"I just think boxing-based fitness is such a big thing at the moment"
Having enjoyed a 30+ year-long career in the IT sector, Neil had always maintained an interest in health and fitness. The UBX franchise has given Neil the opportunity to take the learnings from his high-level career in IT and apply them to his own business in an industry he believes provides massive value.
Tell us about your background, what has been your primary career / business focus prior to becoming a franchisee with UBX?
Up until this point my career has predominantly been in IT. This goes right back to when I was 18- or 19-years-old and completed a computer programmer course at college. Since college, I have worked as a software programmer initially, and then in more customer facing roles, helping companies drive business improvements through software.
In more recent years, I have been operations manager and professional services director for the ERP division within a large software house. Again, fundamentally it's all about IT, but my focus has been on customer success, making sure we get good NPS, controlling the P&L from a services perspective, making sure we're delivering the EBITDA contribution that we need to deliver, so it's been far more strategic.
As I said to my team in the software business, I wanted them to think more entrepreneurially in terms of how we could drive new revenue streams, productize our services more, and really give value to our customers as we go forward. It's this very same approach that I am looking to take into my business when I open my UBX gym.
Why did you choose to go into business with a franchise in the health and fitness industry?
This question actually takes me back to my college days when I was doing my computer programming course. I was always envious of the people taking the fitness and leisure courses.
I guess this comes from a long-standing interest I've had in leisure and fitness. As I've got older, I've taken this interest further, I've been a member at gyms, boutique gyms, and been fortunate enough to build my own gym at home.
Now, I'm in a position whereby I can go and do something that really interests me. Something I've been interested in since I was very young. I'm a big believer that your mind and body are linked together. The more we build our body, the better the mind functions, and exercise is key as it brings everything together.
I’m really keen to take what I've learned in the private IT sector in terms of how we look after the staff and take that into the fitness industry.
I want to make sure that the trainers feel and understand the journey that I want to go on with UBX, and that they understand they're part of that journey. I want to create opportunities for them that they can benefit from in the same way that I have done within the private IT sector.
For example, within my previous business, we had quarterly socials and an annual trip abroad if we hit our profit numbers. I would like to try and bring some of those things into the UBX franchise for my trainers, this will incentivise them to want to get people into the gym and get results, because there's a benefit to them to do so.
Why did you choose UBX specifically?
In recent years, I've actually been looking at numerous opportunities, including both traditional gym franchises and other boutique fitness opportunities. I received information on UBX and carried out a lot of research. I went onto YouTube, looked at what the concept was all about and gathered as much information as I could.
I just think boxing-based fitness is such a big thing at the moment. I saw the benefit of a model that means people aren't restricted by timetables. Personally, a big problem I've always had is being extremely busy during the day and meetings overrunning. So, with the best intentions to get to a class, you then end up putting yourself under pressure, or even more pressure than you're already on throughout your day, just to get to a fitness class.
This is exactly why I think the flexibility of UBX appeals to far more people, where you just turn up, the trainers are there, you get one-on-one time with the trainer every time you go in, and you're not restricted with a class timetable.
For me, that was what made it really stand out from all of the other opportunities and all of the other franchises that I'd looked at. I was excited to be one of the first in the UK to get involved with UBX as well. I’m looking forward to helping to make it a big success and to start building the brand here in the UK in the same way it’s been built in Australia and New Zealand.
How do you intend to structure the running of your UBX gym?
I have now exited the business I was previously in altogether and I’m focussing on a number of opportunities, the first of which will be UBX. In terms of my own involvement, I'd like to get a manager in and hope that they can lead the business as much as possible, and work with them to help them with their personal and professional development.
I want to empower the managers and the team that's working within the gym to build the brand locally, to build the gym, and then maybe look at more and further franchise opportunities with UBX as that progresses.
I'm in a fortunate position that I don’t need to work, but I want something that keeps me interested and gives me something that I can dip into as and when I either need to or want to, and drive that forward.
My aim is to open multiple UBX gyms around the country. I’d like to operate a cluster model and have them close by. I want to create a model whereby the locations are pretty much self-sufficient, and we can just dip in. And whether it be a twice monthly review or whatever else, I would hope we can get to that position with the team where we're just meeting with them and building them up to hopefully create more and more opportunities for them and for the UBX franchise.
How would you describe your experience with UBX up until this point of your journey so far?
It's been really good. I have been open from the start that I was still working within the software business which I've been concentrating on 100% until now. The opportunity for UBX came up earlier this year in February which I felt was too good to miss, so I spoke to the team, explained my situation, which they were all comfortable with and supportive of. And then we've gone away, and things have accelerated for me a little bit, and I think this is where the UBX team have really helped. They've not forced anything on me, they've allowed me to go at the pace that we wanted to go at. And it's got to the point where actually I wasn't moving quick enough for myself.
Griff (Franchise Director) and the team at UBX have been really helpful in terms of getting the property team onto opportunities, chasing them up, moving things forward as we've gone. I couldn't ask for any more at this stage while still early on in the journey. They've been extremely supportive.
One of my other key drivers of being an early investor in UBX was the support, help and time that is provided by the team. Whenever I've needed it, people have been there and offering advice, guidance, and documentation as we've gone. I've had a fortnightly call with Griff, which we manage and look through where we are at in terms of getting into business.
The team at UBX have been extremely understanding because as I say, I was working full time within my previous role. They have understood the situation I was in and have been quite relaxed about all of it. And I think that's really refreshing that you're not just being pushed constantly to try and manage things on multiple fronts, because you finish up reacting and making the wrong decisions when you do that.
We have to make sure the location's right. We have to make sure we get the people right. And therefore, you've got to move forward at a pace that suits, and I think that's one of the big things that I've been really surprised and impressed with, as well as the readiness and availability of information as needed.
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