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Grit: The Most Overlooked Ingredient of Success: “Everyone gets knocked down sometimes” With Shannon Hudson, Founder and CEO of 9Round and Phil Laboon

Remember that everyone gets knocked down sometimes, and while this may be disappointing in the moment, it is just helping to build your mental “Stress Muscle.” As we face new challenges, our “Stress Muscle” is stretched further and further… But this ultimately makes us stronger in the end. I had the pleasure of interviewing Shannon Hudson, […]


Remember that everyone gets knocked down sometimes, and while this may be disappointing in the moment, it is just helping to build your mental “Stress Muscle.” As we face new challenges, our “Stress Muscle” is stretched further and further… But this ultimately makes us stronger in the end.


I had the pleasure of interviewing Shannon Hudson, Founder and CEO of 9Round, the world’s largest kickboxing chain. 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. 10 years later, 9Round has grown to be a worldwide sensation, but it took some “blood, sweat, and tears” on Shannon’s part in order for it to reach that point.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what events have drawn you to this specific career path?

I’ve been an athlete my entire life. I began with martial arts and eventually made my way into kickboxing, through which I went pro by my early twenties. Because sports and fitness have always been important aspects of my life, it only made sense that I would one day end up in the fitness industry. And when it comes to kickboxing, that is what I know and understand better than anything else, so why not pursue a career with it? As Steve Jobs said, “If you don’t absolutely love it, you will quit because it will be very difficult.”

Can you share your story of Grit and Success? First can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

Even though I had won some pretty big titles during my professional kickboxing career, kickboxing is not exactly a high-paying sport. So I did not have a lot of capital to invest in my first business endeavors, which included a local chain of martial arts studios, a massage therapy membership program idea, real estate and a local car wash. And none of these first efforts at business ownership were extremely profitable in the long run; in fact, both the massage therapy membership program and car wash business actually turned out to be complete failures. Then when my wife and co-founder, Heather, and I opened our first 9Round studio in 2008, we did so during the recession, without even enough money to put a sign on the door and while I was simultaneously in the process of buying my way out of one of my other not-so-successful business attempts. But we put our hearts and souls into that first 9Round studio, and as a result of the effort we put in combined with the lessons I learned from my previous business mistakes, I finally found success.

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

I knew one thing for certain: I was the best at punching and kicking my way to a better life and I was intent on seeing my dream to fruition. I was passionate about making people “stronger in 30 minutes” with the effective kickboxing workouts I knew and loved as a professional. I knew this was a niche that I could hone in on and be successful in, if people just got to see for themselves how impactful the workouts 9Round would offer could be. My parents instilled a “never give up” attitude in me from very early on in my life.

So how did Grit lead to your eventual success? How did Grit turn things around? From very early on, I knew that things would turn in my direction if I just stayed focused and kept the long-term vision in my mind at all times. Sure enough, that’s exactly what has happened. I’m proud to say that our company is now debt-free and financially stronger than ever.

So, how are things going today? 🙂

I am proud to say that in just 10 years, 9Round has grown to more than 750 locations across 42 states and in 16 counties. And we are continuing to grow at an accelerated rate! We will open another 150 locations next year as we approach the 1,000-location benchmark. I believe we are just getting started and things look very bright for us. Our international footprint is growing at an accelerated rate as well and we expect that to be a very large piece of our business in the future.

Based on your experience, can you share 5 pieces of advice about how one can develop Grit? (Please share a story or example for each)

  1. Maintain relentless focus each and every day. When we started 9Round, we were so laser-focused on our goals for the brand that we had no “Plan B” to fall back on. While this may have been risky, it forced us to put all of our time and energy into one goal: making 9Round an international success. If you have a “Plan B” in mind, you’ll find yourself hesitating to give 100% to your ultimate goal.
  2. Remember that everyone gets knocked down sometimes, and while this may be disappointing in the moment, it is just helping to build your mental “Stress Muscle.” As we face new challenges, our “Stress Muscle” is stretched further and further… But this ultimately makes us stronger in the end. I can handle much more stress now than I used to be able to. Stress used to really overwhelm me until I finally realized it was just a state of mind that I could control. Only I could control it; no one could help me. I realized I wanted to be a warrior, not a worrier.
  3. Stay in “Attack” mode, so you are always on offense. If you stay proactive and continue to look for ways to keep your business a step ahead of the competition, you never have to worry about making defensive moves to save yourself when new challenges arise. Always be prepared for the worst case scenario, so that you can attack it before it attacks you. Most people want to ease up when things are going well, but that’s the most dangerous spot to put yourself in. If you start to settle or get complacent, that is when you are the most vulnerable. It’s when things are going well that you have to pretend you are broke and keep fighting tooth and nail. Just recently I had to push our CFO to release more advertising money, because we need to continue relentless promotion at all times.
  4. Watch your surroundings! This one is crucial. Surround yourself with positive people, the right books and publications, inspiring television (not trash), and attend helpful seminars. With that combination, you can’t lose.
  5. Exercise! This will improve everyone’s performance, I promise. Getting physically stronger will also improve your mental strength.

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 you when things were tough? Can you share a story about that?

Heather Hudson, my wife and 9Round’s co-founder and COO today, has been my rock from the start of our relationship. Despite the fact that opening our first 9Round studio may not have seemed like the most financially sound decision at that time, she still stuck by me and supported my dreams. She believed in the future of 9Round just as much as I did, which was instrumental in encouraging me to keep pursuing it. We like to refer to ourselves as a “power couple.” We are so aligned in our goals and thinking that we feel we are unstoppable.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Today, 9Round is bringing fitness to as many corners of the world as we can, which is essentially providing goodness in and of itself. Fitness — and kickboxing in particular — comes with so many more benefits besides just weight loss: our workouts help people feel empowered, motivated, and truly stronger all-around on a daily basis. That was what we envisioned for 9Round to bring to the world from the start, and it really is exceeding the expectations we had for it in this way. There is nothing I love more than hearing incredible fitness success stories from our franchise locations around the world. When I hear about how a member has lost XX pounds and has gained so much confidence since joining the 9Round family, it reminds me that what we are doing is important and can really make a positive impact both physically and mentally on people’s lives. Not only are we helping people live longer, more productive and healthier lives, we are providing opportunities for people to own their own businesses and creating plenty of jobs. As of now, we have more than 3,500 trainers in our system. That feels really good to say.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

International expansion of 9Round! We currently have locations in 16 countries, and we have more international deals in the works that will be finalized soon. We want to make 9Round workouts available to as many people in as many places as possible. In some countries, we’ve even started developing female-only studios so that women can benefit from 9Round workouts in countries where men and women are not allowed to exercise alongside one another. The way I see it, the more we expand, the more chances we have to help people reach their fitness goals, which is what 9Round is all about.

What advice would you give to other executives or founders to help their employees to thrive? 

Let your employees help you lead. If you give them a voice, employees can make for great sounding boards for new and innovative ideas for improving your business. And remember that you were once in their shoes. If no one had ever believed in you and empowered you to make an impact, you wouldn’t be in the position you are in today. Also, from a franchising perspective, listen to your Franchise Advisory Council. This is the voice of the franchisees. They will steer you in the right direction every time.

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. 🙂

I have found a passion in creating meaningful work. When I see a trainer in the system grow and eventually own their own 9Round business, it’s so rewarding. Therefore, I feel like all companies should empower their employees to work from the ground up with as many opportunities for growth as possible. When people are already invested in a system, they will be more passionate about moving toward the possibility of future leadership roles.

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

In the words of Andrew Carnegie, “Put all your eggs in one basket, then watch that basket.” This relates back to my constant emphasis on the importance of staying focused. We certainly put all our eggs in the 9Round basket, but because we made this our utmost priority, we were able to see it through to success without getting distracted by side projects. This relates to every aspect of life. If you want something badly enough, you have to give it 100% in order to make it a reality. Trying to do too much all at once is a waste of time and will spread you too thin. You can’t be so scattered. Find your niche and focus on it completely to be great.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I am very active on 9Round’s social media pages, but I also like to provide my own insight when it comes to fitness, business ownership, etc. through my LinkedIn blogs. The handles for 9Round’s official social media pages are as follows:

Facebook: @9RoundOfficial

Instagram: @9roundofficial

Twitter: @9Round

LinkedIn: 9Round Fitness

And you can follow me personally on LinkedIn by searching for Shannon Hudson, and on Facebook @ShannonTheCannonHudson.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

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