A Q&A with Jamie Weeks

Tips from the largest Orangetheory Fitness franchisee

Jamie Weeks Headshot

Jamie Weeks describes himself as a fighter, someone you want to be with in the trenches, and it’s easy to see why. During the pandemic when many businesses were shutting their doors, including Weeks’ Orangetheory Fitness studios, he was buying more studios and licenses. Today, he is the largest OTF franchisee in the world through Honors Holdings, going from 72 studios to 130 studios practically overnight.

He isn’t slowing down anytime soon. Through his business venture Legacy Franchise Concepts, Weeks is also the largest Dogtopia franchisee, the leading provider of dog daycares in the country, and the franchisor and franchisee of SweatHouz, with 12 infrared sauna studios open and another 50 licenses sold in 2022. This year, his goal is to sell between 100 and 200 SweatHouz licenses. If that’s not enough, Weeks is also working on a new book that will be out this quarter titled “It Takes a Fight: Building and Keeping a World-Class Team.”

The key to his success, though, isn’t through a complex master plan or specific, targeted strategies. Weeks has learned that staying humble and caring for others brings more than just success. It also creates a life filled with happiness and purpose.

How did you first decide to venture into the fitness franchise world, and why with OTF?

I worked in the finance world for almost 20 years, and one of the things I saw as a common theme of wealthy people, wealthy individuals, and wealthy groups is that they were business owners. I’ve always in my mind been an entrepreneur. I got to that point — I’m 47 now, so I was 38, 39 — where I was ready to act on it. I never anticipated for it to be a career for me. It was more that I really wanted to get into the health and wellness space.

I think we would all agree that a common theme a lot of us have is that we want to live longer. We want to live healthier — all those things that go along with it — feel better about ourselves. I saw it as a business opportunity going forward. At the time, I was taking Flywheel classes, which was a new spin studio in Atlanta. There were 50 people in the class, everyone paying, I think, $30 for a bike, and you couldn’t get into a class. I started doing the math on it, and I was like, “Wow, these people are making a lot of money.” I started looking into different things and found Orangetheory, and one of the things I loved about Orangetheory was it was so non-intimidating. It was for everybody. You could be on a treadmill next to a 70-year-old woman who is power walking, and on the other side you have a 22-year-old guy who is running 12 miles an hour for 10 minutes straight. It was very welcoming and non-intimidating, and I saw that as a huge advantage over a lot of gyms.

How many OTF studios do you operate now?

We’re at 142 open today, and we finished the year around 145 or 146. We have space for another 150, so Honors Holdings could have 300 Orangetheory studios over the next five to 10 years.

You’ve financed all your equipment with us at United Leasing & Finance, correct?

We’ve used United Leasing & Finance from 2014 until today and for all our other business ventures I’m a part of now at Legacy Franchise Concepts. United is the only finance option that [SweatHouz] franchisees have in our system right now, for obvious reasons. I think they were the best choice, and I’ve worked with them for years so I know exactly what we’re going to get. Their speed of turning things around, the personal relationship we have with them, it’s not like just another bank. We’re not just another number. We’re actually human beings who are trying to have employees and pay people and do all the things that the leadership team at United Leasing & Finance have done over the years. To me, that’s a really important attribute as a partner.

How did you first learn about United and come to work with us?

At the time, I think as a franchisee for Orangetheory, they had a couple options for us to use. Michael Mehr, who was my first hire to help me run these studios, interviewed all of them and felt the same way about United that I did, which was we weren’t just going to be another loan document. We were actually going to have a relationship with them. Having personal relationships with those vendors and letting them understand where you’re coming from and why you need X and why you need Y and why you need Z, that’s a big deal. If they don’t understand or they don’t want to relate and they don’t want to listen, they probably shouldn’t be one of your vendors. Your business should be important to them.

How has the value of the United relationship helped you grow throughout the years?

One example I’ll give you of why I’ll use United Leasing & Finance forever is that, during the pandemic when no one knew what was going on, United was able to defer our payments and said to us, “Hey, we know you’re shut down. We get it. It’s bad everywhere. We’re going to work with you.” That allowed me to pay all my employees 100% during the pandemic. Had they not done that, I wasn’t able to pay my employees. If I’m not able to pay my employees, then we would’ve been in the same situation that a lot would have been in today. They had to let everybody go and then go rehire new people and retrain people. It was almost like you had a business that was open for five or six years, but you were restarting from zero because you had a whole new team.

We wouldn’t have been able to move forward the way we did, open at the speed we did, and recapture what we had lost from the pandemic had United not understood and had that relationship with us. And that’s why I’ll use United forever. When you choose a finance partner, it’s not just about the interest rate and the payment. If you’re looking at it that way, you’re choosing a vendor for the wrong reason. If you’re looking at it like it’s just a commodity, then you’re just going to be a commodity to them. But if you’re looking at it as a true partnership, then that’s how you want to move forward.

During that time, what made you want to take that leap of purchasing more OTF studios, and looking back, would you have done anything differently?

It was definitely the smartest thing we’ve ever done by far. I tend to be opposite the herd in everything I do. If everyone is going to one side of the ship, be prepared to sink. I want to be on the other side of that ship. During the pandemic, as people were basically saying, well, no one is ever going to go to a gym again, that’s probably the time to be a buyer. When everyone wants to sell, you should be a buyer. And when everyone’s buying, you probably need to be a seller, right?

Jeff Teschke [a partner in Honors Holdings] called me in December 2020 and said, “I’ve got an idea. I don’t think you’re going to like it.” You know, the previous eight months had been the worst eight months of my entire life. He said, “I think we need to borrow some money and go buy some Orangetheory [studios].” And I go, “Jeff, that’s got to be the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard in my entire life.” I had some other choice words with it that I’ll spare you, but you can imagine. He said, “You’re the one, Jamie, who told me during 2008 and 2009 you watched people make crazy money by buying real estate when everyone was selling real estate. I want you to sleep on it and let me know what you think.”

The next morning, I woke up and I said he’s right. We have to do it. We went opposite the herd. We woke up one day with 72 studios, and we woke the next day with 130. Looking back, it was the smartest thing we could have ever done.

Now, at this point, how do you define success for yourself professionally and personally? Have you exceeded what you thought you would be doing?

Let’s remember — and I don’t forget this — I’m from Easley, South Carolina. My first car was $2,300. I got a job the day I turned 15 years old. I’ve never made a B in my high school or college career. Everyone thinks I made straight As. I never made an A either. I made nothing but Cs and Ds, maybe a B here and there in some class that held the average kid up, but I graduated high school with a 2.0 average. I graduated college with a 2.0 average.

So it’s hard for me to define what success is now. I’d much rather define happiness, because I think happiness is a lot more important than success. There are a lot of people who aren’t maybe as “successful” by definition as myself, but they’re a lot happier, at times, than I am. In the last three to five years, I’ve decided I need to wake up every day and choose to be happy.

When I think about the pandemic and all the negative stuff that happened from it, personally and professionally, I think about who I am today versus then. I’m a much better person than I was, and I’m a lot less egotistical. I have a lot more humility. To me, the more humility I can show, the more success I have. And the more I try to give it away, the more I get, which is again opposite of everyone out there. My success is going to be the success of everyone else, not myself. I’m going to define my success by the success of the team and everyone on the team and how we do. If United Leasing & Finance is successful, that’s a win for me. Because we’re a big part of United, and United is a big part of us. And if they’re successful, that means we did something right. I’m looking for win-wins. I’m not looking for win-loses anymore.

What are some of your key strategies to building a positive culture?

I wish I had strategy. I don’t have strategy. I think it’s really having empathy and humility. We all just want to be cared for. At the end of the day, that’s what we want. We want to know someone on the other side of the phone, someone on the other side of the screen, or someone I’m sitting near cares for me the way I care for them. We have one motto that we’ve used from day one, and it is: When you care about others, you won’t believe how many people will care about you. When you only care about yourself, no one is going to give a damn about you. That is the truth. That’s not professional or personal; that is everything. That’s just life. You have to wake up every day and care more about others than you care about yourself. When you do that every day and you have vulnerability with that, you won’t believe how many people will rally around you and care about you.

I lost my mom 12 years ago, so I went on a real journey over the last 12 years. She was the most selfless person in the world, and I was the most selfish person in the world. When I lost her, I realized really quickly that was my lesson — to be more like her and be more selfless. When I started doing that, I started having a lot more success and a lot more fun. And I was a lot happier.

What has surprised you the most about entrepreneurship, franchising, or being in this area of business?

The upside. I had no idea the level of success and wealth that has been created in the franchise system over the last 50 to 70 years. It’s unbelievable, and it’s not changing. I’m not smart enough to come up with my own idea. I mean, we did with SweatHouz, but that’s rare. The franchising space is one that, if I wanted to be an entrepreneur, and I was looking to be an entrepreneur, I couldn’t run fast enough to the franchise space.

About United Leasing & Finance

United Leasing & Finance is a customer-focused and growth-oriented leasing and finance company committed to providing custom financing solutions to businesses across the U.S. and Canada. For almost 60 years, United has partnered with clients to achieve mutual success from small businesses to Fortune 100 companies.