A Franchisee’s Journey: Getting to Know Michael Lee

Michael Lee is the CEO of his own business, Fitness Machine Technicians of Seattle and the Pacific Northwest. The company specializes in fitness equipment repair and maintenance for both residential and commercial clients. But his burgeoning small business is miles and miles away from his past life. You see, Michael Lee was once an Aerospace Engineer!

“I always wanted to aim high—to be a CEO, so getting my MBA early on was all part of my strategy to lead a company someday,” said Lee. “The first few years out, I handled electronics, avionics, tech, and safety systems for a variety of McDonnell Douglass’ commercial aircraft fleet. That led to 16 years of contract-based sales for bigger clients such as Boeing. When the economy got rough for one particular industry, I pivoted to other sectors like transportation and construction.”

Then came a defining career moment and, please stop us if you’ve heard this before. “Rather surprisingly, I got laid off in 2016,” remembers Lee. “It was unexpected, to say the least, and I immediately hit the bricks, scouring for a similar sales position. But the hunt to find the right fit became a frustrating exercise. The size of the company, the pay, the travel, the commission structure—I just couldn’t line up a suitable match.”

But when fate intervenes, sometimes it’s nothing more than providence. It turns out that Charlie Magee, FranNet’s Washington Consultant, was a casual acquaintance. How so? Their kids happened to be on the same competitive swim team! Back in 2012, Magee had Michael take the FranNet assessment test—just as a trial run. “I had never really considered franchising as a route to becoming a CEO,” says Lee. “I guess you could say that franchising chose me.”

This time around, the exercise was real and Magee presented Lee with 6-8 concepts that matched up well with the results of his assessment. The trick was finding one that appealed to both Michael and his wife, Dawn. “We’re actually very different people,” says Lee. “Not in terms of compatibility mind you, just in the way we think, process information and consider opportunities.” While the investigative process wound on, Michael and Dawn were busy flipping houses. In doing so, they learned a few things about making this career option a permanent solution.

“The TV shows do a great job of presenting home restorations as a fun and light-hearted activity,” says Lee. “In fact, it can be quite stressful. First, it’s a lot of manual labor and we’re no longer young adults. The income produced can be fickle and inconsistent. But the real eye-opener was the issue of liability. The legal implications weren’t something we wanted our family to have to deal with down the road.”

Magee finally narrowed the concepts down to two choices. One of them, Fitness Machine Technicians, clicked for both Michael and Dawn. What attracted them to this franchise? “The brand has everything laid out for you,” says Lee. “All of the processes for operating this business are listed, just like checking a box. There isn’t much market competition and the validation we received from other owners was through-the-roof positive.” 

So how have things gone since opening his franchise for business back in Nov. 2019? “Beyond even our best-case scenario of expectations,” says Lee. Like most franchise opportunities, the brand offers franchisees an estimation of business growth goals on an annual basis. The Lee’s achieved that milestone in just two months. Only one month later, they doubled it. Ah, but that was pre-COVID-19, right? True, Lee admits the business did take a hit in March, as shelter-in-place orders were given. But they quickly pivoted their operations to the residential market and new business bounced back quickly.

Lee credits his friend, Charlie Magee, with guiding him to the right business opportunity. “He’s one of the best listeners I’ve ever met,” says Lee. “He was only concerned with what was best for me—the client. There are thousands of franchise concepts out there, but Charlie helped us find the best choice. It’s was an enjoyable process.”

Michael and Dawn now agree that they both hadn’t fully realized just how stressed they’d been in the past. For the husband and wife duo operating a fitness tech franchise in the Pacific Northwest, the future now looks as bright as the Cascade Range on a sunny day. Says Michael with a final thought, “I’m enjoying my dream as a CEO. This is fun.”

For more information, please visit Michael & Dawn Lee’s Fitness Machine Technicians franchise page

Jul 23, 2020