‘Get more clients and keep them for longer’: why Andrew Simmons is investing in franchisee education

By Sarah Stowe | 19 Nov 2018 View comments

Vision Personal Training founder Andrew Simmons has aligned with the Australian Graduate School of Management to create a bespoke training program for franchisees.

“The biggest opportunity to help franchise owners is to help them with their own leadership. We tell them, ‘now you’ve been through management, it’s about working on yourself as a leader.’ As in any business it’s all leadership driven.”

Simmons launched a masterclass in September with the Australian Graduate School of Management (AGSM) that proved so successful it will be unveiled in March 2019 as a quarterly program for go-ahead franchisees.

Feedback post-session was 90 per cent positive, he reports.

“It was a testing ground. We funded the first one, we believed in it. We know franchisees in order to grow, need to be better leaders.

“The goal is create leverage and you can only create that through systems, people and money. The success of franchisees’ studios is driven by individual people.,” he says.

The AGSM workshop-based course runs over 18 months, and entails four groups of six franchisees and managers working together to solve pertinent problems in their businesses, presenting the solutions to the overall group, and then taking on another challenge.

The goal is to help the participants to become better leaders, to self-manage and to grow a team.

“I’ve found myself, growing a business is like losing weight: you have to eat better and move more; in business, it’s get more clients and keep them for longer. They are simple principles and if people know why, they’ll buy,” says Simmons.

A specific goal is to extend the average career span of a personal trainer – across the industry just five months but currently 22 months in Vision PT.

Simmons wants to extend this to 50 months.

The benefits for franchisees are a reduction in recruitment and training costs.

Simmons was inspired by the book Scaling Up, by Verne Harnish, which asks ‘what is something that you can do 10x everyone else at the industry average?’.

“We thought this was something we could do, and creating a career path was the biggest reason.”

What franchisors could do

That is Simmons’ big tip for other franchisors: create a path to keep staff within your network.

“People retention is a big issue and there are recruitment and training costs. If you can provide a career path and save all of those costs, you’ll have a better quality team member who can service clients better.”

And he’s adamant that this is not just a franchisee issue to be handled at unit level.

“The franchisor should be involved in training staff. I find it fascinating there is not more structured training.”

Simmons recommends creating group programs so that preparation and implementation costs are economical.

“It’s really a no brainer,” he says.

The AGSM course delivers credits towards an MBA, if a franchisee wants to take their education further.

“We wanted to make sure we provided external learning time. A lot can be said for people doing outside courses. You can say the same thing over and over, but if someone external says it, it has an impact. It’s hearing a different voice.”