Lessons My Brand Learned from International Expansion by Shannon "The Cannon" Hudson

Jun 15, 2020

Following any great milestone in business comes a period of reflection on what it took to get to that point. At the start of this new decade, I found myself in this nostalgic position after 9Round — the kickboxing-fitness franchise my wife and I founded 11 years ago — officially entered another country with our first grand opening in Spain.

I admit, remembering the many mistakes I made between now and then is a bit cringe-worthy, but all of the challenges I faced and overcame along the way taught me the following invaluable lessons:

1. Money matters.

Do not become infatuated with the passion and promises of an eager franchise prospect if they lack the financial capabilities to follow through. Net worth, credit scores, background checks — all of these need to meet your minimum requirements,
no matter how great the candidate is in every other category. You need to know that the person licensing your “baby” is not only willing but is also realistically able to help it grow.

2. Franchisors can be flexible.

You can put together the strictest compliance guidelines possible to protect your brand, but the reality is that people and policy don’t always align. Your franchisees, who make up the backbone of your business, run into new challenges on a daily basis. Be prepared to “roll with the punches” and adjust your expectations in order to show franchisees you’ve got their back. This is especially important on an international scale, when your master license holders are navigating how to simultaneously uphold both your brand standards, as well as cultural norms.

3. Know who you are and stick with it.

If you can’t pinpoint what the heart of your business is, how can you possibly turn it into an international household name? When new technologies and trends arise, incorporate those into your business in a way that enhances it without completely changing it. Having watched many brands stunt their own growth by straying too far from what they do best, I’m certain now that our commitment to 9Round’s core product — a 30-minute, circuit-style kickboxing workout — is what has made our growth sustainable in a highly-competitive and constantly-changing fitness market.

4. A good team is worth every penny.

International growth is both a marathon and a sprint. It takes extensive planning and strategy, but it also needs to occur quickly, so you don’t miss opportunities. I wish I’d learned quicker than I did that maintaining the appropriate balance between preparation and progress would mean paying top dollar for an A+ executive team. I have a stellar team in place now and as we continue to expand, their collaborative efforts are the key to helping us steer clear of the “potholes” that result from speedy growth.

As you work toward your next goal, no matter its size, treat the mistakes you make along the way as stepping stones leading to your next phase of growth. Before you know it, you’ll be planning a strategy for the next roster of countries you’ve targeted for expansion.