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Rob Deutsch: The entrepreneur behind F45

The fitness empire, F45, that turned one studio in 2013 into more than 1300 in 36 countries, launched its newest franchise offering – F45X – which will include Prodigy for 11 to 18-year-olds and Masters for over 60s.

An Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Report found that one quarter (26 per cent) of children and adolescents were overweight or obese and at age 18-21, nearly double (15 per cent) of those born from 1994 to 1997 were obese compared with those born between 1974 and 1977 (eight percent).

F45 Owner and Founder, Rob Deutsch, said the fitness industry needs a solution for the all-important 11 to 18-year-old market when young bodies are forming.

“Prodigy has been designed to deliver physical results and improve focus and concentration in young adults. We believe that every kid deserves to be part of a healthy, supportive community and our team training approach will get members running, lifting, rowing and jumping in a highly energised, motivating environment under expert supervision,” he said.

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Among Australians 65 and over, 75 per cent were not sufficiently active and with 60 and over now being the world’s fastest growing age demographic, people aren’t just living longer, but looking to live better.

Deutsch said, “Masters has been designed to get mature athletes moving more, moving better and delivering results that will make everyday life more enjoyable. Modern medicine and a better understanding of health and fitness means we are living longer than ever, and we want to offer a fun, supportive environment for over 60s to experience the F45 magic.”

Dynamic Business spoke to Deutsch to find out a little more about F45 and the new launch.

Well done on your new launch. What made you introduce F45X?

Thank you. F45X – which includes Prodigy for 11 to 18-year-olds and Masters for over 60s – is born out of a genuine need in these two sectors. One in four kids and adolescents are overweight or obese. In 20 years, one in every five people will be over 60 and exercise for older adults improves cognition and can assist with chronic diseases and disability.

Adding to this, the current F45 model, while lucrative for franchisees, means there is empty studio time in the middle of the day with most classes tailored to suit office workers ie before 9 and after 5. There is prime time in the middle of the day for retirees and for after school for functional training for young bodies.  

Baby boomers now in their 60s are our first Australians to have Superannuation and have much more disposable income than the generation prior.

Will these be completely separate studios to other F45s? Where will they be located and how many F45Xs are being launched at this point?

At our national franchisee conference this week in Melbourne, we launched F45X and gave our network the first opportunity to purchase F45X as a bolt-on to existing studios. The response was overwhelming with 100 sold in 24 hours. Franchisees can choose to set up a stand-alone studio if they want.

In terms of numbers, we have sold out of F45 territories in Australia and New Zealand totalling 670 studios. We have created the same territory model for F45X so we can expect up to 670 studios nationally. Existing franchisees have first right of refusal on their existing F45territories and then we will open it up to the market.

From 12 November we head on a national information tour for F45X and we encourage existing franchisees potential owners to join us.

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Will the usual clients still be able to attend F45x?

What we’re trying to create is an all-inclusive space for the whole family where child/adolescent, mum/dad and grandparents can all do a Hollywood on a Saturday and debrief afterwards. The workouts will slightly differ and will be tailored to each age group, but in practice, will have the same electric, fun, team mentality functional training that F45 is famous for.

We already have members in the Masters category that can choose to shift into the X program if they wish and we will be recruiting adolescent members for the first time with a specially built program.

What do you hope to achieve through F45x? Will there be a specially made 8 week challenge for these clients?

The program is in final stages of development but what I can say is that there will be a holiday program for children offering four-hour blocks on consecutive days to support working parents.

How did you go about creating the original idea for F45?

I started the first gym out of the knowledge that the majority of people with a gym membership would only attend the gym once a month. I wanted a concept that people would encourage people to come every day or at least an improvement on once a month.

I also knew that when I played team sport I felt accountable and that I needed to turn up so I didn’t disappoint my mates. And I really enjoyed exercising with friends and wanted to draw on this to create a similar experience in a gym environment.

When did the idea for the 8-week challenge come about? What kind of work goes into this?

If you get a client and show them results quick, they’re a client for life. That’s what the 8-week challenge is. A body transformation that has proven results. It’s tried and tested and we keep adding aspects like not only a meal plan but pre-cooked meals with partners so you know you are doing the right thing to get the best results. We want to make it as easy and fun to get the results. 

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The work outs are forever evolving- what kind of work goes on behind the scenes to make this happen?

We have a full time global fitness team of four who are constantly developing new workouts. New workouts are sent to a trial studio where the workout is put through its paces, feedback shared and tested again before it hits the studio.

Why do you think the business has been so successful as a franchise?

It’s all about momentum and we have been lucky enough to garner a kind of cult following that has continued the momentum from both franchisee and client sides. It takes a dedicated and passionate global team that is committed to the growth of the business and the industry.

How is F45 doing overseas? Is the model the same as the Australian model?

The US is growing faster than it is in Australia with 400 franchises sold to date. Most people think we are US founded company because of our branding and brand ethos. We’re probably one of the only Aussie companies that have entered the US market and tried to be American rather than Australian and it’s working.

The UK is more challenging because it is harder to find studio space in capital cities. That said, it is still performing well.

How did you initially fund the beginning stages of the business?

I was an investment banker and took a redundancy to fund the first studio which actually wasn’t called F45 but was still functional training at its core.

How long did it take you to get from idea to launch stage?

The first studio was pretty quick and in 3.5 years we’ve grown to 1400 franchises worldwide. We are the fastest growing Australian franchise company.

Was it difficult to get customers at the beginning? What marketing tactics did you use at the beginning?

Seven of our first 10 franchisees were clients in our first gym that bought into the F45 dream. The process starts slowly but gets one per cent easier with every franchise.

What made you turn F45 into a franchise or was that always the idea?

We quickly worked out there was a gap in the market for functional group training that is fun and always changing. From our success, you can see the introduction of new brands going after the same market.

There has been a lot of bad publicity in Australia when it comes to the franchise sector. Does this concern you in anyway?

While we are a franchise business at our core, we have strict guidelines around look and feel and training as well as control of sound and visuals. The only thing that differs from franchise to franchise is the people who work in them. We have F45 Captains, that champion the brand DNA across the network and we hold events like our franchisee conference to ensure we remain a family.  

People often speak of the F45 family. What does this mean to you?

I just mentioned the F45 family and to us it is everything from our franchisees to the feeling you get as a member walking into a studio. We all get better results when we behave like a family with love, passion, support and a good dose of honesty. We hope that every F45 member training weekly in our studios feels like they are part of a family and the same goes for the owners and trainers.

How do you deal with competitors such as cross fit?

More players in the space means a growth in the industry and growth is good when it comes to franchise businesses. Friendly rivalry keeps you on your toes and drives you more so it’s very healthy in my opinion.

Top 3 tips to other budding entrepreneurs?

  1. Invest in something you are passionate about – don’t buy a fitness business if you don’t believe in it;
  2. Surround yourself by people that you trust and that live the brand DNA;
  3. Buy an F45 franchise, you won’t regret it.

Any exciting new plans?

This week we launched a shoe collaboration with Athletic Propulsion Labs (APL). The boys have created a limited run of APL x F45 shoes based on the TechLoom Breeze. The shoes will be sold exclusively through selected F45 studios across Australian with four styles available from November. The RRP is $270.

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Gali Blacher

Gali Blacher

Gali Blacher, editor, Dynamic Business

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