Ben is the owner and co- founder of Flow Athletic, an incredibly successful yoga and fitness studio based in Paddington. In 2015 Flow Athletic won the Telstra Small Business of the Year Award.
After playing rugby professionally for Cronulla Sharks, Ben went on to own three very successful personal training studios. This earned him a healthy profit of $10K a week, but he felt something was missing.
Ben had a drive to achieve even more than this success, and traded his successful franchises in for a shot at his own brand and business. A few years forward to 2013 and Flow Athletic was born, a boutique studio offering, yoga, strength and cycling.
They have since expanded by opening up a recovery studio – Flow Revive – and have expanded their gym spaces, which accommodates the many Sydney celebrities who train there.
Dynamic Business had the pleasure of speaking with Ben to ask more about why he decided to sell thriving businesses in the first place, how he stands out in a saturated market and his interesting approach to future planning.
DB: Why did you decide to sell your three thriving businesses to pursue Flow Athletic? Not many people would do that when they are already so successful.
Ben: They were very successful business but they were franchises. I was highly leveraged and making food money but I was still under management.
I sold them as I wanted to create my own business, my flavour and my systems. That was my driver – to test myself – to test our my own business model. I believed there was an opening in the market for Flow Athletic.
It wasn’t to make more money. I was passionate about creating my own brand, and moving away from a franchise.
The franchise was great initially, as it was like business experience with training wheels, and it made me confident enough to create my own gym model and bring that to market.
In the first 3 months it was something I thought I regretted as I had put literally all my savings into it. Fortunately enough it turned out well.
Ultimately it was my passion to do my own thing that drove me to sell the businesses.
DB: What made you believe Flow Athletic would be a success?
Ben: I just believed that what we do we can really help people.
I come from a strength, athletic, personal training background and in that fitness circle I made good friends with a yoga instructor called Kate Kendall.
I saw an opening in the market for a combination of both strength and yoga.
I think my prior success in business and the gap in the market for that product gave me the belief. I also had also seen that yoga was a multibillion business in the US and that it hadn’t really caught on yet in Oz. This was back in 2011 – there is a yoga studio on every corner now – but not back then. There was definitely an opening in the market for yoga over here, as we usually follow the states and it was ramping up over there at the time.
Kate was successful. I was very successful. I had belief in our abilities and thought we could run a successful business together.
DB: What tips would you give to others looking to create a successful fitness brand?
- Identify who target market is
- Create business model to be aimed at that target audience.
If your ideal target market is 40 year old mums for example, you’re not going to create a cross fit box, because that’s not what they want.
- Ensure your physical location is conducive to serving that market.
DB: With a saturated fitness industry, how do you stand out and develop a loyal community?
Ben: I think the biggest thing to consider is that sales is important but client retention is better. Client retention is the big thing that we focus on – then of course we don’t have to sell as much.
It’s all about giving attention to customer service and keeping clients that leads to growth. We don’t have a leaky bucket so to speak.
Around 60% of our leads are referral based.
DB: How has Flow Athletic grown/changed over the years and b) where do you see it in the next 5 years?
Ben: We launched in 2013 with one gym and now we have three businesses under Flow Athletic.
You’re right in saying that the fitness industry is very saturated but I have 15 years plus of experience in it.
Because of that I don’t like to set goals past 12 months. I don’t know where the industry is going to go and where it’s going to take me.
In terms of goals, it’s to be world class in each of the businesses and to hit financial goals. I know these goals will take me somewhere else.
By doing a great job, opportunities will come. I focus on goals and performance rather than opportunities as usually by thinking about the short-term, the opportunities naturally present themselves.
Ben is hosting ‘The Business of Fitness’ half day workshop on Friday 21 June from 1130am- 5pm at the Park Hyatt in Sydney.
Within the workshop he will share his learnings from 20+ years in the fitness industry plus the know how from founding, growing and scaling his three businesses.
The session will cover:
- Digital marketing and sales
- How to host world class events (like Flow After Dark which we had 900 people to a Yoga Class)
- How we took a team of over 50 to run the @nycmarathon and raised $150,000 for charity on the journey – How to evolve your business to stay ahead of the competition (we have had double digit growth every year since we started in 2013)