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Shannon “The Cannon” Hudson, founder, and CEO of 9Round Franchising, LLC, is a former IKF Light Middleweight Kickboxing Champion of the World. He trained under legendary boxing trainer Xavier Biggs, brother of 1984 Olympic Gold Medalist Tyrell Biggs.
After over 70 bouts in the ring, competing in Canada and Europe, Shannon could not find a place where the average person could be exposed to the “Top Secret” training of some of the best fighters in the world. That is where his vision for 9Round began.
He knew that if he could take the grueling workouts he did in the ring, and create a non-intimidating, convenient circuit workout format, then the average person could enjoy the benefits of boxing and kickboxing without getting hit.
Shannon is a family man himself with two children, so keeping the workout short but still effective was key when creating the 9Round concept.
Shannon and his wife, Heather, opened their first 9Round studio in 2008. Since then, the brand has grown to more than 750 locations across 42 states and in 12 foreign countries.
Shannon is fully involved in the day-to-day operations of the business and constantly works to bring the best support to 9Round franchisees and the best workout experience to 9Round members.
He released a business book entitled Zero to 100 in early 2016, which is a candid memoir of the journey from one 9Round location to the first 100 locations being opened. This book made Shannon a best-selling author on Amazon. Shannon enjoys public speaking and motivating others by thinking outside the box.
What You’ll Learn In This Episode
- How 9Round responded to the pandemic and helped franchisees get through the shutdown
- Evolve faster when you have crisis
- Strategy for continuing to develop additional comprehensive support for franchisees
- Overcoming challenges in business
This transcript is machine transcribed by Sonix
Intro: [00:00:07] Welcome to Franchise Marketing Radio, brought to you by Akosombo Comprehensive, high performing marketing solutions for mature and emerging franchise brands to supercharge your franchise marketing, Go to SEOSamba.com.That’s SEOsamba.com.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:32] Lee Kantor here, another episode of Franchise Marketing Radio, and this is going to be a fun one today on the show, we have Shannon Hudson with 9round fitness. Welcome, Shannon.
Shannon Hudson: [00:00:42] Hey, thanks for having me.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:43] Well, I’m excited to learn what you’re up to. Tell us about nine round fitness. How are you serving, folks?
Shannon Hudson: [00:00:48] Well, we serve people by helping them punch and kick to get in better shape with kickboxing fitness program. And we we use kickboxing as the vehicle to make people feel better and just live a better life.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:02] So what’s your backstory? How did you get involved in fitness and in kickboxing?
Shannon Hudson: [00:01:06] Great question. My older brother, almost nine years older than me, started martial arts when I was born in nineteen seventy nine and I grew up basically in a karate school. I remember going to watch him do karate, and when I turned seven years old, almost eight, I started karate in the same karate school and just grew up loving it, started competing in karate tournaments, then went into boxing and kick boxing and turn professional. As a professional kickboxer, I won a world title in 2011. Up in Canada had a great career. I got to meet some really neat people. I got the fight on Chuck Norris World Combat League. As a professional, I got to do some really neat things and get the fight in Europe, representing the USA over there on the kickboxing event in Europe a couple of times. And you know, I wanted to create something that I could give to the average person, but take out the getting hit part and make it all about fitness and fun. And we created my wife and I created this 30 minute workout back in two thousand eight, and here we are 13 years later and seven hundred locations later.
Lee Kantor: [00:02:12] So now when you were making the transition from being a professional fighter to creating something that you know a regular person could enjoy and benefit from, was that a difficult transition to just mentally kind of wrap your head around, OK? Everything I’ve been doing and training for has been to succeed as a fighter in a ring, and now I’m going to take some of those techniques, similar techniques and then use it for a regular person to just kind of get in shape with mentally. Was that difficult for you?
Shannon Hudson: [00:02:44] Of course. I mean, you have to think we got the term we use as beginner friendly, right? So how do we take something that I took to a very high level and make it beginner friendly where anyone can do it? And that’s kind of the mentality you have to have when you want to scale something on the masses is to make it very beginner friendly. So that’s what we’ve done, and I think we’ve done a pretty good job of it. And you know, so so yes, it is challenging, but it’s a different mindset. Yes, sir.
Lee Kantor: [00:03:13] Now when you’re when you were first kind of playing around with the concept and you were focusing in on beginners and people that don’t want to be kind of the best fighter they can be, but just want to kind of start moving and play on the ground with their grandkids. That’s a different kind of audience and clientele that I’m sure you were surrounded with. Was that hard for you to kind of kind of wrap your head around how to serve these kind of people that are just, you know, for them going to check the mail and coming back and not be winded is a big victory.
Shannon Hudson: [00:03:48] No, you’re so right. And it was challenging and it surprised us. When I say us, my wife and I, you know, because you think boxing, kickboxing, you think this guy? Tough stuff, kind of kind of thing. But when we opened it open the very first nine round location, two thousand eight, we realized, Oh my gosh, females are a big part of this. And today, demographically, we’re 60 to 70 percent female age 30 to 40, and it really surprised us. Can this can younger people in older people do it? Absolutely. But that’s really that’s a real sweet spot for that. And my wife, Heather is a big advocate for it and believes that one of the reasons is females want to feel empowered and they they do feel empowered, punching and kicking where maybe guys like you and I, Lee grew up wrestling and roughhousing. And maybe, maybe females didn’t do that as much, but it surprised us on who this what? Who’s attracted to this? And you know, we’re very now we’ve learned so much and we’re very grateful for it. But it was surprising and very different than we thought originally.
Lee Kantor: [00:04:54] So then when you were starting out, did you have to kind of format the classes a lot different than maybe you initially drew them up?
Shannon Hudson: [00:05:02] No. You know, that’s funny. You say that the nine stations, the nine different rounds are still the same equipment, same same type of round, but we do different drills on the rounds every day. The workout changes every day, so we didn’t have to change anything as far as the core format of the model. We’ve definitely improved since then. We have full time workout programs in-house that program all these workouts for the franchise owners out there. And you mentioned the word classes it’s. It’s funny you say that because we really don’t have classes, the 30 minute sessions is a circuit that’s running pretty much all of the most of the day. And when a member shows up, they can just pop in the circuit whenever they whenever they get there, which makes it really appealing for very busy people so they don’t have to make a set class time.
Lee Kantor: [00:05:49] So you don’t have to be there at noon, you can come at any time and then just jump in and you where you start is where you start and it takes about 30 minutes to complete.
Shannon Hudson: [00:05:58] You got it. You nailed it. It’s like a conveyor belt. It’s perfect.
Lee Kantor: [00:06:01] And then now, what about from a franchisee standpoint? Is your ideal franchisee like kind of that fitness wellness person? Or could it be anybody?
Shannon Hudson: [00:06:10] It is. Well, it’s a couple of things that the director of the studio, which which is the face of the business and that might be an owner, operator or it might be a manager, right? So like Lee, if you wanted to hire. I don’t know you, Lee, and you didn’t want to be in the day to day, then you would hire a manager to run the studio who would be into fitness. Yes, and love people and love being the face of the business. If you were the owner operator and wanted to do that as your job right, you would be in there and you would be. And we definitely want you to love fitness. One of our values is you have to love fitness. You have to love people. This is a people business and you’ve got to be to connect with people. So, yes.
Lee Kantor: [00:06:50] So somebody on the team has got to be that face for the nine round fitness studio.
Shannon Hudson: [00:06:56] You got it. You have to have a driver in there that drives the business. That’s the day to day is the face of the business, kind of like I’m the face of the franchising company, right? I go to the events I’m on, I’m on the radio shows with you, right? So, so yes, you have to have that person that has that passion for it because that energy and that excitement is attractive and that’s what you want.
Lee Kantor: [00:07:17] Now, when a person takes on this, are you looking for that owner to be kind of just that fitness wellness person that’s serving that local community? Or at this stage, are you looking for kind of I need empire builders who is going to take over a market that’s going to, you know, take over a large territory. And so therefore, I’m looking for more of the professional franchisee who maybe has other franchises that are aligned with this from a customer standpoint. But then they can weave this into a make a really dynamic portfolio.
Shannon Hudson: [00:07:50] Yeah, great question. Actually, we’re looking for both. We will take both, you know, we love the smart business operator. That’s very advanced in franchising. In fact, we have several that own other concepts, not fitness, but they are multi unit owners and they do very, very well with they get franchisor. They understand it’s about systems and building people and training people and developing them. So, so yes, however, we we love the dynamic, passion driven person as well that’s willing to join a team nine round and willing to be coached and trained and follow a system. So the answer is we will do. We will take both of those.
Lee Kantor: [00:08:28] Now, how did kind of COVID impact the business in terms of a lot of locations weren’t allowed to have face to face? Were you the way you’re set up? It sounds like you might already kind of have some social distancing as part of just the makeup of the fitness center. But did that really impact you or were you able to navigate that pretty well?
Shannon Hudson: [00:08:48] Well, yeah, it impacted us a lot. I think restaurants and fitness centers and gyms really got hit the hardest, I think. But you’re right, our model is set up. You know, our stations are minimum seven eight feet apart. So the social distancing piece is actually pretty easy for us to do. But again, physical people breathing hard huffing and puffing. Yes, it did cause a lot of operational issues. But you know what? We we capitalized on that. We created an in-home at home workout. We have an app called Nine Room. Now, a lot of nine round franchise owners are selling this piece as an at home only workout, and they’re being able to take the revenue from that or include it in the membership to make the membership more robust and more well-rounded. So you have an in-studio membership, but you also have your app or you can plug on and turn it on at home or on all the apps the Roku, the iOS, the Android. So you know what? We built a studio at our headquarters to film these workouts in, and we have all the fancy lights and cameras and we’re on all the apps. So, you know, in great crisis comes innovation and different technology that’s advancing, and we’re proud to be a part of that and lead the way in that. So. So yes, it impacted us. It’s been hard. It’s not been easy. You know, we’re in 17 countries, too. So that throws a whole nother wrinkle in because the U.S., you know, half of the U.S. is vaccinated and the and doing better with with COVID, we’re handling it better. But now there’s, you know, the the variant and then you have the other countries or not as far along as we are for, for example, Australia, a lot of them are on total lockdown. We’re getting ready to open up our first location in Vietnam, but we can’t the whole countries lock down all of a sudden. So has it been hard? Yes. But you know, some good things have come out and with innovation that has come out of it.
Lee Kantor: [00:10:41] So now what has it been like for you as an entrepreneur, somebody who came up as a professional athlete and is now kind of growing this massive global franchise network? Any advice for the folks out there, maybe with an emerging brand themselves and how they can, you know, they aspire to where you’re at right now?
Shannon Hudson: [00:11:03] Absolutely. You know, the advice is don’t let the business outgrow you write a lot. A lot of founders sometimes, you know, founder and CEO are two different things. And I’ve so far I’ve been very blessed. I’ve been able to learn the CEO piece in the business piece and I’m still learning it every single day. Don’t get me wrong, but a lot of founders don’t continue on to become the CEO and operate the business, operate the chain at this level. So if you are one of those people, you have to decide. The advice is do you want to learn how to run the business or do you want to just be a founder and not really be in the day to day operations of running a business? I’ve decided, yes, I want to be the operating the business, so I enjoy it. I love it. I enjoy building a team and learning business systems. And so those are things you have to decide if you if you want to do so, whatever the decision is, commit to it and don’t let the business out, grow yourself and rock and roll.
Lee Kantor: [00:12:02] Now, do you think that you might have somewhat of a competitive advantage being an athlete at the highest level like you have been and you have been surrounded by coaching and great coaches and leaders that you just see that as part of the team is having a coach or a great leader. So therefore you kind of gravitate towards that role. Or maybe you look for people that have those qualities.
Shannon Hudson: [00:12:28] Oh, hundred percent. I mean, being competitive, be a competitive fighter or being a professional athlete has helped me be competitive in business. And I think anyone and I think everyone is competitive to a certain extent, but I take it even further. I like to win. I like to beat my kid and Mario Kart, too, you know, and playing video games. So I’m just competitive, right? So yes, and you have to you have to have that drive to win in business. You have to be competitive. I mean, it’s a competitive world. And I look I have trainers still today that that in business trainers, coaches and also physical trainers and coaches. So everyone needs a coach. Everyone needs to be held accountable. Everyone needs to be pushed to go as far as you can possibly go. And absolutely, it’s helped me. Yes.
Lee Kantor: [00:13:15] Now how do you help your franchisees as coaching involved as part of what the franchisee gets is their access to kind of these great leaders that you get to benefit from?
Shannon Hudson: [00:13:28] I mean, we think it’s the most important thing we can do as a franchisor is the training, and that’s also teaching, so our people are what we call them. Franchise business coaches have to be good at teaching franchisees. We do regional trainings. Everybody has a franchise business coach in-house. We were out there, a corporate rep, when they open, if they’re struggling, we’ll go see them. We have annual conventions, we have online training modules that they go through online universities, they go through. I mean, it goes on and on and it’s something that continuously has to evolve and it’s very, very important. And people call it training, but it’s really teaching, you know, training and teaching basically the same thing. You have to be teaching and become a good teacher. So everyone here needs to really work. We really work hard on our communication skills, are teaching ability or teaching skills, and we’re saying what the franchisees need. We have a franchise advisory council. We’re asking them, Hey, tell us, like, what training do you need on marketing? So we’ll find that we’ll develop it. If we can’t find it, we’ll make it so. So you’re right, one hundred percent. I think good franchise systems out there have great training teaching programs, and it’s very important
Lee Kantor: [00:14:41] Now for the folks that are in a local market. What separates kind of the rock stars from the kind of middle of the pack? What are they doing in their local market to really be successful and serve and really nurture the relationships that you need to have in order to serve a local community?
Shannon Hudson: [00:14:58] Great question. It’s all about execution franchising. We have the playbook done. It’s who can execute the best. And a lot of people don’t understand that marketing is one of the most important things you can possibly do. It’s why I’m on this radio show right now. What am I doing in marketing, right? Because I mean, a great example that I tell everyone is McDonald’s. They don’t have the best product, but they sell more hamburgers than anyone in the world. Now why? It’s that? Why is that was the marketing they have. I mean, it’s the marketing they’ve done years and years consistently over and over and over. So in the community, you have to execute, you have to be out in the community, be the face of the community. You need to be the nine nine round guy or girl or gal out there. You have to be the face and and it has to be consistently done. Do we want a great product? Absolutely. Do we give a good product? One hundred percent. But without the marketing, no matter how good your product or service is, if you don’t do it and do it consistently, no one’s going to get helped by it. Get served, as you like to say, and I like that terminology, we’re serving right. We keep that attitude, keep marketing. That’s how you win in this business.
Lee Kantor: [00:16:10] Now what do you what are you looking at as you continue to expand? What are the next, you know, the end of this year and next year look like for you guys?
Shannon Hudson: [00:16:18] Yeah, great. Great question. We’re hopefully going to open in three new countries Vietnam, Indonesia and Qatar in the Middle East. We have a pretty big presence over there in the Middle East, especially Saudi Arabia. We have almost 40 locations in Saudi Arabia. We’re going to continue with our app. We’re doing some new technology inside our studio with screens, workout screens, coaching screens by the workout stations to help give the customer a better experience. So a lot of innovation, a lot of exciting things happening. And you know, we’re hoping to finish the year strong and start 2020 too strong because, you know, New Year’s is coming a big time of year for us, New Year’s first quarter of twenty twenty two. So we’re just ramping up staffing up here. We have more on the Home Office staff. We have more team now than we did before COVID and I’m very proud of that. So we’re excited to continue growing and continue kicking well.
Lee Kantor: [00:17:13] If somebody wants to learn more, have a more substantive conversation with you or somebody on the team, what is the website?
Shannon Hudson: [00:17:20] Easy nine round. That’s the number nine. Are you? And we’re looking forward to getting as many people punching and kicking as we can.
Lee Kantor: [00:17:29] Lee Well, congratulations on all the success, Shannon, and you’re doing amazing work and we really appreciate it.
Shannon Hudson: [00:17:37] Well, thank you, sir. I appreciate it.
Lee Kantor: [00:17:39] All right. This is Lee Kantor. We’ll sail next time on Franchise Marketing Radio.