Five years ago, fitness evangelist and entrepreneur Alex Nicholas turned his love of running obstacle races like the Spartan into his first boutique fitness studio. Epic Hybrid Training debuted in New York City in 2012. The idea was to offer a high intensity circuit-training program specializing in a different workout every day of the week.
The constantly changing program is designed to help participants see results a lot faster. The workouts and the community they inspired were an instant hit, paving the way for Nicholas to open a second Manhattan studio a year later.
“Our concept got a lot of press because our studios didn’t look like anything else,” Nicholas recalls. “We had monkey bars, we had ropes, we had rings and we had some of the ninja warrior type of obstacles….it really mimicked an obstacle race.”
Nicholas didn’t set out to franchise but was approached about opening an Epic in Rhode Island in 2014. Then he was cast on Sweat Inc., where he got to butt heads with Jillian Michaels. The success of the New York and Rhode Island studios and exposure from the show convinced Nicholas it was time to franchise his concept.
Fast forward to 2017: There are 7 Epic Hybrid Training studios and more in the works. Nicholas says the biggest plus of franchising has been to watch people chase their dreams and be successful. We asked him to share his advice for studio owners looking to franchise. Here’s what he had to say:
MAKE SURE YOU REALLY CLICK WITH YOUR FRANCHISEE
Sure, you’ll need to heavily vet the person who wants to franchise your concept. But you’ll also want to find someone you know you can work with. “It’s very important that you’re comfortable with the person that’s buying into your brand,” Nicholas says. “Regardless of how qualified they are, you have to be comfortable working with that person.”
REMEMBER LOCATION IS EVERYTHING
Think about the type of people you’re attracting to your studio and work with your franchisee to find the ideal location that’ll attract a similar demographic. “Maybe the franchisee you chose is a great fit but the location they chose isn’t so you have to set people up for success,” he says.
HIRE A FRANCHISE CONSULTANT
The legal research and paperwork that comes with franchising is intense. “That was a big headache for me,” says Nicholas, who found his consultant by doing a local Google search. “There are a lot of legal hurdles to get though with franchising. Its very regulated and it’s different in each state.”
DELEGATE TO THE RIGHT PEOPLE
Teach others to champion your concept. “If they don’t bring the same energy to the concept it not’s going to work,” he says. “Make sure whatever you’re doing is scalable. People have to believe in your vision and they have to then get others to believe in it, too.”
Write anything and everything you do to run your studio in an operations manual and create SOPs (standard operating procedures) for key tasks. “Make a template and really map out what you do, what your employees do and how to do it,” he says. Along with an operations manual you’ll need a training manual for your managers, front desk and coaches. Make sure you’re transparent about all the work that’s involved in running your studio.
TRACK YOUR FIRST BUILD OUT
Record every step of the build process and put together a spec sheet with your architect and contractor. Documenting everything will make subsequent rollouts a lot easier.
ADVERTISE YOUR CONCEPT
Nicholas has a tab on his website for people who are interested in opening an Epic in their city. “I like to put the parameters out there for people,” he says. “Don’t let people guess ‘How much does it cost?’ What is the reasonable amount you have to be liquid to make this work?’ You have to have at least 6-12 months in reserve for your business.” And when it comes to advertising, don’t underestimate the power of word of mouth referrals. Get your family and friends talking about your studio and sharing their experiences on social media.
FIND A SOCIAL MEDIA PRO
Things are changing so fast in the world of social that investing in a consultant is the best way to make sure you’re using each platform efficiently and correctly, Nicholas says. He uses a consulting company that understands Epic’s brand concept and helps franchisees with their posts.
DON’T EXPAND TOO QUICKLY
The only way to stay true to the integrity of your brand as you grow is to pace yourself and remember: slow and steady wins the race.