Innovating is a required element of sustained success for any business. Adapting to changing consumer demand allows a business to remain relevant as trends change. Innovation also has risks, as executives and businesses can “chase trends” that take their eye off the business’ core competencies.
Running a national gym chain, I often get asked about our approach to innovation. Our basketball-focused fitness clubs are recognized as the premier spot for basketball enthusiasts, and our franchise program receives hundreds of inquiries each month from individuals looking to open one of our gyms in their community. This success can be directly attributed to our track record of innovation.
Ten years ago, PickUp USA Fitness had one service offering – PickUp basketball with referees for adults. Today, our clubs still offer this original service that put us on the map, but now we are a full-service, one-stop basketball shop that also offers group basketball training, private basketball training, tournaments, leagues, camps, full fitness rooms, and much more. All these services are available for youth and adults.
At some point, these services were just ideas. Now they are fabrics of our business. How did we go from the idea phase to implementing these core offerings? Each one involved a very deliberate approach.
Before talking about our innovation approach, I want to discuss the key players involved in these innovations – our franchisees! I would love to take credit for bringing these services to life, but the truth is that almost all our innovation comes from our stores.
Our franchise owners are in the mix every day running their clubs and interacting with customers. Through these interactions, ideas for new services arise. PickUp USA franchisees are credited with almost every service that you see on our current menu. We embrace a culture of innovating and trying new things. If it works, great – we add it to that club’s menu, and sometimes roll it out nationwide. If not, no problem – lessons were learned that we can apply to future projects.
Allowing our franchise owners to be entrepreneurial and creative is one reason that we have such high levels of franchisee satisfaction. People that franchise with us get to experiment with services at their club while tapping the massive resources of the franchisor to ensure their pilot projects have the best chance at success.
Back to our innovation approach. When a franchise owner presents us with an idea, we put a lot of resources behind it to help measure the potential economics of the initiative. This includes financial modeling with our finance team, a marketing analysis with our marketing team, and reviewing how it will be implemented with our operations team. If, after the initial analysis, the franchise owners feels like it is a good fit for their club, we move to the pilot phase.
During the pilot phase, our corporate team works hand-in-hand with the franchise owner to bring the program to life. We create a marketing plan, an outreach plan, a suggested staffing model, and an operations playbook. Just because it is a pilot doesn’t mean that the expectations for quality are diminished. PickUp USA customers have high expectations for our gyms, and we ensure that every service offered, even pilots, is delivered in world-class fashion.
After the planning phase, which typically lasts 4-6 weeks, we begin to market the pilot. This is where the horsepower of the brand comes in. We market the pilot at the local level, but we also put many of our national resources behind it. This includes content creation from our in-house marketing team and our Content Production Manager, as well as promotion on our national social media feeds.
After a 3-4 week marketing push, the pilot launches. A typical pilot lasts between 6-8 weeks. At the conclusion of this period, we measure results. Did it meet the threshold that the franchise owner initially established to add the pilot as a permanent menu item? If yes, it gets added to the menu. If not, are there adjustments that can be made to improve the results. If yes, we make those revisions and continue the pilot. If not, we discontinue the pilot.
This process is ongoing at PickUp USA clubs across the country. Successful pilots are added as menu items at the club that initiated the program, and some are rolled out regionally and nationally. “Failed” pilots provide key data points for us to use as we look at future innovations.
When speaking with our franchise owners, one of the main types of feedback we get is that they love how they are able to innovate. While PickUp USA is an established brand that has been operating for over ten-years, we very much embrace a “start-up” style culture that encourages risk-taking and innovation. Opening a PickUp USA isn’t “our way or the highway.” It’s quite the opposite. When you go through our training program prior to opening your club, we’re going to teach you ten years’ worth of knowledge that we’ve built and provide you with ten years’ worth of systems that we’ve developed. After you launch, we want you to take what you’ve learned and go try new things in your market.
With proven menu items, our club owners have the foundation of a business with no guess work. This foundation allows them to try new services.
With a deliberate approach to innovating, coupled with an entrepreneurial culture, an organization can innovate while staying true to the brand’s principles.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jordan Meinster is the CEO and Founder of PickUp USA Fitness. Jordan has a BA in Economics from Fort Lewis College in Durango, CO, and an MBA from The University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Jordan started the first PickUp USA in Irwindale, CA in 2012 and now oversees multiple corporate locations as well as all franchisor operations. www.pickupusafitness.com