Omar Yunes Márquez of 54D: “It’s about keeping those basics present, sometimes the most important advice is the simplest one”

We want to focus on leveraging exercise as preventive medicine, something that after COVID has become even more important. The healthier you are, the more chances you have to be better prepared to face any health challenge. Preventive medicine should be a mix of medical, fitness, wellness and teaching people how to lead a healthy […]

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We want to focus on leveraging exercise as preventive medicine, something that after COVID has become even more important. The healthier you are, the more chances you have to be better prepared to face any health challenge. Preventive medicine should be a mix of medical, fitness, wellness and teaching people how to lead a healthy lifestyle.

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Omar Yunes Márquez.

With an entrepreneurial background that includes experience and success as a multiple-franchise restaurant owner and real estate investor, Yunes Márquez started looking for his next business enterprise soon after moving to Miami in 2016 from his native Mexico.

He found it in 54D, the human transformation program created by former pro athlete Rodrigo Garduño. Now as the CEO of a brand that is disrupting a 100 billion dollars global industry, Yunes Márquez is poised to take 54D to the next level with a global expansion in mind.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I really started my journey into the fitness world as a client, I came into 54D six years ago as a member trying to find something that actually worked for my training needs. I wanted to get leaner and take my physical condition to the next level.

After a couple of years of being a member in Mexico, I moved to the US for business reasons and while reflecting on where I wanted my professional career to go I decided to call Rodrigo — the brand’s founder — whom I had met when he was my Coach at 54D. We talked about opening a location in Miami which led to me formally becoming a part of the brand as a partner and later CEO.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

I think that the brand has always been disruptive. It started eight years ago when Rodrigo founded it, from the moment that it was created it was thought of as a disruptive movement. The fitness world back then was very stagnant, it had been basically driven by commercial purposes; how do we get more people at the gym, how do we collect more revenue.

Specially in Mexico where back then the only option was big box gyms charging on a yearly basis and hoping that you actually never came, with 10 to 15 percent of overall member usage. They were selling the idea that you might, somehow, magically become fitter just by buying a membership. After that came the studios, inspired by what was happening in the US with SoulCycle, Barry’s Bootcamp and Orange Theory. They were providing a different type of service but weren’t focused on reaching goals. The goal was to go there, have a great workout and that’s about it.

We were disruptive in the sense that it’s actually a program and not developed as a monthly membership. We want you to achieve results in a specific timeframe. The business model for 54D is not the usual one for the fitness industry, as it is more similar to a school. You want to go in, you want to learn, you want to achieve results but within a timeframe and with a clear path. We designed it in a way that you wouldn’t have to come in and do the same thing everyday because that will never achieve results.

We are the only program in the fitness-wellness space designed to reach a goal. From the business perspective, it’s disruptive because we are not solely focused on creating a long term revenue flow. Being a program means that there is a beginning and also an end to the process so some clients may not come back after the nine weeks are complete but hopefully, they will have learned enough to lead a really healthy lifestyle after being with us. In truth, what happens is that people fall in love so much with the brand that we have a huge amount of renewals, staying within the brand, but that is because they understood that we care about them. We are not designed as a program that goes on and on forever. It puts you on track and then lets you lead a new, healthier life. Otherwise, it would be like taking the same course at school over and over again, to learn the same things. You don’t want to live in school forever.

When it comes to 54D ON, our new online program, we always thought about launching something online but we wanted to be careful because our promise has always been to deliver results and it’s harder to achieve and measure when dealing with members on different countries that you never actually meet in person. You can provide content, build a great plan, you upload 200 videos that allow you to do yoga, boxing, strength training, cardio, meditation all of it within the same app but that will not deliver a result! It delivers content only, results are driven by a designed program and by human guidance and follow up. If you just buy an app that delivers content, you are going to have all these tools but you won’t know what to do with them. You won’t know where to start!

When we created 54D ON, we decided to take the same approach as with our on-site program. You have to achieve a result somehow, even if you are on the other side of the world. One of the things that made our system so effective is that we are community based, our groups are called generations, kind of like a support group that will help you through the process. How would we achieve that online?

With the start of the pandemic, we started providing free online classes on IG Live, as well as other types of content on nutrition and recovery. We just did that with the goal of trying to help out people because we understood that it would be really hard for everyone to be stuck at home.

Surprisingly, we developed a huge following fueled by Rodrigo as the brands´ founder and more than a million followers on his Instagram account. An average of 30,000 people logged in at the same time for every class, with an additional 150,000 devices streaming the class everyday.

We understood that there was a need for people who follow our brand for online content, that’s when we started developing 54D ON for the next four months. From the technological aspect, everything that had been developed so far in terms of software was based on monthly memberships, created to collect money every single month; we needed something different! We are probably the only online program in the fitness world right now that follows up with their members. We divided our online members into smaller groups led by one of our coaches dedicated full time to them, offering full guidance. No one else in the industry is doing this, that alone is completely disruptive.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Something that happens to me is that I tend to forget people’s names and for business that’s not a good thing. That started in college with a friend, I thought his name was something else than what it actually was for a year!

This challenge became even more important when I joined 54D because we are a company so involved in trying to really understand our members and it is a huge task trying to learn everyone’s names. I have a really good memory for some stuff, but I don’t know why, I’m just terrible with names. It definitely has been a work in progress.

When I was involved in other types of business, of course I learned everyone’s names, but here, you had 170 people coming in everyday. We have a printed photo book with every single member, and we have to learn their names. All the staff needs to know every member’s name because as a company we care who you are. The way that the world has changed, people are so out of touch with everybody else so they get really surprised when you actually call them by their name. Community in not only having a huge following but really knowing who that following is.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

I don’t think there’s a way to name just one mentor, especially with my background having been involved with so many businesses or activities. I think you find people throughout your life that become your mentors. My mom and dad of course taught me the importance of having a great work ethic and learning about taking things seriously.

But with time, as you mature, you really start finding other types of mentors. You know with my first job at a law firm, while going through law school, I learned a lot about responsibility. I remember my boss asked me once to send a document to a client, and I just assumed that someone would check on it. They didn’t, I messed up and was reprimanded. That was a huge lesson, you have to take responsibility for your job. It’s no excuse that I was a 19 year old working for a law firm and I assumed that someone would do it, you are always responsible for your own actions no matter where you are in life.

Throughout my business career, many times my mentors have been my own employees, especially in Mexico City. I saw people who were traveling a two or three hours a day just to get to work and then a few hours back. They were always there with a nice, happy attitude. I don’t think that you have to look at someone who is higher up, sometimes you learn more from somebody putting in the effort to grow.

Obviously for me at 54D, Rodrigo has been a mentor. He’s a great motivator, and I really respect him. I think that what he has done is amazing in terms of being disruptive but also because he really believes in what he does.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

People think that being disruptive means disregarding everything that came before and that’s not the case. I think it’s all an evolution, obviously there are leaps in that evolution and that’s when it becomes disruptive.

Rodrigo, for example, comes from a professional athlete background, so a lot of his training comes from that. It’s about combining all his previous expertise to bring something new to the fitness world. Thinking that you can just create something out of the blue and throw everything else away because you want to build something new, that’s when you get into trouble.

There’s also a time to be disruptive, it’s about understanding when you are ready to take that jump. Sometimes it pushes you, like we have seen with the pandemic and our online movement, but even that was not completely disruptive for us because we were always focused on community building.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

My partner Rodrigo is definitely one of the mentors in my life that has shared the best words of advice, one of the first things he taught me is that we can achieve anything we want. It doesn’t matter if you are in your fifties, overweight or whatever is the case. He has no compassion in a good sense, why would he? He pushes you to understand that there are no shortcuts, I guess that comes from his background as a professional athlete.

He also constantly reminds me about the importance of being happy. In my case, it meant going from doing a lot of different businesses, to just focusing on one, a change which actually made me happier. The satisfaction that we get from helping others means the world to me. Leaving a legacy for my children in terms of having helped so many become healthier and happier is the end goal. It’s great to make money in business, but it also is great to see someone actually being able to do a push up for the first time. Being part of that journey is definitely one of the biggest learnings I can mention since joining 54D.

My parents have also been instrumental in my understanding on the importance of going to school, working hard, staying away from addictions and anything that could affect my body, and also loving my brothers and being nice to everyone around me.

It’s about keeping those basics present, sometimes the most important advice is the simplest one.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

You can have a lot of ideas, but the real disruption comes when you can actually deliver and execute them.

We will continue working on 54D ON, it’s really about how to deliver results for our online members, how do we keep them fit and healthy even when they are scattered across the world. As a brand, we want to go deeper into research and development which is not something common for our industry. We want to understand what happens to the body, we are working with the University of Miami Health system to understand our member’s health markers for example.

We want to focus on leveraging exercise as preventive medicine, something that after COVID has become even more important. The healthier you are, the more chances you have to be better prepared to face any health challenge. Preventive medicine should be a mix of medical, fitness, wellness and teaching people how to lead a healthy lifestyle.

There are a lot of opportunities for disruption, especially in the fitness world. Most companies just focus on wearables, technology, and having the best app.

We don’t want just to train people, we want them to feel better about themselves.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

I love reading, and I have always been an obsessive reader from an early age mainly because of my dad. My image of him growing up was always seeing him surrounded by a bunch of books.

When that happens it’s really difficult to say that it’s been one book, I read all types of things because I enjoy it, from novels to more science-based content. In the end, I think books come to you at the time you need them most or connected to what you are going through at that moment.

The most recent one I read is called Range written by David Epstein, it explores the idea of why generalists triumph in a specialized world.

I really identified with the topic, since my first foray in the business world I have always done many things. From marketing, real estate to finance… And I always thought that such approach might be a liability. People tend to tell you that you have to focus on one thing.

When I found that book it actually gave me the peace of mind to understand that it’s actually fine if you get into a lot of different areas.

We can be the best fitness brand when it comes to training, but if we don’t understand the emotional wellbeing of our members, the social and nutritional aspects of it, we won’t be as good as we think we are.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I think that a good general quote is “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”.

Basically take life as it comes, sometimes you have to make the best out of every challenge that is presented to you.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

The movement that I would inspire is definitely 54D, because I truly believe in the community that we have created and grown over the years.

It might sound surprising, but we don’t market at all. We don’t pay for ads or huge campaigns because we believe that community is first and that if we do things right people will start sharing that word-of mouth.

It might be a slower way of growing but, for us, is really a way of knowing that what we are accomplishing is bringing results. If we don’t deliver on our promises, we should not be payed for making them!

Now, with thousands of followers of the 54D movement around the world, the challenge is to push them to become healthier. It’s not about fitness, it’s about being healthy. It makes people understand that they can have a more balanced life, improve their eating habits, their mental wellness, understanding that they don’t have to just do one thing to be happier but take it as a holistic approach.

How can our readers follow you online?

I invite them to follow Rodrigo Garduño (@ro54d) and 54D ( on Instagram

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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