Liberty's "Ideal" AD?

William Monk, Burzynski's ideal AD, was born in Farmville, N.C. He grew up around the family tobacco business his grandfather had started in the 1900s, and went to college to prepare to be part of it. He earned a degree in economics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and later got his MBA down the road at Duke University in Durham.

After graduation, he entered the family business, Dimon, which purchased and sold tobacco to cigarette manufacturers around the world. He started a program for sales and operations, then worked in Europe for five years, buying tobacco and selling it to cigarette manufacturers all over the world. In 1995, he became the financial director for the European region with a dozen operations in eastern and western Europe and even one in central Asia.

In 2001, he moved back to the States and took the position of director of business planning and development for the company, which was now, after a series of mergers and acquisitions, called Alliance One International.

By now, the company was a large public corporation, and as it became more corporate and bureaucratic, Monk thought more and more about making a change. "Things had changed a tremendous amount from being a family business," he says. When his 40th birthday loomed a few years ago, he decided it was time for a change.

"I started looking around. I had gotten interested in entrepreneurial activities, startup companies. I wanted an opportunity that I could invest in and also get actively involved in, preferably in the earlier stages of it," he says.

After "putting a lot of time into several things that didn't work out," he successfully launched a Greenville, N.C., company based on an innovative lighting product for bikes and motorcycles. But he still wanted something a little less high risk that wouldn't involve "reinventing the wheel."

Though Monk was unfamiliar with the franchise world, he liked the idea of pairing up on a venture but not having to do everything. "I looked at some on my own, but I was not satisfied with the franchisors' business knowledgeâ€"their knowledge of their own business. That scared me."

But a North Carolina-based franchise consultant gave him three good possibilities after interviewing him extensively about his interests. "He asked me, up front, ‘Are there any types of business you will not consider, regardless of how great the opportunity?' I had to think long and hard about that. I'd been through 12 to 18 months of looking around and was closer to knowing what I didn't want than what I did. So I told him I was open to anything, that it was more about the characteristics of the business and the opportunity," he says.

After talking with a friend who'd "partnered" with a franchise, Monk knew that he wanted to be an area developer, rather than a owner. "My skills and my passion came from the larger corporate worldâ€"I wanted to think strategically, not open the doors every day. And I wanted to help people create and execute business plans, support them in their efforts to become successful. That was more appealing to me than opening four or five clubs," he says.

He was attracted to Liberty Fitness' relative youth as well as its business model's multiple revenue streams: club memberships (for their circuit system), classes, spa products (lotions, bath salts, etc.), Nike workout for women, and massages (either hydromassage or actual therapists). "I saw that as a fantastic opportunity to generate more revenue under one fixed overhead," he adds. Monk says he admires Burzynski's leadership and experience, and that was a major factor in his decision.

Having been in big business and having gone through so many mergers and acquisitions and experiencing so many cultures and philosophies, Monk realized that people made the real difference in terms of job satisfaction. He promised himself he'd look closely at those with whom he'd work. "I wanted something enjoyable and fun," he says. "And the people are what make it that way." He says that Liberty Fitness CEO Burzynski was a key factor in his decision to on.

Teased by some of his male relatives about his new interest in women's a good-natured Monk immediately jumped into his new venture. "As soon as I began to learn more about and about Liberty, I thought, ‘Man, I need to get my club built in Greenville and get my mom in there,'" he says.

Clubs already existed in Winston-Salem, Shelby, and New Bern, and Monk is working with those owners to offer advice and help. He plans to have his Greenville club open by summer.

Facing a learning curve about franchising, he admits he's found uncovering leads and dealing with them most challenging. "First, you have to find your leads, and then you have to know how to handle them, how to take them through the process as you learn about their different backgrounds and life situations," he says. "Some are ready to make decisions quickly and some are not. It's just a matter of helping them through the process to make an intelligent decision."

Monk says he takes seriously Burzynski's commitment to finding the right people. "We care about people and we want to find the right people, while also finding someone who can write the check to open," he says.

He's also already hooked on the stories of the women whose lives Liberty Fitness affects, he adds. "It's fantastic to go into the clubs. In Winston-Salem, a couple of weeks ago at the grand opening, I read the letters put up on the board by the members. They'd only been open six weeks, but it had already made such a difference in their lives," he says.

While Monk was already an outdoorsman who enjoys hiking, fishing, and skiing with his wife and family, he says Liberty Fitness has inspired him to "branch out" in his routines.

He's also thrilled to spend more time with his wife and two children. "When I left the tobacco business, I wanted something that would give me time to make the kids my number one priority. And this is it."

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