Growing a franchise portfolio with John Pirlo

  Oct 31, 2022

John Pirlo standing in front of Genesis gymYou’ve got your franchise humming along smoothly, business is going well and you find yourself wondering: could I do this again? It’s a question that many franchisees ask themselves. Growing a franchise portfolio can be an exciting prospect and also a daunting one.

There are many business advantages to owning multiple sites, including economies of scale, greater market reach, increased sales volume, easier access to finance and more influence within the brand. On the other hand, multiple sites also present risks and can change the nature of your role in the business.

I’ve expanded my portfolio to nine Genesis Health + Fitness clubs and each time I’ve grown, I’ve had to consider if it’s the right decision and if I’m personally ready for it.

If you’re asking yourself if it’s time to add to your franchise portfolio, then here are some words of advice about multi-site ownership.


Be ready to build a team

With just one franchise, you’re quite hands-on and a real multitasker, looking after everything from operations to human resources and marketing. Going from one site to two is a huge jump – it’s 100 per cent growth!

You’re doubling your operations and your staff while effectively cutting your time in half. Making the jump from two to more requires you to set up some structure that works specifically for your management style and really requires focus on doing this right.

If you’re going to have more sites, the key to success is all about building a team. You can’t do everything yourself once you grow and the bigger you get, the more your role becomes focused on management and developing exceptional managers who can act for you.

You will become less hands-on in the day-to-day minutia and become more ‘big picture’ in your approach. You need to decide if that’s what you want for you, if you think you can find the right people you need to help and if you have the required management skills. Involve your team in your vision and help them to achieve their goals with you.

Ensure the timing is right

There is no point in owning two mediocre franchises that make as much money as one fabulous one. You should only grow when you’re ready and when you’ve perfected the operation of your existing site/s.

There is no precise timeline for growth and it varies from franchisee to franchisee. If you feel like you have a firm grasp on your existing site, understand the systems and operations, have a good team around you and have the required capital then it’s likely a good time to consider expansion.

Also, look at the competition and choose a time when they have slowed their growth so you have less competitive pressure.

Focus on location and don’t discount the regions

The location must make sense – and sometimes, it’s the main driver, because the location can be too good to refuse. Don’t jump in too quickly or settle for a second location that doesn’t excite you as much as the first. It’s easy to get too comfortable once you have one or two franchises under your belt – so don’t forget to do your due diligence. Treat every new site as if it’s your first and don’t rest until you know you’ve found the perfect

Remember that just because a location is available, doesn’t mean you should do it, or that it will work. You need to ensure all of the location needs are met, not just because it may be a cheaper location, for example.

Also, don’t be afraid to think outside the grid. Since the pandemic, the regional areas of Australia are presenting many fantastic opportunities for business owners as Aussies who have moved to the regions look for locally-based conveniences and entertainment. Regional Australia presents a great opportunity, now more than ever.

Weigh up the options based on what excites you

The other decision you may be faced with is whether to stick with the same franchise brand or move to something new. The advantage of owning multiple sites under the same brand is that you’re already familiar with that industry and can take your knowledge and apply it to a second location. Staff can be shared across locations and systems too. There is less of a learning curve and that can be a big advantage in business.

However, as an experienced franchisee, you’ve already learned many of the core skills that you can transfer to another franchise, even if it’s in a completely different industry. When weighing up this decision, the best piece of advice is to do what excites you most. You’re going to need plenty of energy and enthusiasm to fuel your growth, and that comes from being truly excited about your new business endeavour.


John Pirlo sitting on gym equipment Genesis club

John Pirlo, Genesis Health + Fitness franchisee

John owns a portfolio of Genesis clubs, including two in Coffs Harbour, one in Port Macquarie and six in the Newcastle/Hunter Valley region, and more on the way. He is also the founder of the Ninja Parc franchise network.