On this week's podcast, we sit down with Andrew Vickers. Andrew is the owner of several F45 Training businesses in Mobile and the Eastern Shore, which are fitness training centers focused on high-intensity 45-minute workouts. Listen to this week's episode to hear his unique perspectives on fitness and success, as well as growing as a franchisee.
Produced by Blue Fish in Mobile, Alabama
Andrew Vickers: Hi, I'm Andy Vickers with F45 Training Spring Hill and F45 Training Daphne.
Marcus Neto: Nice. Very good. Well, it's awesome to have you on the podcast, Andy.
Andrew Vickers: Yeah, thanks for having me, buddy.
Marcus Neto: Yeah, I mean, we've known each other for a number of years, and I'm really excited about what you have going on, especially since I've actually experienced it, and it sucks.
Andrew Vickers: That's right. It sucks so good, right?
Marcus Neto: Sucks so good. So but before we get into F45 and what you have going on there, why don't you tell us the story of Andy? I mean, where are you from? Are you from Mobile? Where'd you go to high school? Where'd you go to college? That kind of stuff.
Andrew Vickers: Yeah, so, I was actually born in Arlington, Texas in Arlington Memorial Hospital, but I moved to Mobile at age four, so I claim myself as a Mobilian. Raised here, went to Murphy High School. After high school, stayed in town, went to the University of South Alabama, got a business degree there, and have been here ever since.
Andrew Vickers: I did leave for a short stint to North Carolina when I was pursuing a professional water sports career, but that was kind of short-lived, so I came right back.
Marcus Neto: And then, remind me, is it wakeboarding?
Andrew Vickers: Yeah, it's wakeboarding.
Marcus Neto: It is wakeboarding, yeah. I've seen some of the videos of you doing some of that stuff, and that's just absolutely insane. Now, would you consider yourself... I mean, were you an excellent student, or were you middle of the road, or...?
Andrew Vickers: So I actually was, which I don't like to admit because now the cool entrepreneurial story is like "I sucked at school, and I bucked the system," but no, I was as straight A student, went to South Alabama on a full-ride academic scholarship, graduated summa cum laude, and the funny thing I say about that is no one has ever asked me what my GPA was since the day I walked across that stage, not that I place such a high emphasis or value on that, like I used to, but, yeah, I actually was a good student.
Marcus Neto: That's too funny. And the reason why we ask, or for the most part, I usually ask, is because I want to have discussions with people that didn't graduate high school, which we have had a number of people. I want to have discussions with people that have doctorates. So we've got Chad from Hanson Heating and Air, who didn't graduate from high school, if I remember correctly. And, Chad, man, if I got that wrong, I'm so sorry. I'm putting that on you. And then we've got Todd Greer who you and I both know, who's got degrees coming out of his butt.
Marcus Neto: But I just think it's funny because we live in this world that it really doesn't matter anymore.
Andrew Vickers: Yeah, it doesn't. The line is blurring so much. I will take credit, and I'm proud that when I did graduate from college, they offered me an MBA for free, and I turned it down because I told them I was tired of theories on starting businesses. I just wanted to go out and start something.
Marcus Neto: Did you say what your concentration was? You said-
Andrew Vickers: It was business management. Then I was one of the first students through the entrepreneurship focus that they call it, so it's basically a minor in entrepreneurship.
Marcus Neto: And how did you find the schooling of that versus the real world of that?
Andrew Vickers: There were definitely a lot of differences. I don't think that a textbook can prepare for you for that. But the professors that I did have whenever I was coming through the program, I was super blessed to have them because they actually helped me after school. We were able to work on some projects once I was out of college, so mainly the relationships that I built through that program benefited me more so than the textbooks, the theories.
Marcus Neto: Okay. Yeah, I'm just curious because if there are folks out there that are looking at "well, I do want to go to school," it's kind of hard anymore to know what to go and study.
Andrew Vickers: Right. Absolutely.
Marcus Neto: I've got an 18 year-old who's going to Alabama next year, and he doesn't know what he wants to study. I think he has an idea, but truth is, he's going in undeclared, and he really doesn't have any idea there, and so it's just kind of... If you're wanting to go into business, there's really no replacement for going and learning by sitting with somebody or helping somebody that's actually running a business.
Andrew Vickers: Absolutely.
Marcus Neto: Or just going out and forging that pathway yourself.
Andrew Vickers: Absolutely. I didn't know what I was going to do. I actually changed my major twice in the first two days of college, so day one, I went in, and I was going to be a radiologist, strictly because I Googled starting salaries. I was an 18 year old, fresh out of high school.
Marcus Neto: Right. "I'm going to make some money."
Andrew Vickers: Honestly, I was going to be a professional wakeboarder, so this was just plan B to make mom and dad happy to begin with. Then the second day, I went into engineering. We started talking about all the sciences and maths that I was going to do, and I said, "Ah, this isn't going to work," so I sat down with my counselor, and she asked me, "Well, what are you interested in?" I said, "Well, I'm interested in making money," and she said, "All right. Business School it is."
Andrew Vickers: For you to know that at 18, I think is-
Marcus Neto: Unrealistic.
Andrew Vickers: ... absurd. I do like the fact of if you are undecided, and you even think that you like business, getting going to business school because you can do so many different things out of that one college, then you really have two years to choose your focus after that point anyways. And I'm on the board of the management advisory board at MCOB. Sometimes they don't like me saying this, but if someone asks me, I have students ask me all the time, "What should I do?" I ask them if they want to start their own business, and then also ask them if they're paying for school or not.
Andrew Vickers: So that's a big differentiator. For me, the ability to go to school for free just bought me some time to mature and figure out what I wanted to do, but if I was to take tuition money versus going and starting a business even if you fail at that first one, what you learn, what you take away from it, I'd probably lean toward starting that business.
Marcus Neto: Yeah, I have a failure in my past, and it taught me quite a bit, so I get what you're saying. Let's go back and talk about your very first crap job, and were there any lessons that you still remember from that?
Andrew Vickers: My first ever job was bailing hay on a farm. The first day that I walked up, I remember Mr. Henderson, they own Mobile Lumber. They have a farm in Grand Bay. He asked me, he said, "Well, what do you want to do after school?" This was my sophomore or my junior year. I told him, I said, "Well, my dad works in construction. I'm kind of thinking about just doing that because I'm so tired of school." He said, "Okay."
Andrew Vickers: I remember at the end of the summer, he asked me, he said, "What are you going to do after school," and I said, "I'm going to college." He said, "That's the answer I was looking for."
Marcus Neto: That's great, yeah.
Andrew Vickers: And that was just a summertime job. After that, my first regular, part time job throughout high school was working at a antique furniture store, so I learned how to restore furniture, I moved a ton of it, I actually ended up learning the software systems to actually ring people up, and do estate sales and things of that nature. And I learned a ton from that. My boss there, she pretty much lined me on the entrepreneurial path that I've gone down.
Marcus Neto: That's really cool. I love that first one, though, with bailing hay. There's something-
Andrew Vickers: Oh, man.
Marcus Neto: ... about bailing hay that teaches people "yeah, I don't want to do this. No more. I'm tapping out."
Andrew Vickers: I think everybody should try it.
Marcus Neto: Yeah. Well, why don't you tell folks a little bit about F45, and also how you even got into that.
Andrew Vickers: F45 is a boutique fitness franchise, so it's all HIIT interval training. 45 minute classes during the week. That's where you get the 45 from. F meaning functional. So we do movements that are going to prepare you for everyday life, to pick your suitcase up and place it in overhead storage, not necessarily just to get the largest biceps in the room. We can get you the largest biceps in the room, too, though, if that's what you want.
Marcus Neto: Can you? I'm signing on the dotted line if you can get me...
Andrew Vickers: It's actually the fastest growing fitness franchise in history, so over 1,500 studios in 40 countries in four years.
Marcus Neto: Wow.
Andrew Vickers: Crazy-rapid growth. Constantly varied training. What we hang our hat on is you never repeat a workout twice at F45. That's not just in a week, not just in a month, not just in the year. That's ever. So once we've done that group of movements together, we will never put that program back out, so it's truly constantly varied programming.
Andrew Vickers: How I got into it is I was in fitness in high school and college, and then I left for a little stint and got involved in private sector tourism here in downtown, but I always knew that I wanted to come back to fitness, and I actually met some investors who were already down the path of F45, so it wasn't me. I didn't think it up, nothing was original. I hadn't even heard of it until we crossed paths.
Marcus Neto: And brought to you, basically.
Andrew Vickers: Absolutely. Whenever I saw the product, I was like, "Wow, this is essentially an idea that I've had for fitness," because I always wanted to mold the training that I did with my water sports career with the crossfit that I had done, the group format with also some of the conventional bodybuilding type stuff that I'd done back in high school and college. And this was already done for me. Already packaged together.
Andrew Vickers: We decided to go with it. Flew out to LA for a week, learned everything that they do, did two workouts a day, couldn't hardly move the week that I got back, and I said, "Yeah, this is the thing."
Marcus Neto: Yeah. You offer a weeks' trial-
Andrew Vickers: Yeah, one week free trial, absolutely. Let you taste the food before you decide.
Marcus Neto: So I did that, I think it was before Christmas of last year, so it would have been like November or something like that.
Andrew Vickers: Yeah, I remember.
Marcus Neto: And man. I really, really enjoyed it. I will say that after like the third or fourth... because I'm not really big on doing a lot of cardio or legs and stuff like that. And after, I don't know, like the third or fourth workout, my legs were just toast.
Andrew Vickers: Every day is leg day.
Marcus Neto: Yeah, every day is leg day with F45.
Andrew Vickers: Some people say that, but we really mean it. If people laugh when I say that, I'm like, "No, seriously." My legs hurt right now as we're recording this.
Marcus Neto: It was pretty bad, but I do understand the difference between what you all have versus crossfit because crossfit is you are repeating some of the workouts, and it is much more based on Olympic-style movements, whereas the things that you're doing... We always incorporated some of that, but it was also curls, and it was also presses, and stuff like that, which aren't really part of the crossfit repertoire.
Andrew Vickers: So much varied in the movements that we do, so pull from a lot more movements. And I tell people all the time I never bash any single discipline of fitness because if I did, I would be bashing F45 because we're literally a melting pot-
Marcus Neto: Everything.
Andrew Vickers: ... of yoga, Pilates, body building, crossfit, you name it. So really, you can get in phenomenal shape doing any fitness solution. It's just the one that you'll stick with, that you enjoy.
Marcus Neto: Yeah, and I think people have to find what suits them best.
Andrew Vickers: Absolutely.
Marcus Neto: So go back to that first experience with F45. What is it about it that made you think that there might be something to this?
Andrew Vickers: Just when I was out there, I connected with so many like minded individuals. I remember coming back to my hotel each night and thinking, "Wow, these people think exactly the way I think!" And I always kind of shied away from a franchise model because I thought, "Oh, I'm an entrepreneur, I'm original, I don't like rules, I want to pave my own way," but I decided that this one was different because we literally agreed on everything.
Andrew Vickers: Their programming... I tell people all this time, I say, "This is the best programming in the world." I can look you in the eyes, and I can say that because I'm not bragging on myself. I'm not the one writing it. The people who are writing it are much smarter than myself, and they have not written a workout that I disagree with.
Andrew Vickers: Just being out there seeing how much they put into the R&D of the technology behind everything on the model. To the development of workouts to the entire business process, I was sold.
Marcus Neto: Now, and I get it. I will say that owning a business where it's not a franchise, that there are days where you wish you could just go in and buy the franchise model for advertising or for even just something else. I'm going to start other businesses, and I think my next business will probably be franchise model, just because there's something very alluring to having a proven model that's already put together, and also knowing what the connections are for, whether if it's food, then where do you get the food from? What works as far as menus and stuff like that go?
Marcus Neto: That's not to knock going your own direction, but man, there's a lot to figure out about running a business, and if you can have somebody provide you a blueprint for how to be successful, then the rest of it is just keeping your motivation high, doing the right marketing and promotion and stuff like that, and engaging with your clients and taking care of any kind of issues there, and all that stuff is enough in and of itself, let alone trying to figure out-
Andrew Vickers: Right, you've got so many things to worry about when starting a business.
Marcus Neto: Exactly. It's crazy.
Andrew Vickers: And with this model, what's really cool is that they let me have completely independent marketing opportunities, so I run all of our marketing, and I'm able to put it on a hyper-local market and really individualize it to the region of the country we're in and the clientele that we see, so that was really cool that I bought in on.
Andrew Vickers: And I'm also a huge advocate on finding people on your team that have opposing strengths. So I know what I'm not good at. I'm extremely self-aware, and a lot of that is the tech side, so what really differentiates us is our proprietary software that we use that, as you remember, like the screens on the wall demonstrating all this, those are all ideas that I had for fitness but had no clue where to even start.
Marcus Neto: And you wouldn't have wanted to invest the money in order to do them.
Andrew Vickers: Absolutely. And so having that already polished and put together, that was very attractive.
Marcus Neto: Yeah, very cool. Now, if you were talking to someone that wanted to get started in running their own business, what's the one bit of wisdom that you would impart to them?
Andrew Vickers: I would say shadow someone who's done it, and I'm a huge fan of working for free. So kind of how I got started in the past businesses in tourism was I approached a guy who I saw on TV, who did things that I wanted to do, and said, "Hey, I want to work for you for free," to which he said, "Heck, yeah! Come on." And I planted flowerbeds and you name it. Crazy things. But I learned so much.
Andrew Vickers: I was just a sponge throughout that entire process, which led to me getting hired back on with that company at the time, and then going on and starting other companies with him. So I always am a huge advocate for find people who are doing what you want to do and offer your services for free.
Marcus Neto: Yeah. Actually, my oldest son loves photography, and he's going to Alabama, so I'm not going to say too much about this, but at one point in time, I was suggesting, "Hey, if you want to go in and be a photographer, go and find a photographer that's actually successful, and just offer to work for them for free for-"
Andrew Vickers: Absolutely.
Marcus Neto: "... six months or a year or something like that." Because there is, there's something about actually learning the ins and outs of businesses and how you handle things that is extremely powerful. You can't get that, like you were saying, out of a textbook.
Andrew Vickers: Yeah, absolutely.
Marcus Neto: What are you currently working on? I know you probably want to talk about the new location and stuff like that. What are you currently working on in the business?
Andrew Vickers: Currently, we're actually scaling up, hiring a ton of new staff members. We just opened our second location, Daphne, so expanding over to the eastern shore. I actually moved to that side of the bay, so I'm still getting acclimated to the environment, meeting new people, trying to network, and things of that nature.
Andrew Vickers: From here, it's going to be more of a focus on how do we integrate these two separate communities together to make one giant community, and how we can really improve our member engagement, so what can we do to really build deep relationships with these people rather than just being gyms that have a ton of members and you come through the door, you get a workout, you leave.
Marcus Neto: You don't really know them.
Andrew Vickers: How do we actually do life with these people, and there may or not be a third location before the end of the year.
Marcus Neto: No, that's cool.
Andrew Vickers: But we'll see about that.
Marcus Neto: No, I love it because I've been watching, and I saw... The Spring Hill location, is it even a year old yet?
Andrew Vickers: It's not. It will be in August.
Marcus Neto: Yeah, so the fact that you opened that, quickly turned around and found the Daphne location, got that space ready, and then now-
Andrew Vickers: It's been crazy.
Marcus Neto: And now that you're thinking about a third location. For those of you that aren't familiar with business or franchises in particular, the idea with a franchise, you've kind of got it made when you have many locations. If you just have a location and you're a franchisor, then you're not doing something right.
Marcus Neto: You've got to have four, five, six locations, and then you're just worried about the operations of the business versus working daily as the trainer that's doing the work or something like that.
Marcus Neto: And so it's nice to see that you're scaling up to that because, ideally... You know that... that's where you want to be.
Andrew Vickers: The way I view it is if it's a franchise, then it's obviously a model that's built to be duplicated, so why not duplicate it-
Marcus Neto: Duplicate it.
Andrew Vickers: ... as fast and as much as you can.
Marcus Neto: No, that's very cool. Now, when you look to the business world, and I'm not talking about Mobile's business world, I'm talking about national, international level, who's the one person that motivates you?
Andrew Vickers: Elon Musk, hands down.
Marcus Neto: Okay, and why?
Andrew Vickers: Just an absolutely insane thinker. I love him for his progressiveness, his forward thinking because he's been laughed out of many rooms, just as I have oftentimes on a local level with much smaller ideas. But I just admire anybody that can have that kind of vision and that will stick with it is I'm a huge fan of.
Marcus Neto: Did I see on your story that you're reading the biography?
Andrew Vickers: I am. I'm in the middle of the book right now. ELON'S BIOGRAPHY
Marcus Neto: Yeah, I read it I think last summer.
Andrew Vickers: And it is insane.
Marcus Neto: And every day after I finished reading it, I was just shaking my head because there are people that operate on a completely different plane than every other human on the planet, and he is definitely one of those people.
Andrew Vickers: Absolutely. I consider myself slightly intelligent, at least, and when I watch interviews with him and sit there and watch him talk, I don't understand half the things he's saying, and I can tell that he's... He's very slow to speak because he is deciphering, "How can I water this down to where the human species can understand it?" And it's just absolutely fascinating.
Marcus Neto: One of the things that I took out of the book that I was impressed with is that he's not formally trained as a quote, unquote rocket scientist, but what he did when he started trying to get into outer space, and then now trying to go to Mars and stuff like that, he would literally just sit and ask those scientists that he had working for him to give him all the information, and somehow, this man has absorbed this in his brain, and I don't know this, but I would guess that he's probably one of the most educated people on what it takes to do space travel on the planet.
Andrew Vickers: Oh, absolutely. The dude flies into D.C. and has meetings with presidents on the regular. He's the go-to guy, and that's funny because yes, he is not the rocket scientist, but he gets the people who are the best in the world and says, "Tell me what's in your brain."
Marcus Neto: "Give it all."
Andrew Vickers: Absolutely. The book talks about how he has this ability to frame images in his mind, kind of like a computer design program, and how that's how he's always been able to build prototypes so well and things of that nature is that that's how he learns, so he'll literally sit there and visualize something.
Marcus Neto: Yeah, he is just an absolutely incredible thinker, so I don't know about him personally, but when it comes to the things that he thinks up, there's not much that can stop him.
Andrew Vickers: Him on the business side, definitely on the forward-thinking. On the empathy and how to create a culture side, absolutely Gary Vaynerchuk. Both people have their pros and their cons, and I like to take the things I like from each and say, "Okay, that's a trait that I like."
Marcus Neto: Yeah, that's very cool. And if you don't know who Gary Vaynerchuk is, then are you listening to this podcast?
Andrew Vickers: Probably not.
Marcus Neto: Are there any books, podcasts, people, or organizations that have been helpful in moving you forward?
Andrew Vickers: Yeah, a ton. First and foremost, I thank Scott Tindall for being my mentor and us starting all those businesses. Everything that we did, I was constantly just learning and saying, "Okay, how can I apply that?" Us learning how Disney does everything they do through their institute and saying, "Okay, one day I want to apply these things that we're putting in tourism into fitness."
Andrew Vickers: Aside from that, I listen to a ton of podcasts. I listen to Gary V's podcast, I listen to a guy named Andy Frisella with MFCEO project. He owns a supplement company. And just recently, I've been listening to a guy named Ben Greenfield Fitness, and he is a super expert in all things fitness, but really big on the neuroscience behind it and really like ancestral application to modern day life.
Marcus Neto: Interesting.
Andrew Vickers: So I've really been soaking that up and saying, "Okay, well, how can I apply this to my clients? What are some things we can do?"
Marcus Neto: It's super nerdy when it comes down to health and wellness and stuff like that. That's podcasts for you.
Andrew Vickers: Oh, yeah, absolutely.
Marcus Neto: No, that's really good. Did you want to add anything else to that, or...?
Andrew Vickers: There's a ton.
Marcus Neto: Okay.
Andrew Vickers: I know I'm leaving out... I've read too many books.
Marcus Neto: No, it's all good. So what's the most important thing that you've learned about running a business?
Andrew Vickers: Most important thing is investing in the team. We've all, I think, been guilty of thinking we're a solopreneur at one point in our career, and thinking, "Oh, I'll just put the team on my back and do everything." But you will burn out, speaking from experience. So learning to delegate responsibilities to team members, as well as invest in those team members and create a work life that they enjoy.
Andrew Vickers: Any time I ask an employee when we're making a schedule change or anything along those lines, and they say, "Man, thank you so much for going out of your way to facilitate this," and I say, "Look, I want you to be happy when you walk through the doors because if you're not happy, we're not going to have happy clients. We're not going to deliver them the results we need." So really learning that I work for them, not the other way around, and that my sole duty is to focus on creating a team environment that facilitates good guest interaction with our customers.
Marcus Neto: Yeah, a common theme on this podcast is that people are the hardest.
Andrew Vickers: Absolutely.
Marcus Neto: And whether that's finding people, which I would disagree with that. I think there's plenty of people to be found, it's just a matter of whether you can develop them or not. And then also, just how do you handle managing the people and expectations and all those things. It is definitely a common theme with business owners.
Marcus Neto: How do you like to unwind?
Andrew Vickers: I love to read in the evenings. I actually have a crazy nightly routine before bed.
Marcus Neto: What's that? Now I gotta know what it is.
Andrew Vickers: That unwinds. My ideal day... If I get to stop working at least temporarily to watch the sunset, I enjoy watching the sunset with my shoes and socks off to get grounded on the earth. You have something called your circadian rhythm within your body that's like your internal time clock, so watching that sunset with your bare feet on the earth really helps you to wind down, to let your body know, "Okay, it's time to start slowing the day down."
Andrew Vickers: From there, I like to go home and read for 30 minutes to an hour, eat a very carb-heavy dinner, which puts me into a deeper sleep for recovery, then I cut off screen time for an hour before. If I absolutely can't do that because let's just be honest, every day-
Marcus Neto: I was going to say, who are we kidding, man?
Andrew Vickers: If you're an entrepreneur, you can't always do that.
Marcus Neto: I'm laying in bed with an Ipad in front of me.
Andrew Vickers: If I have to work up until closer to bedtime, I will wear my blue light blocking glasses so that my body is at least not being exposed to that super intense light that tells your body, "Hey, it's daytime."
Marcus Neto: Right, yeah, it's a difficult thing to kind of disconnect from screens, even just watching TV or a movie or something along those lines.
Andrew Vickers: Absolutely.
Marcus Neto: But also even, you mention reading, a lot of us have gone to reading on screens.
Andrew Vickers: Absolutely.
Marcus Neto: Or as a business owner, sometimes you get stuck in this place where it's like, "Okay, well, I'm working. I'm answering e-mails, or I'm checking social media to make sure everything's okay." All that stuff, it just kind of pulls you in various direction, but that's a phenomenal routine. I think your move to the eastern shore has probably facilitated the sunset bit, too.
Andrew Vickers: Oh, man, why does the sun look different from that side of the water?
Marcus Neto: Yeah, it is pretty incredible.
Andrew Vickers: It's crazy.
Marcus Neto: Yeah.
Andrew Vickers: I will add in one other thing that I'm adding in is baths, and it's a shameless plug because I'm developing a muscle recovery bath bomb right now.
Marcus Neto: Oh, really?
Andrew Vickers: We're going to be launching that company here in the next few months, and so far, it's definitely relaxing and helping me wind down.
Marcus Neto: Magnesium, magnesium, magnesium.
Andrew Vickers: Magnesium. All kinds of essential oils. Obviously some proprietary blends so that we can keep it at least semi-marketable. And a ton of Epson salt.
Marcus Neto: Yeah. No, that's very cool. So tell people where they can find out more information either about you or about F45 or however-
Andrew Vickers: Yeah, so both of our websites are just F45 Training dot com, then you'll either forward slash Daphne or forward slash Spring Hill USA. We're active on all social media platforms with those same handles, and me personally, I mainly live on Instagram. It's @the_andyvickers.
Marcus Neto: Very cool. Well, I want to thank you again for coming on the podcast. To wrap up, any final thoughts or comments you'd like to share?
Andrew Vickers: Thanks for having me, first off. Second off, if you have not tried F45 Training, come try a week free. We're that confident in the product that we are the best training solution on the planet. Come give it a taste.
Marcus Neto: Very much. I would highly encourage anyone who, especially if you like group fitness. I'll admit I didn't stick around because that's the one time of day where I'm head phones in and just kind of doing my own thing, but I very much enjoyed it. I will definitely come back. But Andy, I appreciate your willingness to sit with me and share your journey as a business owner and entrepreneur. It was great talking with you.
Andrew Vickers: Thanks for having me.