You have to let people do their jobs even if you think you can do it better. I’ve learned that I have to leverage people’s time and capabilities and then let go, merely holding them accountable moving forward.
I had the pleasure to interview Shannon Hudson. Shannon is the founder and CEO of 9Round, one of the world’s largest kickboxing chains. As a former world champion kickboxer, Shannon developed 9Round in an effort to bring the kickboxing workout he knew and loved to the masses… without the “getting hit” part. 11 years later, under Shannon’s leadership as the company’s CEO for the entire time, 9Round has grown to be a worldwide fitness sensation.
Thank you so much for joining us Shannon! Can you tell us the story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Growing up in the martial arts industry, I fell in love with punching and kicking. I quickly began to see the benefits of physical training and how it led not only to not better physical health, but it also enhanced mental strength. This inspired me to spend years training to become a professional kickboxer, eventually earning the 2011 title of IKF Light Middleweight Kickboxing Champion of the World.
I wanted to bring the “top-secret” training that made me a professional athlete to the average person in the most convenient way possible. To do so, I developed 9Round: a kickboxing-themed fitness program that incorporates functional, interval, and cardiovascular training regimens, all in a 30-minute circuit. My wife Heather and I opened the first 9Round studio in our hometown of Greenville, SC, in 2008; today, we have nearly 800 locations open across 19 countries.
Can you share one of the major challenges you encountered when first leading the company? What lesson did you learn from that?
In the very beginning of 9Round, we had no money; I joke today that my middle name was Shannon “Zero Money” Hudson. Even though the lack of funds was a major challenge, we didn’t go raise capital like many entrepreneurs tend to do before launching a new endeavor. Instead, we just jumped right in by opening the business, remaining very disciplined and committed to our vision, and growing organically. Because of the success we experienced taking this route, I truly believe it’s unnecessary to spend excessive amounts of time raising capital before pursuing a business venture you are passionate about. If you’re determined to succeed, just sell your product or service and take what you earn from that to reinvest in the company.
What are some of the factors that you believe led to your eventual success?
Whether a business is successful or not is often a direct reflection of its leaders. From day one, I invested in myself and worked to continuously enhance my own business skills. Even though the success of 9Round today is apparent through its hundreds of locations around the world, I still work on improving myself to be the best leader I can be for this brand. I often attend seminars, read books, try new workouts, etc., striving to be a good student both in life and in business.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO”?
- You will always have haters, so embrace them! I used to try to please everyone, but I’ve learned that this is often not possible when you have a large organization.
- You cannot run a company alone, so invest in the people you bring on to help. I’ve seen firsthand that when you go out of your way to make your team members feel valued, they are more likely to take greater ownership in their work as well as remain loyal to the company.
- You will get kicked in the “you-know-what” with new challenges on a regular basis, and it’s impossible to block every hit you might take. It’s likely that every day will bring something new that goes wrong, but it’s how you respond productively — and not how you react in a panic — that makes the difference in how you solve your problems.
- Hire slow, fire fast. If you find yourself talking about an employee’s underperformance more than once, that’s a sign that it’s time to let them go.
- You have to let people do their jobs even if you think you can do it better. I’ve learned that I have to leverage people’s time and capabilities and then let go, merely holding them accountable moving forward.
What advice would you give to your colleagues to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
You cure burnout with progress! I’ve never heard someone who’s making a ton of money say, “I’m just burnt out.” In fitness, if you’re trying to lose weight and start to see physical progress, it fuels you. In business, money is the progress that fuels you. Focusing on progress, even the smallest steps, keeps you motivated.
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?
My wife Heather, who is the co-founder and COO of 9Round. She is a graceful implementer and puts up with my crazy ideas. In fact, her favorite thing to say to me when I start getting carried away is, “No more ideas!” It’s our running joke now.
What are some of the goals you still have and are working to accomplish, both personally and professionally?
Heather and I, along with the rest of our 9Round team, are constantly working on ourselves professionally as well as on the continued advancement of our 9Round business. One of our biggest goals is to have 1,000 locations open and operating by the end of 2021.
What do you hope to leave as your lasting legacy?
9Round. I have hopes that this brand continues to thrive long after I’m dead and gone!
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would enhance people’s lives in some way, what would it be?
Obesity is a detrimental disease. If I can play a part in getting the world to rally around exercise and movement, like we aim to do with 9Round, I know that will make an impact on making the lives of people everywhere healthier and happier.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
You can follow me directly on both LinkedIn (@Shannon Hudson) and Facebook (@ShannonTheCannonHudson). But you can also keep up with me by following 9Round’s official pages — check us out on Instagram (@9roundofficial), Twitter (@9round), Facebook (@9RoundOfficial), and LinkedIn (@9Round Fitness)!