Adventures in Franchise Recruitment: Ken Phipps from Gold’s Gym

It’s a given that everyone in franchise recruitment is busy… but we’re pretty sure Ken Phipps takes the cake. Ten days in Paris, two weeks in Ireland and the UK, a quick jaunt through Turkey… you know, standard stuff. And when the Director of Global Franchise Development for Gold’s Gym is stateside, it’s not unusual for him to lose sleep fielding international sales calls at midnight.

Luckily, we were able to get him to sit still and spill for 30 minutes!

Susan: You’ve worked with some big players in franchising: 7-11, Boston’s, now Gold’s Gym. What originally led you to franchising?

Ken: Yeah, I didn’t start small, did I? I actually stumbled into franchising by way of headhunter for an executive search firm. I did a bid to handle hiring for 7-11, exceeded expectations and was introduced to the head of franchising.

I made the switch to franchise recruitment which, really, wasn’t a whole lot different than headhunter recruitment in that you have to be 100 percent truthful and legally transparent. But it was a great environment and I learned a lot from a fantastic group of people.

From there, a 7-11 colleague brought me over to Boston’s where I helped them turn around sales in Mexico and the U.S. Then, I got a call from Gold’s Gym. The opportunity immediately resonated with me – I mean, I started working out there at age 20! I couldn’t pass it up.

S: Franchise sales tactics… DOs and DON’Ts?

K: I can only say so much and it’s all within the FDD, so I’d say a DO is to believe in the track record and playbook of your brand.

DO always be there every step of the way; if I don’t know the answer to a candidate’s question, I will not fill in with fluff; I’ll ask whomever I need to, in operations or any other department. Do what you say you’ll do and get back to them with answers; if you get behind you always maintain communication.

DON’T act like a used car salesman – whether the investment is 100K or 5 million, be straightforward and honest to the best of your legal ability so they can make the best of their lives. I’m impacting lives, and the day I forget that is the day I need to switch careers.

S: In your opinion, what are the top factors that impact franchise growth?

K: With existing franchisees, access to capital is number one. With gyms at 30,000–35,000 sq ft, Gold’s Gym is a very large investment – with a fair and equitable return – but still, a big investment when you’re looking to grow.

Many new franchisees are high net worth individuals so they already have it or have easy access to it… but if they don’t, it can be difficult to help them get access to capital.

S: Any one experience or person have a profound impact on your career?

K: There are a few. My work ethic comes 100 percent from my dad. He spent 50 years at one company after Vietnam – he’s the hardest working individual I’ve ever seen in my entire life. The ability to be caring is from my mom – she passed on that gene.

When I was 24 I ran the world’s largest inland freight facility, and I had a mentor who was famous with one liners. It stuck with me, and my sense of humor is key to get through stressful times – not making fun but making “light” of the situation. I think I’m hilarious – I’ll often peek my head out of my office and ask What time is it? – the answer is always 5 o’clock.

S: What gets you out of bed every day?

K: Other than lack of sleep? Oh sh#%, there is so much to do – I have to get up, but also I’m excited to get up. I have to believe in something in order to sell it; if you don’t hear the passion in my voice, you aren’t listening.

We are impacting people’s lives and helping them grow in a positive way. The different people I meet around the world – we’re about to open the first Gold’s Gym in Turkey – it’s amazing. At Gold’s Gym we’re all in the boat, rowing in the same direction, and as we get more in the boat we go faster and farther.

I’ve got a job to do and a phenomenal family who depends on me and I truly love what I do and I love this brand.

S: What do you wish you knew earlier in your career?

K: I wish I would have recognized my sales skills earlier in life and gotten into sales sooner; operations was too slow for growth. Instead, I learned those skills while working for 100 percent commission with a family – talk about taking a cannonball into a new career!

S: What does the future hold for you? For Gold’s Gym? 

K: I will continue to bring in new sales; I have responsibilities and goals and I need to continue to meet those. And really, I’m ecstatic to be working for this brand; I grew up with it and now I’m helping create a healthier world.

Gold’s Gym will continue to invest in process, programming and people to be the #1 full amenities gym in the world. They look at fitness globally, and the sun never sets on Gold’s Gym. That’s a huge responsibility but it’s fun – who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?

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