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Club Pilates owner learns as she grows


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Keely Watson

You’ve said you’re a Pilates instructor first. How did you manage doubling your location count?

By the seat of our pants mostly. It definitely helps to be in the industry for a little while. I finally feel like I settled into the day-to-day and we have a payroll program in Excel that has really helped automate that. Mostly I try to stay really organized. I’m lucky we have really fabulous staff.

How do you hire in such a specialized field?

For instructors, obviously the candidate pool is somewhat limited. It’s a 500-hour certification program, but we host those as well at Club Pilates. Doing that teacher training has been really helpful for staffing. A lot of the time it’s clients that end up doing it. So it’s people that I’ve gotten to know and watched work through their own practice and maybe they want to transition out of their former job. At least half of my staff has trained through our teacher program. That makes it really special because I get the time with them and get to know them and their personalities.

What was the most trying time in your operation?

I think this is actually both a hard piece but a wonderful piece, but when Allison sold the company, that was definitely a difficult time having someone new come in especially because the way the company started, most of the founding franchisees were instructors of Allison’s or long-term clients.

It sounds like you have a more formal support structure under LAG Fit, which bought the brand in 2015.

I do, and it allows me to focus on what I’m good at: the Pilates and the customer support. I think that when we started, Allison was a visionary, but because it was a good idea it maybe grew quicker than she could manage it. She was looking for that support, too.

Who helped you along the way?

Staff and clients absolutely helped me feel supported. We have clients that have been with us since we started. I get a lot of support from family, that’s so important when you take on anything big. My husband was especially helpful when I was opening a far-flung gym. I got an apartment up in Orange County  to be closer to the gym and he knew that I had no time—I was probably a crazy stress ball.

Nicholas Upton

Staff writer Nicholas Upton asks what makes multi-unit operators tick—and presents their slightly edited answers in this column in each issue. To suggest a subject, email nupton@franchisetimes.com.

Besides finding that support network, what do you advise young or early-stage franchisees do?

Ask questions, really find and utilize the resources around you. When I was starting I knew Pilates, but that was about it. But learning to manage a business is a very different thing. I was lucky to have a lot of resources. Don’t be afraid to ask what you don’t know about. It’s a sign of strength that you’re trying to understand and learn as you go.

What’s your best piece of advice for entrepreneurs?

For me, it’s finding what my time is worth and where am I most valuable to the business. When you’re starting a business you think, I’ll do everything myself to save money. Even if we didn’t have the money to add an expense, my time was much more valuable building the business. Hiring a CPA, for example, meant the accounting took them an hour where it would take me a whole day. Sometimes I have to put out more money than I’m comfortable doing to ensure that I have the time I need.

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