I can still remember running my first staff meeting in New York City. I was the new general manager for a sizable independent club, and the staff greeted me with all the warmth and kindness of underpaid boot camp instructor. Nevertheless, I prepared for weeks. I made several outlines, created multiple agendas, developed a top-notch Power Point presentation and filled it with enough industry statistics to make IHRSA jealous. So how did it go? I felt like I was speaking at a watchmaker's convention. The only thing my audience did more than check the time was to confirm that they were getting paid for attending. Fast-forward to this past month where I conducted my first few staff meetings with my new franchise customer service representatives, and the experience was refreshingly different. Not only could I not get my employees to leave, but I also discovered the difference between a team vs. a staff.
There are many great employees out there in every type of business model: franchise, independent, big box, not-for-profit. However, my first-hand experience has given me a greater appreciation for the amount of effort that franchise employees are willing to put in to make the concept succeed. They aren't merely learning their job functions. They are following specific rules and operating procedures implemented system-wide in an effort to create a uniform experience that the client depends on each and every time she walks through the door. And that experience is one that needs to be replicated for each franchise unit across the country. It's a huge undertaking to place on the shoulders of these part-time and first-time franchise employees. And it's ultimately what sets them apart from so many of the good fitness employees out there.
When candidates agree to accept a position in the franchise world, they are signing up for much more than the typical new hire. For example, some of these employees will attend weeklong trainings in distant cities to more fully understand the brand. They will likewise agree to perform a number of duties from restroom cleaning to street-reach duties that were never and will never be part of their official job description. Additionally, they understand that everything they learn may at some point in the future be completely overhauled forcing them to essentially relearn their entire job functions for the good of the brand. Finding the right caliber of employee who is comfortable with these (and other) permutations of their job functions is a tricky task. Which is why I am convinced that franchise studio team members are some of the best in the industry.
Here is list of some of the things I have noticed that solid and competent franchise employees do better than the average worker. Feel free to comment, disagree or add other items that I may have missed.
- Learn and understand branding
- Respect and follow "the system"
- Evaluate processes with the intent of improving them system-wide
- Know the value and importance of the franchise network of which they are part
- View the client as part of the team and not just a dues-paying member
- Understand the customer flow from start to finish that the studio is trying to provide
- Audit each other in an attempt to perfect the customer experience
- Appreciate structure and a defined organizational structure
- Feel a sense of ownership for their area, department and studio
Matthew Cicci is a freelance fitness writer and small business owner in the Chicago area. With more than 15 years experience in the health and fitness industry, Cicci has operated businesses in the not-for-profit, commercial, private, franchise and residential fitness markets in the New York City. Cicci has held several industry-wide certifications, has a bachelor's of science degree in management and studied under the master's program for exercise science at Syracuse University. He can be reached at: [email protected].