Big Investment, Big Reward

Master franchisees share their experiences

For franchisees wanting to make a major capital investment, becoming a master franchisee might be exactly what they’re looking for. While it takes a large amount of capital to become a master franchisee, the rewards that come with the risk are numerous. Here, three distinct master franchisees share their experiences at the helm.

Crunch Fitness

Crunch Fitness Canada has established itself as a leader in high value–low price fitness, filling their gyms with top-of-the-line equipment, proprietary group fitness classes, personal and small-group training, and even tanning and hydromassage at affordable membership rates. “Crunch is also known for its fun, irreverent, quirky, and moti­vating messages to members. We are all about making serious fitness fun,” shares Katz Foley, National Director of Group Fitness. “We break through the competition with unique and memorable ways to motivate, encour­age, and inspire every single person who walks through our doors. Our member’s experience is our number one priority,” Foley continues.

With that mission in mind, it’s no wonder that CEOs and master franchisees Wes Hodgson and Murray Mid­dlemost both have strong backgrounds in fitness and business. Together, Hodgson and Middlemost secured the exclusive rights to Canada’s master franchise for Crunch and since then have dedicated themselves to leading the way in defining what it means to have a thriv­ing fitness franchise in Canada.

Hodgson and Middlemost know that a key part of a successful fitness franchise is of course the successful fitness of its members. “As the digital world continues to explode,” they say, “more and more people are looking for real social interaction and contact and a community to join. We offer them human connection with no limits at an affordable price all while getting healthy, happy, and engaged.”

Another part of Hodgson and Middlemost’s micro-level strategy is focusing on the communities of smaller franchisees who develop multiple Crunch gyms, ensur­ing consistent support for them and paving the way for them to continue to grow. At a macro-level, being the master franchisees in their franchise system allows Hodgson and Middlemost creativity that is based on solid guidance from worldwide industry experts. “We have been able to adapt to our Canadian market and add our own special twist,” they share. This combina­tion of big-picture and ground-level control is something unique to the master franchisee position.

Hodgson and Middlemost advise prospective master franchisees to be sure that they are in it for the “long haul,” that they love their brand, and that they have a clear vision. “But more importantly,” they add, “be open to working collaboratively with the franchise’s executive team. Collaboration is crucial in any marriage.”

The UPS Store

With the continued rise of small businesses, the UPS Store has a crucial role in commerce. While the UPS Store still largely concentrates on packing and shipping, they have become the go-to back office support service for numerous small businesses. As David Druker, presi­dent of the UPS Store and master franchisee, shares, “When you work by yourself, you need someone – and we become that someone.” Most businesses that work with the UPS Store have between one and five employ­ees, so having their own office system either isn’t fea­sible or desired. Druker continues, “We allow companies to concentrate on their primary business and we take care of all the secondary work. In the self-service world, we are a full-service resource.”

Since first becoming involved in franchising in the late 1980s, starting with a wireless phone franchise, Druker’s motto has been, “You can always undercut price but you can never undercut service.” So when the wireless fran­chise started to be less service oriented, he knew it was time to look for the next opportunity. Druker went into a UPS Store and was immediately impressed. “Because I’m focused on relationship-driven business,” he says, “I thought it would be a perfect fit.”

Druker started with a franchise in Quebec at the end of 2004 and quickly became the master franchisee and president of the UPS Store Canada in May of 2008. “A benefit of being the master franchisee is that you get to see the larger picture,” Druker shares, “but a draw­back is also that you have to be able to focus on the bigger picture!” Given Canada’s size, it’s important to make sure that the same standards are being enforced everywhere and that he is able to support each fran­chise location. “In our case, we benefit because we have a very large U.S. parent company and network for sup­port,” Druker explains.

As a master franchisee, making decisions for the over­all company isn’t always about doing the most popular thing, which means that a master franchisee needs to be steadfast and objective in their decision-making. “You are responsible for the longevity of the business,” says Druker. “You really have to ensure that you keep that very global focus – you are responsible for a very large team.” Knowing that as a master franchisee you are in some ways responsible for the investments of your other franchisees means added pressure but it also means added gratifica­tion when you see your company succeed.

Water Babies

Water Babies is the world’s largest company providing swimming lessons for babies, currently teaching more than 50,000 babies and toddlers a week in over 600 pools across the globe. This obviously unique franchise con­cept, headed in Canada by master franchisee and director Shawn Goldmintz, aims to help children hit development markers at a young age and to foster in children a positive relationship with physical activity and the water.

Water Babies courses not only encourage babies’ development, but they provide memorable carer–child bonding opportunities. “First and foremost,” Goldmintz explains, “our model is to focus on one aspect of aquat­ics and do it to the best possible standard. We teach only carer and child lessons – meaning there is a respon­sible adult in the water with each child in addition to the teacher – to swimmers from birth to just over four years.”

This best-in-class experience means Water Babies employs a team of highly trained teachers who receive comprehensive training. To ensure the best experience for their clients, Water Babies teachers receive 15 – 20 times more training hours when compared to the train­ing standards of other swim teachers in the industry.

“We also have a world-class underwater photography program,” Goldmintz shares, “allowing families to cap­ture once-in-a-lifetime images in the safest and most pro­fessional environment possible.”

As a master franchisee, Goldmintz has access to sys­tems and resources that the Water Babies franchisor has developed and refined. “We get to import a brand and business model that has been proven to succeed,” he explains. The years of operational knowledge and expe­rience that a master franchisee inherits are invaluable in staking a claim in a new sector of the service industry and in fostering individual franchise location success.

Because swimming lessons for babies isn’t necessar­ily something most people are familiar with, educating people on its benefits is also a key aspect of the master franchisee position. “We know that when families have the knowledge of what our classes can provide (and the age their children can start!), they buy in and love what we do,” Goldmintz says. “So it’s about consistently get­ting in front of families, paediatricians, midwives and others to explain what we do, why we do it, and how they can take part.”

Spreading the word can be a big challenge with the expansive geography of Canada, says Goldmintz, which is something that he is constantly focused on, always working with his franchisees and other stakeholders across the country to lower the burden on any one franchisee. “At its best, master franchising is a process-based industry where you apply proven concepts and systems in new situations.”


By Jessica Burgess