Four years ago, human resources executive Amy Reid switched gears in her career and began her “second act” as an entrepreneur. In her neighborhood of West Boylston, Massachusetts, she opened up a local The Little Gym location, a renowned children’s enrichment and development franchise that offers movement-based learning and imaginative play experiences. Having never run a business of her own before, she knew she needed to rely on expert sources to help guide the way, while also building a village to support her new journey. In the short time since launching the business, Reid has achieved an incredible feat - holding the highest enrollment numbers across the network of over 400 The Little Gym locations worldwide. Since she is clearly an expert in this regard, Reid shared five brand-building relationships that are instrumental in launching a successful local business.
- Get Financial Leadership: Recognize your skills and know when you need to bring in outside help. When you are opening a business, there are so many things you need to accomplish, so it's essential to have a trusted partner to make daunting processes like financing more approachable. The Little Gym introduces its franchisees to BoeFly, a financial partner for business borrowers and lenders. BoeFly made it easy and simple for Reid to prepare bank documents and connected her to the right lenders to secure an SBA Start Up Loan.
- Develop Community Partnerships: Neighborhood involvement plays a huge part of a franchisee's success. Partnering with local organizations and non-profits can help the business grow and demonstrate the company's value's in giving back to the community. The Little Gym of West Boylston sponsors local science center programs that promote environmental friendliness, offers raffle prizes to the nursery, public and private schools that its members belong to and partners with a local agency to help families with foster children experience The Little Gym where they may otherwise have not had the opportunity.
- Invest in Your Team: Finding the right team to represent your business is just the start. Business owners must regularly invest in training, developing and supporting employee's professional growth. Create a team atmosphere where individuals feel bonded, happy and proud of what they do. While many businesses keep an eye on the happiness of their clients, keeping a pulse on the internal culture can lead to long term retention. Reid hosts morale-boosting events such as trips to the theater and ice cream parties that celebrate and reward team members for their hard work, commitment and contributions to the growth of the business. Some of the junior staff at Reid's gym location aspire to be teachers and see the training they get from a top brand like The Little Gym as a valuable experience they will hopefully take with them the rest of their lives.
- Have a Council of Advisors: One of the simplest places to find mentors or advisors can be within the franchisor. They can provide a wide range of support including consultants to help strategize growth, develop marketing, and provide tools to better analyze your business. Reid looks to her franchisor, The Little Gym International, for support in these areas as well as to provide the cutting edge curriculum which is then implemented in her gym. The premium curriculum is developed on the corporate level and she relies on this ingenuity to make sure her business evolves with the ever changing children's enrichment and development trends.
- Fortify Relationships with your Clients: The Little Gym's success can also be attributed to its strong retention which stems from quality relationships with its members. Families who joined Reid's gym when it first opened are still here to this day. Reid and her team make a commitment to be a partner to the members and help them achieve goals they have at any stage in a child's development - be it improved social and physical skills or confidence. The Little Gym's progressive program, coupled with genuinely knowing the families, allows them to grow with their members year after year.
These are a few strategies to follow when launching a brand or business. Overall, creating and maintaining relationships with all stakeholders (financial, community, internal, etc.) is key to building the foundation for a successful business.