Today I spoke with David Yeoh, the pioneer of the F45 franchise in South Korea. David used to work in the finance industry in Australia, helping his clients grow their businesses. He decided to leave his job and move to another country to turn what he is most passionate about– fitness– into a successful business.
Let’s dive into this episode and learn how we can turn our passion into a business and what it really takes to start a new franchise overseas.
[00:00 – 05:16] Opening Segment
Starting a new franchise business is challenging. It’s even more challenging if you’re going to do it in an unfamiliar country, especially one that does not primarily speak your language. In today’s episode, David tells us what motivated him to leave his job and bring the F45 franchise to a new country. He tells us how the first few months of his business was like and how he overcame several challenges to sustain his business.
[05:17 -11:22] Meeting the right people
David’s first motivation to take that leap to quit his job and become an entrepreneur was his clients from the bank where he used to work. He realized what their clients were doing. So, together with his business partner, he thought, wouldn’t it be great if we could do something for ourselves with the knowledge that we have?
Having this realization, David and his partner started their first own business: a community within gyms in both residential and corporate facilities. However, though their first business wasn’t exactly a failure, after several months, they still felt that they weren’t able to take it to exactly where they want to take it. So when they went for a holiday to South Korea to visit his wife’s parents, David became inspired to move there from Australia and start over with their new franchise business.
[11:23 – 17:46] Bringing a franchise to a foreign land
The first challenge that David encountered when he opened his first F45 branch in Korea is translating and tweaking all the content. This was because all the systems for the workouts in F45 were initially created for English-speaking countries. David and his wife and team had to do a lot of tweaking and localizing to bridge the language gap and cultural differences. Since David and his team also wanted to target the local market instead of the expat market, they also had to come up with several strategies, such as hiring local South Korean trainers.
Another major challenged they face was the stigma that CrossFit had in South Korea. When they first came to South Korea, they discovered that a lot of South Koreans thought of CrossFit as a very injury prone workout routine. To overcome this challenge, David and his team did a lot of planning and strategizing. For example, they started offering a one week free trial for their classes. They also adapted an education-based selling strategy to get more clients to sign up for their classes.
Are you also experiencing similar challenges in your business? Listen to David’s tips on how they were able to bridge all these gaps and even started opening new branches in new territories!
[17:47 – 25:55] The progress and the expansion of the franchise
If you’re wondering about David’s biggest takeaways as he grows and expands his business, this is his answer: patience. While F45 franchises in the US usually opens with pre-sold memberships, David’s first F45 gym in South Korea opened with zero members. For their first year, David and his team really focused on building genuine relationships with each founding member and client. They also made sure to make thorough plans and review their plans to see if they were really making profits.
His advice to people who are just going to start or have just started their businesses? Planning is really important. He strongly recommends having a long term plan, plans that are five to ten years in advance. Once you already have those, he then recommends breaking those plans down to quarterly, monthly, and weekly goals– something you can often easily track and review. Lastly, David also advises to be flexible and prepare for the worst case scenarios always.
[25:56 – 29:26] The FOCUS FIVE Segment
The FOCUS FIVE are five questions I ask every guest on my show. Keep on listening to find out what book David gifts most often; who would he talk to if he can get an hour of any person living or dead, from the past or the present, and why; that one thing he believes but most people will disagree with; his morning routine; and lastly, where are the best places we can connect with him online. (See the links below for David’s social media links!)
“Always plan for that worst case scenario and then hope for the best.” – David Yeoh
“For our first studio, we opened with zero members. It was a bit stressful. Just opening up, building genuine relationships with each founding member was what we did. We did it quite well.” – David Yeoh
“Having quick wins that you do on a day-to-day basis, that build into your weekly goals, into your monthly goals, into your quarterly goals. Something you can track. Something that you review quite often so you’re making sure that you’re on track when you need to calibrate your goals again.” – David Yeoh
“Planning is one of the most important things that you’ve got to do, and you’ve got to be quite flexible.” – David Yeoh
Resources mentioned in the episode:
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