Popeye had spinach. Britain had Bletchley Park. Simon had Garfunkel. But in the take no prisoners world of gyms and group exercise studios, the franchise support network is a resource that rivals any of history's greatest secret weapons. As an independent business owner, you may have a number of trusted and successful contacts to help you reason through the myriad of difficult business decisions that seem to develop almost daily.

However, having the experience and knowledge of the numerous franchise support team members in your back pocket all but ensures that your new venture will begin with the best possible odds for success. (For more on Cicci's journey starting a franchise, read his previous columns here.)

The Sales and Marketing Call

It all starts with the pre-sales and marketing call. Once you have taken care of the location and lease, the marketing team gets to work on your behalf to initiate the pre-sale activities. The first call involves the obligatory introductions to the various staff members, but quickly turns to spreadsheets, worksheets and budgets. Here is where everything that happens during the six weeks prior to opening and the nine months post-opening will be mapped out.

If ever there was a time to seriously consider all the variables of the business model and revenue objectives, this is it. A 2015 study by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) indicates that sales is the fourth greatest concern (after taxes, labor and government) facing small business owners today, which is why these calls occur so early in the process and why they are so crucial. Here is just a sampling of some the homework that will be assigned during these calls:

  • Trade area profile
  • First year marketing investment worksheet
  • Marketing worksheet
  • Revenue projections worksheet
  • Pre-opening sales guide

Each of these documents carries with it the importance of a nuclear trade agreement. Mess them up and your whole operation could explode. Luckily, the support team has "been there, done that" and knows how to guide you through the hundreds of issues, questions, scenarios and problems that inevitably will come up. Be prepared for calls, emails and more calls until the plan is a living, breathing extension of you. It's daunting, but the effort is worth it as the end result provides you with a satisfying peace that things are moving in the right direction.

The Operations Call

To be honest, in the beginning despite all the research, franchise visits, conference calls and business and financial modeling, there is still a lot of trepidation regarding how this whole thing will actually develop. These multiple operations calls help to alleviate any of this fear. It all originates with the revenue projections worksheet. Everything from staffing concerns, hours of operations, pricing, schedules and times, and any other operational line item you can think of will get hammered out on this spreadsheet. This is the Mount Everest of spreadsheets. These numbers will in some way influence every strategic move that follows from here on out. And like I said, the franchise support staff will walk you through every inch of it.

The first call focuses on defining the concepts and forecasting the numbers that essentially create the first draft of your business. The second call begins to shape those numbers by forcing you to make some hard decisions regarding people, budgets, design and payroll. The third call will have you examining pricing and competitors' offers so you can decide how to really generate presales traffic and exposure for your brand. But more so than the calls and contacts, these calls are about the relationships you develop with a group of people who have your back and can be a knowledgeable sounding board for all of those questions that keep you up at night. These support professionals have a vested interest in seeing you succeed, and they know how to get you there.

On my journey as a new franchisee, I have written about the many advantages to opening a franchise business as opposed to going it alone. This is where the rubber meets the road. These support calls not only provide loads of information, but they also instill a sense of confidence. I am not saying that this is the only manner with which a business can be opened successfully. However, this level of support is invaluable and elicits a feeling of ease throughout the whole process. It's okay with me if you disagree or want to argue the merits of franchising. After all, I have a secret weapon.

BIO

Matthew Cicci is a freelance fitness writer and small business owner in the Chicago area. With more than 15 years of experience in the health and fitness industry, Cicci has operated businesses in the not-for-profit, commercial, private, franchise and residential fitness environments in the New York market. Cicci has held several industry-wide certifications, has a bachelor's of science degree in management and studied under the master's program for exercise science at Syracuse University. He can be reached at mcicci22@gmail.com.