My first month on the job was spent on conference calls, talking with struggling franchisees. The stories I heard will stay with me forever. Some lost their lifesaving, homes they raised their children in and much worse. These hardships I took personally.
Aspart of my series about prominent entrepreneurs and executives that overcame adversity to achieve great success, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ryan Junk. Ryan Junk is the President of CycleBar, the first and largest indoor cycling boutique franchise. From his days as a personal trainer, salesperson and general manager at Fitness USA to leadership roles at 24 Hour Fitness, LA Boxing, UFC Gyms, and now Xponential Fitness, Ryan is an expert in the fitness and franchising industries.
Jason Crowley: Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought
you to this specific career path?
Ryan Junk: My background in fitness was very much the “blue collar” way up. Back in 1995, I got a job as a trainer/salesperson at small regional gym called Fitness USA. At the time I applied for the job, I was looking for a summer job. My friend who referred me mentioned that if I really wanted the position, I would
have to lie and say I’m looking for a career in fitness, not just part-time work. So I lied to get that job. But needless to say, the joke’s on me because I’m still in the industry today.
I worked my way up to General Manager and then was recruited by 24-Hour Fitness, eventually becoming a district manager, when I was offered a position at UFC Gyms. I worked on a team that opened UFC Gym locations in Hawaii, Long Island NY and California, among other areas. When our owners, the UFC, were ready to grow the concept even faster, they wanted to acquire a company that was already an expert in scaling and franchising, which was LA Boxing. This is when I met Anthony who sold LA Boxing to UFC. With my experience in fitness and franchising, I eventually took on the role of President at CycleBar, which brings me to where I am today.
Crowley: Can you share your story of when you were on the brink of failure? First, take us back to what it was like during the darkest days.
Junk: I faced a lot of challenges when we took over CycleBar. The previous franchisor had sold too many franchises in a short period of time and were not operationally sound enough to support them. Member turnover was high largely due to the pay-per-class model. Lots of the CycleBar franchisees were unhappy as there was a lack of reoccurring revenue and many of the studios were really struggling. Consultant were hearing about these struggles, and CycleBar owners were considering selling their studios and struggling to stay open. At this time almost 75% of our studios were breaking even or losing money each month.
So, unheard of in the franchising world, I stopped selling franchises temporarily, which was risky, until I felt comfortable with the operating process, and the build out process was dialed in. We were able to reduce startup expenses for the studios and we switched how we monetized our classes to a membership-based business model, allowing owners to see reoccurring revenue to not only grow their business but also become predictable. We also implemented a sales process, added general managers with a focus on driving membership sales, along with the rider experience.
Some other challenges we faced were communication-related, as owners hadn’t received consistent, useful information and subsequently, didn’t feel supported. There was no training and onboarding for revenue driving activities for the franchisees around sales and no studio managers. Information was getting lost in emails and Google Docs and closed Facebook groups, rather than being uploaded and stored in one central platform.
Crowley: What was your mindset during such a challenging time? Where did you get the drive to keep going when things were so hard?
Junk: My first month on the job was spent on conference calls, talking with struggling franchisees. The stories I heard will stay with me forever. Some lost their lifesaving, homes they raised their children in and much worse. These hardships I took personally. Even though I didn’t sell them their franchise, I was the person responsible to fix it. For the first time in my life, on a large scale, I had an obligation to help people that were out of options and looking for help. It still sticks with me today, and I’m reminded every time I award someone a territory, that I’m committed to supporting them to being successful and to never repeat what I inherited.
Crowley: Tell us how you were able to overcome such adversity and achieve massive success? What did the next chapter look like?
Junk: We switched to a membership-based sales model and added General Managers with a focus on driving membership sales and in delivering the studio experience. We converted to a new CRM system that allowed us to track lead flow and conversions along with the automation of drip campaigns. We hired a sales team at the corporate office that traveled around the country to teach franchisees and managers how to sell, as well as through weekly, reoccurring conference calls. We also created our company intranet for franchisees to get information and completely overhauled our build out and presale practices. The company is now on an upward trajectory. We have seen 15 consecutive months of double-digit
growth in same store sales — we’re up 40% over the prior year in average studio revenue! Studios that had around 70 members are now seeing membership totals around 250. We are now opening studios with 400 to 450 members and we’re planning to continue this path and impressive growth in the next chapter. We ave 185 studios opened and project to open another 100 by the end of 2019.
Crowley: Based on your experience, can you share a 3 actionable pieces of advice about how to develop the mindset needed to persevere through adversity? (Please share a story or example for each.)
Junk: 1. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Regardless of how sound your plan is, you will get punched in the face (figuratively speaking). The plan will not work as written, people will quit and second guess your decisions, and customers won’t be happy. If you can get comfortable in that type of environment, these minor setbacks or distractions will not get you off your goal, slow you down and instead keep you in the proper mindset to constantly search for solutions.
2. Allow others to make decisions and they will be enthusiastic about their work. Even if their plans are not as great as yours, they will still execute them better than a seemingly perfect plan you forced on them. If their personal plan doesn’t work initially or things go absolutely wrong, they’ll find another way to make things work because they are invested, feel accountable and understand the main goal of the company. If things go wrong with a plan they were forced to implement, they’ll simply come back to you (the boss), and report that things didn’t work and wait until they are given their next order.
3. Keep the main thing the main thing. Your job is to not only keep the end goal visible for yourself but for your team as well. As a leader you are responsible to create an environment of execution. When things are not going your way, there are usually distractions and important but non-urgent issues that take up time and pull away from your main objective. During this time, your role is to remove obstacles for your team, measure the KPI’s daily to monitor progress and allow your team to execute.
Crowley: None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Junk: There have been several people that have really helped be build my foundation. It obviously starts with how my mother and father raised me and the early leaders I had in my career. I’ve also had the privilege to have great peers and team members over the years. If I had to pick a particular person, it would be Anthony Geisler. Anthony has a very unique way of challenging you to maximize your potential and get more out of people than most imagine. He has very high standards and allows you to find your path, but he is right there to add support when needed. Anthony is the leader that you feel your odds are better with him than without him, which is why I believe he has such a loyal following.
Crowley: Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Junk: I’m consumed with CycleBar continuing our advancement in technology, member acquisition and industry leading classes as we continue to grow our band. It’s great to hear how our franchisees are creating communities in their studios, touching people’s lives in their markets, and organically growing the
CycleBar brand throughout the United States, Canada, UAE and soon in the UK.
Crowley: 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. 🙂
Junk: I would say to teach our youth the power of leadership and how to deal with adversity at an early age. I feel far too often children are not allowed to fail, and when they do, they are told that it’s not their fault or it’s not important. I would love to see a movement that would find different avenues to give them
this opportunity in a positive and safe environment outside of the home. Honing in these skills would give them confidence and enhance their lives by allowing them to have a sense of ownership in their decisions and truly teaching them that life has no limits.
Crowley: Any parting words of wisdom that you would like to share?
Junk: Never lose sight of the goal, even if you feel off-course sometimes, and create a network of talented, passionate people. For me, that means my team in the office and the thriving franchise owners and their teams.
Crowley: How can our readers follow you on social media?
Crowley: Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.