6 Lessons from Boutique Fitness Franchising

Being responsible for the supportt of fitness franchisees located all over the world, Ryan Koski has an abundance of experience and has learned many lessons. Here, he shares six of his key tips for anyone who owns or is considering owning a fitness franchise.

I’ve been involved in rapid growth within the BFT (Body Fit Training) fitness franchise network for 3+ years. When I started, there were 70 BFTs open in Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore. Today, there are 270+ studios across Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Spain and the UK. My roles and responsibilities within BFT ranged from on-the-ground direct support to existing and new franchisees; I helped support 20+ openings in 2021 alone. It then moved into growing and developing the education for BFT franchisees and the 1500+ BFT coaches in the network.

Lastly, I oversaw the on-the-ground support team of regional franchise managers (RFMs), which has doubled in the last 18 months. This resulted in me managing 12 RFMs across 9 time zones and 7 countries, supporting all 270+ open studios, and we’ve another 100 on their way. Here are some of the key lessons that I’ve learned during this time.

1. Owning your own business is f$%king hard

Just because you bought a franchise doesn’t mean they (Franchise HQ) will do all the work for you! It doesn’t matter if you own a billion-dollar hotel, the smallest coffee shop hole-in-the-wall, or a fitness franchise, owning a business consumes you. Success is not easy, but the harder you work, the more you will be rewarded – there is no doubt about it. So, put your head down and kick some goals! 

2. Follow the process

Entering a franchise network means that there have been learnings, successes and failures before you. So, what a franchisor teaches and expects of you is based not just on the expertise of the HQ team (i.e., years of experience), but also on the franchisees’ success before you. I use an analogy in BFT to highlight this: “We will teach you how to put two pickles in every cheeseburger. If you do that, you will be successful. The moment you think three pickles, no pickles, or a gherkin is better, is the moment your business will start to fail.” By all means, challenge the process and question ‘why?’, but you are being taught tried-and-tested ways to be successful… so follow the process!

3. Hire slowly, fire fast

​A toxic staff member or someone who thinks they know or can do it better can pose a risk to your business; similarly, staff members with a poor attitude can damage your members’ experiences. It’s important to set clear expectations for all staff, and ‘inspect what you expect’ (i.e., monitor their performance).

4. Be an inspiring leader

Being a good leader is a skill. People will follow and work hard for someone who gives them clear direction, supports and nurtures them, and who can provide constructive criticism. Work on your leadership as hard as you work on your deadlift, squat or bench press! 

5. Own your brand awareness

Your brand, no matter what fitness business you are in, starts inside the four walls of your studio or gym. The signage outside is important, but ultimately, what your members experience during your sessions will build your brand exponentially more than any brand awareness marketing campaign. Some of the most successful BFTs are in Australian and New Zealand regional areas, where the coaching, community and member experience drive more members through the door than anything else.  

6. It isn't different in your area!

How often has a franchisee tried to tell me that “it is different here in my area.” The success of a boutique fitness business revolves around three key fundamentals: getting people in (driving leads, and making sales); delivering an awesome member experience with a high level of coaching (getting the right people); and driving your in-studio community (retention). 

The secret sauce to doing this will be in the processes and learnings the other studios before you have done. These fitness business staples of success exist worldwide – your area or region is no different. After helping open studios that were first to market (new countries), in busy markets (Singapore), and in regional markets, I can categorically say it isn’t different in your region! Finally, this phrase often comes up when a studio is not following the process taught to them by the franchisor and, as such, is struggling and trying to reinvent the process rather than holding themselves and their staff to account.

In conclusion…

Navigating the terrain of boutique fitness franchising demands resilience, dedication, and a commitment to excellence. Through my journey with BFT, I’ve witnessed firsthand the triumphs and tribulations that come with owning and operating a fitness franchise. From the bustling streets of Singapore to the tranquil corners of regional Australia, the principles of success remain constant: hard work, adherence to proven processes, effective leadership, and an unwavering focus on delivering exceptional member experiences.

While challenges may arise, the rewards are plentiful for those who embrace the journey with determination and a willingness to learn. So, to all aspiring and current franchisees, remember: the path to success in the fitness industry may be challenging, but with the right mindset and approach, every hurdle becomes an opportunity for growth and achievement. Keep pushing, stay committed, and watch your franchise flourish amidst the dynamic landscape of boutique fitness.


Ryan Koski

Ryan was the General Manager – Franchise Performance and Education at BFT (Body Fit Training).