By Putting Her Staff on a Career Track, This Franchisee Nurtures Team Loyalty and Longevity
Amy Reid parlayed her past work experience in recruiting and talent management into the operation of her thriving The Little Gym franchise, which uses movement-based learning and imaginative play to enrich the lives of kids 4 months to 12 years old. Now, after six years at the helm of her business in West Boylston, Mass., Reid is laying the groundwork for her second location, which she expects to open around midyear.
“I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit and been results-oriented,” says Reid, 43. “Most of my career prior to The Little Gym was working within large corporations. I learned so much through these experiences from some amazing business leaders. But what drew me to purchasing a franchise was the ability to drive a business, be creative, take risks and build something that was a strong need in my community. I wanted a career that felt meaningful and rewarding and this is what I found in The Little Gym.”
Firsthand Experience With The Little Gym Franchise
The Little Gym was a natural fit for her, Reid says. “My children attended a nearby The Little Gym when they were younger. I fell in love with the program. There are such high expectations on children in today’s world as it relates to competitive sports. I loved that The Little Gym is a space for kids to grow confidence and skills in a fun and positive environment.”
Despite that up-close and personal experience with The Little Gym, Reid did consider investing in other children’s franchises. “Ultimately it was the family-like atmosphere within the franchise that solidified my decision to go with The Little Gym. I found the team at The Little Gym International to be honest, trustworthy, supportive and passionate about the brand.”
Emphasizing Staff Development
Shortly after opening, she found that keeping a talented, customer service-oriented staff was her biggest challenge. Because Reid was cycling through employees pretty quickly, she would find herself regularly having to teach all the classes and host all the birthday parties.
That’s when Reid decided to alter her leadership style to one that focuses on each employee’s strengths rather than looking at ways to improve them. “Many things contribute to the retention of my team,” she says, with one key being herself. “Each and every day I work on becoming a better leader and trying new and innovative approaches to engage my team.”
Reid explains that “I never want to be stagnant because my team deserves a leader who is fully invested in them. By creating a culture of talent development, my team has become so self-aware they know their strengths and have developed the confidence to use those strengths as leaders. They know their areas of opportunity and know to seek out support from others when it comes to those weaknesses. They each have tangible goals and a career path. They are always working on growing and developing their own leadership.”
Today Reid has a full management team of 16 employees, including four directors who have been promoted from within and who plan to continue with The Little Gym for many more years. All of the leaders at her franchise set high performance expectations, and everyone has the tools and support to meet those expectations, she says. “I think if you asked my team why they remain at The Little Gym, they would say they feel like they are still growing and learning, they feel supported and valued, and the work they are doing is fun and rewarding. Just like the kids that attend The Little Gym, I hope my team develops skills and confidence that last a lifetime.”
Balancing Act for Franchisee
Building the team is a responsibility that never has a beginning or an end, and I challenge myself to do it better every day.Amy Reid
Asked whether The Little Gym is her full-time job or whether she’s still working in recruitment and talent management, Reid answers by quipping with a simple yes. “Although I do not hold a job in recruiting and talent management outside of owning The Little Gym, I spend most of my time developing and leading my directors. A high-performing team is the most important thing in The Little Gym business because our product is our team and their ability to use our world-class curriculum to teach amazing classes. Building the team is a responsibility that never has a beginning or an end, and I challenge myself to do it better every day.”
As a career-minded mom, Reid says The Little Gym measures up in terms of work-life balance… after that first challenging year. “One of the benefits to owning a business is the ability to develop your organization in a way that meets both your business and personal goals. The first year as a The Little Gym Owner, I spent every waking moment at the gym. I taught a lot of classes, led every birthday party and Parent Survival Night. Working in the business as much as I did throughout the first year didn’t provide me the time to use my own strengths to build and drive the business.”
Then after she shifted to emphasize staff development and playing to employees’ strengths, she has built “an incredible team of directors who are empowered to operate the day-to-day of the business. I now spend most of my time developing my directors and strategizing on new and innovative ways to grow the business and the team. It’s hard to quantify how many hours I put into the business because when you are doing something you love, it doesn’t even feel like work!”
A Rewarding Franchise That Gives Back
Reid loves The Little Gym because every day is rewarding. “I love building relationships with our members,” she says. “So many of our members stay for years, and we get to celebrate milestones with them like first steps, first words, first day at school, birthdays, the birth of siblings and so much more. I also love seeing the children grow confidence and skills.”
Feedback from parents reinforces Reid’s choice to invest in The Little Gym franchise opportunity: “Parents say that we have an amazing team of coaches that provide a safe, clean and inspiring space for their children to grow skills, make friends and have fun.”
But The Little Gym in West Boylston does more than serve its clients; it serves the greater community in many ways, too. “Each year we participate in a local toy drive as well as a local back-to-school-supply drive,” Reid says. “We have supported members that have gone through tragic events through donations and fundraising. This year we partnered with a local organization to coordinate a diaper drive and were able to donate 1,000 diapers to local families in need thanks to the generous support of our members. In addition, we partner with a local nonprofit organization that assists children in the foster-care system with the opportunity to participate in extra-curricular activities. We donate gift certificates and raffle baskets consistently to local schools and PTAs.”
About The Little Gym
The business model of The Little Gym stretches back to 1976. Robin Wes, a musician, former gymnast and kinesiologist, created the concept to help children develop vital motor skills in a fun, musical and non-competitive environment. Wes wanted kids to benefit from physical activity while enhancing their social, emotional and intellectual skills. The Little Gym International Inc. began franchising in 1992 and currently has 367 locations in 27 countries and 33 states.
To learn more about The Little Gym franchise opportunity, visit www.TheLittleGymFranchise.com or call (480) 485-2774.