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Women Of The C-Suite: “Be Your Own Hero” With Heather Hudson, COO of 9Round Franchising

“Obviously, I’m a huge advocate for people working out regularly, but especially women. Women can find more confidence directly parallel with discovering their physical strength. I’m living proof. As the years have gone by and I’ve gotten stronger physically, I’ve gotten stronger mentally as a result. For any women who hate working out (or think they do) I implore them to set a goal for just one month — incorporate exercise into their lives three times a week and see if they feel stronger mentally at the end of that month! If they do, they’ll never look back! It’s the best thing in the world. I call it being your own hero. She never needed anyone else, she had it all along. When everything else fails, she can always rely on herself. #BeYourOwnHero”

I had the pleasure of interviewing Heather Hudson, mom of two, black belt, fitness competitor and COO of 9Round Franchising, LLC, an international kickbox fitness franchise with 749 locations in 13 countries.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

So many things run through my mind! I’ve had so many events occur in my life that seemed at the time like the worst thing that could happen, but they ended up being the things that forced me into something great. 9Round is the result of just that type of situation. We were moving away from our previous job of owning and operating karate schools and absolutely HAD to make something else work. There truly was no plan B; it was “this new 9Round thing or bust.” It’s not the path I would have chosen for inventing a new business, of course, because it was so scary! But I believe that intensely stressful situation forced us to be laser-beam focused on making our new business amazing and ultimately is what made it so successful.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

Perhaps not necessarily a single story, but I continue to be interested by the fact that every time I meet a famous person or someone with much more experience or in a higher position than me, I realize after a while how much they’re just like me. It’s so interesting how you can put people on a pedestal only to rub shoulders with them and feel like peers. It has instilled much more confidence in myself.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I still die laughing when I think about the first franchise lead I was assigned to follow up with. Their info had come through our website as a person interested in owning a 9Round. I got all my materials together and planned out the phone call I was about to make. I was sitting on my bed (office at the time) and thinking to myself, “Oh. My. Gosh, I’m about to sell a franchise!” I literally thought that I would seal the deal right then and there. (insert rolling eyes emoji)

It’s mortifying to think I was that naive, because that’s definitely not how it goes. There’s about two to three months worth of due diligence a potential owner goes through before they are awarded a franchise, but I was just so green at the process. The lesson was two-part: 1) Have a well-planned process, and 2) You don’t sell a franchise on the first phone call.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Having two companies, I have two answers:

For 9Round the studio: Because we have no class times at 9Round and are structured in a circuit model with a trainer still included, we have been able to take away almost every excuse people have for not working out, and I’m super proud of that. Additionally, we have people constantly teling us that for the first time ever, they actually enjoy exercise, and this warms my heart. After all, exercise can be a bit painful, so getting people to embrace that is huge for me.

For 9Round Franchising: I would venture to say that we have more detailed systems than any other fitness franchise out there. This makes us stand out because there’s nothing worse for a brand than inconsistency across the board. Our focus is to make each location run as similarly as possible at 100% excellence so that our owners, trainers and members can all have the same positive experience. This isn’t something very many franchisors choose to put a lot of energy into, but its best way to ensure longevity of a brand. This ends up benefiting the owner and the members in the long run.

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

Don’t be afraid of what people will label you as the day you have to put your foot down. Sometimes you have to be firm. But always remember that you can’t do it alone. Give concrete goals for everything. Push people to reach their highest output, but know when they are likely at their limit. Give sincere praise often. Exemplify how you want your employees to behave. Take time for yourself as a regular practice so that you are able to have a surplus to give to others. Rinse & repeat.

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

You have to delegate to the strong people on your team and you also have to allow for some mistakes. It doesn’t mean you ignore mistakes, but you have to allow people to learn to manage themselves to a large degree. Standing meetings with department heads is one of my most valuable resources. By meeting often, we end up catching things that could potentially become issues early on. We’re able to be a more efficient company by watching over departments, rather than people.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful toward who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My husband is number one. He’s not only my best friend, but I admire how driven he is. He’s helped me raise my own standards for work ethic and he’s a force to be reckoned with. He’s unstoppable. To be able to be married to someone I also respect as a mentor is a blessing.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

What’s great about our brand is that just by existing, it is already bringing goodness to the world by delivering health and wellness. I’ve also been able to give back via volunteering with a girls’ home for teens in foster care, and as a company we have six years of giving to breast cancer research through an annual 9Round Kick Event fundraiser done in almost all 9Round stores across North America.

What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

-Say ‘no’ often and only say ‘yes’ from a place of power. I’m really stingy with my energy. Every ‘yes’ is an agreement to give my energy to that thing. I recognize that I’ve got limited energy and I value it. If I am going to say yes, it’s sincere and I’ve thought the opportunity through. I will not say yes to something just because I’m afraid of hurting someone’s feelings or feel like I just have to say yes. If I’m unsure, I’ll say, “Let me think about it,” and then I consider it seriously.

-Get enough sleep and water. This is the holy grail of peak performance. People who are not getting enough sleep and don’t drink much water truly do not know how foggy they are. It’s scary. I have a gallon of water on my desk every day that I go through and I get 7.5–8 hours of sleep every night. I have NEVER been one to lose sleep over anything. I go to bed and know that I’ll be better able to figure it out when I’m fresh in the morning. I do not function well when I’m tired and I don’t try to.

-No work project is worth losing your sanity over. Every stressful event in business will pass! You will live thorugh it. It’s so easy to get caught up in fear and chaos as challenges come your way, but you can’t just lay down and let yourself be overwhelmed. I try to make jokes to keep my sanity and remember that this is a drop in the bucket in the scope of eternity. I will figure it out, I always do. Life is still good.

-An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. I know, it’s a cliché! But so true. At 9Round, we don’t release anything new hastily. We did that in the past and it was always harder than taking three steps back, asking more questions, proactively solving more potential issues and fixing those on the front end first. We run new processes through several departments now before release, because the more eyes on it, the better. The caveat is, however, is to know when it’s time to stop analyzing it and finally get it out there. You don’t want paralysis by analysis, so it’s a balance.

-Family is everything. My schedule is different every day and rather than feel guilty about that, I just make sure that when I have the chance to spend time with my family members I’m really present during that time. This creates great moments and memories and that’s what matters to me. My daughter is in college and I’ll schedule catch-up calls with her into my work calendar so that we stay close. I’ll put my phone away and play with my son, and really listen to everything on his mind or play games he really wants to play. On dates with my husband, we have our phones away at the dinner table and generally do the same when we are just hanging out at home as well.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

Obviously, I’m a huge advocate for people working out regularly, but especially women. Women can find more confidence directly parallel with discovering their physical strength. I’m living proof. As the years have gone by and I’ve gotten stronger physically, I’ve gotten stronger mentally as a result. For any women who hate working out (or think they do) I implore them to set a goal for just one month — incorporate exercise into their lives three times a week and see if they feel stronger mentally at the end of that month! If they do, they’ll never look back! It’s the best thing in the world. I call it being your own hero. She never needed anyone else, she had it all along. When everything else fails, she can always rely on herself. #BeYourOwnHero

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

John Wayne — “Life’s tough. It’s even tougher if you’re stupid.”

There’s times life truly brings you to your knees and you wonder if it could be any harder! At least this quote makes me laugh. I have found that sometimes laughter is the only way I get through all of life’s challenges. I also try really hard not to be stupid.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the U.S. with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)

I love Rhonda Byrne, Tony Robbins and Bob Proctor. Dinner’s on me, I’ll come to you!!