Franchise Players is Entrepreneur’s Q&A interview column that puts the spotlight on franchisees. In celebration of Memorial Day, we're running a series celebrating veterans in franchising. If you're a franchisee with advice and tips to share, email ktaylor@entrepreneur.com.

In the military, Chris Gately was assigned to the High Threat Protection Services Division. While serving in Iraq and the West Bank, he was instrumental in protecting presidents, congressmen and diplomats in the red zone. However, he did something else while still in combat in Baghdad, Iraq – signed papers to become a Workout Anytime franchisee. Now, he's been a franchisee for two years and has two more locations in the works.

Name: Chris Gately

Franchise owned: Workout Anytime -- Panama City Beach, Fla.  

How long have you owned the franchise?

Two years.

Why franchising?  

With a franchise you get a proven business model where someone else has already made a lot of the mistakes for you. The systems, templates and procedures are all set in place which makes for an easy transition from a different field.

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What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?

I was on a Personal Security Detail for the High Threat Protection Division of the U.S. government. I spent most of my time in Iraq and the West Bank of Israel.

Why did you choose this particular franchise?

We chose Workout Anytime because of the low startup costs, low overhead, only a few employees to manage. We love fitness and, last but not least, the Workout Anytime team. From the beginning the sharing of ideas and concerns with other area developers, franchisees and corporate have always been welcome.   

How did your experience in the military prepare you for franchise ownership?

I would say the top two things the military gave me to be prepared would be the discipline to see a task through and the ability to work with people from all different walks of life. I never know who’s going to walk through the door and what their story is or what they may have been through.

How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?

The startup cost may vary a little pending location, credit and size of the location but the average startup cost for a Workout Anytime is $120,000.

  • Franchise Fee $12,500 (half off military discount)
  • Down payment on equipment $80,000
  • Signage $8,000
  • Lockers $5,000
  • First and Last month’s Rent $12,000
  • Office furniture, computers, TV’s, Stereo $15,000
  • Grand Total $132,500

Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?

Well, as the story goes, my business partner (Larry) and I were in Baghdad, Iraq, when his fraternity brother, who is the Area Developer of Tennessee and Kentucky for Workout Anytime, pitched franchise opportunities to him.

Larry did his own research for a while before bringing it to me. We then continued to research other fitness franchises online and on the phone but it quickly became clear that the Workout Anytime model was the best in the market. One of the best places for advice is the area developer of the market someone may be interested in. They are boots on the grown in your territory. Their actions speak louder than their words.

Every area developer is also a franchisee, so they are not just trying to sell franchises, but have bought into the model themselves.

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What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?

I would say finding retail space that meets our standards: price point, size, build out and traffic counts. Retail space is a snapshot in time and a franchisee needs move quickly or there can be missed opportunities. The good news is something else will always pop up.   

What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?

Do your homework, do your homework, do your homework. I’m confident in saying that because our franchise overshadows the competition every time. I tell potential franchisees in my territory all the time to look into other fitness franchises because I know what Workout Anytime has to offer.

What advice do you have for other veterans who want to own their own franchise?

Having spent time in the military I know that the transition to civilian life can bring a lot of challenges, but a franchise can make that transition much easier. Much like the military, franchises have a plan already laid out, you just have to execute.

What’s next for you and your business?

Area Developer for Northern Florida: We have already sold six franchises, two in the Jacksonville market and four on the Western end on the Panhandle that we are currently helping to get open. We also are looking for franchisees in the Tallahassee and Gainesville Markets.

As Franchisee: We currently have one location of our own in Panama City Beach and we have two more already paid for that we plan to open.

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