If Franqlin Gatson, MBA’20, had an office, it’d be in the weight room.
A personal trainer and lifelong athlete, Franq is a former collegiate basketball player with an exercise and sports science undergraduate degree and personal trainer certification. He’s also an MBA at the Kelley School of Business.
“I’ve loved being a personal trainer, and I wanted to find a way to take my work to the next level,” he said. “I didn’t see myself leaving the personal training space, but I believed gaining a business background would help me grow and be more successful as a trainer.”
After his undergraduate degree, Franq’s first job out of college was in mortgage loans. If that sounds strange, he says it was. In fact, he says it was miserable.
“Needless to say, I didn’t stay there long. The job had nothing to do with my degree or interests,” he said.
Franq earned his personal trainer certification and left the desk job. He joined a gym and began to learn the ropes of personal training – how unique it is to train someone else when you’re the experienced athlete. A short time later, Franq had the opportunity to help launch
Sparx Athletic Refinery in Fishers, Indiana. It was there that he realized he wanted to add more business acumen to his personal training background.
“As a founding team member of Sparx, I got to see a lot of the business side. I realized I could take a bigger role than simply being a trainer,” he said. “At my previous gym, I didn’t have to worry about finding my clients because they just walked in the door. Sparx was a little different; I had to go out and find my clients, be my own marketing team and sell myself, which I’d never done before. Learning how to brand myself was a unique experience.”
He realized an MBA would help him bridge the gap between personal training and running a successful business. He researched MBA programs and ultimately chose the
Kelley Evening MBA Program because it offered him flexibility to have a day job and spend time with his two-year-old son, Franqlin III.
“I found a challenging program where I could be on campus to interact with professors and classmates and still didn’t have to miss my son’s bedtime. Kelley made it an easy choice for me.”
Franq recognized he was enrolling in a rigorous MBA without any true business experience. He even doubted whether it was the right decision. Fortunately, he was able to work with Kelley career coaches prior to enrolling, who helped him learn what to expect and how to prepare for business school.
“My Kelley coach helped me realize I’d be able to keep up with the curriculum and my classmates. I‘m one of the youngest people in my cohort; I barely made the cutoff for the required amount of work years to apply, so my coach also helped me appreciate that I could do this,” he said. “I never had to sell myself before, so Kelley’s coaching lifted my confidence. I understood that I’m worth it. I belong here just as much as the next person, and I have just as much to offer. I’ll be able to keep up and excel.”
Franq majored in marketing during his MBA and found those courses – along with classes in operations – to be the most applicable and insightful to his work.
“Chris Sutton, MBA’11, [associate faculty], really broke down the basics of marketing for me and was patient and understanding when I met with him to discuss topics I felt I didn’t fully grasp in class,” he said. “He knew I didn’t come from a marketing background, but he made sure I had the foundation I will need to be successful.”
“Professor Amrou Awaysheh taught me how to think differently. Operations is something I’d never given thought to. It was a class full of case studies, and he did not hold our hands or sugarcoat things. He was very straightforward, and as a result, he shaped our thinking,” said Franq. “Cases often give you bare bones information. Amrou taught me how to digest it and think deeply about the takeaways.”
Franq says being in the classroom with a diverse group of MBA students—from engineers to finance professionals, from marketers to helicopter builders—has also been transformative. Franq says he wouldn’t have met these people, who’ve become so influential to him, without the Evening MBA Program.
“One of my teammates, Mike Hernandez, is among my best friends now. When things get tough, our team supports and encourages one another,” he said. “That support from classmates going through it with me has been vital to my success.”
During the day, Franq translates his MBA learnings into initiatives at Sparx, where he takes care of daily operations, accounting, facilities and social media.
“I have a lot more responsibilities, and I don’t think I would’ve been ready to take them on without the foundation I’ve built at Kelley,” he said.
Franq says he’s always looking for opportunities to be create more value for his company, like setting service price points that help Sparx be more profitable.
“That’s one thing I learned early from my professors, and I put it quickly to use,” he said.
“Professor Kyle Anderson’s Quantitative Decision Models course taught me how to run deviations, which helped me set projections for what I should be earning annually. It also helps me set annual goals, so I can carve out time to be with my son. My son was a driving factor in all this, and the Evening MBA taught me how to plan and achieve realistic goals for my life.”
Franq says the Sparx team has recognized the benefits his MBA has brought to the gym. When he returned to school, he warned them it would take up some of his time, but in the end, he says he knows his MBA will be to their collective benefit.
“Sparx has gained a bit of a following since I’ve taken over, and it’s helped us gain more interest. We want to be the best facility in the country, and we have followers interacting with us who are interested,” he said. “It’s huge that we’ve been able to make a splash in Indiana, which is frequently voted one of the unhealthiest places in the country. We’ve turned a corner, and I think it’s been in part from what I’ve been able to apply since I’ve been at Kelley.”
Eventually, Franq and his Sparx team would like to open new locations. He says with the support of his Kelley Evening MBA – and all the connections and networking that has come along with it – he feels confident he can keep his momentum going.
“The opening of Sparx in 2016 was a huge moment in my life. When I went to the Evening MBA new cohort dinner, I realized I was moving from moment to momentum,” he said. “Don’t ever feel discouraged or ill-equipped to move your life forward. Always believe you can get where you need to be.”