New Year, New Health Goals

How This Personal Trainer Mastered the Art of Fitness Franchising

Scott Tobin’s strategic approach to growing Burn Boot Camp combines his personal training expertise with acquired business acumen

Eighteen years ago, when Scott Tobin embarked on his fitness journey as a personal trainer, he was fueled by a fiery passion to transform lives through health and wellness. Little did he know, he would help catalyze the expansion of one of America’s fastest-growing boutique gym franchises — Burn Boot Camp.

Burn Boot Camp offers a unique group fitness experience that blends strength training and conditioning high-intensity interval workouts in a 45-minute session. The boutique fitness brand emphasizes inclusivity and mental as well as physical strength, welcoming members from all backgrounds.

Tobin’s narrative goes beyond individual and career achievements; it encompasses the inspiration of others and the promotion of comprehensive fitness and community development. His contributions surpass routine gym operations; he plays a key role in defining the Burn Boot Camp essence and the brand’s profound effect on lives.

Passion & Purpose

Tobin’s initial steps in the fitness world were marked by a profound passion for personal training. This began with a focus on helping people achieve their fitness goals. His early career laid a solid foundation for his understanding of fitness, client needs and the dynamics of the industry.

“I love the results members get; that’s everything to me,” Tobin says.

His transition to Burn Boot Camp in Raleigh, North Carolina, eight years ago marked a life-changing moment in his career. Here, Tobin’s talents and dedication found a new avenue for expression. He played a crucial role in growing the Raleigh location from its early stages, showcasing his ability to inspire, lead and innovate. His success is a blend of personal training expertise and business acumen that he acquired along the way, studying, asking questions and learning from mistakes.

This success eventually led Tobin to become a franchise partner. His role expanded from managing a single location to being part of a broader vision, scaling the philosophies and practices that had brought him success on a local level. Now, he operates 12 locations.

While Tobin still considers himself primarily a personal trainer, he has learned to migrate his training philosophy to management. Currently, Tobin oversees about 215 employees, 32 in upper management positions.

“Now that I’m a franchise partner, I’ve transferred the energy I put into members to taking care of my employees as best as I can,” he says. “I am an advocate of top-down management and believe it starts with me and trickles down. If your employees are happy, they’ll bring that energy, excitement and passion to the members.”

Tobin admits it took some time to place the right individuals in each position.

“We grew rapidly and explosively, and I made multiple mistakes. Learning from these mistakes is crucial. Losing employees, for instance, is often a sign of a mistake,” he says. “Understanding what makes a good fit and then managing multiple locations effectively is about finding the right people for the right roles. Once you have a strong team, success is much more attainable.”

Tobin tells his team, from middle management down, that their success is as good as their weakest link and he uses a feedback loop to continually offer and receive constructive feedback.

“If I’m training at an A-plus level, I need all my trainers to be at that level too,” he says. “Otherwise, how can we succeed if a member’s first experience is subpar?”

Franchise Alignment

Burn Boot Camp’s mission, deeply resonant with Tobin’s beliefs, revolves around empowering members not just physically, but also mentally and emotionally. The brand’s philosophy extends beyond traditional fitness paradigms, fostering a holistic approach to wellbeing, evident in the supportive community that each location nurtures.

This supportive community is not just a byproduct of the training programs but a carefully cultivated aspect of the brand’s ethos. It’s a place where members motivate each other, celebrate milestones, and share struggles, creating an environment where fitness is a shared journey rather than an individual pursuit.

“I believe that as a member, you need to find what’s right for you,” Tobin says. “Some people love our approach, while others prefer different styles. Then there are those who dislike gyms altogether and prefer at-home options. In the fitness industry, our focus should be on working together. I advocate that if your gym is failing, it’s not because of your competition; it’s due to other factors.”

Tobin expresses deep-rooted commitment to Burn Boot Camp, crediting co-founders Devan and Morgan Kline for creating a supportive environment.

“They’ve created not just a business but a family – the kind of family I needed, not necessarily the one I wanted, which is a significant part of what makes Burn Boot Camp so special,” Tobin says. “This sense of loyalty and community is what fuels my passion.”

Facing Business Challenges Like an Athlete

Each new gym Tobin opens, including those during challenging times like the COVID-19 pandemic, reflects commitment and adaptability. Despite the challenges, Tobin’s leadership ensured that the Burn Boot Camp brand not only survived but continued to thrive and expand.

Tobin shares how he faced the challenges of opening new locations while managing existing ones during 2020.

“Back in April 2020, I was into triathlons, and I remember going on a bike ride. About 20 miles in, watching the sunrise, I had a moment of clarity. It was either make it or break it. I could either excel and continue growing at a fast pace or fail and face bankruptcy. It was one of those ‘aha moments’ where you realize you can’t stress about what you can’t control; you have to live in the now.”

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Tobin focused on what he could do to remain successful.

“I decided to read some business books and take time for myself,” he says. “We shifted to virtual, merged gyms and ran about nine live camps a day through Zoom. Financially, it was a hit for me, but that was secondary. The key was that we could still offer the community the experience they valued, just in a virtual format.”

Tobin says this tough period highlighted, once again, that Burn Boot Camp was more than just a gym.

“We lost money, sure, but it wasn’t crippling. It allowed us to keep running and eventually reopen and grow. It took us a couple of years to get back to our pre-2020 levels, but it was a chance to be humble, to recognize that everything can change in an instant. It was also an opportunity to grow, to identify and fix flaws in our business system.”

The Future of Fitness

Looking ahead, Tobin’s vision includes continued expansion and deeper community impact. He’s focused on trends that appeal to members, such as strength training and the ongoing desire to train with others in a team atmosphere that fosters connection.

“We were ahead of the curve, promoting weightlifting, especially for women, in an industry where cardio was dominant,” he says. “We’ve been teaching heavy lifting without the fear of bulking up, emphasizing proper nutrition. And it’s incredible to see the transformations, especially in women who’ve become incredibly strong. Other gyms are now catching on to the importance of weightlifting for results.”

Fitness technology is also high on Tobin’s list, and he’s excited about Burn Boot Camp’s recent app, launched in October 2023.

“It’s live, on-demand, covering everything from our daily workout protocols to yoga, recovery, stretching and more,” he explains.

Tobin’s advice to others who want to own a fitness franchise is to focus on passion, resilience and the willingness to learn and adapt.

“Choosing the right franchise is crucial,” he says. “We often seek perfection, but reality is filled with imperfections, errors and challenges, especially when a business is growing rapidly. These growing pains are real, but the beauty is in growing together, facing issues both as a franchise and at the headquarters level.”

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