Career Path: Orangetheory Fitness' Dave Long | Crain's

Career Path: Orangetheory Fitness' Dave Long

Above all else, Dave Long is a health nut.

As the founder and partner of the Orangetheory Fitness franchise, Long is also hands on with nearly every aspect of the quickly growing company, from overseeing hundreds of franchises across the world in a fast-evolving industry to developing fitness apps and state-of-the-art heart rate monitors.

He long ago set his sight on health and wellness. As an undergrad at the University of Florida, he completed his bachelor's degree in physical therapy before pursuing an MBA at his alma mater. The schooling proved key to building a fitness and wellness empire that includes other successful franchises like Massage Envy and the European Wax Center.

Long spoke with Crain's about his experiences in the fitness industry and how his love for science and exercise influenced his approach to franchising.

Be loud:

From the beginning, we knew that we would need to build a brand that set itself apart. In the fitness industry, people have a lot of choices. There are online programs, brick-and-mortar sites and at-home fitness videos, and we did not want to just be seen as another gym that goes over your head. We wanted to grab people’s attention and took a very visual approach.

We started by choosing a dominant color: orange. From there, the brand developed very organically. Everything started to grow from that, starting with the name – Orangetheory Fitness. We developed heart-rate-based training, where there is an orange zone that we focus on during each routine that drives peak calorie burning. We also did guerrilla-style marketing campaigns. We painted 1,000 bikes orange for people to ride. We put people in orange body suits and sent them around the world. The goal was always to catch people’s eyes.

When we were working with just 10 studios, leveraging our PR around a color was really helpful. We were able to get the attention of potential customers and local media and build a snowball effect really rapidly.

Build a team:

Franchising is a double-edged sword. If you do it right, you can grow very quickly. It's capital intensive, but the important thing is you align yourself with franchise owners whose interest is to build a successful business. We were very conscious of creating the right set of tools for our franchise owners to open, run their business, love their business and continue to improve Orangetheory in ways that we could not do on our own.

Typically, franchising is practiced within the food service industry, and I think that is a really challenging industry to franchise, in terms of managing people. What sets us apart in the fitness industry is the people. People open a gym or they work within the business because they are passionate about what they do, and that is really the key to building a strong brand. In any business, it is always about the staff. They are the ones on the ground connecting with your customer, so without a strong passionate team, the brand wouldn’t go anywhere.

Never forget the basics

The fundamentals of how the workout works with the body are all based on physiology. There is not a more effective way to burn calories and condition the body than interval training. Those things aren’t going to change within the human body for thousands of years. We aren’t ever going to become outdated because we offer this level of effectiveness. Our biggest job is really about building a strong brand.

…But don’t be afraid to innovate

We change the workout every day. So whether you’ve been coming in for a few weeks or three years, you never feel like you are doing the same thing day in and day out. Throughout the year we sprinkle in different activities to keep our members excited. During Halloween, for example, we do a hell week which is a cycle of five really difficult routines and our members love it because it is such a change of pace. To stay on top, it’s always about staying fresh.

Follow Orangetheory Fitness on Twitter at @OTheoryFitness.

Photo courtesy of Orangetheory Fitness

November 2, 2016 - 10:10am