Adam Rice of ISI Elite Training: “Be honest, be transparent, be honest and instill core value integrity”

Be honest, be transparent, be honest and instill core value integrity. Approach problems together. Yes, as the leader you are ultimately responsible for the outcome and success of the business, but you have a trusted team at your side. Bring them into the fold, huddle around big issues and challenges and address them together so […]

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Be honest, be transparent, be honest and instill core value integrity. Approach problems together. Yes, as the leader you are ultimately responsible for the outcome and success of the business, but you have a trusted team at your side. Bring them into the fold, huddle around big issues and challenges and address them together so that everybody is on the same page.


As part of our series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times”, we had the pleasure of interviewing Adam Rice.

Adam Rice is the Founder and CEO of ISI Elite Training, the nation’s top-ranked emerging boutique fitness franchise brand. A man of faith, former division one college athlete and astute entrepreneur, Adam’s focus has always been on health, wellness, and fitness, which is what lead him to launch ISI Elite Training in 2011 based on Proverbs 27:17 “Iron Sharpens Iron.” Adam graduated from Coastal Carolina University with a bachelor’s degree in Sports Management and is a proud husband and father of three young children.


Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

Growing up in Iowa, I was athletic, but I was also overweight for my age. While attending a baseball summer camp at the University of Iowa, the coach pulled me aside and told me because of my weight, I was a liability on the playing field and that if I wanted to be a better athlete, I would need to trim down a lot. This sparked by fitness transformation, and everything changed dramatically. I researched how to lose weight, how to get faster and I put forth a plan that resulted in me losing more than 70 lbs. I went on to play NCAA Division One baseball at Costal Carolina University. This drive, plus my entrepreneurial spirit from a very young age set the stage for what would become my life’s path and passion, which is God, family, and fitness.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

The funniest mistake I ever made wasn’t just one instance but, looking back now, I laugh at myself because I didn’t really know what I was doing back then. I didn’t understand how to be a strong business leader and I had a lot to learn about running a company. The take-a-ways for me was to slow down understand basic business operations and take one step at a time. Once things started to roll in the right direction, it was easier to adapt to the increased business flow and I trusted my instincts to lead the company in the right direction, but even with this, it wasn’t always easy and navigating those first few years was definitely a learning experience.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

There are three people that come to mind. First, my dad had enough faith in me and my drive that he co-signed a twenty-thousand-dollar loan to help me get my first studio up and running. Both my parents have been a huge source of inspiration for me to chase my dreams. The second person is Wayne Brigman who was an executive leader in the hospitality industry. His son was one of the first people I trained, and he became a strong mentor in my life both personally and professionally. The third person I need to mention was Jeff Cash. He is a local Chick-fil-a franchisee who is a huge man of faith. He shared so many valuable insights with me about operating a business. And, like me, he was married with four children and had trailblazed a path that I found myself following.

Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?

As an athlete, I started out training athletes. When I opened ISI Elite Training, I wanted to take that athletic based training and make it widely available to all people. I think it is critically important for all people to dig deep and find that inner athlete and showcase their athleticism within a team setting. We call watch team sports and fantasize about the comradery and pure energy that comes with being athletic around other athletes. ISI Elite Training is built on making that dream a reality.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?

During the operation of my first location, and still learning how to be a business leader, we were facing a negative e cash flow situation and had to choose to either pay half of payroll or pay rent and other operating expenses. I went home that night and just soaked my head under the shower for what seemed like an eternity before taking a mental turn that defined the rest of our journey. At the time, I was married and expecting my first child and with the business crashing around me, I worked through finding that mental strength within to emerge from that shower with a new attitude and purpose to make it happen. The next day, I made some hard decision of letting some staff go and sat down with the rest and laid it all on the table. I showed them everything. The financials, the bills, the operating costs, everything. I asked them for their trust and in return I promised them we would get through this. This created a vulnerability on my end and commitment on theirs. That synergy helped us rise to the occasion and we went on to have our best months. The business got back on track and those coaches are still with me today.

Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?

Absolutely! There were many times I came close to throwing in the towel and going on Indeed.com to take a job. However, my faith, my family, and my drive to succeed was stronger than that little voice inside that said quit. Ignoring that voice and putting forth the attributes I learned and remembering other difficult challenges I overcame gave me the confidence and drive to push forward. What I’ve learned is that just when you think your world is coming down around you, it isn’t. Getting to that perspective is the challenge but once you are there, you can see the problems and solutions with much more clarity. Sometimes you must ask, do you want to be the bison or the cattle. Bison run into the storm, while cattle run from it. It times of difficulty, you have to be the bison.

What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?

As a leader, as an entrepreneur, the most critical role of a leader during challenging times is maintaining mental stability. Keep yourself in that zone that allows you to see problems clearly and come up with solutions that are driven mentally and not emotionally.

When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate, and engage their team?

I tie everything back to vision. As a leader, you have to have a crystal-clear vision, mission statement and values. Diving into core values is critical because it helps navigate each decision that effects your business. When we meet with prospective franchisees at ISI Elite, we always outline and discuss the brand’s core values and mission statement. We want to make sure our franchisees are in-line with those core business and brand attributes, which has helped our company through uncertain times.

What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?

Be honest, be transparent, be honest and instill core value integrity. Approach problems together. Yes, as the leader you are ultimately responsible for the outcome and success of the business, but you have a trusted team at your side. Bring them into the fold, huddle around big issues and challenges and address them together so that everybody is on the same page.

How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?

The future is based on results of the present. Leaders must focus on the actions of today and anticipate the results of tomorrow. In unpredictable times, this is even more important to do. If you get bogged down in the process of things and lose sight of the actions of today, then the future may continue to be a challenge. Instinct and trust in yourself and your team is always the best recipe for future success whether predictable or unpredictable.

Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?

Simple: the right thing is always the right thing.

Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?

The first is a lack of communication. The second is a lack of transparency. The third is the lack of follow-up. The fourth is poor planning. And the easiest way to remember this is that each connects. Businesses can fail or succeed simply on the absence or presence of strong communications.

Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?

Some key strategies to maintain is first to know that there is opportunity at every obstacle. For example, when COVID-19 hit, our company as able to shift quickly to a LIVE virtual training platform that allowed us to maintain connectively with our members, while offering them the same level of fitness energy. This was particularly important especially given a time when people needed to have that connection with the outside world.

Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.

First and foremost, over-communicate with your team. As a CEO, I want to make sure that not only I am communicating with other executive members, but they are overcommunicating downstream. Secondly, is to maintain vision and core values in everything you do as a leader. Third is to be honest and transparent with how the company is performing and where you think the overall inefficiencies are. Work on those inefficiencies in a clear, concise manner. Forth is to maintain faith in your ability to lead. Confidence and fear are easily recognized by support staff so make sure you maintain calm and confidence when navigating uncertain or turbulent times. Lastly, never lose sight of having fun. Mark Twain said find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.

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

One of my favorite quotes is, “Eyes Up, Rise Up.” When you are focused forward (with your head held high), the ability to see and overcome any obstacle is in your favor.

How can our readers further follow your work?

I can be followed on my LinkedIn account — https://www.linkedin.com/in/adamriceisi/ or on our company website, www.isielitetraining.com.

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

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