David Humphrey Named IFA Chair

Ignite Fitness Holding’s CEO David Humphrey has been named chair of the International Franchise Association. Humphrey joined the IFA in 2008 shortly after he was named CEO of the spa chain Massage Envy. “I had a long business background but didn’t know franchising, and I saw IFA as a place to learn from other franchisors, industry experts and franchisees from hundreds of franchise systems,” he said.

To thrive in this role, Humphrey can tap into his background as both a franchisor and a franchisee. “Franchising only works when both zors and zees succeed; when the balance tilts too much toward one or the other, it eventually damages the whole system,” he said.

Humphrey has a long-standing history with franchising, including Massage Envy and serving on the boards of Handel’s Ice Cream and Massage Heights. Humphrey is also the chair of the PFIFC Government Relations Committee, which correlates with the IFA’s initiatives. “My work with IFA dovetails beautifully with the government relations work I do with the PFIFC,” Humphrey said. “IFA has supported several of the lobbying efforts we’ve worked on for PFIFC.”

During his term as IFA chair, Humphrey hopes to help battle the threats of joint employer legislation proposed in Congress and in key states like California and New York. “Unions are targeting franchise chains as a way to capture dues from thousands of employees at once, and the legislators those unions fund are trying to make it easier to unionize. More fundamentally, the whole premise of the franchise model is that a franchisor develops a system, but franchisees independently own and operate local businesses that implement the system,” Humphrey said. “The IFA is the main association working to protect, enhance and promote franchising, and I want to do anything I can to help win that fight.”

One of the top priorities for the IFA currently is the FTC’s planned revision of its franchise rule. “They’re considering huge changes, some of which may sound good to franchisees on the surface but would have damaging unintended consequences,” Humphrey said. “For example, many of us are concerned by the cost and the frequency of the reequips PFHQ requires, but do we really want franchisors to be prohibited from requiring any ongoing capital investment? We’d stop evolving and improving our model, and some clubs would eventually look rundown – would that really help us? Or suppose franchisors were prevented from determining the prices we charge. Some of us would take advantage of that to test higher prices in high-cost markets, but nothing would stop other clubs from lowering their prices to try to steal members away from their neighbors. That’s a race to the bottom that nobody wins. The way to make thoughtful, balanced changes is for PFIFC to keep negotiating with PFHQ, not to have government mandate one-size-fits-all rules across hundreds of different franchise brands.”

With a unique understanding of the positions of both parties, Humphrey will aim to find common ground and achieve mutually beneficial outcomes for all parties. “Some legislators and regulators sincerely believe that by imposing major new restrictions and costs on franchisors, they would help franchisees. It’s vital that franchisees like us tell them that seriously damaging either half of the franchising ecosystem damages all of us,” Humphrey said. “For sure, we want the government to ensure a fair and level playing field between zors and zees – and we want bad franchisors punished, but it doesn’t help franchisees in the long run if overzealous regulators cripple franchisors. And most costs the government imposes on franchisors just get passed on to franchisees via fees and royalties.”

McCall Gosselin, Planet Fitness® senior vice president of communications and social impact, who works closely with Humphrey on the IFC Government Relations Committee, says he brings strong leadership qualities that will fare well in the chair role. “David is a balanced and influential leader who is also a very thoughtful listener,” Gosselin said. “This has enabled him to build trust and strong relationships during both good times and challenging times. These qualities will serve him well working closely with various franchise brands on issues that impact the industry.”

Humphrey takes great pride in serving as the IFA chair. “It’s always an honor to be recognized by your peers,” Humphrey said. “I’m lucky to have arrived at a point in life where Ryan Berk and his team handle the day-to-day challenges at Ignite very well and I can give back to franchising by focusing on PFIFC and IFA.”

Joe Pepe, chief operating officer with Ignite, pointed to Humphrey’s passion for the business as a great fit for the IFA role. “David has a true passion for building brands and has extensive CEO experience on both the franchisor and franchisee side, as a board member for multiple brands and as a consultant,” Pepe said. “He understands all aspects of the business: development, marketing, operations, human capital, government relations and finance – and appreciates how all departments must be aligned around a common vision in order to achieve success.”

“As the leading brand within fitness, it is a true testament to the respect and admiration Planet Fitness has within the franchise community,” Pepe added. “It also allows us to learn and collaborate with other successful franchises as we navigate the next chapter of our growth.”

Humphrey understands the importance of transparency and accountability and looks forward to working with the IFA board to make a positive impact on the fitness industry as well as the wider franchise community.

Because Planet Fitness is an IFA member, every PF® franchisee is entitled to complimentary IFA membership. The IFA has useful publications and webinars, a Franchisee Forum where owners can learn from their peers in other systems, an annual convention and a Capitol Hill Day where franchisees can lobby elected officials on issues that matter to the business. Franchisees can find more information at www.franchise.org/membership/franchisee-benefits.