Bobby Verdun and Anthony Wall tackle the many angles and considerations of opening a club in an existing site, in Ask an Industry Leader.
"I have recently acquired a low-cost franchise club, but I want to gut it and re-open it as my own. What are some best practices to converting and re-branding the club? How can I prevent consumers from seeing it as the old franchise?"
A: The key to any successful club venture, independently owned or franchised, is programming. As you delve into your pre-sale, developing unique and “out of the box” programming will be a significant factor. To that end, your pre-sale should include the marketing of such programming to differentiate your club from what once existed in the space as well as from surrounding competitors. Remember that “health clubs” aren’t important to people ... but health is. Offer opportunities to meet staff (the person is the program!), run satellite programming if possible prior to opening, create a “high touch” environment with the community to bring forth what you are as opposed to what once was. Upon opening, be aggressive with “try and buy” offerings that will create impressions of your new space and introduce your staff to the community.
The interior and exterior makeover needs to look fresh and very different from the franchise. Lastly, don’t forget that although franchises have some advantages, you have the advantage of presenting a club that emanates more heart, soul, and local connection than any franchise.
Atwood Consulting Group
A: Having the opportunity to gut a facility, redesign it and then rebrand it is a really exciting opportunity. It gives you an opportunity to start out with the philosophy that you want. Assuming that you’ve done your homework on the local market then work from the angle of what type of club you want to offer – full service, high end, family style and so on. Taking over a current facility means taking into consideration the members who used to be part of the old club. Are you looking to gain them back – in which case you’ll need to offer a similar style of service that the previous owners offered. In one club refurbishment I did, we wanted to broaden our membership appeal. We shifted equipment around between a few areas of the club and were able to offer a completely different experience in the main gym area. Carefully consider the style and type of equipment you want to offer. You want that equipment to be in line with the services you offer – for example if you want a club to have a heavy emphasis on Personal Training then your choice of equipment will be very different from if you intend having only a few instructors.
Having visit hundreds of clubs around the world I constantly see smaller sized clubs either being successful or holding out past their ‘due date’. The successful ones offer great personalized service where the members are recognized and appreciated. Start with that philosophy in mind and build on a new reputation in your area for a club that cares. What you do, who you hire, and what you offer comes out of that. That will really rebrand your new club. Start small and build your reputation through service. Over time if you keep your brand in mind everything you do -from who you are, to who you hire and the impact you have in the community should align with your brand. Good luck.
Director of Professional Education
American Council on Exercise
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