In this week’s Gym Owner’s blog by Gym Insight, we interview seven-location Club Pilates owner Justin Kirkland for tips and secrets on growing into a multi-location fitness business. His experience with the successful franchise blends on-the-street advice with a marketing major’s savvy. Read on for details on what it takes to grow exponentially in the competitive field of boutique studios.
Kirkland’s early lessons changed everything
The Kirkland family purchased three Las Vegas Club Pilates in September 2019. One of their first ventures into private business ownership, they immediately began experimenting with management and marketing styles. The results would shape future decision making.
At first, Kirkland treated each location as a “silo,” or separate functioning units. This allowed him to experiment with marketing promotions and establish store polices based on local needs.
Unfortunately, the approach quickly exposed cracks — inconsistencies between shops created confusion among employees and customers. In their mind, these were three companies under the same ownership — what occurred at one store, should happen at the next. When that did not, customers became irritated and staff uncertain on how to move forward.
To fix this muddled experience, Kirkland leveled out inefficiencies and created synergy by standardizing both management platforms (he uses Slack) and storewide policies.
How can gym owners add locations without experiencing chaos?
By staying ahead of growth, he urges. Kirkland’s company doubled the its’ footprint in less than four years. During this era, his employee base increased from 35 to 90. That exponential evolution — with its hiring, building, and supply chain challenges — taught him that “you can almost outgrow your resources.” He stresses the difference between operating one or two locations and developing into a multi-location business. In order to expand comfortably, an owner must establish a plan to stay ahead of growth, anticipating, and acting on, future needs in terms of team members, processes, and automation.
How did Kirkland identify new Club Pilates locations?
If you view a map of Club Pilates locations in Las Vegas, the pinpoints create a near perfect circle. His studios ring the fabled town, whose outer core attracts transplants seeking reasonably priced housing.
Kirkland considers two factors when considering a new location:
- Does the community offer room to grow?
- Are complementary businesses successfully serving a similar cliental?
What are the major hurdles when growing a multi-location business?
Kirkland built his business in the midst of multi-year public health crises that spanned continents. Because of this, he believes the one known is that the unknown will always be with you. Recognize there will be constant challenges, one-offs, and few days where everything runs perfectly. “It’s ok to stumble,” he explains. Just nurture patience.
How do you manage customer service across multiple locations?
It’s essential to establish synergies between locations so every employee and customer hears the same message without creating a robotic, emotionless experience.
Ultimately, you want to achieve automation, uniformity, and sustainability while maintaining the “mom and pop” appeal of your original business. This delicate dance is managed by a staff who establish close relationships with members and reflect the personalities of the communities in which they work.
How can owners prepare for expansion?
Consider and identify your most vital business component – what you cannot live without. In Kirkland’s case, it’s his instructors. Each class is taught by an instructor trained in the Pilates methodology. Quality staff is essential. To ensure he always has a pipeline of trained instructors, he offers continuing education, instructor programs, and is constantly onboarding new staff. “When it seems like you have too many instructors, you probably don’t have enough,” he asserts.
What advice do you have for someone looking to franchise their brand?
- Identify your value proposition.
- Find the most effective way to multiply and replicate that process.
What’s one piece of advice for gym owners looking to expand?
Hire great people. Unless you want to be the go-to resource in your business — all the time — you need good staff to support and run the franchise. “I can’t say it enough — people, people, people,” are your greatest assets, he says.
Kirkland’s lessons – summed up!
- Treat company as a unit
- Stay ahead of growth
- Identify growing communities
- Cultivate patience
- Empower staff to create relationships
- Pinpoint your most vital business component
- Hire amazing people.
Wow! What a great interview! We so appreciate Justin Kirkland for taking his time to speak with us about what it takes to run multiple gym locations. We hope our blogs, and these types of interviews, help you build a better, more profitable gym business. This spirit is also why we feel our gym management software is the best of the market. Simple to use. Easy to train. And affordable for every gym and personal trainer, our comprehensive suite of products is right for every subscription-based business, from new club owner to established, and growing multi-location franchises. With our United States-based customer service and fully integrated software design, Gym Insight provides gym owners with an automated, effortless system from which to run successful health clubs and boutique studios. For more information or a free demo, call us at 855-FOR-GYMS and ask for Anthony or Natalia. Check out our social media as well, or go to our blog page for customer profiles and industry resources.
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