Interview with Cory Bertisch - CEO of My Gym Children's Fitness Center
From the inception of My Gym Enterprises (MGE), Cory Bertisch has overseen all facets of corporate operations from sales and employee development to training and expansion. His background prior to establishing MGE includes experience in childhood development, a successful stint in the field of construction/development, hands-on counselor training in child psychology, and five years as Co-Owner/Director of one of the three original My Gyms from 1989 to 1994. Cory is a graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology. He and his wife, Trish, have two young children who are shining examples of the My Gym concept.
BeTheBoss: Tell us about the My Gym concept.
Cory Bertisch: My Gym Children’s Fitness Center is a place where children 6 weeks through 13 years of age come weekly for physical early learning classes as well as karate, art, sports preparation, cardio training, music, and dance, depending on the location. Throughout the year, the gyms offer additional events such as Parents’ Nights Out, camps, free-plays, pizza parties, and community and holiday functions. Our gym classes are programmed to help children develop physically, cognitively, and emotionally and include music, dance, puppets, relays, games, gymnastics, sports and other original activities. The children gain strength, balance, coordination, fine and gross motor skills, agility, flexibility, social skills, and self-esteem. MGE (the franchising company) sells franchises, merchandises, and creates entertainment properties but spends most of its energies and resources supporting My Gym franchisees.
BTB: How and when did you become involved with My Gym?
CB: I bought one of the three original My Gyms from the founder in 1989. I had been contemplating various careers with children, hoping to incorporate both my sports and psychology backgrounds; and, not only was My Gym the perfect fit for me, it was something in which I saw immense value for children. My owning and operating that first My Gym, working in the gym seven days a week for five years, and learning and experiencing the My Gym philosophy and principles inside and out were critical to the future success of the franchise concept.
BTB: What was your background prior to joining My Gym?
CB: I had graduated from UCSB in child psychology and was exploring a career utilizing my degree and past experience in child counseling or one in outdoor sports camps. My whole life had been geared toward working with children and sports, and that’s the direction in which I wanted to continue. I had also spent time working in the construction-development field, an experience that proved valuable as we began building our early franchise locations.
BTB: What are some of the advantages in being a My Gym franchisee?
CB: Operating a My Gym is a fun, active, healthy business and perfect for those who care about fitness and prefer a casual lifestyle. The gyms have a fantastic success rate, with concrete, measurable success. We are in a stable and ever-growing market (children), and we have an amazing My Gym franchisee community who communicate with and support one another. We say we’re more than a business…we’re a family, and we feel it. Our franchise is a turnkey entry into opening a My Gym and the very best support to franchisees that exists! Last but not least, the love between you and the children is worth it all.
BTB: Who is your ideal franchisee?
CB: We look for individuals who love children; are physically active, athletic, and coachable; and with good work ethics and experience managing people. A background in sports, fitness, dance, music, or childhood education all help, but mainly we look at personal qualities.
BTB: Tell us a little about the Children’s Physical Education Industry/Market?
CB: We are in an industry that is and always will be relevant and necessary – that of physical early learning for children; and, for quality operations, this field is booming. Youngsters need physical activity and exercise for many reasons, only one of which is to ensure proper physical development. The children grow emotionally and cognitively, gain social skills, and learn to take direction. Participating in these types of organized activities gives children a great sense of accomplishment and heightened confidence and self-esteem. The need for and awareness of our industry has greatly increased with the continuing rise in childhood obesity, exacerbated by the computer/technology era, school budget cuts in PE, and the lack of neighborhood playgrounds and safe places to play. Physical early learning/pre-gymnastics programs as well as noncompetitive sports and “fun & fitness” classes are now seen as a core need for any and every child – a necessary part of any young person’s development.
BTB: What are some of the greatest lessons you’ve learned in growing this franchise?
CB: Quality over quantity…although we knew this from the start. It all comes down to fantastic operations (class programs and birthday parties) and great teachers. Many other factors play a part in viability (location, demographics, marketing, etc.), but great classes and teachers are 90% of it, along with the strictest standards for child safety and gym cleanliness. We also knew early on that open communication between the franchising company and its franchisees and also among its franchisees, themselves, is not only important and necessary but extremely enlightening and fruitful. My Gym has several ways our franchisees communicate with and support one another. We also have our Franchisee Advisory Board, a body of representatives elected by our international franchisee community who meet with me once a month, a process that has proved invaluable in solving issues, implementing new ideas, and helping to make My Gym the success it is today.
BTB: Do you have a mentor, and is there someone you use for inspiration?
CB: My parents have always been my main mentors. They have continually been a great source of inspiration and encouragement and wonderful role models for my brothers and me to follow. It is from my parents that I learned that the best way to teach is to lead by example, and they did. They instilled in me strong values, a positive work ethic, and a sense of doing right. They helped me develop good reasoning ability and organizational skills. They have always inspired me to learn, achieve, be honest, be fair, and aim high. Many others have influenced and motivated me along the way, but nothing compared to the above.
BTB: What advice do you have for someone looking to acquire a Franchise?
CB: Make sure you love the “job,” believe the franchisors when they tell you everything they are going to do for you, but talk to a minimum of five existing franchisees to help verify. It is also very important to understand the financial modeling/earning capability. Is that what you’re looking to make? In addition, you must take a good look at the franchise model, programs, services, and systems and learn what you can about the viability of the industry.
BTB: In your opinion, why do you think My Gym would be a great opportunity for someone?
CB: For so many reasons, I truly believe owning a My Gym is the very best thing anyone can do for his or her own life and for the benefit of society. It is a very healthy way of living, extremely rewarding emotionally, and able to fit into one’s own family’s daily life. As long as the earning capacity is understood, being in business for yourself, working with children in this physical environment, training/leading your staff, and becoming such a positive influence on the lives of children and families in your community yields unparalleled satisfaction. We love what we do!