How to Grow a Boxing Studio To Over 90 Locations with UBX CEO Michael Jordan

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This week’s guest on the podcast is UBX CEO, Michael Jordan.

UBX Boxing + Strength is the fastest growing boxing franchise globally with 90 + franchises across Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and the UK.

In this episode, Richard and Michael talk about how Michael found solutions for the gaps and problems he found in the marketplace, how he funded his fitness business, how he marketed UBX and was able to open over 90 franchises and many more.

Tune in!

Transcription:

This is the marketing muscle up show hosted by Richard Toutounji where he gives you a peak behind the scenes, into the conversations and strategies that can help you grow your fitness business and live the life. You’ve always dreamed of. Hey, welcome back to the marketing muscle up podcast show I’m Richard Toutounji.

And today we’re in for a special treat. Uh, I wanna know all about the game of boxing and strength, and I’ve gotten another than Michael Jordan. Uh, joining me. He’s a CEO of you box boxing and strength. Australian founded in fastest growing boxing franchise globally with 90. Studios and growing throughout Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and UK, Michael, welcome to the podcast.

Thanks, Richard. Great to be on the end, looking forward to this chat. Yeah. Awesome. Um, we caught up a couple weeks ago at, uh, the fitness show and, um, you, there’s a lot of things that have changed in, in this world, in your space. I know you’ve come from the, I know you’ve come from a marketing background. Um, many years ago you had 15 years experience in this space.

Um, you’ve had your own. Gyms multi sites. Uh, you’ve been the wearable technology, uh, former MYZONE MD for Asia Pacific. You had a lot of, um, a lot of experience in this, and now, um, you’re sending as a CEO of, of largest growing franchise here. Tell me about how you got involved in this and why the decision to move into this, Michael.

Yeah. So, um, you know, without going into full history, we got into the industry, which, which was back in my mid twenties after starting in marketing, I, I started working for a company called CFM, um, over in the UK, that company then went on to my zone and I came back to Australia to. Help run the operation that the CFM and my zone here.

Um, that was a great experience in its own regard because my zone a definitely a innovative new product that had a bit of the, what do we need this for factor? Yeah. Before it actually became a main stay in the market. And I remember those early days of first of all, convincing, trying to convince clubs, that heart rate technology.

And the feedback on workout is, is something that improves the experience and improves the retention and attendance of members. Given that predominantly at that point, it was all about, uh, RA training for athletes. And, and, um, so there was some really sort of interesting insights there and particularly into the psychology of motivation.

And I found that really interesting in, in working in that space to really look at what drove member behavior and in taking them from being. Extrinsically motivated. I, you know, I’ve gotta join the gym to lose weight or for an upcoming wedding, or cause the doctor said to intrinsically motivated because I enjoy, or I wanna master something, improve on something.

Um, and. So that that really, really sort of changed the way I looked at at, um, you know, how fitness providers should position their products. You know, it shouldn’t just be about sales. It should be about to get members intrinsically motivated to, to stay and, and love. Doing what they do. Um, so in that process, I’ve gotta see a hell of a lot of gyms.

We, we work with big box bugs, 24 sevens and the up and coming models of the, the boutiques, which, you know, um, 8, 8, 10, 8 years ago was just hidden the scene with CrossFit and, and some other group training providers. So, you know, in that, that early period, it was really interesting to see the different dynamics.

Of members in the level of engagement, um, between a, say a big box, 24, 7 member and a, and a boutique member. And what we know that CrossFit did really well to really kick off the boutique phase was, uh, two things. They, they were great building relationships that, that community, or as it was known back then, coal.

Yep. Um, People lived and breathed CrossFit. And that was a, a sort of new sort of, uh, uh, new type of member in the industry. And they were paying a premium cause of, and also the results, you know, while there were some downsides of the type of CrossFit training in that program, set environment members were getting fantastic results.

And so. I was really interested in the boutique space and, and came across, um, Tim west who had started up a model 12 round fitness, one back the test club in two 14. And, uh, we got in that club and we had a few good catchups and, you know, I saw huge potential in the model and, and based on two things and, and it’s always looking at.

Where there’s a gap in the market. Um, and the two things at box now formally 12 grand. And we talk about the rebrand, um, a bit later, but the thing that I saw with the model that that was missing was first of all, boxing has been hugely popular in, in the fitness industry, but there’s been two ends of the spectrum has been.

Box, uh, hardcore boxing at, at one end of the scale and then sort of boxer size member on member pad work and the other round. Um, so I saw there was a huge opportunity to. Scale up that sweet spot in the middle with, you know, genuine boxing skills and drills covered with strength training. Um, and also the fact that unlike regular group training, there was the flexibility of being able to start at any time, which, you know, at that time, the convenience economy was in its early stages.

But as we go over the last five, six years has become very prominent in, in, um, every industry, you know, to provide products and services on demand. That was a long winded version, even though I was meant to do it short, but it was yeah. Through my dealings with my zone now saw that 12 grand and now U box had a massive opportunity to scale.

And so, uh, that’s when I up with Tim and Jon and, and started the journey. So, so Michael, how do you know, um, you know, and I, I guess I’m asking for this, anybody who’s got that next opportunity they see in front of their face right now, the next thing, how do you know that? How did you know that you boxed when was gonna be the next thing?

Um, is it something that you just go and work for? Is it a hunch that you have over the experience? How do you choose what’s that, you know, next, next thing that you think is gonna be the biggest thing? Yeah. I mean, if you read any startup book, it often talks about, you know, finding a, a problem in the marketplace.

That’s not currently being solved or not being solved. Well, um, You know, if, if you are joining a existing marketplace and doing something that is already out there in the marketplace, it, it’s more challenging to, to scale up and grow because you know, you, you are in what they call the red ocean of another other providers.

And, and then you’ve really gotta be on your game to scale up and, and grow. Um, given so many others are trying to solve. The same problem, the, the second part to that. So when you are defining a valued proposition, if you can’t clearly explain it to, you know, your friends or family in 30 seconds yeah.

Without them getting it, then it’s probably not that unique or, or easy to grasp concept to bring to market. Um, so if you are still bringing it into your conversation as to why. Your, the new product you bring to the market is gonna be different and better than what’s already out there. Yep. That’s also a good sign.

Love it. Problem in the marketplace. That is a good one. Um, and then that goes into marketing, Michael, like. I mean, marketing’s all about trying to go out there and find the right client to come to you. Um, but is it essentially, well, it’s a little diverse question here, but is it essentially bringing that attention to your marketplace that, Hey, this is the problem that we’ve found, and this is the solution.

Is that how you, you go out there and get more locations and more, uh, franchisees, uh, in your network. Yeah. You know, both from a, a B2B and B2 C perspective, you know, I think, um, without particular model. So using our new box as an example. Yeah. Talk talking through our two garlic props, which is the, the boxing in convenience.

Um, you know, we’re, we’re able to sort of clearly identify that, that gap. Intimidating hardcore boxing gym environment, which a lot of people are familiar with, you know, the, the procedural real threat that you’re gonna have to get in the ring. Someone’s gonna punch you back, takes a big chunk of the market out.

Yeah. Um, and then at the other end, if anyone’s done a boxer size class and done member on member pad work, they would’ve known the highly erratic, sometimes dangerous. Experience of being partnered up with someone at a different level to you it’s skill. So straight away, people nod their head and go, yep, I get that.

And so when we say, you know, we’ve six or 12 round boxing component, you know, proper boxing coaches at develop your skills as well as the conditioning. Um, that they get it. They go, aha. I see there is that gap in the market. Cause, um, you know, if they’re familiar with the industry that they’ve experienced, the two ends of the scale, and then, you know, the other side of the convenience is, is just talking about real life examples, you know, and if anyone’s done group training, um, the, the biggest frustration with that is.

um, booking classes, running a little bit late to class and having that awkward, you know, do I go, do I run when I’m 10, 15 minutes late? Um, and, but we, we see the impact and power of group training, the community, that coaching interaction, all that stuff. So the ability to, you know, be 15 minutes late from your business meeting and still be able to get the work out in that you really wanted to do.

Um, Everyone, both from a, a, a sort of business model or, or consumer model understands there’s value in. Um, so, you know, you, you’ve gotta give those real life examples to put into context what your value prop is. Um, and, and if it’s not that remarkable, then not many people are gonna remark about it when you launch it into the market.

Um, yeah. Yeah. Great insights there. Um, I just wanna go back a second. You talked, um, just for those who are going, Hey, I haven’t seen new box around where these guys come from. Um, you did a, you did a recent rebrand, um, 12 round to you box. Um, can you just quickly talk about why? And then, um, for those who are considering a rebrand mm-hmm , uh, what are the pros and cons of that Michael?

Of course. Yeah. So, uh, we started franchising in 2016. Um, and we, we did that as 12 grand in Australia. Um, we had some quick growth in the, in the few years up to 2019, when we started our international launch in our process, we couldn’t get the trademark for 12 grand internationally. So we were put in the position of, well, we’ve gotta create the brand again.

Now as painful as that was at the time, it gave us an opportunity to, if we would do it again, what would we do? Um, and so we, we looked at the, the model, the positioning, the future of the brand, the modernization as a fit out. And we felt, um, that U box better represented, you know, who we were as a product.

It said boxing and strength on the label. It gave us a more medium, uh, a premium feel with black and white, uh, are better colors to. Last a test of time that they don’t date like some colors, which we had bring in our logo. Yeah. So there were a lot of upsides to it. And so we launched international club under U, um, and grew Zealand Singapore.

Then, uh, end of last year, we, we partnered up with a group in the UK to roll out, um, two 50 clubs over the next 10 years under U box. So. Long story short, we realized that we were gonna have to grow two big brands or unified brands and bringing together under one. Nobody wants to grow two big brands.

That’s, that’s a double amount of work. I think particularly when they’re the same thing, it’s very confusing for the public. When you’re talking about two brands that are the same thing. So, you know, we, it was a great opportunity to really reassess, you know, our brand. And so we, we did a big. Updated the brand guidelines.

And for anyone that doesn’t have a brand guideline playbook, I’d say that is the, the stop, what you’re doing. And go back to that and, and, and put together a brand guideline, because it really helps you crack on with executing your brand through all the various touchpoints, your brand interacts with the public, whether it’s the way you communicate the digital, um, marketing.

Your in club experience your merchandise, your signage, and everything in between. Um, you know, if you’ve got that really crystal clear, you know, what’s your purpose? How do we, uh, represent ourselves? What’s our brand Bo it, it’s very easy to make decisions on the, go with the brand. Once you’re. Live, you know, in, in the marketing, um, you know, play month to month.

Um, so we, we did that. We really sort of, uh, took a look at how we could reposition ourselves, really articulated our, our value prop, which is now world class boxing workout spreading when you are. We’ve got a new tag tagline rethinking possible and, and, and that then was then put together in package and presented to the network and provided an opportunity not only to unify the brands.

And we’ve got a mission to be the world’s largest boxing community under the one brand, but also an opportunity to relaunch the clubs into the market and, and target those prospects that haven’t yet engaged. With 12 grand before under the, the new Ute box brand. Yeah. What a great, um, yeah, great initiative, especially when you can go into the marketplace with a brand new brand.

Um, I think that’s a huge part of marketing. Um, you know, a great opportunity there, Michael, we work a lot with, uh, independent operators. There’s a lot of, lot less here. And then, um, you have generally. Those who want to purchase a up and coming franchise or a new franchise or existing franchise. Take us through, you know, in your views because you’ve seen both sides of the spectrum.

Um, what, what are the pros and cons? I mean, who should go for a franchise who should say this? And I wanna, I need to go down and, uh, purchase a location and who should go and get a, their own location, you know, because you’ve seen it from both sides. I mean, is everybody suit. Um, to getto franchise or some suit of, for independence.

What are your thoughts on this? Yeah, really great question. And the answer is there’s definitely the two categories, people that are better to set up their own business and versus those that, you know, are best suit of franchising. I think with franchising, the thing that, um, incoming franchisees, um, need, need to sort of digest is that the playbook is set.

So you’ve got your playbook. And your idea is to Excel and be the best you can within that, that playbook. So, you know, bringing your personality and, and, um, sort of experience within that playbook. So it’s sort of like, you know, everyone that plays rugby needs to play by the rugby

rules, but each team can have their, their flare within. That game, right? Yeah. Um, so it’s not that, you know, you need personalities, can’t provide that player within a franchise model. Yeah. But where the sort of switch to going, they’re better suited to independence is if you know that, that they really enjoy the creative process of coming up with the model, the systems, the, the, the marketing, the.

The, the sort of, they wanna develop a product from scratch that they dictate the direction and, and, um, strategy for, for the product. So if you’ve got an amazing idea that you wanna bring to market and, you know, you don’t see an existing franchise model, do it. Um, and you don’t believe you. Feel you can be confined to, you know, franchises, playbook then get on down the independent road is the way to go.

You still need to assess, you know, all the things we talked about at the start. Do you have, you know, a unique value prop for the market and obviously, do you have the resources and time to, to build the, the systems, um, that you don’t get with an independent club, but, um, that, that’s probably how I’d categorize it too.

Whereas. Coming into franchise, all the, the, the strateg support systems technologies in place, ready to go. So you can get straight into the, the operating of the, of the business and, and growing from there. Yeah. Uh, love those two different examples there. Um, you are now, um, you know, you’re, you are, you’re expanding overseas.

You’re in Australia, in New Zealand, Singapore, I believe. Um, As, as someone who’s, you know, the CEO leading these locations, what. The biggest, um, you know, barrier you have in, in the growth of, um, in the growth of locations, but also making sure that, um, each location is independently growing happy, um, getting the leads, doing the marketing, right?

What are the challenges when you are trying to grow a brand and also looking after each location as. Mm. Yeah. Well, a as we all know, the last couple of years have been extremely challenging for the whole industry. And so it’s, um, you know, while this year’s been slightly different in that we’ve been able to put, you know, annual.

Yeah, calendar and game plans together, which is crazy to think for two years, we just really couldn’t do that. Yeah. Um, you know, I think that’s where it starts is having a really clear, um, sort of game plan for, you know, your marketing and engagement activities for, for the local clubs to execute. Um, so that there’s always.

You know, a strong initiative to, to execute to either, you know, generate leads in sales for the club, or, you know, provide initiatives for members to drive attendance and retention in club. And you know, so working through a clear annual game plan, um, throughout the year is, is a really. Important place to start.

And then having the performance managers across the regions, working with clubs to identify the strengths, weaknesses, and, and what each individual business needs to develop to, you know, take them to that next level. Um, and, and so that’s, that’s an ongoing thing and, and that’s, you know, a, a really important factor is sort of having a really clear game plan strategy for, for growth and retention, and then, um, making it easy for them to execute that.

And. Having the team to support them along the way. Um, So, so that’s from a, a local level perspective, um, then from a, a brand, uh, sort of a sort of international growth perspective. I’d say two for one, um, yeah, code really put the brakes some, uh, a few international expansion opportunities. We had. A guy, um, go over to the UK to launch your first club there, um, and came back, um, and just regaining that confidence in the, in the market from outside investors, um, that, uh, you know, the future is bright for the industry.

You know, there’s lots of lead indicators with, you know, the increased importance that people now put on. Their health and mental and physical fitness. Um, and so, you know, it it’s it’s while there’s been a recovery period, it’s, it’s bright times ahead and, and, you know, getting on the forefront of some opportunities, um, for growth in, in the industry is where a lot of investors are looking.

And to be part of that, you, you just need to, again, clearly identify whatever market you’re entering, that there’s a gap in the market. That your model can, um, gain traction in. Um, and so that, that’s the big thing. When we look at, you know, our partnership with empowered brands and international expansion is they identified the same thing.

We did that there was a gap for, for boxing con in their marketplace. Yeah. Made place. Yeah. Amazing. Um, and I love. I like the piece, you know, really getting clear on your brand guidelines. A lot of people I think would bypass that. And, uh, the reason why I find it really interesting is because. We, you know, when you, when you are growing multiple locations at a one time, and let’s say an independent is just growing that one, it, it makes a big difference because your message has been putting out there multiple times, um, every time.

So there’s something there’s a big, there’s a big truth in that I’d love to, um, you know, just bring to everybody’s attention in regards to that. Um, Michael, couple more questions for you. Um, Oh, I I’m really interested in for those who are, I mean, for those who are having the one location and, um, they’re in the one location, um, When, you know, when you say, okay, let’s launch a new location and someone’s got a brand new location, what would a brand new location need to get off the ground?

Let’s say they’ve got zero clients there. Then they wanna get to a hundred clients. Mm-hmm I guess what’s the timeframe. Uh, what does it look like in regards to, you know, marketing spend mm-hmm um, you know, and what, what should we expect in, in those, you know, let’s say that first a hundred, if you wanna put it that.

No good question. I mean, break even for U box model is 110 members. So target is to achieve that within the presale. Um, there’s a few really important factors and that this is industrywide first of all, getting a great location, um, with good commercial terms with the lease, um, particularly, uh, with the incentive, uh, a rent free period, you know, is, is always.

Beneficial minimum three months often more than that, um, you out contributions as well. You know, if you can get those incentives that really, um, extends your runway for, um, your targets, you need to hit as your, your launcher club. So obviously reduces your expenses early on. Um, and so that, that’s the most critical thing, first of all.

And then, um, making sure you’ve got the capacity to then. Execute the presale. Um, in our case, we work over four phases at a hype phase, the foundation one and the foundation two, and then the launch. So each one has a hype phases registering as as many leads as possible. Um, you know, new boxes coming to this other, you know, registry interest now build up your lead database and then have your count down to first release.

So. That we call them urgency cycles. Yeah. People are still very reactive to fo if you’re missing out. And, and so doing that with the best offer before you don’t have a lot to show with your, you fit out, um, that gets you early, early adopters. That just love a great deal. Um, then as you sort of approach it, you sort of bid out some the way we can scale up to your foundation, too, for those that wanna come meet you down at the club.

And while they can’t do a workout, they can yeah. Touch Phil, meet you, all that stuff. That’s your second urgency cycle. Um, you know, and, and do that right up until the opening where we do what we call a, a V I P week, which is a final opportunity to. Um, experience the, the workout. Yeah. But also get the foundation rate, um, before you, you do your, your launch special.

So those cycles are really important, um, and sort of planning them out strategically with, you know, your mix of. Digital and, and local area marketing, um, at the start it’s predominantly digital. Um, and then from about six to eight weeks out, you really hit the, uh, hit the ground to, to, you know, get your brand into exposed as many times as possible in, in person through signage, um, through corporates, community groups, all that stuff.

Um, but budget wise, it just depends, you know, that, um, you, you can be efficient with it, but you know, 10, 15 K um, it just depends on, on what type of business model you’ve got. Yeah. Um, but spending that over that period that the signage digital and, and outreach is, um, a fairly reasonable budget to, to execute.

Love it, great insights there, the hype phase, um, the two foundations and the opening and the V I P week, uh, huge value there about 15 K in spend. And it’s good to know, you know, Michael, because the end of the day, we’re talking about four marketing has changed and, um, you know, a, a dollar can go a lot of different ways, you know, used correctly used, right.

Knowing what you’re doing. And that’s why I love this concept. Um, you know, ensuring that you can lead. Here’s the, here’s the kit. Here’s what you need to do. Go and execute. You can be a big, a big, uh, a good business operator that way. Um, there’s a couple final questions I wanna know in your experience, what makes a really good.

Operator and what, and, and, and what makes a really poor operator? Mm-hmm I know I’m going off script here a little bit, but, uh, I, I just think that in today’s marketplace it’s business is not what it was 10 years ago, and it does require, it does require somebody to. I think know what they’re doing, you know, in business today, doesn’t matter what plan you have that at the end of the day, you want to know what you’re doing.

So, so what’s, you know, what are top two, maybe two or three chars of a, of a great operator versus someone who’s on the lower end. . Yeah. Well, we have, um, when we’re interviewing franchise applicants, uh, what we call the five CS. Yep. Um, which we assess the appropriateness of the, uh, applicant on. So those five CS are, first of all, capital, you need.

The, you know, the necessary amount of capital, not just to launch the club, but to, to have in reserve every small business needs capital to, to get started and get going. Um, then we talk about capacity. So capacity is. Really important. I’d say this is one of the biggest ones entering a, a fitness business.

A small business is, um, we have two categories, either an owner operator or, um, active investor. So owner operator is someone that. Takes on the managers role works in the day to day. The active investor has other jobs, businesses they run and, and, uh, the is an investment, but, um, the capacity to be still be able to support your team.

We say your first club trainer at your own club, most the weekly meetings, um, be an expert on your business. So that. You’ve got the finger on the pulse. When you, you sort of coach the staff and work with the members, because with these models that members are paying a premium. So yeah, if suddenly, you know, complacency sets in or, um, you know, the club experience drops or the club gets dirty, if you are not across it as a, as a, an active.

You know, the, the experience can lead to a downturn results fairly quickly, um, so that we need to make sure you need to make sure you’ve got the capacity. If you’re not under to support the business, um, you know, to, to drive the experience that needs to be there. Then we talk about, um, competency. So your point earlier, you know, Uh, the competency could be as a previous fitness operator.

It could be, they’re highly skilled in the technical side. They’re great coaches. Yep. Um, but it’s identifying right. What, um, relevant competency did they bring to the business and what are the areas. They need to be quickly Fu fast, um, upskilled on, and you know, you’ll know this yourself, um, until you get upskilled on let say marketing.

Yeah. Um, you may need to outsource that initially because you can’t sort of be great at one thing and pour in another, in this industry, you’ve gotta sort of be on your game with everything. Um, So looking at that competency, that, that speed to be able to learn things quickly and then apply it in a sort of systemized fashion, um, month to month, week to week, quarter to quarter, um, then we look at a character and, you know, character comes twofold.

And I think we all know this having gone through the last couple of years. Running small business is hard. It’s, it’s really hard. Um, you know, and there’s just so many twists and turns that, you know, that, that ability to sort of roll up your sleeves when go and get and, and sort of persevere through. The tougher times to get to the good times is really important.

So, you know, always sort of reflecting for yourself or if we’re looking at applicants, sort of their previous experience and, and going through different challenges and, and adversity and, and coming through that, um, because there there’s undoubtedly. Challenges when you open and launch and operate at a small business.

So, you know, if you don’t rack well on the pressure and stress, um, there’s certain examples where you may be better off. Staying in a, a employed role. Yeah. Growing a small business because the buck always stops to you as a small business operator. And that, that really comes into play. But also the fact of, you know, getting along with, with, um, the, the prospective, um, operator, and then the final one, just, we talk about comradery, you know, um, being a, being a team player and being able to collaborate.

And work together with, you know, your peers and one another to try to level up your performance as, as a, as an individual group. And, you know, like we saw at the industry events last week, that that’s great from an industry level as well. If we all work together together and sort of see how we can improve, then we all rise together.

Outstanding. Um, very good answers there, Michael. Uh, I love the style that the five C’s, um, excellent insights on that. Um, Michael, thanks so much, really appreciate your insights, giving us, um, some real golden golden, um, Items that we can tick off to make sure are we doing this? If we’re a for franchisee or an independent operator, um, finally, where to, from now, mark, well, you mentioned you got 250 locations launching, like what, what is the future of, uh, U box at the moment?

Yeah, so that that’s obviously a long term, um, project in the UK. Um, you know, we’re, we’re just really focused on continuing to evolve. Um, the U box model, you know, we’ve got some exciting. Um, new innovation and technology coming into the mix over the next, uh, six months. That will be really exciting to launch across the network, uh, continuing to, you know, analyze, optimize how we can improve performance across, across the group.

And then, um, continue to, to grow, uh, internationally as well with, with USA. The the next, um, sort of focus for, for growth over the next, uh, 12 to 18 months. So, um, so yeah, so very busy times and, um, yeah, just, uh, just really excited about keeping the, the momentum and progress, uh, across the board. Amazing.

Well, thanks so much, Michael guys, you haven’t yet experience the U box, uh, it’s U box training.com. And if you’re interested in, uh, getting a location, um, hit Michael up or go to the website and, uh, you can check more about that. Thanks so much, Michael. Thanks, rich. I really appreciate being on the, um, on the podcast mate, and, and congrats on all the great work you are doing as well.

Cheer. Thanks so much guys. If you’ve loved this episode, uh, be sure to share it out with a friend. Um, and really, uh, reply back and say, what did you love about this episode? Otherwise, go and check, uh, Michael and the work he’s doing and the expansion they’re [email protected] Thanks so much guys.

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