After being in the fitness industry for more than 20 years, Don Powers has endured his fair share of intense workouts. But there’s one “workout” in particular that stands out as the worst—and that’s when members of his gym, Aero Centre in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, would complain about a broken piece of equipment.
“When I owned a gym alongside some business partners, I started to notice that our equipment would break down a lot. Customers would repeatedly ask when our treadmill would be fixed or when we’d be able to replace the broken elliptical machine. But the problem was, it was hard to find a service provider who could quickly come on-site and get the job done. It was just as tedious and sweat-inducing of a task as running five miles on a treadmill—uphill,” Powers said.
Powers quickly realized an unmet niche. The fitness repair landscape was—and still is—dominated by small mom-and-pop service providers, who not only take on jobs to repair exercise machines, but washers, dryers, refrigerators and lawn mowers, too. In other words, there was a ton of demand, but very few skilled hands to take care of the job.
Armed with an undergraduate degree in health and physical education plus a master’s degree in exercise physiology, Powers saw opportunity. The only problem was, he had very little technical experience. Despite that, he made the decision to throw a tool bag over his shoulder one day and hit the pavement. Traveling from gym to gym to fix equipment, he was determined to learn the ins and outs of the trade on his own.
This was in 2002, and it was the beginning of what’s now known as Fitness Machine Technicians, or FMT. His business grew quickly in the first few years, and by 2010, he was entertaining the idea of franchising. Strongly believing that it was a system he could easily duplicate, Powers enlisted the help of Steve Beagelman, the founder of SMB Franchise Advisors, to put a franchise system in place.
Prior to working with Beagelman, Powers envisioned his company being led by people with experience in mechanics or the athletic world—someone just like himself. But together, they both realized that this was a much more unique opportunity within the fitness industry—one that was best-suited for an entrepreneur with a sales and marketing background.
As soon as Powers and Beagelman identified their ideal franchisee, the two worked together to rebrand and position Fitness Machine Technicians in front of the right investors. They renovated the office to add a franchise training center and enhanced the home office with a more professional look. He learned what to say in his discussions with potential franchisees. He also put a board of advisors together to help guide the brand forward with the right entrepreneurial mindset.
“Don found his niche by focusing on the potential owners who are seeking an opportunity to create annual sales in the six or seven figure range, want to hire techs and manage an entire team by aggressively working the sales end of the business. It’s a recurring revenue model with repeat clients if you treat them well. We are excited for the future and enjoy working with this unique fitness franchise concept,” Beagelman said.
Today, with an Item 19 that shares financial performance of more than $1 million in annual revenue, a classroom-based, hands-on training center and a new brand image Powers has a business model that he believes has national potential. To accomplish that goal, he has begun awarding franchises with an initial fee of $30,000 per territory, targeted to include a minimum of 500,000 residents. And so far, there are three, including one that is company-owned.
“With Steve’s help, the results have been incredible. FMT has been catapulted to a new level. Before we were just frolicking. But now, we’re out there and ready to define the new norm for the fitness industry,” Powers said.