Hard-Hitting Success: Former NFLer Scores Big, Does Good

3570_plateBy Helen Bond from Franchsing.com – When it comes to making his mark and doing good, Brendon Ayanbadejo, recipient of this year’s Pro Athlete Influencer MVP Award, wants you to know he is just getting started.

Ayanbadejo is halfway through his current mission to open 40 Orangetheory Fitness facilities in California’s Los Angeles, Santa Clara, and Santa Cruz counties as a franchisee and area developer. The former baltimore ravens linebacker turned entrepreneur has quickly become a fitness ambassador and top revenue generator for the brand.

“Receiving this award validates the journey that I’m on,” says Ayanbadejo, a three-time NFL Pro Bowler who spent 12 years in the NFL. He was fresh off a 2013 Super Bowl with the Ravens when he walked into an Orangetheory Fitness near his Los Angeles home to give the heart-monitored, high-intensity workout a try. When he decided to retire from the game, Ayanbadejo set his sights on a new venture that was the perfect fit.

“The franchise space is so much about teamwork and team building and that is what I’m good at, so I’m so excited,” says Ayanbadejo–who, in 2013, after years of offseason studies, also earned his executive MBA from George Washington University as part of an invitation-only School of Business program for professional athletes.

Ayanbadejo brings the same energy, passion, and leadership to franchising that he was known for on and off the field as Ravens captain and NFL Players Association representative. The son of interracial parents, he also is known for advocating for marriage equality, including same-sex marriage. Whether training staff, teaching daily classes, opening new gyms, or constantly monitoring client feedback, it’s all about the positivity, he says.

“I always try to improve and get better every day,” he says. “I started playing football really late, and every day I just wanted to get better at the sport. It is the same thing in business and the same thing in life. It is kind of like the saying, ‘How you do one thing is how you do everything.’ I’m always trying to get better.”

For Ayanbadejo, no challenge is too big. He hopes to invest in additional complementary health and fitness brands and is exploring international expansion possibilities that he believes can directly reduce disease rates by spreading the powerful benefits of health education and fitness.

“I know I’m still a small fry, but I have a lot of goals, a lot of ambition, passion, and two feet on the ground,” says Ayanbadejo. “There is a lot more that I want to do and accomplish. Part of it is getting wealthy, but another part of it, which is bigger and more important, is changing the world with my legacy.”

Name: Brendon Ayanbadejo
Title: Area developer, franchisee
No. of units: 20 Orangetheory Fitness
Age: 40
Family: Wife, Natalee, daughter Anaya 11, son Amadeus 6
Years in franchising: 4
Years in current position: 4


Formative influences/events:
It was rough growing up in the inner city of Chicago. We lived in a single-parent home with three kids. My mom led our team with everything she had–that was our family unit, that was our team. Everyone else in the Lathrop Homes projects in northeast Chicago was just as poor as us. We all lived each day to the fullest and dreamed about being athletes, stars, or changing the world. Ironically enough, my older brother Femi (former NFL player Obafemi Ayanbadejo) and I did just that. Mom has always taught us to have an unwavering belief in ourselves. This single mom from the projects raised three children who racked up five college degrees, including two MBA degrees, 20 seasons in the NFL, three Pro Bowl appearances, two Super Bowl championships–and most important, six grandchildren.

Key accomplishments:
Helping change equal rights laws in the U.S. 2012/2013. Earned my Executive MBA at The University of George Washington in 2013. Baltimore Ravens 2013 Super Bowl Champion. Owner of the highest-grossing Orangetheory Fitness location in 2016.

Work week:
Every morning I drop my kids off at school and teach three fitness classes. Once I am done with the workouts for the day, I hit the KPI portal and Listen360 for customer feedback. I check in with my regional staff, managers, employees, and members as well. We are rapidly expanding at the moment. Real estate, letters of intent, and lease negotiations are a heavy part of my daily agenda at the moment, along with coaching classes. I also am in charge of launching our new-to-market studios. I train all of our fitness staff on the art of how to be a successful Orangetheory Fitness coach. I have to say that is one of the most rewarding parts of my job.

What are you reading?
It’s Your Ship by D. Michael Abrashoff.

Best advice you ever got:
Always believe in yourself. (Mom)

What’s your passion in business?
My passion in business and life all boils down to helping people achieve their goals. When my staff achieves their goals, the business wins. When our members achieve their goals, the business wins. We put the staff and members first. Being a successful business owner means you are a revenue generator. When the business is a robust revenue generator, we also become a robust income distributor. When I see our employees buying new cars, homes, wedding rings, and having children I would have to say that it makes me feel a little tingle inside my heart and soul.


Management method or style:
The team, the team, the team! I boldly lead by example. I like to lead from the front. We all have to continue to move up or out.

Greatest challenge:
Complacency. There is no time for it. Good is the enemy of great. Good is not good enough.

How do others describe you?
That’s a great question. I honestly do not know. Hopefully they say I am well-rounded, intelligent, and that I genuinely care.

How do you hire and fire, train, and retain?
Human capital is the most important asset to any non-IP based business. I let my managers and regional managers hire their staff. They are the ones who have to work with them on a daily basis. They are also responsible for training their staff. KPIs are attached to the performance of our locations. Managers are graded and earn bonuses based on their monthly KPIs. As mentioned earlier, I do get to train some of the staff. They go through a very intense 40-hour training, which I lead. It is an audition process. Even though they complete the certification training, there has to be a personality fit with their working team. When prospects see the value and commitment put into the integrity of the brand, as well as the high level of proficiency from the team, they are immediately excited to be a part of it–or intimidated and decide it’s not their true passion. As far as firing goes, we always give the employee an opportunity to up their game and meet our standards. Action plans are typically 2 weeks to 30 days in duration to meet the minimum criteria in our evaluation process. It’s pretty black-and-white. Evaluation scores, along with completion of the action plan, will dictate employment status. Behavioral infractions are a different beast. While written warnings do get issued, some infractions call for immediate termination.

Bottom Line

Annual revenue:
In 2016, overall company gross revenue as master franchisor was $19.7 million; revenue as a franchisee was $8.3 million.

2017 goals: How do you measure your growth?
Close out the year with 25-plus open units to market. We are currently sitting at 18.

Growth meter:
So far in 2017 we have opened two units. We would be excited to open eight more locations this year.

Vision meter: Where do you want to be in 5 years? 10 years?
I plan on being a multi-brand franchisee in the next few years. I also plan on being international. In the next three years the plan is to have a fully mature market with 40 open stores. As of late, I have the angel investor bug as well. I might even come up with my own franchise concept.

What are you doing to take care of your employees?
Little things go a long way with our staff. Holiday bonuses, team meals and night outs, and incentivized team competitions all build the team. We also have emergency funds readily available for the team that they do not have to pay back. We have bought flights home to see family members, replaced stolen laptops, and provided cash when tragedy strikes.

What kind of exit strategy do you have in place?
There is no exit strategy in place. If and when a sale takes place we will see how many multiples we can get for our units. I would be more than happy to get all 40 of our units to market and continue to cash flow at our current margins, which are pretty spectacular.