Mar/Apr 2017

Pillar of Strength

When Steve Collette, Founder of 3rd Degree Training | Actual Nutrition, thinks back on what motivated his entry into the franchising industry, he says it all started with a lifestyle change. “My wife and I used to lead quite an unhealthy lifestyle back in our mid-to-late twenties, and then we decided to clean up our act and try to get healthier. The whole thing started as more of a personal journey than a professional one,” he recalls. “We started to get educated in fitness and nutrition, and began to debunk some of the myths that play on insecurities in this industry.”

The franchise has come a long way, from a business servicing about eight clients to a healthy system with five bustling units across the Maritime provinces. “I used to train a lot of my clients at a local gym, and then we did some outdoor classes,” says Collette. “It grew from there, and word of mouth travelled around that we weren’t limited to the elite athlete market or the bodybuilder market; our focus is everyday people. It just snowballed from there.”

His first franchisee was long-time client Cara Bauld, who had been attending Collette’s training program for many years. Collette approached her and her husband in 2013 about becoming franchisees, and they “jumped at the chance to be the first 3rd Degree Training | Actual Nutrition franchise.” The couple still owns that successful franchise location three years later.

Not your average fitness centre

The system’s current franchise model includes both 3rd Degree Training | Actual Nutrition, two different brands that franchisees purchase the rights to when they sign up. (All locations include both concepts, except for one standalone Actual Nutrition location.) While they offer various group classes and personal training options, “We are not a gym,” says Collette. “We’re kind of the anti-gym. Nothing that we do, from fitness classes to personal training, involves going at it on your own.” What sets them apart from other fitness centres is that they “don’t try to upsell the customer with all sorts of unnecessary services. Once you’re in, you have access to all of the classes.”

The most important characteristic of a potential 3rd Degree Training | Actual Nutrition franchisee is that they’re a people person, says Collette. “You have to love helping people. When people are having a stressful day, or they’re having their one hour of me-time, you have to give off a lot of energy. The ideal candidate has a really vibrant and outgoing personality, a really good outlook on life, and agrees that fitness and nutrition doesn’t really have to be that difficult – society has made it that way.”

As for a background in fitness and nutrition, “Having that education is a big asset, but the sciences can always be taught. The biggest asset is your personality, and you either have that or you don’t,” Collette explains.

Part of that winning personality is also the ability to take scientific concepts and explain them in a way that makes sense to people who may struggle with weight and exercise, and who may be exhausted from a long day at work. Of course, choosing a health and nutrition-based franchise isn’t a decision made at random. “When people are considering our franchise, it’s something that they’re already interested in,” says Collette. “Franchisees don’t necessarily have to be body builders or professional athletes, rather they have to embrace a healthy lifestyle and love fitness and health themselves. You’re not under a microscope, and no one is looking at your body fat percentage, but by all means you have to make sure that exercise and proper nutrition are the fundamentals that keep you going.”

Setting the stage for success

Collette is passionate about making sure that his franchisees have all the tools they need to succeed. “We do a lot of training and put a lot of time into our franchisees,” he says. “The business aspect of the franchise is very manageable – we’re not a large inventory-driven business with accounts receivable problems.”

But helping new franchises to learn how to manage cash flow and watch overhead is important. “We take them under our wing, and we’ve never had franchisees who haven’t turned a profit in the first year; they’ve all done extremely well,” Collette notes. Usually what happens is they spend a lot of time on location learning the ropes at an existing franchise. The length of training depends on the individual and their background, and could take anywhere from two weeks to six months.

As for ongoing support, Collette makes it a priority to be in constant communication with his franchisees. “If any one of my franchisees wants to speak with me, I’ll make time, and more often than not, it’s within a couple of hours,” he says. “We have some franchises that we speak to maybe five times a week, and some that we don’t hear from as much, but we’re always there checking in. The more successful they are, the more successful we are.”

Going forward, the system has a more qualitative approach to growth: instead of having a specific number of units to hit by a certain year, growth will be based on franchise fit and the suitability of the proposed location. “We won’t sacrifice quality for more locations,” says Collette. After opening up two new locations last year, and witnessing the amount of effort, time, and energy that went to into making each unit a success, Collette wants to make sure that each location gets the attention that it deserves. “We aren’t in any huge rush. We don’t need to saturate or water down the brand. It’s more about the fit of the franchisee and the quality of the new unit,” he says.

While a multi-unit deal is in the works for Halifax and Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, and new Saint John and Quispamsis-Rothesay, New Brunswick locations are set to open in 2017, “We’re happy with our growth as it is now, and we’ll take it as it comes,” says Collette. He’s excited to expand across Canada and to be able “to provide opportunities for energetic, driven individuals or groups of people to become franchisees and be able to make a living doing their absolute dream job.”

By Karen Stevens

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