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Tips From The Top: One On One With Devan Kline

I spoke to Devan Kline, Founder and CEO of Burn Boot Camp, about his journey and his best advice

Adam: Thanks again for taking the time to share your thoughts on leadership. First things first, though, I am sure readers would love to learn more about you. What is something about you that would surprise people?
Devan: Thanks for having me! I’m in with Thrive Global and everything Arianna Huffington stands for, so it’s my honor.
It may surprise you to know that I was a professional baseball player in the San Francisco Giants organization for three seasons. I left Central Michigan University (Fire Up Chips!) after my third year to pursue the big leagues. I was released at 24 years old after bouncing around the minor league system. Playing baseball at a high level definitely prepares you for the business world and I remain grateful for the opportunity. My pro career is responsible for instilling in me discipline and a strong work ethic. It taught me that when you desire something so badly, you’d do whatever it takes to succeed.
Adam: How did you get here? What failures, setbacks or challenges have been most instrumental to your growth?
Devan: There are two major events that are largely responsible for shaping who I am today. My parents abused drugs and alcohol and our home often got very violent. I looked for a role model to look up to, but could never seem to find one. When I was 15 years old, I found a Tony Robbins CD. I played it every day for a couple of years while going back and forth from school or practice. Tony became the mentor I was searching for so badly. This began my infinity for psychology and human behavior. I had to “figure it out” at an early age in order to handle what I was dealing with at home.
Secondly, I was released from the Giants and my dreams of playing ball under pro stadium lights were instantly gone. As I sat in my hotel room crying my eyes out, Morgan, my wife and co-founder of Burn Boot Camp, kept reassuring me, saying, “Look at what you’ve done. You have to be proud and keep moving.” This moment made me realize that I needed to focus on pursuing what I knew I could be the absolute best at. It taught me self-awareness. I wasn’t going to be the best pitcher in the world as long as Justin Verlandler is alive, so I decided to forgo pursuing the sport and hone in on my passion for fitness and business.
Some of our biggest failures are often our best teachers. I’ve learned to love the process of failure and that’s allowed me to seek risk others aren’t willing to take.
Adam: In your experience, what are the defining qualities of an effective leader? How can leaders and aspiring leaders take their leadership skills to the next level?
Devan: Outstanding leadership qualities are hard to come by, but there are many different qualities that can define an outstanding leader, such as having a positive and progressive attitude, communicating a vision effectively, recognizing small victories, and being empathetic.
If you want to take your leadership skills to the next level, I suggest practicing the NET principle. I expand on this in my book, Stop Starting Over, but this stands for “No Extra Time”. Use every free moment you have to better yourself. For example, listen to podcasts that will sharpen your business skills while walking the dog, exercising, or driving.
Most importantly, never stop expanding your networks. Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to take part in the annual NextGen in Franchising Global Competition along with other millennial entrepreneurs looking to scale their businesses through franchising. I finished in the top three and presented my business concept on the main stage at the International Franchise Association Annual Convention. As a relatively new franchise concept that’s experiencing rapid growth, I was able to form relationships with some of the industry’s top executives and apply what I learned to enhancing my business model as we become a nationwide brand.
Adam: What are your three best tips applicable to entrepreneurs, executives and civic leaders?
My three best tips for everyone are wrapped in an overarching theme: content is the only variable in 2018.
Instagram and Facebook are the most underpriced attention in the world. If you’re established with a budget, spend money on Instagram and Facebook ads until you’re blue in the face. If you don’t have a budget, then spend your time or someone else’s constantly advertising strategically using these platforms.
Be a marketing company first. When you take this approach, you look at your business through a different lens. The distribution network of old is gone and free live-streaming apps like Instagram live video and Facebook Live are taking over as we speak. If you’re always making decisions like a marketing company, attention scales quickly. Attention is the only variable of content creation that matters because without it, sales don’t occur.
PR lives on Instagram and LinkedIn. It’s no longer a $1,000 plane ticket and two days of your life to connect with other entrepreneurs. You don’t have to spend an enormous amount of money going to every single conference and event out there. Social media has eliminated that need, so you can focus on the in-person networking events that are the most valuable. We’re connected more than ever, which creates an even playing field where anyone can reach anyone.
Adam: What is the single best piece of advice you have ever received?
Devan: “When there are no resources, get resourceful.” – Tony Robbins
Morgan and I moved to Charlotte about 18 months after I was released from the Giants. I had been a certified personal trainer in Naples, Florida, and found out Morgan was getting a job promotion. When we relocated, we had no family or friends we could rely on, and were living in a brand new city with very little money. Resources were slim to none.
I started the very first Burn Boot Camp in a parking lot in April 2012 with about $600 worth of dumbbells and exercise mats. Eight months later, we had four “parking lot” locations and hundreds of members. This was the launch pad to the rapid success we’ve experienced since we began franchising in 2015. I always remembered that resourcefulness was the ultimate resource. Anything can be accomplished with the right combination of energy and intention.
Adam: What is one thing everyone should be doing to pay it forward?
Devan: Be more kind. There has to be a revolution of making positivity speak louder. Stop hating each other. Challenge yourself to see the world in other’s shoes. Empathize with other people and feel what they may be feeling. Why look at the world through a negative lens when it’s a lot easier to shed your positive light on their lives? People only communicate for two reasons: they either need help or they’re spreading love. View negativity as a cry for help and be kind to everyone.
Adam: What are your hobbies and how have they shaped you?
Devan: I am asked this question often. My businesses are my hobbies. I may work a lot, but it’s not work to me. It’s fun to build a business. Competition is inspiring. My competitive baseball itch was definitely scratched when Burn Boot Camp was founded. When I’m not working, I’m either in the gym training or playing with my kids. I don’t have to strive for a “work-life balance” because my wife is my partner and my kids are my purpose; it’s more like an integration of our passions. Morgan and I have lived our lives around grinding, traveling, and going non-stop but the overwhelming gratitude from our clients, trainers, and franchise partners keep me hungry for more.
Adam: Is there anything else you would like to share?
Devan: If I could share one piece of advice, I would tell you not to waste any time. Too many entrepreneurs talk about patience and, although well intentioned, people mistake that for being on the defense. If you want to be successful, you have to do what successful people do. If you want to be better, then you have to change your game and re-analyze your approach. Is it offensive or defensive? Are you sitting back reluctantly or smashing through walls? You can be patient in pursuit of the macro-goal, but make sure to get the most of your daily micro-goals.
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