There’s something universal about wanting to lend a helping hand. For whatever reason, altruism just feels good, whether in our personal or professional lives. Why else do you think teachers claim some of the highest levels of job satisfaction, while retail workers claim some of the lowest?
Even though teachers have a tough job, with plenty of unpaid overtime, they can see the impact of their work reflected in the progress of their students. It can be much harder to see your contribution to society when your job is to keep the khakis organized.
Of course, not every job can provide the same level of satisfaction as nurturing young minds. We all have to pay the bills somehow. Fortunately, franchising in the health and wellness industry does offer a unique opportunity to combine strong business performance with sound corporate citizenship. With franchises available in areas ranging from health food to sports equipment, to fitness centers and massage therapy, and even homecare, the health and wellness industry is as diverse as it is rewarding.
But is a wellness franchise right for you? What forces are driving the market today, what risks and advantages are associated with the industry, and how can you find the franchise that suits you best?
This issue of Franchising USA highlights a select few franchisors and franchisees making a difference in the world of health and wellness. But before we get into that, let’s look at a few current trends which are shaping the industry today, and into the future.
Out of the hospitals, in to the gyms
Of course, we can’t discuss health and wellness in the U.S. without mentioning the recent, sweeping changes made to health care legislation. The passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has ushered in a new era of health care in America. In an effort to keep Medicare spending low, a strong new emphasis has been placed on ‘proactive’ versus ‘reactive’ health initiatives – more simply, keeping people healthy so they don’t wind up in hospital. Study after study has shown that every dollar spent on nutrition or physical activity programs yields big savings on medical expenses down the road, so these new policies from the ACA make strong fiscal – and ethical – sense.
“Fortunately, franchising in the health and wellness industry does offer a unique opportunity to combine strong business performance with sound corporate citizenship.”
Perhaps more importantly to franchisees, however, the passage of the ACA opens up some golden opportunities in the health and wellness industry. Because hospitalization is a costly and unattractive outcome, health care providers are searching for ways to encourage their members to participate in healthier lifestyles. Similarly, many employers now offer incentives to their employees for gym memberships, massage therapy and other proactive health programs. As we try to move away from hospital-centric ideas of health care, opportunities in the ‘satellite’ health care industries abound. It’s an important point for any potential franchisee, but certainly not the only one.
America’s Waistband : A growing concern
Across the country, the number of obese and overweight Americans continues to rise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 69.2 percent of all adults in the U.S. were either obese or overweight as of 2010, with rates increasing according to the most recent Gallup polls. Americans are increasingly concerned with the statistics, and while it’s true that a number of of factors effect obesity – lifestyle, income, socioeconomic status, genetics – the fact remains that proper diet and exercise are often the best prescription for dealing with obesity.
With the associated health risks, projected costs to the health care system, and the American Medical Association recently recognizing obesity as a disease, the push is on to combat the obesity epidemic. Franchisees in the health and wellness industry can be at the forefront of this fight. Whether it be through a health food franchise, a diet franchise, a fitness club franchise, a sporting goods franchise, or some other business, franchisees in the health and wellness industry can target an ever-increasing audience of Americans looking to take back control in the new Battle of the Bulge.
The Boomer Consumer
Of course, there’s much more to health than just the number you see on the bathroom scale. Another major development on the horizon is our rapidly aging population. The Baby Boomers aren’t babies anymore,and America’s senior population is exploding. Over the next 20 years, that demographic is expected to rise steadily, with one in five Americans being over 65 years old by the year 2030.
An aging population is sure to place greater strain on our nation’s medical and health care resources, as the task of caring for an older generation falls upon the younger. As such, franchising opportunities abound for those looking to work with America’s aging population to meet their continuing health goals. The perks are numerous: a stable customer base is virtually guaranteed, start-up costs can be very low (depending on the exact business), and of course, income is relatively stable due to multiple revenue streams. Perhaps most importantly, however, owning a franchise focused on senior health care is a great way to improve the standard of living for the aging in one’s community. For prospective franchisees, senior care offers a perfect blend of financial and civic benefits.
“Owning a franchise focused on senior health care is a great way to improve the standard of living for the aging in one’s community.”
More than a Product
Now that we’ve discussed the overweight and the elderly, there is one other key demographic in the health and wellness market we should mention: everybody else. During an interview earlier this month, ActiveRx CEO Matt Essex said: “In all my time [working in wellness], I’ve never once met anybody – never once – who said they don’t care about their independence, or they don’t care about their longterm health.” Indeed, there may not be a single person in this country who isn’t searching for some way to improve their health.
The single greatest advantage for health and wellness franchisees may be this: you aren’t selling a product, you’re selling an idea, a vision of what the client can achieve with the help of your services. After all, no matter how good of shape we might be, we always feel that we could do a little better. And, if we really have hit our peak, then it’s going to take work to stay at that peak level.
Customers will approach their health in a variety of ways – some focused on diet, others on exercise, still others on traditional or holistic medicine – and for almost every approach, there is a franchise opportunity available. Any prospective investor would be hard-pressed to find a field with more universal appeal than the health and wellness industry.
The Hardest Part?
If you’ve read this far, you’re no doubt curious about a future in health and wellness franchising. It’s all sounding good: the power to combine successful business with care for others, the wealth of service options available, and the increasing demand brought on by health concerns, changing demographics and federal legislation. It’s no exaggeration to say this may be the best time in history to look into your own franchise in the field.
But now that we’ve looked at some of the current and future trends, and you’ve decided to look a little further, where do you go from here? How can you find a business perfectly suited to you, and where can you learn more?
With such a wide range of offerings and services in the health and wellness industry, we can’t possibly list all of your franchising options here. As mentioned before, this issue of Franchising USA takes a close look at a few innovators in the market, so it may be best to start right here, within these pages. You can also find some excellent resources online, “Owning a franchise focused on senior health care is a great way to improve the standard of living for the aging in one’s community.” including franchise descriptions, contact information, and startup investment figures: try looking into FranchiseHelp, Entrepeneur, Kiplinger, and Franchise Business Review, just to name a few. And of course, it’s always a good idea to tap into your social network: get in touch with other franchisees, business owners, friends and family for any leads they may have.
A final thought: no choice to enter into a franchise agreement is easy. You must be very certain of the work you’re getting into, and the brand you choose to represent. But when it comes to franchising in health and wellness, the hardest part may be simply deciding how you want to contribute to an industry teeming with possibilities. Still, once you’ve got an idea of where you want your search to take you, and how you want to work in this field, you’re bound to find a franchisor offering exactly what you’re looking for. And if you can’t, then maybe you’d better start looking into developing that idea yourself!