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What Sets Us Apart Is Our Consultative One-on-One Approach to Health and Fitness, Says Complete Nutrition CEO Sheldon Harris (Q&A)

by Franchise Chatter on September 9, 2012

in Franchise Chatter Exclusive, Q & A Interview, Sports Nutrition Franchise

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Complete Nutrition, which in the last three years has grown from 15 to 160 locations, recently announced Sheldon Harris as the company’s new CEO.

Sheldon Harris, CEO of Complete Nutrition

Sheldon Harris, CEO of Complete Nutrition

Last year, Complete Nutrition experienced overwhelming growth and decided to put a hold on franchise development so it could protect its brand image and ensure it provided adequate support for existing franchisees.

It lifted the hold this year and has now enlisted the leadership of Harris to smartly grow the company.

Earlier in his career, Harris served as president of Cold Stone Creamery from 1996-2006. The franchise catapulted from a handful of stores to more than 1,400 international and domestic locations during his tenure.

Other notable milestones in Harris’ career include overseeing operations in Alaska for wholesale giant Costco where he was responsible for managing 350 employees and $160 million in sales.

In 2006, Harris launched Trust Funding, a consumer-lending company, which to date has helped more than 3,000 people who have faced hardships reach financial solvency.

Franchise Chatter (FC):  What lessons did you learn about growing a franchise system from your experience at Cold Stone Creamery?

Sheldon Harris (SH):  I gained invaluable experience at Cold Stone Creamery because we not only turned the brand into a household name but we did it while growing at near breakneck speed. If you simply grow and grow and don’t take care of your existing franchises, you can severely dilute and damage the brand in the long term. That’s the most important lesson I learned: That the franchise can only be as successful as its franchisees.

FC:  Prior to joining Complete Nutrition as CEO, you served as a consultant to the company’s development team for six months. What was your impression of Complete Nutrition during that period of time?

SH:  Complete Nutrition has the high-energy level you’d expect from a company that’s surged from 15 to 160 stores in a few years. The staff – from consultants to the executive team – is incredibly passionate about health and fitness. Everyone here walks the talk and wants to help others make positive life changes.

On the business side, I thought there was a tremendous opportunity for growth. There are not too many brands that have a national footprint like Complete Nutrition and still have many available territories for those looking to join the system.

FC:  Complete Nutrition has experienced explosive growth over the past few years, growing from a 15-store regional chain to a 160-unit national brand.  Why do you think the concept has been so well received by prospective franchisees and customers?  What sets Complete Nutrition apart from your competitors in the category?

SH:  Hands down the No. 1 thing that sets us apart from our competitors is our consultative one-on-one approach to health and fitness. When customers walk through our doors, our expert consultants — many of whom are certified personal trainers, former strength coaches, and others experienced in the industry — take the time to learn their goals and lifestyle habits. And even after customers walk out the doors with their products, we continue to be their partner through their positive life changes. We’ll call and email them to see whether they’re reaching their goals. That’s something you don’t experience at any other nutritional supplement retailer.

Our franchisees, in turn, benefit from this approach as well because they see customers coming back month after month. Word spreads of what we’re doing at Complete Nutrition and potential franchisees want to join our team.

FC:  There was a period of time when Complete Nutrition put a hold on franchise development so it could protect its brand image and ensure it provided adequate support for existing franchisees.  What did the company do during that time to beef up its infrastructure to support existing franchisees?

SH:  Last year, Complete Nutrition smartly decided to put the brakes on franchise development. The brand was growing too quickly and we knew that we couldn’t sustain the rapid growth while still providing top-notch operational support to our franchisees.

Since then, Complete Nutrition has revamped its operations and field support departments, among others. We’ve completely overhauled our training protocol so that franchisees have the skills needed to run a successful business from day one in the field.

We’ve also significantly increased the size of our corporate staff so we can handle a larger system. This includes bringing on board some of the brightest minds in business who have experience managing the world’s leading brands.

FC:  What is your current development strategy to ensure that your pace of growth going forward is more sustainable?

SH:  Our approach to franchise development has matured. We have a much clearer idea of what characteristics make the best franchisees and those are the types of people we’re looking to partner with as we take the brand to the next level. We also know that we can grow quickly as long as we provide a solid support system to all our franchisees.

FC:  What are the factors that contribute the most to the success of an individual Complete Nutrition store?

SH:  Our strongest-performing stores all excel in core areas of operations. Those include staffing, training, and team leadership. That’s pretty much the formula for success for Complete Nutrition stores.

FC:  What qualities do you look for in a prospective franchisee?

SH:  By analyzing our top performers, we have developed a profile of the ideal franchisee. This includes first and foremost harboring a true passion for the health and nutrition industry. Candidates must also live in their markets and be active in their communities. Other qualities we look at include their financial resources, leadership abilities, marketing skills, and their general business knowledge.

FC:  What kind of products do you sell the most of in your stores?  Are there plans for offering additional product lines or services to complement your existing offerings?

SH:  We offer more than 200 Complete Nutrition-branded weight loss, sports nutrition, and general health nutritional supplements. Our best-selling products include our kits, which combine multiple products that work together to help people reach a variety of health and fitness goals.

We are committed to providing our customers with the latest in nutritional supplements and are continuously working with a team of doctors, chemists, and scientists to develop best-in-class products.

FC:  What can you tell us about the estimated initial investment, royalty fee, and profit potential for a Complete Nutrition franchise?

SH:  Per our franchise disclosure document (FDD), the estimated total investment is between $188,450 and $392,950. The average total cost is approximately $190,000.

Royalty fees range from 8 percent to 9 percent of gross sales depending on the percentage of Complete Nutrition products (as defined in the franchise agreement) sold. Beginning the fourth full month of the store being operational, a payment of no less than $1,750 per month is required in franchise royalties.

FC:  What are your growth plans for Complete Nutrition in 2012, and beyond?  Which regions of the country (and the world) are you targeting for expansion?

SH:  We currently have 160 stores open across the country. Over the next three years, we plan to open approximately 150 locations. Specific markets we’re targeting for development include Port St. Lucie, Fla., Paducah, Ken., Owensboro, Ken., Little Rock, Ark., and Toledo, Ohio.

To learn more about Complete Nutrition, check out their website, Facebook page, Twitter feed, and YouTube channel.

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