Orangetheory Fitness’s Former Largest Franchisee, James Webb, Reveals the Secret to Finding Multi-Unit Franchisees, And how BeBalanced Natural Weight Loss Centers secured him as a franchise partner.
Nick Powills, 1851 Publisher
If you have ever been to a franchise conference, cocktail event or any other industry gathering, you’ve met the secret hunters. You may even be one yourself. There are franchise professionals who spend their whole careers hunting for the secret to finding those rock-star multi-unit franchisees — the ones who can scale units, take over an entire market, attract look-alike prospects and propel the brand to the next tier of growth.
James Webb, formerly a 31-location Orangetheory Fitness franchise owner, is that person. He is also a humble, driven and all-around-likeable guy — a grand slam for any brand.
Webb is the multi-unit franchisee all franchisors are looking for. So what’s the secret to getting him on your team? According to Webb, the secret isn’t so secret: Build a great product and a strong brand, operationalize it, stake out a high-potential territory and give Webb a call.
That’s exactly what David Cutillo, CEO of BeBalanced Natural Weight Loss Centers did, and that’s how the emerging 24-unit weight loss franchise lured Webb away from one of the buzziest brands in the exercise segment.
“With BeBalanced, we bought in because we believed in the product, the cost structure and, most importantly, the scalability. We wanted to lock down an area where we could build three locations and scale up to 25 to 30 locations,” said Webb, who partnered with his son-in-law, Geoffrey Miller, on the opportunity.
Webb and Miller proceeded to carefully vet the brand, interviewing other franchisees to confirm their instincts about BeBalanced’s strong fundamentals.
“We spoke with almost all of the multi-unit owners and asked them how long it took to achieve ROI and pay off their initial investments,” Miller said. “They said it took them 12 months to pay off the initial investment, which was music to my ears.”
Evaluating the Product
Webb is no stranger to a great product. Earlier in his career, Webb owned — and eventually sold — 28 medical imaging centers and 63 pain management locations. Webb had found a similarly great product with Orangetheory Fitness, a business that his customers raved about. So it’s no surprise Webb was adamant about ensuring the strength of BeBalanced’s product before signing on.
“Before buying BeBalanced, we put three of our friends through the program ahead of time with very much success,” he said. “It reminded me of an exciting new brand with a lot of roots in it,” much like Orangetheory Fitness.
That’s exactly the response Cutillo said he looks for from franchisee candidates.
“There is no doubt it adds credibility to have the likes of having James and Geoffrey join our brand,” he said. “It was important for us to perfect our systems and processes before we launched into growth like this. We have taken the last few years to work on the operational piece of the brand, so that we could get someone like James and Geoff to partner.”
That operational perfection has helped BeBalanced establish a growing and fanatical customer base, something Miller said he is eager to tap into.
“The success of the program is one of the key factors. We have had a high success rate here in Texas, with about 90% showing the success they expected,” he said of the customer base. “The success of the program sells itself as it goes on. References are abundant. Everyone is a part of a community and a part of the BeBalanced lifestyle.”
Scaling the Business
No matter what the brand is or who the prospective buyer is, they have to believe in the product. For Miller and Webb, that box was easily checked. Their next step was evaluating the opportunity for growth.
“It is fairly low cost and overhead to get started. It’s an easy brand to grow with low cost, profitability and a product that people can believe in,” Miller said.
Like most businesses, the immediate growth prospects for Webb and Miller’s new franchise opportunity was not helped by the COVID crisis, but Webb says the pandemic had little effect on their vision for the business.
“For those of us who want to build wealth, and for those of us who want to change the destiny of our families, it’s about multiple locations,” he said. “It is about staying focused, developing the product, recognizing COVID, and moving forward. COVID certainly doesn’t make us scared, it just makes us reevaluate things. We are still moving forward, we will believe in the product, we just slowed down expansion a little. We are focused on ROI, and we know that even with COVID, we can achieve ROI, it just may take a little longer. We are patient and focused, continuing to move forward.”
Believing in the Vision
Armed with a great product and scalability, the final checkmark was ideological — Webb and Miller wanted to see eye-to-eye with the BeBalanced’s leadership team.
“We had an opportunity to meet David and Jennifer (Cutillo, COO) in person and get to know them and get to believe in them,” Webb said. “The leadership they demonstrated to us was appreciated by us. They showed a great brand, great availability of territory, infrastructure and a process to scale.”
That alignment in vision gave Miller and Webb the confidence to charge forward.
“My ultimate goal is for BeBalanced to be a household name. I want people thinking it is synonymously associated with health, wellness, a better lifestyle and a community that believes in them,” Webb said.
How to Catch the Big Fish
So, how do other franchisees land the big multi-unit franchisee fish like Webb and Miller? Based on their journey with BeBalanced, it comes down to six critical steps:
- Have great leadership, and demonstrate your vision.
- Nail the product.
- Operationalize the business.
- Build cost effective start-up costs aligned with profitability.
- Create a model that can scale.
- Have excellent validation.
In other words, nail the fundamentals. The secret, as Webb says, isn’t so secret: just do the important things right.
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