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BiggerPockets Business Podcast 24: Achieving ‘Time Freedom’ and Franchising a Personal Training Business with Paige Wilcox

BiggerPockets Business Podcast 24: Achieving ‘Time Freedom’ and Franchising a Personal Training Business with Paige Wilcox

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What if you documented every process that makes your business run?

Imagine how much easier it would be to scale and how much less stressful it would be to take a day (or week or month) off to spend with your family?

Today’s show is about creating standard operating procedures to make your life easier down the road. Paige Wilcox of Wilcox Wellness & Fitness breaks down how she and her husband built a personal training business that can run on autopilot—which eventually allowed them to open their first franchise.

You’ll learn how Paige thinks about systems, how she automated her email marketing, and how businesses can expand. Paige brings a ton of energy in this episode, and it’s clear how much she loves being in business for herself and putting her stamp on her community.

Download this episode and subscribe to hear more stories like hers!

Click here to listen on iTunes.

Listen to the Podcast Here

Read the Transcript Here

J: Welcome to The BiggerPockets Business Podcast, show number 24.

Paige: For us, it’s about making an impact in the community. We spent about a year figuring out what the next step would be for our business and we evaluated a bunch of different options and decided that franchising would be the best thing for us.

Announcer: Welcome to a real world MBA from the school of hard knocks, where entrepreneurs reveal what it really takes to make it. Whether you’re already in business or you’re on your way there, this show is for you. This is BiggerPockets Business.

J: Hey there everybody. I am J Scott. I am your co-host for The BiggerPockets Business Podcast, here again, alongside me today is my co-host is Mrs. Carol Scott. How are you doing today, Carol?

Carol: Doing super, super great, honey. Thank you. I’m really looking forward to interviewing today’s guest, because this person, kind of like we’ve got going on, is working in tandem with her husband. It’s another husband and wife team who have done some amazing things. I can’t wait to chit-chat more with her and see what they have done.

J: Yeah, today’s guest is awesome. Her name is Paige Wilcox. She and her husband run Wilcox Wellness & Fitness. And they are a, well, I guess it’s a personal training/gym out of Bangor, Maine. But they’ve done more than just created a gym, they have created a franchise gym.
And on our show today, she talks to us about her franchising of their gym. She talks to us about the systems and processes that they put in place that have allowed them to franchise and create the lifestyle business that allows them to travel for several weeks a year. And it’s awesome. She tells us all about her marketing. She tells us about how they’ve created their standard operating procedures, and a whole bunch of other great stuff that goes into building a business that you expand and grow with other people through licensing or franchising.
So, for anybody that’s interested in franchising, this is the episode for you. And if you want more information about today’s show, you can check out our show notes at biggerpockets.com/bizshow24. Again, that’s biggerpockets.com/bizshow 24.
Now, without any further ado, let’s jump into our discussion with Paige Wilcox. Let’s welcome Paige Wilcox to the show. How you doing today, Paige?

Paige: Hi, I’m great, thanks, how are you?

Carol: Doing great. And we are so excited to talk to you. You have such a great story and we’re so excited to dig more into it. So thanks for being with us today, Paige.

Paige: Thank you so much. I’m so excited to be here.

Carol: Wonderful. So we would love to start by you just giving us an overview of your company, so that we can set the stage for the rest of the conversation.

Paige: Of course, so my husband and I own Wilcox Wellness & Fitness. We are a private personal training facility and we really offer two programs. So the traditional one-on-one personal training, and then what we’re really known for and what’s unique about us is our group personal training program.
So every single time a client comes to train with us, they’re working with a trainer and the trainer takes care of everything for them. Our sessions are very focused. So clients are able to get the most out of their training session. Getting the most out of the training session doesn’t mean pushing the hardest, going the fastest or lifting the heaviest. It really means just doing what’s right for them, prioritizing proper form and technique over anything else.

Carol: Awesome.

J: That’s great. And yes, we have a lot to talk about in this interview, because you guys are doing stuff differently than a lot of your competitors. And you’re also doing something really cool. You’re franchising.

Carol: That’s right. Yes.

J: And so really excited to dig into that, because I know a lot of our listeners are curious about franchising. I think we’re also going to talk about licensing. You consider licensing and we can talk about the differences there.
But before we jump into all the things that you’re doing now, can you take us back a little bit and tell us a little bit about where you came from, how you got started as an entrepreneur and how you got started with this business specifically?

Paige: Yeah, absolutely. So I grew up in Rangeley, Maine, which is a really tiny town in the western part of our state. If you say that to somebody in Maine, they’re like, “Oh, I love Rangeley.” I grew up skiing there or snowmobiling or swimming in Rangeley Lake and I really did have an amazing childhood there.
I graduated high school with 18 kids, so it was like a tiny town. I think 2,000 was the population year round there. I came from a family of small business owners and I always knew that I would own and run my own business. I always knew that I wanted to make the world a better place, like this is kind of nerdy, but my favorite book growing up was Miss Rumphius. Do you guys know that book?

Carol: I haven’t read that book. Have you?

J: No, I haven’t.

Paige: It’s a great book. So it’s a story of a little girl and she’s looking up to her aunt and her aunt is making the world a more beautiful place by sowing lupin seeds all across the countryside. And the little girl is just kind of trying to figure out her place in the world and how she’ll make the world a more beautiful place.
So that was kind of me, like I knew that I wanted to make the world a better place. I knew I wanted to have an impact and I knew that I would do that through business. So I went to business school, I got my undergraduate degree from the University of Maine. And straight out of school, I was recruited to work for a company called VWR International.
So I was an account manager in the biotech industry, which was kind of wild. I didn’t know the difference between a pipette and a pipettor, which I guess now is an embarrassing question to ask when you’re a rep responsible for millions of dollars in sales on an annual basis. But I learned a lot from the job, I learned that there were no silly questions. I really enjoyed that job.
I was responsible, I sold to scientists. Scientists that were doing really important work, scientists that were studying cancer and vaccines. I really thought one day I would be in the lab and someone would say, Eureka, I solved cancer. That never happened.
While I was with VWR, I really had the opportunity to go back to school and get my Master’s in Business Administration. And really, that’s where I fell deeper in love with business. I just love the way that business can shape a society, create impact in communities. I really knew that I wanted to get on board.
So during the time that I was in school, I met my husband, he and I were set up on a blind date and it was probably the most uncomfortable experience of my entire life. It was a college professor of mine, and she asked to see me after class, and I was like, oh, geez, the whole time she was talking about to me, I thought she was talking to me about a paper I had written. And she got to the end of her whole spiel and said can I give him your phone number? And I was like, what?

Carol: Oh, my goodness.

Paige: I was like what are you talking about? She was like, can I give my personal trainer your phone number? And I just like wanted to die. I wanted to like crawl back into my body and die.

Carol: Awkward.

Paige: I could die. And I was like, sure, fine, whatever and I sprinted out of there. I was really hesitant, like I was a serious nerdy student, I had a lot of ideas about what a personal trainer was, like I thought he wasn’t going to have any neck. All he did for a living was count reps for people, tell people to run faster on the treadmill. And that it was kind of all about the way that you looked.
But I was really wrong. So that professor like hunted both of us down, like he wasn’t really, he was also like a very professional personal trainer, like didn’t want his client setting him up with a blind date with one of her students. Like, how awkward is that?
So really, for like three months, she was trying to get us together, which is really wild.

Carol: That’s hilarious. She was determined. Like she just knew you were a good match. Right?

Paige: Yeah. I mean, I really believe that everything happens for a reason. So it was just incredible. So three months of this, we both are like dodging it. I remember we had one date set up and he called me to cancel. And his excuse was, I’m sorry, unfortunately, I’m unavailable. And I was like, sweet, okay. Bye.
But then that professor, I’ll never forget, she emailed both of us. We still have the email, she emailed me and copied Mike and said something like, Dear Paige, I don’t understand what the problem is. Is transportation an issue? “If so, would you like for me to arrange for a formal introduction?”

Carol: Oh my gosh.

Paige: I was like, this lady’s not going to give up, I like need to meet him. So we met and that was really it for us. Like it was pretty incredible.
And so through Mike, I became really inspired. I learned about how he was creating positive impact in people’s lives. So it wasn’t about counting reps. It wasn’t about how you looked. It was really about living the life of your dreams and having the energy to pursue the things and enjoy that pursuit of the things that really set you on fire.
So from there, I really knew that it was something that I wanted to get behind.

Carol: Very, very cool. So you knew you wanted to get behind this. At the time, Mike is your husband, yes. Mike was a personal trainer. Was he working at another fitness center?

Paige: He was. Yes.

Carol: Great. And how did you come to the decision that maybe he should open his own? Were you influential in making that happen?

Paige: This is hilarious. And the way that my husband tells the story is, yes. So at the time, he was an independent contractor, he was very well respected in our community, had a lot of clients, but really was working like five o’clock in the morning, which means he was at the gym at 4:30 until like seven o’clock at night, which was great. He was happy. I think he would have done that for the rest of his career, because he was making an impact in people’s lives. I think I had a bigger idea for what he could do.
And so the funny thing is, if you ask Mike that question, he says, anytime we were driving around Bangor, anytime I saw a for lease sign, I’d be like, that’s the place. It’s going to happen. That’s where you’re going to open your own gym. Like it didn’t matter. Like if it was a lawn mowing shop or a grocery store, 20,000 square feet, 400 square feet.

Carol: Anywhere, whatever it was, you’re like-

Paige: I’m like that’s it.

Carol: That’s so funny. Like he’s just got to do it.

J: So what was the moment or what was the turning point where you said, okay, now’s the time?

Paige: Yeah. So for him, like he just needed to decide that that was the thing that he was going to do. He did a lot of research, he went to a bunch of different facilities. And I think as soon as he started doing that, he could see that this is something that he could make work and he could do it even better.
So I remember the day, like he drove down to Portland to look at a couple training facilities, because I was like pushing him to do it. And he came back and he was like, yeah, I think we’re going to do this. And he wrote, I mean, still at the time, I was working full time in my corporate job. He wrote the business plan, I remember we were on a vacation, writing the business plan.
And so I think if you’re asking like what the moment was, I think it just takes the right timing and then deciding that you can do it. And you can probably do it better than anybody else.

J: That’s awesome. And so that business plan from the beginning, was this a venture that the two of you were going to do together? Or was he going to do it and you were going to continue doing your full-time job? Where did the division of responsibilities kind of shake out at the beginning?

Paige: Yeah, so this was before kids. So I was doing my full-time job, probably working 60 hours a week for VWR. And then in all my spare time, I was doing all the marketing and helping with the business plan, and supporting the business that way.
In the beginning, like all we did was work and we just loved it. And my goal, our goal was that I would come on board in the business full time at the five year mark, because most businesses fail in the first five years, and I wanted to make sure that it was going to be a sure thing.

Carol: Awesome. So back in the very beginning, when he did finally decide it was time to go both feet in, just make this really happen, did he even have clients? Where did your first people come from? How many were there, who were there?

Paige: So he had 30 private training clients at the time. And they all fortunately followed him to our new space, our new business and that was incredible. But it was kind of interesting. So we ended up with 4,000 square feet of gym space, which is pretty significant space wise for a functional training facility. So it was literally just like Mike Wilcox, our dog, Oliver, who’s a golden doodle, and a few pieces of functional training equipment and that was really the start. And really, we couldn’t have been happier at that time.

J: That’s awesome. And there are three things that stick out in this story that I really like, One, a lot of businesses, especially when it comes to couples or married couples, I found that it’s often great when one is kind of the tactician, that has the skills inside the business. The other one has more of the overall business skills and the business background. It sounds like you two had a really good split there. He really knew the training business well and you had the business background.

Paige: Yeah, absolutely. And Mike really just has an interesting a vision for our business. So like the vision for how he wants to help people, and the vision for how he wants to train people. And like you said, I really feel like our business had such an unfair advantage.
So I said that our goal was that I would come on board full time at the five year mark. It was Mike’s turn to start pushing me, he started pushing me the three year mark to come on board. Business was great. He was really doing a very good job. But I mean, he was doing everything right. Like he was cleaning the gym, he was handling new client acquisition, he was training the people, he was training the trainers.
And so at the three year mark, it was probably the scariest decision that I ever made, jumping into the business, but the best decision.

J: I can imagine. But the second point there, that you guys, it seems like you really like did things the right way is you kept your job for three years. So you had a secondary source of income. So it was kind of a backup plan and there’s nothing wrong with jumping in with two feet and kind of taking the plunge. But it’s always nice like to have a backup plan, when you never know what’s going to happen.

Paige: Yeah, it was really nice to know. I mean, I’m a numbers person, I like to run the numbers but like if he never got another client or if he lost all of our clients, like my salary would be able to pay for the business. So that was a really great feeling.

J: And then the third thing that kind of resonated with me is that you guys didn’t really start from scratch. I think this is a really important point, anybody out there that’s starting a business, you didn’t kick off the business until he already had, you said 30 personal training clients, kind of in his back pocket that he could start with.
So on day one, it wasn’t like, okay, open the doors and wait for people to walk in. You had some pretty certain income in the early stages. So you had something to build on and you didn’t really open the doors until you knew you had that income in your back pocket to get started, and a little bit of a name for yourself. So that’s great. I love that.

Paige: Exactly. Yeah, absolutely.

Carol: Very cool. So you started with those 30 clients, but then you’re talking about how it was just three years in that it was time for you to join the business full time. So I would assume that in those three years, that something must have shifted to attract and retain more customers and clients. So what was your business model kind of in the beginning? And how did that morph over time to grow your business so rapidly?

Paige: That’s a great question. So in the beginning, our business model was the traditional personal training business model, which is pay for service, basically. More of a drop in type training model. So you sign up with a personal trainer and it’s just like in the industry now, it’s just so fuzzy, like most personal trainers know what it takes for you to get great results. But most personal trainers don’t set up contracts or agreements designed to hold you accountable and help you get great results.
So we went through a period of transition before I joined the business, it was probably the most difficult year of our life in 2014. We had our son and we flipped our business model. It was the best thing we could have done, but probably one of the most difficult years of our life.
So backing up, Mike had started this group training program. So like nine bootcamp training sessions per week. And as the business chick, like I thought it was awesome. Like it was $10 a session, sometimes 60 people would show up, and I’m like doing the math. And I’m like, I like this business, what are you talking about?
But really, for Mike, he didn’t want to be in that type of business. Even though I thought it was awesome financially making $600 in an hour, he didn’t feel like he was helping people. And really Mike’s mission in life is to help people live better lives. And he couldn’t do that, when he didn’t know who was coming, when people were not consistent. There was such a disconnect between our model and the results and the impact that Mike wanted to create in the world.
So we completely flipped the model around. And we flipped it into a model where our clients need to sign on for longer term commitments with us, three, six or 12 month training program commitment lengths, and the minimum number of times that we will train people on a weekly basis is twice.

Carol: Oh, wow.

Paige: Yeah, the sweet spot for getting great results in our training program is three sessions a week, because they’re really efficient. But we’re all about, every decision that we make in our business is to set the client up for success. And so we went through that period of reorganizing our business. And as you can imagine, like not everybody was super pumped about it. But it was really the best thing that we ever did.
And having that commitment, and then all of a sudden, people were getting much better results. So word of mouth was wild, we were getting really great results for people and helping a lot of people that way. So having those commitments in place helped me feel a lot more confident and comfortable to join the business at the three year mark.

J: So from a marketing perspective, how did you sell this change to your clients? Did you have to do different marketing? I mean, did you have to put together a pitch? What did it take?

Paige: So I wasn’t fully involved in the business at the time. But I remember we wrote a letter to our clients, and emailed it out to them. And looking back, like that email was way too long. It was probably like three pages long of an email with all of the reasons that we are changing our business model, and how much better it was going to be with these commitments.
And I’m sure like clients looking at it then, I’d love to hear from people, that’s a great idea to ask, were like, geez, Paige and Mike like, you don’t need to be selling this so hard. Like just tell me what you’re doing. And then poor Mike, I was on maternity leave, we had a new baby at home. And poor Mike was leaving for the gym at 4:30 in the morning, every morning, and not getting home until like after 8:00 at night, because he was setting up meetings to listen to people who were really upset that they couldn’t just slap their $10 down on the front desk anymore to come train with us.

Carol: Sure, sure. So you flipped this whole business model around. You’d mentioned very, I kind of want to go to the progression of the numbers of people that you’ve got through all these transitions too. So you started with the 30. Right around this time when you were doing this big business model switch, how many people about had you grown to, how many clients had you grown to?

Paige: That’s a great question. And we went from 30 definite private training clients. And then when we went to, before we switched our business model, we wouldn’t really say that we had clients at that time. So we could probably get a number on the number of private clients, but we didn’t really feel like these were our clients. We just felt like these were people that stopped in to train with us once in a while.

Carol: No wonder. Yeah.

Paige: So I’d say hundreds, maybe 300 or 400 contacts, but people could come and train that slapped $10 down on the desk, and might not see them again for a month. And the big deal with our training style is it’s all about coaching. So proper form and technique. So there were some people that were very consistent, and they were making progress. But our poor coaches had to make sure that the guy that hadn’t been in, in six weeks wasn’t going to kill himself in the squat or the lunge or the training session.
So it was really taking away from the progression that the committed clients were working towards. And that was one of the things that really killed Mike and our trainer team.

Carol: Understandable. Yeah. And it sounds like, by going to the group training model, it’s more of a customer type of mindset, versus a client type of mindset, which as you’re talking through this, it really just sheds light on the whole thing that in order to do two things, to really accomplish the mission that Mike had from the beginning to really change people’s lives, like that is accomplished. And like you said, by fostering those relationships, building that consistency, it’s going to grow the business and the numbers and so on as well. So that was a great decision all the way around.

Paige: Exactly. Yeah. So I think that at the time that I joined the business at the three year mark in our business, we’re going on seven years, we had about 173.

Carol: This is 2015?

Paige: 2015. Yes.

Carol: So three years in, 2015. Got it.

Paige: Yes.

J: And so I know a large part of your model these days, so that you built over the last several years has been putting in place systems, processes, methodologies, that has allowed you guys to essentially put your business, I don’t want to say on autopilot, but has allowed you guys to kind of extract yourself from the day to day.
It sounds like early on, I mean, Mike was there at 4:30 in the morning, 5:30 in the morning, but over the last couple years, you’ve done a whole lot to kind of extract yourself from that day to day piece of the business. Can you talk a little bit about the things you’ve done, and what your goals were with putting these systems in place?

Paige: Absolutely. And I think that it’s always client first. So in our business, we’re obsessed with the client experience. So we think through every phase of a new client joining us, and we know that joining a gym is intimidating for a lot of people and our target market is busy professionals. These are people that are normally very confident in their day to day life.
So in terms of automation, we invested heavily in a platform called Infusionsoft. It’s our CRM, customer relationship management tool. And we call that marketing automation. So we do a lot to provide value for free. So you’ll see if you follow us on social media, you’ll see every month we’re putting out a new resource guide.
This last month, it was all about destressing your life, we called that our unplug guide. This coming month, it’s all about upgrading your order in the coffee house. So healthier options and things that you can make at home, to save yourself money too.
And we also have a quick start guide, which is a program to get you started, in terms of healthy living on your own. We go live, we talk about healthy habits to anybody that will listen to us. But really, it’s all about developing the know, like and trust and providing lot of value on the front end.
And then once we get people on our email list, that’s when the automation starts. It’s like a marketing machine there. I have systems and campaigns in place to help develop the know, like, trust, always trying to drive people towards scheduling a no obligation free phone call with us, to see if it would be the right fit to help them reach their health and fitness goals.
So, yeah, we really got to the point where, I mean, I just dove deep into marketing automation, which is amazing. I got to the point where I was like, okay, well, like, I’ve got an administrative assistant that can handle the day-to-day things. And everything’s on autopilot here. I mean, that’s not to say that there’s still a lot of work to do to keep that machine going and to keep the leads coming in.
But at that point, Mike and I could have really chilled. We could have just enjoyed our business in Bangor and made a really great impact in our community. And just kind of like, I don’t know, chill, like had a fun life. But for us, it’s about making an impact in the community and making a greater impact in the world, too.
So we spent about a year figuring out what the next step would be for our business. And we evaluated a bunch of different options and decided that franchising would be the best thing for us.

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We all kind of have an idea of what franchising is, I think. We all know the term but from a more specific or detailed level, can you talk to us about what franchising is and what exactly you are going to try and do?

Paige: Yeah, and I have a Master’s in Business and Administration, I never considered franchising as an option for our business until we started evaluating our options. But really, franchising is providing the business model, coaching, support and marketing implementation to help somebody else be really successful.
I think that’s what was so appealing to Mike and I, is that we’d be able to support other entrepreneurs in their own community and help them make an impact in their community. I think it’s really cool for Mike, he’s been a coach like his entire career, and to be able to translate those coaching skills from the training floor into being a business coach for other local entrepreneurs has been really incredible.

J: So basically, what you’re doing is you’re taking your brand, you’re taking your name, you’re taking your systems, your processes, you’re taking your business model, and basically your business guide, like some process guide, and you’re giving it to somebody else, and you’re saying go do your own thing that kind of replicates what we’ve already created. But you get to keep most of the money, you pay us. I assume they’re paying you a monthly franchise fee.

Paige: Royalty.

J: Okay, a monthly royalty. And so you expand the brand, but other entrepreneurs get to start their own business, that’s kind of turnkey and done for them. And then you get paid a monthly fee to kind of, I assume you still do some marketing for them. You still do some branding for them. You still do some advertising for them, et cetera.

Paige: Yes, that’s absolutely right.

J: Okay. And so when you decided to franchise, was your thought, okay, we’re going to franchise another one in the same town, or we’re going to go a town over, or we’re going to go to a different state? How big was your original goal for franchising?

Paige: Yeah, that’s a great question. So should we back up and let me tell you kind of what we were looking at and why we chose franchising?

J: Oh, yeah.

Carol: That would be excellent.

Paige: So we spent an entire year looking at the different options. The first thing and really for us, it’s about making more of an impact. So the first thing that we looked at was going wider in Bangor. So taking what we had in Bangor, buying a property, more square footage, adding on acupuncture and massage therapists and physical therapy, a meal service, like going really wide that way.
Then the next thing that we looked at was online training, online training programs. And then the last thing that we looked at was additional locations geographically. And under that category, we looked at company owned locations. We looked at licensing and we looked at franchising.
And franchising probably was the most difficult option we could have chosen. Franchising is regulated by the Federal Trade Commission, I needed to do this big huge search to find an attorney that could actually write a franchise agreement with me, versus just represent a franchisee.
But we chose franchising, because we really felt like it was the way that we were going to be able to make the most impact, and have the most control over our systems and processes. We could have licensed probably a lot easier, but that would have been just like, here’s the tools and resources, use it if you want. Franchising is more like, here’s the tools and resources, we know that this is going to set you up for success, and you must use them.

J: Got it.

Carol: Okay, so I’m loving that there are all of these different options that you identified, all these different ways you could possibly expand your business, and that you’re digging into them and researching them to determine, which would ultimately be the best one for your business. So can you talk to us a little bit more Paige about how you went about that research, who you spoke with, who you visited, what you did to reach the right decision?

Paige: Yeah, so we were part of a program called the Top Gun Program here in Bangor, Maine, it was a program that was run, I think, in collaboration with the University of Maine, and something called Upstart Maine. And I think it’s unique to Maine, but I’m confident that these programs exist around the US and the world.
And it was just an amazing program. I’ve really every year tried to be involved in some sort of program like that. I’ve done the Emerging Leaders Program, Top Gun and just applied for a New Leaders Council program. And these are all programs that are free to join, right in your community, free or for a very nominal cost.
And it was just amazing. So it was every Thursday night, we met and it was a different topic and there were different subject area experts. So attorneys, bankers, and so we were able to kind of explain what it is we were thinking about and get their advice, based on their experience.

Carol: That is great. So you’re really resourceful in just reaching out to the community with programs that were in existence. And like you said, this was free, and it didn’t even cost anything. So there was just a wealth of knowledge at your fingertips, you just had to be willing to go and get it.

Paige: Exactly, exactly.

J: It’s amazing. I think a lot of small business owners don’t realize that there’s so many resources. And if nothing else, I mean, just going on to like meetup.com and finding small business groups where you can network with other entrepreneurs, and discuss things like this. Because there’s so many people out there that probably never would have thought of franchising, never would have thought of licensing.
And you talk to one or two other people that have already done this, and it really seeds new ideas and can help you grow your business in ways that you really, you don’t know what you don’t knowuntil you talk to other people. So that’s fantastic.

Paige: Yeah, absolutely. And I will tell you that not everybody was encouraging us to franchise. I talked to a lot of attorneys that were really pushing the licensing or pushing the joint venture, but Mike and I really, like we knew in our gut that we had something really good. And we really only wanted to do the agreement once, and we wanted to do it the right way the first time.
So that’s why, I mean, so even if somebody is telling you to go against your gut, I’d say definitely go with your gut, because franchising has been really incredible for us.

Carol: That is wonderful. So how did you go about the process of franchising? Like how long did that process take and what’s involved to make that happen?

Paige: Literally, an entire year. So a Franchise Disclosure Document has 23 different items, it’s laid out a very particular way. And so you need to make decisions on every single item. So as a good MBA student that I was, I did a benchmarking experiment or whatever you want to call it, where I found the Franchise Disclosure Documents of fitness businesses that I would aspire to be like, or not like. I think there were eight that I analyzed.
And so the stack of papers, literally, it’s like 300 pages per Franchise Disclosure Document. And I read every single one, made a nice little Excel spreadsheet for myself for each item and kind of positioned each company that I was benchmarking against what they did, and then made decisions for how I wanted to structure our business from there.

J: That’s great. And so once you had that vision for franchising, obviously, the next step is to go out and find somebody that actually wants to start a franchise of your business. So how did you do that?

Paige: So for us, I mean, I’m so fortunate, like that was probably the easiest part of this entire experience.

Carol: How awesome was that.

Paige: Yeah, no kidding. So there was a woman that I worked with at VWR and we’d stayed in touch, we’re good friends. And I remember, I’ll never forget, we were in Brunswick, Maine, which is where she lives and where her location is now. And we were on a walk and she was asking me, well, you guys are doing amazing things. I had just come back from visiting my brother in India and she was like, so what’s next for you?
And I told her that we were going to franchise the business. I hadn’t done any benchmarking, I hadn’t done anything. I didn’t really know much about franchising at the time. But she said, I want to be your first franchisee.

J: Wow.

Carol: That’s so cool.

Paige: And I was like, okay, really? I was like, whatever. Like kind of thought it was just a passing comment, but she was absolutely on board with us.

J: So how does that work? Do you kind of give her everything and say go find a location and go kind of do everything yourself? Or is it a collaboration where you say, we’re going to hold your hand and we’re going to help you get set up? What does that look like?

Paige: It’s definitely a collaboration and I think the value that we provided her in being the first franchisee is that we are with her every single step of the way. So she’s done an incredible job. Her name is Allison. And she’s really done all of the legwork, but we did go and see the locations with her and give her coaching.
In the Franchise Disclosure Document, there certain specifications for like the territory, the population demographics, the psychographics. And then technically, the way that it would work is she would choose her location or the franchisee would choose their location and ask us for our approval of the location. But we were quite a bit more hands on in the early phases, of course. So looking at the space with her and choosing it from there.

Carol: That’s cool. And when did Allison’s space open?

Paige: So we finished, this is kind of fun. So I was pregnant with our daughter the whole entire year that we were writing the Franchise Disclosure Document. I remember like getting up at four o’clock in the morning, communicating with the attorney, I was starting to have some contractions. December 17th, we finished the Franchise Disclosure Document and December 22nd, our baby girl arrived.

Carol: Oh my gosh, that is an awesome week right there.

Paige: It was a pretty great week.

J: Was that 2017 or ’18?

Paige: 2017.

J: Got it.

Carol: At the very end of the year, 2017. Was your goal to be done by December 31? You got done on December 17th and then had your baby four days later.

Paige: Exactly. Yes. Yeah. So that was pretty cool. And then it was really neat, like was able to have a nice long maternity leave. I took like four months. I was home, pretty disconnected from the business. Mike was holding down the fort for us.
And then I came back and Allison had the paperwork and things were looking good. There were a few questions and she signed the agreement in the middle of June. I think June 17th. Yeah, so that was 2018. Was that right? Yeah. I said 2017, 2018.

Carol: That makes sense.

Paige: And then January of this year, 2019, we opened the Brunswick location.

J: Awesome. So you’re about 10 months into your first franchise location. How’s going so far?

Paige: It’s been amazing. Like Allison’s doing an incredible job, she absolutely is. We had set some soft goals just for her, in terms of number of clients that she wanted to get. And the goal was 100 like committed clients by the end of the year. And she was already at 80 by June. That’s pretty exciting. Yes.

Carol: That is really cool. And I think that’s just such a great testament to all the systems and processes, that you put in place when you came on board, right? And when you just made that commitment to just work on the business and not in the business and get all your marketing going. And she’s able to take all of those tools and resources and she’s doing what needs to happen, which is awesome. What’s next? What are your goals with the franchise?

Paige: Yeah, so you heard my sales process for the first franchisee, like didn’t exist. So I applied for a grant through Maine Technology Institute, which is really crazy that we got this grant, because Maine Technology Institute generally awards grants to people in biotech, like my old world, or advanced manufacturing, or really high elite tech companies.
But we were able to get this grant, because of the way that we used technology in a unique way in our business. So we got a great grant through the Maine Technology Institute and this is the first time in my business, I take a deep breath, that I’ve outsourced like a major component of what we do.
And so I have a team of consultants working on identifying who our ideal target market will be for franchising, so that once I start building funnels and marketing systems, I know who I’m talking to.

Carol: That is awesome.

J: That’s great. So I know that there are listeners out there that are starting businesses now that are probably thinking, okay, well, franchising is interesting, but that’s a long way off. I’m not even going to start thinking about that now because I have to get my business started.
But having talked to other franchisors in the past, would you agree that for anybody that’s even remotely considering thinking about franchising in the future, it’s best to start your business with that in mind?

Paige: Oh, geez, I think any business in general is going to benefit from somebody that is set up and organized to franchise eventually, even if you never do. I think my team sometimes makes fun of me, because I put everything in an SOP, like everything in my business.

J: Standard operating procedure.

Paige: Standard operating procedure is an SOP, the way we call clients, the way we talk to clients, the way we talk to a client if a client has missed a week, the way we run our promotions, the way we commercialize the content that we put out, everything is in an SOP. That way, I can step away from the business if I need to and somebody else can execute on that SOP.

J: So basically, from the very beginning, document everything, create processes around everything. And I found that in my business, like there’s so many things that I didn’t do that early on. And now, I go back, and like it’s tiring to try and document all these processes. If you do it from the beginning, not only do you get it done incrementally as you’re growing your business, but you also have the advantage of being able to use that in your business over time.

Paige: Exactly, get in the habit of documenting everything. When you’re developing a new process, you’re in it. So you might as well just write it out. And like you said, change things incrementally. It doesn’t mean that when you put something into an SOP, it’s how it’s going to be for the next 100 years. You put it into an SOP, and then you tweak it based on experience of how things work.

Carol: That’s awesome. I think it would really round out this whole growth story beautifully, you mentioned outsourcing this new initiative, you mentioned a couple of times your team, your administrative assistant. Can you tell us now, that you started back in 2012, Mike was running the show, you were kind of doing it in your spare time, you had 30 clients.
Now, how many clients do you have? What does your team, your structure, your organization look like? Just kind of you started at point A and where are you now as far as the number of people you’re impacting?

Paige: Absolutely. Okay. So we have 375 clients in two locations.

Carol: Awesome.

Paige: We have a team of nine and on a weekly basis, we train over 800 training sessions. So that’s 375 clients coming, they come kind of on an average of like two and a half times a week. So that’s how you get to the 800 training sessions completed.
And then we’re still a very lean team. Mike, through a lot of encouragement by me again, stepped away from training sessions. So from being the personal trainer in our business, when we franchised our business. And so his responsibility in our business now is to run our training program and develop tools and resources for the trainings in our system to be really successful.
And that was kind of an interesting experience, like Mike’s heart and soul is with training people. So he stepped away from training, he felt a little bit lost. And now he trains just Wednesday mornings, and that really inspires him and reinvigorates him. My role in our business is business development and marketing. I have an administrative assistant full time that works for me, assisting with all of those efforts.

J: Awesome.

Carol: Awesome.

J: Okay, so this is all fantastic. I know as a franchisor and being regulated by the FTC, you can’t really talk in tremendous detail about all of your numbers and your income and your revenue and all that sort of stuff. But can you give us an idea, how is your first franchisee coming along? Have they hit breakeven yet? Are they profitable yet? What’s that timeline look like for them, in terms of the numbers?

Paige: Yeah, that’s a great question. And our first franchisee is ahead of all of the targets that they’ve set for themselves, which is absolutely incredible. And they’re very close to hitting that breakeven point and we’re really proud of them and it’s very encouraging.

J: That’s awesome. It’s only been, what, nine or 10 months. So that’s great.

Paige: That’s right, 10 months. Yeah, it’s really incredible.

J: So how about you and your husband? I know that because you’ve worked so hard to kind of automate your business and create these systems and processes, do you have lifestyle freedom or do you find yourself-

Paige: Yeah, we do.

J: Oh, you do. So you don’t find yourself like basically in the business 10 hours a day anymore? What does your life look like?

Paige: That’s two questions, like I absolutely love work. Like if my husband left me, I mean, let me, I would work all day, every day, because I just love it. I think it’s important to love your work and find the work that you love doing, but balance is also important.
So I think the great thing about business is that you can design your business and live your life on your own terms. And really time freedom and location freedom are the two things that have been really important to Mike and I. So last year, we were able to travel with our two little kids. Last year, we had a four year old and a just turned one-year-old. And for five weeks, we took them to Costa Rica, and just had a lot of really amazing family time together there.

Carol: So cool.

Paige: And we plan on doing the same thing every year.

J: That’s awesome. Do you completely disconnect from work when you’re traveling or do you still have to check in?

Paige: We had franchisor business in January and we left for our trip in March. But it worked out great, it just worked out great. So what I did was, I mean, Mike was kind of off the hook, because he was the training side of what we did. I’m the business side of what we do.
So weakly, I had a two hour call with our franchisee from Costa Rica, which she was so great, she was so encouraging. She’s like it doesn’t matter to me if you’re talking to me in Bangor, which is two hours away, or Costa Rica, I’m still talking to you, which is great. So we had that two hour call.
And then I still needed to keep the wheels turning on marketing and make sure that my administrative assistant in our team back home had what they needed from us. But it really wasn’t a lot of time and I loved it. I’d get up at 5:00 before the kids would wake up and sit outside on our patio and do as much work until it was off to the races when the kids woke up around 7:00.
Yeah, I think for me, I don’t feel like I need to be disconnected from business. That’s not what this month away or the travel is all about. I love what I do in our business. It gives me energy, it gives me life. But I do think getting away and having that balance and having the time like to be all in with my kids is really important too.

Carol: Absolutely. And you’ve created something that enables you to do that.

Paige: Exactly.

Carol: It’s really about as good as it gets.

Paige: Yeah. Absolutely.

Carol: Wonderful. Well, thank you for sharing so much Paige This is great. So now we’d love to go to the segment of our show that’s called four more and it’s where we ask you for rapid fire style questions. You just give us the first answer that comes to mind. And then the more part, we’re going to give you an opportunity to tell us more about where we can find you and so on. Ready?

Paige: I’m excited. Let’s do it.

Carol: All right, J, you do the first one.

J: Okay, so question number one. What was your first or your worst, I’ll let you decide, job and what lessons did you take from it?

Paige: My first job was cleaning cottages with my grandmother in Rangeley, Maine when I was eight years old. I actually really enjoyed it. I learned that I like scrubbing toilets. I just love being with my grandmother. She was like one of my best friends growing up. That was great.

Carol: I love that.

Paige: Can I also give you my worst job?

Carol: Please.

J: If scrubbing toilets wasn’t your worst, I want to hear what your worst was.

Paige: My worst job was I started at a restaurant as a dishwasher. It’s not that it was the worst job, but I was terrible at it. So they promoted me to waitress.

Carol: That worked out beautifully. I love it. Paige, second question is what is the defining moment where you realized you had the entrepreneurial itch?

Paige: I don’t think there was a particular defining moment. I just always knew, like I always knew that I would own and run my own business. I always knew that I wanted to help people and make the world a better place.

J: Awesome. Okay, hindsight is 2020. What do you know now that you wish you would have known at the beginning?

Paige: I wish that I didn’t stress so much about the decision of joining our business. It was such a difficult time in my life, just like should I do it? Should I not do it? And as soon as I decided to go all in, it was really the best decision that I ever made.

Carol: Very cool. Okay, now my fourth and favorite one is what’s something you’ve splurged on the along the way, whether it’s in your personal life or in your business where it was entirely worth it?

Paige: So my husband had a client that had some camps for sale and he took us, we were not in the market at all. Like it was the year that I joined our business, we were supposed to be eating like ramen and beans. It was the year I joined our business and we went to look at these camps. And it was kind of like looking at a puppy. You don’t just go to look at a puppy.
And we bought this camp. It’s so cool. It’s on an island all by itself, in this lake in Maine, and it’s 20 minutes from our house. And we have had such amazing experiences and family memories there. It’s completely off the grid. So it’s been a lot of like learning how to deal with like solar and the bathroom and the water and it’s really cool.

Carol: That’s an awesome splurge. I love it.

J: That’s awesome. Okay, so that brings us to the more part of our four more, can you tell our listeners more about where they can contact you, where they can learn more about you, where they can get in touch with you?

Paige: Absolutely. Our website is willcoxwellnessfitness.com and you can find us on Facebook at Wilcox Wellness & Fitness and Instagram as Wilcox Wellness & Fitness.

J: Awesome. And right now they can join you if they’re in Maine, but it sounds like pretty soon they may be able to join you in other places as well.

Paige: That’s right. That’s right. We’re in Bangor, Maine and Brunswick, Maine currently, but we are looking to add new locations.

Carol: Very exciting. I love it. This has been so great, Paige. Thank you so much for joining us. We loved everything you’ve shared with us today.

Paige: Thank you so much. You guys made it a lot of fun. Thanks.

J: That was an awesome episode. So I love the fact that she knows what she wants out of life and she’s building a business that they can expand with other people. They put processes in place, so that they can travel for five weeks out of the year. That’s awesome.

Carol: It is really great. And I, of course, also love that she was the one who pushed him to start this business from the beginning. And she was the one who’s been driving it. She let him be the brawn of the business and she is the business mind behind the business, and she is running that show, and they’re doing a fantastic job together.

J: Yeah, a great story and great business and very inspiring for anybody out there that’s looking to grow your business, not just incrementally, but in big steps through franchising or licensing.

Carol: Yup, it was a really good one. I really wish they had a franchise down here. It’s so cool. What they’re doing is very inspiring.

J: Okay, are we good for today?

Carol: Let’s do it.

J: Okay, thank you, everybody. She’s Carol. I’m J.

Carol: Now go create the lifestyle you want today. Bye, everybody.

J: Thanks everyone.

Carol: Thank you.

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In This Episode We Cover:

  • How a blind date lead to marriage and a business!
  • The story behind their business
  • How to start a wellness business with your spouse
  • What was wrong with their initial business model
  • How they scaled up their business from 30 to over 100 clients and growing!
  • Shifting from customer type to client type mindset
  • Automation and marketing machines
  • What is franchising and what made them decide to go that route
  • Their first franchisee
  • How they put everything on SOP
  • And SO much more!

Links from the Show

Tweetable Topics:

  • “Business can shape a society, create impact, and form communities.” (Tweet This!)
  • “It’s always clients first.” (Tweet This!)
  • “Everything is in SOP.” (Tweet This!)

Books Mentioned in this Show

Connect with Paige