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.
Franchising since 2010, Orangetheory Fitness is a one-of-a-kind, group personal training workout broken into intervals of cardiovascular and strength-training that is sweeping the nation. With headquarters in Fort Lauderdale, the fitness program focuses on a workout known as “Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption,” or EPOC. Participating clients can burn an average of 500 to 1,000 calories and will increase muscle endurance, strength and power -- and lose a lot of weight.
Coming from fitness backgrounds, Travis and Becky Renner opened their first Orangetheory Fitness studio in 2012. Since then, the married couple opened six more more gyms -- five in Arizona and one in Kansas.
Below, Travis describes the trials and tribulations of being partners in both business and in life -- and the ultimate reward of facilitating improved health to their hundreds of clients.
Name: Travis and Becky Renner
Franchise owned: We own seven Orangetheory Fitness studio locations in Arizona and one in Kansas.
Q: How long have you owned a franchise?
We started our journey with Orangetheory Fitness in 2012.
Q: Why franchising?
There is nothing better than following in the footsteps of true trailblazers, and it’s even better when the concept is proven. It allows you to be an entrepreneur without 100 percent of the capital risk. We joined the brand early on in its development and currently own the tenth store ever built. Along the way we experienced some failures, but a quote from my favorite book by John C. Maxwell says it best: “Sometimes you win, and sometimes you learn.”
Q: What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
Luckily for me, I started my career in the fitness industry in 1997 here in Phoenix, giving me time to master my craft. Even so, it took me years to gain the courage and self esteem to start my own business.
Q: Why did you choose this particular franchise?
My personal favorite question here! I was actually starting a similar concept in the big-box gym where I was previously employed. The feedback was positive, the participation from our members was high, and I was starting to have a tremendous amount of financial success. However, I knew I was delivering a C- product and getting B+ results. Once I stumbled upon the OTF program, I realized it was exactly what I was trying to do, but way above my pay grade. With OTF, I knew I could take an A+ concept and achieve A++ results.
Q: How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?
We spent approximately $450,000 on our first store, and right out of the gate, it took off like a rocket. This amount included the build out, equipment, rent and deposit as well as four months of selling memberships out of a tent before we even opened -- we sold 350 memberships before opening. We were so proud to get off to such a great start, and that particular studio is still one of our very best.
Q: Where did you get most of your advice / do most of your research?
My wife and I have four young children, so we agreed that I should travel to the eight or so open stores and learn about the brand from the people who owned the studio locations. I went to five different states and visited each studio for three to five days. The funny thing about those trips was it was so early, and all of the owners I was seeking advice from were making mistakes. I came home 100 percent confident of what not to do.
The takeaway for me was to follow the business model and trust the path. This is a lesson I still teach to new franchisees all over the country. Everyone who was struggling had one thing in common -- they were all trying to outsmart the concept. I’ve found that if you trust the process and follow the proven concept every minute of every day, you will have tremendous success. Once success is found, I believe it’s important to give back to the community that allowed you to reach this success
Q: What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
I am a bit of a pioneer, and my wife, who is the chief financial officer of our franchise businesses, is extremely cautious. I swear, every single week she tells me we need to slow down, and every single week I tell her we need to go faster. As a married couple, the greatest unexpected challenge for us came in our personal lives.
To this day, I caution people not to go into business with their spouse. When I used to come home from work she was my “boss,” but now that we’ve started our business together, I all of the sudden became her boss, and it initially did not go well, I assure you. We were lucky enough to work through it and are now happier than ever before, our businesses being a huge contributor of that.
Q: What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?
I love Steve Harvey’s speech that he gives at the end of one of his game shows. He talks about jumping. Looking back, I regret not jumping earlier. I was extremely qualified to start my own business, but could not drum up the self esteem to do it.
People worry too much about “what if.” I am certain that I would rather lie on my death bed one day and think about my failures of jumping too early, rather than regret not jumping at all. Go ahead and jump! Worst case scenario, you fail your first jump, go back, get another job and get back up on your feet and jump again.
Q: What’s next for you and your business?
We own three more licenses and plan on building at least 10 more OTF studios. We are 100 percent satisfied with the brand and our franchisor. While we currently don’t have any plans beyond OTF, I know with complete certainty that whatever we do next will be some form of business ownership. The freedom we have created for ourselves is amazing. We are both able to attend every single one of our kids’ activities and can drive them to school and pick them up every single day. We have an abundance of gratitude for our freedom, and as a result, have permanent smiles on our faces.