TODAY'S PAPER
58° Good Evening
58° Good Evening
Business

LI-based personal gym franchise faces challenges with growth

GYMGUYZ chief executive Josh York in his Plainview

GYMGUYZ chief executive Josh York in his Plainview office on Dec. 23, 2014. He started out as a personal trainer who made house calls and has expanded his business through franchising. Photo Credit: David L. Pokress

In 2008, sitting at his parents' New Hyde Park dining room table, Josh York sketched out a simple but ambitious plan: create a worldwide in-home personal training franchise.

Eight years later, Plainview-based GYMGUYZ, which brings trainers and equipment to your home or office, boasts 1,250 clients, including 900 on Long Island and another 350 through its franchisees in Westchester; Peachtree, Georgia; and Overland Park, Kansas.

The company was singled out in June by TheStreet.com as among the 10 hottest new franchises to invest in.

Along the way, York faced the challenge of his changing role in the company, going from personal trainer to CEO. He had to detach from direct relationships with loyal clients and trust others to be the face of his business, a task experts say requires careful navigation.

GROWING COMPANY

The company, including franchisees, now has a staff of more than 30, including 20 coaches and a fleet of 21 red vans. It will be moving its headquarters in February to a 3,100-square-foot office on Dupont Street in Plainview, a space almost quadruple the size of its current Plainview location. And next are plans to nail down franchise deals to cover territories in Boston, the Carolinas, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey and Texas.

GYMGUYZ offers bargains. Corporate classes can be as low as $10 per person. For individuals, it's $95 an hour for pay-as-you-go single sessions, but most clients buy into tier packages of 10-100 sessions, which can bring the cost down to $69-$88 a session. GYMGUYZ also has 10-session deals for two to five people at $40-$60 person.

None of the success is a surprise to York, 31, of Plainview, who says he envisioned the whole thing from the start. "I'm all about visioning," he says. "Everything that I've foreseen."

Extrasensory abilities aside, hurdles naturally arose as the business grew.

York's expansion plans, which required him to increasingly pull away from training to focus on running the business, brought the risk of losing existing clients, some of whom had worked with him for years.

At first, "They all told me the same thing: 'I will never, ever work with anyone else but you,' " said York, who worked as a personal trainer in Great Neck for more than four years before starting GYMGUYZ.

To succeed in keeping those clients, Walter Reid, a business adviser at the Small Business Development Center at Farmingdale State College, said it was crucial for the company to have a "very calculated transition of the client to accept that new trainer."

York gradually shifted his client base to new trainers and relied on the company's "three Cs" -- convenient, customized and creative approaches to training — to serve as the foundation to keep customers coming back. "We provide a whole experience and atmosphere to our customers" that he says remains consistent from coach to coach. GYMGUYZ's first client is still a customer, York said.

Reid, who meets with seven to 10 people a month looking to start as personal trainers, said it's important for entrepreneurs like York in growing businesses to transition from micromanaging to macromanaging, something that can be difficult for people who have been in the trenches for so long.

"Basically, he has to clone himself. He has to establish a common corporate culture. People have to be on the same boat going in the same direction."

Judith Tyne, associate director of the Scott Skodnek Business Development Center at Hofstra University, said that starts with planning. She advises clients to create job descriptions for everyone in the company that clearly lay out their responsibilities. That makes it easier for entrepreneurs to delegate.

EMPOWERING EMPLOYEES

York admitted it was difficult at first to let go of certain responsibilities, even something as simple as answering the phone. "But there has to be a point when you let go, or you won't move forward."

With the company's move to franchising, setting up the proper management team was critical. York says he now has an "A-plus-plus staff," and he's looking to add more people.

York, who hasn't trained clients in nearly three years, said he empowers his team to make decisions. "They know me very well. They know how I handle situations and I let them handle situations. If they have to come to me, they do." All the while, York has his mind set on the original goal.

"People will say, 'Wow, GYMGUYZ has become so successful.' And I'll always say, 'Not until we're worldwide.' "

AT A GLANCE

NAME: GYMGUYZ in Plainview

FOUNDER AND CEO: Josh York

ESTABLISHED: 2008

EMPLOYEES: 30-plus; 19 on Long Island

PRODUCT: In-home personal training

2014 REVENUE: $1.8 million, projected

STARTUP FRANCHISEE INVESTMENT: $60,675 to $105,250

More news