March 24, 2021

Tougher than winning a cage fight

Opening a new business is tougher than winning a cage fight. 

At least that’s been the experience of Rafael Casias and his business partner, Johnny Bedford. They are both fighters by trade; Casias is a boxer and Bedford a mixed martial artist and veteran of UFC. But when they banded together to open Fitness Fight Factory in 2010, the pair quickly discovered that there is more to running your own shop than the service or product you’re selling. They also learned the hard way that there isn’t enough time in each day for the owners to do everything well and keep the business thriving.

Training was what they knew, what they lived, what they loved.

Casias and Bedford had both spent most of their adult lives working in and around a gym. Training was what they knew, what they lived, what they loved. Prior to 2010, they worked second jobs together as instructors at a gym that was struggling financially. The owner was making some decisions that Casias and Bedford didn’t necessarily agree with. They thought they could do better if they were in charge so they found an investor and decided to set out and prove they were right.

A decade later Fitness Fight Factory has two locations—one in Haslet, the other in North Richland Hills—and is one of North Dallas’s more popular spots with full weight rooms, spacious studios, and massage therapists. They offer martial arts classes for kids and adults, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for adults, fitness kickboxing, amateur boxing, and general strength and conditioning. That’s the stuff that Casias and Bedford and their staff can do in their sleep, the sport they live for. But they are admittedly less adept at recruiting people into the gym and selling memberships.

Bedford is the visionary of the pair. He was always thinking of new ways to expand their gym and its offering. Casias says Bedford has a way of “speaking things into existence.” Meanwhile, Casias agreed to take on the responsibilities as head of the sales department. All of this was in addition to both of them working as full time instructors. 

“We know how to teach,” says Casias. “We aren’t the best salespeople. I wasn’t doing a bad job, but I was exhausted trying to teach and do sales and manage the salespeople under me. We finally learned enough about sales to know it’s not our jobs and we hired a legit sales staff.”

Getting over egos

So in early 2020, Casias and Bedford “got over their egos,” as Casias puts it, and brought in a marketing specialist to take over sales. The new person immediately hit the phones to work leads. He set up a referral program that offered current members a free month for links to friends and acquaintances who signed up as members. Almost overnight, he was bringing in around 60 new members every month, more than double the previous number. And over one three-month period, overall membership jumped from approximately 360 people to 600.

“He’s a closer,” Casias says of the new sales guru. “He’s always on the phone, working leads. He doesn’t get off the phone unless he’s talking to a customer.”

Perhaps even more important than bringing in new business, the new sales staff frees up Casias, Bedford, and the other owners and instructors to focus on delivering top-quality instruction and experiences to their clients, being active in the community, and look ahead to the future of Fitness Fight Factory.

Looking to the future

And according to Casias, that immediate future includes buying another gym in the metroplex and expanding its facilities and offerings to meet the Fitness Fight Factory standards. Casias says they’ll also add to the sales force to cover the new location. After all, none of this would be possible—or at least it would’ve been much harder—if he and Bedford hadn’t decided to delegate responsibility.

“Up until a couple months ago, there were 100 gyms in the metroplex just like us,” says Casias. “Now we’re not like those gyms. We’re better. Hiring a top-notch sales staff gave us the focus and energy to do that. It’s a major task that the owners no longer have.”

Photo credit: Fitness Fight Factory

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