Adam: Thanks again for taking the time to share your story and your advice. First things first, though, I am sure readers would love to learn more about you. What is something about you that would surprise people?
Ryan: A time that I surprised people was when I danced and rapped on stage between Vanilla Ice and Coolio at our company’s convention in Las Vegas last year! It was a lot of fun and definitely shocked a lot of people!
Adam: How did you get here? What experiences, failures, setbacks or challenges have been most instrumental to your growth?
Ryan: I started back in the fitness industry in 1995 as a trainer and salesperson at a small regional gym called Fitness USA. I originally took this job as a summer gig with no intention of staying in the fitness industry long-term, but here I am 25 years later!
After Fitness USA, I worked my way up through different jobs at 24-Hour Fitness and eventually UFC Gyms, where I worked on a team that opened locations in Hawaii, New York, California, and more. UFC eventually acquired LA Boxing to help them scale and franchise the concept, which is how I met Anthony Geisler. I also started a consulting business with my wife, Lindsay. We worked with franchisees in the fitness industry and this really helped me see the business from the franchisee perspective. We worked with them a lot on sales and marketing, which became a key experience for me as I’ve had to tackle a lot of similar obstacles on a grander scale in my current role.
In 2017, my path crossed with Anthony’s again when I took on the role of President for CycleBar, one of the brands in his Xponential Fitness portfolio. Since 2017, we’ve worked hard to turnaround the CycleBar brand from the struggles that it was having before Xponential acquired it. We’ve switched over to a membership-based sales model, changed out and upgraded our CRM system, POS, website and app. Implemented a communication strategy around weekly and monthly conference calls, company intranet and revised franchisee and General Manager training. We’ve also enhanced our reporting platform that allows full transparency and allows us to share company-wide success and best practices that have made the brand very successful.
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?
Ryan: In my opinion, the most effective leaders are those who have been “battle-tested”. Those who have faced and overcame adversity in their past. They can apply their hard-learned life lessons to leadership and conquer challenges is transferable in other roles. If you’re new in leadership you should seek for opportunities to solve and work through in order to gain this skillset.
To take your leadership skills to the next level, you have to be able to inspire your teams that don’t have your experience to follow you through adversity. In order to do this, you must clearly explain the goal and the pathway to achieving it. Then creating short term benchmarks to create small wins in order to build momentum that will ultimately take you to your goal. Urgency is key but you must also set the right expectations because this will not happen overnight. For example, I obviously had lofty goals for CycleBar when I stepped into the role, but we had to get our franchisees bought in on driving specific KPI’s in order to drive more revenue. This came from showing them small wins every month in these metrics that lead to same store sales growth over prior year in AUV, membership units etc. which over time helped them realize that we were on the right path to success together.
Adam: What are your three best tips applicable to entrepreneurs, executives and civic leaders?
Ryan: 1. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable – Sometimes even the best of plans doesn’t go how you expect they will. Once you accept this and get comfortable in uncertain situations and unstable environments, you’ll be able to search for solutions and keep your focus on the end goal while leading through ambiguity.
2. Constantly seek out and remove distractions for your team – Your team are always managing multiple priorities, and struggle when obstacles arise. Your role is to keep them focused on the “goal” and should narrow their focus to 2-3 priorities that will make the largest impact and constantly measure these items on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. Spreading yourself or your team thin by trying to solve everything that arises at the same time simply creates distractions and obstacles to execute. Keep the main thing the main thing.
3. Consistency is key to getting your team bought in to you – Stay consistent in who you are and what you say regardless of the circumstances and this consistency will lead to trust. You need to stand by what you believe in and be a role model of the behaviors that you expect of your team.
Adam: What is your best advice on building, leading and managing teams?
Ryan: Get to know your people and what they want. Their wants and needs should align with where you’re wanting to go as an organization or department. A lot of leaders skip this step and their teams fall apart. When you are first building your team and getting to know everyone it’s easy to skip this step. Grab coffee or lunch with them and dive deeper into their wants, needs and goals. Share with them the “why” behind the “what” you are trying to accomplish. This is a genuine way to build a relationship and make sure they’re in the same mindset as you. These interactions will help you figure out early on whether or not someone is bought in to the end goal.
Adam: What is the single best piece of advice you have ever received?
Ryan: You have to be you. A lot of leaders try to be who their employer, employees or board want them to be. Don’t try to talk, dress, or lead a certain way that is not authentic to who you are. The most effective leaders are the ones that can get people bought into who they are and not to who they are trying to be.
Adam: What is one thing everyone should be doing to pay it forward?
Ryan: Everyone should try to help others develop. Measuring progress and KPI’s are important but don’t drive results. Your people do. You can only win through your people. Great teams win through culture and if you have a culture around personal development you have a motivated team that continues to win and execute your strategy. The best strategy can’t overcome poor culture. People that are driven by personal development pay that forward to those closest to them and ultimately improves their circle and quality of life.
Adam: What are your hobbies and how have they shaped you?
Ryan: I’m not sure you can call it a hobby, but my wife and children have truly shaped me. When most people are spending their spare time practicing a hobby, I’m spending time with my wife and kids and trying to stay as involved in their lives as possible. I have three children under 12 and look forward to all of their life events. I coach their basketball and baseball teams – and it’s so rewarding to see them learning discipline, problem-solving, overcoming adversity and just getting great life experience. As much as I am coaching them, my wife and I are learning from them and it makes us better leaders.
Adam: Is there anything else you would like to share?
Ryan: It may seem random but one of my goals is to laugh with my family every morning before I leave for work. Laughing is a great way to start the day and puts you in the mind frame to succeed and lift others up.