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From home-business to billion-dollar fitness empire

Orangetheory Fitness’ meteoric rise to the top

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Life-changing. Addicting. Intense. These are just a few words that have been used to describe Orangetheory – the fitness studio known for its science-backed, technology-tracked, coach-inspired workouts. The franchise has taken the world by storm – in just eight years, it has amassed a million members, expanded to over eleven hundred locations around the world, and has crossed a threshold that very few businesses manage to reach: exceeding $1 billion in revenue in a single year. But what is it that fueled Orangetheory’s rise to the top of an industry that is so full of competition?

In this episode of the peak performance season, we are bringing you to Business Mastery – where you have a front-row seat at the Masters of Disruption panel. At this panel, Tony spoke with Ellen Latham, the creator and co-founder of Orangetheory Fitness. You’ll also hear a bit from Danny Meyer, founder of Union Square Hospitality Group and creator of Shake Shack, as he participates in the panel, and even asks Ellen a question toward the end.

While listening, you’ll quickly figure out that Ellen’s energy is absolutely boundless, and certainly infectious. And it was this very energy, in combination with her creativity, determination and pure grit, that got her through the most difficult time of her life – a time when she was laid off her job, out of work and a single mother to her 9-year old son. She tells Tony about her bulletproof mindset during that time, and the sports psychology technique she used to turn what could have been a massive break-down – into the massive break-through that led her to create Orangetheory fitness.

Orangetheory offers heart rate-based workouts, built around the physiological concept of excess-post-exercise oxygen consumption, or E.P.O.C., where the body continues to burn calories at a higher rate even after the workout is over. But behind the science of Orangetheory is something far less measurable, but just as powerful: its raving fan culture. Ellen reveals to Tony how she and her partners have strategically built an army of fiercely loyal clients – and what they’ve done to scale this culture across the globe.


[00:58] Episode introduction
[03:28] The cluttered fitness industry
[03:52] Momentum shifting
[04:23] Starts business at age 43
[04:44] Fired from dream job
[05:11] Teaching spinning
[05:56] Ellen’s breakthrough
[06:25] The science based workout
[07:06] Importance of measurement
[07:40] Creating an oxygen deficit
[08:08] Funding the business
[08:41] The franchise model
[09:20] The perfect storm
[09:44] Differentiating the brand
[10:33] Words create action
[11:12] Actions represent attitude
[11:38] Words that describe Orangetheory
[12:03] Why technology is important
[12:32] The challenge tracker / OT Connect
[13:04] The coach inspired workout
[13:51] Creating raving fans
[14:22] OTF’s sense of community
[15:10] Members turn into friends
[15:40] Selecting team members
[16:05] Life company vs. fitness company
[16:29] OTF’s marketing strategy
[17:10] Challenges with franchising
[17:40] Importance of consistency
[18:12] Why OTF stopped franchising
[18:51] The decision to reboot
[19:24] OTF’s growing pains
[20:13] Hiring and firing
[20:45] Finding the right seat on the bus
[21:11] Defining the culture at OTF
[21:54] Events at OTF
[22:30] Orange University
[23:18] 3 types of motivation
[24:00] The sole role of an OTF employee
[24:31] Personal touches at OTF
[25:09] What’s not tolerated at OTF
[25:45] When it’s not a good culture fit
[26:13] Difference between OTF and Crossfit
[26:44] Absolute vs. functional strength
[27:13] What OTF delivers
[28:00] Question from Danny Meyers
[28:32] Reinventing leadership
[29:06] Ellen’s old beliefs about herself
[30:09] Overcoming fear and doubt
[30:33] Rewiring her brain
[31:02] Ellen’s mantra
[31:20] Advantage of being a woman in business
[32:16] Episode end

Team Tony

Team Tony cultivates, curates and shares Tony Robbins’ stories and core principles, to help others achieve an extraordinary life.

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