Fitness Hiring and Recruiting

Carly David, Director of HR and Recruiting, Club Pilates

Carly David, Director of Recruiting and HR at the Club Pilates franchise brand, has helped double the team and works as a partner to franchise owners in how to find the best people for the job. She shares her experience as the HR Leader of one of the fastest growing franchises in the US on this episode of The Best Team Wins Podcast.



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Adam Robinson: In three, two, one. Welcome to The Best Team Wins Podcast, where we’re featuring entrepreneurs and business leaders whose exceptional approach to the people side of their business has led to incredible results. My name is Adam Robinson, and for the next 25 minutes I’ll be your host as we explore how to build your business through better hiring. Today, on the program, Carly David is the Director of Recruiting and HR for Club Pilates, a franchise system based out of Orange County, California, founded in 2007. The corporate office has 40 employees, and the system has over 350 locations open and another 400 on the way across the United States. These guys are opening 20 to 30 clubs a month on average, just incredible growth. Carly, we are so excited to have you here with your perspective on the show today.


Carly David: Thank you for having me.


Adam Robinson: We are here to focus on the people side of Club Pilates, but before we dive in, let’s set the stage. Give us 30 seconds on the concept. What is Club Pilates, what do your franchisees do, and how could we learn more?


Carly David: Perfect. Club Pilates was founded in 2007 in San Diego by a woman named Allison Beardsley, who was a Pilates instructor and really wanted to find a way that would make [apparatused 00:01:36] Pilates more accessible and more affordable to a greater number of people. She felt like she could create this by opening up Pilates to a group of classes with 12 stations. This concept really took off, and she ended up franchising in 2012 and ultimately sold the company to our current CEO, Anthony Geisler, in 2015. Really, since then, we’ve really exploded on the market, so as you mentioned, we currently have over 750 studios sold, about 350 currently open, and we’re probably on target to sell out of available territories by the end of the year with about 932 locations. I would say on average we open about 20 to 30 studios a month. I think this month, though, we’re on track to open about 40.


Additionally, we recently created an umbrella parent company called Xponential Fitness. Xponential Fitness is a curator of the best brands across every vertical within the boutique fitness industry. Under Xponential we have Club Pilates, but we also have other boutique fitness concepts such as CycleBar, StretchLab, Row House, and AKT, and we also plan to add yoga and barre as well.


Adam Robinson: Pretty amazing growth. If listeners want to learn more about the Club Pilates concept or any of the other brands you mentioned, what’s the best way for them to do that?


Carly David: Probably to go to our website, which is just


Adam Robinson: All right. Well, let’s jump in. A lot of exciting growth happening there. As the HR leader in the organization, I can imagine that’s putting some strain on the people structure in the business, and so let’s take it from the franchisor perspective. As you went through an ownership transition and investment of resources and capital and an acceleration of growth, from founder to more professional management, just take us through the impact that that has had on your seat and your function in the business.


Carly David: Sure. I actually joined the company in January of 2017, so we had already kind of changed leadership at that point. We had about 16 employees when I joined the company, and a lot of the staff, when I joined, had been with Club Pilates kind of since day one and had been with our CEO at his first fitness company that he had before he bought Club Pilates, which was UFC, so a lot of these team members had kind of already been through a growth like this, but it was a really interesting time when I came in, because that’s really when we started to truly hit this, the progression of openings that we’ve really been on for the last year or so. Now, in the first quarter of 2018, we have almost 40 employees at the corporate level, so we’ve more than doubled, so it’s just been a really exciting time to really be part of this brand.


As we continue to sell more territories and open more studios, we’ve really been able to identify not necessarily gaps, but just additional areas of guidance and coaching that our franchise partners need, so as they need more support and as we want to help them through that process and make it as streamlined as possible, we’ve continued to add individuals within that area of expertise to our corporate team.


Male: [inaudible 00:05:08].


Adam Robinson: Was it then not always the case where you … Did you have more of a utility player mindset in earlier years as the brand was growing?


Carly David: Well, like I said, I wasn’t part of that company at that point, so when I joined the company, we had probably 300 sold studios, so the volume was nowhere near what we had, so it was really a great time for them to bring on someone at the HR and recruiting level to really help with that growth that they knew was about to come. While I do manage all of the corporate recruiting and the corporate HR, I also work very closely with each of our franchise partners and really coach them and train them on how to go out into their networks and staff for their studios.


Adam Robinson: Let’s talk about that. I mean, somebody with the breadth of experience that you have and helping do that, franchisees, as we all know, are typically coming either from another concept or position. They’re not necessarily HR pros, are great at hiring, but their business success depends on doing it right. What kind of advice or best practices do you or could you share with our audience that would help them learn some of the things you’re doing to help your owners be successful?


Carly David: Sure. I think it starts with them truly understanding the, as you always say, kind of the people side of the business, so when they come for franchise training, we really-


Female: [inaudible 00:06:41].


Carly David: … work to make sure that they understand the different positions-


Male: [inaudible 00:06:45].


Carly David: … that they will be hiring in their studio. One of the main positions, and probably the first role that they’re going to hire, is going to be the general managers of their studio. It’s a really heavily sales-focused position, and fitness sales is a very different type of mentality and a very different process than you might have if you were looking at someone with a corporate sales background or a retail sales background, because selling fitness to an individual is a very emotional sale. Sometimes people are going to come to a mall to buy a pair of pants because they need a new pair of pants, and that’s the end of that story, but when our customers come to our studios, they’re either looking for a change in their fitness routine, or they’re looking to completely change their lives, so we need to make sure that the people that we are hiring at the studio levels really understand that emotional side of the sale and understand how to truly be the face of that business.


Then our sales reps as well really support that process, and then finally we have our Pilates instructors, which ultimately are our product. Our Pilates instructors have a wealth of knowledge about the human body and how Pilates can impact someone on a day-to-day basis. They have a 450 to 500-hour certification or education, so we really make sure that the instructors that we’re bringing on into our studio are fairly knowledgeable and able to teach individuals across all walks of life.


Adam Robinson: Well, one of the concepts we talk about on this show frequently is whether or not your organization, in your case your franchisees’ organization’s ability to hire people fast enough is a limiting factor to their growth. Would you say that the availability of certified Pilates instructors is a cap on growth if not handled correctly in these markets?


Carly David: Absolutely, yeah. That can be the case, but the way that we have kind of figured out a way around that is, we’ve actually developed at corporate a 500-hour comprehensive Pilates training program, so we are able to provide that education to anybody who is interested in becoming a Pilates instructor. The idea is that, in addition to going out into their network and identifying instructors that already have this certification, that they should also be hosting a Teacher Training at least twice a year with the goal of five to 10 students per session so that while they are continuing to hire existing instructors, they’re also working to cultivate their own staff and their own instructors.


Adam Robinson: Well, what I love about that and, of course, a leading question because you guys are so good at this, if you’re in a supply-constrained talent market, you can wait for more supply to show up, or you can create your own supply, and what I love about what Club Pilates has done is, you are training people on how to create their own talent pool and supply themselves with that growth. I think it’s exceptional, and it’s rare, as you probably know.


Carly David: Yes.


Adam Robinson: Was that a program developed in the last couple of years, or did that training program exist earlier than that?


Carly David: It existed earlier than that. Our Teacher Training program started to develop with our founder, Allison, when she was still part of the company, but I think if you would look at what our education program looks like then versus now, it’s very different. We’ve really incorporated a lot of online options, so basically, as I mentioned, it is a 500-hour program, but a portion of those hours are online training, and then a portion of those hours are the in-studio sessions, and then the rest of the hours are self-practice and self-evaluation and teaching.


If a studio, for example, does not necessarily have a Teacher Training in the next couple of months and there’s somebody in that area that is interested in becoming an instructor, they don’t have to wait until that studio has their in-studio sessions, because they can start completing their online hours essentially as soon as they enroll. Then we also moved all of our education content online to Canvas, which is a huge online provider that many major universities use for their online content. Having that structure has really, I think, enhanced the legitimacy of our program, and we’re also working to get this program accredited as well.


Adam Robinson: Wow. Well, what a differentiator in your franchise sales process to have this available. I mean, as I said, it is rare, and it sounds like you’ve really professionalized the delivery of training and org dev using some pretty sophisticated learning tools.


Carly David: Yeah. Our Education Department is some of the most amazing and talented women I’ve ever worked with.


Adam Robinson: Let’s talk about your career path for a second. As you sit here in one of the fastest-growing fitness brands out there, what prior experience are you leveraging to maintain the right culture and structure as the organization scales as fast as it is?


Carly David: Well, I, I think, have probably a very similar background to a lot of people who ultimately ended up as a recruiter. I majored in English in college and kind of felt like that meant that I can do everything and nothing with that degree, and while I was working in college, I worked in sales and really loved the opportunity to work with people and to be able to find them a product that would truly meet their needs and make them happy. When I graduated, I wanted to find a way that I could take sales and turn it into a longer-term career, and that’s ultimately how I ended up in recruiting.


My first solid recruiting position was with a staffing agency in San Diego. It was a very niche staffing agency and very, very high volume, so I think being able to manage a full desk for these positions really allowed me to kind of understand the speed at which these positions need to be filled, but also when you’re working in an agency, it’s a client-facing role, so you can’t just throw any candidate at that client. You have to make sure that the individuals that you are identifying truly align with the culture of your client, and so being able to manage the speed at which these positions needed to be filled, but also making sure that we were finding the right candidates, was what ultimately was going to make both my company and me money.


Adam Robinson: Yeah. Well, absolutely, and looking at your profile, it looks like client-facing, recruiting and staffing roles, is serving you well, as ultimately franchisees are your customer, right, at the franchisor level?


Carly David: Exactly, yeah.


Adam Robinson: Do you think it’s important … I mean, as you said in so many words something that I believe to be kind of a sacrosanct truth in recruiting is the selling process. It’s not an administrative function. It is a sales job. It is a transfer of trust. You’re competing. Your offers or proposals, you’re closing deals, I mean, it’s very much the dynamics of a sales and marketing funnel and closing process. How do you transfer that mentality to a new owner of a studio who may, like most people new to the recruiting game, not understand that it is every bit a selling process?


Carly David: Yeah, so that definitely is a kind of a long-term education that we need to provide our franchise partners, because I think initially when they’re wanting to open a business, at the end of the day, they’re thinking, “What do I need to do that is going to allow my studio to be successful and make money?” Sometimes staffing, it kind of falls by the wayside, because they don’t necessarily see that right away as something that’s going to generate income. They will come to corporate for a three-day franchise training, and I spend about two to three hours with them in training, and then I have a series of one-on-one coaching calls with them after training to really make sure that they’re understanding the sales … Excuse me, the recruiting process, and the different positions that they’re going to have in their studio and what is kind of the ideal candidate profile for each of these positions, and really just making sure that they understand that process and invest in it. I also kind of talk about what it could mean for them if-


Male: [inaudible 00:15:54].


Carly David: … they don’t invest in their hiring process. What is the cost of a bad hire, and how will that ultimately impact their bottom line? Really making sure they understand that.


Adam Robinson: If you can share with us, what is the quantification of a bad hire for your brand?


Carly David: Yeah, so I think I read somewhere that a bad hire could essentially cost an organization-


Male: [inaudible 00:16:18].


Carly David: … 30% of that candidate’s yearly salary, so kind of breaking it down to where is that money going, so that’s their time. That’s lost revenue for the studio. That’s the cost of having to retrain that individual and fly them to Orange County for that three-day training, so really kind of breaking down to what that means. What’s also been helpful is that I’ve been with the company, as I mentioned, for almost a year and a half, and I talk to probably at least 10 to 20 GM candidates a week. Throughout this last year or so, we’ve really been able to determine what works, what type of background, what type of culture fit, what type of personality really works within our studio environment and what doesn’t. By having all of that data, we’re able to help train and coach those franchise partners-


Female: [inaudible 00:17:13].


Carly David: … so that they can make smarter hiring decisions for their studios.


Male: [inaudible 00:17:16].


Adam Robinson: That’s great. That’s great. Is there a particular philosophy when it comes to assisting with screening that you adhere to, an approach that works, or just an overall, a process, if you were to sum that up? What would you describe it as?


Carly David: Yeah, so I mean, I typically recommend that they conduct a series of both phone interviews and in-person interviews.


Female: [inaudible 00:17:46].


Carly David: What they’re really looking for is a couple of different things that are broken down between the hard skills of the position, which, as I mentioned, it’s a very heavily sales-focused position, engaging with their members, building new members, retaining them, really going out and kind of being the face of that studio within the community, so a lot of community outreach, because that is the reason that our clients are going to come to us, because they want that boutique fitness experience. They want that general manager to know their name when they walk into the studio. They want the GM to know what’s going on in their life so that they can give them that extra motivation, so they almost feel like that fitness experience is custom-tailored to them.


The other half is just truly understanding what our brand is about. I think there’s a lot of fad fitness concepts out there right now that I don’t necessarily think have the longevity just because of how intense they can be on the body, and so they come and go and come and go, but Pilates has been around for hundreds of years at this point. There’s a reason why, because it is truly the type of exercise where somebody could do it one or two times a day, and it’s going to really strengthen their body, assist with flexibility. There’s a lot of science behind the physical therapy and the rehabilitation aspect of Pilates. I think that really goes to what our motto is, which is, “Do Pilates. Do Life,” and so being able to have a regular Pilates routine will truly impact you and make a difference in how you live your life, from how you sit at your desk and drive in your car, to how you play with your kids, to how you walk your dog. Truly, it impacts every aspect of your life.


Adam Robinson: You mentioned a key word, and that’s “brand.” I’m curious to what extent, because your organization is the … You have such strong brands and such strong brand presence in the market. What is the relationship between your market-facing consumer brand and the strength of those brands and your employment brand and ability to attract the right people? Talk to us about how you perhaps leverage or want to better leverage that in recruiting activity.


Carly David: Yeah, so specifically from kind of a corporate standpoint, our employees absolutely do kind of live by the, “Do Pilates. Do Life.” We truly live and breathe that, but in addition, we have our own kind of brand as well and different kind of values that we find very important when we’re going out and recruiting individuals. We kind of talked a little bit about one, and that’s kind of the client-facing piece of things, so customer service is extremely important to us at the corporate level. Ultimately, at the end of the day, we are here to provide support and guidance to our franchise partners. We always tell them that we would treat their studio as if it were ours, as if their money and their investment was our money and our investment, so it’s important to remember that, as you mentioned, we are in a client-facing position, so customer service needs to be at the forefront in every communication and in your day-to-day attitude.


Then the other thing that I think is so important and something that we value at the corporate level is teamwork and communication. I think it’s so interesting at our corporate department or our corporate levels that, really, each department manages a very integral piece of the puzzle in getting a studio open. Our real estate works with them to find their lease. Marketing will assist their branding and their market presence. Recruiting helps with their staff development, manages their build-out. It’s a very well-oiled machine, and there really can’t be any ego in terms of who is more important, because without one person, without one department, the whole process falls apart, so we really have to work together and communicate strategically and efficiently so that we can provide that, the best support, to our franchise partners.


Adam Robinson: Is there a particular book that has influenced either your growth in recruiting, staffing, HR, or ability to do this, or one that you recommend to new owners or partners who seek to be better at this side of their business?


Carly David: Well, obviously, it would be The Best Team Wins by Adam Robinson.


Adam Robinson: There you go. All right. That’s the free plug. Thank you very much.


Carly David: You’re very welcome.


Adam Robinson: Is … Yeah, anything else from your background that you remember, an article, a seminar, a book that you point to and say, “You know what? I experienced that, and it really impacted my thinking in a positive way”?


Carly David: There’s an article that recently came out that is really focused on kind of one particular aspect of the coaching that we give our franchise partners. It was in Entrepreneur magazine. It was an online article that came out a couple months ago, and it had to do with whether or not you could be an owner of a franchise and also be the manager. Basically, this article said that there’s just no way that you will be able to be successful if you try to wear every single hat in your studio. I think sometimes people think that they can do it all, and they can, but it’s not 100% of each level, and so a lot of things tend to get ignored if you are trying to do too many things. We’ve tried to encourage our franchise partners that they can be as involved in the day-to-day operations of the studio as they want, so we do have some that are there every day.


We have some that have never stepped foot in their studio in the last six months because they don’t even live in the country, but what’s truly going to allow them to be successful is making sure they have the right manager in place, someone who really understands that sales process and understands, again, as I said earlier, this fitness sales process.


Male: [inaudible 00:23:51].


Carly David: Sometimes we will have owners that come in thinking that they can be the manager of the studio, and the owner, and the investor, and wear all these hats, so I share this article with them because I think it brings up a lot of valid points, and then we kind of have a dialog about whether or not that’s truly what they want for themselves and their studio.


Male: [inaudible 00:24:09].


Carly David: Usually, based on some follow-up conversations, they feel like going with a manager whose area of expertise is fitness sales is the best thing for their studio. That’s been a really helpful article for me.


Adam Robinson: Yeah. Fantastic. As we wind the conversation down here, a couple of questions for you, what’s the biggest, greatest lesson learned about managing the people side of this business or the businesses you’ve been involved in, from staffing to franchisors to supporting franchisees? Is there one nugget you can share with our audience?


Carly David: Yeah, so I think from like a corporate standpoint, in terms of recruiting and HR, one of the biggest lessons that I have learned is that everyone works differently, and HR and recruiting really can’t be a one-size-fits-all. Everyone has different needs, different priorities, communication styles, so it’s really important to strategically create HR policies and recruiting processes that will work for everyone but also align with our overall business strategy. I think the other thing is that you just need to make sure that you’re finding individuals that align with the culture, so at the end of the day, we want people who are excited about our product, our brand, and our growth, so passion and culture fit is a really important part of what we evaluate when we are hiring both at the studio level as well as corporate, and so that’s really one of the ways that we kind of approach the people side. Then I think the final lesson is that you have to have fun, and if you’re not having fun, then how can you reevaluate and shift some responsibilities or shift priorities so that you find the joy in what you’re doing?


Adam Robinson: If you were to come back on this show a year from now and report to us on whether or not you successfully tackled the single biggest people-related opportunity that you have in front of you or the business today, what would you be telling us happened this year?


Carly David: Oh, my goodness. I feel like you could ask me that question every single month, and it would change. We are just-


Adam Robinson: I believe it.


Carly David: Yeah, I mean, we are just growing so fast from a Club Pilates standpoint, from a corporate standpoint. As I mentioned, within a year we doubled our corporate team. I think I’ve got probably 10 offer letters I got to write up when we’re done with this, so we’re continuing to grow, so I would love to really work to create some sort of like automation for some of our HR procedures and kind of make them more accessible to our staff, and I think being able to automate that will be even more important to not just Club Pilates, but Xponential Fitness and our family of other brands as they continue to grow, and yes, just continue to open new studios and to allow these studios to be successful as possible. Ultimately, if a franchise partner can get off the phone and feel like, “I feel supported. I feel like I have a direction, I know what I’m doing, and I am confident that my studio will be successful,” that’s, if I can have that feeling, if a franchise can have that, then I feel like I’ve done my job.


Adam Robinson: Ladies and gentlemen, that’s the final word. You’ve been learning from Carly David, Director of Recruiting and HR for Club Pilates. What exceptional growth and just a fantastic story. Carly, thank you for being with us on the program today.


Carly David: Thank you so much.


Adam Robinson: That is a wrap for this week’s episode of The Best Team Wins Podcast, where we’re featuring entrepreneurs and business leaders whose exceptional approach to the people side of their business has led to incredible results. My name is Adam Robinson, author of the book The Best Team Wins, which you can find online at That’s it for this week. Look forward to seeing you again on the next episode. Have a great week, everybody.


Speaker 1: Thanks for listening to The Best Team Wins Podcast with Adam Robinson. You can find out more information about Adam and his book The Best Team Wins: Building Your Business Through Predictive Hiring at Thanks again for listening, and we’ll see you next week.