be three months before I can get him trained. Even if I don’t have something locally, if they are worth it, it is worth my dollar to send them to training. I can get them onboarded as quickly as possible and don’t lose them to the competition. Either that is a direct competition or to another job. It would be in boutique fitness or something else.

Do you interview every candidate?

I do not interview every candidate.

You say that pretty matter of factly but that is a pretty significant deal to get to the point where you have an organization of people that you trust that you have built this culture. You have amazing superpowers that you are humble about but in terms of your ability to lead and treat people the right way and how that can transcend into what we are talking about now. They know who fits on this team and fits into this culture that you have spent many years building.

It took a while to get there. I did interview everyone personally. That was important early on. I didn’t realize it. I don’t know if lucky is the right word but we hired well. We have got folks that have been with us for several years now, since early 2019. We set our strong foundation in place, at least with our first two studios. Those folks that were involved there are involved in the hiring process now. We have made bad hires through the years. We all take accountability for those bad hires as long as we learn from them.

We know that it is not a good hire. We knew it beforehand but we forced it or maybe we didn’t see the signs, but here are the signs that were there. As long as we learn from that, we will continue to do fine in the hiring piece but from a scale perspective, it is not feasible for me to take with everything else that we have got to do to continue to grow.

What we want to do is to grow the business. I have got to delegate that to our managers because they are going to be with them on a daily basis. That is going to be more impactful for that individual that we are hiring. The manager creates that relationship early on. I’m not as important when it comes down to those specifics.

Multi Unit Franchise: Once you identify somebody for the job, lock them in and make that offer. If you just sit on it and think maybe there’s somebody better, that’ll never play out well.

You have empowered in a good way to people that you trust. Not everything is going to be perfect but that mindset that you had, like, “We are going to make mistakes and that is okay within a certain box. As long as we paid to get the lesson out of that mistake, it is a good investment.” Maybe it costs some money or whatever but it is worth more than investment what you can take out of it versus looking at it dollars and cents thing. As you continue to grow and scale your business, what are you focused on now as the business continues to grow?

When we are building out a studio, that is my primary role. If it is working with real estate and working through the lease and into the construction, I still handle all of that. Stacey and I do. I leave the management to maintain the day-to-day of the existing studios. What we have said from the start and I hope I plan to stick to as we go through it, “I don’t ever want to open a studio to the detriment of one or others that are existing.” As long as I can manage that build-out in the opening of one and leave, as of now, there are four existing to continue to run and operate, I let them continue to do their job and that is good.

My role is building out studios. I just opened a fourth studio. Now it is okay. Let’s get everybody. Let’s make sure that fourth studio comes up the curve as quickly as possible. Bring that one into the fold as well. We do that as it is working and we hire early managers. They are part of the process from a presale perspective. They are working with our other managers early on, even before the studios open. After it has opened, it is to get everybody to continue to raise the bar across those existing studios and, “Where do we go next? Where is the next best location for us to go?” That is how we do it.

On a day-to-day basis, I have a regular connection with our managers. That is important. It is a biweekly set on the calendar routine individually. We have got weekly team meetings. From a management perspective, our studios all have in-person staff meetings on a monthly basis. My role there is to make sure that that all is happening. I lead a lot of those in terms of making sure that we are all connected, talking, and learning from each other. We are setting the sales. I’m sending the sales goals on a monthly basis. I still have that higher-level view across the whole portfolio.

You mentioned a couple of times the word presales. Maybe we could talk a little bit about that. There is a little bit of a story we could take a deep dive into with your first studio because there were some hard lessons. I call it unexpected things you had to go through to get your first studio open. I would love to talk a little bit about the presales, what they are, and why they are a rather significant part of opening a new studio.

Presale is sales pre-opening for at least in StretchLab nomenclature. We want to do that anywhere from a few months to eight weeks prior to playing the opening. That is to drive sales instruction. It is to drive memberships of the studio before you open your doors. From a business owner’s perspective, it is early revenue, and knowing that once my studio opens, I have X number of paying members right out of the gates, which is great. I say, “I, StretchLab owner, can do that pretty simply through pop-ups.”

We have all seen them out there in different shopping centers and malls. It is not necessarily StretchLab but vendors that are out there. They have got a table set up for me. I can bring a portable bench, like a portable massage table, a flexogist, and a manager. I can offer free stretches for fifteen minutes to folks. They get a free stretch. As long as we have done a good job, they feel good. They can buy a membership and that is the founding member rate. It is a discounted rate.

They maintain it for the lifetime of their membership. As long as they are a customer in good standing, they maintain that price point. It is never going to be that cheap again. That is the sales pitch from a customer perspective on why I would do it. My job is to build that pipeline as much as I can. I will start my digital marketing in identifying those qualified leads 3 to 4 months ahead of time.

People start clicking buttons on Facebook and Instagram in submitting information. We have got a lead management follow-up process. Before we opened our studio, we had more than 1,000 leads of folks that had raised their hands that they were interested. Once we started doing pop-ups, it reached out to all those folks, “We are getting closer. Come get a free stretch today, tomorrow, next Thursday, or at this location. Next weekend, we are at that location.”

My goal at every one of those pop-ups is if I’m there for three hours with one flexogist and there are 12 to 15 stretches, I have all those booked up already. While I have got everybody that shows up and goes for a stretch is a qualified lead for me. That is what that pre-sale process looks like. My first pop-up was on January 3rd, 2019.

It's important to tie your services back into your why. Click To Tweet

At that point in time, I thought I was going to have a studio open by March 2019. I thought, “I have got several months runway here. I’m going to double this thing out.” We start doing pop-ups. We were hot and heavy on it. We are doing them 4 to 5 a week. We have to hire staff and have flexologists ready to go and do that. We did that through the month of November and December 2018. What I thought was a March opening turned out to be a late May, first to June 2019 opening.

I’m delayed by 2 to 3 months. I had told a lot of people I’m going to be open in March 2019. I made a mistake. I told a lot of people that I’m going to be open in April 2019. I kept making that mistake and finally learned I couldn’t commit to timing because this was new construction. We did an okay job of communicating and realizing, “Let’s be honest, open, and communicate the situation without getting too much in the weeds of why we are delayed but we are delayed. We are not going to be open. Come back for another free stretch at this pop-up.”

I let those folks know that they had already purchased and that they were expecting to be a paying customer a lot sooner. “Sorry, I don’t have a studio for you to come to yet but come over to X retail location and get another free stretch while you are patiently waiting.” We have learned from that. Do not over-commit on timing because nothing goes exactly as planned. If it is a construction thing or a permit thing, there are always some hurdles along the way but we have gotten better at it, at least.

I bet when you are in the heat of the battle, especially in your first location, that 2 to 4 months of April, May and June 2019, probably felt more like nine months.

It was brutal. Every week we were expecting better news and it felt like it took forever. People said, “You will look back on this and laugh.” I do not necessarily laugh at it. I look back on it and say, “It wasn’t as big of a deal as it felt like at the time.” When you are learning in opening a business, time is of the essence.

I don’t have any issue with us being as stressed as we were on, “We want to get up there.” I still got bills to pay when it comes down to other vendors I have signed on. Either I need to pay and/or expect to be making more money because they thought that we were going to be open sooner. There are all sorts of implications for these delays.

You chose to almost embrace it and be, “Here is the situation and we are doing the best we can.” You can be, “I remember getting the emails because I was on your list and it was perfect. It was personable.” You could feel it.

We wanted folks to know that we were making these hard decisions and it was coming directly from Stacey and myself. We are putting our name on it and that helped us.

At the end of the day, it is part of the entrepreneurial journey. You are striving to build something that, in the future, is the vision. The months and the years, even to get to that point, it is a journey. Some weeks and some months, it is a battle. The other months and weeks it is the best thing in the world. The only feeling you can get is by having your own business for those with a good time. You guys have done a good job. In a way, I don’t want to say worth it but there was a culminating effect when you guys opened your first studio. You opened in a pretty big way.

North of 250 paying members out of the gates, which at that point in time was a record for our franchise system. I do not know if we still have it but we had a lot of activity walking through the door on day one and continue to do. There was a lot of buzz around it, which was super exhilarating, exciting and so much fun.

Multi Unit Franchise: Presale is basically sales pre-opening. You want to do it a few months prior to opening because it’s really to drive sales or memberships of a studio before actually opening your doors.

You have a magic touch with picking the right locations.

It is important for a new brand that we put ourselves in the right locations. This is all that I have experience with but people aren’t out necessarily looking for a StretchLab. They will find this through some online channels and some of my digital marketing. If I’m tucked away and hidden, even if they are looking for us, it is not easy to get to. It is not a good fit but we have got a lot of business by being where our eyes are.

In our franchise or from a real estate perspective, they are clear anchor locations. We have learned that and I’m a huge believer in that. When I work with my broker, it is, “Where is the next best location?” It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t have to be in this city or that city. It is, “Where is the next best one that we can get into?”

Lindsay, your broker, is a pitbull in a good way. She helped my neighbor sign a lease for his organic mattress store over in the Barnes & Noble Shopping Center right behind the SouthPark Mall.

That is a great spot. She is fantastic.

You have a keen sense and the franchisor helps but also having a good broker is a big advantage in the real estate thing. All these things were cool with the pre-sales, picking the right locations, and your ability to hire and lead a team of people to care. One of the coolest things is how many different types of people and how many lives you can touch through stretching.

I would love to talk a little bit about some cool stories that you have seen of people and customers who have come in. You have helped them in some form or fashion through something so simple as stretching. It’s not like stretching is new, it has been around forever and for some people, it has a life-changing effect on them personally.

At a high level, we have got customers that are as young as under ten and into their 90s. We had the full spectrum of the world we live in. The youngest ones, at least for us, have been young athletes where their parents have a vision for their kid and the kid is showing promise. For them to continue to grow and to be at the top of their game, this is something that is important for them. That is typically the youngest.

We are not medically aligned. We are not seeing from a kid’s perspective. The kids that need PT for medical issues that they may have, that is not our fit. It is more of the younger athletes. On the older side, it is folks that want to continue. They want to keep living and moving. It has been good for our business over the last several years. This focuses on movement, wellness, and moving well, and a lot of people are hearing and reading about it. It is a pretty hot topic that is out there.

What we are here to do is to help people be flexible and mobile so that they can move well and do things that they want to do. Our tagline is, “Live long.” You can take that as I do this to live a long, full life. It can be to stand tall, have that long spine, and improve that posture. That is exactly what we stand for.

Don't over-commit on timing because nothing ever goes exactly as planned. Click To Tweet

For the older demographics, people who want to keep doing what they are enjoying, that could be golf or tennis. Those are sweet spots for us. Walking their dog, playing with grandkids, continuing to compete in masters swimming, whatever it might be. We are a good fit for them. In terms of specific stories, we have some on the younger athlete’s side.

Some kids that have worked with us through their high school years have been able to stay healthy when they were going down a path that they were starting to have some overuse. They were doing other things. I would never take credit for being the reason. In the end, kids got scholarships to live out their dream. They were able to do that, continuing to feel well in their sport.

We have had stroke patients and folks like that. We are not medically aligned. You as a patient, have gone through everything you need to medically and you are recovering from the stroke but you are still feeling it. You need to continue to move. You got to do everything you can to keep your body moving in the right direction. Stretching is a helpful thing for stroke patients. We have had quite a few stroke patients that we have worked with.

Back to our hiring and staffing, we have more than a few PTAs, physical therapy assistants on our team. Their past roles were PTAs. They bring that knowledge to the table. If I know I have somebody that is recovering from a stroke and they are 100% cleared to be with us, I want to put them with the PTA because that PTA knows.

They got an education on what that stroke patient is dealing with. They become a great fit. That is a lot of things where we want to do because each flexologist is unique in their experience, history, and what they enjoy. If I can align that with the clients, it is up to my managers to do that intake and assessment and determine who is the best fit. If we do a good job there, it sings. We have some great folks on our team who love working with young athletes. They train young athletes as their side gig and their side hustle. If we make those connections, it is a win-win.

Hopefully, that helped with the success story but every time I’m in a studio, I will talk to somebody and they realize we are the owner invariably, “I feel so much better now. I dropped three strokes off my handicap. My tennis game has gotten that much better. I’m a tennis player. I have got more mobility on my shoulder now. I thought I would never be able to serve again. I would not have a range of motion after surgery a few years ago and I have got it back.” That is a cool story.

There are many different lives you can touch in many different ways through a pretty simple idea of stretching. It is helping people activate parts of their body, especially as we get older. We are not as active as we are growing up.

Have somebody that knows what they are doing because there is a right or wrong way to stretch. There are static and dynamic. From a static stretching perspective, which is what we do in the studio, there is a right way to do it. There are some scientifically proven ways to impact flexibility to mobility immediately. That is what we are training and teaching.

Our proprietary training process is to teach that and how do you apply that to a fifteen-minute stretch with a regular cadence. We program that for every client and it works. That is the cool thing. It is nothing new and everybody says, “I know I should stretch more but we do not take the time to do it.” That is what we are hearing.

You can’t get anywhere near the depth of a stretch by yourself, even with the Theragun and all that stuff, compared to what a flexologist can deliver to your body and your muscles. What is the next big thing that you are chasing?

FM 4 | Multi Unit Franchise
Multi Unit Franchise: There is a huge focus right now on movement and wellness, and that’s exactly what StretchLab wants to do. It helps people be flexible and mobile so that they can do what they want to do.

We love the product and for us, it is finding the right markets to continue to go into. Where is going to be a good fit for stretch? I do not know clearly but the Xponential has done a great job of marketing StretchLab and selling the heck out of some licenses and territories across the country. For me, it is okay. What else is out there and available? What makes sense for us personally to continue to do? It is important for me to continue to challenge our team. I got to continue to give an opportunity to our team, give them more responsibility to keep them engaged and keep them learning. If I can do that, I’m going to minimize my attrition risk there.

It is a people business. Keeping those folks and letting them know, “I have a vision of the future and there is more to come.” Here are the things that I want to do for them and follow up on my word. For example, I told them in early 2021, “My goal is to put a retirement plan in place for us.” In November 2021, I rolled out a 401(k) for our team. Things like that, you follow it up with action. Put the word and vision out there so they can see it and follow it up. I want to continue to grow the business so that we have got more opportunities like that for folks.

I have no doubt. You will figure out what that growth looks like in the next few years.

We are excited about it.

If anybody is reading that is in the Charlotte, Fort Mill, Huntersville, and Mooresville areas, what is the best way to get in touch with you and your studios?

Steve.Hitzemann@StretchLab.com, folks can shoot me an email. I’m happy to chat if it is a prospective client or if you are looking into franchising. I can’t say enough good things about you, Dru. Your guidance to me as I was going through that validation process early on before deciding to do this. Other than enjoying hanging out with you at a personal level, I was learning stuff from you. You are open with information about what is going on within franchising. From a local perspective, what is happening in the markets here? You are a wealth of info and that is hugely beneficial to me as we are navigating these waters.

I appreciate that and the feeling is mutual. I enjoy every minute I get to talk to you, hang out with you and look forward to when Karen will get some golf carts back and we can go out there.

You weren’t there the days prior.

It wasn’t me. There was a fire in their golf cart barn. They are now using rental gas. I was playing with a guy who had a camera. He was filling me in a little bit. That is where Steve and I do most of our talking on the golf course. We will look forward to getting out there again and thank you for coming on.

Thanks for the invite.

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About Steve Hitzemann

FM 4 | Multi Unit FranchiseSteve Hitzemann owns and operates multiple StretchLab studios with his wife, Stacey, in the Charlotte, North Carolina, market. With three young kids at home, the couple stay on the move with family activities and find joy in giving back to their community. Steve continues to preach the benefits of stretching to anyone that will listen or that will join him on a ski or kiteboarding trip, depending on where the snow is falling or wind is blowing.