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Company Post South Africa

From Body20 Member To Franchisee Of The Year 2017

Robert Northhaft went from passionate client to successful franchisee in just two years. He was looking for an exercise regime that would work for him and a viable business that he could make profitable; he found both in Body20.
From Body20 Member To Franchisee Of The Year 2017
Image credit: Supplied
Brand Publisher
6 min read
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You're reading Entrepreneur South Africa, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

Robert Northhaft, owner of Body20, Lion’s Square in Somerset West, joined the Body20 franchise because it ticked two crucial boxes – it fed his passion for health and fitness, and presented an excellent business opportunity.

Robert joined Body20 in 2013 as a client because traditional gyming was causing a number of injuries in his joints and lower back.

“A friend told me about EMS training (Electro Muscle Stimulation) and how potent and effective it is. To be honest, I didn’t expect much since it all looked quite harmless in comparison to the free weights I was used to training with,” he says.

“About two minutes into the training I noticed that my knee - which was a source of constant pain and discomfort by that time - did not hurt at all.  As the demo training progressed I quickly noticed how powerful this technology is. I remember that I lasted 12 minutes before I had to throw in the towel."

"After the training session I was fatigued like never in my life before. Yet it was plainly apparent that my knee pain had disappeared completely. To say that I was impressed would be an absolute understatement.  I decided right there that I had to do this regularly and signed up as a client,” explains Robert.

The shift from client to franchisee

Meanwhile, as technology advanced in the motor trade, it became more difficult for Robert’s mechanical business to remain profitable. “My workshop capacity just didn’t allow for me to partake in this equipment race profitably.  So for a long while I had been looking for an alternative to the motor trade. I was looking for a business that I understood, had a passion for and which allowed me to make a positive difference in my clients’ lives,” he says.

Bertus Albertse, founder of Body20, revealed to Northhaft that he was developing the concept into a franchise. “I was immediately intrigued, but also didn’t believe I was a sales person. Bertus just laughed and said that I would find sales easy because I’m so passionate about fitness and helping people,” says Robert.

“I was right. When you really believe in what you do, sales come naturally.”

On his way home that day he discussed the proposition with his wife and they agreed that it was exactly what they were looking for. During the next three months they signed the contracts, found premises, built the studio and Robert opened Body20 Lion’s Square in Somerset West in February 2015.

Continued service excellence

Robert says that he still uses skills he learnt from his motor workshop business. “In all my years in the motor trade I never really advertised anywhere but grew my business solely by word-of-mouth referrals. Over time I started servicing the cars from four generations of one family.

My attitude towards delivering uncompromising quality made me something of a hot tip amongst motorists in the area. I applied the same principals to my new business. It’s in my nature when I feel really passionate about something. Obviously, I also benefited from the network I had built over all those years as well,” he says.

Lessons learnt

“Almost everything but my passion and work ethics required a steep learning curve,” says Robert. He suddenly had to lead a team of young trainers, which was a new experience for him.

“Marketing, sales techniques and strategies and financial planning were all new to me. I made many mistakes, some of them very costly, but I learnt from them. I started taking business coaching sessions and now I’m working towards a business that is successful and profitable without needing my constant presence and micro-management. That frees me up to do what I’m passionate about: Interacting with my clients, motivating them, witnessing their successes, the positive changes that influence their life quality, health and happiness,” he explains.

Research requirements

Since Robert had already experienced the product, he knew first-hand how excellent it was. “I researched EMS technology and found it had been used as a niche product to enhance training results since the 1960s and gained significant traction when our German technology partner developed it into a powerful tool for highly effective fitness training,” he says. This led him to believe that EMS technology isn’t a fad and would be a long-term investment.

“Body20 Global supplied the business model and plan, which I knew to be on point from my time as a client. I researched LSM categories to confirm Somerset West as an appropriate area and rental costs of adequate premises in the right location. Today, I know that I could have done more in-depth research, but either I’m lucky or I have the right attitude - or both,” he confesses.

Franchisee experiences

Robert is one of the earliest franchisees of Body20 and witnessed the growth and development of the network and business.

“Naturally, there is a learning curve and growing pains that one can expect in such a process. But I cannot praise the integrity, vision and drive of Bertus highly enough. He’s been the driving force of our network and saw it through from humble beginnings to a market leader position in South Africa - and now he’s venturing out to become a truly global company. With such passion and vision, as well as a solid, technological foundation and client experience-oriented focus, I see a very bright future for Body20,” he says.

Body 20’s hands-on style

Body20 assisted with the entire setup. From lease negotiations for the premises over project managing the studio build and putting me in contact with equipment suppliers. In many instances, very favourable rates were negotiated with suppliers on my behalf. I could make use of existing artwork for advertising material and was helped tremendously with my studio start-up,” he says.

Robert continues to say that it was very reassuring to have a partner by his side who has done it all before.

“Crucially, the Brand Induction Course gave me valuable lessons about EMS training, administration, the Body20 CRM system and most of all, huge amounts of enthusiasm. I vividly remember how amped I felt even after my first day at Brand Induction. I have been back many times since, to refresh knowledge, observe and even to host some training modules that are very dear to me,” he says.

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