Chantal: Joey, welcome along, and thank you for joining us on the show today.
Joey: Thank you for having me.
Chantal: You’ve had quite a remarkable journey getting to where you are today. Do you want to give us just a little bit of that background of your story to becoming the CEO?
Joey: Sure. I always say I have the four D experience. Starting first as a customer. Someone who became obsessed by the product in the same way that you did, and thousands of others around the world have. It just really spoke to me. I had never been challenged in that way. I loved just the advocacy of the workout. It changed my body, and all the amazing things about Barry’s resonated with me immediately as a customer. So then I started my second dimension as an instructor, which Barry invited me into the family saying, “You’re here twice a day, you might as well start to teach other people. I don’t know what it is you’re doing.” So I became an instructor. This was around 2003 or 2004. Then thirdly I moved into management.
So, I was really overseeing all the operations. Always with the intention of becoming a partner and eventually investing in the business myself, and was very clear with the partners about those ambitions. We worked together for years until I came to become a partner and investor and then run the business, which happened in 2009, officially, is when I opened my first studio and spent the next few years traveling around the country just proving the scalability and portability of the concept. We really grew organically until 2015, 17 years later, when we took on some private equity partners called The North Castle. That was the point at which I was appointed to the CEO position.
Chantal: I’m interested to understand Joey, through that journey that you have had, because obviously the business was starting to be established and you’ve had massive growth throughout the time that you’ve been involved in the business. Tell us a little bit about the formula that has come about to your success, to Barry’s success. Tell us a little bit about behind the scene. How you’ve gotten to where you are.
Joey: We definitely took the approach of growing slowly, carefully, and organically. We’ve opened up studios, of course strategically based on who lives there and why we should go there. But also listening to our audience, which I think is a unique thing we’re able to do, right? Which is, we have this 20-year-old customer base, and they’re extremely vocal. We have gone to some cities that might not seem as obvious to people, because we listen to them. There’s this sort of organic growth that we’ve always stayed true to. On top of that, at Barry’s, even though the workout has stayed very much the same over the last two decades, we are never afraid to innovate and improve the offer. What started off as a 1,400 square foot small studio with one bathroom in the studio, has grown to five, six, 7,000 square foot studios with an incredible retail selection. Something called the Fuel Bar where we offer gut friendly protein shakes and before and after supplements. Then of course our amenities program where we have beautiful locker rooms and showers and then the actual amenities partnership with Orby. We just are never afraid to reinvent ourselves.
Chantal: Now, one of the things that I noticed from day one with going to Barry’s, is just how incredible your coaching team is. As a matter of fact, I saw the process, the hiring process that’s happened here in Australia, and the training process with getting Aussie coaches on board and trained up and ready for Barry’s. That’s obviously a huge part of your business. Can you talk to us a little bit about that? Tell us about the role that your coaches play, and the professional development you actually do with them to make sure that they are living the brand.
Joey: What we do in a place like Australia, and other new markets, is we identify the instructors through a series of audition and interviews and just getting to know people. We identify the 10 best prospects and we invite them to take part in what we call the instructor founding program. Which is obviously aimed at passing on our trade secrets in terms of actually being able to teach a Barry’s class. By the way, to even get in the door you have to have certain certifications. These are typically very well educated, well respected people in the fitness world. Then we spend the next few weeks teaching them exactly what it means to teach at a Barry’s class. There’s a textbook, there are guardrails, there are do’s and dont’s. Because Barry’s is very different from the competition. We don’t use workout of the day. Our instructors are bringing to the table original content. If you took a 9AM class and then you took a 10:15 class, it would be completely different.
Even though if they were on a Monday they’d both be an arms day, because we do different body parts on different days, you would have had two completely different classes, different music and different programming. Hopefully equally great. It’s attractive for instructors because it really gives them the opportunity to have that creative input into their workouts. Just the other half of that, it’s not just about teaching them how to teach a Barry’s class, but we culturally immerse them in what it means to be a part of Barry’s family. So the training program will be split between New York and LA, and it will involve things like happy hour with all the other instructors, and a dinner at my house. They really get a tour of HQ so that they can put face with all the names at the marketing department, development department, and they really start to appreciate and understand that they are a part of this much bigger thing, and that they have the support of all of us.
Chantal: When someone is joining the Barry’s team for the very first time as an instructor, as a coach. How many weeks of training is that that they’re going through all that professional development that you’ve just touched on?
Joey: The intensive training program is two to three weeks. Then beyond that typically they’re spending additional time in a mentorship program where they’re working underneath a more senior instructor. Shadowing, learning programming, and then eventually getting on their feet and starting their own classes and getting feedback immediately thereafter. Then we have a whole report carding system that continues on through their tenure. No matter how long you’ve been teaching at Barry’s, you will eventually have someone from the curriculum department taking your class, giving you feedback, etc.
Chantal: Team, a quick break away from the interview for a second. Now, as most of you know, I have a background in marketing and for the past few years I’ve subscribed to Barry’s emails and I’ve followed them on social media. Not just as a fan of the work out, but also because I love seeing their marketing material. I get that that’s a little bit geeky, but honestly, their understanding of their target audience is really second to none. To show you what I mean, I’ve pulled together a few examples of their marketing collateral and popped them into today’s show notes over at fitnessbusinesspodcast.com. You can go over and check out the look, the feel, the tone, the language that they carry across multiple platforms. It really is a great example of the power of the brand, and the importance of consistency. So, we’re diving back into the interview now where I’ve just asked Joey what the strategy is behind their marketing.
Joey: Yeah. I think it starts with being really good at understanding who you are. I have an incredibly talented and nimble marketing team. Each of the employees understands the Barry’s voice, personality, sense of humor. Because it’s actually not that hard to understand. A really well developed brand is just like a person. So there are things that he or she would do and not do, right? We take those things into consideration every time when the smallest piece of marketing collateral goes out. In terms of how our marketing team might be different than others, we have an entire division called Community Marketing, which is actually devoted to liaising between operations and marketing. Because what ends up happening when organizations corporatize, is there are these decisions that are made in the glass tower, I call it, and you go out to the field and people just have no idea where they’re coming from or why they are even in existence.
Our community marketing team helps translate to all of our different studios on a local level, “This is the new frequency campaign. It’s called Face Yourself. This is what it means. This is what we’re asking you to message to your customer base, and yade yade yada.” Equally as important, those people, the community marketing people that is, are sitting down with the boots on the ground learning about what we might not be doing right. So someone in Dallas, a manager in Dallas might be like, “I get what you’re going for, that’s not gonna work here. Nobody in Dallas cares about XYZ.” That was always my number one objective, was staying localized, and listening to our boots on the ground and making sure that we are able to communicate directly with them and learn about what works, what doesn’t work, what their ideas are. How to generate content, campaigns that are gonna be exciting on a more local level.
Chantal: Joey, I’ve just got two more questions for you. The first one is, I’m intrigued about the retail side of the business, because I know personally that that’s something that’s important to me and end up doing a class and then spending an extra $200 on branded clothing, which I’m sure I’m not the only one. What percentage of your business does retail actually represent for Barry’s?
Joey: We actually look at retail, Fuel Bar, all the ancillary revenue together. That percentage is around 15%, but our, and by the way I’ve been with the company so long that there were times when we made negative money on our apparel, but always looked at it as a marketing opportunity. We’ve had apparel since, I would guess 2001, and for many many years it was a struggle, because it isn’t our core competency, right? Now we have this robust, we have a team of eight people. We have a buyer, and we have someone who handles all of our cut and sew. We have an incredibly talented head of department. It’s just amazing to see how far we’ve come, but that piece of the business was always viewed as a marketing opportunity, but now it’s become an ancillary stream of revenue.
Chantal: Let me ask you this, because I know that a lot of the listeners will be wondering how it went from being a negative to actually getting to where it is today and being a revenue part of the business. Is there any advice that you can give to other owners or managers out there that want retail to be a bigger part of their business?
Joey: Yeah, it’s really about ownership. It’s about someone actually … You have to find the right person who has entrepreneurial skills to take ownership of that piece of the business. Because it’s all about margins as you know. It’s all about figuring out how to balance the ordering. Do you order deep? Do you order shallow? There isn’t any one secret that I could offer to help turn a business around that is retail related, but I just think our success as of recent, is a result of hiring those right people. I happened to find someone who is both left and right brained, who comes from a design background and has an incredible sense of personal style. The work she puts out is incredible, but she’s really thoughtful and can run a P&O. If you can find someone like that, grab onto them.
Chantal: That’s pretty amazing. It’s pretty amazing. Okay, I’ve got one last question for you and I think I’ve just run over time. So, let’s squeeze this one in. I’m interested to know any tips that you can give club owners or personal trainers on building a brand that actually stands out from the competition.
Joey: Building a brand that stands out from the competition, I would say that first and foremost it takes time to build a really great brand. I don’t think it can be easily bought. It takes time and it’s all about the people, right? If what you’re doing is starting an organization, no matter how small it is, you have to be so 100% sure that you’re hiring the right people and putting the right people in place, because the brand is dependent on that. Then I would say at the core, what’s helped make Barry’s such a successful brand, quote unquote, is that the product is incredible. It really works. It’s kind of been easier for us than some of our competitors because what we’re offering isn’t hard to sell. Because everybody who does it sees immediate results. If you choose a product, that has efficacy, and is truly something of value, I think the brand piece comes a lot easier.
Chantal: Joey, thank you so much for taking the time to join us today. Thank you for sharing your story with all of the listeners and for giving us some really great behind the scenes insights into Barry’s Bootcamp. Thank you so much for coming along today.
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