Interview with Lisle Head, former franchise owner, Butterfly Life
Location: Sacramento/Roseville, CA
Franchises owned: 10
Time period of ownership: 1 year more of less
Total investment to date: A little over 250K
UF: What’s your background? What were you doing prior to owning your franchise?
I graduated from UC Berkely in 2001. I started working for 24 hour Fitness as a Sales Associate. Within 1 year I was a General Manager and Won Sales Associate of the Year for the company in my first year. I left 24 Hour after 2 years to start these Gyms. I was contacted from a source that is friends with Mark Mastrov as Mark approached him about the concept. My friend then contacted me as he thought it would be something that I would be interested in. He knew I had some funds and I was a proven operator in the 24 Hour System.
UF: When did you decide you wanted to own your own business? Describe the process you went through to determine which franchise to buy.
I choose Butterfly purely because Mark Mastrov was a part of it. I had worked for his company for 2 years and was very successful. I hired attorneys and accountants to review the company as well as my business plan. I met with Mark Mastrov himself to go over my numbers and get his opinion the investment and what he thought about working with Mark Golob. I spent about 6 months of Due Dillengence prior to making the move.
UF: How did you first learn about the general concept? What did you find appealing about this type of business?
I had been in the Gym industry and seen what curves was doing. When I saw that the owner of 24 Hour Fitness was ready to compete with them and that I could get on the ground floor I thought to myself this is a non-brainer. I will be one of there first owners and with me buying a whole territory I’m going to be there poster child. All they talked with me about is how there where going to spend all there efforts in getting me up and running and successful so they could go out to the other areas and show them that it worked. I was sold. I was going to be working in a start up with Mark Mastrov the greatest Fitness owner in the world. In my mind.
UF: Describe the company’s sales process and your interaction prior to becoming a franchisee.
These guys where my best friend. Treating me like I was there son and that they where not going to let my fall. I was only 26 years old and this was all the money that I had. I was making a big move and a very high risk. But I thought it was calculated because I was going to have support from the leading guys in the industry. I was going to be there Poster Child and my success was going to drive there success. “If you are not successful Lisle we will not be successful.” These are the lines I was getting on a day to day bases. The promised to personally mentor me through the whole process. As soon as I signed the check they stopped answering the phones. I heart hit the floor. I knew I had been scammed. L
UF: How was the company’s training and pre-opening support. Was it a positive experience?
We where the first group. So they where learning. I really did get a lot from it but I had already been through 2 years of training with 24 hour fitness.
UF: What marketing and promotional guidance, programs & support were provided? Were they effective?
They gave us some basic flyers and ideas on how to market. But I was expecting was for them to come into my market and drive traffic with TV and Radio and branding as they promised. I purchased 10 sites and they where supposed to make a plan of attack for my area. Never happened. They where going out to sell more telling everyone how this 26 year old kid just purchased 10. J
UF: How was your grand opening and your first year as a franchisee?
Nobody from the Butterfly Life Team was at my Grand Opening.
UF: Was owning this franchise what you expected? Why, or why not?
I really not to really get a sense of ownership. I only kept the first club open for less than 6months because I couldn’t see myself to continue to dump money into something that I was going to get no support from. But if this is the support that you normally get from Franchise then I was expecting to get a lot more support.
UF: Was the ongoing support what you expected? Why or why not?
Zero. I was talking with these guys everyday multiple times per day prior to signing the agreement. We talked about how they where going to mentor me and we where going to work on getting these 10 clubs open in the next 12 months so that we could show the world how successful this business could be. After I signed the agreement I called Bruce Fabel and he said that there is no reason for us to be talking everyday. I was shocked. I called Mark Golob told me that we would put together a plan. At the end of the day none of this happened and I as on a Island by myself .
UF: What were the positive aspects of your experience?
I learned how to not do a lease agreement. I learned that I can pick myself up and from rock bottom. I learned many things that I will take with me for life but I wouldn’t never wish any of them upon another human being as the way to learn.
UF: When did things start to go wrong? What was it that made you an unhappy franchisee?
Like I stated above. Thing went wrong right after I signed the agreement. They just went on to the next customer. Nobody every came to my sites. They didn’t help with finding me the proper location. I had only opened 1 office and had deposit on the other 9. They just took all my money and said thank you. 90K down the drain.
UF: Have you tried to resolve your issues with the franchisor? What was the outcome?
They just told me they where going to sue me if I went after them. I wasn’t in the position to go through a court process financially or emotionally. So I just took my lumbs and moved on with my life.
UF: What is your current situation? What would you like to see happen at this point?
I’m currently living in Costa Rica and I own a Coldwell Banker Franchise. Life is good. J I would love to see people atleast get back there Franchise Fees and to get them to stop selling people the franchises.
UF: Do you think that the franchise concept is a viable? Under what conditions?
I think is a great concept. But they need to work in one area and create a brand and get that area up a running. Trying to have 100 gyms in 30 different states in the first year is where they failed. They stretched themselves too thin. I truly believe that if they would have spend all the Focus on Northern California. The place they all live. And get the brand recognized and gyms up and running with profit they would have been able to spend across the whole world.
UF: What mistakes did you make? Looking back, what would you have done differently?
I personally don’t know what I could have done different. I hired one of the Top Operators from 24 hour fitness to manage my first gym as well as myself. Butterfly life just didn’t deliver the product or support that they promised.
UF: How has your franchise investment decision affected your life?
It was a life changing experience. I was completely broke. I was very lucky as I had invested in the real estate market and was able to sell a property and get back on my feet. Also I was single and didn’t have anyone to support. I have turned the event into a a very costly learning experience.
UF: What advice would you give to prospective franchise owners? What questions should they ask? What warning signs should they look for?
I think they only advise is to go with a company that has a proven record. Go to franchises that are successful as well as the ones that are not. Find out why.