Monday, January 01, 2007

How To Run A Multimillion Dollar Massage Franchise

David and Anne Glover, 48 and 46, respectively, recently opened their fourth Massage Envy establishment in Houston.

Beginnings: The Glovers met when they were both working at the accounting firm Arthur Andersen in the early 1980s. David and Anne fell in love, got married, had two children and assumed the traditional roles of married life. David eventually became part owner of a commercial real estate investment firm, while Anne was the primary caregiver for their children. She calls herself “the volunteer champion of the world--school, community, church, junior league. I enjoyed orchestrating high-level events. It was good practice for organizing multiple franchises.”

When David retired from his business in his 40s, he didn’t want to retire for good, so he and Anne looked into purchasing a franchise. “We could have gone into real estate, but the prices were so outrageous,” says David, “and we wanted to have a business that had cash flow right away--something that was a quick startup.”

Next Steps: “We went through business brokers,” says Anne, “and looked at a lot of franchises, some that were brand new and others that were kind of scary.” In their case, scary did not necessarily mean bad. Anne had been interested in a sandwich franchise, but once she saw all the food inventory and thought about having teenage employees, she changed her mind. The couple considered a gym franchise but figured it would be clobbered by bigger gym and fitness center franchises, and then they considered a tutoring center. “But we would have gone head-to-head with [competing] learning centers,” Anne points out. “I kept thinking, ‘Where is the niche?’”

They had similar feelings about a hair salon franchise they were considering. “It wasn’t a new business concept or model,” says David. “Basically, people are already getting their hair cut somewhere.”

Then they found out about Massage Envy, a massage clinic that operates similar to a gym--customers pay a monthly membership fee and make regular appointments or impromptu ones, usually getting massages the same day they request them, which is a rare occurrence in the industry.

Some risk-averse people would run, of course. It’s still a fairly new business, but the Glovers liked that aspect of it. “It was the only game in town,” says Anne.

And it has certainly worked out. Their three initial Massage Envy establishments alone bring in nearly $3.6 million a year.

Getting the Digits: The benefits of massages are not what the Glovers have to sell people on. The idea that the average person can afford to get massages routinely is. So, they were a little nervous about whether the numbers were there: Were there enough people clamoring for massages to make a full-fledged business out of it? “That was something we had to weigh carefully,” Anne says. “Do we want to get in on this young franchise? And we were jumping into the highest-rent district in Houston.”

But it’s in the high-rent districts that a massage franchise is likely to do well, and after a visit to the company headquarters in Scottsdale, Arizona, where they looked at figures such as the number of customers and the number of massages given every month, Anne and David were convinced the numbers were there. Says Anne, “We thought, ‘This is almost too good to be true.’ So we went with the assumption tha if we build it, they will come.”

And they did.

Of course, there’s also something to be said for running a franchise where you can get your own massage whenever you please. It may be the most relaxing sort of business you could ever own.

What No One Ever Tells You About Franchising: Real-Life Franchising Advice from 101 Successful Franchisors and Franchisees