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500 Locations Later, People Still at Center of 9Round

Shannon Hudson, founder of 9Round

Five hundred locations later, people are still at the center of 9Round.

“We’ve learned a lot from our experiences, and the first and foremost is finding the right people,” said Shannon Hudson, the founder of 9Round. “That goes for whether you own a single club and you’re finding [employees to run it], or you’re looking for franchise owners or franchise partners. You have to bring in the right people.”

9Round, a kickboxing gym franchise, was founded in 2008. Today, it can be found in 40 states and 11 countries, and its 500th location recently opened in Orlando, Florida.

As a learning lesson from fast growth, Hudson once again stressed that having quality people is essential to success. “You can’t just [sell a franchise] to anyone that can fog a mirror and has the money, because they’re not there for the right reasons,” he said. “Some of our best franchisees really come from nothing, they didn’t have a lot of money to start with, they weren’t given these great resources or this financial statement that looks amazing, and they’ve built it from scratch — fighting and clawing just like me and my wife built the brand.”

Here, Hudson shares his thoughts on the franchise’s success and future plans for continued growth.

CS: What are some factors that have contributed to 9Round being able to grow so quickly?

SH: There are a lot of variables. One, having a franchise that’s under $100,000 to get the doors open is very uncommon in the franchise world. That is the No. 1 reason we can open stores quickly. Two, it’s a very simple model, which also contributes to us being able to open the doors quickly. There’s not a lot of machinery or electrical needed. Three, I am a big stickler on support and staff. Most people ask, “How do I cut back expenses and run things with as least amount of people as possible?” I’m the opposite. I think, “How can I hire more to create more support and better franchisees?” I’m always looking to hire. I feel like I’m hiring a new person every week. I love providing jobs and opportunities.

CS: How does it feel to look back on where 9Round first started to where it is today?

SH: It’s bittersweet. I miss the days where I knew every franchisee and their family. Those days are gone unfortunately. I still try to know them as best as I can, but there’s just no possible way you could remember everyone’s situation. It’s a surreal moment. It’s so exciting to open 500, and honestly, I think we’re just getting started. As our support improves and as our marketing programs improve and everything improves, I think we’ll just start to snowball faster and faster. My goal is to be at 1,000 locations by the end of 2018. And by the end of 2030, be at 5,000 worldwide locations.

CS: How do you plan to accomplish this growth?

SH: Of course we’ll continue doing what’s been doing, but then also we’re going to beef up our international footprint as well. We’re in 11 countries, but we’re excited to penetrate into South America, Latin America and also Asia. We’re working on a deal with a Chinese investment group right now, and I think that would be a massive market.

Of course, the U.S. and Canada are our bread and butter, but it’s so exciting to see the brand work in these other markets. What we’ve learned is everyone loves a great workout and customer service. That works in any culture — I don’t care where you are, what language you speak — it works everywhere. We’re excited to expand the international footprint and stay focused on the ball.

A lot of franchisors at this time, they start other brands or other concepts, and those thoughts have crossed my mind, but that’s not really where my focus needs to be and I know that. We’re going to put our nose down for the next 5 to 10 years and we’re going to really grind it out and make this brand extremely popular.

CS: What is a learning lesson you could share for other club operators looking to grow?

SH: No. 1, if you’re looking to expand your business you have to think differently, you have to think big, and you have to bring in the right people that fit your culture and core values, and if they don’t, you have to be OK with saying, “You’re not a good fit here.” It’s a hard thing to do when you need capital, but it will really help you in the long run.

Rachel Zabonick-Chonko

Rachel Zabonick-Chonko is the editor-in-chief of Club Solutions Magazine. She can be reached at rachel@peakemedia.com.

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