Greg Bird works at the local Fitness Machine Technicians franchise maintaining equipment.

When Cynthia Anderson opened Fitness Machine Technicians last fall, she found that her 22-year career in the U.S. Air Force was, in some respects, a good foundation for being a small-business owner.

From her work as a cyber officer at Peterson Air Force Base and later as an outreach officer at the U.S. Air Force Academy, she knew about building and leading teams, strategic planning, publicity and partnering with local businesses.

“In the important big-picture things, I was very well prepared,” Anderson said. “The part that the Air Force did not prepare me for was the accounting piece. I spent money in the Air Force, but I never had to worry about QuickBooks.”

But Anderson had help from Fitness Machine Technicians staff, and that was one reason she chose a franchise business.

Fitness Machine Technicians, headquartered in Philadelphia, offers service, repair and maintenance on exercise equipment for commercial and residential clients in more than 70 U.S. markets.

The company has been very involved, offering her and her technician training and support. The owner of the only other Fitness Machine Technicians franchise in Colorado, who runs a business in Denver, has also been helpful and has partnered with her on some jobs, she said.

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When Anderson retired early last year, she took a few months off to relax and focus on her family, which includes a teenager and a toddler.

“I realized pretty quickly that I wasn’t ready to end the professional part of my life,” she said. “I wanted to be engaged in meaningful work. I wanted to be part of the community. I knew I wanted my profit to be tied to delivering outstanding service.”

She reached out to a franchise consultant who helped her find Fitness Machine Technicians.

“I liked the idea of working in a franchise business where I would have support from a headquarters element and my fellow franchisee owners,” Anderson said.

She traveled to Philadelphia to meet with founder and CEO Don Powers, and found she felt comfortable with the company and its people.

The company started franchising its current system in 2018.

“It’s a relatively new franchise,” Anderson said. “So in many ways, they’re still learning and growing themselves. It’s nice to be a part of that and have an opportunity to shape how some of the business systems are developed.”

Anderson said Fitness Machine Technicians’ business model focuses on establishing relationships with commercial entities such as hotels, apartment complexes, rehab centers and gyms that have fitness equipment they need to maintain, as well as with residential customers.

“I felt like there was a need for that,” she said. “Colorado and Colorado Springs are so focused on fitness that it felt like a really good match.”

Since opening her business, Anderson has concentrated on building those relationships — and on learning the back-office procedures like identifying suppliers, ordering parts and learning how to use accounting and productivity applications.

“The biggest surprise for me is just how much time I have spent learning, establishing and refining back-office processes,” she said.

She hired technician Greg Bird to do the evaluations and repairs.

Both Bird and Anderson went out on service calls during their training at the company’s headquarters.

“I will go out with Greg on occasion if he needs an extra set of hands,” Anderson said. “But Greg is a much better repair person than I am.”

She feels fortunate to have found Bird, who had previous experience running a fitness center.

“People are always happy to see him,” she said. “They’re always glad to have somebody there to help them fix their equipment. That’s one of the nice things, whether it’s commercial or residential.”

Since the business started last fall, Anderson has built a client list of dozens through Google ads.

“It’s mostly residential at this point, but commercial is where I’ll focus my attention in the next couple of months,” she said.

By the end of this year, Anderson, who runs the business out of her home, hopes to forge contracts with a couple dozen commercial clients.

“The residential side is much more transactional — you call us out, we fix it, and we probably don’t see you again. On the commercial side, it’s more about preventive maintenance services on a schedule.”

“I feel like this business provides me a good opportunity where, through building relationships and making my partner successful, I become successful,” she said.

“My sales pitch is, ‘I’m going to take care of your fitness machines the way you want them to be taken care of.’ My philosophy is that I treat my customers the way that I want to be treated. And I hope, in doing that, I’ll be able to build a reputation that brings more customers my way and ultimately leads to more success.”