Something in the world of floating have you stumped?
This is one of the first things you’re going to want to know, and it’s a difficult subject to tackle. Everything from getting financing, to permits, to construction… It’s a lot to deal with. Fortunately, Graham and Ashkahn, beyond just dealing with this themselves when opening Float On, have worked closely with dozens of other centers going through this process and have a great insight into what to expect.
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Transcription of this episode… (in case you prefer reading)
Graham: Our question for today is, “How long does it take to open a float center?”
Ashkahn: It took us like three days.
Graham: I just opened one while I reading that question, so, not too long. I guess this depends on a lot of different things. There’s, “How long are you under construction?” Which we can kind of answer? And there’s, “How long does it take from when you decide you want to open one to actually opening?” which we can’t really answer.
Ashkahn: Well, we can talk about it.
Graham: We can discuss it loosely.
Ashkahn: We can’t answer it. but, we can have a conversation-.
Graham: “Solution” might be a little generous for this one, yeah. Alright, so, let’s start with the longer one.
Ashkahn: Yeah — so you just found out about floating.
Graham: How long is it going to be until you open up? I guess we have industry answers to that on the industry survey.
Ashkahn: That’s true.
Graham: But, probably somewhere between a year to five years?
Ashkahn: Well, let’s talk about it. You look up the industry things, and I’ll talk about the big steps you’re going to need to take on your path getting to construction.
Graham: Alright, I’m on it.
Ashkahn: So the big things you’re going to need to figure out are finances are going to be a big one. Where are you gonna get the money to build this float center, and this is one of those things that, it just hugely varies on your circumstance, how long it’s going to take you. Some people have personal capital from something else they’ve done and that step is done, right? And, other people need to get a bank loan, and bank loans will take a longer time, because you’ve got to show them the business plan, and information, you might not get approved right away, and you got to go to a different bank, and stuff like that. So, that one can really be a hugely variable time span.
Graham: And I have an answer for that one, too.
Ashkahn: Oh, yeah?
Graham: So for the 2017 industry report: “How long did it take you to find funding?
Graham: Yep. So about 45% of people had funding before pursuing their center concept.
Graham: 38% of people took zero to six months. 10% of people took six to 12 months. And, then a smaller amount, just a few percent, took 12 to 24 months, and a few more percent took 24 plus months.
Ashkahn: Okay. Interesting, so yeah. A lot of people are somewhere in that zero to six month range, who are in pursuit of financing.
So, that’s a big hurdle right? And I’d say the second biggest thing that’s a huge variable amount of time, is the finding a location, and this is just because finding location is really important. You can’t just choose a spot and a year later decide to move somewhere else. It’s not that type of business.
You’re investing a huge amount of money into walls and floors and stuff that you can’t take with you, and you have to be careful about what sort of neighbors you have, and the kind of amount of noise that’s made around you, and there’s just a lot of factors to take in, and construction stuff — you can spend a huge amount of money, because you chose one type of building versus another one.
So, it’s one of those things where it’s worth it to take the time to find that right spot, and that one can be anywhere from, what, do you an answer for this, too?
Graham: Yeah, I do have an answer, actually.
Ashkahn: Oh, nice. That’s great.
Graham: It’s not in the 2017 industry report.
Ashkahn: Okay, haha.
Graham: Sorry, I just felt like teasing you along. But I will say that, as long as I have the microphone, now, finding a location seems to be one of the most enjoyable parts for people, at least like scouting out a location and finding something that seems appealing.
Ashkahn: At least, at first. I’ll talk to people who are, it’s been like a year, and they’ve been still trying to find locations, and they don’t seem like they’re having the greatest time in the world, anymore.
Graham: Yeah, I guess that’s true. Okay, I rescind my previous comment.
Ashkahn: Well in the beginning it’s fun.
Graham: It is fun driving around, though.
Ashkahn: It’s fun, yeah, for sure.
Graham: I still do it, along the East coast or something, in some small little 2,000 person town. I’m still looking around for rent, like “We can put a float tank center in there, you know?”
Ashkahn: Haha, yeah. Some people will also take a few months, and I’ve heard of some people taking over a year, if not longer. Sometimes, it’s just really hard find that right spot. So, that also has a huge variable amount of time to it. And then, I guess the other big step before construction is just knowing what the hell you’re doing, you know? Like doing research, and finding out what you’re going to do with your construction, how many float tanks you’re gonna have, what type of float tanks they’re gonna be.
Graham: Gathering all of your contractors, making sure that everything’s in line with the Health Department and the Building Department. Getting all those pre-construction ducks in a row.
Ashkahn: And I get the sense that this takes people three months, on average maybe?
Graham: Well it’s all kind of like happening simultaneously is the interesting part.
Graham: So when you’re looking for a location and doing these negotiations, you’re also vetting out contractors and reviewing them. That’s why I think that most people take at least a year, to go from deciding to open a float tank center, to actually being open, is there is all this nebulous stuff, and a lot of it takes longer than you’d expect. And also, you should not rush into just opening the float center without knowing things. It’s a hard thing to get right, so a year’s worth of education feels almost like a minimum.
Ashkahn: Yeah, and I think the thing is a lot of the education is about construction, right? So it’s not just kind of like, well we’ll get it open and figure it out from there. You’re trying to get yourself to know enough to make sure your construction goes well, cause that’s where all of your money that you just spent all that time raising, is going to go towards. And, you’re hoping to not have your business and your building fall apart on you a year or two years later?
Graham: Trying, yeah. Trying your best.
Ashkahn: So, that’s worth it, too — it’s worth it to take the time to make sure that process goes as well as it can go. There’s no way to make construction perfect. There’s always crazy random stuff that comes up.
So that gets you to construction. Now that you actually have a spot and you’re ready to break ground, how long from there to opening your doors?
Graham: So that one, I have again. I guess I have my sense of things, and I have the industry report answer, which actually kind of line up.
Ashkahn: Okay, that’s good.
Graham: So, I mean, I’d say three months at a minimum, depending on the size of your center, right? If you’re throwing one tank into the center, then three months might be more than you actually need. But for actually building out a center, say three tanks or more, you’re probably looking at least three months to get it all built out. That includes, from when you take over, you already have your permits, you’re allowed to pretty much start tearing things out, and doing demo work, and getting the plumbing lined up, which is one of the first things. From that point on, three months minimum. I would say an average is probably between about three and eight months.
Ashkahn: Eight, really?
Ashkahn: Interesting, because three and six is kind of my gut feeling.
Graham: Three and six, I think, is more common but, it’s this crazy process, right? Even if the actual construction only takes three or four months — it’s the places we see float centers going in, almost more than anything, right? So, places like Nashville, or like Portland, or these kind of growing cities, because they’re building departments are slammed. So if they miss one inspection, all of a sudden they’re pushed back three weeks until the next time they can get an inspector coming in.
Ashkahn: And the construction crews are slammed, too. They’re all really busy doing all of this kind of new development that’s happening.
Graham: Yeah. So I guess, I’ve just been seeing that more and more through Float Tank Solutions, is people who have these prolonged construction timelines because they missed one inspection, and now they need to reschedule their subcontractors and they can’t come in, right, when the other information is going to finish, and the inspector can’t even come in for almost a month.
Ashkahn: This is stressing me out just talking about it. We don’t even have to do this right now. But the thing is, it pretty much always takes longer than you think it does. It’s very, very rare for us to hear of a float center opening on the date that they thought they would. And, in fact, most float centers don’t even list a date anymore, you know?
Graham: Haha, yeah.
Ashkahn: People have kind of grown wiser, now. They’ll say, “Opening in the summer!” or something like that.
Graham: And hopefully, I think that more people are switching to not even listing a year.
Graham: Which is probably intelligent, right?
Ashkahn: Opening some summer.
Graham: So for the sake of the construction question, going back to the industry report, so 31% percent of people said that it took zero to three months, 42% percent said that it took three to six months. So now we’re at about 73% of people said that it took between that zero and six month range. So, in that sense you were kind of spot on. But then another 17.8%, so almost 20% of people said that it took them six to nine months.
Graham: And then the other ones are really, so then, it’s nine to 12 months and 12 plus months.
Ashkahn: That’s from starting construction.
Graham: That’s looking at how long did the construction and build out alone take them. So almost everyone took nine months or less, and then there’s a few unfortunate souls that took between nine months and over a year to open.
Ashkahn: Man. So we did our construction in five weeks, which is really completely insane.
Graham: For a four tank center, and this is also why we’ve had to tear out everything since then, right? We’re like the guys who we keep advising others not to be. I agree with the people who are like, “We understand how to do this, you know. We’ve done research, but kind of went into it.”
It took five weeks and we didn’t really get a lot of stuff that we should have gotten right. And, if you’ve been listening to our podcast for a while, you know some of our history, you know about things like black rubber floors, and improper waterproofing on our walls, and all sorts of things like that, that we now say, “Don’t do this.”
Ashkahn: And it was the hardest I’ve ever worked in my life — it was completely insane. We were working 20 — 22 hour days. We’d sleep for three hours and wake up and do another 20 hours of construction.
Graham: I think actually averaged the times that you and I worked at least over that period and it about an average of 18 hours a day during those five weeks, which is crazy! So, we also worked ourselves to the bone. I know the contractor crews who were helping us would leave at the end of the day, and we would stay overnight until they came in, again, in the morning, and we’d kind of trade off, and they just, yeah, it was insane. I think we gained a little respect from them, though. Which is kind of cool. Anyway, don’t do that.
Ashkahn: Don’t do that. But we did open on time. We put a giant signs in our windows when we took over our space, saying “Grand Opening: October 17th”, and it was a week before, and people were walking into our shop, and thought we were joking.
They’re like, “Is that just like a practical joke? Those big signs on the window?”
Graham: …covered in drywall and dust. Half the shop isn’t built., and we were like, “No, we’re gonna hit it.”
Ashkahn: And we did. October 17th, we opened our door.
Graham: Yep. And then we immediately closed back down for another week to finish construction.
Ashkahn: To add water and doors onto our rooms, you know.
Graham: So, the idea that you could build out something like a four tank center in five weeks is almost comical, right? We didn’t build out nearly as extensively as we should have.
Graham: And, still, it almost killed us. So don’t plan on less than, I usually tell people four months, now. If you plan for four months, you might think that it’ll take you three, but plan on four, and if it actually takes you four, then you’re pretty lucky.
Ashkahn: I guess the only other thing, maybe worth mentioning, is…
Graham: …it will take you the rest of your life to run it…
Ashkahn: Haha, that too. I guess the idea of a soft opening, you know. Some people will get to that point and spend a few weeks running experimental floats for friends and family, before they kind of officially open their doors, and open to the general public.
Graham: Yeah, and I recommend at least a three week soft opening, as well, because it’s enough time for you to kind of run floats for a week, shut down, and do a week’s worth of repairs, or upgrades, or whatever you need to do, and then also run some tests floats for another week in there, all before your grand opening. So, at least planning for a three week period of soft opening, I think, is a safety net that is worth having. And then some people I know, at least one center, have had a soft opening of, I think, over a year.
Ashkahn: Over a year?
Graham: That was Modern Gravity, and G.P.S., they just called it a soft opening until they actually built up to their full number of tanks.
Ashkahn: I see.
Graham: Yeah, yeah, their grand opening was well, well after they initially built out.
Ashkahn: They probably just wanted an excuse for a party in a year. Like, we should have a grand opening, Friday.
Graham: Alright, I guess that’s about it for that one.
Ashkahn: Alright, excellent.
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