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Franchise Secrets Podcast


Aug 21, 2019

Are you wondering if a strategic partnership could benefit your business endeavors? Are there just some skills that you lack that a partner could take on? If you don’t possess all the necessary skills—or even finances required—to be a business owner, consider partnering with someone who does. My guest today, Stephen Kopshaw, gives us insight into 3 different areas of franchising—and doing it with partners.

12 years ago Stephen was a physical trainer working at a Fitness Together location. He had ideas on how to implement business practices differently that he felt would benefit the franchise. He shared his ideas and goals with his client and friend, Lisa Paladino Petersen, hoping to open his own location someday. One day she said, “Why don’t we do it together?” and their partnership was formed. Less then a year later they were operating their location. Now, Stephen and Lisa—along with 4 other partners—own multiple franchise locations, work as consultants, and are operate on the flip side as franchisors. 

Outline of This Episode

  • [0:35] I introduce my guest, Stephen Kopshaw, CEO of FIT 36.
  • [2:10] How Stephen got his start in franchising
  • [6:15] How it all began with friendships
  • [11:20] Play to your strengths—let someone else handle your weaknesses
  • [14:55] Taking over failing stores = “Turnaround Opportunities”
  • [17:10] What do you look for in an opportunity
  • [20:55] What do you look for in a good location
  • [22:30] The evolution of their partnership
  • [25:40] Next steps: Buying out a franchise
  • [29:00] Challenges to overcome 
  • [32:35] Commitment to transparency and change
  • [34:55] Changes in store for FIT 36
  • [40:00] Things commonly seen in an underperforming franchise

What can a strategic partnership do for you?

The strictest definition of a strategic partnership is a “relationship between two commercial enterprises usually formalized by one or more business contracts”. So we are going to loosely interpret the term in this instance. The goal is to partner with someone who has experience in areas that you do not.

Play to your strengths—and let someone else handle your weaknesses.

Steve, like myself, is a strategic thinker and succeeds at anything having to do with execution, finding opportunities, and all of the “big picture” decisions. He considers day-to-day management and customer relationships his weaknesses, but they are strengths for some of his partners. The key is to find people who balance the relationship and complement each other. 

What to look for in a turnaround opportunity

Something Stephen and his partners specialize in is taking failing stores—which they prefer to call turnaround opportunities—and helping them find success. They can absolve someone’s liability and help them move on to their next step. Another benefit is that they aren’t on the line for a lot of the typical costs involved with building out a location. So what do they look for?

The first step is to make sure you have access to financials, profit and loss statements, and their advertising/sales process. If you can adequately gauge where the business is struggling and how to address it, it’s a good indicator of future success. A trick they love to use is spending 4-6 hours in the immediate area and playing “secret shoppers” as they check out the competition. The #1 thing that would deter them from buying? A bad location. Want to know more? Keep listening!

A team with many hats: Franchisors, franchisees, and business consultants

Steve and his team originally started as a mastermind group, each taking turns to educate each other on something new. Eventually, they all started relinquishing work they weren’t skilled at to each other. Over time, their relationship evolved into a mutual partnership, with each complementing the other. They knew they could do something bigger with the A-list team they had cultivated. 

They were approached to buyout a Fitness Together location to complement their current one. So they flipped it and built a thriving business while also experiencing growth in their core studio. They tested the waters and dove into the world of Elements Massage—which became another success. Their most recent endeavor was the purchase of the Fit 36 franchise. Keep listening to hear where this new opportunity is taking them. 

Implementing clear communication and transparency

I asked Steve what surprised him the most when transitioning from franchisee to franchisor. Surprisingly, communication styles have been the most difficult roadblock to navigate. Everyone hears and absorbs information differently. What seems like a simple company-wide email relaying information can become complicated as everyone involved interprets the message differently.

Steve and his team are committed to establishing transparency and change as they’ve taken over Fit 36. They want everyone to be on the same page and stay informed. They implement this by sending out a monthly newsletter, running a facebook group, and monthly roundtable calls with the leadership team. If you want to hear specifics of how they’re turning the franchise around, listen to the full episode now.

This episode is full of strategies any franchise should implement with only a few things touched on in the notes—check out the full episode now for all the details!

Resources & People Mentioned

Connect with Stephen

Connect With Erik