Boutique Fitness Studios: why HR advice is worth its weight in gold

Perth-based business, Boutique Fitness Studios, has been expanding at a strong rate since 2020 and now has 88 territories made up of franchised fitness studios and directly owned studios.

Boutique Fitness Studios: why HR advice is worth its weight in gold

Boutique Fitness Studios has master franchise rights for its well-known, high-quality brands including:

  • CycleBar – which offers low-impact, high-intensity indoor cycling workouts.
  • StretchLab – a unique wellness concept, offering customised assisted-stretch sessions.
  • Rumble Boxing – a boxing-inspired group fitness concept with full-body cardio and strength workouts.
  • Club Pilates – which serves up over eight million Pilates workouts each year.

Running just one fitness club is complicated on any given day, but Boutique Fitness Studios has staff at its head office in Perth, 12 companies within Boutique Fitness Studios, master trainers in each territory, and trainers at each fitness centre who are sometimes direct employees of the company, or otherwise employees of the franchisee’s.

Running popular and rapidly growing franchises comes with many responsibilities, especially around contracts and training. All Franchisees have to comply with the strict requirements that come with running a StretchLab, CycleBar, Club Pilates or Rumble Studio – and there are plenty of areas in which someone without HR support might get lost.

While Hollie Whitfield is firstly Boutique’s CFO, Hollie also wears many other hats including accounting, bookkeeping, payroll, compliance and reporting to US franchise owners.

It was back in April 2021 when Hollie and her CEO sought a solution which would help the company comply with two key pieces of legislation covering its people: the National Employment Standards (NES) and the Fitness Industry Award.

When I started at Boutique, our CEO Matt Gordin tasked me straight away with getting signed up to Citation HR so we would have someone who we could go to with specific questions around the Fitness Industry Award as and when required. I’ve found it can be a lot of reading at first to navigate the Award and find where that information is exactly.

“Citation HR has been really handy, for example if we’ve got a tailored bonus and incentive agreement for trainers, I’ve been able to contact Senior Workplace Relations Consultant Tiarne Mitchell and get her team to draft something up.”

Without HR, Hollie adds that her company might have had some blind spots in terms of compliance with the NES and the Fitness Industry Award.

Rostering and bonuses: complicated until you get HR assurance

Rostering is one of the areas which any rapidly growing company needs to get right to stay compliant with Australia’s strict and complex workplace rules. The rostering gets challenging when we consider the expectations that clients put on fitness trainers, with fluctuating tides of people coming in early morning and at night who may expect trainers to serve them within extremely tight hours.

You’ve just got to be so careful to give staff a long enough break between shifts, otherwise you can end up being in breach with the Fitness Industry Award.

“If you’re not in the HR space, and that’s not where your skill set lies, you’ve got to use Citation HR. In the franchising world it’s so easy to do something incorrectly, even if it’s not on purpose. The costs, fines, and penalties are so high. You’ve got to have that correct advice and that support. Citation HR has totally supported our franchisees with any compliance concerns. The outcome was fantastic, Hollie says.”

Bonus agreements are another aspect of the Fitness Industry Award requiring careful guidance. These agreements are at the studio level and mean Boutique Fitness Studios pays an additional amount to instructors if they get a certain number of members in a class. “It creates a great way for us to remain competitive in the market and to ensure we are attracting and retaining the best trainers,” Hollie says.

Citation HR’s expertise has helped adjust contracts to make sure that bonuses and incentive schemes are clear, in writing and provide fairness for everyone involved.

Overall, the biggest benefit of using Citation HR’s wraparound support has been getting time-sensitive questions answered promptly.

“I’ve always been able to get that quick turn around and get the right advice, so that I have peace of mind that that we are dealing with it in the way that we should be. And looking after our employees too, that’s number one.”

Hollie adds that receiving guidance on how to handle casual conversion of staff members was something Citation HR was a big help with. “Casual Conversion is still a relatively new concept so it’s vital that you receive the correct advice on what grounds you can reject such a request so that you don’t face fines and penalties later on down the track for not handling this correctly.”

When it comes to wraparound HR support, Hollie says it’s extremely valuable to the company: “I would say 98 per cent of franchisees have never had to employ people directly. They’ve always worked for other employers. So when it comes to employing staff there is so much you need to be across and so much information. It’s peace of mind to have somebody else looking after that for you, or at least putting your employment contracts and policies in place.

“Any questions  where you’re not quite sure where an employee might sit under an award in terms of classification levels, and being able to go straight to Citation HR and get that advice is just worth its weight in gold.”

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