Being a leader can be a very solitary experience, you can be surrounded by people and still be alone with your thoughts. You will have to make decisions for what’s good short and long-term because a lot of people are counting on you. The best way not to get lost in your mind space is to realize that your team wants you to succeed as much as you want them to.
As part of our interview series called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A Founder”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Manish Vakil, founder and CEO of Tumbles Kids’ Gyms, a successful U.S. and soon-to-be international franchise. Before becoming a franchisor himself, he was a multi-unit franchisee and area developer. He has more than 15 years of experience in franchise sales, operations, marketing, price negotiation, consulting, and accounting while working for companies such as Open Network Systems, ADP, Weichert, Eye Level Learning, and FasTracKids Programs.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I started out as a franchisee who was required to follow the rules of someone’s system. Some of them were good, but a lot of them didn’t make sense to me. It was not within my power to change them, so I decided to create my own system, to create something from scratch, do my own research and see it to fruition. That is why I chose to become a founder.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
The saga would be in all the difficulties faced when going from franchisee to founder.
This business is something no one else has done before, so there was no road map to follow.
I started out with a clear vision and mindset of what I wanted to accomplish but didn’t have any idea of how long it would take. You can’t plan for everything and when mistakes are made, solutions are needed. I had to figure out if it was better to fix what went wrong or try something completely different. Financially, in a new venture, you are always struggling with costs and how best to spend the money on hand.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
To quote Emerson: It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.
I love seeing something built from nothing. I enjoy the research and process of finding out what works and what doesn’t.
From the personal side, I want to show my kids the benefits of hard work.
So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
Things are going much better. Our sales and operation teams are extremely busy. We’re opening new locations and are on target to meet our 2021 sales goals.
My team and I have made it through a pandemic to get to this point because we never gave up. We used the downtime to our advantage and invested in the systems and the infrastructure looking to the future.
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?
We were working with a designer and tasked him with coming up with an original logo that was smart, fun and represented our core mission to shape the minds and bodies of the future.
He came up with an octopus with glasses. Which would be a great mascot.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
From the consumer standpoint, we created a one-of-a-kind experience for children to strengthen their minds and bodies. We teach science and use science and use kinesthetic learning.
From a business statement, we are equally unique in that we are completely mobile which allows us to go anywhere tapping into the talent and work ethic around the globe.
The STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Math) idea is an international one. We are the only kids’ gym that teaches STEAM classes, and we have developed our own curriculum that all the franchisees use. And it’s hands-on learning. The kids are physically putting into practice things they learned in theory, such as building robots or digging for “dinosaur bones.”
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Trust and delegate. Surround yourself with a team that shares your vision and goals and trust that they can carry out the tasks assigned to them.
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, Nimisha, is a constant source of support. She pushes me to keep reinvesting in the business instead of taking a salary. Tumbles wouldn’t exist without her. When I was on the fence about starting the business, she is the one who encouraged me to take out a second mortgage on our house to help fund the business.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Currently, we are working on compiling a venture philanthropy plan. We are hoping to donate a Tumbles franchise to a foundation or no-profit that would use its profits to fund education the fund in at-risk communities.
As to bringing goodness to the world, Tumbles has created a happy place that is teaching children to equate physical fitness with joy. That feeling will stay with them. Not only are we address childhood obesity, but our gyms can also be laying the groundwork for healthy adulthood.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Being a leader can be a very solitary experience, you can be surrounded by people and still be alone with your thoughts. You will have to make decisions for what’s good short and long-term because a lot of people are counting on you. The best way not to get lost in your mind space is to realize that your team wants you to succeed as much as you want them to.
- You need to be comfortable in delegating. Learning to delegate was a challenge for me.
- You will be continually training. It is a big part of what you do. Training relies on good communication.
- There’s always a part of you that will be in the research and development mode. I really wish I had known that ahead of time.
- You will always be trying to perfect the system or process and take it to the next level.
Can you share a few ideas or stories from your experience about how to successfully ride the emotional highs & lows of being a founder”?
The life-work work balance is a challenge for most people, but I focus on why I’m working so hard. I make sure to take time to recharge by playing video games with my kids, taking in a movie with my wife or by playing tennis but it’s more than just the activities — it’s being present in the moment.
Collectively, it has been my experience that multitasking doesn’t work. If you’re focusing on three or four things at one time, you can’t give 100% to any of them and it causes undue stress. The trick is to quickly transition from one undertaking to another. I write things down, so the next project is visibly in front of me. That keeps things from falling between the cracks.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start 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. 🙂
Tumbles is starting a movement to bring good to the world. Our model is to prepare the next generation with a healthy (and fun) lifestyle.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!