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A Fitness Phenomenon: How Ex-Minor Leaguer Created a Franchise Empire with Devan Kline of Burn Boot Camp

January 31, 2024

Business expansion comes hand in hand with daunting challenges, particularly when venturing into franchising. Devan Kline, the co-founder of Burn Boot Camp, has skillfully navigated this path, transforming a humble fitness venture into a soaring $400 million enterprise. Today, he sits down with A.J. to share the lessons he learned from growing his fitness franchise, the challenges of scaling from 10 to 100 million, and the importance of people operating systems.

About Devan Kline:

Devan Kline is a dynamic entrepreneur, renowned fitness expert, and motivational speaker known for his relentless commitment to health and wellness. As a co-founder and CEO of Burn Boot Camp, a thriving fitness brand valued at $400 million, he has reached outstanding heights in the fitness industry.

Starting his entrepreneurial journey with just $600, Devan and his spouse transformed a simple parking lot boot camp into a fitness empire spanning over 200 locations. His story is a testament to his impassioned dedication, risk-taking, and visionary leadership.

How to navigate business expansion and franchise growth

The journey from a small business to a thriving franchise empire is filled with opportunities and challenges. It’s a path that requires strategic planning and relentless drive. As with all ambitious endeavors, this one also starts with a clear vision. Your vision is what helps you navigate the uncertainties and approach every decision strategically. Once your vision takes root, you’re ready to create an adaptable system that can cater to the needs of your growing franchise network

It’s also important to understand that a franchise extends beyond business—it is a community. Building genuine connections with both your customers and franchisees will cultivate a sense of unity and trust, strengthening your company’s foundation and inspiring loyalty. Growing a franchise empire isn’t just about rapidly expanding in size; it’s also about maintaining the quality and essence of your brand. Keep these aspects in mind when working on your expansion. And remember, the idea is not to grow fast but to grow sustainably.

Key Insights:

  • Create a community around your product. Your product draws customers in, but the sense of community and connection fosters long-term loyalty and engagement. Aim to build a supportive environment by creating meaningful, value-centered engagements through regular interactions, customer appreciation, or active participation in community initiatives. (06:34)
  • Speak your customers’ language. Use the common language of your customers so that you can cultivate a deeper connection with them and build a supportive community around your brand. This will drive the expansion and sustained growth of your business franchise. (09:49)
  • Lead by example. When leaders live the values they preach, it inspires their employees, reinforcing the company’s culture and strengthening the organization as a whole. So, live your values, inspire people through actions, and cultivate a work culture that mirrors your brand’s ethos. (13:18)
  • Keep a clear vision. Business growth requires clarity that aligns with your goals and objectives. This creates direction and minimizes potential risks or missteps during the expansion phase. It ensures your business continues on the correct path and helps with decision-making, planning, and strategizing for successful growth. (26:17)
  • Stay focused. Focus on your main operations and avoid distractions that may hamper growth, compromise product or service quality, and lead to unexpected challenges. Stay focused on primary goals, ensuring every step aligns with your overall mission for effective and efficient scaling. (38:35)

Devan’s best advice for entrepreneurs:

“The business needs to serve something greater than itself. And you can’t just wake up every day staring at an issues list and a book of problems and pretend that you thrive in the chaos. Everybody needs a pat on the back every once in a while.” (30:33)

Connect with Devan:

Resources Mentioned:

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Affiliate Disclaimer: Some links in this episode are affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, we may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Rest assured, we only promote products/services we believe will benefit your entrepreneurial journey. 

Transcript

Devan Kline:
Yeah, A.J. No, thank you. And just to be fair, 94% of our members are women and over 90% of our franchisees are women. So you’re not necessarily in our target audience. So that’s okay.

A.J. Lawrence:
That is very true. This is the thing in business, people focus so much on what’s visible and what they know, and then they build up conceptions of, like, this is entrepreneurism. You’ve built this incredibly fast growing burn boot camp and then other companies around this concept. That is just great. As much as I want to get into your entrepreneurial journey, you were telling me just a couple of minutes ago, you had the first 200. Getting everyone who signed up, getting them going, getting the businesses going, but then starting to scale your first 10 million to your first 100 million. Horrible problem there. Why don’t we talk about what that was going through, that type of scale? Because that’s an insane ride for anyone.

Devan Kline:
Yeah, it was definitely an insane ride. Starting in a parking lot with $600, with just my wife and I, because nobody would give us a lease. And rightfully so. We were 24 year old kids and we had no financial history. I was a broke minor league baseball player. And she was paying that broke minor league baseball player’s cell phone bill for basically my whole career. So it wasn’t like we were like, rolling in the dough. Neither of us come from money.

I really come from a poverty and a chaotic background. But the complexity of getting from zero to a million for me wasn’t as difficult as getting from 1 to 10. But what isn’t nearly as difficult, getting from 10 to 100. That was where I think a lot of the growth had to really come into play. And I can sit here and act like that was the goal, to go sell hundreds of locations. No, it wasn’t the goal. The goal is, originally our tagline was fit community of moms. Burn boot camp, fit community of moms.

Before that, it was Charlotte’s fit community of moms. So our original aspirations were just North Charlotte. And as soon as we did that in, I don’t know, six months, people said it would be pretty hard. I didn’t think it was that hard. It’s not that it wasn’t difficult. It just wasn’t painful. It was hard. It was hard in the sense of what you had to do.

A.J. Lawrence:
Constant movement.

Devan Kline:
Yeah, but in terms of my background and what I’ve had to go through my whole life, it was contextually pretty easy. But then you get to a point where, all right, now I’m not just in North Carolina anymore. Right now we’re in the southeast, and now I’ve got 200 locations that I hold a moral and ethical fiduciary obligation toward to get them open, to get them operating. We are not and I do not believe in what’s made franchising kind of left a sour taste in a lot of people’s mouths, is that some of these franchisor companies, they just want to what we call pump and dump. They just want to grow, grow, grow, cattle call all the franchise brokers in the entire world, sell, sell, sell, sell, sell and there’s a hollow operational support underneath. And that’s what people were saying about us right away. That was never the intention, but it’s like, oh, you did 200 units in the first 18 months? That’s 99% tile of growth of any business entering into your marketplace since 2010ish or whatever they were saying at the time. So I’m like, yeah, this is going to be hard, right? But we geared down, we buckled down, and we created systems.

Our system took us from 100 to where we’re at now, 394 operating gyms, just opened three this last weekend. So, yeah, that was challenging. That took a very long time. We can unpack anywhere in there that you’d like to go but it required somebody without a systemic mind to realize that systems are what we needed.

We had enough vision, we had enough idea. We didn’t need any more ideas. We just needed people to help step in and organize a playbook, put a playbook together. And I spent the remaining tenure as CEO doing that before finally, in 2021, I took a step back and, well, stepped forward, back, whatever you want to call it. Now I’m the visionary. Nobody really knows what that means outside of your definition, which was-

A.J. Lawrence:
Solving interesting problems.

Devan Kline:
Solving interesting problems.

A.J. Lawrence:
So when you were looking at systematizing, this is one of the things I think a lot of people struggle with. Let’s kind of first talk about how that systematizing grew. Because I think there’s an issue of either like, where to start or do it all in one wave and then say, that’s the way it’s done. And then you get stagnation. And very quickly you were seeing that they needed to be systems. Where did you start?

Devan Kline:
I broke all the systemization down by the one most precious asset that we all have. Right? You have your time, and so we need to then maximize that time. And the more productive that we can be with the time that we’re given, and the more cohesive we can be as a team unit. And the more people that we can get on the team that have that standard that see what we’re doing and see how it’s contributing to society and almost adopt the moral and ethical obligation that I feel that I have toward not only our franchise partners and their fiduciary obligation, but going out and making sure that the communities that we serve here in America and in the future will be global, that we don’t deprive them the right of changing their lives the way that they have at the locations that we do have open.

I mean, it’s like you know what in fitness, people want to get fit and healthy and toned. They don’t really stick around for that. Right? They come for that, but what they stick around for is the community elements, the belonging, the encouragement that they get, right? So we knew we had something sticky. So it’s like, we need to do more of this.

Okay, you break it down into your time obligations. So daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annually. And we started systematizing the business that way. Now most people, if you’re getting a coaching consultation or something like that, I have nothing against that. I just wish that there was more coaches that understood that you can’t build the plane first and then fly the plane. In entrepreneurship, you’ve got to fix the plane as you’re flying it. And so you can’t really set up a whole operating system and then make sure you’ve got all your ducks in a row, and then, okay, time to deploy the annual plan. Like, no, that’s not how it works.

You can’t have too much month at the end of the money. Right. The first order of business when we were 50 locations or under, even five locations or under was, let’s make enough money so that we can keep our doors open. That’s the game plan. That’s the annual plan. Let’s do better than we did last year. And then that doesn’t suffice when you do 200 locations. You got all these locations that need to get up and operating. We all need to speak the same language. Here’s where I made a mistake. I thought that I was smarter than all the other operational infrastructures that are out there. Like OKRs by John Doerr, Objectives Key Results.

A.J. Lawrence:
Scaling Up, EOS.

Devan Kline:
EOS. EOS is ultimately what we stuck on. So, after literally 14 attempts over four years to figure it out, we finally went headfirst and really adopted EOS. But we’re a franchise company, so we adapted. Right. And it’s the BOS, right? It’s the Burn Operating System. It’s the Entrepreneur Operating System by Gino Wickman. I highly recommend it.

It sounds like you’re very familiar with it. And then instead of going out and recreating the plan, we just used a plan that’s been proven to work thousands of times by other companies, and we made it our own. And what that did was that allowed, here’s the punchline to that. It created a common language. If our mission is to change the world, we all need a common language to be called a community. And unless we had that common language, we had nothing.

So it gave us instantly a common language. And now our franchise business coaches that have been running on this operating system for a few years, they’ve got decades of experience already built in because they use that language, and it makes them better.

A.J. Lawrence:
You’ve said common language a few times in our chat before we started. I picked up at least three different times you’ve said on the different social media posts that I’ve been checking out on. It’s something that I always struggled with, and I see a lot of entrepreneurs struggle because one I tend to talk off the top of my head or whatever comes right off my lips is kind of what I’m saying. And I have a bad habit of trying to sell to the audience I’m talking to. So I’m always adapting it. How did you develop that common language? Because it’s not just saying the same words over and over, but it’s also not letting it drift. How do you create that balance?

Devan Kline:
Being the visionary, my job like you said, is to help the organization now solve its most complex problems. In order to solve a complex problem, well, the question is, well, what’s the problem? So a problem that’s well defined is the first step to that. Being able for me to look around, being in the field, inside of our gyms, listening to members hearing their common language, because we nailed that right out of the gate. We nailed their common language.

Now you move up one level and now to the franchise partner network. There’s 600 of us total. A lot of those individuals are partners in their organization, but 600 individuals that all have to communicate with each other around how to grow toward this goal. And what I noticed is that this location was communicating differently than this location. And they were calling it an org chart and they were calling it an accountability chart. And they were over here were saying they didn’t have a chart. They didn’t even know what a chart was. They were just using a piece of paper and a napkin.

And so you start to make all these observations and then start to craft an issue. Sounds like you know EOS pretty well. And the issues list is the most important document that Gino Wickman talks about in the book. Traction is, the best companies have their issues at the forefront because if we’re not, we can have our goals but if we have barriers that are stopping us from getting to our goals and we don’t know how to get around them, well, what good is having a goal? So the issues list is a manifestation of all those problems that get in your way.

And one of our biggest problems, for example, I heard the president of SoulCycle say this about burn boot camp. They were like, well, they can’t scale that community because it’s a franchise and they lose control in the middle. And she’s right. For like 90% of franchises that I’ve studied, they haven’t been able to figure out.

A.J. Lawrence:
They lose the flavor.

Devan Kline:
Okay, so how do you scale then? Common language. Common mission, common language. And we keep it simple. And, yeah, it’s complex to scale, isn’t it? To get your audience, getting from high performing 7-figure people up and above and beyond that, scaling up 10Xing, it’s a hard thing to do. It’s complex. But we need concepts to make the complexity easier for us so that we can digest it. So EOS, to me, is just the concept and the framework that I call operational infrastructure. Just a big, businessy way to say, what’s our common language?

A.J. Lawrence:
So you started dealing with how you were breaking out your days and then looking at your week, your month, creating the common language around that to systematize it. But how long into that process did you kind of seriously land on EOS? Because it sounds like you did what I know I did. I jumped on like five different, crossing the chasm and four other things without realizing the real secret is it doesn’t matter. You just have to stick with something for a long time. There’s no goldilocks out there, or at least in my experience, there wasn’t. But in that, from looking at the time to looking at common concepts to developing that language to the EOS as an actual and then turning it into Burn OS, which I love, when did that kind of come into that process?

Devan Kline:
That’s a great question, A.J. And I think the answer is that it started the very first day that I put in the paperwork for my LLC, and it’s still going today. And I think it starts with you as an individual. Because if you’re the leader and you’re the founder, you’re going to be a mirror reflection of the people that are on your team and they’ll be a mirror reflection of you. You guys will be much alike in that regard in terms of attitude and effort, and especially belief. And so it starts with you on a daily basis. Like, what are you waking up and how are you approaching your day? Hard work really works. Anytime I get a chance to talk to somebody more successful than I, which is becoming easier and easier nowadays, to get a hold of these billionaires and people that really want to see a young guy like me succeed, the first thing almost everyone says is hard work really works.

And as simple and as people want to throw around like toxic hustle culture and all that, it’s like if you use the word toxic hustle culture, then you don’t want to build anything great because the only way for you to build something great is to outwork the other people that want to also build something great. And if you do not do that, you might as well just wish in one hand and shit in the other and kind of see which one fills up first because you’re living a dream. So work hard. And that’s what anyone’s ever told me. So I wanted to figure out how to do that.

I was a baseball player. I didn’t know what the word entrepreneurship meant. I picked up Brian Tracy’s book, I think it’s Brian Tracy’s book, The 21 Success Secrets of Self-Made Millionaires. That’s the one. And I never forget, I was sitting in my house and I was bored, and I read it in like an hour and a half. Boom. And he talked about the ABCDE way to file your daily organization. A is the things I can do and only I can do. B is the things that are important but somebody else sees can do. C is the crap bucket, right? D is like little ideas, don’t forget those. E is like whatever the definition was. So I just adopted that, the get shit done philosophy. And I’ve literally been, this is like my 48th notebook. I probably got one in here this morning. Yeah, you’re on here, A.J. 12 noon, right there. Boom. You’re on the list.

A.J. Lawrence:
Yay. I made it.

Devan Kline:
You’re on the list. And through all 40 notebooks, you can see this since like day one. So that’s been my personal consistent. And then what happens is we just layer on. Okay, now that I’ve got weekly, now that Morgan has direct reports and as the CEO, my last job was to build the Burn operating system. We established weekly same page meetings, weekly level 10 meetings, monthly financial meetings, monthly people meetings. We have quarterly rock meetings. If you’re familiar with the EOS word, their rock. And then the annual planning meetings or what EOS calls VTOs. And so we just follow that format. And when we need to make a modification to it, we make a modification to it. But we question the modification. We ask if it’s already in the literature, and then we only can compound on what’s already there. We can’t recreate. It starts and stops with me. I have to be the one that adheres to that. And if I don’t, and if Morgan, my wife, our CEO, doesn’t, nobody, no 6000, 5998 of the other people are going to follow it either.

A.J. Lawrence:
Yeah, I think that consistency. It’s interesting that you say that because I think I definitely, when I started getting close to the last company I sold, we got close to eight figures, and then agency, we lost our whale client and had to restructure because the knockdown effects of that. But what I had realized was I had built a system that was great at a couple of million dollars and as we got up to 8 million, I was like, why are we all shaky? And I was constantly jumping at every type of problem, putting off fires and it was like that consistency that I had early on I threw out the window because we were growing too fast. I like that you made it such a mission.

I got very lucky and able to sell in the mid-seven, but that was the biggest thing. I left all that consistency, all that stuff disappear. And hindsight really does show you. It’s like, yeah, you stick with that even when you want to go faster because each step foundation needs to be strong enough to take you. So I love that that’s been built into your process early on. I almost want to talk about your franchisees because you said something early on that most of them are women.

I do feel bad because I’ve been checking out. There’s tons of hot health startups with XYZ, NCAA or NFL players. And yet when I dove in it, you’re outclassing pretty much the whole space here, from a good point. You’re not targeting someone like me to look at this. You’re really going to your core audience. You’re trying to find franchisees that fit your core audience, the mothers of the community. Can you talk a little bit about sort of what that process is for the people who are looking at your franchises and sort of then let’s maybe go to the advantages they get as they grow their franchise.

Devan Kline:
Yeah. So when you language our members versus maybe some more institutional investors, I’ll put it into two buckets that we really have to our audiences. A retail investor or an institutional investor. An institutional investor will be somebody like yourself sold their business, four or five crushed it. They want to go open 4, 5, 6, 10, 20 locations, although we’ve never done a deal, that’s 20 units.

And then the retail investor. The person that they’re going to roll their 401K into this, right. And this is going to be everything for them. This is the next chapter in their career. It’s helped their life so much that they can’t imagine a life without them being able to help other people in the same way. Okay, so the original 200 that I spoke about earlier, the first 18 months out of the gate, all our members, all retail based investors who were going to go out and do that. And then after that, it still remains today the majority of our model as a retail based investor, because I think that we limit up until this point how many units that we really want to sell. To somebody at a time because we want to control the narrative, we want to control the brand. If you have seen other brands in our space before, I can probably talk about curves a little bit because that’s not really here anymore. But they went to 8000 units and then they went nowhere after that.

Well, they did go somewhere. They went to be practically and culturally nonexistent. And so we didn’t want to do that. We didn’t want to be these companies that we could have awarded 1000 by now.

A.J. Lawrence:
Crumble.

Devan Kline:
Yeah, but you go fast so it’s just unhealthy. And then all of a sudden now my reputation is attached to that. I’m also young, so I don’t want that to be my reputation. Also, I’m just having fun. This is just great, right? I love competing against private equity companies that own Orangetheories and F45. I love competing against those. It’s great. I’ve got my little niche, my little pocket, this little family-owned company that could type deal.

A.J. Lawrence:
I was laughing to myself. I popped up. I was like, oh, let me take a look at around me. Because like I said, there are five within a half hour of me, five locations. What did you say earlier? 394 are open as of today. You have 500+, totally under contract. So 394 are open with another 100+ coming open in, I guess, the next year or so.

Devan Kline:
We should be at 500 open before the end of 2025. That’s the goal.

A.J. Lawrence:
That’s amazing. And it’s all US right now.

Devan Kline:
Yeah, it’s US. And like I said, we have a Burn Boot Camp on demand which is our digital fitness product. That inside of our franchisees territories, they also have a digital territory which is unique to our business. Yeah, we don’t compete over the top with them on products and services in the marketplace, in their marketplace that they bought. We don’t believe in, you can buy the territory but we’ll take the airspace. You can have the airspace too. From a global perspective, we’re training members all over the world with that product.

But at the end of the day, right now, all the awarded franchise locations are in the US and we’ll look to expand to the more westernized countries first over the next couple of years as we cross the 500 threshold. Like I said, I want this to be a sustainable legacy for myself, for my family. And if I can get to 500 open units by the time I’m 37, I think we’re doing pretty good. And I can be patient and not let my ambition overwhelm the people around me. I think that’s one thing I always look out for. I tend to do that.

A.J. Lawrence:
Yeah, well, I think you have a little bit more reason to have that ambition. But I think that’s just entrepreneurs. When you get any type of like, oh, I’ve gone from zero to one, one to ten, whatever that may be. All of a sudden it’s like, oh, I can do things other people can’t. But that’s also the Icarus problem. It’s like you got to constantly keep that balance to not fly too far.

All right, just because I’m very curious, because I have been looking at the concept of maybe as I look to acquire, I am looking at one, I love Spain. Just to kind of put out, not to turn the conversation into when are you going to open up franchise opportunities in Europe? But that is something like I’ve been looking for, for cool ones, but alright.

Devan Kline:
You’re the pioneer, A.J. Let’s do this. We’re going.

A.J. Lawrence:
Let’s talk. Hey, I talked with a bunch of my friends because there’s all these expat bubbles in Spain, because it’s warm and it’s relatively friendly in visas. So there’s lots of entrepreneurs who are running their companies from sunny Spain. I know all these Finns and Irish folk living down there. Back to the point. So someone who’s buying and, like, you’re saying it’s mostly one off locations, what does this look like? And I know there are certain things you can say and not say about the return on the growth, but generally, how long does it usually take to kind of get one up and running? How long before they tend to break even? Stuff like that?

Devan Kline:
Yeah, no, I definitely, in this world, have to tread lightly because I only have to say what’s in the FDD, the franchise disclosure document. There’s companies out there that have chosen not to do that, and the FTC doesn’t really like that, and they will come down on you pretty quickly. But I could say that the average cost to open is roughly 300,000 to 350,000 somewhere in there. And our last year, FDD, our annual unit volumes or revenue per unit per year was over 500. This year, when we filed FDD in April, it’ll be around 600. So you can do the math there. So here’s my goal. I always try to shoot for a two to one. Year one cash flow, two cost to open ratio.

So if it cost me $500,000 to open, I’d like to do a million dollars in the first year. That would be ideal. Do we do that all the time? No, not all the time. Are there instances of that? Of course there are.

A.J. Lawrence:
I just wrote down my notes. I’m going to grab the STD and dive around into this. I should have done that. All right, so as you’re looking to expand this, as you’re looking to kind of work out where, this is how you’re going to get to 500, where you’re going to take this longer term, I like that you have these balances, these trade offs, these restraints. It almost feels like you’re putting restraints on yourself. You’re using more positive forward language, but at the same time, just as someone who has been like, hey, everyone, let’s go charge the bridge. Sometimes you just get the energy to convince other people to do things. But I like that you’re doing this and you use the phrase long term.

You want to stay in this game for a while. What are you looking in the long term? What is not for Burn or the Burn agency or trying to remember all the other Burns in your flywheel? What are you looking for long term as an entrepreneur? What is this going to look like x years? I know you have a child. Are you still down in Charlotte?

Devan Kline:
I am in Charlotte. Yep.

A.J. Lawrence:
Beautiful area. Yeah, I love that.

Devan Kline:
Well, I think the question you’re asking is around, like, what do you want this to be for yourself? And I’ll first say that my first goal has already been broken. My first goal was I want my kids to look at me and to say, dad, you not only broke the chain of poverty in your family, but you completely evaporated and you’re the first in the new link. And so that, to me, is really special. And now the game is just like, I feel like you never really make it right. But know when you had a great year and you know when you executed well and you get the trophy at the end of the year for that, for executing well. Right. And so I feel like the more years that we can turn in a great year, the more we can compete with ourselves, the more people we can help, the more trophies we can hold up. And I think people are motivated, at least I’m certainly motivated by year over year progression, just the progression in itself being motivating and the work in itself being motivating, who I can become by who I’m becoming, in a way.

And so my goal, if I had to put some arbitrary timeline and goal on it, because I will, and I answered a question because I think it’s fun to just pontificate. 55. I don’t know. I guess when the business is done, whatever that means, 10,000 locations, every viable community that would support a burn under the sun and then maybe some research on the moon, on the new moon base or something like that.

A.J. Lawrence:
Mars. Elon’s Burn Boot Camp.

Devan Kline:
Yeah. Hey, put a little send one of our trainers up there, do a little experimentation, who knows what’s possible. I’m not going to put ourselves in a bucket or anything, but what I would like to do, just from like a material standpoint would be I never made the giants and I’m a huge baseball fan. And if I could become part owner, full owner, invested into the giants in some way as like an act two, I think that would be really cool.

A.J. Lawrence:
Now that is cool. I mean, I have to say that I was sworn as a six year old to hate the giants for all of existence from my grandfather was born in Brooklyn. So there is something.

Devan Kline:
You must be a Dodgers fan.

A.J. Lawrence:
Ah no. Mets.

Devan Kline:
Ah okay. See, the ironic thing is, listen, Orangetheory is a company that I respect greatly, and we have a very similar, I think, business patterns, great operations, great training, blah, blah, blah. I kind of have to dislike the color orange now because they’re our direct competitor, but yet my favorite baseball team has an orange bill. So I’m between this like rock and a hard place, my competitive spirit and my long term ambitions. So let me know if you can figure that out.

A.J. Lawrence:
No, I can see that, and I like doing that call out. I think that’s a cool way of looking at it. There’s even going into the minor leagues within their minor league and then kind of working your way up the cap table. Do that. That is really cool.

Devan Kline:
The book, The E-myth is a great book. Have you ever read that by Michael Gerber?

A.J. Lawrence:
Yeah.

Devan Kline:
Okay, so if you guys haven’t read the E-myth out there, it’s one of those foundational books that it means something to you every time you read it. It’s so elementary. Well, I shouldn’t be condescending. Maybe it’s not elementary for you. And that’s okay, too, because at one point it wasn’t elementary for me. It was like mind blowing for me. But at this point, after ten years in, it’s elementary. And what the E-myth will ask of you in a couple of its opening chapters, they’ll say, tell me your primary aim.

And it will say, Michael Gerber will ask you for your primary aim, but he won’t ask you what the business’s primary aim is. He won’t allow you to put yourself in the business as the same entity. And he says, what will your business look like when it’s done right? That’s one question. Who does the business actually serve is the other question. And then what does that person get? Material or immaterial or both out of their business because their business was serving them with the notion that a business can’t just serve solving problems every day. It’s got to serve its founders for the founders to stay substantially motivated to be able to continue to scale it. And I think a lot about that. I think you can dive really deep and you can find nuances where you might disagree.

But also, generally speaking, I think that’s right, is that the business needs to serve something greater than itself. And you can’t just wake up every day staring at an issues list and a book of problems and pretending that you thrive in the chaos. Everybody needs a pat on the back every once in a while.

A.J. Lawrence:
For me, it’s always been the reason we talk to this audience of entrepreneurs, the reason why my marketing services we serve for this audience is this. Compared to when I had my agency, we had global enterprise clients. Our efforts, from communicating to serving, helps them grow. And we’re immediately impacting they’re impacting helping them hire people, pay people, help them live better life. It’s like, that is such a cooler thing than saying, oh, yeah, I’m going to make some money and I’m going to check off my, those are all good. And hey, that’s legitimately a great way of doing it. But I think having that purpose, as you’ve called out, I think helps just move along because there are dark moments in this entrepreneurial journey that you kind of sometimes need a little bit more than just saying, all going to tomorrow, I’ll do my list. It’s like, no, why am I doing this? Helps bring you a little bit further along.

Devan Kline:
Oh, yeah. Every day you have to remind yourself of mean. Have you ever heard, you mentioned Elon? You’re probably an Elon fan, one of the billionaires, they said, my best friend told me that starting a company is like chewing glass and staring into the, you’re, you’re not far off at certain times. It can be very painful. And money does help. It helps when you get over the threshold of profitability where you’re not worried about that anymore, when you can play with house. Money is when a lot of the stress for me kind of just went away. I don’t get stressed.

And I think that’s because I have very methodical rituals to make sure that that doesn’t happen. Now, I’m not saying that I don’t feel stress. I’m saying I don’t become stress. I can feel it and I can, hey, I got to go. Take five minutes. The one thing I tried never to do is have an interaction that I’m unhappy with, and it inevitably happens. You have interactions, but if you can wake up every day with the goal of, hey, two things. I want to improve something in my company, and every person I talk to, I want to inspire, influence, and transform their life in some way, shape or form.

If you can wake up every day and do those two things, that’s leadership to me, in a nutshell. And, man, people will follow you and they’ll follow you like crazy. And I learned this from being in championship cultures. Like the Central Michigan chip was winning, won a bunch of conference titles, and the San Francisco Giants won in ten and twelve when I was there. And you just learn. You watch and you emulate these big league players or these sought after coaches, and you see how the good ones are much more headed, cool and calm than the ones who aren’t so revealed.

A.J. Lawrence:
I saw your reference to the Alabama strivers versus New Yorker. Yeah. And it comes in true, because I got to go to school on a football scholarship, but my real passion was hurdles. I just remember I had this one high school coach, had been alternative for the 68 Olympics. He had been the number 500 meters guy, and never a cooler man, literally just cool as cool could be. But he always had his process. Like, you ran, you did things, you worked on it. It was that incremental, directional effort.

It was never like, kill yourself to do this. It was like, no, you’re going to do this. You’re going to set your foundation, you’re going to do your work, blah, blah, blah. You’re going to work on your skills and then give yourself that moment to push yourself, but constantly set the foundation, do the work you needed to do to get on the track to run. And having people like that in your life and learning like you do so well is so powerful. I think that is such a thing to bring into your efforts. I want to kind of talk a little bit about your flywheel because this is so cool, because so many people talk about it. I see some people do it well, but you seem to be really kind of building it from one piece to the next.

Let’s just jump in. Given my agency background, where did the agency Burn-

Devan Kline:
No, it’s okay, we’re Burn Media.

A.J. Lawrence:
Burn Media.

Devan Kline:
Yeah. So Burn brands is ten companies, and obviously the first company that we started was burn boot camp, and it popped. And I have to say this because I have so much respect and admiration and so much also gratitude when I say that, because how many people, do you know how many people in your audience had an amazing idea, worked so hard at it, just didn’t do what they wanted it to do and didn’t give up and didn’t give up and didn’t give up and didn’t get, and just kept at it. I’m fortunate that the first thing that I tried worked. Like, the first thing that I tried, the first entrepreneurial journey that I took, and it worked really well. And that’s never lost upon me. And so when people started recognizing me for that, mostly in the franchising circles, Forbes did a big article on us right after we popped and did those 200 locations and based their article on that. And then, Frandad, I got involved, and a couple of franchising specific entities got involved.

And then all of a sudden I’m on stage at the IFA International Franchising association teaching people how to do contemporary social media marketing on their franchise. And so I’m up in front of 1500 people. I just got started. We were financially successful, but I didn’t really know much about franchising yet. Right. I knew it was social media marketing, fitness and how to be a leader. Well, after that talk, I was just flooded with inquiries about helping, helping, helping. I said, hey, if you’re out there, you need help, here’s my number, here’s my email, call me.

And they did, and they called me and they called me and they called me and I was grateful and I was honored and I helped as much as I possibly could for free. And then it just got to the point where I was taking my eye off the ball some days. And so we decided to create burn media company in 2018. And it started just really supporting as a support agency for what we were doing here in the franchise and still does that. And a lot of the book of business is still our system, but also now we have a vertically non competing ideology where we will only help one fitness company, only one coffee company, and we specialize in franchising. And so we do a lot of multi unit corporate chains as well. But yeah, we’ve gotten into the emerging franchise space and we’re franchise sales organization, so we also sell locations for emerging franchisors that are trying to develop. We know how to do that.

I’ve had that in house here at Burn since we began. And so the agency was born of that and then we just started scaling up. And as Burn Bootcamp is scaled and our awareness is scaled there, it’s been the sister agency and it’s grown right alongside it. And burn nutrition and activewear and our real estate business and the remaining five businesses that make up burn brands as a whole. But yeah, burn Bootcamp is the biggest. Burn nutrition is the second biggest, active is the third. And media, our media company is the fourth.

A.J. Lawrence:
So cool that they fit so well and kind of built off of the other. Flywheels are something that I’ve heard so many different entrepreneurs talk about wanting to build, and yet they are so much harder. It’s sort of like the whole thing for the whole coast that it’s so hot now. Like, oh, yeah, just keep buying small companies and put them all together and just find people to run it. It’s like, I don’t think you understand what you’re saying. It’s that great princess bride line.

Devan Kline:
I definitely agree with the complexity around it. I think actually most people should not build a flywheel company. I think most. It’s incredibly hard. I think most people should not. I think most people should just keep focused on the one organization and grow it to the point where it takes care of all your dreams. There’s this company I saw on Instagram yesterday called Hot Honey. Hot honey just did 40 million in sales last year.

Hot honey. One product, one business, one company, one entity, one SKU. Hot honey did 40 million. You don’t even need that, right?

A.J. Lawrence:
Yeah.

Devan Kline:
You don’t even need a brand that pops like that. I mean, a few million dollar agency to stand up is nothing trivial. But also, with ten years of focus and work and effort, I think you can do it. I just think that if you dilute that focus over a period of time, then you won’t. And most people don’t understand how to build a team. And building a team, a really strong team, is a prerequisite to building a flywheel. If you don’t build a strong team that can carry forward brand one or brand two, you’re just going to be stealing from Peter to pay Paul at some point in the game and doing all these intercompany loans and it’s going to get really messy and complex and your finance people are going to hate you and then you’re going to look at your balance sheet and you’re going to be indebted in certain companies and not in others. And it’s just going to be a mess financially.

But then on the other side of that, it’s, hey, 70% of people that buy something from you will also buy something else from you if it is worth their while. And so, yeah, you should consider that. But the true flywheel is different verticals, right? Having different verticals that live on their own. And that’s a difficult thing to do, but it can be done. I don’t want to discourage somebody. I’m like the person that loves to encourage other people, but at the same time, it’s like, let’s be real and let’s make sure get your company to 5100 million dollars before you start thinking about how to make a spin off that takes 80% of your time and ends up being 2% of your revenue.

A.J. Lawrence:
You’re basically telling us, get your foundation set, get these things together. And that is always so true. What’s the best way one people can learn more about you? Burn bootcamp. Either to go or look at potentially franchising it. Where should they go?

Devan Kline:
Yeah, you can go to burnbootcamp.com if you want to check out the gym or franchise, burnbootcamp.com. But at the end of the day, I just started a new YouTube channel. And I mirror that with a podcast called the Devan Klein show. And for the first ten years of this whole thing, we were, like I said, making health and fitness content. And there’s still a lot of that, but it’s also more holistic. And I just really talk about these things, talk about my entrepreneurial journey and building organization and just kind of what it takes of a person through the lens of self development. Right. We’re not going to talk about politics or religion or what’s going on in the world.

We’re going to talk about looking in the mirror and seeing in yourself what other people see in. That’s, you know, I think what I’m gifted in because I had to do it. And I believe strongly that you should only really share what you’ve experienced. So, yeah, that’s been exciting. See me there. It’s Devan Kline on YouTube or Instagram is the other place, LinkedIn. I’m on all the social networks just getting started with it.

A.J. Lawrence:
Well, we’ll make sure we put all the links in the show notes in the email when this episode comes out, and of course, in our socials for all this. Devan, thank you so much for coming on. This was a lot of cool. I mean, I saw this and I was like, oh, this looks so cool. The more leaves I’ve been looking at of what you’re doing, the more I am. And like I said, I think the franchise concept is so cool, and I think there’s so much more I would love to bug you with, but we’ll have to find a good reason to get you back on the show soon because you’re doing so much cool stuff. So thank you for coming on the show.

Devan Kline:
Yeah, thank you, man. I appreciate you. And this is a great pocket that this niche you’ve identified for yourself. The seven figure, trying to get to eight figure. That’s cool name and

A.J. Lawrence:
Transition.

Devan Kline:
Yeah, the transition. Thanks for having me, dude.

A.J. Lawrence:
It was a lot of fun. Everyone, look, if you enjoyed listening to what Devan had to share today, I think there’s so much you could pull out of this. If you know anyone who could learn from what Devan, please share it with them. And please, please ask them to subscribe. The more subscribers we get, the more cool entrepreneurs we can come bring on the show. It really does help us find cool people who want to come on the show. So, look, thank you so much for listening today. I hope you have a great day, and I’ll talk to you soon. Bye-bye.

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