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FranDev Players: Terri Harof, Director of Franchise Development, Workout Anytime

In the fitness franchise industry, staying quick on your feet has never been more important, according to this industry veteran.

The 2020 pandemic certainly put fitness centers and gyms on the ropes. State lockdowns, fitness class size restrictions, and other social-distancing measures have all created a unique set of problems for gym operators.

But Atlanta-based Workout Anytime, a 24-hour fitness franchise with 176 units, has been able to go the distance. 

Founded 21 years ago by two fitness industry veterans and executives, the brand hopes to hit 200 clubs by the end of the first quarter. It’s weathered the storm by staying flexible, its development chief said.

“You have to be nimble and flexible, when something like a pandemic happens — or whatever happens — you've got to be able to move quickly and formulate the new plan, and have all the answers so that franchisees can feel comfortable,” said Terri Haroff, the company’s director of franchise development

1851 Franchise chatted with Harof to get her thoughts on franchise growth during this time and to understand her thoughts on the fitness franchise landscape. 

1851 Franchise: How did you get into franchise development?

Terri Harof: When I graduated college, I started full time working in the fitness business. I loved it, but decided I wanted to use my degree. So after a few years, I got into marketing and owned an advertising agency. 

I started off franchising selling restaurants, and did that for about four years. But I have known the Workout Anytime founders John Quattrocchi, Steve Strickland and Randy Trotter, who's our senior VP of real estate, for 20 or 30 years because I've been teaching group fitness since college and I still teach today. So I came over a couple years ago.  They needed me, and I love health and fitness. 

1851: What are the keys to consistent franchise growth?

Harof: Number one, our most important customer really is our franchisees. We have got to take care of our franchisees. We have to have all the tools that they need to be successful. If they're successful, we're successful. We have to be nimble and flexible. For me, the most important thing a franchise company can do is have really great tried-and-true training, which we absolutely do.

1851: What are the biggest hurdles to successful franchise growth right now?

Harof: The unknown. We've got people who want to pull the trigger on investing in a franchise location, and they’re just not quite sure when the right time is to pull that trigger. Is there going to be another shutdown? There are certain states we're just not focusing on because they're just too challenging from a business standpoint. California is one of them.

When you look at the cost of real estate throughout California and New York City, there's just too many other areas that are open. That’s not to say we would never look at New York City or California, but it would absolutely have to make sense.

1851: How has COVID-19 affected your franchise growth opportunities?

Harof: It’s definitely had an impact on our growth. There's no doubt about it. I've had people that were about to close that didn’t close because of COVID-19. I've got deals that I'm about to close right now. They were maybe looking at March opening, now we're looking at January. Typically, we want our franchisees to be open within a year after signing their franchise agreement. We feel like that's an adequate amount of time to find the location, get your permitting and get the construction going. Needless to say, we've extended that by another 12 months because we don't want somebody to sign a lease for space and to start construction, then all of a sudden the state's closed down and you can't open for business. We have definitely been flexible with our new franchisees and our current franchisees who are looking at opening additional locations in terms of how long they have to sign and then open. 

COVID-19 has also meant there are people who are making changes. When you have something like a pandemic happen, people look at lives and say, ‘Holy moly, life is short, I don't want to do insurance anymore, or finance anymore, I want to do something I'm really passionate about.’ And people are passionate about fitness, health and helping people in their community. 

1851: Are there common mistakes franchisors make when they’re trying to grow?

Harof: I’d say choosing the wrong locations, and also picking the wrong franchisees. Franchisors will kind of slide people in who really don't have the resources they need. They kind of have the resources, but they really don't. So by the time they open, they are just tapped out and don't have the money for marketing and all the other things they need to do. What's beautiful with Workout Anytime’s model specifically is that it offers recurring revenue. You sign up members and it’s super affordable. You keep your clubs clean, you create a sort of “Cheers” atmosphere where you know people’s name, and they’re not going to cancel their subscription.

1851: So looking ahead for 2021, what are your biggest goals or plans for the brand?

Harof: I'm really hoping that life is going to get back to normal and that there will be trade shows again, because trade shows are just a great way to network. Also, we've put together a whole internal marketing program and in-club marketing program, targeting members who are interested in becoming franchisees. Our goal from a company standpoint is that we want to sell 50 franchises in 2021.