Cameron Falloon, founder of Body Fit Training and former coach to Princess Diana, talks about finding a niche in the market
It’s no secret that motivation makes the world go round. From giving us the strength to get out of bed in the morning to working towards our greatest goals in life, it can directly impact the level of success we achieve. And much like in daily life, motivation is a key determinant of behaviour in sport. The lack of this energy force is also a reason why so many people decide to leave their fitness journey in favour of easier pursuits.
But imagine a different scenario where you have a coach motivating you through each workout to unleash your potential. Imagine you follow a variety of programmes and use scientifically proven training techniques to reduce fat and create lean muscle. Intriguing, right? But this model is far from a dream, it is the essence of Body Fit Training (BFT), Australia’s fastest-growing and most advanced functional group franchise in the fitness sector.
Founded and designed in 2017 in Melbourne by Cameron Falloon, a renowned strength and conditioning coach, BFT offers a science-backed programme that elite athletes use. With 225 studios open around the world, BFT has sold more than 450 sites across Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Canada, the UK and the USA. It has recently launched its first franchise in Leicester, being the first Xponential Fitness brand to make a major move in the UK.
A niche in the market
Bound for world domination, BFT’s high-performance approach is the result of Cameron’s determination to find a niche in an oversaturated market.
By combining cardio with resistance programmes, BFT members benefit from training a different energy system each time in a variety of 50-minute sessions, which are overseen by highly-accredited coaches in a dynamic group environment.
“No one was really doing progressive strength training,” explained Cameron, who is also the joint CEO of the business. “And what I mean by that is having a programme where, for eight weeks, you can progress, learn the skills and get better at those skills, and then have a change in the cycle of training.
“The programme is very similar to how athletes train. They don’t just do something different every day. They continually learn and refine skills so that they become second nature, enabling them to move better and more efficiently. And week in, week out, athletes keep building upon those skills.”
Leaning onto strength and conditioning training, Cameron found his “sweet spot” in the market. His next goal was to use the science-backed programme that elite athletes use and make it accessible to the everyday person through BFT.
“It’s such a good way to train,” explained Cameron. “It’s scientifically validated and proven and that’s where the idea was born. Strength really underpins all human performance.”
Back to the roots
Prior to founding BFT, Cameron was a strength and conditioning coach for various international soccer and elite AFL teams. He worked as a rehabilitation coordinator at the Geelong Cats, a physical performance manager at Western Bulldogs and was also a high-performance manager at the Port Adelaide Football Club.
But his passion for health and fitness goes way back in time.
“I actually got involved in the industry through a personal injury, quite a bad back injury,” he shared. “And I was told at the age of 18 that I would never be physically active again. I found that really hard to believe, so that’s what led me to study human movement and strength and conditioning. I wanted to learn more about my body. The strength training gave me a second lease of life with my own injuries. It allowed me to be fully active and to do the things that I love doing.”
Putting knowledge to practice
Now Cameron is helping people achieve the same through the high-performance group training methods of BFT. The brand offers a massive variety of 50-minute programmes, including cardio, strength, functional and core stability, which are never the same. High levels of visual content showcasing the programmes are shown on multiple digital displays throughout the studios, which allows coaches to spend more time concentrating on members.
“It’s a low investment, high yield model and the core product is really what sets us apart,” said Cameron. “There’s no one really doing a strength-based progressive group training model. We’ve built our own technology and our heart rate system is bespoke to our training model. We constantly strive for best practice in everything we do which led us to develop our own heart rate system where each of our unique 13 BFT programmes now gets rewarded differently, so there’s a gamification aspect to it.
“Our members love that it’s engaging. They get rewards 30 seconds after the class is finished and then more rewards month on month, depending on what classes they have attended and how well they’ve done in those classes. We average 4.7 visitations per week across 50,000 members in our network.”
The power of quality trainers
BFT knows that great customer service increases member retention and ultimately, boosts revenue. This is why the brand offers as close as people will get to personal training, without the cost. The BFT trainers come through a rigorous training programme from head office and also have physical competencies they must pass.
Apart from the initial training, they can also benefit from quarterly training days with industry-leading expert speakers, new releases of programmes, and orientation of the BFT system.
Cameron added: “We recognize that we continually have to invest in the trainers in our network to make sure they’re constantly progressing, upskilling and achieving their goals.”
Investing in technology
To ensure all trainers, franchisees and clients are excelling in their fitness journey, BFT has also made a commitment to provide bespoke equipment.
“We need robust equipment, so we’ve partnered with some of the best brands in the world like Matrix, Life Fitness and Hammer Strength,” explained Cameron. “But we also manufacture some of our own through things that we’ve learned. We’ve developed our own power bags, as they needed to be more durable to withstand the demands of the BFT programmes.”
But the dedication to providing a high-quality fitness experience does not end here.
Cameron added: “We could probably get 70 per cent of great equipment through one supplier, but then the other 30 per cent may not be best in class. So, we made a decision to only partner with people and brands that are best in class for specific pieces of equipment. This, along with our technology, is really giving members a fantastic experience.
“It’s also really helping the franchisees to have a great business. If your equipment’s broken you’re losing money.”
Passion for health
The success of the model can be attributed not only to partnering with the right brands but also to finding the right franchisees to join the network. BFT is looking for either fitness service owner-operators wanting to work in the business with a hands-on approach, or entrepreneurs keen to drive new sources of income by appointing studio managers on their behalf.
No prior fitness experience is needed to become a BFT franchisee, just a sheer passion for health and fitness and a desire to change people’s lives for the better.
Cameron said: “We’ve learned a lot of lessons opening over 200 sites around the world and we’ve got very, very good refined systems. What we know is that the franchisees who follow the system perform extremely well.”
Helping franchisees thrive
To make sure franchisees realise their full potential, BFT provides 24/7 ongoing support – from operations and logistics to basic HR and legal.
“All franchisees come to an initial onboarding, which is one week long,” explained Cameron. “They could bring their manager and then their head trainer has to attend as well. Ongoing, we have what we call regional franchise managers, who are essentially franchise performance managers.
“They are in our franchisees’ businesses on a daily basis, looking at performance and sales, observing classes and seeing how the trainers are performing.”
The regional managers can then make recommendations and amend existing processes internally, with the single aim of improving customer experience and ensuring franchisees have a profitable business.
Cameron added: “The number one thing that we hang our hat on is fairness. There are three key stakeholders in the relationship, and these are the members, the franchisees and head office. If all three of those stakeholders aren’t winning, then it all breaks down.”
A winning model
The Leicester franchise, which is BFT’s debut in the UK, is the existing proof of those stakeholders working together in harmony.
The state-of-the-art gym, which was launched by Leicestershire locals, Brian Saund and James Kotak, has been thriving since the first day it opened its doors to customers.
Cameron added: “Leicester launched with 172 members, so from a franchisee perspective that’s making money on day one. BFT is a low-investment, high-yield business model, and very few businesses can be making money on day one. On average across our network, we have an 18-month payback period.”
The arrival of BFT Leicester marks a period of fast domestic expansion of the fitness franchise, with launches soon arriving in London Battersea and the surrounding areas.
Stability in shaky times
As evidenced globally, the low set-up costs and high margins make BFT an appealing investment to potential franchisees. And, despite the high rates of inflation worldwide, and prior to that, the coronavirus pandemic, BFT is staying strong in the face of adversity.
Cameron explained: “People want to spend money on something that’s benefiting their mental and physical wellbeing to get them through these challenging and tough times. We’ve seen that in the past and we’re seeing it now. Even with the very brief few months that we’ve experienced the effects of inflation, we haven’t seen any drop off with our member database across the network.”
But the key to steady numbers lies in making a continuous effort.
Cameron continued: “People are choosing mental health and wellbeing, but you have to make sure that you’re delivering results and that you’ve got fantastic customer service. You have to know your members, their names, everything about their life so that it’s a place that they really want to come to. And I think that’s what will separate businesses in the service industry, certainly in the fitness industry, as the cost of living and inflation goes up.”
According to Cameron, “being your own boss and being in a franchise system are one of the better things you can do during these tough times,” because “you’re in control of your own destiny but you also have the support of a network.”
“And if you come to BFT, you’ve got the support of a global network,” added Cameron. “No matter what the circumstances are, whether it’s COVID or inflation, or something else, our job is to do everything we possibly can to make sure that our franchisees not only survive but thrive.”
Awards speak louder than words
A global brand that cares for its franchisees, BFT was also awarded the APAC Franchise of the Year Award for two years in a row in 2020 and 2021.
“We were really humbled by that award. It’s actually voted by people globally and it says a couple of things,” shared Cameron. “Number one is that we’re continuing to grow as a brand. Even during 2021, when a lot of the world was locked down through COVID, we sold 122 franchises and managed to open nearly 100 more. That shows our commitment to the brand and our people.”
The awards are also a testament to the brand emerging stronger than ever from challenging times.
Cameron added: “We didn’t lose a franchisee through COVID because of the support that we provided from head office. Those three stakeholders are the most important pillars in our business. And we should never ever lose sight of that.”
A bright future ahead
Going forward, BFT has set its sights on achieving massive growth and selling 1,000 studios.
Cameron added: “We are really hoping that by the end of this year we will have sold our 500th BFT globally, and that is just a fantastic testament to the brand.
“We’re really excited to be in the UK now that the Leicester site is open. We’re investing heavily with head office staff in the UK so that we’re not just supporting franchisees from Australia, but there are actually people on the ground in England too.
“For any potential investors, we would love to speak to you. You’ve got a great opportunity now to get to Leicester and experience the product first-hand, so we’d really encourage you to do so!”
Cameron falloon’s training routine
I actually do a mix of exercise. I really like the purity of movement and the conditioning element that you can get from kettlebell training.
I do a lot of swimming and mountain biking. I have a fairly broad approach to my training, but really the constant that keeps me able to do all of those other things is the strength element. It allows me to stay strong and keep my muscles working and my joints going through a normal range of movement for someone who’s nearly 50 years of age!
The faces behind the first UK BFT franchise
Fascinated with the innovative BFT model, Brian Saund and James Kotak became BFT’s first franchisees in the UK with the launch of their Leicester studio.
“We first became aware of BFT during a trip to Australia and were blown away by their innovative training methods, which not only produced incredible results but did so whilst staying fun and motivational for all participants,” explained Brian.” With our huge variety of workouts, there’ll be no plateaus and no chance of workout boredom creeping in.”
As well as owning BFT, Brian is also a wellness coach and mental health advocate. He is hopeful BFT will impact more than just people’s physical fitness: “I’m a stage four cancer survivor and know all too well what happens when you neglect yourself. Now, my personal and professional focus in life is to develop myself and lift up those around me. So, the new BFT gym is a great tool to improve the mental health of the people of Leicester.”
James added: “At BFT, we are all about creating a great community who push each other to be better every day. Our coaches develop great personal relationships with our clients and understand their goals. That way, we can provide constant motivation and encouragement to get them to where they want to be.”
The “surreal” feeling of Training Diana, the late princess of Wales
Cameron was personal trainer to the late Diana, Princess of Wales in what would turn out to be the last months of her life. Speaking fondly of one of the most famous women to ever walk the earth, Cameron shares warm memories of the ‘People’s Princess’.
You were Diana’s PT in the last months of her life. How did you land the job?
I worked at the Earl’s Court gym for the most part of 1996. Princess Diana had a female trainer at the time and they trained together in the gym before the opening hours. I was asked to come in with some of my clients so that she wasn’t alone, so through most of 1996 I got to know her. Later that year she parted ways with her trainer and asked the owner of the gym to list some others who he would recommend. My name was on that list. And she said ‘Well, I already know Cameron’ and that made it easy.
How old were you at the time?
I was 22, turning 23. It was surreal. It was nice to be back in London.
What kind of exercises did you focus on with Princess Diana?
Funny enough, not too dissimilar to our BFT strength programmes. We did a lot of back squats and deadlifts, lunges and Romanian deadlifts. It was very similar to what we do with BFT and that’s the beauty of strength training – it’s a constant. If you look at any other fitness industry trends that get reported every year, strength training is always in the top ten and our training models are underpinned by that. We believe it’s really important and Princess Diana certainly enjoyed her strength training.
How would you describe her? What kind of person was she?
Oh, extremely personable! Obviously, she was known as the ‘People’s Princess’ for a good reason. She was very interested in who you were as a person, but also very private given her public life. She was also very quiet and had a good sense of humour. She was a lovely person to be around and someone whose privacy and personal life I highly respected.
At a glance
Number of franchised outlets:
Location of units:
Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, USA, Canada and UK
£130,000 to £240,000
Minimum required capital: