99 BIG Franchisees: Linda Fong

Growth through Diversification

Taking care of business takes care of Linda Fong

Name: Linda Fong
Title: Owner
Franchise System: Liberty Fitness

Personal/ @Home

  1. Age: 41
  2. Family: Married for 20 years, two boys, 12 and 16
  3. School (alma mater): Not applicable
  4. Memorable first job: Stocker and salesperson in a at age 15
  5. Current book reading: Life Lessons
  6. Best advice you ever got: From mother: As long as you have a roof over your head and you'll be fine.

Professional/ @Work

  1. Number of units: 3
  2. Business type: LLC
  3. Years in business: 2
  4. 2004 sales revenues: Not disclosing
  5. Top of your business wish list: Finding an HR manager
  6. Best advice you ever gave: You have to recognize your own strengths and weaknesses and fill the gaps with good employees.

Linda Fong loves franchising. Not only does she own three Liberty Fitness locations, but one Fast Signs franchise and a Phlato's Closet store.

"I can grow the other businesses by increasing sales," Fong says. "I'm opening more locations because that's how I can grow that business."

Like many of her peers, Fong left corporate America after watching her husband thrive in a business of his own. She joined her husband at his independent and enjoyed working long hours side by side until she started having children. She started thinking about a business that she could open which would afford her more autonomy. After reading an article in Entrepreneur magazine, the idea of owning a franchise piqued her curiosity.

"I was thinking that there has to be a proven formula that would work for me," she says. She knew other women who owned but wasn't drawn to that model. She opened Fast Signs 11 years ago and after developing an employee into a manager, was able to look outside for more opportunity.

"The store does extremely well," she says. "I thought I would relax after a few years, but didn't know what to do with myself." The concept was another hit that soon began to manage itself.

"I was turning 40 and wasn't taking care of myself," Fong says. "I thought it was pathetic that I didn't have any hobbies. So I looked into a fitness franchise."

She was nervous, since she herself felt so out of shape. But with the backing of a corporate franchise system and a girlfriend and sister as operating partners, she settled on Liberty and has found it to be "one of the purest forms of business that can make a huge difference in the lives of women."

"There is no instant gratification, but the rewards are huge," she says. "I love getting into these women's psyches and helping them change their lifestyle. I love being at the locations and talking to the women about everything."

Fong hasn't had to receive any outside financing. But as she grows her businesses, she is finding herself more and more in the role of human resource manager and may consider outsourcing.

"All of a sudden I can't just do what I love," she says. Vacations are a big part of her lifestyle and she is working on building that time back into her life. "I get in short little day or weekend trips now, but I'm working on it and will be back to traveling. I believe in vacations."

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