Insights On Opening A Second Location

Opening a second location undoubtably comes with a lot of questions. The Barron family owns and operates a gymnastics school in St. Louis. They are now in the process of opening a swim school just a few miles away. Get an inside view of the challenges and questions to ask before you pull the trigger on a new location.

Let’s start with a background. Barron Gymnastics is owned by the Barron family: Joe, Diane, Scott, and Julie. Joe and The business is split 4 ways – Joe, Diane, Scott, and Julie. Diane started the business in 1978. Joe [Diane’s husband] joined the business in 1995.  The Barron family is in the middle of a succession plan [for children Scott and Julie] – check out the blog here.

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Expanding is an idea that came up when Scott and Julie became more involved in the business. After years of conferences in the gymnastics industry, they noticed that owners of gymnastics facilities were opening swim schools. Seemed odd at first, but after talking to these owners, the Barrons were intrigued. All of their friends loved the swim school addition to their business. Networking with other folks really sparked their interest and got them excited for this opportunity.

From Gymnastics to Swimming?
Gymnastics and swimming are completely different when it comes to techniques and lesson plans. This is an obvious difference, right? Right. But when you think about the rest of the business, you’ll see more similarities. The business model is very similar: age of children, hiring, customer service, training staff, billing, using Jackrabbit, and the structure of classes. The business side is what the Barrons were already comfortable with; their gymnastics facility is a well-oiled machine.

The next step in their process was to research the swimming industry. Through their networking with gymnastics facility owners, they had a large pool of swim school owners to call and visit. The Barrons visited 42 schools in Australia and the United States. 42! During these visits, they really wanted to look at the facility design, flow of the building, curriculum, and industry specific business operations. Designing a swim school is very different than a gymnastics facility and they were able to piece together a plan for their school through this in-depth research.

It’s All About The Kids
One thing each of the Barrons have is a passion for children. They want to help children learn and grow – and have some fun too. This is one of the core pieces of running a business – whether it be in gymnastics or swimming – that you can’t survive without. This passion for children is something that shines through all areas of the business.

Know Your Challenges
The Barrons may be new to the swimming world, but they are dedicated to learning. They have been to 5 swim conferences to get as much education as possible. Not only did they visit 42 swim schools, they made hundreds of phone calls and have hired multiple consultants through this process. They hired a full time Aquatics Director who specializes in the curriculum aspect of the business. Well before they opened their doors, the Barrons have been gaining experience and learning how this industry works to serve the children in their area interested in swimming.

Trust Your Team
If the Barrons just didn’t show up for work one day, or took a vacation, they know their staff will be able to run the ship without them. This is an owner’s dream. To hire the right type of people and to equip them to succeed. Relying on your staff is tough if you don’t trust them. Without the team that the Barron family has, they would not be able to even think about opening a second location.

Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable
Part of growing involves being willing to throw yourself in uncomfortable situations and put yourself out there. If the Barrons didn’t take a chance and really explore the idea of opening a totally new type of school, they wouldn’t be here today. Being able to look outside the box and set high goals is an amazing quality for a business owner to have. To be successful, you have to see what your potential is.

Make Sure Your Company Is Healthy Financially
The last thing to consider is to look at the finances of your business. If this isn’t your specialty, there are people out there who can help! This is one of the most important parts of opening a new location. Have goals set for each year and get an expert’s opinion on what your tuition should be, facility budget, enrollment fee, etc. to be in sync with other companies in your area. Jumping the gun could be detrimental to your business if your finances aren’t in a healthy state.

Are you considering opening a second location? What questions do you have?

We’ll be checking back in with the Barron family as their swim school is opening up in the coming months. Stay tuned!

About the Author:

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After studying graphic design at the University of Georgia, Jill held several positions in media and marketing including Art Director, Editor and Marketing Director. As a student of dance, she has spent plenty of time in children’s activity centers and puts that experience to work for her in the work she does with Jackrabbit. In addition to her interest in dance, Jill also enjoys sports, gourmet cooking, entertaining, singing and spoiling her five grandchildren.

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