This gym franchise is scaling to 50 locations

ABOUT THIS ARTICLE

Gym World comes from Kilo co-founder John Franklin, who shares lessons about making money in the fitness industry.

Steal their framework for building a strong brand

What’s up Gym World?

When I started my first gym, branding was not my top priority. That’s why I ended up with a banner that looked like this:

Hudson River logo

But after being in the game a while, I noticed something. The owners that generate 7-figures of profit OBSESS over their brand.

A brand is more than your colors, a font, and snazzy logo. Seth Godin said, “every interaction in any form is branding.”

Things like:

  • Answering the phone
  • Responding to emails
  • Starting class on time
  • Checking in with clients

all contribute. A good brand instills trust, which pays dividends for the life of the business.

💡 In his book Primal Branding, Patrick Hanlon views brands as belief systems. He argues that creating a belief system attracts others who share your beliefs.

If you’re a good operator, you can run a successful gym with a weak brand but it’ll never scale.

To grow to 10+ locations, you need to learn from the Alloys & Alphas of the world.

Another example is MADabolic, co-founded by Brandon Cullen and Kirk Dewaele. According to their website, it’s the industry’s first and only strength-driven interval training franchise. It combines elements of a boutique studio and a CrossFit gym.

💡 Get more insights on MADabolic in Evan Lindsay’s interview with Gym World.

MADabolic has been around for 12 years, and while most owners struggle with two locations, they have 35 gyms open. Brandon thinks the sauce is in the brand.

Here’s how he built a brand that’s scaling to 50 locations by next year:

Being specific

MADabolic hired an outside firm to help understand their member base. They found their members were type A personality, young professionals with sports backgrounds.

While most owners we feature target 40-year-old moms, MADabolic positions themselves as “The Strength Gym” and focuses on 25-30-year-old ex-college athletes.

MADabolic instagram
One look at their Instagram, and you instantly know who belongs there and what the vibe is like.
💡 Most CrossFit gyms have weak positioning because they appeal to everyone. To learn how to fix this in 5 minutes, read this article.

Identifying this audience not only made marketing easier but also allowed Brandon to shape the business around their needs.

Case in point: MADabolic has a strict on-time policy, where once classes start, the doors are locked.

MADabolic strict on-time policy
According to Brandon, members love the discipline and punctuality of it.

This rare approach sets the brand apart from other franchises.

Being consistent

Every MADabolic location looks and feels similar, maintaining a consistent brand experience both in-person and online.

Each gym is 2,000-2,500 square feet and accommodates 20-25 person classes. The equipment is organized into stations for efficiency, and they don’t use any barbells.

MADabolic location
MADabolic gym location

They also invented custom shelving units that save 400-750 sq ft. This cuts real estate costs and makes it easier for franchisees to find smaller locations.

MADabolic custom shelving units
💡 Brandon says the custom shelves save $50 per square foot. The average MADabolic location is on a 10-year lease. Let's break down the savings:

Savings per location: 750 sq ft x $50/sq ft = $37,500/yr Over 10 years: $35,000 x 10 = $375,000

So, he’s saving up to $375,000 per location. 🤯

Being true to the culture

Building a brand worth talking about can be polarizing, leading to negative reviews. But even the strongest brands piss some people off.

You want 51% of people to love you, and 49% of people to hate you. -Stu Brauer

MADabolic has a clear belief system, which makes responding to criticism easier:

MADabolic clear belief system
The owner’s response to this review got over 4,000,000 impressions, 58,000 likes, and 2,400 comments.
💡 Your job isn’t to convince the person that wrote the review that they’re wrong. Your job is to convince a logical third party that you’re a well-run business.

So while most people fear bad reviews, MADabolic stays true to its brand’s culture and values. This attracts their dream clients and strengthens the brand.

TL;DR

Brandon and Kirk have roots in CrossFit but developed a unique concept that blends boutique fitness with CrossFit’s intensity.

By being specific, consistent, and true to their culture, they now have a brand that can scale.

For a deeper dive on MADabolic, watch or listen to Brandon’s interview on Gym World.

cheers,

j

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