Justin McDonell – The King Of Gyms: Franchising to 500+

Justin McDonell is the Co-founder & Chairman of the Collective Wellness Group which has brands such as Anytime Fitness, Orange Theory and Xtand Barre under its umbrella. With over 700 gym locations launched across several countries, Justin is the master of franchising.

Justin McDonellKey Lessons

  1. Find the best person, and have faith: Good people will outdo a good structure.Justin made mistakes in the early days of the business in trying to control and be a part of every aspect of the business. He had to learn to let go if it was going to scale. When it came time to hiring, the times he got it wrong was when he built a role around the skills of the individual, not around the needs of the business. Or, when the person had a great strategy but lacked people skills.  Find the gap in your business, find the best person to fill that gap, and trust them enough to do their job (let the reins go).
  2. Franchises fail because of the people: there can be many reasons why a franchise doesn’t work, but the most predominant one in the fitness industry comes down to a ‘people problem’.  If the franchisee doesn’t hire their right people, or pay them right or treat them right.  It will fail. Justin’s team spends a lot of time helping their franchisee’s on process training, finding the right locations but also, importantly, on people skills. The key to making franchising work is making them money, and that means setting them up for success. This thinking also influences the type of franchisee Justin’s will look for; they need to either be great with people (and find a numbers guy to help run the business) or be a numbers guy (and find a people person to manage the location).  The person managing the club MUST love people…
  3. Get your staff to think like owners: help them empathize,  try to get your staff to think like the business owner. As they approach challenges, ask them ‘if it was their business, what would they do?”
  4. Fitness companies need to think outside the box and look at new offerings: health doesn’t just belong inside the walls of the gym anymore, also, health is a 24/7 need, and people are connecting to their phones – so fitness companies need to think about how their service can be made available to this need to win in a crowded marketplace.
  5. Control your day, don’t let it control you: Justin tries to structure his day to be the most productive as possible and uses several tactics and habits to do so. For example, as a default, his emails are turned ‘off’ on this mobile, meaning he has to go to check emails on a higher friction device like the computer. Also, Justin begins his day with exercise, this change in physiology shifts his psychology.
  6. Have a connection to the brand origin and if things don’t work, know when to quit: Justin tried to bring Massage Envy, an ultra-successful company from the USA to Australia. However, the model would not work; he unrestricted the budget, tried every marketing tactic, but they couldn’t generate enough leads. In the post-mortem, Justin identified that unlike his other successful franchise companies, Massage Envy had undergone so many rounds of private equity, that all the people critical to the brand’s original success had left, and there was nobody to help support the launch (from a base of no brand recognition) in Australia. Somebody familiar with the origin of the brand could’ve helped them navigate. After recognising all their marketing tactics would not work, he closed the company.

Companies Mentioned

Collective Wellness Group

Anytime Fitness Australia

Orange Theory Australia

Xtend Barre Australia

Me Squared

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