We recently sat down with Cory Cannici, owner of Parisi Franklin Lakes, to discuss his experience as an owner and advice he has for other owners.
How did you first learn about Parisi?
I went to Parisi in Fair Lawn one time with a pass from my cousin and thought it was the coolest place I had ever seen. I was in middle school at the time and saw the older athletes and professional athletes working out. It was totally a sport world and at that time I wanted to be a pro athlete. While that didn’t go so well, I always kept in mind that it was something I wanted to do in the future – to be a coach. Also, I should mention when I was young, I was on the shy side so terrified to answer and speak on the phone. I was just not a great communicator, especially over the phone. This lack of confidence lasted my entire life until I got involved with Parisi.
As soon as I graduated college, I contacted the Parisi Wyckoff location and got a job as a trainer there. While I graduated with a Communications Degree, I wanted to do something I was passionate about. I wanted to wake up every morning and enjoy what I was doing. I had internships in marketing and it wasn’t really that fun, but the communications background has helped a lot. As an owner especially, you have to communicate effectively with parents and athletes. You have to know marketing and community relations. My education continues to really help as an owner.
Why did you decide to open Parisi?
I was a trainer in Wyckoff for 2 years. The facility owners at the time weren’t financially stable and the business was struggling. They were very focused on their medical fitness program and less on the Parisi side of the business.
As a result, I trained 60-70% of the business at the time. I actually spoke with Bill Parisi about the situation and he empowered me to really get all of the information in order for the next owner. It dawned on me that the next owner could be me. I spoke with my wife and with the help from Bill we made it happen.
We ran the business in Wyckoff for 3 years. In October of 2016, our lease expired, and we moved to Franklin Lakes with a lower rent cost – it was a no brainer.
Sports is my passion. I have always been a sports fanatic – I will play any sport, any time. I really wanted to be a coach because I felt I didn’t get a lot of guidance as a high school athlete and I feel I was very unprepared. No one told me to strength train at 140lbs and stick thin. I didn’t have any good positive coaching and I wanted to be that influence. I don’t want kids to look back and have the same thoughts I did. I want our athletes to be mentally and physically prepared.
What are some of the biggest obstacles you’ve faced and how did you overcome them?
I’m extremely hard on myself. Everything is an obstacle – learning how to be an owner, going from being a coach, not even having a huge training background and trying to keep myself educated, to owning and running a business and hiring people.
Moving was a huge challenge. I would literally break down during the process. Getting used to a new landlord, dealing with loans and trying to still run the existing business. I was training a lot at the time too, so it was a lot to juggle.
Figuring out how to hire the right people is also a challenge. I’ve definitely hired some people along the line that looking back, I have no idea what I was thinking.
I’m really focused on keeping our staff up to date and making sure they are doing the right thing all the time. I’m always watching; I will even watch the classes with our camera while I’m at home. I want our coaches to deliver amazing sessions.
Every year there is a different challenge, sometimes multiple. But the reward is definitely worth it. The flexibility and control over your own life, the fun and the relationships you build along the way really make the headaches worth it. I try to be a perfectionist all the time, so I stress out a lot, but I think it’s pretty cool.
What have been some of your proudest moments as an owner?
I love hearing from parents when their kids are non-athletes or getting picked on, then they train with us for a while and make the rec team and are playing a lot, then they make the travel team and their confidence goes through the roof. I can totally relate, and you realize the impact you have on the kids and the parents always let you know about it.
Moving to a new facility was also a big moment for me. Having a vision and then having it come to life was so cool. Every once in a while, I stop and smell the roses.
I also like being able to give other people the opportunity to be a part of Parisi. I’m proud when I can get a coach to become full time and make a career out of training. It’s not easy and not everyone can make that a reality, but I’m really proud when I can help my team grow.
What advice do you have for future owners?
Number one, deliver an amazing experience, always.
My other advice is two-part, and kind of contradictory.
1. Owners should be healthily obsessed with their business and trying to provide an amazing experience for their customers and employees on a daily basis.
2. Owners need to be able to give themselves a chance to step back and have flexibility to enjoy their lives.
Be obsessed because it’s the only way you’re going to survive. You have to think about it for hours every day.
Give yourself breaks because you will burn out otherwise, and you will burn out fast. You have to be really engaged and you can only do that for so long without either falling over and dying or just being miserable. The combination is important.
When you’re in it, go hard. When you need a break, take it.
One other piece of advice that Bill gave me five years ago was “know your numbers.” Keep track. Understand your accounting. Things can go south quickly even if you are delivering an amazing service. If you don’t understand your numbers, you’re going to fail. So many gyms fail because people love the training, but they don’t love the business side of things and don’t manage staff and payroll effectively.
Even if you hate it, you have to know it. It might help to have someone helping you along the way, but if you don’t own it yourself, you can still end up in a bad situation. If you really don’t want to do that part, then maybe ownership isn’t for you.