Iron Tribe was founded by fitness industry veteran, Forrest Walden (bio), back in 2008 in his 400 square foot garage. Initially, it was just to have a place for Forrest to do group based workouts with his friends because he couldn’t find anywhere locally that offered the right amount of space and equipment. There was no charge to belong but you had to have a personal invite.
However, as more and more friends begged to come and join his garage gym, Forrest began to dream about what it would look like to start a brand new concept that would take his team based, group workouts to the next level and allow more lives to be impacted.
The first official Iron Tribe location opened in February of 2010. The response from the community was immediate and overwhelming. In fact, the 250 membership cap was reached in under eight months with a waiting list of others to get in. This location has operated at max capacity with a waiting list since hitting that mark in September of 2010!
With the goal of franchising the concept from the very beginning, Forrest systematically worked himself out of the business so that he could begin to refine the model and plan the next few locations. Initially starting on the floor coaching for the first three months, then moving to manager of the facility for the next three and eventually moving his office out of the first location within the first six months, ensured Forrest that he understood the model operationally and would be ready to duplicate it.
This led to partnering with Jim Cavale (bio), then a client of the ITF Homewood gym, to open the second location. The ITF 280 location is considered to be the franchise prototype, as it is located in a strip center (proving out an “anywhere USA model”) and was not dependent on Forrest or the referral base he had built from his garage gym. In fact, Jim ran it from the first day and Forrest has never coached a class or sold a client in Jim’s facility, or any for that matter, since opening that first Iron Tribe.
The ITF 280 gym also had an amazing start (100 members within 100 days) and within four months, Jim left management in the hands of his team to join Forrest in their humble 400 square foot “corporate office” to begin laying the ground work for future expansion aspirations the two had to franchise the Iron Tribe brand.
Their goal? To establish a franchise opportunity to scale the purpose of the Iron Tribe brand; “To Create Fitness Communities That Change Lives.”
The success of their second gym also proved that they had a scalable business model and system for them to continue to developing with their own gyms in Birmingham
Armed with this confidence, the search for a third location began. However, in this location, the ability to add a corporate office next door was paramount. Creating an “operations-based culture,” where the corporately owned gyms rank at the top of the chain, ensures a constant involvement in the brand-wide delivery of Iron Tribe’s day-to-day experience.
The third location, ITF Downtown, opened in March of 2012 and also experienced tremendous success. In fact, it has grew faster than any other ITF location to date. The corporate office is in fact next door and corporate team members can walk over at any point to engage with client in conversation, work with a team member on a new system or just grab a workout in one of the classes!
The very next month after the Downtown gym, ITF Mountain Brook opened up its doors as the fourth location, and less than a year after that, Iron Tribe 150 opened up in Birmingham metro’s Hoover area. Following the lead of the three other locations, each of these gyms have built fitness communities that are transforming hundreds of lives each!
Operating now five corporately owned locations in its Birmingham headquartered market, has given solid insight into the model as to how it runs most efficiently and how it can be continually developed for optimal performance by those who run it.
What this means for Iron Tribe franchise partners, is that there is no “ivory tower” corporate office environment, where the ITF Corporate Team is out of touch with those operating a franchise in the system. Anything passed down to franchisees, has been tested and proven in corporately owned gyms first. Best demonstrated practices and marketing plans are refined and maximized before they’re ever systematized as an official part of the model.
To date there have been more than 70 franchises awarded in markets ranging from Seattle to Miami, and in between.
At TribeCon, Iron Tribe’s annual franchise conference, the top performers are crowned for their achievements in establishing their fitness communities and changing lives with the Iron Tribe brand.
Building Your Team
The best training in the world will only be as effective as the level of people being trained. At Iron Tribe, we strive to have the right people on the bus and know that it essential to your success as well! Fireseeds, our recommended sourcing vendor, has helped almost all of our Franchise Partners find the right people to build strong teams. For Franchise Partners who choose not to use Fireseeds, our virtual training platform (ZenDesk) has many resources to assist you in the vetting, hiring, and on-boarding process.
No matter which path you take to hire your team, every hiring system we have, is created with the core values of the Iron Tribe brand at the core. We hire, evaluate, develop and even fire to the core values of this brand, and you will have the tools to do the same, as you work to build a team to reach your big hairy audacious mission (BHAM) that is in front of you!
Coaches Practicum Program (CPP):
During this three-week training program, Iron Tribe Franchise coaches learn how to deliver the Iron Tribe Experience through classroom education and hands on training in a corporate gym. Trainees report to our Birmingham Headquarters for three days per week, to learn all the movements, delivery methods, role-play, and receive coaching feedback from our veteran superstar coach, Jessica Parks.
In addition to this, each participant is paired with a Lead Coach or Manager from one of our corporately owned gyms in Birmingham, who strives to immerse them in the culture, training them in all coach responsibilities and coaching the trainee through the live reps they experience coaching actual classes!
This two-day intensive weekend is lead by Director of Programming, Kyle Sottung, along with our Product Support team. Serving as our “stamp of approval,” coaches are re-taught a condensed version of the Coach Practicum Program (CPP) material, tested on their product knowledge, coaching ability, and overall experience they deliver to our Product Support staff.
Management Practicum Program (MPP):
The MPP is a three-week training program that runs in unison with the CPP, so that managers can be trained to coach, in addition to learning how to operate their new Iron Tribe gym. MPP participants are paired with one of our Corporately-Owned Gym Managers, to shadow them for 30-40 hours per week.
These Corporately-Owned Gym Managers also support several Franchise locations in the field. Thus, they know the importance of sending out a well-trained Franchise Manager! In addition to this valuable experience, MPP content is delivered by the operations support team two days per week. Trainees receive classroom and role play training in sales, management systems, our software systems, and leadership with a Franchise Support Trainer.
What makes a good Iron Tribe Franchise Owner? Whether you will be an Owner/Operator or an Off-site Owner, your level of Engagement will determine your success! Tribe Academy is two intense days of Vision, Leadership, and Communication training for our Franchise Owners. We will take you through the Iron Tribe Leadership Meeting Rhythm and its respective components, which are based on a combination of operations, strategic planning and the core values of the brand. Ultimately, you will learn the leadership formula that we use in leading our corporately-owned gyms and the Iron Tribe corporate staff.
At the core of Tribe Academy, is the Iron Tribe brand vision, which is made up of our purpose To Create Fitness Communities That Change Lives, and our own big hairy audacious mission (BHAM) . The leadership tools you will pick up at Tribe Academy are “the how” that will get us to the BHAM!
Iron Tribe Zen Desk:
Our State-Of-The-Art virtual training system is an exclusive online training platform accessible for all Franchise Owners, Managers, and Coaches. Functioning as an online operations manual, ZenDesk houses hundreds of hours of video, tools, and operational documents and procedures. This extensive resource covers everything from how to coach class, to Marketing, to the Daily Growth Checklist for Managers. Everything a Franchise Partner and Team needs for executing the model is at the click of a button!
Four weeks prior to opening, Iron Tribe Franchise managers receive a series of weekly phone calls from a franchise support rep. Aggressive guerrilla marketing, pre-sales, and system execution are some of the hot topics covered in these calls.
The typical Iron Tribe Franchise support cycle consists of up to two visits during the first year. These support visits are focused on ensuring excellent delivery of the product, accountability for executing the model, key performance indicator (KPI) review and the gym leader’s overall growth strategy.
Each franchise coach is evaluated by Kyle or a member of his Product Development team using the Triple “C” Rating (TCR), which evaluates each coach on their ability to deliver an outstanding athlete experience through execution of Class Structure, Coaching, and Culture. Once the initial TCR is established, Kyle customizes a plan for the development of each coach for their continual improvement.
The support team also utilizes our “Flagship Evaluation” to evaluate Iron Tribe Franchise Managers on their execution of the model and performance in light of their goals. Acquisition, Retention, Administration and Leadership are the focus of the Flagship and follow up support.
Our Franchise Support reps are always available for monthly phone calls with each Iron Tribe Franchise Manager. The calls are focused on KPI review, accountability for goals, troubleshooting, and action steps for the next month.
Owner Engagement Forums:
One of the most powerful tools for our Franchise Partners is connecting and collaborating with each other. Once a year Iron Tribe Franchise Owners have the opportunity to get together for Leadership Training in Birmingham with our corporate team. This time is devoted to helping each owner assess their business and team, conduct strategic planning, and set goals together, working on each others’ businesses to help drive further success and change more lives!