Franchise Players is Entrepreneur’s Q&A interview column that puts the spotlight on franchisees. If you're a franchisee with advice and tips to share, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
When Bill Aicklen left corporate American to team up with his brother in the world of franchising, he wanted to give it 100 percent. While Bob, Bill’s brother, was interested in investing in businesses, Bill wanted to be directly involved in managing operations. Today, the duo owns and operates four WORKOUT ANYTIME locations. Here’s what Aicklen has learned about getting his hands dirty in the world of franchising.
Name: Bill Aicklen
Franchise owned: Four WORKOUT ANYTIME in Georgia.
How long have you owned a franchise?
My brother Bob and I opened our first gym in Decatur, Ga. in November 2009.
Franchising gives you the opportunity to start your own business in something that you have no previous experience in. Franchises train you and give you the support you need to be successful. We didn’t know anything about the fitness industry but my brother and I were able to achieve success through the support of the franchise system. Through the assistance of WORKOUT ANYTIME, we’ve been able to compete with people with more business experience and do just as well, if not better.
What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
I landed my first job in the banking industry working in the operations and financial systems department. After that, I spent the next 30 years of my career in the computer software business, performing various roles including post-sales, training and support. In 2006, I decided that I wanted to get out of corporate America to start investing in businesses with my brother. The first business that my brother and I partnered in was an Express Oil Change franchise. We built and operated two stores in Woodstock before selling in 2012 to focus our time and effort on WORKOUT ANYTIME.
Why did you choose this particular franchise?
From a franchise standpoint, WORKOUT ANYTIME was an easy business to get into; it has a simple business model. There’s not a lot of moving parts and you can staff the gym with just one or two people. Also, we both have strong customer service backgrounds and understand the importance of hiring the right people and providing excellent service.
How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?
We probably spent a total of $135,000 including franchisee fees, down payments and initial operation expenses.
Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?
We hired a business broker, who introduced us to WORKOUT ANYTIME. Then we did a lot of research online and spent time with the corporate office to learn more about the brand. We also visited some existing clubs.
What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
Anytime you build something, there are always unforeseen challenges. The construction process is usually challenging, as well as dealing with local administrations.
What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?
It’s important as an owner that you’re also the operator. Owner participation was key in the success of our gyms. You can’t be a distant owner; you need to get your hands dirty.
What’s next for you and your business?
We’re currently actively looking for real estate to open the brand’s 100th club in the system. We hope to open in spring 2015.