A Franchise Grapples with Hypergrowth

Complete Nutrition, one of the fastest-growing franchises on Entrepreneur's 2012 Franchise 500 list, was forced to freeze new franchise sales for 15 months when its concept took off.

learn more about Dinah Wisenberg Brin

By Dinah Wisenberg Brin

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Too much of a good thing too soon can be just that -- too much.

That's a lesson that the team behind Complete Nutrition, an Omaha, Neb.-based franchise, learned the hard way. The nutrition supplement retailer recently lifted a self-imposed 15-month freeze on new franchise sales after suffering the repercussions of hypergrowth. (The company came in No. 36 on Entrepreneur's 2012 list of fastest-growing franchises.)

"We will definitely take a sustainable business model over a growth business model any day," says Ryan Zink, Complete Nutrition's president.

Zink, 32, and Cory Wiedel, the company's 37-year-old chief executive and founder, opened their first Complete Nutrition store in 2005, after years of franchise experience in the nutritional-supplement industry. (Wiedel had been a 15-store franchisee for retail chain GNC, and Zink was a manager in the business.) The two launched Complete Nutrition so that they could offer diet, exercise and supplement consultation in addition to selling just products.

But even their combined years of experience wasn't enough to prepare them for the challenges of rapid growth.

They started franchising in 2008, and by January 2010 had 19 locations. The company planned to award 18 franchises that year. Instead, it awarded 245 franchises in 15 months, and turned away "a good amount" as well, Zink says, all without spending a significant amount on marketing or advertising.

Then came the growing pains.

A big hurdle was "having the capacity to keep up with the number of stores we've opened," making sure new people went through the proper training and that franchisees would be successful, Zink said.

"We just recognized that we didn't have the support they needed to get off the ground the way we had intended," including the ability to meet marketing and product demand, Zink said.

In March 2011, the company decided to freeze franchise sales for 15 months. During that time, they recruited and trained "the best office team that we could," hiring seasoned executives with experience in franchising, retail and technology from places like Applebee's and Cold Stone Creamery, he says. Home office staff jumped from 20-plus at the start of the freeze to 60 as of June.

They also had to let go several people who weren't a fit with the company's vision, Zink says.

"With quick growth sometimes come quick mistakes," he says.

The company also used the 15-month break to analyze the qualities of its best-performing franchisees. Zink says people who are passionate about health and fitness, not necessarily those with the most business experience, are strongest -- and the franchise is now targeting those individuals.

Now that it's regrouped, the company has ambitious growth plans once again.

As of mid-June, Complete Nutrition had 151 stores, and another 120 that are scheduled to open in the next three years, and a $103 million revenue projection for this year. The long-term goal, Zink says, is to be a $1 billion brand with more than 1,000 locations by 2025.

Have you experienced hypergrowth? What problems did you encounter and how did you manage?

Dinah Wisenberg Brin

Dinah Wisenberg Brin is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia. She has covered business, politics, healthcare and general news for wire services, newspapers, blogs and other publications.

Related Topics

Editor's Pick

This 61-Year-Old Grandma Who Made $35,000 in the Medical Field Now Earns 7 Figures in Retirement
A 'Quiet Promotion' Will Cost You a Lot — Use This Expert's 4-Step Strategy to Avoid It
3 Red Flags on Your LinkedIn Profile That Scare Clients Away
'Everyone Is Freaking Out.' What's Going On With Silicon Valley Bank? Federal Government Takes Control.

How to Detect a Liar in Seconds Using Nonverbal Communication

There are many ways to understand if someone is not honest with you. The following signs do not even require words and are all nonverbal queues.

Celebrity Entrepreneurs

'I Dreaded Falling in Love.' Rupert Murdoch Is Getting Hitched for the Fifth Time.

The 92-year-old media tycoon announces he will wed former San Francisco police chaplain Ann Lesley Smith.

Business Ideas

55 Small Business Ideas To Start Right Now

To start one of these home-based businesses, you don't need a lot of funding -- just energy, passion and the drive to succeed.


How Great Entrepreneurs Find Ways to Win During Economic Downturns

Recessions are an opportunity to recalibrate and make great strides in your business while others are unprepared to brave the challenges. Here's how great entrepreneurs can set themselves up for success despite economic uncertainty.

Starting a Business

Selling Your Business? Do These 6 Things Right Now.

If you want the maximum price you need to make these moves before you do anything else.

Business News

'Invest In That Future Now Before It's Too Late': Bill Gates Calls For Global Pandemic Response Team In Op-Ed

In the same month that the World Health Organization called the coronavirus a pandemic three years ago, billionaire Bill Gates reiterated his call for a "fire department for pandemics."