Healthy profits for business builders

Women's-only gym Ladies Workout Express has developed a programme of success for both its gym members and its franchisees

As the issue of health and fitness has come to the fore over the last few years, so has the need for professional, effective and affordable training facilities. One previously overlooked market is that of the provision of exclusive facilities for women - providing a keep fit service in a safe, secure and comfortable environment.

Founded in the US, Ladies Workout Express has seized this opportunity and is enjoying continued growth in the UK and Ireland under the leadership of Chris Donaldson, Master Franchisee, who says: 'The franchise system is fine-tuned with 20 years of experience behind it and over 1,000 outlets globally.'

Offering its members the opportunity to achieve their weight-loss goals through a specialised 30-minute circuit training programme, Ladies Workout Express is attracting an increasing number of members to its UK centres. Using a system of 12 different hydraulic machines, Chris explains that 'completing a circuit will exercise every major muscle group in the body, and the programme is proven to help tone and firm the body while building cardiovascular endurance.

'Strengthening muscles provides joint stability and helps fight osteoporosis. Regular training helps burn body fat and increase lean body mass. In between each station is a cardio machine or a rest station for controlling the heart rate. Equipment is built to 10 different resistance settings to vary the workout on a regular basis, which keeps the workout fresh and helps retain members.'

It was this approach to keeping fit that first attracted Bangor franchisee Kieron Murphy. 'After researching the market I found that Ladies Workout Express provide their customers with perfectly suited training and fitness services,' reveals Kieron. 'I believe in the hydraulic systems - they really do work. In running adaptable group classes, I can give my customers what they want.'

Taking a career break as a Technical Director, it was Kieron's involvement with charity trekking that first led him to the idea of running his own gym. 'A big part of my role in leading these treks was to make sure the participants were properly trained,' recalls Kieron. 'A lot of the trekkers were women who told me that they often encountered difficulties with regular training. They told me that either they didn't have the time or gyms didn't provide what they wanted. There was a general view that gyms were too much of a macho, male environment. This is when I knew that there would be huge potential for Ladies Workout Express.'

Included in the franchisee's initial investment is Ladies Workout Express' five-day training course based in the US. Equipping franchisees with product knowledge, hands-on experience and manuals, says Chris, 'takes the guesswork out of owning and operating your own health and fitness business.' Agrees Kieron: 'The training was excellent. It fully explains both the fitness and operational aspects of the franchise alongside the practicalities of running a gym business. Before launching the business Ladies Workout Express assisted me with a six-week marketing programme to make sure my business had the best possible start. It really helps in letting you understand how to spend your marketing budget, where to advertise and how to gain your first gym members.'

With 80 per cent of Ladies Workout Express' target customer base having never regularly attended a gym, its marketing programme enabled Kieron to successfully tap into the potential market from day one. 'After my first week, I had an unbelievable 150 members - it couldn't have worked better for me,' he enthuses. 'It was a great boost to my business and enabled me to quickly reach the 300 members I have now. Ladies Workout Express go to great lengths to help you get started.'

Since launching the business in February, Kieron has received ongoing support and guidance on every aspect of developing the gym, including pre-opening membership sales, site selection, lease negotiation, training staff, designing marketing materials and providing ongoing daily support once the club is open.

'The support has been great,' states Kieron. 'I can talk to the franchisors at any point and they are always happy to help. On top of that, we also have a weekly conference call between all of the UK gyms that lets the franchisees talk about new ideas, discuss new promotions and consider what works and what doesn't in any aspect of the business.'

Regularly attracting new members, and with a 75 per cent membership renewal rate, Kieron is looking forward to watching his business grow. As Chris explains: 'Most franchisees start by managing the business themselves and as it grows appoint a manager to run the gym on a day-to-day basis. They then have the opportunity to build a business to very interesting levels of profitability.'

Although previous fitness industry experience is not needed, franchisees need enthusiasm and passion for maintaining personal fitness, good communication skills, a desire to deliver excellent services to members and a commitment to following the Ladies Workout Express proven system. 'We have a passion to make a significant contribution to improving the health and fitness of ladies,' Chris concludes. 'This is a very satisfying business and we look forward to building our franchise organisation with people who share our passion.'

Written by Adam Browning