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, 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.”


What kind of legacy will you leave behind? In this personal and motivating talk, Jim Cavale modifies a tried and true formula for intensity to build the case for living a life of intent, so that we can all leave behind a lasting legacy.

A technologist and entrepreneur of many passions, Jim is the COO at IronTribe Fitness, devoted to scaling the client experience during their rapid franchise growth.

TEDxBirmingham 2014 – “Rediscover the Magic” – was held on March 1, 2014 at UAB’s Alys Stephens Center in Birmingham, Alabama. 15 speakers plus several artistic performers spread their ideas with cross-disciplinary mix of attendees from the Magic City, ranging from civic and business leaders to professionals, educators, technologists, and artists. TEDxBirmingham — like all TEDx events — is an independent, volunteer effort. It is not organized for political reasons, monetary reward, or personal gain. Everyone associated with TEDxBirmingham does so because they believe in the power of ideas to change the world.

This TEDxBirmingham talk is shared with you by Baker Donelson.

In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations)


Q&A: Jim Cavale, Iron Tribe Fitness COO

Iron Tribe Fitness earned the Best Customer Experience & Engagement, Silver Winner award at the inaugural Loyalty360 Awards held last month at the 7th Annual Loyalty Expo, presented by Loyalty360 – The Loyalty Marketer’s Association.

Iron Tribe Fitness COO and Partner Jim Cavale participated in a riveting Q&A with Loyalty360 to discuss several aspects of his company’s unique culture and promise to its loyal customers.

Click here for more!

Jim TribeCon


Local Biz Owners Get Some Love During National Entrepreneurship Week

Forrest Walden of Iron Tribe Fitness and business partner Jim Cavale were highlighted on a national list by Infusionsoft as two entrepreneurs who are doing what they love.

Online editor- Birmingham Business Journal
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Infusionsoft, a small business sales and marketing software firm, recognized the owners of a Birmingham company among 24 entrepreneurs in the nation.

Forrest Walden and Jim Cavale of Iron Tribe Fitness were named in Infusionsoft’s “Accidentally in Love” category, for entrepreneurs who took a passion and made it into a full-fledged business.

“Iron Tribe Fitness, the fastest growing fitness franchise in the country, started as a group of friends working out together in Forrest Walden’s garage. Forrest opened the first Iron Tribe gym in 2010, and friend Jim Cavale opened the company’s second a year later. Today, Iron Tribe Fitness has sold 60 franchises in 10 states and has raised nearly $500,000 for various charities, including Neverthirst and Team Red, White and Blue,” the Infusionsoft profile says.

See the full Infusionsoft list here, as a part of National Entrepreneurship Week.

Iron Tribe was also one of the BBJ’s Entrepreneur Spotlight award winners last year.