Business, Journal, Mentors, Press

My EntreLeadership Podcast Experience


I’ve been listening to the EntreLeadership podcast for more than a year now, and I’m not alone. Business, political and church leadership around the country is the makeup of the more than 500,000 weekly listeners who subscribe to this ever-growing show. It is aired under the Dave Ramsey umbrella that is becoming a mainstream staple in modern American Journalism.  Being on this episode was so much fun that I thought I’d share my experience.  You can listen to the episode in the player below (or click to here subscribe to the EntreLeadership podcast).

Earlier this summer, I headed up to Nashville to visit some of the Iron Tribe gyms in the metro area of the Music City, only to get an invite from a contact at Dave Ramsey Solutions, to “stop by and be a guest on EntreLeadership.”

“What!?!”, I thought. “That would be an incredible opportunity for the Iron Tribe brand!'”

Screen Shot 2015-12-04 at 6.52.30 AMAs I walked into Financial Peace Plaza (the name for Ramsey Solutions’ incredible campus where 500+ employees are diligently serving their customers), I met Dave Ramsey himself, along with several of the key team members that lead each of the causes for this transformational brand. Their brand, of course, is getting people fit financially, while our Iron Tribe brand is getting people fit physically.

However, ultimately, these are two of the seven or so “spokes in our wheels” (financial, physical, psychological, spiritual, etc.) that we have to have optimally running for us to truly be well-rounded individuals. So there is lots of synergy.

Getting to meet the host Ken Coleman, was a huge honor for me, after listening to him interview the likes of Mark Cuban, Mike Rowe, John Maxwell, Gary Vaynerchuck, and so many more. Screen Shot 2015-12-04 at 6.53.13 AM

As we geared up to go on the air for 15 minutes or so, I was so pumped to be able to showcase my passion and the Iron Tribe story. When you listen to the interview, I hope you’ll feel what I’m talking about.


Click here to listen now!

Business, Podcast

Podcast Re-Launch Featuring Best-Selling Author Jon Acuff

TribeCast Logo Image Jon Acuff


Click HERE: Download TribeCast On Apple iTunes!


Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 11.08.50 AM

Click here to view on iTunes

THIS MONTH ON TRIBECast we interview New York Times Best Selling Author, Jon Acuff.

Our interview with Jon covers the overarching ideas highlighted in his latest book “Do Over” which include not only Prioritizing, Grit, and a Career Savings Account™, but the path that led him to those topics.

Here’s a short description of the book from Jon himself:

“It took me sixteen years to write this book.

That breaks down to a brisk twelve words per day. But it wasn’t the writing that took so long. . . . It was the working.

I had to work at big companies and small companies. I had to get hired and fired several times. I had to find my dream job, then walk away from it. But after all that, I can now say the following with absolute certainty:

You already have everything you need for an amazing career. In fact, you’ve had it since day one.

“Brimming over with sound, practical advice, this book will benefit individuals looking to take charge of their careers at any stage.” ~ Publishers Weekly

Starting on the first day you got paid to scoop ice cream or restock shelves, you’ve had the chance to develop the four elements all great careers have in common: relationships, skills, character, and hustle. You already have each of those, to one degree or another.

Now it’s time to amplify them and apply them in a new way, creating a Career Savings Account™. This unique approach will give you the power to call a Do Over—whether you’re twenty-two, forty-two, or sixty-two. You’ll have the resources to reinvent your work and get unstuck. You’ll even rescue your Mondays as you discover how to work toward the job you’ve always wanted! Just as a bank account protects you during a financial crunch, a Career Savings Account™ protects you during a career crunch.”

Do Over – Book Preview from Jon Acuff on Vimeo.


We also interview a Owner/Manager of our Iron Tribe Fitness On Ponce location in the heart of Atlanta, Ben Davis, as he talks about his mission to change over 2,000 lives in the metro Atlanta area while growing the Iron Tribe presence with excellence.



We’d like to thank our Title Partner, Isagenix, for ensuring our athletes get the best products available for health and recovery.


Click Here to learn more about Iron Tribe’s Tribal Wars, Powered By Isagenix, mentioned in this episode. The event is slated for Saturday, June 20th. Get your tickets before they sell out!

For older episodes:

Episode 3: Tribal Wars 2014

Episode 2: Formerly, The Lab

Episode 1: Who We Are

Business, Hustle, Seven Takeaways

The Networking Connector

You’ve heard it a million times; “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”

So true. But what does that really mean for you and I anyways?

How can we live this out?

How can we focus on the things that will help us not only know lots of people, but know the “right” people in regard to whatever it is we are trying to accomplish with our lives?

And how can we leverage those relationships to be a blessing to others, while also experiencing the benefits of their network too?

Here’s what I’ve learned…

1. Take Diversified Initiative.

I say “diversified” initiative, because your presence in different places with different people, is really the first foundational step.

To fully diversify your initiatives as a networking connector, you must make sure you are spending your time in different geographical, socioeconomic and industrial environments.

He who can be more multidimensional; wins.

2. Be Memorable.

Presence is key. Your ability to make people feel your presence when you walk into a room, before you even speak, is the type of stuff that makes your memorable.

This comes from the swagger you walk with, the carefree smile you maintain and even your fashion, or confidence in it. Not everyone has these inclinations, though.

So you ability to say memorable things, but be your crutch instead. Start by asking a lot of questions to get people to talk about themselves. Then weave the things they are saying into things you’ve experienced or things that have happened in history, to establish not only your understanding of what they said, but your emotional relation to each thing they’re talking about.

3. Think Big.

The best visionaries can see things that most can’t. It causes them to make decisions 99% of us wouldn’t and take risks that most everyone wouldn’t take either.

You can follow the majority and look at each conversation you have with anyone at any time of day, as a chore OR you can live by my networking connector principles and really look at every single relationship as a step or connection that enhances your larger network.

To do the latter, you have to constantly think BIG and remind yourself that all of these conversations are all small pieces that work together to build a network that creates less and less degrees of separation between you and the people you need to know to accomplish your big hairy audacious goals (BHAGs).

4. Lever Your Network.

If you want to meet and connect with new people, you have got to make it a habit to connect new people to those who fit them well within your own network.

This isn’t a “get” game, it’s a “give and take” game.

The best part is that the people you are connecting your new acquaintance to, will appreciate this too. So much that they will usually reciprocate with new connections from you that you may not have even planned.

5. Borrow Their Network.

This step alone, is a 200-300 page book I’d like to write one day. Here’s the short story;

I grew up going to Christian Brothers Academy preparatory school for six years (CBA) in New York. While the athletics and academics were what drew me to go there, the biggest thing I attained at CBA was the ability to network and meet new friends.

Each of the 120+ kids per class in this school, were from different neighborhoods around our city of Syracuse. If we didn’t go to CBA, we would have went to one of the dozens of public schools with the rest of our childhood friends from our respective neighborhood.

So as I made friends at CBA, I would get invited to their neighborhoods, where I would meet their childhood friends that went to those public schools. By the time I graduated, I knew a core group of kids from each school district in the city, and I had more friends than I could have ever had if I went to a public school in the neighborhood where I grew up.

This story is a picture of how you need to approach networking in the United States and really, the world.

When I went to college in Ithaca, NY, I took the same approach, meeting kids from all over the country that were attending either Cornell University or Ithaca College. Then I moved to Alabama of all places, to play baseball at a small college  (University of Montevallo), but was living just outside a city in the center of the Southeast (Birmingham) and close to one of the biggest markets in the U.S. (Atlanta), where I began to meet people from all over this new region.

But what might be my most valuable lesson, has been in business, where I’ve meet young men and women who have gone to the best schools, are better networking connectors than me, and live in bigger cities than I.

Through these relationships, I’ve experienced some incredible networks of people. I’ve been able to meet the same amazing people they’ve been able to meet through their accomplishments of graduating from prestigious universities and/or building awesome companies, and I exchange my network with them as well.

This is the true “give and take” of “levering” your network while “borrowing” theirs.

6. Elevator Pitch.

People usually compartmentalize an elevator pitch as something just for business or sales. Not true.

I don’t know about you, but when I walk away from a conversation with somebody new, I have zero doubt if I won or lost. I know if it’s gone well and we’ll talk again, or if I was a babbling failure.

The idea of an elevator pitch came from the Madison Avenue days that we have become so familiar with from shows like Mad Men, where people took skyscraper elevators every day, only to have seconds to pitch somebody new in the elevator ride up their respective floor.

If you only had seconds to meet somebody new, what would you ask? What would you want to make sure they knew about you? What do you want them to think about you in leaving the conversation?

Figure this out. Write it down. Massage it. Get it into a less than 60 second pitch with some questions and comments built around it as customized ammunition. Memorize it. It’s the key to you walking away from new conversations feeling like you’ve had “a win”.

7. Systems & Habits.

Like everything else, you’ll have natural skills that will contribute to your ability to be a networking connector. However, to take these things and put them together, you have to have systems for each.

These steps are more about “the game” than the prep or follow up before and after it.

Thus, you must make sure you have solid preparation tactics, such as researching the people you know you’ll see at an event before you get there.

And your follow up game must be on point. Collecting contact info or using social media, in a way that allows you to follow up to remain fresh in the minds of those you’ve connected with, is so important.

The more you do all of this, the more it becomes habit. Then you can take your game to the next level and learn a new skill set. But first, get these things right and I guarantee you’ll develop a network that will reinforce that “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” and you’ll have met the who to accomplish things you could have never imagined.

Business, Press

Big business for Iron Tribe Fitness equals big opportunities for Birmingham

By Kathryn Jacoby |
Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on September 16, 2014 at 6:00 AM, updated September 16, 2014 at 2:37 PM
Forrest Walden and Jim Cavale

Iron Tribe’s CEO Forrest Walden and COO Jim Cavale

Even though Iron Tribe Fitness is one of the fastest-growing companies in America with franchise locations in Colorado, Kentucky, North Carolina and Texas, the company hasn’t forgotten its Birmingham roots.

The six-year-old company, which brought in $4 million revenues in 2013,  is on track to have 38 locations across the country by the end of the year, and 100 locations by the end of 2017.  This year, Iron Tribe came in at #602 on the Inc. 5,000 list of fastest-growing companies in America. Interestingly, 90% of all the company’s franchise locations are owned by Alabama natives, and executives say that ties to the Birmingham community are strong.

Occasionally, people find it more than a little surprising that a successful fitness empire was born out of Birmingham, explains Iron Tribe’s CEO Forrest Walden.

“Alabama always ranks so poorly in nationwide studies on health. You’d think this kind of business wouldn’t do so well here, but people have completely embraced it. They see they can get to a better place in their lives and meet other likeminded people. I can’t think of a better place to have done that than Birmingham.”

No matter where one of Iron Tribe’s franchises opens, the operator and the trainers at the facility all come to Birmingham to learn how to do things “the Iron Tribe Way,” explains COO Jim Cavale. The training period, which lasts for a full month, teaches the best ways to train clients, inspire clients and keep the business side of things running smoothly.

“A lot of franchises around the country have a 2-day training course or a quick certification online, but ours is an immersive experience that allows people to really see what we are about and spend some time in the city,” Cavale says.

It’s no secret that the southern hospitality found in Birmingham is part of the heartbeat of Iron Tribe. Walden says that part of the reason the training is held here is so that people can “feel” what Iron Tribe is all about.

“Southern hospitality is in the DNA of our culture. You can’t teach that through an owner’s manual,” he says. “What we do can be intimidating, but when you greet people with a smile and everyone is encouraging, it turns it into something fun. We support one another completely, but we’re also extremely honest. People need that friendly environment but they also need to be called out if they’re not doing their diet and showing up to class.”

During the training sessions, Cavale and Walden and are constantly watching to see how trainers and operators work together. Occasionally, they’ve had to make some tough hiring recommendations.

“We’ve had to pull the red flag on a few employees, although that’s very rare,” Cavale says. “We’ll say, ‘Hey, you might want to reconsider on this hire.’ And they listen to us.”

So far, more than 100 people have been through the four-week training program and another 23 are training in Birmingham now. Trainees typically stay at the Westin or the Sheraton in Birmingham’s Uptown district and are given welcome packets when they arrive that tells them about the Civil Rights Museum, Vulcan, Railroad Park and more.

“We want them to really enjoy their stay and so we make recommendations for things to see and places where they can eat the way we eat,” Cavale says. All Iron Tribe Fitness members are encouraged to eat the Paleo Diet, which consists of non-processed whole foods.

Although many of Iron Tribe’s out-of-state franchise owners are Birmingham residents, the franchises themselves are run by operators and trainers who are based near the business.

“Out of the 70 franchises we have sold, more than 60 of the owners are Birmingham residents who were a member of one of our first five facilities. They’re people who said, ‘Hey, I love this and I want to invest in this and take Iron Tribe to Miami or Denver.’ It’s a really cool thing,” Cavale says.

Typically, the franchise owner maintains a presence in the city where the business is located, and Cavale says the more presence they maintain, the more successful the franchise.

“They’re still present in those markets in a semi-offsite way,” he says. “Our Nashville group is very successful, and they visit frequently.”

The company’s annual conference for franchise owners, TribeCon, also comes to Birmingham. The 2014 conference, the second in the conference’s history, is expected to bring in a crowd of around 120 franchise owners and their guests.

The conference will be held again this year at the Westin, November 2-4.

Business, Press

INC. Magazine Names Iron Tribe America’s #602 Fastest Growing Company


Coach Jessica Parks prepares a class to workout in Iron Tribe's Homewood location (Photo: Iron Tribe Fitness)

When Inc. Magazine released its annual list of the fastest growing private companies in America last week, it was chock-full of firms operating in the high growth, high margin sectors of the economy that you would expect — investments, technology, financial services and pharmaceuticals, to name a few.

But of the 57 Alabama companies that made the list, one stuck out, not just for its remarkable growth over the past three years (790 percent), but because it’s in the business of “changing people’s lives” in classes of about 20 at a time.

Birmingham-based Iron Tribe Fitness is a classic American entrepreneurial story. Here’s how they tell it:

It all started in a two-car garage in Birmingham, AL, on October 1, 2008.

That’s when Forrest Walden, his wife, and two friends got together for a little experiment. They were all struggling to stay in shape, despite their busy lives.

They hated those big-box gyms (with 700 other people waiting for 10 machines)… they didn’t want to pay big bucks for a personal trainer ($100 an hour? No thanks!)… and they were bored silly by repetitive workouts on DVD (What? Kettlebells again?)

So they put together a new kind of fitness and nutrition program, right there in the garage and, well… the results were astonishing.

Just 23 days later, every one of them had lots more energy, they were sleeping like babies, and they all lost inches from their waistlines.

Fast forward from 2008 — that small group is now Iron Tribe Fitness. It’s the fastest-growing gym of its kind in America, with more than 60 locations being developed in 15 states.

Yellowhammer caught up with Iron Tribe COO Jim Cavale last week to get his thoughts on the company’s inclusion on the Inc. 5000.

“We are extremely humbled to be on a list with so many other brands that we admire — brands who have not only made this list past and present, but also brands who have paved the way for a brand like ours to follow their lead and make an impact on as many people as possible,” said Cavale. “That’s the common bond of the INC. 5000 companies: IMPACT.”

Cavale said they sought to differentiate themselves from the competition by creating communities, rather than just popping up gyms.

Iron Tribe Fitness CEO Forrest Walden (left) and COO Jim Cavale (right) (Photo: Iron Tribe Fitness)

“Iron Tribe’s brand purpose has been to create fitness communities that change lives,” he explained.

And those communities include a wide variety of people, from competitive athletes to soccer moms to grandparents — and not just in Alabama anymore, but around the country.

“Forrest and I anticipate that we will have 38 gyms opened up in markets throughout the United States by the end of 2014, with more than 60 Iron Tribe gyms scheduled to be open by the end of 2015,” he said. “Our franchisees, operators, coaches and corporate staff are completely committed to bringing ‘LIFE. changed’ to as many new member athletes as we can each day.”

Part of that community building also includes coordinated philanthropic efforts that are being felt in other parts of the world.

“The global fruit takes place in events like this past weekend’s Workout For Water right here in Birmingham at Railroad Park, where hundreds of Iron Tribe athletes came together to fund $300,000+ or 100+ clean water wells to villages throughout India and Africa,” said Cavale.

“It’s one thing to be honored as #602 on the INC. 5000 Fastest Growing Companies List, but it’s another to be able to do it simultaneously with a team of franchise partners, operators, coaches and member athlete who truly are rallying together on a daily basis to make an impact on such a local and global level.

“God has truly blessed us and we hope that we can connect that blessing with His purpose, by redistributing it from Birmingham to as many communities as we possibly can worldwide.”

With the company nearing its 6th anniversary and having just coming off a year where it brought in about $4 million in revenue, it’s a safe bet that Iron Tribe will be making an impact both locally and globally for years to come.

Business, Press

July 2014 Entrepreneur Magazine Edition Features Jim Cavale and Iron Tribe


Excerpt From Article

Modern Management

When Jim Cavale, partner and COO at Iron Tribe Fitness, a 30-unit gym based in Birmingham, Ala., was ready to open a new location in 2011, he and his team made a point of reexamining their technology. Why?

They were tired of jumping between five or six incompatible programs.

“All of our systems were in silos,” he says. “Our billing program was in a silo. Our support desk was its own program. Our collaboration system was [in a] silo. We had to input new data for each one, and they couldn’t communicate with each other. We asked, How can we get all this information and have it in one system we own and control?”

The solution was a custom-built application program interface (API) hub that integrates all of those programs. Now Iron Tribe can track potential customers from first contact to when they enroll, how much and how often they work out, how they’re billed and how many extra services and products they buy–all on one system. Iron Tribe has also developed apps for clients that allow them to schedule training appointments and buy supplements and meals.

“Building something like this is not as expensive as you might think,” explains Cavale, whose API was created by a team of developers he met at one of his gyms. Moreover, he says, it’s going to be unavoidable. “Franchisors have to realize, whether they want to or not, that they’re soon going to be at the mercy of generation Y and Z on their work force. They speak a different language and use a different set of mediums. They are not going to work for a company that doesn’t make them more efficient.”

Farid at Edible Arrangements agrees. He points out that since most people communicate and essentially manage their lives through their mobile devices, it makes sense to run their businesses from them, too. His tech company, Netsolace, which he founded before Edible, has kept the franchise as forward-looking as possible, developing mobile apps such as FranSupport Mobile, which lets Edible communicate and deliver training modules to franchisees; Franview, which lets field managers audit stores with the home office and franchisees in real time; and Pulse, a real-time communications system that lets franchisees and corporate stay in touch. Netsolace is also promoting Nextstep, which broadcasts training tips, best practices, efficiencies and company news.

“When I was a kid and worked at McDonald’s, they’d sit you down in front of a TV and play a tape showing you how to make the food,” Farid notes. “Now we do that in real time. Before, we used to laminate training cards, and by the time we sent them they were out of date and cost $25,000 to $30,000. Now we can update our videos or slides instantly, so it’s fresh. When a new employee goes through our training modules, they’re completely up to date.”


Welcome to TribeCon 2013!

On the first Sunday of November 2013, we kicked off our first ever annual franchise conference, entitled TribeCon.

With more than 100 in attendance at Birmingham’s newest Westin hotel in the brand new Uptown District, it was an amazing event for our franchise owners and management.

Here is the video that played on the big screens to launch the event before I took the stage to welcome everyone to TribeCon 2013!