Athletic Republic: Transforming Potential into Performance

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Athletic Republic was founded in 1990 by John Fappier, a year before the collapse of the famed Berlin Wall. It was originally named Fappier Acceleration. It stayed in the business under the same name for 17 years until Charlie Graves (CEO), a long-time athlete from Wisconsin, US, bought the business in 2006, opening up its gates in franchise markets. After acquiring the company, he rebranded the franchise as Athletic Republic, which has achieved many milestones in its appreciable 33-year-long history and counting. Charlie spent a remarkable childhood in Wisconsin; his interest in swimming and business became his strength. He was a seasoned athlete who entered the 1980 Summer Olympic Games as the third-best swimmer in the world—games that were ultimately boycotted. He was also a professional triathlete and started his career in sports management. His passion for sports and athletics and his belief that there is a better way to train athletes are why he chose this franchise. All of its customers are athletes, and it primarily caters to parents of athletes who want to help their children improve.

At Athletic Republic, all the employees have a strong background in sports. They were either professionals, collegiate athletes, or overall passionate about sports and athletics for the next generation. They are all competitive and trying to be the best at their jobs and the best for the network. Most importantly, one of the company’s core values is that the employees are always attempting to improve. “I love that about our corporate culture; we continue to challenge the norm,” he exclaims. Its employees are always trying to make its processes better for its franchisees, customers, and employee stratification. The company believes that listening to employees is the key to growth. Charlie pays close attention to what his staff has to say, regularly checking in with them to ensure that he is providing them with the opportunity for professional growth, autonomy, and ongoing education. Athletic Republic distinguishes itself in the franchise market for both its clients and its franchisees by making effective use of data and technology.

The owners of Athletic Republic Capitol Region, Carl Williams, Russell Thomas, and Mark McCain, were named the 2023 Franchisee of the Year by the International Franchise Association (IFA) in March. Williams, Thomas, and McCain were honored at the 63rd IFA Annual Convention in Las Vegas, Nevada, for being outstanding franchise establishment owner-operators. Charlie says, “These three gentlemen embody everything that Athletic Republic stands for and our commitment to providing world-class training to youth athletes and are changing lives.”

Athletic Republic: Transforming Potential into Performance
Charlie Graves

‘If we had to do it again, yes, I would buy this franchise’

Charlie claims that the success rate of its existing franchisees is around 95 percent. The reason for this success is their care for athletes’ health and performance. According to him, the largest problem facing the market is children’s overscheduling and parents’ and coaches’ underestimation of the value of injury prevention and sports performance training. With their techniques, Charlie and his colleagues have significantly assisted talented individuals in realizing their potential. He mentions that the biggest opportunity he would get would be co-locating with sportsplexes. These are 100,000+ square feet of complexes that house sports courts, fields, tournaments, teams, and clubs. With its first opening in Rockwall, TX, AthleticRepublic partnered with AmeriSports at the Fit Sport Life Complex.

Currently, the company has more than 80 total locations, over half of which are franchised. It has 47 franchisees, with three of them being multi-unit operators spread across five countries. “If we had to do it again, yes, I would buy this franchise,” says Charlie. Even so, he is aware that not all franchisees are created equally and that some are less successful than others. So, the franchise has designed a business acceleration program (BAP). BAP is a step-by-step support program from the day of the signing of the franchise agreement through the opening of the location. BAP support continues through the grand opening until 100 members have joined the training center. Along with that, it also provides the FAP program (franchise assistance program), where it assigns a franchise business coach and an actionable project plan for existing franchisee support. Athletic Republic follows a TEST-TEACH-TRAIN-TRACK approach to help every athlete achieve their goals, from an initial athlete’s assessment and program refinements based on tracking athletes’ performance data.

"At Athletic Republic, all the employees have a strong background in sports. They were either professionals, collegiate athletes, or overall passionate about sports and athletics for the next generation."

No forfeit to overscheduling

For Athletic Republic, the most significant challenge its franchisees face is the schedule availability of their customers. Charlie and his team have overcome it by creating team training contracts and enhanced programming, including 30-minute classes for recovery, stability, strength, sensory, and others. In order to fill in the gaps in the athlete schedules, they have also developed camps and clinics. The company is well aware that hiring the best employees for its headquarters’ home office is crucial. Currently, they have an incredible headquarters staff. Charlie calls himself not just a CEO but also a Chief Talent Officer. He believes that the success of the business is based on recruiting the best talent, not only in the headquarters staff it brings in but also in the franchisees it brings on board. The franchise looks for professionals who want to take control of their careers and create generational wealth. It prefers business-oriented people who can be trusted assets and not liabilities. It seeks franchise owners who are passionate about athletics and making a difference in athletes’ lives. “We zero in by looking at athlete density in a demographic—how many available student-athletes would be in a population based on the number of students in a school district,” adds Charlie.

Research and development

Charlie states that the company spends a lot of its time on research and development. Its technology and sports performance teams are dedicated to research and development for both the sports science and technology sides of the business. “We have a corporate consultant, Peter Barbaresi, who helps us position the franchise corporately,” he continues. With the help of a comprehensive app for their athletes that includes predictive analytics based on their performance results, he and his team are implementing significant technological advancements so that an athlete can view all of their training information in one location. In addition to royalties, the license guarantees that a $100 weekly national brand marketing budget will be used to promote the Athletic Republic network’s brand. To help its franchisees with local marketing and lead creation, it is working to increase brand recognition. Moreover, it has a huge support program from its home office HQ, with monthly webinars as well as regular playbook newsletters, an extensive online education platform, and twice-a-year staff education events. Each of its departments offers open office hours as well as one-on-one consulting. By taking such steps, Athletic Republic gives its franchisees priority and in-depth training so they can help customers use their talents to turn potential into performance.

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