Andrew’s Vision Journey

Andrew started out as a gym, aerobics and circuit class instructor whilst completing his Sports Science degree in 1992. Once he received his degree at the end of 1994, he commenced his career as a Personal Trainer within that same commercial facility. After less than one year as a Trainer he was given the opportunity to present on weekends for the international fitness program company Les Mills, who choreograph workout routines and license them to gyms in over 70 countries as well as offering training courses and seminars. Andrew was impressed by Les Mills’ systematic approach to fitness and the supportive environment it offered to employees.

“I loved how when I was part of the Les Mills organization, I was part of a team of people who were helpful and supportive of each other,” he explains. “When I worked in the gym as a Personal Trainer it was dog eat dog. All the personal trainers on the gym floor were in constant competition for clients.”

Andrew’s desire to create a more supportive environment for fitness professionals led him to form Vision Personal Training in August 1999. The company planned to continue operating within the large commercial gym in Sydney’s Sutherland Shire where Andrew was working, but to employ its own team of trainers and centralise the allocation of clients to avoid the endless competition.

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“I wanted to grow a team of trainers who would work for us inside the commercial gym,” explains Andrew. “But then Fitness First came on board and changed all the rules on personal training. They wanted everyone in the gym to work for Fitness First instead of a separate private company, which meant that we would no longer have been able to grow as a business in our own right. We had no option but to leave.”

Vision relocated its trainers and clients to its first fitness studio in Caringbah in 2001. “Our first gym was basically a 500 square metre factory,” explains Andrew. “We operated as a personal training studio – people would come and see a personal trainer at least once a week, but then they could also use the studio’s facilities outside of their one-on-one sessions.”

The Vision fitness studio had the added advantage of being much less crowded than the commercial gym environment and considerably less intimidating for a lot of its clientele. It was also better suited to Vision’s holistic approach to personal training, which aims to offer a complete weight-loss solution that includes nutritional advice and emotional support in addition to an effective exercise program.
Andrew sold his first franchise 2004, but the decision to go down the franchising route was taken much earlier. His experience with Les Mills had shown him how to effectively systemise training programs and maintain standards across a large company, while his experience with Fitness First highlighted the importance of offering his employees the potential for personal growth.

“It was pretty early on that I realised that franchising was what I wanted to do,” explains Andrew. “I got the idea when I was with the Les Mills company. Also, when they kicked us out of the gym, I realised that unless I provide my trainers with the opportunity to grow, they’ll end up leaving to start up their own studios in competition to us.”

Vision’s first franchise was opened in Randwick in Sydney’s east and its first franchisee was recruited from within the organization. According to Andrew, the company continues to recruit the majority of its franchisees internally, both as a means to further the careers of its star employees and as a way of ensuring its franchisees’ commitment to the company’s culture.

“The culture is the most important thing,” says Andrew. “We’ve developed a culture of people who really want to help people get great results. Our people need to be passionate about helping people with obesity and diabetes type 2 – or diabesity as it’s now called. That’s my passion. If you don’t actually want to help people with this epidemic, then you’re not right for our business. We want to make sure that all of our franchise owners understand our culture, and understand what our standards and expected service levels are. Ideally, we need them to have experience as a trainer first, so they can better achieve that understanding.”

According to Andrew, the company’s success in recruiting franchisees internally means Vision’s marketing budget for the sale of franchises has yet to pass the $5,000 mark. He also believes that it helps ensure that he’s installing the right people to guarantee his business’ future. “If they come from within Vision, they’ve already proved themselves. Most of our clients come through word-of-mouth referrals. If you help each other get great results, the business will grow.”

A Vision franchise costs between $250,000 and $350,000, which includes all fitness equipment and computers. Individual franchise owners are responsible for employing their own team of trainers and building up a client base, although there is a centralised web site and marketing budget to assist with the promotion of their services and the co-ordination of company initiatives such as the bi-annual Weight-Loss Challenge. The average studio is around 200 square metres and in most instances Andrew and his team will help new franchisees find a suitable site.

“A franchisee might say that they want to go into a particular area, and then we’ll actually help them find it and fit it out,” explains Andrew. “Most of our studios are relatively small, because we want to make sure that we don’t have to service a lot of clients. Our unique selling point is that we offer a small, friendly environment where everyone knows your name. We’d rather have fewer clients doing more sessions in a week, so it stays personal and the clients come to feel like their part of our family.”

In addition to overseeing the franchise operation, Andrew also continues to run the first studio Vision opened in Caringbah. “I still own that and that is where our franchise operation is run out of,” he says. “My philosophy is that I need to stay in touch with what the franchise owners go through day to day. A lot of franchisors focus on opening as many outlets as they can and they lose touch with the day-to-day operation of their business. I don’t want to do that.”

Andrew’s goal is to continue to grow the Franchise network to ensure that each Team Player has the opportunity to grow. “It is really exciting that we have now expanded into New Zealand too as they really need our help.”