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“We are social mammals and people are coming to our gyms for more than getting a good workout”

“We are social mammals and people are coming to our gyms for more than getting a good workout”

The passion for fitness may be the glue that holds Tristan Smith and Haydn Elliot together, but determination and long-standing friendship are what make their F45 franchise thrive

Pushing your limits to achieve your goals is the first lesson you learn at the gym.

Much like the people they train, Tristan Smith and Haydn Elliot are pouring their hearts and souls into living their success.

The duo, who have been best friends since they were 14, have always dreamed of running their own studio, so becoming an F45 franchisee was the ultimate step to their burning ambition.

And the mutual respect and trust nurtured throughout the years were a solid foundation of their success.

With Haydn having a personal training background, and Tristan being involved with cross-fit training, the business model of the F45 was something that instantly appealed to them. 

“I couldn’t believe there was a concept like this and long story short I just had to have a piece,” said Haydn. “I just stumbled across F45 and did a class and in all honesty, I laughed at the price when they sent it to me upon entry. I absolutely fell in love with the concept, the energy and the room, the people I was around, people with all different fitness standards.”

Tristan felt it too. 

“I worked at financial sales and I was training to become an investment manager,” he said. “I was working a job where I thought ‘I don’t know if this is for me long term’. From my side, I think we were extremely keen to do something together and do something we are very passionate about. And one thing that was overwhelmingly clear was that both of us are extremely passionate about health and fitness.”

Switching between mates and business partners

Transforming a personal friendship into a successful business partnership is not easy, but Tristan and Haydn may have hacked it

“We have two very different skill sets,” Haydn explained. “I don’t think I realised how well that fitted. If you hear any co-founder stories you hear stories of clashing or relationships starting to deteriorate. I think we were very lucky.”

The success of that partnership lies in each one of them playing to their own strengths.

Haydn added: “I am much more of front facing guy and Tristan is an absolute genius from an operational sales and marketing side. Obviously, we meet in the middle.

“Here is not to say we haven’t had clashes in the past. That is completely natural but I think the bottom line between us is there is a level of trust and love which is very rare. We have been through things since we were 14 and with the business itself, we have had massive ups and downs. But it is only accelerated on that partnership.”

Divide and conquer

Running a business can put a strain even on even the most solid relationships, but Tristan and Haydn found their places quite quickly. Dividing their responsibilities was a key aspect of their sweet success.

“It was very clear that I was not made for the training floor and Haydn is the showman, he has got the theatre background and F45 is a performance,” Tristan said. “We are looking for coaches that have a performance mentality and are great people, good to work with and that is all we need to make good businesses. Haydn was the pinnacle in that side of business whereas I would deal with the operational issues.”

Expansion on the horizon

 

The duo’s never-lasting passion for health and fitness has now materialised into three successful F45 studios in Oxford Circus, Soho and High Street Kensington.

“We have gone from being studio managers across two studios to business leaders with studio managers, sales managers a branding community manager,” said Tristan. “I am really excited about getting more studios and finding more great people and delegate the trust to the job.”

Indeed, their goal is to give everyone in the UK access to an F45 gym and a taste of its values.

“Ideally one of ours but we also help other franchisees get their business off the ground. We do that out of the goodness of our hearts,“ Tristan said. “We feel that the more of these there are, the better it is for the whole brand overall.”

Help for franchisees is one push-up away

Tristan and Haydn opened their second studio just 50 days before the global coronavirus pandemic hit but they still managed to turn their business into a thriving success. Now they use their experience to inspire franchisees about the F45 brand.

Haydn said: “The great stage where they do come to us is when preopening their studios. They ask us ‘What are the big pitfalls we should avoid? How do I get the right people in the business? Any mistakes you made and anything you did really well?’”

The duo has done anything from “being in every single class” to “selling memberships” so they have seen “both sides of the coin”.

Haydn added: “We are always trying to better ourselves and find solutions and better our business so they really appreciate it from that side of the coin as well.”

How to be a successful F45 franchisee?

The duo is determined – “there is no secret”.

“You have to be so passionate about what you do,” Tristan said. “We very often are the fittest people in the room. We want to show that we are the perfect demographic for this product and representation for it. You have got to be passionate about it and fitness. You have got to be resilient.”

Combined with excellent organisational skills, determination can do wonders. 

Haydn added: “You have got to be very organised. I work very hard now with my organisation. I have realised it is a skill I have had to develop and I have come a long way.

“The other skill I would say is communication – the ability to communicate with members and your team to get the most out of every single situation.”

Striking the right work-life balance

 

Haydn is confident his and Tristan’s work ethic is “something to be admired”. And despite the long working hours, the duo still find time to enjoy life. Simply because they love what they do. 

“Now that we have got great studio managers in place and roles and responsibilities very clear, it is a different kind of mentality,” Haydn explained. “We are not running around frantically like in the early days.

“We are a lot more in the office, talking about strategy and how we can optimise it and create more accountability. I feel, personally, I have more time to enjoy my life. We do genuinely love it and there is nothing insincere about that. We are passionate about creating something truly special.”

And the conclusion? 

“If you love what you do you never work a day in your life,” said Tristan. “I genuinely feel I wake up and I feel extremely privileged to be able to control what I want to do in the day.

“Our mission is to provide the best 60 minutes of someone’s day every day so as long as we are doing that and spreading that around, then we feel extremely satisfied in what we do. And the work-life balance is a pleasure.”

Shooting for the stars

 

Witnessing the success of their business was football legend David Beckham who was recently named as a partner in the newly-opened F45 studio in Kensington.

Haydn said: “He came into a couple of classes and we’d like to think we blew him away really. The one thing we can create better than anyone else in the network is the ability to pull a community together. He loves that sense of community. You can see it in his eyes.”

It is a value that Tristan fiercely upholds, too.

He added: “We are social mammals and people are coming to our gyms for more than getting a good workout. We have had our first marriage of people who met at the gym, we are about to have our first baby. People are meeting, people are networking.

“It is amazing to know that. We literally converted a crappy underground basement with no amenities, lighting or electricity, and a tiny little car park which was just a waste of space. We turned that into a gym and David Beckham trains there regularly. People are meeting and forming relationships and friendships and partnerships and that to me is the biggest win.

“To be able to create those bonds is phenomenal.”

The author

Viktoria Yordanova is a content writer for What Franchise.

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