How can I make US gym franchise idea work out here?
Q: I am returning to Ireland from living abroad this year. I have been looking at businesses which are not yet in Ireland and I believe could be a big success here. One of these is a gym chain which is a franchise business. I have enquired about opening in Ireland but they are looking for a master franchisor here with liquidity of $500,000 and a net worth of $1m. I do not have this cash or net worth but would look to open three to four units here if the master franchise was taken up. Do you know of any organisations or bodies which have a list of people wanting to invest in businesses or master franchises?
A: Nice to hear from you and great to hear you have identified a possible business opportunity.
The model certainly seems interesting and there was never a better time to look at this sector when consumers are so focused on health. Before you do anything, though, I suggest you carry out a gap analysis to make sure the sector is not overcrowded.
I do get the impression that there is now a gym popping up on every street corner. Ask yourself the following questions. Is there room for more gyms? What will be unique about yours? Why will customers use yours above others?
In terms of where to find others interested, there are several Irish franchise sites and these would be good to post an advert on to attract interest.
It might be also worth talking with a few gym owners from single site or smaller group gyms. They may well have a vested interest in collaborating on the project.
HBAN is an angel investor platform and could also be worth contacting. Their remit is slightly different but nonetheless they might be willing to share your request with their investors.
Finally, if any interested parties want to reply though my column here I will pass these directly to you. Good luck with the project.
Q: What advice or tips can you offer my business for creating good customer service?
A: Good customer service is not something I would be advising anyone to provide in their business.
That may sound like a surprise, however you will receive no awards or acclaim from your customers for providing good service.
Customers only remember two things when it comes to service - really bad service, and great service. Good service is the norm. It is expected and it will not create any point of difference for you - providing great service on a consistent basis will allow you to stand out from your competitors.
To provide great service you need to ensure that the culture within the business is correct to support this.
Great service is delivered through motivated staff. You can't instruct staff to provide great service. It must be natural and it must be spontaneous.
The reason most businesses don't reach the level of great service is they don't focus enough on the culture of the business.
I always ensured in Superquinn that our management team put the customers centre stage and did a lot of work with our staff in order to ensure that they were motivated and understood the culture of our business.
People did not need an instruction list on how to create great service or how to correspond to individual consumer situations. They instinctively knew and behaved in a way and delivered service that they might want themselves if they were in the customer's shoes.
My advice to you, before you start doing anything, is to understand the difference between good and great. That will be the first milestone on your journey.